Cup [N] [E] [S]

Throughout Scripture, as in the ancient Near East, the cup functions as a metaphor for an individual's fate. In Psalm 16, the psalmist credits the Lord with assigning his "portion and cup" in life. Psalm 23 equates an abundant life with an overflowing cup, a potent image in a semiarid world. The culmination of the positive image of the cup is in Psalm 116. Here the psalmist raises the cup of salvation as a thank offering to God, in effect offering the sum of his life to his lord.

The metaphor of the cup, like life itself, can also be negative. In numerous prophetic works, the cup retains its role as a representative of fate, but on a national level. The cup can function as a cup of wrath, a vessel pouring out God's judgment on the nations. The nations drinking from the "cup of his wrath" are often depicted as lost in drunkenness. Isaiah 51:17 personifies Jerusalem as a woman who drained the cup of wrath to its dregs. God takes pity on his city and intervenes. "See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger the goblet of my wrath" (v. 22). This cup is then given to the tormentors, indicating that they will suffer in their turn.

In a vision of destruction recorded by Jeremiah ( 25:15 ), God will force all the nations to drink from his cup and stagger to destruction. None are able to refuse it; all humanity will be judged and the wicked put to the sword. Ezekiel returns to the image of the cup of Jerusalem in a brutally explicit passage depicting Samaria and Jerusalem, representing the people of God, as two sisters who are prostitutes (chap. 23). The prophet calls the cup that Jerusalem drinks from the "cup of ruin and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria" (v. 33). For Ezekiel, the cup stands for the destruction of the two kingdoms.

Zechariah uses the image of the cup of wrath to depict the fate of the enemies of Jerusalem. He adds a twist to the metaphor by making Jerusalem itself the cup ( 12:2 ). The author of revelation returns to the dark image of the cup of wrath, threatening all who follow the beast with the wine of God's judgment ( 14:10 ).

For the church, the cup has come to represent the central events of Christianity, the death and resurrection of Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ returns to the fundamental meaning of the cup as a representative of fate. In his prayer, the cup symbolizes the pain, degradation, and death that will be required of him. He prays that the cup might pass undrunk, but it is Jesus' fate to drain it to its dregs. Christ becomes all the nations of the world, taking on their fate, and drains the cup of wrath. By drinking of the cup God placed before him, Christ transforms the cup of wrath into the cup of life. This transformation is foreshadowed at the last supper, where the cup of the new covenant, like the cup of wrath, is for all to partake of.

Thomas W. Davis

Bibliography. A. A. Anderson, Psalms; W. S. LaSor, D. A. Hubbard, and F. W. Bush, Old Testament Survey; C. S. Mann, Mark.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Cup'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.

Cup [N] [B] [S]

a wine-cup ( Genesis 40:11 Genesis 40:21 ), various forms of which are found on Assyrian and Egyptian monuments. All Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold ( 1 Kings 10: : 21 ). The cups mentioned in the New Testament were made after Roman and Greek models, and were sometimes of gold ( Revelation 17:4 ).

The art of divining by means of a cup was practiced in Egypt ( Genesis 44:2-17 ), and in the East generally.

The "cup of salvation" ( Psalms 116:13 ) is the cup of thanksgiving for the great salvation. The "cup of consolation" ( Jeremiah 16:7 ) refers to the custom of friends sending viands and wine to console relatives in mourning ( Proverbs 31:6 ). In 1 Corinthians 10:16 , the "cup of blessing" is contrasted with the "cup of devils" ( 1 Corinthians 10:21 ). The sacramental cup is the "cup of blessing," because of blessing pronounced over it ( Matthew 26:27 ; Luke 22:17 ). The "portion of the cup" ( Psalms 11:6 ; 16:5 ) denotes one's condition of life, prosperous or adverse. A "cup" is also a type of sensual allurement ( Jeremiah 51:7 ; Proverbs 23:31 ; Revelation 17:4 ). We read also of the "cup of astonishment," the "cup of trembling," and the "cup of God's wrath" ( Psalms 75:8 ; Isaiah 51:17 ; Jeremiah 25:15 ; Lamentations 4:21 ; Ezekiel 23:32 ; Revelation 16:19 ; Compare Matthew 26:39 Matthew 26:42 ; John 18:11 ). The cup is also the symbol of death ( Matthew 16:28 ; Mark 9:1 ; Hebrews 2:9 ).

These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Cup". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .

Cup. [N] [B] [E]

The cups of the Jews, whether of metal or earthenware, were possibly borrowed, in point of shape and design, from Egypt and from the Phoenicians, who were celebrated in that branch of workmanship. Egyptian cups were of various shapes, either with handles or without them. In Solomons time all his drinking vessels were of gold, none of silver. ( 1 Kings 10:21 ) Babylon is compared to a golden cup. ( Jeremiah 51:7 ) The great laver, or "sea," was made with a rim like the rim of a cup (cos ), with flowers of lilies," ( 1 Kings 7:26 ) a form which the Persepolitan cups resemble. The cups of the New Testament were often no doubt formed on Greek and Roman models. They were sometimes of gold. ( Revelation 17:4 )

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Cup'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.


(Most frequently, koc; four other words in one passage each; poterion):

A vessel for drinking from, of a variety of material (gold, silver, earthenware), patterns (Esther 1:7) and elaboration.


By ordinary figure of speech, put sometimes for the contents of the cup, namely, for that which is drunk (Matthew 26:39). In both Old Testament and New Testament applied figuratively to that which is portioned out, and of which one is to partake; most frequently used of what is sorrowful, as God's judgments, His wrath, afflictions, etc. (Psalms 11:6; 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Revelation 14:10). In a similar sense, used by Christ concerning the sufferings endured by Him (Matthew 26:39), and the calamities attending the confession of His name (Matthew 20:23). In the Old Testament applied also to the blessedness and joy of the children of God, and the full provision made for their wants (Psalms 16:5; 23:5; 116:13; compare Jeremiah 16:7; Proverbs 31:6). All these passages refer not only to the experience of an allotted joy and sorrow, but to the fact that all others share in this experience. Within a community of those having the same interests or lot, each received his apportioned measure, just as at a feast, each cup is filled for the individual to drain at the same time that his fellow-guests are occupied in the same way.

The Holy Supper is called "the cup of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 10:21), since it is the Lord who makes the feast, and tenders the cup, just as "the cup of demons" with which it is contrasted, refers to what they offer and communicate. In 1 Corinthians 11:25, the cup is called "the new covenant in my blood," i.e. it is a pledge and seal and means of imparting the blessings of the new covenant (Hebrews 10:16)--a covenant established by the shedding of the blood of Christ. The use of the word "cup" for the sacrament shows how prominent was the part which the cup had in the Lord's Supper in apostolic times. Not only were all commanded to drink of the wine (Matthew 26:27), but the very irregularities in the Corinthian church point to its universal use (1 Corinthians 11:27). Nor does the Roman church attempt to justify its withholding the cup from the laity (the communion in one form) upon conformity with apostolic practice, or upon direct Scriptural authority. This variation from the original institution is an outgrowth of the doctrines of transubstantiation and sacramental concomitance, of the attempt to transform the sacrament of the Eucharist into the sacrifice of the Mass, and of the wide separation between clergy and laity resulting from raising the ministry to the rank of a sacerdotal order. The practice was condemned by Popes Leo I (died 461) and Gelasius (died 496); but gained a firm hold in the 12th century, and was enacted into a church regulation by the Council of Constance in 1415.


As to the use of cups for divination (Genesis 44:5), the reference is to superstitious practice derived from the Gentiles. For various modes of divining what is unknown by the pouring of water into bowls, and making observations accordingly, see Geikie, Hours with the Bible, I, 492, and article DIVINATION.

H. E. Jacobs

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'CUP'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.  

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