The Significance of a Speech Impediment

The Significance of a Speech Impediment

Often in God’s warnings against national Israel there are promises of hope, visions of peace and restoration. In Isaiah 34, God pronounced judgment on the nations and outlined their destruction with fury and rage. However, he followed that with a picture of salvation in Isaiah 35.

Isaiah described the approaching prosperity. The desert, wilderness, and dry land would sprout blossoms. Lebanon, Carmel, and Sharon, known for their beauty, would share that beauty with the desert (35:1-2). Waters would fill the desert and turn the sands into beaches (35:6-7). The ransomed of God would return to Zion. Isaiah said, “everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (35:10).

These blessings would come from the appearance of God. The glory and majesty of God would be visible to all nations (35:2). God would come with vengeance and recompense against the wicked so he could save the righteous (35:4). When God arrived, the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the lame would move, and the mute would sing (35:5-6). In that day, the “Way of Holiness” would be opened and the righteous would walk in that Way without fear until they obtained the blessing (35:8-10).

In the Septuagint, the word for “mute” in verse 6 is mogilalos. It is a compound word from mogis meaning with difficulty or scarcely, and laleō meaning to speak or say (BDAG). It can refer to someone who is mute or unable to articulate words. However, it usually described someone with a speech impediment. That appears to be Isaiah’s usage.

This word is only used one other time in the Bible in Mark 7:32, “And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment.” Only Mark records this episode, and he uses this obscure word mogilalos to describe a man with a speech impediment. Later, Mark says the Lord healed the man and the man “spoke correctly,” giving further witness to his original impediment instead of muteness.

The important part, however, is not that the Decapolis deaf man was healed, but what the healing conveyed. Mark likely included this event to make a direct connection with the appearance of God. It certainly fits the purpose of his narrative to present Jesus as both Christ and Son of God (Mark 1:1).

First, it suggests the day of God’s appearance has arrived. Jesus is not merely a son of one of the gods but is the unique Son of the only God! In fact, Jesus is the incarnation of God as the “whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” in him (Col 2:9). Isaiah prophesied Jesus’s coming and said he could be called “Immanuel” meaning “God with us” (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:23).

Second, it points to the days of Jesus as the days of salvation. Jesus opened the Way of Holiness for the redeemed to walk (Isa 35:8-9). He set the example of holy living for his people to follow (1 Pet 2:21).

Third, it proved God was reaching out to all people—Jew and Gentile. Isaiah said those walking the Way of Holiness would not be unclean. They would be ransomed, redeemed, and saved by God (Isa 35:4, 8- 10). Lebanon, Carmel, and Sharon would together witness the glory of God. Mark includes this account during Jesus’s Gentile excursion while he was in the Decapolis (Mark 7:31).

Mark presents Jesus as God bringing salvation to all people who choose the Way of Holiness spoken by Isaiah. The old prophet rejoiced to see the day of God’s appearance and Mark assures his readers he appeared as Jesus.

-Sam Dilbeck

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