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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Romans 3:13

 

 

"THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING," "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS";

Adam Clarke Commentary

Their throat is an open sepulchre - This and all the following verses to the end of the 18th are found in the Septuagint, but not in the Hebrew text; and it is most evident that it was from this version that the apostle quoted, as the verses cannot be found in any other place with so near an approximation to the apostle's meaning and words. The verses in question, however, are not found in the Alexandrian MS. But they exist in the Vulgate, the Ethiopic, and the Arabic. As the most ancient copies of the Septuagint do not contain these verses, some contend that the apostle has quoted them from different parts of Scripture; and later transcribers of the Septuagint, finding that the 10th, 11th, and 12th, verses were quoted from the xivth Psalm, imagined that the rest were found originally there too, and so incorporated them in their copies, from the apostle's text.

Their throat is an open sepulchre - By their malicious and wicked words they bury, as it were, the reputation of all men. The whole of this verse appears to belong to their habit of lying, defamation, slandering, etc., by which they wounded, blasted, and poisoned the reputation of others.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/romans-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Their throat … - This expression is taken from Psalm 5:9, literally from the Septuagint. The design of the psalm is to reprove those who were false, traitorous, slanderous, etc. Psalm 5:6. The psalmist has the sin of deceit, and falsehood, and slander particularly in his eye. The expressions here are to be interpreted in accordance with that. The sentiment here may be, as the grave is ever open to receive all into it, that is, into destruction, so the mouth or the throat of the slanderer is ever open to swallow up the peace and happiness of all. Or it may mean, as from an open sepulchre there proceeds an offensive and pestilential vapor, so from the mouths of slanderous persons there proceed noisome and ruinous words. “(Stuart.)” I think the connection demands the former interpretation.

With their tongues … - In their conversation, their promises, etc., they have been false, treacherous, and unfaithful.

The poison of asps - This is taken literally from the Septuagint of Psalm 140:3. The asp, or adder, is a species of serpent whose poison is of such active operation that it kills almost the instant that it penetrates, and that without remedy. It is small, and commonly lies concealed, often in the “sand” in a road, and strikes the traveler before he sees it. It is found chiefly in Egypt and Lybia. It is said by ancient writers that the celebrated Cleopatra, rather than be carried a captive to Rome by Augustus, suffered an asp to bite her in the arm, by which she soon died. The precise species of serpent which is here meant by the psalmist, however, cannot be ascertained. All that is necessary to understand the passage is, that it refers to a serpent whose bite was deadly, and rapid in its execution.

Is under their lips - The poison of the serpent is contained in a small bag which is concealed at the root of the tooth. When the tooth is struck into the flesh, the poison is pressed out, through a small hole in the tooth, into the wound. Whether the psalmist was acquainted with that fact, or referred to it, cannot be known: his words do not of necessity imply it. The sentiment is, that as the poison of the asp is rapid, certain, spreading quickly through the system, and producing death; so the words of the slanderer are deadly, pestiferous, quickly destroying the reputation and happiness of man. They are as subtle, as insinuating, and as deadly to the reputation, as the poison of the adder is to the body. Wicked people in the Bible are often compared to serpents; Matthew 23:33; Genesis 49:17.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/romans-3.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips.

This progression to sins against fellow creatures was introduced by the last clause of Romans 3:12, quoted from Psalms 53:2. Paul did not invent this charge of wickedness, but only read it out of the Old Testament, the indictment being further detailed and stated in Psalms 5:9; Psalms 140:3. The figure of speech here shows how utterly repugnant to God was their unprincipled conduct. The thought is that the words coming from their throats were as foul as any odor that ever came out of an opened grave. Their language and conversation were full of deceit. No credibility could be given to anything that they said; and, in this light, it must not be thought of as anything unusual when they tried to sustain charges against the Saviour by means of suborned testimony, and bribed the Roman soldiers to lie about the resurrection of the Lord. "A generation of vipers" indeed were they (Matthew 3:7).


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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/romans-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Their throat is an open sepulchre,.... The several vices of the instruments of speech are here, and in the following verse, exposed: "the throat" is said to "be an open sepulchre", as in Psalm 5:9, so called, for its voracity and insatiableness; both as an instrument of speech, for the words of the wicked are devouring ones; and as an instrument of swallowing, and so may denote the sinner's eager desire after sin, the delight and pleasure he takes in it, the abundance of it he takes in, and his insatiable greediness for it; likewise for its filthy stench, the communication of evil men being corrupt; and because, as by an open grave, persons may fall unawares to their hurt, so the evil communications of wicked men, as they corrupt good manners, are dangerous and hurtful: R. Aben Ezra explains it by אסון מיד, "immediate destruction", or sudden death:

with their tongues they have used deceit; which may design the sin of flattery, for the words in Psalm 5:9; the place referred to, are, "they flatter with their tongue"; either God or men, themselves or others, their princes or their neighbour; for there are flatterers in things sacred and civil, there are self-flatterers, court flatterers, and flattering preachers, and all abominable and mischievous; or the phrase may design the sin of lying, either politically, officiously, perniciously, and religiously; and in this latter way, either with respect to doctrine or practice:

the poison of asps is under their lips; or as in Psalm 140:3, "adders' poison is under their lips". The asp is but a small creature, and so is the tongue, James 3:5, but there is a world of mischief in it, signified by poison; which, as that, is latent and secret, is under it; and as that stupefies and kills insensibly, so an evil tongue does, and that in a deadly and incurable manner: oftentimes the Jews speak of the evil imagination, or corruption of nature entering into persons, and operating in them, כארס בכעוס "as poison in an angry serpent"F23T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 62. 2. Yoma, fol. 9. 2. .


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/romans-3.html. 1999.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Throat (λαρυγχlarugx). Old word, larynx.

Open sepulchre (ταπος ανεωιγμενοςtaphos aneōigmenos). Perfect passive participle of ανοιγωanoigō “an opened grave.” Their mouth (words) like the odour of a newly opened grave. “Some portions of Greek and Roman literature stink like a newly opened grave” (Shedd).

They have used deceit (εδολιουσανedoliousan). Imperfect (not perfect or aorist as the English implies) active of δολιοωdolioō only in lxx and here in the N.T. from the common adjective δολιοςdolios deceitful (2 Corinthians 11:13). The regular form would be εδολιουνedolioun The οσαν̇osan ending for third plural in imperfect and aorist was once thought to be purely Alexandrian because so common in the lxx, but it is common in the Boeotian and Aeolic dialects and occurs in ειχοσανeichosan in the N.T. (John 15:22, John 15:24). “They smoothed their tongues” in the Hebrew.

Poison (ιοςios). Old word both for rust (James 5:3) and poison (James 3:8).

Of asps (ασπιδωνaspidōn). Common word for round bowl, shield, then the Egyptian cobra (a deadly serpent). Often in lxx. Only here in the N.T. The poison of the asp lies in a bag under the lips (χειληcheilē), often in lxx, only here in N.T. Genitive case after γεμειgemei (is full).


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/romans-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Open sepulchre ( τάφος ἀνεῳγμένος )

Lit., a sepulchre opened or standing open. Some explain the figure by the noisome exhalations from a tomb. Others refer it to a pit standing open and ready to devour, comparing Jeremiah 5:16, where the quiver of the Chaldaeans is called an open sepulchre. So Meyer and Morison. Godet compares the phrase used of a brutal man: “it seems as if he would like to eat you.” Compare Dante's vision of the lion:

“With head uplifted and with ravenous hunger,

So that it seemed the air was afraid of him.”

Inferno,” i., 47.

Have used deceit ( εδολιουσαν )

Hebrew, they smoothed their tongues. Guile is contrasted with violence in the previous clause. Wyc., with their tongues they did guilingly. The imperfect tense denotes perseverance in their hypocritical professions.


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Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/romans-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

Their throat — Is noisome and dangerous as an open sepulchre. Observe the progress of evil discourse, proceeding out of the heart, through the throat, tongue, lips, till the whole mouth is filled therewith.

The poison of asps — Infectious, deadly backbiting, tale-bearing, evil-speaking, is under (for honey is on) their lips. An asp is a venomous kind of serpent. Psalm 5:9; Psalm 140:3.


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Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/romans-3.html. 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

13.It is further added, Their throat is an open grave; (100) that is, a gulf to swallow up men. It is more than if he had said, that they were devourers ( ἀνθρωποφάγους — men-eaters;) for it is an intimation of extreme barbarity, when the throat is said to be so great a gulf, that it is sufficient to swallow down and devour men whole and entire. Theirtongues are deceitful, and, the poison of asps is under their lips, import the same thing,


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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/romans-3.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

Ver. 13. The poison of the asps] Of that sort of asps that spit their venom far from them upon the bystanders. ( πρυαδες.) There is a great deal of such vermin and venom in that newly found world of wickedness, the tongue, James 3:6. It is easy to observe that St Paul here, making the anatomy of a natural man, stands more on the organs of speaking than all other members, and showeth how his tongue is tipped with fraud, his lips tainted with venom, his mouth full of gall, his throat a gaping grave, his tongue as a rapier to run men through with, and his throat as a sepulchre to bury them in. As for the asp, they write of her, That whereas her poison is so deadly, that the part infected cannot be cured but by cutting off, succurrit periclitantibus benignior natura, et noxiosissimo animali caliginosos obtutus dedit. (Jo. Wover.) Aspidi (saith Pliny, viii. 23) hebetes oculi dati, eosque non in fronte, sed in temporibus habet.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/romans-3.html. 1865-1868.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

13.] ἐδολιοῦσαν, an Alexandrine form for ἐδολίουν; see Lobeck, Phrynichus, p. 349. The open sepulchre is an emblem of perdition, to which their throat, as the instrument of their speech, is compared.


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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/romans-3.html. 1863-1878.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Romans 3:13. τάφοςιὂςἀυτῶν) so the LXX., Psalms 5:10; Psalms 140:4.— ἀνεῳγμένος) a sepulchre lately opened, and therefore very fetid.— λάρυγξ, their throat) Observe the course of the conversation, as it flows from the heart, by the avenue of their throat, their tongues, and their lips—the whole is comprised in the mouth; a great part of sin consists in words.— ὑπὸ τὰ χείλη) under theirlips; for on their lips is the sweetness of honey.


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Bibliography
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/romans-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Their throat is an open sepulchre; he proceeds to instance in the corruption of man with respect to the members of his body; and he mentions the organs of speech in four several expressions, much to the same purpose: the first is allegorical, taken out of Psalms 5:9, upon which see the annotations.

With their tongues they have used deceit; this text doth plainly express the corruption of the tongue, because of lies, calumnies, perjuries, flatteries; and it is taken out of Jeremiah 9:3-5.

The poison of asps is under their lips: the third expression is allegorical, as the first, taken out of Psalms 140:3, upon which see the annotations.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Romans 3:13". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/romans-3.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Their throat is an open sepulchre; ready to swallow up and consume, as the grave did the body laid in it. Psalms 5:9.

The poison of asps; their words are destructive. Psalms 140:3.


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Bibliography
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Family Bible New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/romans-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

13. ἐδολιοῦσαν. Hebr. ‘make smooth their tongue,’ R.V. margin, Psalms 5:9 only, in Gk Bible. Prop. = deceived; form = imperf. with aor. term. cf. Thackeray, op. cit[107] p. 214.


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"Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/romans-3.html. 1896.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

13. “Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips.” This is an awful description of the above who depart from God. This picture is progressive, this verse describing an advanced state of alienation from God.


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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/romans-3.html.

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans

Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips.

What the Apostle had said in the preceding verses was general; he now descends to something more particular, both respecting words and actions, and in this manner follows up his assertion, that there is none that doeth good, by showing that all men are engaged in doing evil. As to their words, he marks in this and the following verse, all the organs of speech, the throat, the tongue, the lips, the mouth. All this tends to aggravate the depravity of which he speaks. The first part of this verse is taken from Psalm 5:9, and the last from Psalm 140:3.

Open sepulcher. — This figure graphically portrays the filthy conversation of the wicked. Nothing can be more abominable to the senses than an open sepulcher, where a dead body beginning to putrefy steams forth its tainted exhalations. What proceeds out of their mouth is infected and putrid; and as the exhalation from a sepulcher proves the corruption within, so it is with the corrupt conversation of sinners.

With their tongues they have used deceit — used them to deceive their neighbor, or they have flattered with the tongue, and this flattery is joined with the intention to deceive. This also characterizes in a striking manner the way in which men employ speech to deceive each other, in bargains, and in everything in which their interest is concerned.

The poison of asps is under their lips. — This denotes the mortal poison, such as that of vipers or asps, that lies concealed under the lips, and is emitted in poisoned words. As these venomous creatures kill with their poisonous sting, so slanderers and evil-minded persons destroy the characters of their neighbors. ‘Death and life,’ it is said in the Book of Proverbs, ‘are in the power of the tongue.’


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Bibliography
Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hal/romans-3.html. 1835.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

13. An open sepulchre—As swallowing the once living; and, like the whited sepulchres of the Saviour’s words, full of dead men’s bones.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/romans-3.html. 1874-1909.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Romans 3:13. Their throat is an open sepulchre. Quoted accurately from the Greek version of Psalms 5:9. The reference is to sinful speech. The figure is either from the noxious odor, or from the insatiableness of an open grave. In either case, the reference is to the corrupting character of the speech.

They have used deceit. Habitual, continued action is expressed. Hebrew: ‘their tongues they make smooth.’

The poison of asps, etc. Accurately quoted from (LXX.) Psalms 140:3, latter half of the verse. The Hebrew is: ‘poison of an adder;’ but the distinction between the two classes of venomous serpents is not maintained in the LXX. The reference is to the malice which is behind the cunning of their tongues. Perhaps the thought of the poison bag under the serpent’s fangs suggests the figure.


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/romans-3.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Romans 3:13. τάφοςἐδολιοῦσαν is an exact quotation of Psalms 5:10 (LXX). The original seems to describe foreign enemies whose false and treacherous language threatened ruin to Israel. For the form ἐδολιοῦσαν, see Winer, p. 91 (f.). The termination is common in the LXX: Wetstein quotes one grammarian who calls it Boeotian and another Chalcidic; it was apparently widely diffused. The last clause, ἰὸς ἀσπίδων κ. τ. λ., is Psalms 139:4, LXX.


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Bibliography
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-3.html. 1897-1910.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

Romans 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips:

Quotation from Psalms 5:9, "poison of asps is under their lips"- Psalms 140:3.


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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/romans-3.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Their. Psalms 5:9 shows that this refers to the boasters and workers of iniquity of Romans 3:5. Compare Romans 1:24-32; Romans 2:17, Romans 2:23.

throat: i.e. speech; by Figure of speech Metonymy. App-6. Greek. larunx;. Only here.

open sepulchre = opened sepulchre; literally a tomb that has been opened, emitting noisomeness.

sepulchre. Greek. taphos. Only here, Matthew 23:27, Matthew 23:29; Matthew 27:61, Matthew 27:64, Matthew 27:66; Matthew 28:1. Applied to any place where dead bodies are deposited. Mnemeion, rendered "sepulchre", is found only in Gospels and Acts 13:29, and means a monumental tomb. Compare Matthew 27:60.

tongues. See Psalms 140:11.

have used deceit = deceived. Greek. dolioo; only here. The kindred verb occurs 2 Corinthians 4:2.

the. Omit. poison. Greek. ioa. Occurs here and James 3:8; James 5:3.

asps. Rendered "adders" in Psalms 140:3. Greek. aspis. Only here. Compare James 3:5, James 3:6, James 3:8. Deuteronomy 32:33.

lips = language. Figure of speech Metonymy. App-6.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/romans-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

Their throat is an open sepulchre (Psalms 5:9): q.d., 'What proceeds out of their heart, and finds vent in speech and action through the throat, is like the pestilential breath of an open grave;' With their tongues they have used deceit (Psalms 5:9) - q.d., 'That tongue which is man's glory (Psalms 16:9; Psalms 57:8) is prostituted to the purposes of deception;'

The poison of asps is under their lips (Psalms 140:3) - q.d., 'Those lips which should "drop as an honeycomb," and, "feed many," and "give thanks unto His name" (Song of Solomon 4:11; Proverbs 10:21; Hebrews 13:15), are employed to secrete deadly poison:'


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/romans-3.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(13) Their throat is an open sepulchre—i.e., their speech is at once corrupt and corrupting. It is compared to a “yawning grave”—not merely to a pit into which a man may fall, but to a sort of pestiferous chasm yawning and ravening, as it were, after its prey.

They have used deceit.—Strictly, they were deceiving; a continued action brought up to the present time.

Under their lips.—As the poison-bag of the serpent is directly under the kind of tooth by which its venom is discharged.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/romans-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
throat
Psalms 5:9; Jeremiah 5:16; Matthew 23:27,28
with their
4; Psalms 5:9; 12:3,4; 36:3; 52:2; 57:4; Isaiah 59:3; Jeremiah 9:3-5; Ezekiel 13:7; Matthew 12:34,35; James 3:5-8
the poison
Deuteronomy 32:33; Job 20:14-16; Psalms 140:3

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Romans 3:13". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/romans-3.html.

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