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Whilst reading Psalm 7 this morning, I came across a strange expression at the end of verse 9:
O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins."
This is from the King James Version.
I am curious to know why the word "reins" has been used here and what it means within the context of this verse.
would like to hear on this one Duane L Burgess John Mushenhouse
“Reins” – the seat of the feelings or affections, formerly identified with the kidneys.
The Hebrews used bodily organ terms to express certain ideas, like “bowels of mercy” (the gut).
Translators have to determine how to best express what the writer meant.
Consider how we feel in a crisis. We are driving and suddenly there’s an emergency event. We slam on the brakes, strive to avoid collision, etc. We get sick to our stomach, our gut.
O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.
(hearts and reins: KJV – kilyah: a kidney; libbah: heart)
NASB: …For the righteous God puts hearts and [j]minds to the test.
J. Psalm 7:9 Lit kidneys, figurative for inner man
NIV: …the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.
NET: …O righteous God, you who examine[ae] inner thoughts and motives.
ESV: …you who test the minds and hearts,[c] O righteous God!
C. Psalm 7:9 Hebrew the hearts and kidneys
Brett Dobbs This is from the King James Version.
I am curious to know why the word “reins” has been used here and what it means within the context of this verse.
Troy Day kilyâ
kidneys (18x), reins (13x).
What’s interesting is that in majority of text where this word is used, the word is translated as kidneys when referring to the animals where as when the word is used for humans it is translated as reins.
Why the translators did this is a mystery to me. Perhaps they did this to make a distinction between the human and animal inward parts.
Brett Dobbs majority of text OR majority texts ?
Troy Day I’m referring to in the majority of the Bible verses where the word is used. I just did a quick scan and noticed that it’s always translated as rein for a human and kidney for an animal
it was adapted to the King James era English from the French through the Latin it means the seat of emotions, temperament. It is also an old cliche for emotional intelligence (He has the kidneys} It was in the older days a connection between emotions and the body’s organs. My wife being from an old French (partially ) family still uses that expression and taught me the etymology of it. Wilson’s says temperament and disposition connected to the heart and the choicest part (as does Pick). Baker and my old workout buddy (namedropper) Gene Carpenter in the complete word study dictionary says “seat of emotions”. TWOT shows other versions using heart. and it (kidney) filters impurities from the life giving blood.
Albert Barnes had a handle of the old english and he comments on Psalms 7:9 To search or try “the heart and the reins” is an expression frequently used in the Bible to denote that God is intimately acquainted with all the thoughts and feelings of people; that is, that he thoroughly understands the character of all people. The word “heart” in the Scriptures is often used to denote the seat of the “thoughts;” and the word “reins” seems to be used to denote the most secret feelings, purposes, and devices of the soul – as if lodged deep in our nature, or covered in the most hidden and concealed portions of the man. The word “reins,” with us, denotes the kidneys. In the Scriptures the word seems to be used, in a general sense, to denote the inward parts, as the seat of the affections and passions.
The Hebrew word כליה kilyâh, means the same as the word “reins” with us – the kidneys, Exodus 29:13, Exodus 29:22; Job 16:13; Isaiah 34:6; Deuteronomy 32:14. From some cause, the Hebrews seem to have regarded the “reins” as the seat of the affections and passions, though perhaps only in the sense that they thus spoke of the “inward” parts, and meant to denote the deepest purposes of the soul – as if utterly concealed from the eye. These deep thoughts and feelings, so unknown to other people, are all known intimately to God, and thus the character of every man is clearly understood by him, and he can judge every man aright. The phrase used here – of trying the hearts and reins – is one that is often employed to describe the Omniscience of God. Compare Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12; Psalms 26:2; Psalms 139:13; Revelation 2:23. The particular idea here is, that as God searches the hearts of all people, and understands the secret purposes of the soul, he is able to judge aright, and to determine correctly in regard to their character, or to administer his government on the principles of exact justice. Such is the ground of the prayer in this case, that God, who knew the character of all people, would confirm those who are truly righteous, and would bring the wickedness of the ungodly to an end.