What Does Tearing Robes Mean?

As a Christian, you must have heard or read in the bible where the tearing of robes was mentioned. Then, you would have wondered what it meant. Fortunately, a lot of bible readers are very interested in the answer to this question. Thus, in this article, I will provide a detailed response to the popularly asked question, likewise, other questions. Let’s get right into it.

So, “What Does Tearing Robes Mean?” Below are what tearing of tunics or robes means:

  • It exemplifies grieving.
  • Symbolizes mockery.
  • Embodies the revealing of the heart.
  • It means repentance to God.

It exemplifies grieving

Centuries ago – in the bible, people expressed their grief by tearing their tunics. For instance, in the book of Genesis 37, when Reuben noticed that his brother Joseph was sold out for slavery by his other brothers, he tore his cloth to show how angry and pained he was about the incident. 

Similar to this, after their father (Jacob) was informed that Joseph – his favorite son, was being killed by a very dangerous animal. He reacted by tearing off his clothes to show his grief. 

Furthermore, many other people in the bible like Job and Eli, likewise other traditions, show their grief by tearing their tunics or clothes. 

Symbolizes mockery

The tearing of robes could also symbolize mockery. Just like when Jesus was about to be crucified, his seamless tunics – as described by John, were torn as a sign of mockery because he claimed that he was the ruler of the Jews and the lord of all lords.

Embodies the revealing of the heart

The tearing of tunics is a tradition in most cultures that are called Kriah, which is literally performed when a loved one is dead. The tearing of robes in this aspect is to reveal the present situation of the heart. 

In this tradition, the tearing of tunics could either be performed by a wife, child, husband or any closer relative. And it is done n before the burial service of the deceased. 

It means repentance to God

Finally, the ripping of garments means repentance to God. When most people find out about their guilt against the most high God, they ripped their robes in repentance. God acknowledged this act as it means a willingness to repentance from any sin committed. 

What does it mean to rend your heart not your garments?

Rending your heart rather than your garments means repentance from one’s sin wholeheartedly. The custom of many Hebrews was to shred their cloaks to reflect their grief and sorrow.

However, while that custom could be used in feeling remorseful of our sins, we could do the same with our hearts – as said by Joel 2 verse 12. 

According to Joel, rending our hearts when repenting shows a real change of heart. In addition, repentance is not just about being sorry about a crime, it is about having a new heart so that you won’t repeat the same sin.

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Who are those that tore their clothes in the bible?

Would you like to know those who ripped their robes in the scripture? I’d list their names and give a brief reference below.

Here are those who ripped their apparel in the bible:

  • King David.
  • Ahab – the king of Israel.
  • King Hezekiah.
  • Mordecai.
  • Joshua and the Israelites.
  • Paul and Barnabas, and many more.

King David 

David ripped off his gown when he learned about the demise of Jonathan and Saul. They died during the war between the Philistines and Israel. 

So, he expressed his sorrow by tearing off his robes. Not only him did that, but all the men who were around David when the message was passed across ripped their apparel. 

Ahab – the king of Israel

Ahab, the ruler of Israel ripped his cloth when he heard the word of the Lord sent to him through the prophet Elijah regarding the crime perpetrated by him and his spouse Jezebel. According to the story in 1 Kings 21 to the end, king Ahab told Naboth to give his vineyard to him in exchange for money because it was closer to him. But Naboth rejected by saying “the Lord prohibits that he offers the vineyard of his fathers to him.” 

Then, because of this, king Ahab rejected food. His wife jezebel noticed and inquired why Ahab refused food, he notified her about the incident.

Furthermore, she took action by writing a message in the King’s name saying that Naboth blasphemed against the king and God, so he should be stoned to death. God saw this and sent Elijah to the king saying that all that occurred to Naboth would also emerge to him. 

King Hezekiah 

Hezekiah ripped his apparel after hearing the messages of Rabshakeh from Eliakim – the son of Hilkiah. From the story in 2 Kings 18 and 2 Kings 19, the king of Assyria sent his men to the species of Jerusalem.

He instructed his men to instruct the folk of Jerusalem not to heed King Hezekiah, and that he will not be able to deliver them from his hands. 

He also sent his men to tell them not to believe Hezekiah if he says that God will not be able to save them. Then, he said he will take them to land similar to theirs, but with new honey, grains, and other useful things. In response to this, Eliakim went to the king with a sackcloth, and after king Hezekiah heard, he ripped his robe and wore a sackcloth.


Mordecai also ripped his clothes when Haman sent a letter with the King’s seal that all Jews should be killed. Due to how devoted Mordecai is and knowing he and Esther is part of the Jews that will be harmed, he ripped his cloth, wore sackcloth, and knelt in front of the Palace. 

This news was passed across to Esther before she came up with what she could do to save her fellow Jews. 

Joshua and the Israelite’s elders

Joshua and the other elders rented their apparel when they found out that the Israelites were overthrown. In the story, before they went for the battle, some of the Israelites sin against the Lord their God by putting up with the elements that were accursed with their stuff. 

So because of this, the Lord did not back them up at the battleground which led to their defeat. Furthermore, Joshua and the seniors prayed to God with their apparel torn, and the Lord notified them what to do. 

Paul and Barnabas

Paul and Barnabas yanked their costume when the people in Lystra took them as deities and sent them gifts. In the book of Act 14, Paul and Barnabas went to Lystra to evangelize, they met a man who was paralyzed from his mother’s womb.

When Paul was speaking, he noticed the man and discerned that he had faith that could rehabilitate him. Then, Paul spoke loudly, stand up on your feet, he stood and walked. 

So, the species thought the deities they idolized came down to them in man form. They told their priest and the priest brought oxen and other items they used for sacrifice to the gates. When Paul and Barnabas heard about this, with their rented clothing, they ran to the center of the population to plead with them to stop. 


What does rent mean in the bible?

Rent in the bible means to tear. So, in places in the scripture where rending your heart or clothes is mentioned, it means to rip or tear your clothes to show repentance, remorse, grief, sorrow, and many other things. 

In the bible, many Jews, Hebrews, and prophets showed this act to express their pain towards an incident, or to express their repentance to God after a sin has been committed. 

What does the bible say about wearing torn clothes?

The bible says that those who are diseased such as leprosy should wear torn clothes with rough hair – evidenced in Leviticus 13 vs 45. Then, in Levi 21 verse 10, it was forbidden for a high priest to tear their robes and carry rough hair which is a result of their role among the people. 

All of these were laws that were passed across to the people and they were expected to heed them. Even in Joel 2, Joel talked about rending the hearts, rather than clothes to show more repentance in the process of a change of heart. 

Conclusion – What Does Tearing Robes Mean?

The ripping of robes means a lot in the custom of many Hebrews and Jews which are grieving, repentance, mockery, and revealing of the heart.

However, in those times, it was more associated with grief because many prophets showed their grief and sorrow by tearing their robes and putting on sackcloth. 

In addition, Joel advised that it is better to rent the hearts, rather than garments while repenting from our sins. In agreement with that, repentance requires a change of heart. Other questions were answered in this blog post, I hope you learn from them. 

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