Over a Barrel

July 18, 2011 at 9:26 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 7 Comments
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The common expression “over a barrel” means that someone is in a compromising position. The phrase comes from a time when the method for rescuing a person who had almost drowned was to pull him from the water and start rolling him back and forth over a barrel. Sometimes this treatment did more harm than good!

over a barrel

The Bible application for the expression “over a barrel” comes from I Kings 17. The widow at Zarephath wasn’t drowning, though. She was starving. She only had enough meal and oil for her and her son to have one last little cake, after which she was planning on dying. Then, on top of that, the prophet Elijah, the man of God, stopped by and told her to get him some water – and to bring him a little cake while she was at it!

The lady could have become exasperated and angry, but instead she exercised her faith. She went and did according to the saying of Elijah. She heard the Word and heeded the Word.

As you read this, you are probably not starving to death, but does someone have you “over a barrel?” Financially, your creditors may have you over a barrel. Time-wise, your employer may have you over a barrel. When it comes to being starved for affection, your spouse, your family, or your friends may have you over a barrel.

The Word of God to the widow lady of Zarephath was, “Take what little you have, and by faith give it to Me.” We might say she was “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” but, sometimes, we have to get to that point in order to realize that we need God. Her barrel, which held the “meal” needed to make bread, was empty, but she herself was not empty of faith. As Christians, even when our material barrel is empty, we can still be filled with the Spirit of God, so we have no reason to complain. (Warren Wiersbe likes to say that empty barrels make the most noise.)

Elijah told the lady that the Lord had fixed it so that her meal and oil would not be completely exhausted. From that day on she never had more than one handful, nor less than one handful.

Certainly God was capable of filling her barrel of meal to the top and overflowing her cruse of oil, but, in a time of famine, word might have gotten out, and she might have been robbed. God is often gracious not to overburden us with superfluous blessings. We are in a battle and we need to travel light when we fight Satan. The armor of God has a sword for our hand, but there are no pockets or pouches in the armor for holding supplies.

Had God suddenly given the lady too much meal, it might have spoiled and become infested with worms. We face the same danger when we have a “surplus” of blessings, but the worm that infests us is called pride. When you find yourself “over a barrel,” by faith reach into the barrel of your eternal spiritual blessings in Christ. Many people are confused – they think the purpose of the Christian life is to get abundant material blessings. Jesus did not teach His disciples to pray, “Give us this day enough bread to last for a year, and a big mansion to keep it in, and a fancy car to drive it around in.” No, He told them to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread.”

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  1. thankx ..i needed that.

  2. […] by on (a “per diem“). True Christian sojourners have to stay focused on the Provider. The incident with Elijah and the lady at Zarephath is a good illustration of this principle. These all died in faith, not having received the […]

  3. […] Once, God sent the prophet Elijah to seek a widow woman, who would be able to provide him sustenance. […]

  4. […] and mighty King, Whose rule is everlasting. We belong to Him. He owns us, lock, stock, and barrel from the moment of our conception, and He will do with us as He pleases. And we have nothing about […]

  5. […] Your Maker (Amos 4-5) 14. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket 15. Pining Away (Ezekiel 33:9-10) 16. Over a Barrel (I Kings 17) 17. Beware of Dog (Philippians 3:2) 18. Eye to Eye (Isaiah 52:7-8) 19. Made a […]

  6. […] mountain with Jesus and saw Him talking with Moses and the prophet Elijah. Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (II Kings 2:11) were the only people to be taken up to Heaven without dying a physical death here […]

  7. […] of ourselves. You know what we ‘need’ better than we know what we need. Give us “day by day” – don’t give us too much – keep us VERY close to You, […]


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