One ancient form of poetry in the Hebrew language mentions several parts of the human body in turn. The poem says something about each part. There are examples in Proverbs 6:12-14 and Song of Solomon 4:1-5.
Paul uses such a poem here, although he is actually writing in the Greek language. Its words are not original; it brings together Bible passages from the Book of Psalms and Isaiah. Paul probably chose to use this form of poetry in order to show that sin (evil thoughts, words and behaviour) controls every part of peopleís lives.
Paul first uses words that David wrote about his enemies, in Psalm 5:9 and Psalm 140:3 and lastly, Psalm 10:7. These verses contain a series of word-pictures about different parts of a personís mouth. People speak with their mouths; therefore these word-pictures are about evil words. Fierce and dangerous animals kill with their mouths; therefore these word-pictures are also about cruelty.
Davidís enemies used cruel and evil words against him because they wanted to catch him and to kill him. Paulís purpose is to show us that God is the judge of our words as well as our actions (compare James 3:1-12).
We might protest therefore that David was writing about the words of the most cruel and wicked people. Paul has used these passages to describe everybodyís evil words. However, Paul has proved that bad words can cause evil things to happen. So, nobody should imagine that their wrong words do not offend God. When we all stand in front of God as our judge, he will know about our wrong words (Matthew 12:36-37). Then we will be unable to defend ourselves; we will be silent as he declares his judgement (3:19). Of course, God desires to forgive our wrong words, even as he wants to forgive our evil actions (Exodus 34:6-7). That is possible only because Christ died for us (5:8).
Next part: Sin destroys human society (Romans 3:15-18)
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© 2017, Keith Simons.