THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE (open sepulchre, KJV): eos enos
taphos aneogmenos (RPPMSN) ho larygx (throat) auton:
(Jer 5:16; Mt 23:27,28)
In Romans 3:13-18 note how various
parts or members of the body (which are neutral in and of themselves)
are involved in sin.
Ps 5:9 "There is nothing
reliable in what they say; their inward part is destruction
itself. Their throat is an open grave. They flatter with their
"For there is no truth
in their mouth; their heart is vain; their throat is an open
sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit."
Paul quotes from Psalm 5 where
David writes that
There is nothing reliable in what they say; their
inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave. They
flatter with their tongue. (Ps 5:9)
To man’s “hoof”
problem, David exposes man’s “mouth” problem, with special application
to his slick-talking enemies, describing them as flatterers, whose words
of praise are really a means of serving themselves rather than the one
they are praising. And because praise appeals to human nature, it also
leads the flattered person into pride and false self-confidence. A
flatterer therefore both uses and abuses others.
C H Spurgeon commenting on (Ps
"This description of depraved man has been copied by the
apostle Paul (Romans 2), together with some other quotations, as
an accurate description of the whole human race, not of David’s enemies
only. An open sepulcher. A sepulcher is full of loathsomeness,
pestilence and death, and an open sepulcher has all its evil
gases issuing to spread death and destruction all around. So with the
throat of the wicked, it would be a great mercy if it could always
be closed. All the wickedness of their heart exhales. How dangerous is
an open sepulcher; men in their journeys might easily
stumble therein, and find themselves among the dead. Take heed of the
wicked man, for there is nothing that he will not say to you; he will
long to destroy your character, and bury you in the hideous sepulcher
of his own wicked throat. One sweet thought here, however: there will be
a resurrection not only of bodies, but characters. This should be a
great comfort to a man who has been abused and slandered (see Matthew
The world may think you vile, but if you have been upright, in the day
when the graves give up their dead, this open sepulcher of
the sinner’s throat will be compelled to give up your heavenly
character, and you will be honored in the sight of men. They flatter
with their tongue. A smooth tongue is a great evil; there are human
anteaters that with their long tongues covered with oily words entice
the unwary and make their gain thereby." (Treasury of David)
(larugx) is the larynx, the organ of voice.
(anoigo from ana = up/again + oigo = open) means to
open up or open again. The idea is to open what is closed, as in Matthew where
the tombs were opened; and many
bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised (Mt 27:52)
Anoigo is in the
perfect tense indicating that the grave has been opened at some
point and that it remains open. It speaks of a permanent condition.
(taphos) means a site or
receptacle for interment as a grave, tomb or sepulchre.
Most NT uses of
taphos are of a literal burial place but Paul's use is clearly
figurative, Thayer's Lexicon noting that...
their speech threatens destruction to
others, it is death to someone whenever they open their mouth
used 7 times in the NAS (Matt 23:27, 29; 27:61, 64, 66; 28:1; Ro
and is translated in the NAS as grave, 5; tombs, 2 and in the KJV as
sepulchre, 6; tomb, 1.
Taphos is found 40 times in the
Ge 23:4, 20; 47:30; Jdg 8:32; 16:31; 1 Sam 10:2; 2 Sam 2:32; 3:32; 4:12;
17:23; 19:37; 21:14; 1Kgs 13:22, 30f; 2Kgs 9:28; 13:21; 21:26; 22:20;
23:6, 16, 30; 2 Chr 21:20; 24:25; 28:27; 32:33; Neh 3:16; Job 5:26;
6:10; 21:32; Ps 5:9; 14:3; 49:11; 68:6; 88:5, 11; Eccl 8:10; Jer 8:1;
20:17; Ezek 37:13; Matt 23:27, 29; 27:61, 64, 66; 28:1
taphos in his denunciation of the Jewish religious leaders
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs (taphos) which on
the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's
bones and all uncleanness. (Mt 23:27)
“Their mouth (words) is like the odor of a newly
Shedd says that
‘Some portions of Greek and Roman literature stink like a newly opened
Sounds like modern
day fare offered on regular and cable television, not to mention the
Tombs were sealed not only to show
respect for the deceased, but to hide the sight and stench of the body’s
decay. The full import of this picture can only be appreciated in hot
climates like the middle east. Imagine the effect of the oppressive heat
on decaying flesh! An ugly picture is being painted. As an unsealed tomb
allows those who pass to see and smell what is inside, the unregenerate
man’s open throat—that is, the foul words that come from
it—reveal the decay of his heart.
For example Solomon says that
mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, but the perverted tongue will
be cut out. The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable,
But the mouth of the wicked, what is perverted." (Pr 10:31, 32)
"The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of
fools spouts folly." (Pr 15:2)
"The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the
wicked pours out evil things." (Pr 15:28)
Jesus addressing the "super religious" (but sans relationship
with God) Pharisees said
"You brood of vipers, how can you, being
evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills
the heart. "The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is
good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is
evil." (Mt 12:34,
Warren Wiersbe calls Romans
3:13-18 "an X-ray study of the lost sinner, from head to foot."
William Newell comments that here
God speaks as the all-wise, holy Physician, in
diagnosis: Their throat is an open sepulchre. Doctors always insist
first on looking down our throats: and we all know that the throat and
tongue denote the state of health. There could be nothing more horrible
than what we have here: death, decay, moral stench, and that not hidden,
but open! Unhidden, unashamed putridity:-thus a holy God describes the
throat of every one of us by nature! As Bishop Howe says: "Emitting
the noisome exhalations of a putrid heart." We must remember we are
here seeing man through God's all-holy eyes." (Romans:
Verse by Verse)
Our speech has the smell of death about it because there is nothing but
death inside us. Is this why we talk about "dirty" jokes and "gutter
language?" And is it a coincidence that so many of our "dirty" words
have to do with human excrement and perverted sex? Is this not a
reflection of the decay inside the human heart? Why do we love "dirty"
talk and double entendres? Why do children love trash talk? Because
inside your heart is a rotting corpse, and the stench of it comes out of
your mouth. Do you doubt that the human mouth is filled with cursing and
bitterness? If so, then try this little experiment. Take a walk down the
street and punch the first stranger you meet right in the nose. Then pay
attention to what comes out of his mouth! (Then run for your life!)"
(Read the full sermon
Romans 3:9-20: The Man in the Mirror)
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP
DECEIVING: tais glossais auton edoliousan (3PIAI):
(Ro 3:4; Ps 5:9; 12:3,4; 36:3; 52:2;
57:4; Isa 59:3; Jer 9:3, 4, 5; Ezek 13:7; Mt 12:34,35; Jas 3:5, 6, 7, 8)
Ps 5:9 There is nothing reliable
in what they say; Their inward part is destruction itself; Their throat
is an open grave; They flatter with their tongue.
Ps 12:3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, The tongue that speaks
Ps 12:4 Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are
our own; who is lord over us?”
Ps 36:3 The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; He has ceased
to be wise and to do good.
Ps 52:2 Your tongue devises destruction, Like a sharp razor, O worker of
Ps 57:4 My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth
fire, Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, And their
tongue a sharp sword.
Paul is quoting verbatim from the
of Psalm 5:9 (see
(glossa) is a member of the body, specifically the organ of
speech and taste.
I am your tongue! I am an important
fellow. The Bible mentions me about 215 times (Pr. 18:21; 21:23,
etc.). When I speak kind, thoughtful and true words, there is happiness;
when I speak mean, untrue, angry or complaining words, there is trouble.
speaking of the power of the tongue wrote...
Bernard of Clairvaux spoke, and
thousands left all their earthly goods for the Second Crusade. Patrick
Henry's immortal words, "Give me liberty, or give me death!" inspired a
nation to fight furiously for liberty. Young William Jennings Bryan came
to the 1896 Democratic National Convention simply as an alternate
delegate. As he spoke to the great throng of delegates there, he lifted
them out of their seats with his oratory and was acclaimed their nominee
for the presidency of the United States. The tongue is powerful.
One slogan used during World War II
was, "a slip of the lip may sink a ship." I have a picture of a South
Pacific battle scene in which Marines are storming a beachhead. They are
dropping everywhere. One Marine is wounded and bleeding. The picture
bears a two-word title: Somebody Talked. It may be that the tongue has
slain more than have all the bullets and bombs of battle. The book of
Proverbs tells us that "A soft tongue breaketh the bone" (Pr 25:15b).
And again we read, "He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life" (Pr
Edward Everett Hale in his story "The
Man Without a Country" tells of the young naval officer, Philip Nolan,
who with some others was on trial for being false to the service. As the
court session dragged on and the trial came to a close, Nolan was asked
if he wished to say anything to show that he had always been faithful to
the United States. In a fit of temper he cursed and said, "I wish that I
may never hear of the United States again!" The judge and the jury were
shocked! In fifteen minutes they issued the verdict: "The Court decides,
subject to the approval of the President, that you shall never hear the
name of the United States again." Nolan laughed, but no one else
laughed, and he became the man without a country. (Sweeting, G. Great
Quotes & Illustrations)
Deceiving (1387) (dolioo
= deceit in turn from délō = bait
and metaphorically guile, deceit) means to lure as by baiting a hook by
covering it with a small piece of food to disguise its danger. When a
fish bites the food, thinking he will get a meal, he instead becomes a
meal for the fisherman. The idea then is that these men deal deal treacherously (likely to betray trust, providing insecure
footing or support, marked by hidden dangers, hazards, or perils) or use
fraud (intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another
to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right; fraud
usually implies a deliberate perversion of the truth). They deceive by
using trickery and falsehood.
Man's heart is
deceptive, centuries earlier Jeremiah recording that
The heart is more deceitful than all
else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)
of the verb pictures continual, repetitive deceit. Over and over again
they deceive! Unfortunately, we've all experienced the poison of deceit. The
imperfect tense also speaks of men
persevering in their hypocritical speech.
can be a blessing
Or the tongue can be a curse;
Say, friend, how are you using yours:
For better or for worse?
This verse is the
only NT use of dolioo while the Septuagint has 4 uses - Num.
25:18; Ps. 5:10; 13:3; 104:25
reminds us "This includes your tongue and mine, reader."
For the unregenerate, natural man,
lying and other forms of deceit come naturally and are a habitual,
normal part of his life. Those little white lies, the way we erect
facades, the way we claim to feel one way when we actually feel another;
we think all this deceit is harmless and unnoticed. But God sees it.
Vance Havner once said "When I was a boy, the old country
doctor came lumbering in with his bulging pill‑bag and always began his
examination by saying, "Let me see your tongue." It is a good way to
begin the examination of any Christian. What we talk about is a good
index to our character. Our speech betrays us."
THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER
ios aspidon hupo ta cheile auton: (Dt
32:33; Job 20:14, 15, 16)
Paul is quoting verbatim from the Septuagint of the
of the following verse:
They sharpen their tongues as a serpent.
Poison of a viper is under
their lips. [Selah].
from híemi = to send)
is something sent out and one Greek meaning is thus arrow, a meaning not
found in the NT.
Ios is used
in the NT to mean poison or venom. The idea is something
that is emitted since venom is ejected or emitted from a serpent's
fangs. Ios also means rust as if emitted by metals.
Ios is used
3 times in the NT (see below) and 7 times in the (Ps 14:3; 140:3; Pr
23:32; Lam 3:13; Ezek 24:6, 11, 12)
ios with both meanings (poison and rust) writing...
(Describing the Tongue James says that) "no one (Greek =
absolutely no one. Have you ever tried?) can (dunamai = have power by
virtue of inherent ability and resources) tame (reduce to stillness or
quietness) the tongue; it is a restless (Unsettled, unsteady, unstable,
staggering, reeling like a drunken man. Not having stability) evil and
full of (replete, stuffed) deadly (literally death bringing) poison
(ios). (James 3:8) (Comment: The tongue of an unregenerate man or
even of a believer not controlled by the Spirit is like a deadly
poisonous snake. The venomous evil chafes at confinement, always seeking
a way to escape and to spread its deadly poison. This "poison" is more
deadly than a snake's because it can destroy morally, socially,
economically, and spiritually.)
(Warning the materially rich James writes) Your gold and your silver
have rusted; and their rust (ios) will be a witness against you
and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you
have stored up your treasure! (Comment: Here rust is a
warning against heaping up worldly wealth. The rust will not merely rot
this but will serve as a testimony against its owners and sear their
flesh like fire. The point is not just that rust proves the
transitoriness of riches but that it accuses the rich for letting things
rot rather than give them to the poor!)
describes a deadly serpent (Egyptian cobra) whose poison was contained
in a bag under the lips!
In the Greek
writings and in the
aspis was also used to describe a round shield (Lat.
clipeus, of bull's hide, overlaid with metal plates, with a boss in the
middle, and fringed with tassel) but "shield" is clearly not the meaning
in the present verse.
This is the only
NT use of aspis but there are 17 uses in the
(Deut. 32:33, 1Sa 17:6, 1Sa 17:45, 1 Chr. 5:18, 2Chr 9:16, Job
15:26, Job 20:14, Job 41:15, Ps 14:3, Ps 58:4, Ps 91:13, Ps 140:3,
Isa 11:8, Isa 14:29, Isa 30:6, Isa 59:5, Jer 46:3)
that aspis was...
a small and very venomous serpent,
the bite of which is fatal, unless the part affected is at once cut away
= metaphorically, of the conversation of the ungodly.
In describing asps
William Newell writes that
"The fangs of a deadly serpent lie,
ordinarily, folded back in its upper jaw, but when it throws up its head
to strike, those hollow fangs drop down, and when the serpent bites, the
fangs press a sack of deadly poison hidden "under its lips," at the
root, thus injecting the venom into the wound. You and I were born with
moral poison-sacks like this. And how people do claim the right to
strike others with their venom-words! to use their snake-fangs!"
3: Devotional and Expositional)
(cheilos) means the physical part of the mouth or can refer to
language or dialect in some contexts as in the present verse.
This is a striking
allusion to poison of asp which, like that of the common viper and other
poisonous serpents, is lodged under the upper lip and at the inner end
of two hollow fangs with which it bites and through which it infuses its
How the world
desperately needs to sing the song of the redeemed, like Frances Ridley
Havergal who wrote...
Take my lips,
and let them be
Filled with messages for Thee.
Spurgeon has the following
comments on Ps140:3:
"They have sharpened their tongues like a
serpent. The rapid motion of a viper’s tongue gives you the idea of
its sharpening it; even thus do the malicious move their tongues at such
a rate that one might suppose them to be in the very act of wearing them
to a point, or rubbing them to a keen edge. It was a common notion that
serpents inserted their poison by their tongues, and the poets used the
idea as a poetical expression, although it is certain that the serpent
wounds by his fangs and not by his tongue. We are not to suppose that
all authors who used such language were mistaken in their natural
history any more than a writer can be charged with ignorance of
astronomy because he speaks of the sun’s traveling from east to west.
Adders’ poison is under their lips. The deadliest of all venom is
the slander of the unscrupulous. Our text, however, must not be confined
in its reference to some few individuals, for in the inspired epistle to
the Romans it is quoted as being true of us all. The old serpent has not
only inoculated us with his venom, but he has caused us to be ourselves
producers of the like poison: it lies under our lips, ready for us, and,
alas, it is all too freely used when we grow angry, and desire to take
vengeance upon any who have caused us vexation. It is sadly wonderful
what hard things even good people will say when provoked. O Lord, take
the poison-bags away, and cause our lips to drop nothing but honey.
Selah. This is heavy work. Go up, go up, my heart! Sink not too low.
Fall not into the lowest key. Lift up thyself to God." (Treasury of
Honey on the lips, poison under
them. Israel's first King, Saul, for example
"said to David,
”Here is my older daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife, only
be a valiant man for me and fight the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought,
“My hand shall not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines
be against him." (1Sa 18:17)
Saul used the phrase "fight the LORD'S battles"
he knew that would appeal to David. And yet Saul's offer came out of a
treacherous (likely to betray trust) heart, desiring not good but evil
and calamity for David. How interesting to see the similarity between
Saul’s treachery and that of David with Uriah (read the tragic story in
Ray Stedman says
that Poison...under their lips
"is a picture of the tongue used to slander, to plant poison in
another person's heart -- the put-down, the sharp, caustic words, the
sarcasm that cuts someone off and depersonalizes another being. We are
all guilty. This is what is inside, and this is what God sees with the
realism of his eye." (Read full sermon
Romans 3:9-26: Peale
Paul's use of a snake also pictures sinful men
and killing with their words.
A minimum lethal dose of botulism bacillus is .00003 micrograms per
kilogram of body weight. That is almost the equivalent of a flea
derailing a 100 mile freight train. The venom of the tongue is probably
not far removed in its killing power.
Because of the spiritually damning false
doctrines and the deceitful character of most of the religious leaders
in Jesus’ day, both He and John the Baptist described them as broods of
"When (John the Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and
Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who
warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Mt 3:7).
As alluded to
above, James writes that
tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great
things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!
And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the
tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire
body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by
hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures
of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race. But no one
can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly
poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we
curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same
mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought
not to be this way." (James 3:5-10)
There is a story of a man who found a baby rattlesnake and decided to
make a pet of it. He kept it in the house and played with it for a week
or so, but then it disappeared for several months and could not be
found. One day the man reached behind a piece of furniture to retrieve
something he had dropped. When he felt a sharp stab of pain, he pulled
back his hand, with the rattler hanging from it by its fangs. Man’s
sinful nature is equally untamable.
Even those who belong to the Lord can succumb to terrible deceit. David,
the divinely anointed king of Israel and a man after God’s own heart,
became enamored of Bathsheba when he happened to see her bathing.
Although he was told she was married, he nevertheless summoned her to
the palace and had sexual relations with her. When she became pregnant
and notified David, the king flashed the fangs of deceit by inviting her
husband, Uriah, to a sumptuous banquet, giving the impression that this
man was a valued friend. But David was determined to have Bathsheba for
his own wife, and the next morning he sent her husband to the
battlefront with a sealed note to the commander that contained Uriah’s
own death warrant (2Sa 11:1-15).
In The Pilgrims
Progress John Bunyan talked about "the parson of our parish, Mr.
Two-Tongues." In that same congregation was Mr. Smooth-Man, Mr.
Anything, and Mr. Facing-Two-Ways. These are all people of duplicity.
Even the famous
have wicked tongues. The story is told of Winston Churchill who was a
master at insulting with his tongue. It is well known that there was no
love lost between he and Lady Astor. none was better at insults than
Winston Churchill, who had no love affair with Lady Astor. On one
occasion she found the great statesman rather obviously inebriated in a
hotel elevator. With cutting disgust she snipped, "Sir Winston, you are
drunk!" to which he replied, "M'lady, you are ugly. Tomorrow I will be
occasion Churchill and Lady Astor engaged in verbal sparring when she
told him, "If I were your wife, I'd put arsenic in your tea." He
responded, "If I were your husband, I'd drink it."
Epitaph of our sinful "Tongue"...
On a windswept
hill in an English country churchyard stands a drab, gray slate
tombstone. The quaint stone bears an epitaph not easily seen unless you
stoop over and look closely. The faint etchings read:
Beneath this stone, a lump of clay,
Lies Arabella Young,
Who on the twenty-fourth of May,
Began to hold her tongue
William Norris, the American journalist who specialized in simple
rhythms that packed a wallop once wrote:
If your lips would keep from slips,
Five things observe with care:
To whom you speak; of whom you speak;
And how, and when, and where.
Washington Irving once wrote that...
The tongue is the only tool that
grows sharper with constant use.
Leonardo da Vinci said that...
no member of our body needs so great
a number of muscles as our tongue, for this member exceeds all the rest
in the number of its movements.
Publius, a Greek sage observed,
“I have often regretted my speech, never
Ray Stedman adds that...
man refuses to bend his will to the will of God, it begins to affect his
talk. You can tell it in the tone of his voice, in the words he chooses,
in the biting sarcasm that comes forth, in the curses and bitterness, in
the foulness of the tongue oftentimes, in the jealousy that is evident
there." (Read full sermon
Romans 3:9-26: Peale