>Every week my fellow blogger Duane Smith at Abnormal Interest shows his abnormal interest for languages and ancient Near Eastern cultures by posting a study of words that are common in the culture and societies of the Ancient Near East. On February 6, 2009, the Friday Culture Word was the word ks, generally translated as “cup.”
In the Old Testament, one of the four words for “cup” is kôs (Hebrew כוס). The word appears 31 times in the Old Testament. Generally, the word “cup” was used to describe a vessel used for drinking water and wine. A cup was made of gold, silver, copper (or bronze), stone, and even clay.
Most of the times the word is used in the Old Testament, it generally refers to a literal cup. However, the word is widely used in a figurative, symbolic way to refer to different kinds of life experiences that God brings to the faithful and to evil-doers.
In this post, I will begin with Duane’s study of the word kôs, “cup.” I will not repeat his study of the word but simply look at the figurative ways the word “cup” appears in the Old Testament. In addition, I will not provide an explanation for each use of the word. That, I believe, is almost self explanatory in the context where the word appears.
A Drinking Cup
“Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand” (Genesis 40:11 ESV).
The Cup of the Evil-doers
“On the evil-doer he will send down fire and flames, and a burning wind; with these will their cup be full” ( Psalm 11:6).
The Cup in the Lord’s Hand
“For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs” (Psalm 75:8 ESV).
The Cup of the Lord’s Wrath
“Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering” ( Isaiah 51:17 ESV).
The Cup of the Lord’s Fury
“For thus says the LORD God of Israel to me: “Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it” (Jeremiah 25:15 NKJ).
The Cup of Staggering
“Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering” (Isaiah 51:17 ESV).
The Believer’s Cup
“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot” (Psalm 16:5 NRSV).
The Cup of Blessings
“You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings” (Psalm 23:5 NLT).
The Cup of Salvation
“I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD” (Psalm 116:13 ESV).
The Cup of Consolation
“No one shall break bread for the mourner, to comfort him for the dead, nor shall anyone give him the cup of consolation to drink for his father or his mother” (Jeremiah 16:7 ESV).
The Golden Cup
“Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD’s hand, making all the earth drunken; the nations drank of her wine; therefore the nations went mad” (Jeremiah 51:7 ESV).
The Cup of Suffering
“Rejoice and be glad, O daughter Edom, you that live in the land of Uz; but to you also the cup shall pass; you shall become drunk and strip yourself bare” (Lamentations 4:21 NRSV).
The Cup of Terror
“Yes, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: You will drink from the same cup of terror as your sister– a cup that is large and deep. And all the world will mock and scorn you in your desolation” (Ezekiel 23:32 NLT).
The Cup of Horror and Desolation
“You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. A cup of horror and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria” (Ezekiel 23:33 ESV).
The Cup from the Lord’s Right Hand
“You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed! The cup from the LORD’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory” (Habakkuk 2:16 NIV).
The Cup of Trembling
“Thus saith thy Lord the LORD, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again” (Isaiah 51:22 KJV).
All the figurative uses of the word “cup” refer to people’s experiences of joys and sorrows, of hope and despair. At times the word is used to describe the blessings and joys of God’s people; at times the word is used to describe God’s judgment and his wrath upon evil-doers. All in all, the use of the word “cup” reflects the richness and the beauty of the language used to describe the every day life of God’s people.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary