In the Old Testament, "mouth" (Heb. peh [h,P]) often refers to inanimate openings: the entrance of a cave ( Joshua 10:18 Joshua 10:22 ), a well ( Genesis 29:2 Genesis 29:8 Genesis 29:10 ; 2 Sam 17:19 ), a sack ( Gen 42:27 ), or a lion's den ( Dan 6:17 ). "Mouth" also refers to the biological organ, whether human ( Exod 4:11-12 ) or animal ( Num 22:28 ). It is used for the necessities of human life, eating and drinking ( Psalm 78:30 ; Dan 10:3 ), or for intimate contact, kissing ( Job 31:27 ; 1 Kings 19:18 ). The idiomatic phrase "mouth to mouth" means to speak personally and in a straightforward fashion with another ( Jer 32:4 ). Unity is expressed by the phrase "one mouth" ( 1 Kings 22:13 ; cf. Rom 15:6 ).

The anthropomorphic phrase "mouth of God" refers to God's revelation and sustenance for humankind ( Deut 8:3 ; Jer 9:12 ). Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 when Satan tempts him and reveals that life is more than what one puts in his or her mouth. Rather, true existence originates from "every word that comes from the mouth of God" ( Matt 4:4 ). Whether one acknowledges it or not, God's immanence is necessary for existence.

The mouth is the means for expressing what is in one's heart. The association of the Law and the mouth is often made because it is with the mouth that one expresses the essence of his or her religious belief.

In the New Testament, "mouth" (Gk. stoma [stovma]) is used much as it is in the Old Testament. The mouth reveals what is in one's heart. In jas 3:3-12 the point is made that if people can control the speech of their mouth, they can control their actions. What people speak is consistent with what is in their hearts. Therefore, slanderous speech reveals an evil heart (cf. Rom 3:14 ).

The concept that the mouth reveals the true nature of the heart is consistent with what Jesus taught: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" ( Matt 12:34 ; NRSV ). Jesus points out that it is not the food that goes into the mouth that defiles, but the words that come out of the mouth because they come "from the heart" ( Matt 15:17-18 ).

In Colossians 3:8 Paul tells the Colossians to get rid of filthy speech from their mouths. He also says that the confession of the mouth, "Jesus is Lord" ( Rom 10:7-10 ), reveals the belief in one's heart. It is not the confession that redeems a person, but the belief of the heart, where the confession originates.

Revelation sometimes uses "mouth" in a literal sense (NRSV e.g., 14:5 ) but most references are used in an apocalyptic, symbolic way. In this apocalyptic framework, fire ( 9:17-18 ; 11:5 ) and a two-edged sword ( 1:16 ) come out of the mouth. Additionally, other apocalyptic imagery is found ( Revelation 13:2 Revelation 13:5 Revelation 13:6 ; 16:13 ; 19:21 ).

Eric W. Adams

See also Anthropomorphism; Confess, Confession; Person, Personhood

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
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Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Mouth'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.


mowth (peh, chekh, garon (Psalms 149:6); Aramaic pum, tera (Daniel 3:26); stoma, 71 times, once logos, i.e. "word of mouth," "speech" (Acts 15:27); once we find the verb epistomizo, "to silence," "to stop the mouth" (Titus 1:11)):

1. Literal Sense:

In addition to frequent references to man and animals, "Their food was yet in their mouths" (Psalms 78:30); "And Yahweh opened the mouth of the ass" (Numbers 22:28); "Save me from the lion's mouth" (Psalms 22:21), etc., the term is often used in connection with inanimate things:

mouth of a sack (Genesis 42:27); of the earth (Genesis 4:11; Numbers 26:10); of a well (Numbers 29:2,3,8,10); of a cave (Joshua 10:18,22,27); of Sheol (Psalms 141:7); of the abyss (Jeremiah 48:28); of furnace (Aramaic tera`, Daniel 3:26); of idols (Psalms 115:5; 135:16,17).

2. Figurative Sense:

(1) The "mouth" denotes language, speech, declaration (compare "lips," "tongue," which see):

"By the mouth of" is "by means of," "on the declaration of" (Luke 1:70; Acts 1:16); "Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be slain at the mouth of witnesses" (Numbers 35:30; compare Deuteronomy 17:6; Matthew 18:16; Hebrews 10:28); "I will give you mouth and wisdom" (Luke 21:15); "fool's mouth" (Proverbs 18:7).

(2) "Mouth" also denotes "spokesman":

"He shall be to thee a mouth" (Exodus 4:16).

Numerous are the idiomatic phrases which have, in part, been introduced into English by means of the language of the Bible. "To put into the mouth," if said of God, denotes Divine inspiration (Deuteronomy 18:18; Micah 3:5). "To have words put into the mouth" means to have instructions given (Deuteronomy 31:19; 2 Samuel 14:3; Jeremiah 1:9; Exodus 4:11-16). "The fruit of the mouth" (Proverbs 18:20) is synonymical with wisdom, the mature utterance of the wise. "To put one's mouth into the dust" is equivalent with humbling one's self (Lamentations 3:29; compare "to lay one's horn in the dust," Job 16:15). Silent submission is expressed by "laying the hand upon the mouth" (Judges 18:19; Job 29:9; 40:4; Micah 7:16); compare "to refrain the lips"; see LIP. "To open the mouth wide" against a person is to accuse him wildly and often wrongfully (Psalms 35:21; Isaiah 57:4), otherwise "to open one's mouth wide," "to have an enlarged mouth" means to have great confidence and joy in speaking or accepting good things (1 Samuel 2:1; Ezekiel 33:22; 2 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 6:19). "To gape upon one with the mouth" means to threaten a person (Job 16:10). Divine rebuke is expressed by the "rod of God's mouth" (Isaiah 11:4), and the Messiah declares "He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword" (Isaiah 49:2; compare Revelation 2:16; 19:15,21). Great anguish, such as dying with thirst, is expressed by "the tongue cleaving to the roof of the mouth" (Hebrew chekh, Job 29:10; Psalms 137:6; compare 22:15).

H. L. E. Luering

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