Who is Jehosophat and why did he jump?

Though it is no longer common every once in a while you may hear someone say, “jumping Jehosophat!”. The exclamation has an amusing sound and serves as a useful expression of surprise or frustration. The hopping human of exclamatory fame is taught about in the Bible. Jehoshophat was king over the nation of Judah 850 years before Jesus was born. After the death of King Solomon the nation of Israel split. Most of the nation followed the rebellious leader Jeroboam and they continued to be known as Israel. Two tribes followed the leadership of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, and became known as Judah. Many years later Solomon’s great, great grandson Jehoshophat became king over Judah. His story can be found in 1 Kings 22 but it doesn’t say anything about him jumping.

The history behind the origin and popularity of the phrase is not certain. The most plausible explanation seems to be that the phrase is slang that came into popularity during the 1800’s. To avoid breaking the third commandment by taking God’s name in vain people would insert into their exclamations an innofensive word instead of “God” or “Jesus”. Gosh, golly and gee serve a similar purpose today. The Biblical name Jehoshophat became a substitute for Jesus. The alliterated phrase caught on and is still with us a hundred and fifty years later.

This whimsical question reminds us how much the English language has been influenced by the Bible. Dozens of familiar phrases have their roots in the Bible. A few examples are:
– Money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10- the Biblical quote is acutally, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
– By the skin of your teeth (Job 19:10)
– A little bird told me (Ecclesiastes 10:20)
– To everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3, “Turn, turn, turn” was added by the Byrds)
– The blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:13-14)
– Cast the first stone (John 8:7)
– An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Matthew 5:38)
– A fly in the ointment (Ecclesiasts 10:1)
– Go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41)
– The straight and narrow (Matthew 7:14)
– The apple of his eye (Psalm 17:8; Proverbs 7:2)
– The writing on the wall (Daniel 5)
– A thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7)
– Wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15)
– Don’t cast your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6)
– Eat, drink and be merry (Ecclesiastes 8:15; Luke 12:19)
– Give up the ghost (Genesis 25:8; Mark 15:39)
– The ends of the earth (Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalm 67:7)
and many, many more!

At one time the Bible was familiar to most Americans. Public schools used the BIble in their reading and writing curriculum. Many families read the Bible on a regular basis. The well educated were very familiar with the Bible, and the common man knew enough of the Bible for it to become part of the culture. Though the twentieth century saw the American culture lose its familiarity with the Bible, the Bible continues to influence our lives and language in ways that are sometimes surprising.

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