Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

EXEGESIS > Old Testament > Pentateuch > Numbers > Num. 14:18, 27, 40, 41- Descriptions of Evil

Descriptions of Evil
Num. 14:18, 27, 40, 41


What is evil? What is its nature, its essence? How is it to be described? It is obvious that evil is multifaceted.

During the complaining by the nation of Israel following the return of the twelve spies from Canaan the people determined to select a new leader and return to Egypt; as a result God punished the people and gave instructions to Moses, and for forty years the nation wandered in the wilderness.

In the account several words are used to describe the evil of the nation: “iniquity” in vs. 18, 19, 34; “transgression” in v. 18; “evil” in vs. 27, 35, 37; “sinned” in v. 40; and “transgress” in v. 41; each of these will be briefly considered.

“iniquity” (vs. 18, 19, 34)

“Iniquity” is the Hebrew word avon, appearing 232 times in the OT, and translated “iniquity” 218 times in the KJV; other translation are “fault”, “mischief,” and “sin”; it seems that the root concept is “perversity”.

The word appears three other times in this passage: vs. 18 (twice), 19, and 34 (“guilt” in the NKJV in v. 34).

God informs the people that their rebellion is “perversity” and that the judgment for such a position against Him will be visited on the children to the third and fourth generation (v. 18); Moses pleaded for the “iniquity” to be forgiven (v. 19); God informed Moses that He would not completely destroy the nation, but that the nation would pay for its “iniquity” for forty years (v. 34).

Iniquity, once committed, is judged and can be judged for numerous years or for several generations.

“transgression” (v. 18)

“Transgression” is pesha, a word used 93 times in the OT, and translated 84 of those times by “transgression” in the KJV; the basic idea is rebellion, the refusal to submit to rightful authority; in Scripture “transgression” is “rebellion against Divine authority”; it is rebellion against the person and position of God.

This attitude enthrones the individual, making the individual supreme in his thinking and action; it is the sentiment of Pharaoh who affirmed that he did not know the Lord and would not submit to Him.

The believer is guilty of rebellion; the psalmist prayed: “Deliver me from all my transgressions” (39:8), and “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” (32:5).

“evil” (vs. 27, 35, 37)

“Evil” is ra, a word appearing over 600 times in the OT, and translated “evil” 444 times in the KJV; other prominent translations are “bad,” 13 times, “wicked,” 31 times, and “wickedness,” 54 times; the essential concept is “evil” or “bad”.

In the passage reference is made twice to the “evil congregation” because of the complaints against God; and reference is made to the “evil report” brought by the ten spies, who also “died by the plague before the Lord” because of their evil report.

Ra is a common word used to speak of many different kinds of bad or evil; when individuals do wrong before God it is called ra.

“sinned” (v. 40)

“Sinned” is chata, a word used over 200 times in the OT, and translated “sin” 165 times in the KJV; literally, the word means “to miss the mark”; the word is used in Jud. 20:16 of not missing when slinging a stone; the word speaks of “failure”; it is the failure to reach the mark God intends; it is failure to meet the Divine standard.

Man fails to meet the standard because of his moral weakness, referred to by some as depravity; there is not within man the ability to please God; failure to meet the standard of God reveals what man is.

Man in not inclined toward good but toward evil; he is not even neutral, but his very being is set on self and pleasing self; man is wicked and deceitful, deceiving even himself; man is a volcano of vileness, and does not fear the eruption.

“transgress” (v. 41)

“Transgress” is abar, appearing over 500 times in the OT, and literally means “to pass over”; the basic idea is violation or transgression; the word speaks of passing over the Divine boundary; it is going beyond the assigned limits, the violation of Divine guidelines; it is crossing over the boundary of right and entering the forbidden land of wrong.

The best example is the transgression of Adam in violating the limits and bounds God had placed on him; God simply told Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; but Adam passed over the command of God and ate the fruit.

Return to Numbers

For overview of EXEGESIS, see: Site Map - Exegesis

For overview of THEOLOGY, see: Site Map - Theology
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.