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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Words



Iniquity
By Jeff A. Benner

עוהAh.W.H

In Genesis 19:15 we find the word “iniquity.”

And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters that are here, lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. (ASV, Genesis 19:15)

Our modern Greco-Roman languages commonly use abstract terms, like iniquity. But as Hebrew is a concrete language, rarely using abstracts, we must understand the word “iniquity” from its Hebraic concrete meaning. The Hebrew word for “iniquity” is עוון (ah-von, Strong's #5771), which is derived from the verbal root עוה (Ah.W.H, Strong's #5753). This verbal root is found in the following passages.

He hath walled up my ways with hewn stone; he hath made my paths crooked. (ASV, Lamentations 3:9)

Behold, the LORD will lay waste the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. (RSV, Isaiah 24:1)

Already we are beginning to see the “concrete” meaning in the Hebrew word that lies behind the English word “iniquity,” it is something crooked or twisted. The first letter in this word is the letter ע (ayin). This single letter was originally two different letters when Hebrew was written with a pictographic alphabet; the (ayin) and the (ghayin). The ghayin is a picture of a twisted cord and is clearly the original letter in this word (for more on this subject of the ayin and ghayin see the AHRC article titled Letters missing from the Hebrew Alphabet).

As we have demonstrated, the verb עוה (Ah.W.H) means “to be crooked” or “to be twisted,” therefore the noun עוון (ah-von), derived from this verb, then means “crookedness” or “twistedness.” Let’s return to our original passage and read this from a more concrete perspective.

And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters that are here, lest thou be consumed in the twistedness of the city. (ASV, Genesis 19:15)

This same noun is also found in the following passage.

And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. (KJV, Genesis 4:13)

Why the translators chose the word “punishment” for this word is a mystery because this translation implies that Cain was saddened by the punishment. The truth is, this word means twistedness, and he was instead saddened by his “actions.”




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