Jeremiah 4:30 - “though thou rentest thy face with painting”
Jeremiah 4:30 - “And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though THOU RENTEST THY FACE WITH PAINTING, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life.”
I want to examine this phrase “rentest thy face with painting” and try to explain what it means. This is a literal translation of what the Hebrew text actually says. Many modern versions have modified the text in an attempt to interpret it. But it may not mean what these non-literal, paraphrases think it means. Some Bible commentators think it means literally what both the Hebrew text and the KJB (and many other too) say it does.
Other bibles differ only in a spelling change of the word “rentest” to “rendest”. Both forms are found in the King James Bible itself, and both are valid ways to spell the word “to rend” - which means to cut, tear in two.
The Hebrew word is # 7167 kah-rag, and it is found some 62 times ini the Hebrew O.T. It is translated as either “rend” or “rent” some 57 times, as as “to tear” three times and “to cut” or “to cut out” twice.
It is most commonly used in the expression “Then THEY RENT their clothes” (Genesis 44:13) and “A time TO REND and a time to sow.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)
It is also uses in such expressions as when Samuel speaks to king Saul, saying: “The Lord HATH RENT the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.” (1 Samuel 15:28).
We also see it used in Isaiah 64:1 where we read: “Oh that thou wouldest REND the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence.”
The ASV 1901 is one of the paraphrases. It says: “though thou ENLARGEST thine eyes with paint” and then Footnotes “Hebrew - RENDEST”. It admits that this is the literal Hebrew text, and it is.
Well known Jewish scholar and commentator Rashi notes - “Hebrew. תקרעי. An expression of TEARING, for the paint appears as widening the opening of the eye. “
This is a possibility, but there are also other ways to understand what this expression -"thou retentest thy face with painting" - means, as we shall soon see.
Many modern versions like the ESV, NKJV, NASB read something like “though you ENLARGE your eyes with paint”
Some modern versions are full blown paraphrases, like the ISV 2014 which says “AND HIGHLIGHTING YOUR EYES WITH MAKEUP” or Dan Wallace’s NET version, with: “and PUTTING ON EYE SHADOW!”
The Geneva bible, as well as the earlier English bibles like Coverdale, the Great Bible, Matthew’s bible, and the Bishop’s bible, were all an interpretation - “though thou PAINTEST thy face with colors” - and not a translation.
The King James Bible translators were well aware of this paraphrased meaning, but they deliberately chose to give us a more literal translation from the Hebrew text itself.
The word for “painting” is the same one used to describe the wicked queen Jezebel in 2 Kings 9:30 where we read: “And when Jehu was come to Jereel, Jezebel heard of it; and she PAINTED HER FACE, and tired her head (attired), and looked out at a window.”
“though THOU RENTEST THY FACE WITH PAINTING”
Bibles that agree with the King James Bible and have “though thou RENTEST (or RENDEST) thy face with painting” are The Bill Bible 1671- “though thou RETENTEST THY FACE WITH PAINTING”, the Webster Bible 1833, the Julia Smith Translation 1855, The Jewish Family Bible 1864, The Smith Bible 1876, The Revised English Bible 1877, the Darby Translation 1890, Young’s literal Translation 1898, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, The Word of Yah Bible 1993, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, The Third Millennium Bibe 1998, The Hebrew Transliteration Scripture 2010 - “though thou rentest thy face with painting”, and The Bond Slave Version 2012.
And this online Hebrew Interlinear translation -
“though thou rentest with painting thy face”
As well as this online Jewish Virtual Library Complete Tanach 1994 - "and though thou RENTEST thy face with painting"
A couple of modern versions are a bit awkward with “and YOU TEAR YOUR FACE WITH PAINT”. These are the Biblos Bible 2013 and The Scripture 4 All Translation 2010.
Some Bible Commentators Interesting Remarks and Contrary Views on Jeremiah 4:20
Matthew Henry - “She rents her face with painting, puts the best colours she can upon her present distresses and does her utmost to palliate and extenuate her losses, sets a good face upon them. But this painting, though it beautifies the face for the present, REALLY RENDS IT; the frequent use of paint SPOILS THE SKIN, CRACKS IT, AND MAKES IT ROUGH; so the case which by false colours has been made to appear better than really it was, when truth comes to light, will look so much the worse.”
Matthew Pool’s English Annotations - “Though thou rentest thy face with painting: it is observed that they that paint much MAKE THEIR SKINS WITHERED"
Adam Clarke’s Commentary - “Though thou rentest thy face with painting - This probably refers to the custom of introducing stibium a preparation of antimony, between the eye and the lids, in order to produce a fine lustre, which occasions a distension of the eye-lid in the time of the operation. In order to heighten the effect from this some may have introduced a more than ordinary quantity, so as nearly TO REND the eye-lid itself.”
Ellicott’s Bible Commentary - “The “rending the face” is, literally, enlarging the eyes with kohl, or antimony, still used for this purpose in the east, the black powder being laid on horizontally with a small stylus, or pencil, drawn between the eyelashes.”
Whedon’s Commentary on the Bible - “This pigment was a black powder made of sulphur-antimony, and was applied by drawing a style smeared with it horizontally between the closed eyelids. This Jeremiah calls rending the face (eyes) with paint.”
All of grace, believing the Book - the King James Bible,
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