Tongue (לָשׁוֹן, lash6nd γλῶσσα) is used in Scripture in various senses.
1. It stands, literally, for the human tongue (Jg 7:5; Job 27:4; Ps 35:28; Ps 39:1,3; Ps 51:14; Ps 66:17; Pr 15:2; Zec 14:12; Mr 7:33,35; Lu 1:64; Lu 16:24; Ro 3:13; Ro 1
Corinthians 14:9; James 1:26; 3, 5, 6,8; 1Pe 3:10; Re 16:10; Eccles. 17:6; Wisd. 10:21; 2 Macc. 7:4); and so for the tongue of the dog (Ps 68:23), of the viper (Job 20:16), of idols (Baruch 6:8); the tongues of the seven brethren cut out (2 Macc. 7:4, 10; comp. Pr 10:20).
Various explanations have been offered why (in the passage first cited above) Gideon's three hundred followers should have been selected because they lapped water out of their hands, standing or perhaps moving onward, while they who stayed and "bowed down to drink" were rejected. Josephus says that the former thereby showed their timorousness and fear of being overtaken by the enemy, and that these poor-spirited men were chosen on purpose to illustrate the power of God in the victory (Ant. 5, 6, 3).
On Mr 7:33,35, Dr. A. Clarke offers the interpretation that it was the deaf and stammering man himself who put his own fingers into his ears to intimate his deafness; spat or emptied his mouth that the Savior might look at his tongue; touched his own tongue to intimate that he could not speak; looked up to heaven as imploring divine aid; and groaned to denote his distress under his affliction; and that our Savior simply said, "Be opened" (Commentary). This explanation certainly clears the passage of some obscurities.
Jas 3:8, Dr. Macknight translates, "But the tongue of men no one can subdue;" that is, the tongue of other men, for the apostle is exhorting the Christian to subdue his own (comp. ver. 13). He observes that (Ecumenius read the passage interrogatively, as much as to say, "Wild beasts, birds, serpents, marine animals, have been tamed by man, and can no man tame the tongue?'"
2. It is personified. "Unto me every tongue shall swear," that is, every man (Isa 45:23; comp. Ro 14:11; Philippians 2, 11; Isa 54:17). The tongue is said to rejoice (Ac 2; Ac 26); to meditate (Ps 52:2); to hate (Pr 26:28); to be bridled (Jas 1:26); to be tamed (3:8; comp. Ecclus. 28:18, etc.). It is apostrophized (Ps 120:3).
3. It is used by metonymy for speech generally. Let us not love in tongue only" (1 John 3, 18 'comp. γλώσση φίλος, Theogn. 63, 13; Job 6:30; Job 15:5; Pr 6:24); a soft tongue," i.e. soothing language (Pr 25:15); "accuse not a servant to his master," literally "hurt not with thy tongue" (Pr 30:10); "the law of kindness is in her tongue," i.e. speech (Pr 31:26; Isa 3:8; Isa 1; Isa 4; Wisd. 1, 6). On the "confusion of tongues," SEE BABEL; SEE ETHNOLOGY; SEE LANGUAGE, etc.
4. For a particular language or dialect spoken by any particular people. "Every one after his tongue" (Ge 10:5,20,31); 'So also in De 28:49; Es 1:22; Da 1:4; Joh 5:2; Ac 1:19; Ac 2:4,8,11; Ac 26:14; 1Co 12:10; 1Co 13:1; 1Co 14:2; Re 16:16).
5. For the people speaking a language (Isa 66:18; Da 3:4,7, etc.; Re 5:9; Re 7:9; Re 10:11; Re 11:9; Re 14:6; Re 17:15).
6. It is used figuratively for anything resembling a tongue in shape. -Thus, "a wedge of gold," literally a "tongue" (Jos 7:21,24; γλῶσσα μία χρυσῆ ; Vulg. regula aurea). The French still say, un lingot dor, "a little tongue of gold," whence, by corruption, our word "ingot," "The bay that looketh southward," literally "tongue" (Jos 15:2; Jos 18:19); "a tongue of fire" (Isa 5:24; comp. Ac 2:3; Isa 11:15).
7. Some of the Hebrew idioms, phrases, etc., formed of this word are highly expressive. Thus, "an evil speaker" (Ps 140:11; אַישׁ לָשׁוֹן, literally "a man of tongue;" comp. Ecclus. 8:3, and see Ec 10:11, Hebrew, or margin); "a forward" or rather "false tongue" (Pr 10:31; לשׁוֹן תִּהפֻּכוֹת, "a tongue of revolvings" ); "a wholesome tongue" (Pr 15:4; לָשׁוֹן מִרַפֵּא, literally "the healing of the tongue," reconciliation, etc.; Sept. ἴασις γλώσσης, lingua placabilis); "a backbiting tongue" (Pr 25:23; סֵתֶר, secret); "slow of speech" (Ex 4:10; כּבֹד לָשׁוֹן , literally "heavy of tongue," unfit to be an orator, βραδύγλωσσος; contrast Ecclus. 4:29); "the tongue of the stammerer" (Isa 32:4), i.e. rude, illiterate (comp. 35:6; on Isa 28:11, see Lowth). In Isa 33:19, it means a foreign language, which seems gibberish to those who do not understand it (comp. Eze 3:5); "the tongue of the learned" (Isa 1:4), i.e. of the instructor. The lexicons will point out many other instances.
8. Some metaphorical expressions are highly significant. Thus, Ho 7:16, "the rage of the tongue," i.e. verbal abuse; "strife of tongues" (Psalm 31: —20); scourge of the tongue" (Job 5:21, SEE EXECRATION; comp. Ecclus. 26:6; 28:17); "snare of the slanderous tongue" (51:2); on the phrase "strange tongue" (Isa 28:11), see Lowth, notes on ver. 9- 12, and afterwards the vivid -rendering of the Vulg.; "to slip with the tongue" (Ecclus. 20:18; 25:8), i.e. use inadvertent or unguarded speech; "they bend their tongues, their bows, for lies" (Jer 9:3), i.e. tell determined and malicious falsehoods; "they sharpen their tongues" (Ps 104:3), i.e. prepare cutting speeches (comp. 57:4) ) "to smooth the tongue" (Jer 23:31), employ flattering language; "to smite with the tongue" (Jer 18:18), i.e. to traduce-if it should not be rendered, "on the tongue," alluding to a punishment for false witness; 'to lie in wait with the tongue" (Ecclus. 5, 14); "to stick out the tongue" (Isa 57:4), i.e. to mock; "against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue" (Ex 11:7), i.e. none shall hurt them; but both Sept. and Vulg. have "not a dog belonging to the children of Israel shall howl," which, as opposed to the "great cry" in Egypt over the first-born, means, not one of the children of Israel shall have cause to wail (Jos 10:21; Judith 11:9). "To hide under the tongue" means to have in the mouth, whether spoken of hidden wickedness (Job 20:12; comp. Ps 10:7) or delicious language (Song 4:11); "the word of God in the tongue" denotes inspiration (2Sa 23:2); "to divide the tongues of the wicked" is to raise up dissensions among them (Ps 55:9; comp. 2Sa 15:34; 2Sa 17; 2Sa 14; 2Sa 15). "The tongue cleaving to the palate" signifies profound attention (Job 29:10) or excessive thirst (La 4:4; comp. 22:16); "to cause the tongue to cleave to the palate" is to inflict supernatural dumbness (Eze 3; Eze 26; Ps 137:6). To gnaw one's tongue is a sign of fury, despair, and torment (Re 16:10).
9. Some beautiful comparisons occur. "An evil tongue is a sharp sword" (Ps 57:4); "the tongue of the wise is health" (Pr 12:18); "like choice silver" (10, 20), i.e. his words are solid, valuable, sincere.
10. The vices of the tongue are specified in great variety: flattery (Ps 5; Ps 9; Pr 28:28); backbiting (Ps 15:3), literally "run about with the: tongue" (Pr 25:23); deceit (Ps 1:6); unrestrained speech (Ps 73:9); lying (Ps 109:2); "a lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it" (Pr 26:28; comp. Tacit. Agr. 42," Proprium humani ingenii est, odisse quem laeseris" ). "They have taught their tongue to speak lies. and weary themselves to commit iniquity" (Jer 9:5) words which beautifully illustrate the fact that falsehood and vice are not natural, but are a restraint and compulsion upon nature: "double-tongued" (1Ti 3:8), δίλογος, saying one thing to this man and another to that (comp. Ecclus. 5, 9, 14; 28:13). The retribution of evil-speakers is represented as brought on themselves (Isa 64:8).
11. The virtuous uses of the tongue are specified: "keeping the tongue" (Ps 34:13; 1 Peter 3, 10; Pr 21:23); "ruling the tongue" (Ecclus. 19:6; Jas 1:26); the origin of the right and wrong use of the tongue traced to the heart (Mt 12:34).
12. Mistranslations: as "holding the tongue;" the Hebrews had no such idiom (Ps 39:2; Ecclus. 20:1, 7; comp. the Bible and Prayer-book version of Hab 1:13). In Ezr 4:7, "the Syrian tongue," literally "in Syriac" (Es 7:4). Our mistranslation of Pr 16:1 has misled many: "The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord;" literally," Of man are the dispositions of the heart, but a hearing of the tongue is of the Lord."
13. The miraculous gift of tongues, as well as its corresponding gift of interpretation, has been the subject of two opinions. It was promised by Christ to believers: they shall speak γλώσσαις καιναῖς (Mr 16:17); and fulfilled at Pentecost, when the apostles and their companions "began to speak ἑτέραις γλώσσαις (Ac 2; Ac 4; Ac 11; comp. Ac 10:46; Ac 19:6; 1Co 12:30; 1Co 14:2,39). In the last passage we have "to pray in a tongue" (ver. 14), "to speak words in a tongue" (ver. 19), "tongues" (1Co 12:10,28; 1Co 13:8; 1Co 14:22,26). The obvious explanation of most of these passages is, to speak in other living languages, the supernatural acquisition of which demonstrated the truth of the Gospel, and was a means of diffusing it. Some verses in 1 Corinthians 14:however, have given rise to the notion of a strange, ecstatic, inspired, unearthly language; but these all admit of a different solution. In ver. 2, "he who speaketh in a tongue" evidently means, he who speaks some foreign living language; the supplied word "'unknown" in the A.V. is needless, and misleads the English reader. It is further said that "he edifieth himself" (which, as Macknight justly pleads, required that he should understand himself), and edifieth the Church also if an interpreter were present (ver. 28). The apostle says (ver. 14), "If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful," which words in English seem to intimate that the speaker might not understand himself; but the words ὁ δὲ νοῦς μου sigify "my meaning" (comp. 2:16; Vulg. "sensum Domini" ), or, as Hammond and Schleusner say, "my faculty of thinking upon and explaining to others the meaning of what I utter" (comp. ver. 15,19), though in ver. 15 some take τῷ νοϊv as a dativus commodi, and 'render "that others may understand." The key to the difficulties of this subject is the supposed absence of an inspired interpreter (ver. 28), in which case the gift would not be profitable to the hearers. 'The gift of tongues was to cease (1Co 13:8). Irenieus testifies (5, 6) that it subsisted in the Church in his time. When Paul says, that though he should speak with the tongue of men and of angels, it would be nothing without charity, he uses a supposed 'hyperbole; as when we say, angelical beauty, angelical voice, etc., e.g. "I would have every one set a due value on the gift of tongues; but though a man possessed the most exquisite eloquence, this inestimable gift would be of little use to him, as to salvation, if he be without charity." See Macknight, Notes on 1 Corinthians 14; Oihausen, Comment. on Acts 2, 4; Neander, Hist. of the Apostolic Age, and in Bibl. Repos. 4:249, etc.; Stosch, Archaeol. (Econ. N.T. p. 93; Gataker, ad M. Anton. p. 120; and Ernesti, Lex. Techn. Gr. Rhet. p. 62. SEE SPIRITUAL GIFTS.