Did you know that "silent" or "silence" is mentioned forty-three times in the Bible? For a book that has so much to say, I find it ironic that such a concept would be so prevalent. Ten references to silence are from the New Testament, and for the Church, they are both popular and resented, depending on the usage. The most famous and made most popular is the silence found in Revelation 8:1. The thirty minute silence is well known because by Handel's Messiah and its Hallelujah Chorus. The text itself humbles the reader at the thought of millions of angels and the departed souls of men being unable to speak. The scene is the opening of the seventh seal which contains the seven trumpet judgments that are the work of God Himself. The previous six seals involved the work of the antichrist and his minions, but these are so much more terrifying. I see this silence as similar to the silence at the execution of a man sentenced to death. What is about to happen is a solemn event. There is no rejoicing; just an eerie reverence.
Silence is often associated with respect for someone speaking. At the Church council at Jerusalem in Acts 15:1-41, the Apostles and all others present were silent while Paul and Barnabas presented their testimony of God's acceptance of the Gentiles into the Church. In Acts 21:40, Paul is given the opportunity to defend himself. The passage goes on to say in Acts 22:2 that because Paul spoke in Hebrew, his audience was even more respectful. Those in authority had demanded silence out of respect for the ones speaking.
Another reason for a crowd to be silent is when the person speaking has put them to shame through rebuke. Jesus was continually being challenged in an effort to accuse Him and sentence Him to death. In Matthew 22:34, the Pharisees learned that Jesus' response to the Sadducees had put them to silence. Emboldened by the fact that their religious opponents had been defeated, they decided to try to trap Him themselves (Matt. 22:34-45). The Lord's response to their questions, being right out of the Old Testament Scriptures, was irrefutable. They could not answer Him, and the text says from that time on, they no longer challenged Him through questions. Jesus had silenced His enemies.
There is another kind of silence that has a great deal of power. If you have been married, the silence of one's spouse due to conflict is deafening. It even has a name: the "silent treatment." I can honestly say that there are times when I prefer my wife give me the "silent treatment" because it is less painful than listening to her when I know she is right. This kind of silence is ultimately never good, and is the opposite of showing respect for the person speaking. When resolution of the conflict is achieved, we say that people are "back on speaking terms."
Regardless of the reason for silence, to modern man, it is deafening.