The Bible repeatedly warns us to not have a haughty, prideful, or arrogant spirit. But instead, be humble and God will help us. Matthew 23:12 teaches us, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” However, what does the word ‘exalt’ mean in Hebrew and Greek? Since we no longer us this language, what exactly was God warning us against?

All scriptures are taken from NKJV unless otherwise marked.

What Does The Word ‘Exalt’ Mean In Hebrew?

gabahh- to be lofty; to be haughty.

As an adjective, this word means, “to be high, lofty, exalted.” It used many times to describe all sorts of things. For example, the heavens (in Job 35:5), a tree (in Ezekiel 19:11), and a man (in 1 Samuel 10:23). In Job 36:7, it means “to be exalted” in honor and dignity. Gabahh can be used in a positive sense (such as in 2 Chronicles 17:6) or a negative sense of “being proud or haughty”.

“He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous;
But they are on the throne with kings,
For He has seated them forever,
And they are exalted.”

– Job 36:7

nasa- to lift up. 

This term can be used in many different ways. The verb “nashsha” means to lift up or carry.  It appears 654 times in the Old Testament.

calal- to mound up; to exalt; to oppose.

ruwm- to be high; to rise or raise.

Ruwm represents either the “movement in an upward direction” or “state of being on a higher plane.” In Genesis 7:17, it’s used to describe the flood rising. David uses this term in Psalm 27 when he says God will set him high upon a rock.

Psalm 27:5

Gadal (larger) and ruwm are often used in close connection to one another. They’re used together in the following scripture.

The waters made it grow;
Underground waters gave it height,
With their rivers running around the place where it was planted,
And sent out rivulets to all the trees of the field.

– Ezekiel 31:4

Also, ruwm is used in reference to the offerings. It signifies the “removal of a certain portion”. Plus, the entire presentation is referred to as an “offering up”.

As we know, ruwm can be used in a positive way or a negative way. It can describe someone being brought into a position of honor or “to be haughty.”

It can describe the raising of a hand which is a symbol of power and strength, signifying being mighty or triumphant. To raise one’s hand against someone is to rebel against them (used in 1 Kings 11:26).

Furthermore, the raising of a horn paints a picture of a wild ox who stands in all of its strength. Hannah uses this term in her prayer to the Lord in 1 Samuel 2:1 to express a picture of triumph over her enemies.

My heart rejoices in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord.
I smile at my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.

– 1 Samuel 2:1

Horn’s symbolize the focus of one’s power. Therefore, if someone’s horn is exalted that means their power is exalted. And when someone exalts another person’s horn, they’re giving them strength (found in 1 Samuel 2:10).

When someone raises their heart or eyes it means to be proud and arrogant. God uses this to describe Israel’s arrogance in Deuteronomy 8:14.

1 Samuel 2:10

What Does The Word ‘Exalt’ Mean In Greek?

epairo- to raise up; to look up.

hupsoo- to elevate; to exalt.

This word is used to literally talk about the “lifting up” of Christ during His crucifixion. It can also be used to speak about one being raised into happiness and dignity.

Hupsoo can mean both the prideful self-exaltation or the reward of being raised in honor as a result of humbling oneself.

In 2 Corinthians, it describes bringing someone into the blessings of salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Lastly, hupsoo is the word that is used to talk about Jesus Christ being exalted by God the Father through His humility and obedience.

Matthew 23:12


To be exalted by God should be a goal of ours. Contrastly, exalting one’s own self should always be avoided. Therefore, this term can be used in either a great way or a bad way. Always seek to humble yourself and God will truly bless you.

Nonetheless, that’s what the word ‘exalt’ means in Hebrew and Greek. Please share any thoughts in the comments below and share this content. Thanks for reading!

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