Feet of clay

Feet of clay

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. – 1 Kings 19:3

Numbers 11:14-15

 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy!

 15 If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!

The phrase feet of clay is an idiom that dates back to the mid-1700s. An idiom is a word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition.

The expression feet of clay refers to a fatal flaw, a negative characteristic, or attribute that lurks beneath the surface, hidden in an otherwise commendable human being. The expression is applied to someone who is well thought of, greatly esteemed, seemingly a paragon of virtue, a hero. Yet they have feet of clay.

The phrase comes from the book of Daniel (Daniel 2:31-32). Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a dream which Daniel interpreted. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a giant idol of a man with a golden head, silver arms and chest, brass torso and thighs, and iron legs. The feet of this statue were a mixture of iron and potter’s clay. Not being pure metal, the feet were extremely vulnerable. They were the image’s weakest location.

All children of the King have feet of clay. Some disguise the fact better than others. We should not expect too much from our heroes of the faith, certainly not perfection. Each one of the characters in the Bible had lapses in judgment or worse with the singular exception of Daniel (Daniel 6:4).

When Elijah the prophet was targeted for death by Jezebel, rather than stand up to her, he ran away (1 Kings 19:1-8). “The Bible typically exposes the weakness of a man of God, for Elijah exhibited symptoms of manic depression, wishing for death, together with loss of appetite, an inability to manage, and with excessive self-pity. He was unmoved by visitors, even by a visit from God and visions, but was restored when given a new and demanding task to fulfill” (Donald J. Wiseman).

1 Kings 19:2-3

 2 So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”

 3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life.

Threatening Elijah openly is not a very effective way of actually hunting him down and dispatching him. Warning somebody that you are looking for them allows them an opportunity to escape. No doubt Jezebel’s plan for Elijah was to terminate with extreme prejudice. But perhaps more importantly, she was furious that he had made a mockery of the prophets of Baal, her god’s prophets. She wanted revenge on Elijah’s God as well. She wanted the God of Elijah mocked and publicly humiliated.

Elijah was the Father’s man. He was the Father’s prophet. Jezebel wanted the God of Elijah discredited. Her threat was calculated. When Elijah turned and ran, he played right into their hands. Can you hear the people mocking the Father? “If the God of Elijah and so powerful, why did Elijah run for his life?” Humanly speaking, his actions were unconscionable. Just when he needed to stand tall this “divinely trained prophet was to prove a notable failure” (Patterson and Austel).


“So sinful is the human heart that it’s prone to forget God’s blessings, ignore God’s promises, and find fault with God’s providence” (Wiersbe).

Father how many times have I deserved to be squashed like a bug? Yet Your gentle mercy and lovingkindness constrain You. You are always ready to provide the needed balm of refreshment and change as needed.


Even mighty Moses had feet of clay. There were times in his life when things just got to him and he felt that just could not take it anymore.

He was greatly empowered and set apart from all other prophets that would ever come after him. He alone would have the privilege of not merely speaking face-to-face with the Father, but also mouth-to-mouth (Numbers 12:8).

Yet at the same time, he handled his privileges and responsibilities well.

Numbers 12:3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.

He finds himself in a serious quandary. Among the people of Israel, who themselves were given to complaining, was a mixed multitude, a foreign rabble who had left Egypt with them. These whiners are given to almost continuous moaning and complaining. They never seem to be satisfied with any provision from the Father. They simply got tired of the miraculous, monotonous manna He provided from heaven.

Numbers 11:4-5

 4 Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed.

 5 “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted.”

On the surface, it seemed that they simply wanted a more varied diet. There is nothing unreasonable about that. But what they really wanted was the pleasures of Egypt. It is seemingly incongruous that they were longing for the good old days of Egyptian bondage. They had blocked out the hardships and cruelty and only remember the few enjoyable things they were allowed. Selective memory is a very strange thing. It allows us to rationalize our behavior based upon what we choose to remember.

The people were becoming riotous and the Father’s patience with them was running out Moses was caught in the middle. Moses was frustrated and totally lost it. Could he have had a nervous breakdown? He failed to look to the Father. Now he was the one complaining.

Numbers 11:11-15

 11 And Moses said to the LORD, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people?”

 12 “Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors?”

 13 “Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’”

 14 “I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy!”

 15 “If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”

Can you hear the sound of a bug being squashed?

Rather than the Father treating Moses harshly, He recognized that the real problem was that Moses was overworked, exhausted, and needed a break. So He lightened his load and redistributed leadership responsibilities. Moses would no longer have to carry the burden of the people alone (Numbers 11:17). He gets a well-deserved vacation.

All children of the King should give thanks to the Father for His loyal love, and the amazing things, He has done for them (Psalms 107:31).


One thought on “Feet of clay

  1. “All children of the King should give thanks to the Father for His loyal love, and the amazing things He has done for them (Psalms 107:31).”
    Today I want to refocus my “selective memory”, to remember that my sins that no one knows about have never brought the satisfaction that I hoped they would. I want to fill this day with gratitude to the Father for the miracle of HIS “selective memory” expressed in Jeremiah 31:34 – “I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more”.


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