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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Nose

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A. Noun.

'Aph (אַף, Strong's #639), “nose; nostrils; face; wrath; anger.” This general Semitic word has cognates in Akkadian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, and Arabic. This word appears in every period of biblical Hebrew and about 277 times.

The fundamental meaning of the word is “nose,” as a literal part of the body. 'Aph bears this meaning in the singular, while the dual refers to the “nostrils” through which air passes in and out: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7—the first biblical occurrence).

In other contexts 'aph in the dual represents the “entire face.” God cursed Adam saying: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground …” (Gen. 3:19). This emphasis appears often with the phrase “to bow one’s face to the ground”: “… And Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth” (Gen. 42:6).

The words “length of face or nostrils” constitute an idiom meaning “longsuffering” or “slow to anger.” It is used both of God and of man: “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exod. 34:6). The contrasting idiom, meaning “quick to anger,” might literally mean “short of face/nostrils.” It implies a changeable countenance, a capricious disposition. Prov. 14:17 uses this idiom with a little stronger emphasis: “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.” The accuracy of this translation is supported by the parallelism of the phrase and “a man of evil devices.” Clearly 'aph must mean something evil in God’s sight.

Finally, the dual form can mean “wrath” (only in 4 passages): “Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife” (Prov. 30:33; cf. Exod. 15:8).

The singular form means “nose” about 25 times. In Num. 11:19-20 the word represents a human nose: “You [Israel] shall … eat [the meat God will supply] … a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you” (NASB). Isa. 2:22 makes it clear that the word represents the place where the breath is: “Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils (NASB). Perhaps the NASB translation in such passages is acceptable. The first passage, however, refers to the two holes or nostrils, while the second passage appears to refer to the entire frontal part of the nasal passages (where one is aware of breath being present). This word may be used of the structure protruding from one’s face: “… They shall take away thy nose and thine ears; and thy remnant shall fall by the sword …” (Ezek. 23:25; cf. Song of Sol. 7:4). 'Aph is applied also to the “nose” of animals. In Job 40:24, God speaks of a large water animal: “He taketh it with his eyes: his nose pierceth through snares.”

The word can be used anthropomorphically of God. Certainly passages such as Deut. 4:15-19 make it clear that God is a Spirit (John 4:24) and has not a body like men. Yet, speaking figuratively, it may be said: “They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee [literally, “in thy nostrils”], and whole burnt sacrifice upon thine altar” (Deut. 33:10; cf. Ps. 18:8, 15). The idiom “high of nose” means “haughty” (cf. the English idiom “to have one’s nose in the air”): “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God …” (Ps. 10:4).

The singular form often means “anger” or “wrath.” This meaning first appears in Gen. 30:2: “And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel.…” This meaning is applied to God as a figure of speech (anthropopathism) whereby He is attributed human emotions. Since God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable and since anger is an emotion representing a change in one’s reaction (cf. Num. 25:4), God does not really become angry, He only appears to do so in the eyes of men (cf. Prov. 29:8). The Spirit of God can seize a man and move him to a holy “anger”(Judg. 14:19; 1 Sam. 11:6).

B. Verb.

'Ânaph (אָנַף, Strong's #599), “to be angry.” This verb, which has cognates in most of the Semitic languages, occurs 39 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods. The verb appears in Isa. 12:1: “O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me.…”

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Nose'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/n/nose.html. 1940.

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