The Hebrew concept for repentance comes from some basic Hebrew words. These words must be understood in order for anyone to stand before Yah in a righteous state. The word “righteous” meaning “right-standing” with Yah. This lesson is not for the “faint of heart” but for those who want to seriously study the matter.
In this particular lesson I will not be explaining how Yeshua the Messiah plays into this equation of “right-standing” with God by His blood atonement upon the cross. I will only make a couple of statements here. First, there must always be “blood atonement” and Yeshua provided that. Second, Yeshua came so that He might “restore” that which was lost in the Garden of Eden by returning mankind to the heart of His Father. Lastly, that Yeshua was the Word made flesh, and as is so adequately explained in the Newer Testament, He was “in the beginning” and all things were created by and through Him.
That being said let's begin this journey to true repentance and right-standing with our Creator.
The concept of sin in the Bible is that of an archer. An archer has a target. When he misses the target, his arrow goes astray. This going astray is what is called sin or “missing the mark”. What is the target that the archer is aiming at to make a perfect bullseye? Well, the Apostle John, among many others, tells us what the target is and how we go astray like that arrow.
I John 3: 4 “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness (torahlessness), and sin is lawlessness (torahlessness)” (NKJV - brackets added by me)
Hence, we go astray (sin) when we do not keep Torah, The Creator’s Holy Word.
In Hebrew, repentance is connected to two words:
nacham - meaning “to be sorry”, and
shuv – meaning “to turn back”
In other words, when a person repents for going astray from God's Holy Word, they must do two things in this order: first, they must be sorrowful for the transgression they committed against God's teachings and instructions, and they must ask God to forgive them for this sin. Second, they must turn around and go back the other way.
What does it mean to “turn back” as it relates to repentance?
A couple of scriptures can help us to understand this concept.
The first occurrence of this word “shuv” (turn back) takes place in Genesis. The law of first mention is important here. God is speaking to Adam.
Genesis 3:19 “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return (shuv) to the ground (adamah), for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return (shuv).”
Here we see the common Hebrew play on words: Adam came from Adamah (ground), and we also see that Adam was to return (shuv) to the starting point from where he began, or originated; the ground.
Exodus 13:17 “Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return (shuv) to Egypt.”
Again, they may want to return (shuv) to where they had come from.
The word shuv is not just a “turn around and go back” to any point that a person desires. If I am headed in a direction and about to fall off a cliff, I can turn around and go in a different direction and still fall off a cliff. Instead, when dealing with repentance and restoration, “shuv” is a returning to a starting point, or origin. To simply “turn away” from some sin is not to “shuv” but a person must “return” to a previous point that was accepted by YHVH. What is the starting point? A point of obedience. The Bible tells us what is expected to be obedient. If a person has never tried to be obedient to God’s Word then they will have to learn what is expected.
Let's continue to explore some more Hebrew words that will give us the explanation. Please keep in mind that we are trying to discover the “starting point” that we are to “return” to that was acceptable to God; so that we can “hit the target” and not go astray.
Shavua – the word in Hebrew for “week”. In Strong's concordance (H7620) it means “sevened, swear, oath, to seven oneself, sevenfold”.
Shava or She-vu-ah – the Hebrew word for “oath or swear, seven”. It is a root word in Hebrew and in Strong's (H7650) it means to “be complete, to be full, to seven oneself”.
Sheva – the Hebrew word for the number 7. In Strong's (H7651) it means “7, the full one, seven times, a week, swear and oath”.
What do these words all have in common with “shuv” (to turn back)?
In Hebrew, words are related by the way they sound and by the letters, and/or root words, that they share. In the Hebrew language a person must look at the consonants for these similarities because Hebrew has no written vowels. The vowels are spoken in the language because of familiarity of the word usage. Hence, we can see that all of the above words, share the same consonants. They all contain the Hebrew letter “shin” and the Hebrew letter “bet/vet”. The “bet/vet” in Hebrew represents a house or dwelling place and The Scriptures begin with this letter in Genesis 1:1. It denotes that the Creator is building His house or dwelling place. The “Shin” represents YHVH’s Divine Power and His Name. In Hebrew the “Shin” is said to represent the 7th day Sabbath.
In fact, the word “shavua” and “sheva”, the words for “week” and “seven”, both come from the root word for “oath or swear”; “shava or shevuah”. This is a very important point to this lesson. These words are all intrinsically tied together. Hebrew is unique from all the languages known to man.
All of the above words have another thing in common: the number seven. The Hebrew number 7 denotes “perfection, fullness, and divine completion”. The number 7 fuses things together to their source.
In Genesis 21:22-32 we read the passage of scripture where Abraham and Abimilech make an oath with each other over a well of water. This is the first time this word for oath or swear is used in the Scriptures, so the law of first mention would stand here also. Let's read how the oath is sealed between them:
“So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimilech, and the two of them made a covenant. And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. Then Abimilech asked Abraham, 'What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs which you have set by themselves?” And he said, “You will take these seven ewe lambs from my hand, that they may be my witness that I have dug this well.” Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because the two of them swore an oath (shava) there.”
The oath (shava) was sealed with 7 lambs. Beersheba is made up of two Hebrew words; the words for well and the number 7. It means the “well of seven”. However, most would translate it as the “well of oath”. Going back to the above words, seven and oath are tied together. The number 7 binds oaths together.
We can also see this in the name Bathsheba. Once again the name is made up of two Hebrew words; daughter and seven. It is translated to mean: the daughter of seven, or the daughter of oath.
We take an oath in a court of law. It is an affirmation that ones' statement on the witness stand accurately describes something that happened in the past.
Beersheba was a reminder of an oath made. Whenever anyone would look upon the well at Beersheba they would remember the promises that Abraham and Abimilech made to one another. The Bible, and thus God, uses such reminders to bind His oaths.
Now, the last Hebrew word that I will explore is Shabbat. Shabbat is a verb and means “to rest from labor, cease, desist”. In the event of creation in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we find that on the 7th day that God “rested” from His creative works. (Genesis 2:1) The word “rested” is Shabbat. It took God 6 days to create all that is and He called all of His creative works, GOOD. This means that all of His creation was perfect and complete; lacking nothing. It did not need anything added to it or taken away from it.
The first time that the 7th day is called Shabbat in scripture is in Exodus 16:23 when YHVH gives instruction regarding the gathering of manna. They were to gather manna for 6 days of the week, but on the 7th day, the Shabbat, they were not to go out to gather manna.
How is the weekly Sabbath (which begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday) related to our prior words? A week in Hebrew, and according to the creation narrative, is from the ending of one Sabbath until the next Sabbath, 7 days. So, the 7th day contains the number 7 (sheva) and it is a week (shavua). How is it related to oath? Because God made an oath with creation and He sealed that oath with the 7th day. God made an “oath” of “seven” with creation. His oath was that all was perfect and complete. The Sabbath day (7th day) was the “seal” for the oath of the Creator. That perfection was destroyed when Adam and Eve sinned. However, the oath still stands and the Creator will not stop until all has been restored like it was in the beginning. Yeshua will make this oath complete. Shavua (week), the 7th day, and Shava (oath) are all intrinsically found for the first time in the Creation Story.
Creation was “full, complete, good and perfect”. YHVH tells us to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy as part of the Ten Words, or as we Christians say, The Ten Commandments. YHVH also says that we are to keep His Sabbaths:
Exodus 20:12 “Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctifies them (sets them apart as holy).”
Why is Sabbaths here plural? Not only are we commanded to keep the 7th day of each week but we are also commanded to keep His Feasts; each Feast contains Sabbath days. Each Feast also contains “oaths” made by God and sealed with “sevens”. We are commanded to keep them so that we will remember the “oath”. They are memorials.
These Sabbaths are joined with oaths made by God to mankind. They have to do with the restoration of all things, fulfilled in Yeshua, which will bring mankind back to the perfect state as they, and the earth, were in the beginning before sin entered the world.
In other words when we keep the 7th day, weekly Sabbath, we are attesting to the “oath” of the Creator. That's why observant Jews say that we are to remember the “Creator” on the Sabbath Day.
What does this have to do with “shuv” and the “returning or starting point”? When a person repents and turns back, shuv, they should be returning to the starting point of Genesis, “in the beginning”. That point of returning is to the Creator. They are returning to “righteous living” with the Creator. The goal of every believer is to “be holy, for I am holy”. In the beginning, before Adam and Eve sinned, mankind was holy, set apart, and created in the image of the Holy Creator. We should keep Sabbath because it reminds us of God's restorative works. He desires for His children to pursue righteous living as it was in the beginning when all was perfect, full, and complete. This is the work that Yeshua will complete.
An oath is like a cycle. It only ends when the oath is completed. We keep Sabbath because the oath has not been completed. We are still in the restoration process. An oath is made to help a person remember. The Sabbath helps us to remember; just like Beersheba was to help them remember that oath.
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God”
God's Torah was “in the beginning” for it attests to His Holy image. We fell from being in His holy image because of sin, but Yeshua is in the restoration process.
When we “shuv”, return back, from a sin committed, we must return to the Creator and His way of living. Living righteously is not a matter of man's opinion! We can all make excuses for our sins! The truth of righteous living means living according to what His Holy Word says. Period! My opinion, your opinion, doesn't matter. I once had a person ask me if I thought a particular action (way of living) was a sin? My answer was this: “let me answer your question with a question. Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God and thus it contains all truth? And if so, then what does the Bible say about that way of living?” He said, “I do believe the Bible contains all truth for living and the Bible states that the action is a sin”. I said “well, there you have your answer. Neither of our opinions matter, it matters what the Word of God states.”
“Shuv” - are you willing to truly be sorrowful for your sins (missing the mark) and to “turn” back to the starting point of creation, to the Creator? He made each of us with the goal of perfection in mind. One day, those who are truly striving to live according to His Words, without making excuses for sin, will find themselves restored, along with the earth, to that glorious, COMPLETE, FULL, AND PERFECT (7) condition wherein we were formed – by OUR CREATOR. Yeshua will make this oath complete.
We can’t know how to be obedient if we do not know His Word for that is our roadmap on this journey of life. Most Christians tell new believers to start reading the book of John as new beginners in the faith, but I say if you want to know how you are supposed to live and the high cost of sin, then you first need to get a grip on the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Afterwards read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to know about the coming of the promised one: Yeshua. When you are ready for the final episode then read Revelation and the Prophets. Much of Revelation can be understood from the Books of the Prophets.
Let's return (shuv) to Creator by learning and walking in His ways- the ways that were “in the beginning” (Bereshit - Genesis). Anything you want to know about God you can discover in the book of Genesis.