Word Nerd Wednesday – Perish

I’m excited to welcome AdelAlys back at My Messy Desk this week for Word Nerd Wednesday as she discusses this word that sounds scary, but shouldn’t be for believers.


Word Origin for PERISH

mid-13c., from  Old French perir “perish, be lost, be shipwrecked”

(12c.), from Latin perire literally “to go through,” from per- “through, completely, to destruction”  + ire “to go”


A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 

Mark 4:37-38 NABRE

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9 ESV


“Don’t you see, Sophie? We are dying.”

If you’re a film buff, you recognize this as a line from the 1982 adaptation of William Styron’s novel Sophie’s Choice. On a seemingly ordinary Sunday, Nathan (a New York Jew) and Sophie (a Polish Gentile and a survivor of Auschwitz) resolve to forget their troubles by spending the day at Coney Island. Exhilarated by a particular ride, they are giddy with laughter. Then Nathan breaks in with this pronouncement. His words mar their good time and stun their new friend Stingo (Styron) into silence.

This is the reality of our world. Nothing lasts. In time everything will wear out, come to ruin, or fall away. Physical death is a certainty. If we focus on that fact, it will surely drown out our joy and mar whatever temporary peace our minds can muster.

That said-it’s no small wonder that the Bible is filled with words that mean “perish”. There are 13 words and over 1100 uses. Here are 3:

Strong’s H7843: shachath, shaw-khath’; a primitive root; to decay, i.e. (causatively) ruin (literally or figuratively)…batter, cast off, corrupt, destroy, lose, mar, perish, spill, spoil

Whether it be the eye of a slave or the perfect world that God created, this use of perish points to things can so damaged that they are no longer fit for use.

And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid,

that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.

Exodus 21:26 KJV

But the earth was corrupt in the view of God and full of lawlessness. When God saw how corrupt the earth had become, since all mortals had corrupted their ways on earth, God said to Noah: I see that the end of all mortals has come, for the earth is full of lawlessness because of them. So I am going to destroy them with the earth… I, on part, am about to bring the flood waters on the earth, to destroy all creatures under the sky in which there is the breath of life; everything on earth shall perish. 

Genesis 6:11-12, 17 NABRE

Strong’s  H6. abad ; break, destroy uction,  a primitive root; properly, to wander away.. Lose oneself; by implication to perish, not escape, fail, lose, (cause to, make) perish, to be spent, undone, utterly devoid of, have no way to flee.

I suppose in the harsh desert wilderness wandering away from the company of others was dangerous. But who knew a familiar verse like “My father was a wandering Aramean” held such peril? How like us to pretty up our vulnerability with poetry.

And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. Deuteronomy 26:5 KJV

Know with certainty that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you.

Joshua 23:13 NASB

Did you see hints of the crucifixion in that last passage? Me too.

In fact- Jesus- his presence and his promise of everlasting life- accompany nearly every mention of perish in the New Testament -and softens it. Perhaps it accounts for why many see the two testaments in such start contrast-one angry and judgmental  in tone and the other tinged with mercy and hope.

Strong’s G622. apollumi – to destroy, destroy utterly Original Word: destroy, lose, am perishing (the resultant death being viewed as certain). (From /apó, “away from,” which intensifies ollymi, “to destroy”) –properly, fully destroy, cutting off entirely

“To die, with the implication of ruin and destruction”; cause to be lost (utterly perish) by experiencing a miserable end.

And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Luke 13:2-3 NABRE

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

John 3:16 NASB

For five years, my husband Gabriel battled stage 4 Cancer with courage and with kindness. The first Friday in January, he was admitted to the hospital with breathing issues. By noon Saturday his oxygen was up to 11 liters per minute and he still could not get air. As I waited for sunrise that Sunday morning, I heard Gabe’s lungs open up as he took a deep breath. I listened for an exhale-but that never came.

Many would see this as just the final step in his pattern of labored breathing. In fact there is even a name for it.

But I saw the peace that washed over my husband’s face at that moment- so I know differently.

What do you do when we see something incredibly beautiful or encounter someone amazing? Don’t you take a deep breath?

That’s what happens in that moment-to my guy. He saw heaven and gasped in astonishment. And the exhale-that came- but on the other side as he looked up at the face of the man of Jesus and started to introduce himself to the one he had been first seeking and then following all his life. The final truth is this:

As believers, we may die. But we do not perish.

As believers, we may die. But we do not perish. #WORDNerdWednesday Click To Tweet

The Apostle Paul put it best:

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18-20 NET



For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne EllerThought Provoking Thursday, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Grace and TruthFaith and Fellowship FridayGrace and Truth Friday, Good Morning Monday, Soul SurvivalMonday Musings, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His StoryWoman to Woman Wednesday, Women With Intention Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Testimony Tuesday, Planting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday.

13 thoughts on “Word Nerd Wednesday – Perish

  1. Having sat in your particular set of circumstances, you bring such a richness to my understanding of all that God promises around this biblical word.
    Thanks for being willing to open your heart to us!

  2. How precious to hear the story of Gabe’s final breath. Perish can indeed be a scary word, but when we think of what is on the other side, it makes all the difference.

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