There are many times in the bible when the word ‘cleansed’ is used. It’s used in rituals and in the teachings of the apostles. Yet, I don’t feel many people today would even consider themselves filthy or needing to be cleansed. So what does the word cleanse mean in Hebrew and Greek? Because the bible teaches that we do need to be cleansed.
All scriptures are taken from NKJV unless otherwise marked.
What Does The Word ‘Cleanse’ Mean In Hebrew?
barar- to brighten; purify.
zakah- to be translucent; to be innocent.
There are three roots closely connected that all represent purity, cleanness, or freedom of pollution:
- zaqaq (found in Psalm 12:6)
- zakak (found in Job 8:6)
- zakah (found in Proverbs 20:9)
All of these passages speak of moral purity and transparency of the heart. They point to a character who is free of corruption or sully. A man may aim at this objective but will fail to accomplish through his own devices.
chata- to sin.
As a verb, chata means “to miss, sin, be guilty, forfeit, or purify.”
The word’s basic meaning and cheif usage are to indicate moral failure toward both God and man and the consequences of such actions. It’s also used to speak of those who pervert justice.
“Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.”
– Joshua 7:11
Humans are supposed to turn from sin (a path/lifestyle or act of deviating from God’s direction), confess it, and be purified from it (Numbers 8:7).
Related: What Does The Word ‘Edify’ Mean In Greek?
taher- to be pure; unadulterated.
Since the fall, no one has been clean in the sight of God (except Jesus). However, God promises to cleanse Israel.
“I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me.”
– Jeremiah 33:8
The effect of sin was recognized when a person has an outbreak of leprosy. Once examined and diagnosed by the priest, a cleansing ritual would be done and the person was only “clean” afterward.
naqah- make clean; to be clean; innocent.
This verb is more often used to mean being “free.” That freedom may be from wrongdoing or the punishment from it (Exodus 21:19). Also, this word appears with the legal connotation of “innocence.” A person may be declared innocent or acquitted (Psalm 19:13) It can also be used to describe the punishment of one who has not been acquitted (Exodus 20:7).
“Though they join forces, the wicked will not go unpunished;
But the posterity of the righteous will be delivered.”
– Proverbs 11:21
What Does The Word ‘Cleanse’ Mean In Greek?
katharizo- to cleanse; to make clean.
This is used is the literal sense meaning to clean dirt or to be cleanse from diseases. However, it can also be used in the moral sense such as the defilement of sin or the guilt of sin (Ephesians 5:26; 1 John 1:7)
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
– 2 Corinthians 7:1
In conclusion, the word cleanse means to make pure or innocent. It can also mean to free someone from the consequences of their sins. Jesus came so that we can be cleansed by His blood and become blameless in the sight of God. That’s what the word cleanse means in Hebrew and Greek.
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