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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Turn Towards, Turn Back

A. Verb.

Pânâh (פָּנָה, Strong's #6437), “to turn towards, turn back, turn around, attach to, pass away, make clear.” This verb also appears in Syriac and post-biblical Hebrew and post-biblical Aramaic. Related verbs which have the same radicals with a somewhat diflferent meaning occur in Arabic and Ethiopic. The Bible attests pânâh about 155 times and in all periods.

Most occurrences of this verb carry the sense “to turn in another direction”; this is a verb of either physical or mental motion. Used of physical motion, the word signifies turning so as to move in another direction: “Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward” (Deut. 2:3). Pânâh can also mean to turn so as to face or look at something or someone: “And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness …” (Exod. 16:10). “Turning toward” something may also signify looking at, or seeing it: “Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto [do not see] the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin” (Deut. 9:27). A further extension in meaning is seen in Hag. 1:9, where pânâh means “to look for,” or to expect: “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little.…”

Another focus of meaning is “to turn back” so as to see. This is found in Josh. 8:20: “When the men of Ai turned back and looked, behold …” (NASB). In other passages the verb means “to turn around,” in the sense of to look in every direction. So Moses “looked this way and that way, and when he saw there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand” (Exod. 2:12).

In the sense of “to turn around” pânâh is used of changing one’s direction so as to leave the scene. So “the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom …” (Gen. 18:22—the first biblical occurrence of the verb).

Used of intellectual and spiritual turning, this verb signifies attaching oneself to something. God commanded Israel: “Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods …” (Lev. 19:4); they should not shift their attention to and attach themselves to idols. In an even stronger use this verb represents dependence on someone: “… Which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance, when they shall look after [depend on] them …” (Ezek. 29:16). “To turn towards” sometimes means to pay attention to someone. Job tells his friends: “Now … look upon me; for it is evident unto you if I lie” (Job 6:28).

In a still different emphasis the word connotes the “passing away” of something, such as the turning away of a day: “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide …”— he went out “at the turning of the evening” (Gen. 24:63). Similarly the Bible speaks of the dawn as the “turning of the morning” (Exod. 14:27). The “turning of the day” is the end of the day (Jer. 6:4).

Used in a military context, panah can signify giving up fighting or fleeing before one’s enemies. Because of Achan’s sin the Lord was not with Israel at the battle of Ai: “Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed …” (Josh. 7:12).

In the intensive stem the verb means “to remove,” to take away: “The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy …” (Zeph. 3:15). “To clear a house” (to set things in order) is often the means by which conditions are prepared for guests: “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house …” (Gen. 24:31). Another nuance is “to prepare” a road for a victory march; Isaiah says: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3; cf. Matt. 3:3).

B. Nouns.

Pinnâh (פִּנָּה, Strong's #6438), “corner.” This noun occurs 30 times in the Old Testament. The word refers to “corners” in Exod. 27:2: “And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof …” In 2 Kings 14:13 the word refers to a corner-tower, and in Judg. 20:2 pinnâh is used figuratively of a “chief” as the “corner” or defense of the people.

The noun panim is also related to the verb panah. It occurs 2,100 times to refer to the “face” of something. An early occurrence of the word is in Gen. 17:3.

C. Adjective.

Penı̂ymı̂y (פְּנִימִי, Strong's #6442), “inner.” This adjective occurs about 33 times, and it refers to a part of a building, usually a temple. One occurrence is in 1 Kings 6:27: “And he set the cherubim within the inner house.…”

D. Adverb.

Penı̂ymâh (פְּנִימָה, Strong's #6441), “within.” This word occurs about 12 times. One appearance is in 1 Kings 6:18: “And the cedar of the house within was carved with knobs and open flowers.…” Here the word refers to the inside of the house.

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Turn Towards, Turn Back'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. 1940.

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