A Biblical View of Sin – Part 6

A Biblical View of Sin – Part 6

A Biblical View of Sin
Part 6

Thus far in our study we have looked at some of the ways the non-Christian views sin, and then we looked at sin’s entrance into the world through the sin of Adam. By an act of His grace, God imputed Adam’s sin to the whole human race. Although this was a legal transaction, it resulted in man committing all manner of evil. God did not create you sinful, but you were born into a hostile environment, absent the presence of God, and left to give full expression to your desire to be autonomous. God declares you a sinner in a legal sense, in order that He might send His Son as the Savior of the world. But God did not make you morally evil. You did this on your own when you declared your independence from Him.

Old Testament Words for Sin

Let’s now look at some of the words the Hebrews used in communicating the idea of sin. The most common Hebrew word, het (or its derivative) is found approximately 580 times in the Old Testament. It means: “to miss the mark, miss the way,” and has the same meaning as the basic Greek word for sin in the New Testament. Note its use in the following:

“Among all these were seven hundred picked men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair, and not miss.”[33]

“Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.”[34] The RSV translates this verse: “It is not good for a man to be without knowledge, and he who makes haste with his feet misses his way.”

Het has both a secular and religious connotation. It can mean: “to stray, err,” and is used for all kinds of misdemeanors. Note, for example, the words of David to King Saul when David was fleeing for his life: “See, my father, see the skirt of your robe in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off the skirt of your robe, and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it.”[35] David confesses that to have brought harm to Saul, who was trying to kill David, would have been sin, not because of God’s standard, but David deemed that such an act would be wrong.

Likewise, Saul responds to David: “I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.”[36] Saul tells David that he sinned against him, even though no law of God was broken. Saul knew that there was no just cause to try to kill David.

Although het does not always touch the motive or inner quality of sinful actions, but simply the act itself, it is always a violation of the Golden Rule – even though it is not necessarily a violation of God’s law. As far as I can tell, the Hebrew language does not have a distinctive word for guilt, and het is often used to communicate this concept.

The Hebrew Word for Rebel

The Hebrew word pasha means: “to rebel, a willful breach of a relationship.” For example, when Israel renounced the dynasty of David, the Holy Spirit says, “So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.”[37] Again, when Edom declared independence from Judah, it says, “In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves.”[38]

Pasha is used to connote a spontaneous human reaction against the authority of God. God, speaking through His servant Jeremiah, says, “How dare you still plead with me? You have all rebelled against me, says the LORD.”[39] Again, God said through Amos the prophet: “Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days.”[40]

The word rebel and its various derivatives, is almost always against God, His law, and His designated authority. It captures the willful dimension to sin, challenging the authority of God. It was said of Jesus, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.”[41] Most live compliant lives because they perceive that what is asked of them is in their best interest. You learn obedience when you suffer in the sense of voting against your desire in favor of what you are asked to do. Gethsemane is the only recorded instance of Jesus meeting the will of His Father and not wanting to do it. You are tested each time you meet the will of God and don’t want to obey. You fail the test when you rebel.

Other Hebrew Words for Sin

You find an interesting phrase for willful sin in Moses’ words to Israel: “But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.”[42] “Presumptuously” is ruwm, meaning: “high hand, extol self.”

The Hebrews use shagah for “err,” the mildest expression for the reality of sin as seen in Ezekiel 45:20: “And so thou shalt do the seventh day of the month for every one that erreth, and for him that is simple: so shall ye reconcile the house.” These are unpremeditated offences or provocations, and as such, are covered by the sacrificial order. Then too, the cities of refuge were provided for those who shagah: “Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.”[43] Although he commits sin, God does not deal harshly with him, but only because he did not intend to do evil.

Job talks about shagah: “Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth. With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.”[44] Such errors, according to Job, are Providential rather than personal, the product of a clouded mind, which is incapable of comprehension and therefore dealing with God.


The God of Scripture is unique in setting forth standards on how man should treat his follow man. In those religions that have their origin from reason, there may be rules and regulations governing the behavior of man towards others, but these rules do not come from a personal God who holds each individual accountable. Sin, seen from this perspective, is not only against your neighbor, but also more importantly against God. You are an offense to Him when you step outside the parameters He has established for interpersonal relationships.

You can easily see the relationship between autonomy and ingratitude. Your quest of autonomy is the product of wanting no restrictions on your appetites. Using other people satisfies most of your appetites. Appetites are insatiable, robbing you of your ability to be grateful. It matters not what you have, you will always want more.

I am in the “last quarter of the ballgame.” Jesus said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”[45] I am in the “dusk” of life. As I reflect on how I lived my life, my only regret is my sin – usually involving other people, but always against God. If I am not unique, this is a powerful indicator that the human is morally flawed.

People can respond either as skeptics or believers. The skeptic must answer, from where did this sense of guilt and remorse come? Are there any in life that do not feel guilt and shame? You cannot prove that it does not come from the environment, but you can demonstrate that society cannot eradicate it. The believer must answer why the indwelling Spirit convicts of sin. The whole of the Bible agrees that we feel guilty because we are guilty. This universal sense of guilt attests to the presence of sin.

Self-justification destroys all ability to reconcile. This is true in every relationship in life, and especially in our relationship with God. The Holy Spirit convicts and we suppress accusation and guilt in an endeavor to justify ourselves. When we do that, we call into question the Spirit’s right to convict us. In the process we destroy any possibility of reconciliation because this may be the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit.

A sinner saved by grace,


[33] Judges 20:16
[34] Proverbs 19:2
[35] I Samuel 24:11
[36] I Samuel 26:21
[37] I Kings 12:19
[38] II Kings 8:20
[39] Jeremiah 2:29
[40] Amos 4:4
[41] Hebrews 5:8
[42] Numbers 15:30
[43] Numbers 35:11
[44] Job 12:15-17
[45] John 9:4