Psalm 15 begins with the question, “Who can live in God’s tent, on his holy hill?” (15:1). In other words, what kind of a person can be in close proximity to the Almighty? Who can occupy the same space with a perfect and holy God? The psalmist answers this question by describing such a person: “He does not slander with his tongue, nor do evil to his neighbor, nor bring shame on his friend” (Psalm 15:3 NASB). The speech of such a worthy person should not be slanderous or defaming. Consequently, the actions of such a person would not be for evil and they will not lead to shame or reproach for any of his kin or associates. But what is “slander,” exactly? Most would understand this term as “false speech” but the Hebrew language offers a much deeper insight.

When the Psalm describes a person who “does not slander with his tongue,” it does so in an incredibly vivid way. English Bible translations do not fully capture this nuance. The verb for “slander” in Hebrew is רָגַל (ragal). It shares its root with the noun רֶגֶל (regel) which means “foot.” The word for “foot solider” or a member of the infantry is רַגְלִי (ragli). Many words in Hebrew can originate from this basic root. For example, the three “pilgrim feasts” in the Bible are called רְגָלִים (regalim), literally holidays for which “one travels on foot.” Finally, one word for “spies” in Hebrew is מְרַגְּלִים (meraglim), someone who “scouts on foot.” But what do “feet” have to do with slanderous speech? There is a clear connection, but it can only be seen in Hebrew.

The psalmist’s answer begins by describing a person who “walks with integrity” (Ps 15:2). And this “walk” includes thoughts, speech, and actions that can lead to slander, scorn, and contempt (15:3). The slanderer literally walks all over someone’s reputation with their tongue; slandering is like trampling another person underfoot! This is the mental image of slander which the Hebrew verb paints; something much more egregious than some false statements, and much weightier than a denigrating remark. To slander other people is to tread upon their very personhood. Instead of walking over others, the Psalms encourage the reader to be someone who can tell God, “I walk in your faithfulness” (Ps 26:3).



  1. Beautiful! If we walk with God & trust God ,our mind should be so focused on Him and pleasing Him, so that we do not want to walk all over people. We still need to be watchful, stand firm in our faith, and strive be a good example or source of help to others.
  2. It's also interesting that the word for gossip is rechilut, from the same root as the word to peddle, or go about as a hawker, to anyone who's prepared to "buy." It reminds me that slander and gossip require not only the one speaking but the one willing to listen.
  3. Thank you, Professor Shir, for this insightful lesson outside of class. It is so important to guard our tongues when speaking of others. The psalmist could not put it in a better way. Again, I appreciate your G-d-given wisdom, understanding and knowledge that you masterfully use to edify His people. Todah.
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  4. What a powerful way of explanation.leading understanding of it kind.deeper knowledge that lead to deeper comprehension.
  5. MANY thanks. You have taken a load off my mind. I always wanted to find out.....every time I open my (big) mouth, I always put my foot in it!!
  6. Wow! I think Hebrew (and Greek because of the New Testament) must be taught in churches as part of discipleship curriculum. Prof. Shir, this word study makes me rethink how I think, talk about people, and treat people, because of God’s image in them. The Lord values people.
    • That is a good idea, but I would begin with staff and those who lead people. Most have very little training on these matters.
  7. Amen. So true and so clear. Thanks. We don't have to walk over other people stepping them with our sharp healed shoes. We really need to watch out over other people.
    • Reminds me of the song "These boots are made for walking". As kingdom priest we are not to be guilty of. I stand to be corrected. Thank you.
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