Inability to speak. In the OT muteness is traced to God (Exod 4:11). God made Ezekiel mute (Ezek 3:26) in response to Israel’s failure to listen to his message. Later He restored Ezekiel’s speech (24:27; 33:22) as a sign of the people’s receptiveness to hear. Daniel became speechless in response to the appearance of a heavenly messenger (Dan 10:15).
The psalmist considered muteness an appropriate punishment for liars (Psa 39:2, 9; Isa 53:7; Acts 8:32), especially in the face of injustice. In Prov 31:8 the mute is the symbol of all those who suffer without a voice. Isaiah 56:10 pictures Israel’s leaders as mute dogs who cannot bark a warning in Isa 35:6 the singing of those once mute accompanies return from the exile. In Hab 2:18-19 idols are mocked as mutes (1 Cor 12:2).
In the NT muteness is either not explained (Mark 7:32,37) or else attributed to demons (Matt 9:32; 12:22; Mark 9:17,25; Luke 11:14). An exception is Zechariah’s muteness (Luke 1:20,22), which served as a sign of the truthfulness of Gabriel’s message as well as a punishment for Zechariah’s unbelief.