Nostrils

noz, nos’-trilz (’aph, "nose," nechirayim, dual of nechir, "nostrils"): The former expression (’aph from ’anph, like Arabic ’anf) is often translated "face" (which see under the word) in the English Versions of the Bible. It is frequently referred to as the organ of breathing, in other words, as the receptacle of the breath or spirit of God: "Yahweh .... breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Ge 2:7; compare Ge 7:22); "My life is yet whole in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils" (Job 27:3). Therefore a life which depends on so slight a thing as a breath is considered as utterly frail and of no great consequence: "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Isa 2:22; compare Wis 2:2).

In poetical language such a breath of life is ascribed even to God, especially with regard to the mighty storm which is thought to proceed from His nostrils (Ex 15:8; 2Sa 22:9; Ps 18:8,15).


Another dark and much discussed passage must still be referred to: "And, lo, they put the branch to their nose" (Eze 8:17). The usual explanation (whereof the context gives some valuable hints) is that a rite connected with the worship of Baal (the sun) is here alluded to (see Smend and A.B. Davidson’s commentaries on the passage). A similar custom is known from Persian sun-worship, where a bunch (baretsma) of dates, pomegranates or tamarisks was held to the nose by the worshipper, probably as an attempt to keep the Holy One (sun) from being contaminated by sinful breath (Spiegel, Eranische Altertamer, III, 571). Among modern Jews posies of myrtle and other fragrant herbs are held to the nose by the persons attending on the ceremony of circumcision, for the alleged reason of making the sight and smell of blood bearable. Another interpretation of the above passage would understand zemorah, in the sense of "male sexual member" (see Gesenius-Buhl, under the word; Levy, Nhb. Worterbuch, I, 544), and the whole passage as a reference to a sensuous Canaanite rite, such as is perhaps alluded to in Isa 57:8. In that case the ’appam, "their nose "of the Massoretic Text would have to be considered as tiqqun copherim (a correction of the scribes) for ’appi, "my face." Or read "They cause their stench (zemoratham) to come up to my face" (Kraetzschmar, at the place).

See Branch.