The sounds uttered by persons in speaking or singing, and the like, and those made by animals, are denoted in Scripture by the Hebrew word qohl, its Aramaic equivalent qal and the Greek word pho·neʹ. (Gen. 3:8, 10; 21:17; Job 4:10; Dan. 4:31; Matt. 27:46) Besides “voice,” qohl can also denote “thunder,” “sound,” and so forth. (Gen. 45:16; Ex. 20:18; 28:35) Similarly, pho·neʹ can have such meanings as “sound” and “speech sound” as well as “voice.”—John 3:8; 1 Cor. 14:10, 11; Heb. 12:26.
The apostle Paul speaks of “the tongues of men and of angels,” indicating that spirit persons have language and speech. (1 Cor. 13:1) Angels, and Jehovah God himself, have been heard to speak in voice sounds and languages audible and understandable by men. But it is not to be supposed that such would be the voice with which they communicate with one another in the heavens, for atmosphere of the proper constituency, such as exists around the earth, is necessary for propagating the sound waves of voice audible and understandable to the human ear.
The instances in which God, or angels, spoke in a voice in the hearing of men would therefore be a manifestation of their speech as transformed into sound waves, just as appearances of angels to the vision of man required either a materialization or a transmitting to the human mind of a pictorial image. Today even human scientists can take the sound-wave pattern of an individual’s voice and convert it into electrical impulses so that it can come from an amplifier and speaker in the form of an audible voice that very closely resembles that of the person.
In three instances in the Bible record, Jehovah is reported as speaking audibly to humans. These were: (1) At the time of Jesus’ baptism (29 C.E.), Jehovah saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” Both Jesus and John the Baptist undoubtedly heard this voice. (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22) (2) At Jesus’ transfiguration (32 C.E.), with the apostles Peter, James and John present, virtually the same words being uttered. (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:36) (3) In 33 C.E., shortly before Jesus’ last Passover, when, responding to Jesus’ request that God glorify his name, a voice from heaven said: “I both glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd thought that it thundered, or that an angel had spoken to Jesus.—John 12:28, 29.
On those occasions Jehovah God himself made himself manifest by means of audible sounds of speech understandable to his servants. Evidently in the last-named instance the crowd did not hear the voice distinctly, since some compared it to thunder. Jehovah undoubtedly was the speaker on those occasions, because Jesus, in connection with whom the statements were made, was no less than God’s own Son, closer to the Father than any other.—Matt. 11:27.
Speaking to a group of unbelieving Jews, about the time of the Passover of 31 C.E., Jesus told them: “Also, the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. You have neither heard his voice at any time nor seen his figure; and you do not have his word remaining in you, because the very one whom he dispatched you do not believe.” (John 5:37, 38) This unbelieving crowd had never heard God’s voice, nor even obeyed his word or the obvious witness they received through God’s support of Jesus’ works. For that matter, apparently only Jesus and John the Baptist had heard the audible voice of Jehovah, for the two last-named instances of Jehovah speaking had not yet occurred at this point.
Biblical mention of Jehovah’s “voice” sometimes refers to the authoritativeness of his command as “the voice of God Almighty.”—Ezek. 10:5, RS.
On other occasions wherein God is said to speak, angels were used as his representatives to provide the vocal manifestation. Angels represented God in speaking to Moses in Mount Horeb and to Israel, assembled near the foot of the mountain. (Ex. 34:4-7; 20:1-17; Gal. 3:19) These angels sometimes did not present any visible appearance of a form, as when the voice came from the quaking, smoking mountain. (Ex. 20:18, 19; Deut. 4:11, 12; Heb. 12:18, 19) At times they made visionary appearances (Dan. 8:1, 15, 16; Rev. 14:15-18) and on several occasions materialized in human form to bring spoken messages to men.—Gen. 18:1-3, 20; 19:1; Josh. 5:13-15.
HEARING THE VOICE OF GOD
To ‘hear the voice of God’ does not necessarily mean the hearing of a literal, audible voice. It more often means recognizing and hearing with obedience what God has caused to be written in his Word and transmitted through his earthly servants who represent him. (1 John 2:3, 4) Thus, “voice” is used as applying to “every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth,” his commands whether presented to the individual verbally by God himself or by angels or men, or in inspired writing.—Ps. 103:20; Matt. 4:4; see OBEDIENCE.
HEARING JESUS’ VOICE
Jesus Christ spoke of himself as the “fine shepherd” whose sheep “listen to his voice, . . . and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. . . . they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:2-5, 11) Those who are Christ’s “sheep” “know” his voice in that they recognize and acknowledge as true what Christ says as recorded in the Bible. They refuse to acknowledge the teaching of ‘strangers,’ false shepherds. They “listen” to his voice in that they obey his commands as set forth in the Scriptures. (John 15:10, 15) Since Christ Jesus is God’s Chief Representative, who always listens to Jehovah’s voice and speaks what Jehovah directs, the one following Christ will be in union with Jehovah.—John 5:19; 1 John 2:6.
The voice of the resurrected Jesus Christ
After Christ’s resurrection and ascension he appeared to Saul of Tarsus (later the apostle Paul), speaking to him in a voice that Saul understood, but that the men accompanying him did not understand. (Acts 9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18) At Acts 9:7, the account states that the men with Saul heard “a voice [“sound,” Da, Ro, ftn.].” Here the Greek word phonesʹ, the genitive case of pho·neʹ, is used, with the sense of ‘hearing of the voice.’ This allows for the meaning that the men heard only the sound of the voice, but did not understand. When Paul later related the experience he said that the men “did not hear the voice of the one speaking.” (Acts 22:9) In this account the accusative (objective) case pho·nenʹ is used. This can give the sense that, while the sound registered on their ears, they did not hear the voice as being distinct words that they understood as did Saul, to whom Christ was speaking.
The apostle Paul said, when writing to the Thessalonian congregation about the gathering of God’s anointed holy ones: “The Lord [Jesus Christ] himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet.” (1 Thess. 4:16) The term “archangel” means “chief angel” or “principal angel.” Paul’s expression “archangel’s voice” evidently focuses attention on the authoritativeness of Jesus’ voice of command. Jesus, when on earth, revealed the authority that God invested in him, when he said: “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to do judging, because Son of man he is. . . . The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.”—John 5:26-29.
THE HUMAN VOICE
Voice, along with language, is a gift of God. Therefore, the voice should be lifted in praise to God. This can be done by speaking “the magnificent things of God,” upbuilding others with information from God’s Word of truth, or in songs of praise and thanksgiving.—Acts 2:11; Ps. 42:4; 47:1; 98:5; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16.
God hears his servant’s voice
Those who serve God with spirit and truth can call upon God with the assurance that he hears their voice, regardless of the language in which they call upon him. Moreover, even though the literal voice is not used, the petition to God being a silent one, God, who knows the hearts of men, “hears” or gives attention nevertheless. (Ps. 66:19; 86:6; 116:1; 1 Sam. 1:13; Neh. 2:4) God has heard afflicted ones who cry to him for help, and he also hears the voice and knows the intentions of men who oppose him and plot evil against his servants.—Gen. 21:17; Ps. 55:18, 19; 69:33; 94:9-11; Jer. 23:25.
Among the numerous things of God’s creation, many do not make a voice sound. But the Hebrew word qohl (“voice,” “sound”) is used with regard to the witness these voiceless things give to the majesty of their Creator. (Ps. 19:1-4) In a personified sense wisdom is said to keep “giving forth its voice” in the public squares, because it is available to all who seek it, and God has had wisdom proclaimed before all, so that there is no excuse for the one not listening.—Prov. 1:20-30.
The anguish of Jerusalem’s inhabitants in the face of Babylonian attack is compared with the distressed voice of a sick woman, “the voice of the daughter of Zion” being likened to that of a woman giving birth to her first child. (Jer. 4:31) The enemy would reduce Jerusalem to such a low state that any utterances made with her voice would come up from her position of debasement as in the dust and would be like the low voice of a spirit medium. (Isa. 29:4) Through the prophet Jeremiah, God also prophesied that Egypt would be vanquished by the Babylonians, who would come in force as woodcutters, to chop her down. She would lie on the ground, deeply humbled, weeping softly and moaning, her “voice” or “sound” being low like that of a serpent.—Jer. 46:22.