When Should We Turn the Other Cheek?

When should we turn the other cheek? When hurt, humiliated, or attacked, the natural human reaction is to get defensive or attack back.

Indeed, overall, Yeshua certainly made it clear that defensiveness and attacking back are NOT the way to go! So does that mean turning the other cheek is something we should always do? If no, when?

Equally important, let’s look at The Word as a whole. Which we certainly need to always be doing – it makes a lot more sense than picking and choosing verses or even passages.

Is Turning the Other Cheek a Biblical Principle?

Resisting evil is a recurring Biblical principle. We cheer on the men and women of Yah we read about when they trust God enough to stand tall in the face of danger, temptation, or evil.

How many Bible characters can you think of that should NOT have turned the other cheek? Haman needed standing up to. Pharaoh really needed to be handled with strength (Yah’s power working through Moses and Aaron). Comment below who else did good and righteously by being bold and courageous.

So, what was Yeshua trying to teach us?

When should we turn the other cheek? As we so often find, as we walk this Hebraic path of whole Bible life – what Yeshua taught is not new. Yah already showed it in the Tanakh!

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So in determining to understand what our Messiah is instructing us, we turn to context, and what it meant to the people He was addressing at the time. This is where we find depth and understanding.

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

Matthew 5:39 NIV

Cultures, traditions, and the daily lives happening then (and sometimes in the eastern culture even now) can really open up the Word to us in an astounding way.

Does Jeremiah Know When to Turn the Other Cheek?

Moreover, the Bible’s prophets can be a place to find precious gems of truth.

Let’s look for a moment at Lamentations (written by Jeremiah) Our understanding is that this was written during the time of Babylonians coming into Jerusalem and wreaking havoc. Severe suffering and massive captivity followed for Jerusalem’s inhabitants.

 Consequently, Lamentations is a sorrowful book, full of emotion and advice on how to respond to evil and hurt being forced upon you.

And here in Chapter 3 of Lamentations we find:

“Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
    and let him be filled with disgrace.”

Lamentations 3:30 NIV

Is turning the other cheek cultural?

Much as it is our culture, in those days and customs, a slap to the face was a humiliation. 

Humilation was not something taken lightly and was definitely not overlooked in that ancient Hebrew society. Laws were in place, and recompense enforced when this took place.

“As we see it, Jesus’ teaching in this passage has a very narrow application. It’s mainly concerned with the issue of personal revenge or retaliation, not self-defense.”

Focus on the Family

A slap on the cheek falls into this category. It is discussed in the same section of Jewish law as many other humiliating offenses are:

The laws were precise even in regards to what kind of physical humiliation took place! From open or backhand strikes to pulling hair, spitting, and other such actions – there was a particular payment due.
(Bava Kamma 8:6)

Some of the histories behind this have to do with customary use of the right or left hands in the Middle East. 

So when should we turn the other cheek?

Therefore, since we can infer that Yeshua was not discussing turning the other cheek in the context of physical actions against each other. Instead, it would appear insults was the subject at hand. And we all know how insults can be very humiliating, as much or more than a slap to our face.

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

Additionally, He is teaching us to neither verbally attack in response or to go down the defensive road. For example, He also taught us to reconcile, forgive, and humble ourselves. 

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As we consider the whole of what Yeshua instructed, from humbleness and honor – it all makes complete and lovely, Messiah sense.


‘It is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
    while he is young.
 Let him sit alone in silence,
    for the Lord has laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust—
    there may yet be hope.”

Lamentations 3:26-29

Furthermore, Lamentations, in it’s broader context, shares the principles of waiting peaceably for the salvation of the Messiah. 

Our reality is different, but our instructions are the same.

For most of us in our western culture, the hurtful, evil, or otherwise not of God people we deal with are just regular folks in our everyday lives.

Into the broader world picture, many are called to resist powers or dictators. For all of us, being a victim or possible victim of crime is a reality.

In conclusion, it seems that Yeshua wants us to choose a better path. Make wiser choices. Follow hard after Him.

 Simple to say. But how are we doing in that?

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