I love study and have particularly found that exploring the meaning of words in the original Bible language opens my understanding and clarifies the author’s intent. It is the Bible in the original languages that is God-breathed, not the King James or New American Standard or any of the multitude of other translations. Basing comprehension on English definitions is often misleading and nearly always limited. For someone like me who does not read Hebrew and Greek, this is a frustration but not a total road block.
Using readily available tools, word meanings can be clarified. For example, with only a concordance like Strong’s, which is available through the Blue Letter Bible website, we find that the word translated man means human being whether male or female in nearly every case in both Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek. We can also discover the rare instances when the word translated man does mean male or husband, but without looking it up we’d never know.
A few weeks ago I was reading David Limbaugh’s The Emmaus Code. As I read the paragraphs on the sin and trespass offerings, I was reminded of something I had been taught from Psalm 32 and the topic of this post was born.
That long ago teaching just defined sin, iniquity and transgression but I believe the Lord wants us to look at the first five verses of Psalm 32 and thoroughly examine the critical words in the first two. It is good to remember that in the Bible words in italics are not found in the original language but are added to enhance our understanding and conform to English grammar, so we won’t be looking at them.
Psalm 32 a Psalm of David begins –
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit. (NKJV)
Comprehension is not just being able to read words, we have to understand what they mean. Did you know that there are two words in Hebrew for “bless”? I didn’t. They are barak and asher and there is a sharp distinction between them. Barak is used by God when He blesses us and by people invoking God’s blessing on others or blessing (praising) God. To be blessed, i.e. happy (asher) like in Psalm 32, you have to do something. In this Psalm, David’s doing was acknowledging sin, not hiding iniquity and confessing transgression thus clearing his spirit of deceit. If you look at Psalm 1 the blessing (asher) is for not doing, which is also an action.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly
nor stands in the path of sinners
nor sits in the seat of the scornful…
Transgression is deliberate rebellion against God’s law in our relationship with Him or other people. It is rebelling against our Divine King and our covenant with Him. Continuing to intentionally break God’s law is also the meaning in the New Testament but the word is often translated as sin rather than transgression. I originally thought of sin as a separate category, but now realize that it is all inclusive—there may be numerous descriptive words that indicate being at odds with God, but no matter what we call them, they are sin.
A good way to understand the meaning of the word sin is to think of it as missing the mark; like an arrow aimed at but missing the target. It is a turning away from obedience and therefore a lack of wholeness or acceptance before God. We often sin in ignorance but in Psalm 32 the form (chat ah) indicates that David knew what he had done.
To forgive is nasa in Hebrew meaning to lift, carry or take away. Sin can be forgiven and forgotten because it is taken up and carried away. Cover, (kacah) however is more like concealed or atoned for than forgiven. Our rebellion can be forgiven, but sin can only be covered until it is atoned for in Christ. The preciseness of these words amazes me!
Definitions of the word translated iniquity (avon) include crooked behavior, perverseness of spirit, moral evil, basic unrighteousness in both the Old and New Testaments. It also includes the feelings of guilt or fear of punishment that accompany such conduct. These are stated clearly in verses 3 and 4.
3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old (I lost strength)
Through my groaning all the day long.
4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; (God in His mercy doesn’t let up on us)
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. (life was drying up) Selah (pause and really thing about what was said)
Where transgression can be a single thing, iniquity is collective including numerous offences against both God and other people which can either be known or unknown to us. Both are overwhelming traits of fallen human nature. When asked, God can choose not to count it against us.
Having no deceit, also translated guile, has to do with fraud or trickery. The word translated spirit is ruah and here has to do with the entire immaterial consciousness – self-awareness is a possible way to say it. David says, the blessed or happy person has no deceit in their spirit – knows the problem and does not try to hide who they are from God.
In verse 5 David tells us how to get out of the mess we have gotten ourselves into.
5 I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
When we come to God admitting how we have acted in rebellion, clearly revealing our ungodly character flaws and looking to God for forgiveness, we can stand before Him hiding nothing, having no deceit in our spirit. Yes! This is the way to live.
 Tools used to write this article include the internet accessible Blue Letter Bible where for each word you can access Strong’s Concordance, Gesenius Hebrew Chaldee Lexicon and the TWOT reference (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament). TWOT book used copies can be purchased on Amazon and they are very reasonable. Also employed from the internet was the Gateway Bible.
 Transgression can even be nation against nation but that is not the topic here.
 The last sentence of verse 5 makes this clear. And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.
 Restoration to divine favor, reconciled in the NT of the restoration of the favor of God to sinners that repent and put their trust in the expiatory death of Christ.
 TWOT 1577a
 First mention of the word iniquity is in Genesis 15:16, “for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete”
 Abraham believed God and God “counted (imputed) it to him for righteousness”, Gen 15:6.
Here is the remainder of Psalm 32. Enjoy!
6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters
They shall not come near him.
7 You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.
9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule,
Which have no understanding,
Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,
Else they will not come near you.
10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked;
But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous;
And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!