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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words


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Qôl (קֹל, Strong's #6963), “voice; sound; noise.” This word also appears in Ugaritic (“sound”), Akkadian (“call”), Arabic (“say”), and in Phoenician, Ethiopic, and old South Arabic (“voice”). Qôl appears about 506 times in the Bible and in all periods.

In its first meaning the word denotes a “sound” produced by vocal cords. This includes the human “voice”: “And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel” (Josh. 10:14). The word also includes vocal “sounds” produced by animals: “And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating [literally, sound] of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing [literally, sound] of the oxen which I hear?” (1 Sam. 15:14). In this regard qôl is used of the “voice” of personified inanimate objects or things: “And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (Gen. 4:10).

The second meaning, “sound” or “noise,” appears especially in poetical passages and covers a great variety of “noises and sounds,” such as the “noise or sound” of battle: “And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp” (Exod. 32:17). It can be used of the “sound” of words (Deut. 1:34), water (Ezek. 1:24), weeping (Isa. 65:19), and thunder (Exod. 9:23) .

The word can also represent the thing that is spoken: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee …” (Gen. 3:17). In an extended nuance qôl signifies the thing said, even though it is written down: “Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying, If ye be mine, and if ye will hearken unto my voice …” (2 Kings 10:6).

There are several special phrases related to qôl. “To lift up one’s voice and weep” signifies many things including crying out for help (Gen. 39:14), mourning for present or anticipated tragedy (Gen. 21:16), and the “sound” of disaster (Num. 16:34) or joy (Gen. 29:11).

“To hearken to one’s voice” means such things as taking note of something and believing it (Gen. 4:23), following another’s suggestions (Gen. 3:17), complying with another’s request (Gen. 21:12), obeying another’s command (Gen. 22:18), and answering a prayer (2 Sam. 22:7).

Theologically the word is crucial in contexts relating to prophecy. The prophet’s “voice” is God’s “voice” (Exod. 3:18; cf. 7:1; Deut. 18:18-19). God’s “voice” is sometimes the roar of thunder (Exod. 9:23, 29) or a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). Thunder demonstrated God’s tremendous power and evoked fear and submission. In covenantal contexts God stipulates that His “voice,” heard in both the roar of thunder and the prophetic message, is authoritative and when obeyed brings reward (Exod. 19:5; 1 Sam. 12:14-18). The blast (“sound”) of a trumpet is used to signify divine power (Josh. 6:5) and presence (2 Sam. 6:15).

Interestingly the first biblical appearance of qôl (Gen. 3:8) is a highly debated passage. Exactly what did Adam and Eve hear in the garden? Was it the sound of God walking (cf. 1 Kings 14:6)?

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Voice'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. 1940.

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