As Christians, we know the importance of repenting. If we never repented of our sins and accepted Jesus Christ as the sacrifice that paid for our sins, we would never have known God. However, the word repent is more than just the feeling of regret. Therefore, let’s take a look at what the word repent means in Hebrew and Greek.
All scriptures are taken from NKJV unless otherwise marked.
What Does The Word ‘Repent’ Mean In Hebrew?
nacham- to be sorry; to pity, rue.
This word is translated “to repent” 41 times and “to comfort” 57 times in the Old Testament.
To repent means to make a strong turn toward a new course of action. The emphasis is more on ‘turning to a positive course of action’ rather than ‘turning from a less desirable course.’
Comfort comes from two different words:
- com- with
- fort- strength
Therefore, when one repents they must exert strength to change and for the situation to take a different course of action or purpose.
Most of the time when this word is used in the Old Testament, it’s to speak of God’s repentance.
“And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”
– Genesis 6:6
Also, the Lord exhibits new actions when a man has changed to make the right decisions. However, He cannot change His attitude toward evil when a man continues to do wrong. God always remains faithful to His own righteousness.
“Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.”
– Jeremiah 15:6 KJV
God was weary of repenting which could suggest that He was weary of Israel’s constant insincere repentance.
“And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”
– Jonah 3:10 KJV
When man refuses to repent of his wickedness, he chooses rebellion.
In 2 Samuel 12:24, it says David comforted Bathsheba after the death of her child born in sin. This could indicate that he was repentant of what had happened.
shuwb- to turn back, to return.
The basic meaning of this word is to go back to the point of departure. It can mean to turn away from, reverse a direction or a cessation of something. In the case of spiritually returning to God, it can mean to turn away from pursuing evil and to return to God and obey Him.
When someone is converted or turns to God, they’re actually turning back to God and returning to Him. We were originally connected with God until we were separated by sin.
What Does The Word ‘Repent’ Mean In Greek?
metamellomai- to regret; to repent.
Metamellomai stresses the change of one’s will which results in the change of one’s actions.
“For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.”
– 2 Corinthians 7:8
metanoeo- to reconsider.
This term is used to describe the change of one’s mind or purpose for the better.
The three steps found in metanoeo are:
- new knowledge
- regret for the previous course or displeasure with one’s self
- a change of action
As you can see, the word repent means to change one’s will, mind, or purpose for the better. The feeling of regret is not repentance, but it can lead to repentance. When we repent, we are turning back to God, turning away from sin, and changing our actions to obey His will.
That’s what the word repent means in Hebrew and Greek. I pray you found this article helpful. If so, please share this content. Also, feel free to share any thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
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I saw a sermon on repentance that uses the exact definitions that you used so I trust you have a biblical lily sound source. Thanks for this article
Grateful for this article. I was looking for the original meaning of the term and found it here. Concerned how repentance can be mistaken for repression. True repentance means leading to change, as you said, back to God. Serving evil with evil is dying by the sword we live by. My personal feelings. I am grateful for your writing.
Very helpful in my study.
Thanks for your teaching on repentance. I have a question. If we continue in our sin, will we inherit the kingdom of God? I know many believe in OSAS, that there’s nothing you can do to lose salvation. Many live an ungodly life, and don’t believe in
Repentance. Thank you.
This article blessed me and others that ran across. Showing us what repentance is and what it is not?