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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words


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A. Verb.

Pâsha‛ (פָּשַׁע, Strong's #6586), “to transgress, rebel.” Apart from biblical Hebrew, this verb occurs in post-biblical Hebrew, in Palestinian Aramaic, and in Syriac, where it has the significance of “to be terrified” or “to be tepid, to be insipid.” It does not appear in any other Semitic languages. The verb occurs 41 times in the Old Testament. It is not found in the Pentateuch. The first occurrence is in Solomon’s prayer at the occasion of the dedication of the temple: “And forgive Thy people who have sinned against Thee and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against Thee …” (1 Kings 8:50, NASB).

The basic sense of pâsha‛ is “to rebel.” There are two stages of rebellion. First, the whole process of rebellion has independence in view: “Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab” (2 Kings 1:1). Second, the final result of the rebellion is the state of independence: “In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves” (2 Kings 8:20, NASB). A more radical meaning is the state of rebellion in which there is no end of the rebellion in view. The process is no longer goaloriented. The state thus described refers to a status quo: “So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day” (1 Kings 12:19). The prepositions used (be, “against,” and more rarely mittachal yad, “from under the hand”) indicate the object of revolt. The usage of mittachat yad with pâsha‛ fits into the category of rebellion with no goal in view (2 Chron. 21:8, 10). It is best translated as an absolute, radical act (“to break away from”).

Thus far, the usage has a king or a nation as the object of the revolt. Translations generally give the rendering “transgress” for pâsha‛ when the act is committed against the Lord: “Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me …” (Hos. 7:13). This meaning also appears in Isa. 66:24: “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me.…” The preposition be, “against,” before the name of God occurs about 10 times. In each case the act is an expression of an apostate way of life: “In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood” (Isa. 59:13).

The Septuagint translators are not consistent in the translation of pâsha‛. The most common translations are: asebeo (“to act unpiously”); aphistemi (“to go away, withdraw”); anomos (“lawless”); and hamartia (“sin”). The KJV gives these senses: “transgress; revolt; rebel.”

B. Noun.

Pesha‛ (פֶּשַׁע, Strong's #6588), “transgression; guilt; punishment; offering.” A cognate of this word appears in Ugaritic. Pesha‛ appears 93 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew. Basically, this noun signifies willful deviation from, and therefore rebellion against, the path of godly living. This emphasis is especially prominent in Amos 2:4: “For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked.” Such a willful rebellion from a prescribed or agreed-upon path may be perpetrated against another man: “… Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?” (Gen. 31:36—the first occurrence of the word). Jacob is asking what he has done by way of violating or not keeping his responsibility (contract) with Laban. A nation can sin in this sense against another nation: “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four … because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron” (Amos 1:3). Usually, however, pesha‛ has immediate reference to one’s relationship to God.

This word sometimes represents the guilt of such a transgression: “I am clean, without [guilt of] transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me” (Job 33:9).

Pesha‛ can signify the punishment for transgression: “And a host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression …” (Dan. 8:12); “How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and [punishment for] the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?” (Dan. 8:13).

Finally, in Mic. 6:7 pesha‛ signifies an offering for “transgression”: “Shall I give my first-born for my transgression [NASB, “for my rebellious acts”] …?”

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Transgress'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. 1940.

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