We are studying 2 Corinthians 12 this week at church. I was reading along and got to the last couple of verses and the Spirit made some of it leap off the page. You Christians know what I am talking about.
“For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.” (2 Corinthians 12: 20-21).
I stopped at “whisperings.” It strikes me that whisperings is listed in a list of sins along with the more vocal and physical sins of contentions, outbursts and tumults. Compared to those, whisperings seems hardly noticeable, and certainly one of the lesser sins. Or is it?
Looking up the Greek for that part of the verse we see that whisperings is “psithurismos”. This is an onomatopoetic word that is supposed to imitate the sound it describes. This word in the Greek is a sibilant, sounding like sss-sss. The word means a secret slandering, a whispering. Strong’s Concordance says, “Psithyrismós (from psithos, “whisper”) – properly, a whispering to “quietly” spread malicious gossip; “whispering” that launches “secret attacks on a person’s character” (Souter). Psithyrismós is “an onomatopoetic word for the sibilant murmur of a snake charmer.”
Snake charmer, eh?
Going further, I remembered the verses from Ezekiel 28. One day last year I was asking myself, “How DID satan get a third of the angels to side with him? They live with God in perfect holiness. How did satan convince them?” The verse says-
“Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones” (Ez 28:16).
My bible study involves reading the bible a lot, and asking myself questions. The next question I’d asked myself was, ‘what widespread trade? It’s not like there was a mall in heaven…” I looked up the Hebrew word for trade, and it is rechullatecha, meaning traffic, merchandise, from root word rakal. Rakal means to go about, selling. So satan was selling a bill of goods. The ultimate root is rakil, slander. Aha! So, satan was actively perpetrating a slanderous whisper campaign among the angels by going about, here and there, spreading lies and slander and gossip against God’s character.
If you ever wondered why the sins of gossip and murder are near each other in a list of grievous sins in Romans 1:28-32, it is because murder kills the body and gossip kills the character. If you ever wondered how efficient it is to kill someone’s character by talebearing, just look at how successful satan was with slandering and gossiping about God. He was able to convince a third of the multitude to side with him. He was able to convince Eve to taste the fruit. We saw from satan’s interaction with Eve that he sidles up and whispers just enough slander to get you to start looking at things in another way (Hath God really said…? Genesis 3:1)
Of the six things God hates, even seven, three are the speaking sins akin to slander and gossip: a lying tongue, a false witness who bears lies and a brother who spreads dissension (Proverbs 6:16-19).
We know that satan is the accuser of the brethren, (Rev 12:10). We know that the word devil means slanderer.
The bible is replete in the OT and the NT about talebearers, gossips, whisperers, loose tongues, and slander. Paul talks about whisperers several times. The next time you want to say something about someone that is a tale, and you lower your voice so no one else but the gossipee hears, just remember psythyrismos, means snake charmer. Do you really want to whisper like a snake and charm the devil?