Dull of Hearing

Thursday, June 1                       

The phrase “dull of hearing” is a figure of speech, meant to catch one’s attention.  It caught mine.  It’s a euphemism, which tends to soften the blow, something less offensive, a little less blunt.  Literally, “dull of hearing” means that a person has a  physical loss of hearing.  The Bible uses it exclusively in a spiritual sense.  It is always a rebuke, although with varying degrees of culpability.  It only appears three times in the King James Version, Mt. 13:15, Acts 28:27, and Heb. 5:11.  The first two are directed at the Jewish leaders, and were meant to be scathing, condemning, and blunt.  The Hebrews account, however, is written to Christian believers who had been given truth that they were slow to put into practice.  On several occasions, Jesus told his disciples that they were slow to hear, although the KJV translators did not use “dull of hearing” in any of them.  So there’s a good deal of latitude in the use of this expression.  And there are many other passages make the same point by using other terms—hypocrites, senseless, heartless, ruthless, callous, fools.  Some people are merely ignorant while others understand the truth and reject it.  It’s similar to the Biblical use of “seeing.”  Some, such as Nicodemus, needed enlightenment, while others, many of them Jewish leaders, knew the truth and rejected it for selfish reasons.  The NIV doesn’t use “dull of hearing” at all, probably because the majority of the occasions where it could be used call for more condemning language.  The Acts 28:27 passage is a case in point.  In a valiant attempt to get the Jewish leaders in Rome to come to the truth, Paul, who was under guard in a Roman jail, invited the Jewish leaders to come and listen to him.  They did, and they stayed from morning till night listening to Paul pleading with them on the basis of the Scriptures (our O.T.).  “Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.”  This suggest that some believed, but there is no record of any of them believing unto salvation.  That’s when Paul quoted Is. 6:9-10, a scathing denunciation of their unbelief.  While I’m not in the position of those Pharisaical Jews, I am in the position of the readers of Hebrews.  At times I am slow to put into practice the truths that I know.  And I’m glad that God is treating me gently.

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