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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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ēr ( אזן , 'ōzen ; οὖς , oús , ὠτίον , ōtı́on , the latter word (literally, "earlet") in all the Gospels only used of the ear of the high priest's servant, which was cut off by Peter: Matthew 26:51; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:51 (not Luke 22:50 ); John 18:10 , John 18:26 ):

(1) The physical organ of hearing which was considered of peculiar importance as the chief instrument by which man receives information and commandments. For this reason the ear of the priest had to be specially sanctified, the tip of the right ear being touched with sacrificial blood at the consecration (Leviticus 8:23 ). Similarly the ear of the cleansed leper had to be rededicated to the service of God by blood and oil (Leviticus 14:14 , Leviticus 14:17 , Leviticus 14:25 , Leviticus 14:28 ). The ear-lobe of a servant, who preferred to remain with the family of his master rather than become free in the seventh year, was to be publicly bored or pierced with an awl in token of perpetual servitude (Exodus 21:6 ). It has been suggested that Psalm 40:6 should be interpreted in this sense, but this is not probable (see below). The cutting off of the ears and noses of captives was an atrocious custom of war frequently alluded to in oriental literature, ( Ezekiel 23:25 ). The phrase "to open the ear," which originally means the uncovering of the ear by partially removing the turban, so as to permit a clearer hearing, is used in the sense of revealing a secret or of giving important (private) information (1 Samuel 9:15; 1 Samuel 20:2 , 1 Samuel 20:12 , 1 Samuel 20:13; 2 Samuel 7:27; 1 Chronicles 17:25; also Psalm 40:6 ), and the New Testament promises similarly that "things which eye saw not, and ear heard not" are to be revealed by the reconciled God to the heart that in gladsome surrender has come to Him to be taught by His spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9 ).

(2) The inner ear, the organ of spiritual perception. If the ear listens, the heart willingly submits, but often the spiritual ear is "hardened" (Isaiah 6:10; Zechariah 7:11; Matthew 13:15; Acts 28:27 ), or "heavy" (Isaiah 6:10; also Deuteronomy 29:4 ), either by self-seeking obstinacy or by the judgment of an insulted God. Such unwilling hearers are compared to the "deaf adder ... which hearkeneth not to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely" (Psalm 58:4 , Psalm 58:5; compare also Proverbs 21:13; Proverbs 28:9; Acts 7:57 ). The expression "He that hath ears to hear let him hear" is frequent in the Synoptic Gospels, occurring 7 or 8 times: Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:9 , Matthew 13:43; Mark 4:9 , Mark 4:23 ( Mark 7:16 the Revised Version (British and American) omits); Luke 8:8; Luke 14:35 , and while not found in the Fourth Gospel, it occurs seven times in Rev 2 and 3. "Itching ears," on the other hand, are those that have become tired of the sound of oft-repeated truth and that long for new though deceitful teaching (2 Timothy 4:3 ). Ears may "tingle" at startling news, especially of disaster (1 Samuel 3:11; 2 Kings 21:12; Jeremiah 19:3 ).

(3) God's ears are often mentioned in the anthropopathic style of Scripture, signifying the ability of God to receive the petitions of His people, for "He that planted the ear, shall he not hear?" (Psalm 94:9; also Psalm 10:17; Psalm 34:15; Psalm 130:2; Isaiah 59:1; 1 Peter 3:12 ). But God also hears the murmurings of the wicked against Him (Numbers 11:1; 2 Kings 19:28; The Wisdom of Solomon 1:10; James 5:4 ); still it lies in His power to refuse to hear (Ezekiel 8:18; Lamentations 3:8; compare also Lamentations 3:56 ).

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Ear'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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