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Jeremiah 31:19 New International Version

After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.'

English Standard Version

For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’

Why so different?

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  • Young's Literal, Green's Literal and the KJV all have 'thigh'. There does not seem any sensible justification for anything other than 'thigh' for yarek Strong 3409 either lexically or idiomatically. (Up-voted +1.)
    – Nigel J
    May 29 at 14:51
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Jeremiah 31:19 breast or thigh?

The original Hebrew word used is yarek (Strong's 3409) which is usually translated as "thigh, loin, side, base". This is one of many examples of showing grief or shame.

Why does the NIV use "breast" instead of thigh?

The beating of the breast is another way of expressing grief or shame. The second paragraph of the Insight on the Scriptures article "Attitudes and Gestures" subheading Grief, Shame describes different ways the Orientals express their feelings:

Cutting off or pulling out hair; beating breast. Cutting off the hair (Job 1:20), pulling some of the hair out of one’s own beard (Ezr 9:3), covering the head (2Sa 15:30; Es 6:12), covering the mustache (Eze 24:17; Mic 3:7), and laying one’s hands on his own head denoted grief or shame, even to the point of being stunned. (2Sa 13:19; Jer 2:37) Some believe that the latter gesture signified that the heavy hand of God’s affliction was resting on the mourner. Isaiah walked about naked and barefoot as a sign of the shame to come upon Egypt and Ethiopia. (Isa 20:2-5) Under the feeling of unusual grief or contrition one might beat the breast in grief (Mt 11:17; Lu 23:27), or slap the thigh for regret, shame, and humiliation or mourning.—Jer 31:19; Eze 21:12. (bold mine)

So a direct translation of Jeremiah 31:19 would use the word "thigh" but may be unfamiliar to some readers. While the use of the word "breast" still conveys the same idea and may be understood by more people.

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