From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [1]

‛Âphâr —( עָפָר , Strong'S #6083), “dust; clods; plaster; ashes.” Cognates of this word appear in Ugaritic, Akkadian, Aramaic, Syriac, and Arabic. It appears about 110 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods.

This noun represents the “porous loose earth on the ground,” or “dust.” In its first biblical occurrence, ‛âphâr appears to mean this porous loose earth: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life …” (Gen. 2:7). In Gen. 13:16, the word means the “fine particles of the soil”: “And I will make thy [descendants] as the dust of the earth.…” In the plural, the noun can mean “dust masses” or “clods” of earth: “… While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the first clods [KJV, “highest part of the dust”; NASB, “dust”] of the world” (Prov. 8:26).

‛Âphâr can signify “dry crumbled mortar or plaster”: “And he shall cause the house to be scraped within round about, and they shall pour out the dust that they scrape off without the city into an unclean place …” (Lev. 14:41). In Lev. 14:42, the word means “wet plaster”: “And they shall take other stones, and put them in the place of those stones; and he shall take other mortar, and shall plaster the house.” ‛Âphâr represents “finely ground material” in Deut. 9:21: “And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.” ‛Âphâr can represent the “ashes” of something that has been burned: “And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them [outside] Jerusalem … and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel” (2 Kings 23:4). In a similar use, the word represents the “ashes” of a burnt offering (Num. 19:17).

The “rubble” of a destroyed city sometimes is called “dust”: “And Ben-hadad sent unto him, and said, The gods do so unto me, and more also, if the dust —of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me” (1 Kings 20:10). In Gen. 3:14 the serpent was cursed with “dust” as his perpetual food (cf. Isa. 65:25; Mic. 7:17). Another nuance arising from the characteristics of dust appears in Job 28:6, where the word parallels “stones.” Here the word seems to represent “the ground”: “The stones of it are the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of gold.”

‛Âphâr may be used as a symbol of a “large mass” or “superabundance” of something. This use, already cited (Gen. 13:16), appears again in its fulfillment in Num. 23:10: “Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel?” “Complete destruction” is represented by ‛âphâr in 2 Sam. 22:43: “Then did I beat them as small as the dust of the earth: I did stamp them as the mire of the street.…” In Ps. 7:5, the word is used of “valuelessness” and “futility”: “Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honor in the dust.” To experience defeat is “to lick the dust” (Ps. 72:9), and to be restored from defeat is “to shake oneself from the dust” (Isa. 52:2). To throw “dust” (“dirt”) at someone is a sign of shame and humiliation (2 Sam. 16:13), while mourning is expressed by various acts of selfabasement, which may include throwing “dust” or “dirt” on one’s own head (Josh. 7:6). Abraham says he is but “dust and ashes,” not really important (Gen. 18:27).

In Job 7:21 and similar passages, ‛âphâr represents “the earth” of the grave: “For now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.” This word is also used as a simile for a “widely scattered army”: “… For the king of Syria had destroyed them, and had made them like the dust by threshing” (2 Kings 13:7).

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

or ashes, cast on the head was a sign of mourning,  Joshua 7:6 :

sitting in the dust, a sign of affliction,  Lamentations 3:29;  Isaiah 47:1 . The dust also denotes the grave,  Genesis 3:19;  Job 7:21;  Psalms 22:15 . It is put for a great multitude,  Genesis 13:16;  Numbers 23:10 . It signifies a low or mean condition,  1 Samuel 2:8;  Nahum 3:18 . To shake or wipe off the dust of a place from one's feet, marks the renouncing of all intercourse with it in future. God threatens the Jews with rain of dust, &c;  Deuteronomy 28:24 . An extract from Sir T. Roe's embassy may cast light on this: "Sometimes, in India, the wind blows very high in hot and dry seasons, raising up into the air a very great height, thick clouds of dust and sand. These dry showers most grievously annoy, all those among whom they fall; enough to smite them all with present blindness; filling their eyes, ears, nostrils, and mouths too, if not well guarded; searching every place, as well within as without, so that there is not a little key-hole of any trunk or cabinet, if it be not covered, but receives this dust; add to this, that the fields, brooks, and gardens, suffer extremely from these terrible showers."

2. In almost every part of Asia, those who demand justice against a criminal throw dust upon him, signifying that he deserves to lose his life, and be cast into the grave; and that this is the true interpretation of the action, is evident from an imprecation in common use among the Turks and Persians, "Be covered with earth!" "Earth be upon thy head:" We have two remarkable instances of casting dust recorded in Scripture: the first is that of Shimei, who gave vent to his secret hostility to David, when he fled before his rebellious son, by throwing stones at him, and casting dust,

 2 Samuel 16:13 . It was an ancient custom, in those warm and arid countries, to lay the dust before a person of distinction, and particularly before kings and princes, by sprinkling the ground with water. To throw dust into the air while a person was passing, was therefore an act of great disrespect; to do so before a sovereign prince, an indecent outrage. But it is clear that Shimei meant more than disrespect and outrage to an afflicted king, whose subject he was: he intended to signify by that action, that David was unfit to live, and that the time was at last arrived to offer him a sacrifice to the ambition and vengeance of the house of Saul. This view of his conduct is confirmed by the behaviour of the Jews to the Apostle Paul, when they seized him in the temple, and had nearly succeeded in putting him to death: they cried out, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live; and as they cried out and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, the chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle,"  Acts 22:23 . A great similarity appears between the conduct of the Jews on this occasion, and the behaviour of the peasants in Persia, when they go to court to complain of the governors, whose oppressions they can no longer endure. They carry their complaints against their governors by companies, consisting of several hundreds, and sometimes of a thousand; they repair to that gate of the palace nearest to which their prince is most likely to be, where they set themselves to make the most horrid cries, tearing their garments, and throwing dust into the air, and demanding justice. The king, upon hearing these cries, sends to know the occasion of them: the people deliver their complaints in writing, upon which he informs them that he will commit the cognizance of the affair to such a one as he names; and in consequence of this, justice is usually obtained.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [3]

 Genesis 18:27 (a) This is an expression to describe the utter humiliation and feeling of insignificance which filled Abraham's heart in the presence of GOD.

 Numbers 23:10 (a) This figure is used to represent Israel numerically, as well as Israel which was to be scattered throughout the whole world, as dust is scattered. As dust is found everywhere on the land areas, so Israel may be found in every country. (See also  Genesis 13:16;  Genesis 28:14;  2 Chronicles 1:9).

 Job 4:19 (a) This represents the frailty of the man whose only hope is in this life. He is on his way to the grave where his body will return to dust, and he cares not that there is another life beyond the tomb. (See also  Job 16:15).

 Job 42:6 (b) The word is used here to express Job's feeling of weakness and inferiority when he saw the Lord in His glory.

 Psalm 7:5 (a) The word is used here to describe the humiliation and shame that David would endure if it could be proved that he had lived a life of disobedience to GOD.

 Isaiah 2:10 (a) This represents the humble place we should take in the presence of the Lord, for dust is often used as a type of humiliation.

 Isaiah 26:19 (a) This probably refers to those who are the righteous dead, as they come out in resurrection to sing and worship GOD.

 Isaiah 29:5 (a) The Lord uses this figure to describe the thorough whipping and punishment which He will administer to the enemies of Israel.

 Isaiah 47:1 (a) This is a prophecy that proud Babylon would be reduced to poverty, humiliation and destruction.

 Nahum 1:3 (b) Here we see the clouds compared to the dust of the road on which our Lord walks. Clouds which to us represent power, wind, rain, storms are only as dust under GOD's feet. Clouds of dust upon the country road indicate the approach of a visitor. So clouds that may arise in our lives may indicate the proximity of our Lord on His way to deliver us.

 Lamentations 3:29 (a) This is a picture of the voluntary humiliation of a true worshipper as he realizes his own sinful condition and appreciates the kindness and love of GOD.

 Micah 1:10 (a) The word "Aphrah" means "dust." The prophet is describing the anguish of spirit that will characterize the people of that city when GOD judges and punishes them. (See  Nahum 3:18).

 Matthew 10:14 (a) This figure illustrates that the disciples were to completely eliminate all association with the enemies of GOD when they left the city in which they were not welcome. (See also  Mark 6:11;  Luke 9:5).

 Acts 13:51 (b) This portrays an act of utter contempt and complete rejection of the people of Antioch.

Holman Bible Dictionary [4]

 Genesis 13:16 Numbers 23:10 Isaiah 29:5 Psalm 78:27 Job 27:16 Zephaniah 1:17 Job 10:9 Ecclesiastes 12:7 Daniel 12:2 Isaiah 40:15 Genesis 2:7 Job 4:19 Psalm 104:29 Genesis 3:19 Job 10:9 Job 17:16 Lamentations 2:10 Ezekiel 27:30 Revelation 18:19 Micah 1:10 Joshua 7:6 2 Samuel 16:13 Acts 22:23

To defile a crown in dust ( Psalm 89:39 ) was to dishonor the office of king. To eat or lick dust ( Genesis 3:14;  Psalm 72:9;  Isaiah 65:25;  Lamentations 3:29;  Micah 7:17 ) was to suffer humiliation and powerlessness before an enemy. To lay one's horn (glory) in the dust was to experience humiliation and loss of standing ( Job 16:15 ). To lay a soul in the dust ( Psalm 7:5;  Psalm 22:15 ) is to kill. To make something dust ( Deuteronomy 9:21;  2 Kings 13:7 ) is to completely destroy it. To raise from the dust ( 1 Samuel 2:8 ) is to rescue or exalt. To sit in the dust ( Isaiah 47:1 ) is to suffer humiliation.

For Jews to shake dust off their feet was a sign that Gentile territory was unclean. In the New Testament this action indicates that those who have rejected the gospel have made themselves as Gentiles and must face the judgment of God ( Matthew 10:14-15;  Acts 13:51 ).

Chris Church

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [5]

A — 1: Χόος (Strong'S #5522 — Noun Masculine — chous, or choos — kho'-os )

from cheo, "to pour," primarily, "earth dug out, an earth heap," then, "loose earth or dust," is used in  Mark 6:11;  Revelation 18:19 .

A — 2: Κονιορτός (Strong'S #2868 — Noun Masculine — koniortos — kon-ee-or-tos' )

"raised or flying dust" (konia, "dust," ornumi, "to stir up"), is found in  Matthew 10:14;  Luke 9:5;  10:11;  Acts 13:51;  22:23 .

B — 1: Λικμάω (Strong'S #3039 — Verb — likmao — lik-mah'-o )

primarily, "to winnow" (from likmos, "a winnowing-fan"), hence, "to scatter" as chaff or dust, is used in  Matthew 21:44;  Luke 20:18 , RV, "scatter as dust," AV, "grind to powder." There are indications in the papyri writings that the word came to denote "to ruin, to destroy."

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [6]

DUST ( κονιορτός,  Matthew 10:14,  Luke 9:5;  Luke 10:11,  Acts 13:51;  Acts 22:23; χόος = χοῦς,  Mark 6:11,  Revelation 18:19. The former means properly dust stirred up or blown about, as ‘a cloud of dust’; the latter simply earth or soil thrown down or raised in a heap. In NT the two words are plainly synonymous).—The long droughts and fierce heat of Palestine, together with the softness of the limestone rock—the prevailing formation—make for the production of dust in great quantities. In high winds it penetrates to almost every part of the houses. The pedestrian suffers much from fretting of the feet by the dust, which neither sandal nor shoe excludes. This renders necessary, as well as pleasant, the washing of the feet when the journey is done ( Luke 7:44).

An immemorial token of grief in the East is the casting of dust upon the person, especially upon the head, or the laying of the face in the dust; while of one utterly humbled, it is said that he ‘licks the dust.’

The throwing of dust in the air is still a not uncommon way of expressing rage, or emphasizing an appeal for justice. This is probably meant to show that Earth herself joins in the petition for redress of intolerable wrongs.

Our Lord’s direction that ‘the Twelve’ should shake off the dust of the cities that rejected their message, derived special significance from Jewish teaching. The very dust of a heathen road was held to produce defilement. To shake off the dust of their feet, as a testimony against house or city, meant that it had passed under the ban of their Lord, and the symbolic act proclaimed that ‘nought of the cursed thing’ clave to them. ‘In this sense anything that clave to a person was metaphorically called “the dust,” as, e.g. , “the dust of an evil tongue,” “the dust of usury’; as, on the other hand, to “dust to idolatry” meant to cleave to it’ (Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah , vol. i. p. 644). The modern Oriental, if asked regarding any questionable business, will daintily grip the lapel of his robe or tunic and gently shake it, turning aside his head as if he should say, ‘Not even the dust of that transaction has touched me.’

W. Ewing.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

 Joshua 7:6 . Dust or ashes put upon the head was a sign of mourning; sitting in the dust, a sign of affliction,  Lamentations 3:29   Isaiah 47:1 . "Dust" is also put for the grave,  Genesis 3:19   Job 7:21 . It signifies a multitude,  Genesis 13:16 , and a low and mean condition,  1 Samuel 2:8 . We have two remarkable instances of casting dust recorded in Scripture, and they seem to illustrate a practice common in Asia: those who demanded justice against a criminal were accustomed to throw dust upon him, signifying that he deserved to be cast into the grave. Shimei cast dust upon David when he fled from Jerusalem,  2 Samuel 16:13 . The Jews treated the apostle Paul in a similar manner in the same city: "They cried out, Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live.' And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, the chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle,"  Acts 22:22-24 . To shake off the dust of the feet against another was expressive of entire renunciation,  Matthew 10:14   Mark 6:11   Acts 13:51 . The threatening of God, recorded in  Deuteronomy 28:24 , "The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed," means that instead of fertilizing rains, clouds of fine dust, raised from the parched ground and driven by fierce and burning winds, shall fill the air. Of such a rain of dust, famine and disease would be the natural attendants. See WIND.

Webster's Dictionary [8]

(1): ( n.) The earthy remains of bodies once alive; the remains of the human body.

(2): ( v. t.) To free from dust; to brush, wipe, or sweep away dust from; as, to dust a table or a floor.

(3): ( n.) Fine, dry particles of earth or other matter, so comminuted that they may be raised and wafted by the wind; that which is crumbled too minute portions; fine powder; as, clouds of dust; bone dust.

(4): ( n.) A single particle of earth or other matter.

(5): ( n.) The earth, as the resting place of the dead.

(6): ( n.) Figuratively, a worthless thing.

(7): ( n.) Figuratively, a low or mean condition.

(8): ( n.) Gold dust

(9): ( n.) Coined money; cash.

(10): ( v. t.) To reduce to a fine powder; to levigate.

(11): ( v. t.) To sprinkle with dust.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [9]

Small particles of matter found on the ground, out of which man was formed, to whom it was said, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."  Genesis 2:7;  Genesis 3:19 . "The first man is of the earth, earthy."  1 Corinthians 15:47 . It is used as a symbol of weakness: "he remembereth that we are dust."  Psalm 103:14 . To 'lick the dust' is figurative of defeat.  Psalm 72:9 . To 'cast dust upon the head' was a sign of grief.  Ezekiel 27:30;  Revelation 18:19 . To 'shake the dust off the feet' on leaving a city where the servants of Christ had been rejected, was leaving them to judgement: not even the dust of their city should be presented before the messengers' Master.  Matthew 10:14;  Acts 13:51 . Similarly dust was cast or shaken into the air by men in great indignation.  Acts 22:23 .

King James Dictionary [10]

DUST, n.

1. Fine dry particles of earth or other matter, so attenuated that it may be raised and wafted by the wind powder as clouds of dust and seas of blood. 2. Fine dry particles of earth fine earth.

The peacock warmeth her eggs in the dust.  Job 34 .

3. Earth unorganized earthy matter.

Dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return.  Genesis 3 .

4. The grave.

For now shall I sleep in the dust.  Job 7 .

5. A low condition.

God raiseth the poor out of the dust.  1 Samuel 2 .


1. To free from dust to brush, wipe or sweep away dust as, to dust a table or a floor. 2. To sprinkle with dust. 3. To levigate.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [11]

Dust. To lick the dust,  Psalms 72:9, signifies abject submission. To shake the dust from the feet,  Matthew 10:14;  Luke 10:11, implies the renouncing of all contact. The Pharisees entering Judea from a Gentile country were accustomed to shake the dust from their feet, as a renunciation of Gentile communion. But there was a further meaning; as Paul's shaking his garments,  Acts 18:6, so shaking off the dust was a declaration of being free from the blood of those who rejected the gospel-message. The casting of dust on or against a person was a form of bitter execration.  2 Samuel 16:13;  Acts 22:23.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [12]

 Deuteronomy 28:24

To cast dust on the head was a sign of mourning ( Joshua 7:6 ); and to sit in dust, of extreme affliction ( Isaiah 47:1 ). "Dust" is used to denote the grave ( Job 7:21 ). "To shake off the dust from one's feet" against another is to renounce all future intercourse with him ( Matthew 10:14;  Acts 13:51 ). To "lick the dust" is a sign of abject submission ( Psalm 72:9 ); and to throw dust at one is a sign of abhorrence ( 2 Samuel 16:13; Compare  Acts 22:23 ).

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [13]

To "shake off dust from one's feet against a city or person" implied a solemn refusal to take anything away, even the very dust of their ground, but to leave it to witness against them ( Mark 6:11); shaking off all connection with them, and all responsibility for their guilt and consequent punishment for rejecting the gospel.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [14]

Dust. See Mourning .

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [15]

dust ( עפר , ‛āphār  ; κονιορτός , koniortós , χοῦς , choús ): Small particles of earth. The word has several figurative and symbolic meanings: (1) Dust being the material out of which God is said to have formed man (  Genesis 2:7 ), it became a symbol of man's frailty ( Psalm 103:14 , "For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust"; compare  Genesis 18:27;  Job 4:19 , etc.), and of his mortality ( Genesis 3:19 , Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return"; compare  Job 34:15;  Psalm 104:29;  Ecclesiastes 3:20;  Ecclesiastes 12:7 , etc.) Hence, it is used figuratively for the grave (  Psalm 22:15 ,  Psalm 22:29;  Psalm 30:9;  Daniel 12:2 ). (2) Such actions as to lie in the dust, to lick the dust, to sprinkle dust on the head, are symbols expressive of deep humiliation, abasement or lamentation (e.g.  Job 2:12;  Job 42:6 ,  Psalm 72:9;  Isaiah 2:10;  Isaiah 47:1;  Isaiah 49:23;  Lamentations 2:10;  Lamentations 3:29;  Ezekiel 27:30;  Micah 7:17;  Revelation 18:19 ). Hence, such expressions as "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust," i.e. out of their state of lowliness ( 1 Samuel 2:8;  Psalm 113:7 ). (3) Throwing dust was an act expressive of execration. Thus, Shimei "cursed" David and "threw stones at him, and cast dust," literally, "dusted (him) with dust" ( 2 Samuel 16:13 ). So the crowd which Paul addressed at Jerusalem manifested their wrath against him by tossing about their garments and casting dust into the air ( Acts 22:23 ). (4) Shaking the dust off one's feet against anyone ( Matthew 10:14;  Mark 6:11;  Luke 9:5;  Luke 10:11;  Acts 13:51 ) is symbolic of renunciation, as we would say "washing one's hands of him," an intimation that all further intercourse was at an end. It was practiced by the Pharisees on passing from Gentile to Jewish soil, it being a rabbinical doctrine that the dust of a heathen land defiles. (5) It is also used figuratively for an innumerable multitude (e.g.   Genesis 13:16;  Genesis 28:14;  Job 27:16;  Psalm 78:27 ). (6) The expression "Yahweh will make the rain of thy land powder and dust" ( Deuteronomy 28:24 ) means the dust in consequence of the drought shall fall down instead of rain on the dry ground. In Judea and vicinity during a sirocco, the air becomes filled with sand and dust, which are blown down by the wind with great violence.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [16]

(usually עָפָר , Aphar , but אָבָק , Abak , Pulverulence , in  Exodus 9:9;  Isaiah 5:24;  Isaiah 29:5;  Ezekiel 26:10;  Nahum 1:3; "powder," Deuteronomy 38:24; and שִׁחִק , Shach'Ak , or Impalpable Dust ,  Isaiah 40:15; דָּקִק , Dakak , to Triturate ,  2 Chronicles 34:4; Gr. Κονιορτός ; but Χόος , dirt, in  Mark 6:11;  Revelation 18:19). In the immediate vicinity of Judaea there are vast plains or deserts of fine sand, which, when agitated by a violent wind, makes most terrific and desolating storms. Eastern travelers describe them particularly, and think them more dreadful than storms at sea. This affords us a striking illustration of the nature and horrors of the plague, mentioned in  Exodus 8:16-17, when, the extremely fine and penetrating dust of the land of Egypt was converted into gnats. Among the various fearful punishments denounced in the event of their forsaking Jehovah, the Hebrews are threatened that the rain of their land shall become "powder and dust" ( Deuteronomy 28:24). (See Storm).

Among the Hebrews, to cast dust or ashes upon the head was a sign of mourning ( Joshua 7:6), and sitting in the dust was a sign of extreme affliction ( Isaiah 47:1;  Lamentations 3:29). (See Grief). The term "dust" is often used figuratively, sometimes to denote the grave ( Job 7:21) or death itself ( Genesis 3:19;  Psalms 22:15), sometimes to express a numerous people ( Numbers 23:10), and sometimes a low or mean condition ( 1 Samuel 2:8;  Nahum 3:18). See Wemyss, Symbol. Dict . s.v. To shake or wipe off the dust of a place from one's feet marks the renouncing of all intercourse with it in future ( Matthew 10:14;  Acts 13:51). To "lick the dust" signifies the most abject submission ( Psalms 72:9). In almost every part of Asia those who demand justice against a criminal throw dust upon him. Thus Shimei cast dust at David ( 2 Samuel 16:13), signifying by that action that David ought to be put to death. This view is confirmed by the conduct of the Jews to Paul; when they seized him in the Temple they cried out, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live; and as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, the chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle" ( Acts 22:23). (See Ashes).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [17]

For storms of dust, etc., see Climate and Seasons of Palestine; for throwing dust on the head, see Mourning.