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In 1 Kings 12:10 (NASB)

And the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “This is what you should say to this people who spoke to you, saying: ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!’ You should speak this way to them: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist!

Is this an hebrew proverb? Also, what is the meaning of that expression?

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I have been unable to find any reference to "My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist!" being a well-known proverb.

Such is not necessary to understand the clear intent of the metaphor. Thus, it is not necessary for something to be a well-known proverb to understand an unambiguous metaphor which in ordinary speech can be made to order. In fact, Rehoboam uses three metaphors in succession:

  1. My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist!
  2. my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke
  3. my father scourged you with whips, I will scourge you with scorpions

The intent in all cases is obvious - Rehoboam's intent was to show that as a typical narcissistic eastern king, he could be more arbitrary, exacting, demanding and wield greater power than his famous father, Solomon.

This whole idea of Rehoboam's mad-headed grasp at greatness and power, for Israelite kings, misunderstood the true function of the Davidic throne. While David and his successors were earthly kings, they were to recognize that the real king of Israel was God. 1 Sam 8:7, 8, 24:6, 2 Sam 19:21, 1 Chron 28:5, 2 Chron 9:8, 13:8, Ps 5:2, 44:4.

Rehoboam failed to realize that Solomon's greatness was based on God's blessing and not being dictatorial.

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    @Bach - because it is a metaphor - one of three such used by Rehoboam. It does not need to be a Hebrew proverb as stated above. The meaning I gave in the 3rd last paragraph.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 3:06
  • "Such is not necessary to understand the clear intent of the metaphor". But the OP clearly wants to know whether there is extra biblical evidence that can prove that this is an old proverb, and also wants to understand the original meaning of this proverb. It's irrelevant whether the overall intent of rehoboam's message is clear in this context.
    – bach
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 12:32
  • Consider the idiom "pouring cats and dogs". Now one can ask, what is the meaning of this idiom in a specific context/sentence. The most basic explanation would be that it conveys that rain is coming down very hard. And then there is the deeper original meaning of this idiom, one can dive deeper and ask, what did it originally mean? How did this idiom start? These are two different set of questions.
    – bach
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 12:41
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    @Bach - "Raining cats and dogs" is NOT a metaphor - it is a simple old English proverb. Saying something like, "He's got more knowledge in his little finger than so-and-so has in his head" is a metaphor whose meaning is immediately unambiguous.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 20:20
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    All I can say is that although the intent of "My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist!" is immediately obvious in context, its meaning (or origin) on the other hand is not. Dismissing the OP's search for a deeper understanding of this verse as unwarranted (and this is not the only instance) is not helpful or constructive (compare for example tblue's answer).
    – bach
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 20:34
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This sounded like a euphemism. Went with that in the search and found:

https://phillipwright.co/2016/03/09/the-debate-genitals-the-bible/

But Rehoboam was having none of that wimpy stuff. He was going to be tough. So, Rehoboam gets his frat bros together who advise him on the situation: “Here’s what you should say to the people who spoke to you , saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!’ But you shall speak to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins!’ Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father discipline you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions’” (1 Kings 12:10-11).

Some of you have rushed to your Bibles and found that your translation is much tamer, “My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist.” Yes, that reading sounds much nicer when reading during a Sunday morning service. But is it an accurate translation? Not according to the experts:

Baker’s Bible Dictionary gives numbers and various ways the Hebrew word can be translated, then it says this: “Loins can also refer to the genitalia (1 Kings 12:10).”

The message is clear, “My little finger is bigger than my dad’s penis, so you can just imagine what I’m packing.” Rehoboam got into a measuring contest with his dad, the king who was famously able to satisfy a harem of 1000 women.

For me, he is saying that he will prove that he is more of a man than his father; more powerful/ruthless.

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It is evidently a euphemism for machismo which today we might say something like "He has big balls". Your text is also restated (likely by Ezra) of Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles 10:10.

Not to be crude but the phrase is a form of immature braggadocio that my dad would have called an "old fashioned pissing contest".

I have studied the Bible extensively and this is just my opinion but this was a colloquial idiom. It is like saying "the flaccid state of my pecker is bigger than yours when erect".

I think of an old Richard Pryor joke about two men peeing off a bridge here. They are practicing this form of braggadocio. The first man looks to the second and says "Man this water sure is cold" to which the second man replies "It's deep too".

Well you get the point. Rehoboam felt he had something to prove. He no doubt had lived a very privileged upbringing as Solomon's only son, (1 Chronicles 3:10) and was afraid of appearing soft in his new found office as King of Judah/Israel.

His hard line approach did not work and led to the rebellion and division of the Northern kingdom of Israel.

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  • It sounds to me more like he's boasting about the power of his punches. What specific evidence do you have that it should be understood in a penile sense?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 13:57
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    Context as always is key to interpretation. The Hebrew root words imply a small or little appendage being larger than his fathers swollen loins. If you study the root words more closely it does not say "finger" anywhere in the original. When men swore an oath in those days they put their hand under the "thigh" (testes), which is where we get the idea of a testimony or even testament. Given the context of loins it is clearly a idiom referencing the respective size of their manhood. Rehoboam is over compensating for his own insecurities through phallic exaggeration. (Think Asherah poles)
    – Jimmy Mac
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 22:44
  • Interesting. Please edit this to explain all those details of the Hebrew text.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 22:45
  • Here's a post explaining things in a similar way: ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/03/…
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 22:47
  • Yes he is breaking it down much better than I have been able to here. I will try to follow up on this with a deeper (pun intended) word study, when I am able. Thanks for the link.
    – Jimmy Mac
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 22:56
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I think it is childish and a braggadocio threat, when a king wants to warn you, he points at you with his index finger. So IMHO this is like, if you thought that punishment dad gave you was so severe, mine can be double, and mark you these advice was given to him by the young men he grew up with, the ones who have a feeling of self entitlement. He clearly ignore the counsel of the wise men and this arrogance led to rebellion.....sad!

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Apr 16, 2023 at 23:49
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So I was looking at this verse asking the meaning to “my little finger is thicker then my fathers belt” my understanding because the next verse talks about whips. The king was being boastful saying his little finger had more authority then his fathers waist/belt.

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    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 11:43

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