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What does it mean to vex / be vexed?

vex, vexed

The word vex means “to disturb, trouble, or provoke.” To be vexed is to be frustrated, annoyed, or exasperated. A vexed person feels some serious irritation. To vex someone is to drive him from patience to impatience or to harass or goad her to the limit of endurance.

In the Bible, there are some examples of people being vexed. One is Samson, who was vexed by his lover, Delilah. Delilah was treacherous and allied with Samson’s enemies, the Philistines. The Philistines knew that there was some secret source to Samson’s great strength, and they paid Delilah to find out what it was. Delilah tried several times to elicit the secret from Samson, but he was not forthcoming. Delilah did not give up but kept up the verbal barrage: “She pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, [until] his soul was vexed to death” (Judges 16:16, ESV). The NIV translates Samson’s annoyance as “he was sick to death of it.”

Another person in the Bible who was said to be vexed was King Ahab. When Ahab asked Naboth to sell his vineyard, Naboth refused, saying, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors” (1 Kings 21:3). Because of this, the king went home “vexed and sullen” (verse 4). Here, the word vexed communicates Ahab’s resentment and anger at not getting what he wanted. Eventually, his vexation led him to kill Naboth and take his vineyard by force.

Job was vexed by his well-meaning friends (Job 19:2). The Israelites were commanded not to vex (as in harass) the foreigners who lived among them (Exodus 22:21). Fathers are not to vex their children or dishearten them (Colossians 3:21). And God promises to vex the ungodly who oppose the Messiah (Psalm 2:5).

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022