1 Corinthians 14:21

21 In the law it is written, "By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people; yet even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord.

1 Corinthians 14:21 Meaning and Commentary

Ver. 21. In the law it is written
In ( Isaiah 28:11 ) for the word law is not be confined to the five books of Moses, but includes all the writings of the Old Testament; and this entirely agrees with the sense of the Jews. Says R. Azarias F17

``is it not to be found with our wise men, of blessed memory, in many places, that the word (hrwt) , "law", comprehends the prophets, and the holy writings?''

And he gives an instance out of the Talmud, and which indeed is very pertinent to the purpose, and is rightly produced, and will support the apostle in calling the prophecy of Isaiah the law, since it is so called in the following passage F18. R. Chijah bar Aba says, that

``R. Jochanan said, from whence is the resurrection of the dead to be proved, (hrwth Nm) , "out of the law?" from what is said in ( Isaiah 52:8 ) "thy watchmen shall lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing". It is not said "they sing", but "they shall sing": from hence the resurrection of the dead is to be proved out of the law.''

And out of the same book the apostle cites the following words;

with [men of] other tongues, and other lips, will I speak unto this
people, and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord:
the words, "men of", are a supplement of our translators, and which does not seem very necessary: nor is any made in other versions. The words, as they are in our translation of the prophet, are read thus, "with stammering lips, and another tongue, will he speak to this people". Some difference there is between the two passages, which are of no great moment; the words "lips" and "tongue" are inverted by the apostle; nor was it at all material to observe the strict order of them in the citation: and he has also rendered "stammering lips" by "other tongues", and that very rightly; for the word (gel) , used by Isaiah, does not signify stammering, but derision or mocking; so persons that are spoken to in a language they understand not, look upon themselves to be mocked and derided: and the apostle is to be justified by the Chaldee paraphrase, which renders the words, (llmm ywnvb) , "with change of speech": that is, with another and different language. Moreover, it is to be observed, that the prophet delivers the passage in the third person, and the apostle cites it in the first: the reason of this is, because he adds these words to it, "saith the Lord": partly for the sake of the authority of the words, and partly to engage the attention of the Corinthians to them; and certain it is, that Isaiah's meaning is, that the Lord would speak in such a manner to the Jews: the other phrase, "for all that will they not hear me", are taken out of ( Isaiah 28:12 ) . Some think that this prophecy refers to God's speaking, by the apostles on the day of Pentecost, with divers tongues, to the Jews; when, though there were three thousand converted at that time, yet these were but comparatively few; the body of the people remained incredulous, and hearkened not to the apostles, though their ministry was attended with such signs and wonders: but rather the sense seems to be this, that whereas the Lord had spoken in the plainest manner to the people of the Jews, by the prophets, as he would afterwards by the apostles, and had repeated his words so often, that even a child might be thought to be capable of receiving them; yet such was their stupidity and obstinacy, that they slighted and disregarded them; wherefore he threatens them he would take another method with them, and speak to them in his providences, by people of different and strange languages, as by the Chaldeans, Medes, and Persians, in the seventy years' captivity, and by the Romans, and other nations since, among whom they now are; and yet all this has had no effect upon them to listen to the doctrine of the prophets and apostles. Hence the Corinthians had no reason to be so desirous of speaking with divers tongues, since these have been threatened and used by God in a way of punishment to a people, and not a blessing.


F17 Meor. Enayim, c. 7. fol. 47. I.
F18 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 91. 2.

1 Corinthians 14:21 In-Context

19 nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
20 Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults.
21 In the law it is written, "By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people; yet even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord.
22 Tongues, then, are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers.
23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your mind?