Job, the faithful servant of God, barely escaping death in his sufferings, said: “I escape with the skin of my teeth.” (Job 19:20) This Biblical statement is accurate. The Encyclopedia Americana (1956), Volume 26, page 321, comments: “On the enamel surface [of the teeth] is a highly indestructible pellicle [thin skin] or film indistinguishable to the naked eye known as the enamel cuticle (Nasmyth’s membrane).”
Grinding or gnashing of the teeth is frequently used to denote rage (Job 16:9; Acts 7:54) or anguish and despair. (Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30) Such gnashing may be accompanied by bitter words and violent action against the object of anger. At Amos 4:6 the expression “cleanness of teeth” is paralleled with “want of bread,” representing famine conditions.
Teeth also symbolize destructive power of a nation or a people. (Dan. 7:5, 7, 19; Joel 1:6; Rev. 9:8) David likens the wicked enemies of the righteous to ferocious lions, and he petitions God to strike them in the jaw and to break their teeth. This would render them powerless to do harm. (Ps. 3:7; 58:6) The false prophets of Israel are pictured as greedy and voracious, “biting with their teeth,” and sanctifying war against anyone who does not feed them.—Mic. 3:5; compare Ezekiel 34:2, 3; Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29.
In the days before Jerusalem’s destruction, a common saying of the people was: “The fathers were the ones that ate the unripe grape, but it was the teeth of the sons that got set on edge.” (Jer. 31:29; Ezek. 18:2-4) By this means they tried to excuse themselves of the blame for the adverse conditions brought upon the nation because of its wickedness, saying that what they were experiencing was as a result of what their fathers had done.