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Holman Bible Dictionary


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The organ of speech and then the language spoken (Jeremiah 5:15 ) and the people or nation speaking (Isaiah 66:18 ). The tongue was seen to express the true nature since speech was viewed as more than just a verbal phenomenon. It was seen as the expression of a person's true nature (Psalm 64:2-3 ; Psalm 45:1 ; Proverbs 10:20 ; Proverbs 17:20 ). The wisdom writings of the Old Testament stressed the practical results of the use of the tongue for the individual's life (Proverbs 12:18 ; Proverbs 18:21 ; Proverbs 21:6 ; Proverbs 21:23 ; Proverbs 25:23 ; Proverbs 26:28 ; Proverbs 28:23 ). Like a bit in a horse's mouth or the rudder of a ship, the tongue could control the direction of a person's life (James 3:3-8 ). Since the tongue reveals what is in one's heart, its use had ethical consequences whether for good or bad (Psalm 34:13 ; Psalm 37:30 ; Psalm 109:2 ; Psalm 120:2 ; Psalm 140:2-3 ; Isaiah 59:3 ).

The tongue was seen to play a central role in the expression of a person's religious commitment. The tongue could be used to praise God (Psalm 35:28 ; Psalm 51:14 ; Psalm 71:24 ; Romans 14:11 ; Philippians 2:11 ). On the other hand, the tongue could cause separation from God (Job 15:4-5 ; Psalm 39:1 ; Psalm 78:35-37 ). The potential for good or bad which is part of human nature is actualized through the tongue (James 3:9-10 ).

The word tongue is used, of course, in the basic sense of the term to refer to the organ of eating and drinking ( Judges 7:5 ; Isaiah 41:17 ). Tongue is, also, used figuratively to refer to objects in the material world which resemble the tongue in shape (Isaiah 11:15 ). See Spiritual Gifts ; Tongues, Gift of.

Jeff Cranford

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Tongue'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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