|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-12 We are taught to dread an unruly tongue, as one of the greatest evils. The affairs of mankind are thrown into confusion by the tongues of men. Every age of the world, and every condition of life, private or public, affords examples of this. Hell has more to do in promoting the fire of the tongue than men generally think; and whenever men's tongues are employed in sinful ways, they are set on fire of hell. No man can tame the tongue without Divine grace and assistance. The apostle does not represent it as impossible, but as extremely difficult. Other sins decay with age, this many times gets worse; we grow more froward and fretful, as natural strength decays, and the days come on in which we have no pleasure. When other sins are tamed and subdued by the infirmities of age, the spirit often grows more tart, nature being drawn down to the dregs, and the words used become more passionate. That man's tongue confutes itself, which at one time pretends to adore the perfections of God, and to refer all things to him; and at another time condemns even good men, if they do not use the same words and expressions. True religion will not admit of contradictions: how many sins would be prevented, if men would always be consistent! Pious and edifying language is the genuine produce of a sanctified heart; and none who understand Christianity, expect to hear curses, lies, boastings, and revilings from a true believer's mouth, any more than they look for the fruit of one tree from another. But facts prove that more professors succeed in bridling their senses and appetites, than in duly restraining their tongues. Then, depending on Divine grace, let us take heed to bless and curse not; and let us aim to be consistent in our words and actions.
Verse 3. - Illustration of the last statement of ver. 2. The bit in the horse's mouth enables us to turn about the whole body. So the man who can govern his tongue has the mastery over the whole body. A remarkable parallel is afforded by Sophocles, 'Antigone,' 1. 470, Σμικρῷ χαλινῷ δ οῖδα τοὺς θυμουμένους ἵππους καταρτυθέιτας. So also Philo, 'De Op. Mundi,' p. 19, Τὸ θυμικώτατον ζῶον ἵππος ῤᾳδίως ἄγεται χαλινωθείς. The manuscript; authority is overwhelming in favor of εἰ δὲ (A, B, K, L; א, εἰδε γάρ, etc.; and Vulgate, si autem) instead of ἰδού of the Received Text (C has ἴδε, and the Syriac ecce): thus the apodosis is contained in the words, καὶ ὅλον κ.τ.λ. Translate, with R.V., now if we put the horses bridles into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about their whole body also. (For a similar correction of ἰδέ to εἰ δέ, see Romans 2:17.)
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths,.... By this, and the following simile, the apostle not only expresses the smallness of that member of the body, which is like the bit in the horse's mouth, and the helm of a ship, but the good use of it, and the great influence it has over the whole body. Horses are without understanding, and need direction in what path to go, and are strong, and would be truly and ungovernable unless bits and bridles were put into their mouths:
that they may obey us; and go in the way we would have them:
and we turn about the whole body of the horse, this way, and that way, as is thought best, by the help of the bit and bridle; and of such use is the tongue to the natural body, that being bridled itself, bridles, directs, and governs the whole body; and its influence on bodies, and societies of men, and Christians, is like that of the bit in the horse's mouth; who, like horses, would be unruly and ungovernable, were it not for the force of language, the power of words, and strength of argument.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. Behold—The best authorities read, "but if," that is, Now whensoever (in the case) of horses (such is the emphatic position of "horses" in the Greek) we put the bits (so literally, "the customary bits") into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about also their whole body. This is to illustrate how man turns about his whole body with the little tongue. "The same applies to the pen, which is the substitute for the tongue among the absent" [Bengel].
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