5 – A House Divided Against Itself

Fifty common expressions that originated from the Bible that influence our language today.

A House Divided Against Itself – “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25; also, see Matthew 12:25; 13:26)

This phrase has the connotation that without unity there can be no strength. It is best known from Abraham Lincoln’s famous nomination acceptance speech in 1858: “a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.” Before this it was used by Augustine (597) in his book “Confessions”, Thomas Hobbes (1651) in “Leviathan”, Thomas Paine (1776) in “Common Sense” in a personal letter from Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren (1812) and by Sam Houston in a speech in 1850.

There are nearly 100 book titles with this theme, dealing with everything from politics, religion, history, romance novels and even a cook book for vegans. It has provided a backdrop for political art by Amos Doolittle (1754-1832) and Lynette Cook (2016) and the phrase has also made appearances in the 1980 soap opera, “Dallas” and the 1990 sitcom, “Seinfeld.” It formed the basis of Ken Burns 2016 Commencement Speech at Stanford University and David Mark’s article in the Jewish Press (2016).

Some spinoffs of the expression are “Divide and Conquer” and “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” The Psalmist wrote: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133).

Posted in Influence

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