The organ of speech and then the language spoken (Jeremiah 5:15) and the people or nation speaking (Isaiah 66:18). The tongue was seen to express the true nature since speech was viewed as more than just a verbal phenomenon. It was seen as the expression of a person's true nature (Psalms 64:2-3;
Proverbs 17:20). The wisdom writings of the Old Testament stressed the practical results of the use of the tongue for the individual's life (Proverbs 12:18;
Proverbs 28:23). Like a bit in a horse's mouth or the rudder of a ship, the tongue could control the direction of a person's life (James 3:3-8). Since the tongue reveals what is in one's heart, its use had ethical consequences whether for good or bad (Psalms 34:13;
The tongue was seen to play a central role in the expression of a person's religious commitment. The tongue could be used to praise God (Psalms 35:28;
Philippians 2:11). On the other hand, the tongue could cause separation from God (Job 15:4-5;
Psalms 78:35-37). The potential for good or bad which is part of human nature is actualized through the tongue (James 3:9-10).
The word tongue is used, of course, in the basic sense of the term to refer to the organ of eating and drinking (Judges 7:5;
Isaiah 41:17). Tongue is, also, used figuratively to refer to objects in the material world which resemble the tongue in shape (Isaiah 11:15). See Spiritual Gifts; Tongues, Gift of.