What does “listeth” mean?


by Shawn Brasseaux

On four occasions, the King James Bible employs “listeth” or “listed.” What does the root word “list” mean?

  • Matthew 17:12: “But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.”
  • Mark 9:13: “But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him.”
  • John 3:8: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
  • James 3:4: “Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.”

Obviously, this sense has nothing to do with making an enumeration such as a shopping list or inventory list. This sense of “list” is derived from the Middle English “listen, lusten.” When you see “list” in these verses, think of lust, desire, want, pleasure. Concerning the Matthew and Mark verses, apostate Israel did what they wanted to John the Baptist—that is, permit King Herod Antipas to execute him. They would likewise do what they desired with Jesus Christ—to wit, kill Him also. As touching the John verse, the wind is blowing where it wants. The James passage describes a man controlling the ship, commanding a boat and taking it to the direction of his pleasure.

Also see:
» What does “concupiscence” mean?
» What does “implacable” mean?
» What does “Fetch a compass” mean?