'This Too Shall Pass': History, Origin, and Bible Teaching
- Rebecca Mashburn Contributing Writer
- Updated Feb 02, 2024
"This Too Shall Pass" reflects the temporary nature of life on Earth, meaning that neither the good or bad moments in life last indefinitely. While it did not come from the Bible, its origin story is linked to the prominent Biblical figure King Solomon. Discover the origin, history, and Biblical misidentification of this expression, as well as calming Bible quotes that can bring comfort when we wonder if circumstances can change.
'This Too Shall Pass' Origin
One of the earliest known references to a similar concept can be found in Persian literature. The phrase "این نیز بگذرد" (pronounced "in nīz bogzarad") is often associated with Persian Sufi poets and is translated as "This too shall pass." It was said to reflect the transient nature of life and the impermanence of both joy and sorrow.
In the Western world, the phrase gained popularity through a story involving the king of Persia and a wise advisor, although many believe the term was coined by King Solomon. According to Rabbi Lisa Rubin, “King Solomon was trying to humble his wisest servant, so he asked him to perform a seemingly impossible task: to find something that did not exist. He requested a magic ring — one that, if a sad man wore it, he would become happy and if a happy man wore it, he would become sad.”
The story suggests that the servant could not find anything of such nature. So, King Solomon decided upon himself to go to a jeweler and design a ring with the inscription in Hebrew saying, “Gam ze ya’avor,” which means, “This, too, shall pass.”
History of 'This Too Shall Pass'
The phrase "This too shall pass" may have been popularized by Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. Lincoln is quoted using the expression during a speech to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee on September 30, 1859. The context was related to the agricultural challenges faced by the nation at the time. The exact wording may vary in different accounts, but the essence of the message was that both the successes and the difficulties faced by the nation were temporary.
“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! -- how consoling in the depths of affliction! "And this, too, shall pass away." And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.” (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln).
Is 'This Too Shall Pass' in the Bible?
Although this information is great, this does not seem to explain why people believe “This Too Shall Pass” is in the Bible. So, I conducted a search in the Bible to see where people may see that phrase.
In Deuteronomy 28, the phrase, “It shall come to pass” is repeated twice. “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth” (Deuteronomy 28:1). God clearly states that if you obey His commands then all of these blessings will come to pass.
But God also states in Deuteronomy 28:15, “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you…”
A lot of the times we are afraid of the outcome of circumstances. If we don't obey or heed God's voice, then we are following our own voice. We fear God, but we also fear man. Proverbs 29:25 states, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”
In Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, he states, “The blessings are here put before the curses. God is slow to anger, but swift to show mercy. It is his delight to bless. It is better that we should be drawn to what is good by a child-like hope of God's favor, than that we be frightened to it by a slavish fear of his wrath” (Nehemiah 9:17).
Here are some other scriptures that use this phrase:
“‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).
“It shall come to pass, That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).
“’For I am the Lord. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass; it will no more be postponed; for in your days, O rebellious house, I will say the word and perform it,’ says the Lord God’” (Ezekiel 12:25).
Even in the book of Genesis, part of the phrase “it came to pass” is mentioned more than once: “And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made” (Genesis 8:6).
“And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry” (Genesis 8:13).
5 Peaceful Verses to Carry You Through Life's Storms
In some ways, we all hope that things in life will come to pass. Sometimes things in life we don't want to come pass come about anyway. Our hope may be so focused on how things will come to pass. We have this perspective on how we see certain circumstances coming to pass. But when those circumstances don't come the way we thought, we begin to question or lose hope.
In the Bible, we see God's reassurance of this hope that he gives us.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).
Trust that God has the best plan for your life. Do not look at your circumstances, rather look to the God of hope.
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