Iniquity, Transgression, Sin--There's a Difference?!  


Although you will see the phrase many times in the Bible, it caught my attention at Exodus 34:7 where it piqued my curiosity. Expecting a "waste of time" I decided to look up the words in the original Hebrew. The words: iniquity, transgression, sin.

Exodus 34:6-7 is an important place where God is declaring His name and revealing His glory to Moses. In verse 7 He tells Moses that He:
- Keeps lovingkindness for thousands
- forgives iniquity, transgression and sin
- yet will by no means leave the guilty unpunished
- visiting the iniquity of the fathers on children & grandchildren to the 3rd & 4th generations

So, I wondered about that phrase: iniquity, transgression, sin. Could there be a reason that this order is used repeatedly throughout the various books of the Bible? I was surprised. Allow me to show you what I found that God forgives.

Iniquity - pronounced aw-vone in Hebrew - is an offense, intentional or not, against God's Law,
bowing to others, perversity, (moral) evil: -fault, mischief

Transgression - pronounced peh-shaw in Hebrew - is a revolt (national, moral or religious):

Sin - pronounced khat-tawth in the Hebrew - is an offense (sometimes habitual sinfulness) & it's
penalty, occasion, sacrifice or explanation. The Vines Complete Expository
Dictionary goes on to explain:
-(when used as a sin offering was for some) specific 'sin' committed unwittingly,
without intending to do it and perhaps even without knowing it at the time
(used in Lev 4:2; 5:15) (used 135 times)
- Means: missing the road or mark (used 155 times)
- Can be against man or God
- Can also cover the guilt or condition of sin (Gen 18:20)

Do you see a progression, of sorts? I do.

Iniquity, like sin, can be committed without knowledge or intent. However, iniquity is a moral wrong where we let something, or someone, else get between us and God. It is a perversion--of what? Of God's Law. It can be done mischievously. It seems to me, that this falls under the "Eve offense" where the serpent asked her "Has God truly said...?" and when she answered, she unwittingly added to--changed even--God's Word when she answered that they were not even 'to touch it.' She didn't know and use God's Word in truth. The first iniquity.

Next comes Transgression: a revolt, a rebellion. What is rebellion?
1. To refuse allegiance to and oppose by force an established government or ruling authority.
2. To resist or defy an authority or a generally accepted convention.
3. To feel or express strong unwillingness or repugnance
Eve refused her allegiance to God. We do it, too. Eve defied authority and convention of God. We do it, too. We do it the same way that Eve did it: We say, I know what the Bible says, but I'm going to do it MY way. Eve took the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil after she thought and talked about it. She did it her way. So do we.

Finally, is Sin. Sin is specific acts that have made our iniquities or transgression habitual. A habit is something that we have done so many times that we now do it without thinking. We can be hurting people, letting things come between us and God or just saying, "I'm going to do it *my* way" repeatedly, without thinking, and without wanting to.

And God forgives each of these.

Do you see the progression of Eve's - and our - choices?
An unintentional perversion, or ignorance, of God's Word
led to
A choice to go against God's Law
led to
Being sent from the garden and establishing a life of habitual acts of hurting people, sinning against them, and God.

Eve seems to have truly thought she knew what God said. She didn't go back to the source to check. After all, God gave that Word to Adam before Eve was created. But she missed the mark. We do that sometimes, too. Don't we? We can miss the mark. We can intend to live by God's Word, but by not knowing it, by not going back to the source for ourselves, we can be distracted by the voices that say, "Has God truly said...?"

But do you see the extra beauty of the sin? Whether you meant to sin or not, God not only forgives that, but also the feelings that are left over. The guilt, shame, embarrassment, hurt, anger--God forgives those, too.

Do you know what forgive means? Vines says of the word forgive - nasa in the Hebrew - that it is to remove, depart, carry away, lift up, bear. Jesus removes all of these things from you, departs with it on His own back, carries it away to Golgotha, and lifts it up on the cross with Him. Then He whispers, "It is finished." before breathing His last breath.

You are forgiven.

I pray that if you hear a voice ask, "Has God truly said..." that you will go to the source, the Bible, where God will show you your answer so that you can answer, "Yes! God said it! It is written. Get behind me, I'm walking forward and not changing direction." I also pray that you comprehend your forgiveness. You don't give transgressions, iniquities or sins to God or lay them at the cross. You don't take them back. You offer them, He takes them. They're gone. Period. It is finished.

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 24, 2011 at Thursday, February 24, 2011 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


I love how you defined the three different types of sin, and the different shades of meaning. That's fascinating. And God's grace is bigger than all that.

12 February, 2012 17:53

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