The organ for hearing, designed and created by Jehovah God. (Ps 94:9; Pr 20:12) The ear consists of three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The middle ear is a small chamber that begins with the eardrum and leads to the maze of passageways that constitute the inner ear. Besides its function in connection with hearing, the inner ear also possesses organs having to do with balance and motion. The use of two ears greatly helps a person to locate the source and direction of sounds.
The human ear detects sounds within the range of about 20 to 20,000 cycles per second. The ears of many animals are sensitive to tones of higher pitch that are inaudible to the human ear. The range of sound energy perceived by the human ear is remarkable. The loudest sound that the ear can tolerate without danger is two million million times as powerful as the least perceptible sound. The human ear has the maximum sensitivity that it is practical to possess, for if the ears were any keener they would respond to the unceasing molecular motions of the air particles themselves.
Since the Maker of the ear can hear, the Bible speaks of him as possessing ears, symbolically. (Nu 11:18; Ps 116:1, 2) By this symbolism Jehovah pictures himself as having ears open to the prayers, petitions, and cries of the righteous. (Ps 10:17; 18:6; 34:15; 130:2; Isa 59:1; 1Pe 3:12) While he hears the murmurings of complainers and the wicked speech of his enemies (Nu 11:1; 2Ki 19:28), he refuses to hear their distress calls when execution of judgment catches up with them. (Eze 8:18) Although idol images may have ears carved or engraved on them, they, of course, cannot hear and are powerless to receive or answer the prayers of their worshipers.—Ps 115:6.
Figurative Use. In the Bible the word “ear” is used very forcefully in a figurative sense as representing the complete process of hearing. The term is used with respect to the faculty of hearing and then weighing the truthfulness and value of what is spoken. (Job 12:11; 34:3) The way the expression “give ear” or ‘incline one’s ear’ is used indicates that it means to pay attention with a view to acting on that which is heard. (Ps 78:1; 86:6; Isa 51:4) To ‘have the ears opened’ means that the individual receives understanding or enlightenment on a matter. (Isa 50:5) The expression ‘uncover the ear’ may originate from the fact that, in Oriental lands, a person would partially remove the headdress in order to hear more clearly. This expression, as well as the phrase ‘disclose to the ear,’ refers to the giving of information in private or the revealing of a secret or something not previously known.—1Sa 9:15; 20:2, 12, 13; 2Sa 7:27.
An ‘awakened ear’ is one that is made attentive. (Isa 50:4) Such an ear may belong to a person who has formerly been among the ones “deaf [spiritually] though they have [literal] ears.” (Isa 43:8) The righteous man is described in the Bible as listening to God but stopping up his ear to wickedness. (Isa 33:15) Similarly, the Greek word for “listen” may have the sense of ‘giving attention to, understanding, and acting upon,’ as when Jesus Christ said: “My sheep listen to my voice,” and, “a stranger they will by no means follow but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”—Joh 10:27, 5.
On the other hand, the ears of the rebellious ones are said to be “heavy” (KJ) or “unresponsive.” (Isa 6:10; Ac 28:27) Such wicked ones are likened to the cobra that stops up its ears, refusing to listen to the voice of the charmer.—Ps 58:4.
Jehovah, through his servants, spoke of the stubborn, disobedient Israelites as having ‘uncircumcised ears.’ (Jer 6:10; Ac 7:51) They are as though stopped up with something that impedes hearing. They are ears that have not been opened by Jehovah, who gives ears of understanding and obedience to those who seek him but allows the spiritual hearing of the disobedient ones to become dulled. (De 29:4; Ro 11:8) The apostle Paul foretold a time when some professing to be Christians would apostatize from the true faith, not wanting to hear the truth of God’s Word, but desiring to have their ears “tickled” by things pleasing to them, and would therefore listen to false teachers. (2Ti 4:3, 4; 1Ti 4:1) Also, one’s ears may “tingle” because of hearing startling news, especially news of calamity.—1Sa 3:11; 2Ki 21:12; Jer 19:3.
When Saul of Tarsus was blinded by a supernatural light, did the men with him hear the voice that Saul heard?
An example where literal hearing of a sound and hearing with understanding are contrasted is found in the account of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and his own recounting of it later. (Ac 9:3-8; 22:6-11) The account at Acts 9:7 says that the men with Saul heard “a voice” (KJ) or “the sound of a voice.” (NW) Yet, as recorded at Acts 22:9, Paul (Saul) says that the men with him did not hear the voice. When what was said in the two verses is properly understood, there is no contradiction. The Greek word for “voice” (pho·neʹ) at Acts 9:7 is in the genitive case (pho·nesʹ) and gives, in this verse, the sense of hearing of a voice—hearing the sound but not understanding. At Acts 22:9 pho·neʹ is in the accusative case (pho·nenʹ): the men “did not hear the voice”—they heard the sound of a voice but did not get the words, the meaning; they did not understand what Jesus was saying to Saul, as Saul did. (Ac 9:4) This knowledge of the Bible’s use of the idea of ‘hearing’ in both senses helps to clear up what would otherwise seem to be discrepancies.
At the installation of the priesthood in Israel, Moses was commanded to take some of the blood of the ram of the installation and put it on the lobe of the right ear of Aaron and of each of his sons, as well as on the right hand and right foot, indicating that what they listened to, the work they did, and the way they walked should be directly affected by what was there taking place. (Le 8:22-24) Similarly, in the case of the cleansed leper, the Law said that the priest was to put some of the blood of the ram offered as a guilt offering, as well as some of the oil offered, on the lobe of the leper’s right ear. (Le 14:14, 17, 25, 28) An arrangement of comparable nature was found in the provision made for the man who wished to continue in slavery to his master to time indefinite. In such case the slave was to be brought to the doorpost, and his master was to pierce his ear through with an awl. This prominent mark, being made on the organ for hearing, evidently represented the slave’s desire to continue in obedient attention to his master.—Ex 21:5, 6.
Regarding man’s great need to hear God, in the sense of giving close attention and obedience to his words as the Bible directs, rather than to see God as some demand, R. C. Dentan remarks: “In the Bible, the key word for man’s response to God is ‘hearing’ rather than ‘seeing’ . . . For the mystery religions the highest religious experience was that of ‘seeing’ the god; but for the Bible, where the basic religious attitude is obedience to the divine word, the emphasis is on ‘hearing’ his voice. The most important formula of Israel’s religion begins characteristically: ‘Hear, O Israel.’ ‘He who is of God’ is not the mystic who has seen a vision, but one who ‘hears the words of God’ (John 8:47).”—The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, edited by G. Buttrick, 1962, Vol. 2, p. 1; see DEAFNESS.