Tooth (שֵׁן, shen, ὀδούς). The Hebrew word is by some derived from שָנָה, "to change" or "repeat," because the teeth are changed, or replaced by others; but it better comes from שָׁנִן, to sharpen. So likewise the Greek ὀδούς is said to be quasi ἐδούς, from ἔδω, "to eat;" and the Latin dens, quasi edens, "eating." But the three words are probably all primitives, and the latter two at least are' etymologically connected with the English tooth.
I. In the singular this term occurs first with reference to the literal member itself in man, the loss of which, by violence, is specified by Moses, in illustration of his law concerning taliones, "tooth for tooth" (Ex 21:24). This outrage occurring between freemen (or between an Israelite and a foreigner, Le 24:22) admitted, like other cases of maiming, most probably of a pecuniary compensation, and under private arrangement, unless the injured party proved exorbitant in his demand, when the case was referred to the judge, who seems addressed in De 19:21. The Targum of Jonathan renders the words, "the price of a tooth for a tooth," in Ex 21:24; Le 24:20, and De 19:21 (comp. Josephus, Ant. 4:8, 35, and SEE PUNISHMENT in this Cyclopaedia); but if a master inflicted this irreparable damage upon a servant, i.e. slave, of either sex, he was punished by the absolute loss of the slave's services (Ex 21:27), The same law applied if the slave was a Gentile, notwithstanding the national glosses of the Jewish doctors (Selden, De Jure Nat. et Gent. 4 ,
1468). Our Lord's comment upon the law (Mt 5:38), which was much abused in his time (Horne, Introd. 2, 377, 6th ed.), prohibits no more than retaliation upon the injurer (τῷ πονηρῷ), not such a defense of our innocence as may consist in words, but private revenge, and especially with such a disposition as actuated the aggressor, with impetuous rage or hatred. His exhortations relate rather to those injuries which cannot be redressed by the magistrate or by course of law; these we should bear rather than resort to revenge (see Rosenmüller, Grotius, and Whitby, ad loc.). Indeed, the hermeneutics of our Lord's precepts in his Sermon on the Mount require much knowledge, care, and discrimination, in. order to avoid a prima facie interpretation of them, which has often been given, at variance with his intention, subversive of the principles of natural justice, and productive of false ideas of Christian duty.
In Ps 3:7 we have לחַי, for the human jawbone; for that of an ass (Jg 15:15-17, σιαγόνα, "maxillam, i.e. mandibulam;" which becomes מִכתֵּשׁ in ver. 19, τὸν λάκκον τὸν ἐν τῇ σιαγόνι "molarem dentem in maxilla asini") SEE SAMSON; and for that of leviathan (Job 40:14, τὸ χεῖλος, naxillanr). See Jaw. A "broken (or rather bad, רָעָה, that is, decayed; Vulg. dens putridus) tooth" is referred to in Pr 25:19, as furnishing an apt similitude of "confidence in an unfaithful man in the time of trouble." "The teeth of' beasts," or rather "tooth" שֵׁן, is a phrase expressive of devastation by wild animals; thus, "I will send the tooth of beasts upon them" (De 32:24), שֵׁןאּבּהֵמֹת(ὀδόντας θηρίων, dentes bestiarumz; comp. 2Ki 17:25).
The word is sometimes used metaphorically for a sharp cliff or summit of a rock (Job 39:28); thus, "'The eagle dwelleth and abideth upon the tooth of the rock, עֲלאּשֵׁןאּסֶלִע (ἐπ᾿ ἐξοχῇ πέτρας, inaccessis rupibus). So also (1Sa 14:4), "a sharp rock on the one side and a sharp rock on the other side, שֶׁןאּהִסֶּלִע (ὀδοὺς πέτρας, quasi in modun, dentium scopuli); these eminences were named Bozez and Seneh.
II. TEETH, שַׁנִּיַם, shinna'yim (όδόντες), is found in the dual number only, referring to the two rows, yet used for the plural (1Sa 2:13). The word occurs first with reference to the literal organs in man (Ge 49:12), "His teeth shall be white with milk," which the Sept. and Vulg. understand to mean "whiteness greater than milk"( ἣ γάλα, lacte candidiores; Nu 11:33; Pr 10:26; Song 4:2; Song 6:6). Although שַׁנִּיַם. be the general word for teeth, yet the Hebrews had a distinct term for the molars, or jaw teeth, especially of the larger animals; thus, מֵתִלַּעוֹת (Job 29:17; Ps 57:4; Pr 30:14; Joe 1:6); and by transposition מִלתָּעוֹת (Ps 58:6, μύλαι, molce and 1inolares). The apparent teeth of the leviathan (gyrus dentium) are, however, called שׁנִּים (Job 41:14). Ivory, "elephants teeth," 1Ki 10:22, is simply שַׁנִּיַם (Sept. omits; Vulg. dentes elephantorum); dens in Latin is sometimes so used. In 2Ch 9:21 the word is שֶׁנהִבַּים (ὀδόντες ἐλεφάντινοι, ebur), where שׁן evidently denotes a tooth; but the signification of the latter part, הִבּים is unknown, and Gesenius thinks that the form of the word may be so corrupted as to disguise its original meaning. May it not be of foreign origin, imported with the material from Ophir? SEE IVORY.
In other passages the reference to teeth is metaphorical; thus, "a flesh-hook with three teeth," that is, prongs (1Sa 2; 1Sa 13). SEE HOOK. "The teeth of lions" is a symbol of the cruelty and rapacity of the wicked (Job 4:10), "To take one's flesh into one's teeth" signifies to gnaw it with anguish (13, 14; comp. Re 16:10). The skin of his teeth," with which Job says he had "escaped" in his affliction, is understood by the Vulgate. of the lips" derelicta sunt tantummodo labia circa dentes meos;" but Gesenius understands it as a proverbial expression, meaning, I have scarcely a sound spot in my body. "To smite upon the jaw bone" and "to break the teeth" mean to disgrace and to disable (Ps 3:7; comp. Mic 6:13; 1Ki 20:35; La 3:30). The teeth of calumniators, etc., are compared to "spears and arrows" (Ps 57:4; comp. 1Sa 24:9). To break the teeth of such persons means to disable them (Ps 58:6). To escape the malice of enemies is called an "escape from their teeth" (Ps 124:6; Zec 9:7). Oppression is compared to "jaw-teeth like swords, and grinders like knives" (Pr 30:14). Beautiful teeth are compared to "sheep newly shorn and washed" in Song 4:2; Song 6:6; but the remaining part of the comparison, "whereof every one beareth twins, and none is barren among them," is much better rendered by Le Clerc," all of them twins, and none hath lost his fellow." To break the teeth with gravel stones" is a most hyperbolical metaphor for inflicting the harshest disappointment (La 3:16). "Iron teeth" are the symbol of destructive power (Da 7:7,19). A nation having the teeth of lions, and the cheek-teeth of a great lion, denotes one which devours with irresistible force (Joe 1:6; comp. Ecclus. 21:2; Re 9:8). "Prophets who bite with their teeth, and cry Peace," are greedy and hypocritical prophets (Mic 3:5). "To take away blood out of the mouth, and abominations from between the teeth," means to rescue the intended victims of cruelty (Zec 9:7). "Cleanness of teeth" is a periphrasis for hunger, famine (Am 4:6; Sept. γομφιασμὸν ὀδόντων , Symmachus and Theodotion, καθαρισμόν). Gnashing of teeth means, properly, grinding the teeth with rage or despair. The Hebrew word so rendered is חָרִק (Job 16:9; La 2:16; Ps 35; Ps 16; Ps 37:12; Ps 112:10); it is invariably rendered in the Sept. βρύχω, and in the Vulg. Infremo, fremo, frendo (see also Ac 7:54; Ecclus. 51, 2). In the New Test. it is said of the epileptic child (Mr 9:18), τρίζει τοὺς ὀδόντας, stridet dentibus. The phrase ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων is in the Vulgate "stridor dentium" (Mt 8:12; Mt 13:42,50; Mt 22:13; Mt 24:51; Mt 25:30; Lu 13:28). Suidas defines βρυγμός· τρισμὸς ὀδόντων. Galen, ὁ ἀπὸ τῶν ὀδόντων συγκρουομένων ψόφος The phrase "lest thou gnash thy teeth" (Ecclus. 30:10) is γομφιάσεις τοῦς ὀδόντας σοῦ. "To cast in the teeth" is an old English phrase (for the Hebrew has no such idiom), signifying to reproach; thus "the thieves who were crucified with Jesus cast the same in his teeth," ὠνείδιζον αὐτόν (Mt 27:44; Vulg. improperabant ei; compare also the Bible and Prayer book version of Ps 42:11). פַּיפַיּוֹת, "a sharp threshing instrument having teeth," literally "edges" (Isa 41:15). The action of acids on the teeth is referred to in tile proverb "the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Eze 18:2): ἐγομφίασαν, obstupuerunt (Pr 10:26).