The Hebrew View of Sin

By Henry Preserved Smith:

A large number of Old Testament passages show that a sin is anything which puts a man in the wrong with reference to another man, which offends him. Pharaoh’s butler and baker offend their master, and are put into prison. Laban pursues Jacob and reminds him that he is able to do him an injury. Jacob expostulates: ” What is my trespass? What is my sin that thou hast hotly pursued me ?” Similarly Abimelech to Abraham: “What have I done to thee, and what have I sinned against thee, that thou hast brought upon me and my kingdom a great sin ?” David raises the same question when convinced of Saul’s enmity. Jephthah’s argument with the Ammonites turns on the point whether there has been actual injury (sin) to justify the war. Judah will be a
sinner against his father if he does not bring Benjamin back to him, and Bathsheba asserts that if Adonijah comes to the throne she and Solomon will be sinners. In no one of these cases is there a question of violation of positive law, or of deviation from a moral standard. The only thing which the writer has in mind is that there has been offense of one person by another. Similarly, when Hezekiah confesses to Sennacherib that he has sinned, he
does not mean that he did not act in good conscience in revolting, but that events have put him in the power of his adversary. To this extent only is he in the wrong.”

Offenses against the divinity are regarded from the same point of view with offenses against men. Direct infringement of his rights will of course call out his anger. Uzzah’s well-meant grasping of the Ark was a sin. So was David’s intrusion into the sphere of the divine knowledge in taking the census.

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