They Tore Their Clothes
Acts 14:14, “but when the Apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude crying out”. Context of this verse is when Paul healed a man who was cripple from his mother’s womb, and the multitude there wanted to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas as being gods which had come down in the likeness of men. Verses 8-13.
This phrase, “tore their clothes” is used often in both the Old and New Testaments. It was tradition among the ancient Jews, and came to be associated with mourning, grief and loss. The first mention of someone tearing his garment is in Genesis 37:29. “And Reuben returned unto the pit. And behold, Joseph was not in the pit, and he rent his clothes”. In verse 34, “and Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days”.
II Samuel 1:11, 12, David” tore his clothes” to express his pain and hurt over the death of Saul and Jonathan. Elisha” rent his clothes”, when Elijah was taken by a whirlwind into heaven. II Kgs. 2:11, 12. Ahab” rent his clothes”, I Kgs. 21:27, when Elijah place judgment upon him from God. It is used mostly in Scripture during mourning, expression of deep sorrow, heartfelt grief, of great distress.
This phrase is used different ways. Joel 2:13, “and rend your heart and not your garment and turn unto the Lord your God. For He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil”. Itis used as an expressions of anger. Matthew 26:65, when Jesus was before the High Priest, “then the High Priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy”. It is used as a symbol of the dividing of a kingdom. In God’s rejection of Saul being king over Israel, I Samuel 15:27, 28, “and as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said unto him, the Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine, that is better than thou”.
It is stated that this phrase is used 5188 times in Scripture. Mostly having reference to repentance of oneself. When Jeremiah deliver a scroll to King Jehoiakim concerning God’s judgment that was soon coming to Judah, we are told of King Jehoiakim reaction when he heard what was written on the scroll in Jeremiah 36:23,24, “ and it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all of these words”.
- CL Bruner