The phrase is not found in the Bible. It comes from the funeral service found in the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer. That says, “Then, while the earth shall be cast upon the Body by some standing by, the Priest shall say, “Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.””

‘Dust to dust’ is obviously taken from the words of the Lord to Adam in Genesis 3:19, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: FOR DUST THOU ART, AND UNTO DUST SHALT THOU RETURN.” We also read in Ecclesiastes 3:20, “All go unto one place; ALL ARE OF THE DUST, AND ALL TURN TO DUST AGAIN.”

‘Ashes to ashes’ is most likely taken from verses such as Genesis 18:26-27, “And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but DUST AND ASHES.” We also have the words of Job in Job 30:19, “He hath cast me into the mire, and I am become like DUST AND ASHES.”

Let’s explore Genesis 18:26-27 a bit. Abraham had been making intercessory prayers for Sodom, the town where his nephew Lot was living. Because of the great wickedness of that city, the Lord had determined to destroy it. (Verses 20-21). Abraham began beseeching the Lord by asking the question, “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?” (Verses 23-24).

In verses 26-27, Abraham, in the presence of the Lord, was humbled. He was amazed that he even dared to speak to the Lord. He realized that he was only DUST and ASHES. DUST most likely refers to the humble beginnings of man as we saw in Genesis 3:19. ASHES are the worthless product of objects that have been burned. So, by using these expressions he shows how deeply his soul was humbled in the presence of God. I believe Job’s use of the same expression indicates the same humility.

While the expression “ASHES TO ASHES AND DUST TO DUST” is not found in the scriptures, I see no harm in using these words, as long as we know that this expression is not a quote from God’s Word. (336.4)