Word Study ~ What is “Repent/Repentance”


Word Study – Repent/Repentance.

The word “repent” is a foundational theme in the Apostolic Scriptures.  If this is a foundational theme, it must be an important word.  Lets take a look at a few scriptures that use this word:

 Mat 4:17  From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Act_2:38  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Act_3:19  Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

G3340 μετανοέω metanoeō  – From G3326 and G3539; to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction): – repent.

G3539 νοιέω noieō  – From G3563; to exercise the mind (observe), that is, (figuratively) to comprehend, heed: – consider, perceive, think, understand.

Twenty four times in the Apostolic Writings (New Testament) the word “repent” is used.  Yeshua’s first “ministry message” to the people was to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  If these are the first words of Yeshua’s ministry we can be sure that understanding what this phrase means is of utmost importance. 

Christians often speak of the “great commission” to go and make disciples. 

Mat 28:19-20  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  (20)  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Yeshua has put something here of greater precedence.  You can’t “make disciples” without first learning what Yeshua means by saying “repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  In our western world we have a preconceived notion of what it means to “repent”.  Once we know what repentance is, we can then go and teach others so that they too might be ready to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  In our last word study we examined the word “sin”.  In asking people what they thought “sin” was they said it was doing something that was wrong or bad. When asking what “repent” means they would say to it means to stop doing that which is wrong or bad.  So, the sin is the act of doing something wrong or bad, and repenting is the act of no longer doing what is wrong or bad and to do that which is “good” or “right”.  Often times this is as deep as we go in unlocking the meaning of this word, but the obvious next question is what is the “wrong” that we should be turning from, and the “right” that we are to be turning towards?  This study will attempt to address this question.

As I have mentioned in our previous word studies, the most important thing we can do in our walk with God is to understand terms according to God’s theology.  The Bible was written in such a way that it defines its own terms.  We do not have to rely on our culture or theologians to understand what a word means. In fact, interpreting scriptural words according to our own culture and theology could actually bring you to the wrong understanding in which it was intended.  Let’s not make that mistake, so instead, we must put off our preconceived ideas about what a word means and start in the bible from the beginning to understand what God wants us to understand. 

We can go directly to the scriptures and get a “God’s eye view” of a word and understand it from His perspective, and how the hearers of the bible in the time in which it was given would have understood it.  We do this not by looking up definitions in English dictionaries, but by going into the Bible and seeing how the word is used – where it was first mentioned and the context in which it was mentioned there and from there on out.  We know that Yeshua is “The Word”, and that all was made through Him:

Joh 1:1-3  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (2)  The same was in the beginning with God.  (3)  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

If Yeshua is the Word that was with God and all things were made by Him, then the words spoken from the beginning of the bible are His words.  How God defined the words from the beginning is how Yeshua defines them in his first coming.  Do we understand the definition of his words?  As I write this article, we are just a days away from the Fall Feasts (Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Tabernacles).  We are in the midst of a forty day period called the “Days of Repentance” that will culminate on the Day of Atonement.  To understand what the word repent means is of utmost importance as we approach this season so lets dig in and see what it means.  In order to understand a word, we must go back to the beginning where it was first mentioned. 

The Hebrew word for “repent” is “teshuvah”.  The Hebrew word teshuvah is usually translated into English “return” or “go back”.  The root word of teshuvah is the verbal root “shoov”.  To understand this word we need to look for the first mention of the word and we find it in Genesis 3 which is just shortly after the fall of Adam and Eve.    

Gen 3:19  In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.H7725

H7725  שׁוּב shûb – A primitive root; to turn back (hence, away) transitively or intransitively, literally or figuratively (not necessarily with the idea of return to the starting point); generally to retreat;

The root meaning of the word repentance means to return to where you came from.  Adam came from the dust, and it will be dust unto which he will return because of his sin.  In context of the story, Adam and Eve were told not to do something, they were given the opportunity to admit their “wrong” but neither of them takes responsibility for their actions.  Adam and Eve were only to partake from the “tree of life”, not the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”.  They did not acknowledge their wrong and therefore cursed to return to the dust from which they were formed. 

Now that we have our first mention of this word in context, we need to continue to see how the word is used throughout scripture. 

Gen 8:3  And the waters returned H7725from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.

Gen 31:3  And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return H7725unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.

Jos 4:18  And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned H7725unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before.

Num 10:35-36  And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.  (36)  And when it rested, he said, Return H7725, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel.

 Num 14:4  And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return H7725 into Egypt.

All these scriptures reflect a physical returning of something back to where it originally was.  But the word is also used in another sense.  Let’s look at a few of those scriptures:

Psa 51:12-13  RestoreH7725 unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy freespirit.(13)  Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be convertedH7725 unto thee.


Both the words restore and converted in the above scripture are the same verbal root shoov.  David is praying that God would turn him back to His ways so that he can teach others to do it too. 

Psa 119:79  Let those that fear thee turnH7725 unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies.

Psa 23:3  He restorethH7725 my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

These are just a few examples of the word being used to mean that it speaks of someone who has known the testimonies of God and has left (turned away from) them but the desire (of their heart, or of God) is for them to return to the testimonies of God.

This is the way this word is most often translated throughout the Old Testament.  It is a physical turning back from whence it came, and a spiritual turning back unto the ways of God.  The very first words of John the Baptist was a call to repent.  The very first words of Yeshua when he began his ministry, was to repent!  Both John the Baptist and Yeshua are speaking to Jewish people who know (or should know) God’s Word and the understood definition is to literally (physically) and spiritually return to the testimonies of God.  If you didn’t know what the testimonies of God were, your calling was to “believe” in God – not repent. 

 Act 16:31  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Once someone “believes” they were to begin to learn the ways (testimonies/commandments) of God and live by those testimonies because God’s ways are ways of Righteousness.

Act 15:19-21  Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:  (20)  But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.  (21)  For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.

This scripture is specifically written for gentiles who were coming into the faith who have little or no knowledge of the ways/testimonies/commandments of God, but have come to believe in Him and His Son.  They are being given this place of instruction – they must have a proper relation with God by abstaining from idolatry, maintain proper sexual relations, and make distinctions between appropriate and inappropriate foods.  THEN they are to go into the Synagogues where Moses (the testimonies of YHWH) are taught every Sabbath and learn about God’s ways so that they can further learn to walk in them!  The commandments of YHWH are HOW you walk in righteousness!  God understands that gentiles coming in to the faith have no idea what all of that is and must have a starting point from which they begin.  Those of Jewish faith have the testimonies but have walked away from them and they need to repent by turning away from NOT walking in His Testimonies, and BEGIN to ONCE AGAIN walk in His Commandments!

Another concept behind the verbal root shoov is to restore something to its original state. 

Dan 9:25  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore H7725 and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

Psa 51:12  RestoreH7725 unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy freespirit.

Joe 2:25  And I will restore H7725 to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.

We are seeing the same word being used to convey the idea that repentance and restoration means to bring something back to its original state.  As believers in the Word we understand the message of the bible is the promised restoration of our fallen state to the paradise of the Garden of Eden.  This is what the book of Revelation is telling us – It’s the restored state of living in His presence!  Repentance is designed to take you back to the path of Righteousness (the Commandments/testimonies of YHWH), which will lead you back to the gates of the Garden of Eden – ie: restored to the place where fallen man was first exiled from!  Restoration is the purpose of repentance!

Joe 3:1  For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem

Yeshua’s and Johns first words were for the hearers (Jewish people) to repent so that they might be restored to the kingdom of God!  The message for gentiles was for them to believe that there was one God (leave paganism) and come in to relationship with Him and begin to walk in His Commandments!  This path of walking in His Commandments is the path to restoration in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Let me give you an example of where this is explicitly spelled out for us.  The entire book of Ruth is showing us HOW to be restored to the Kingdom!  Naomi, a Jew –  has “left” the place in which she was and went to Moab.  Ruth – a gentile – marries into the family. When all the husbands have died the woman are left wondering what to do.  Naomi decides to “go back” ie: return/repent to where she belonged (Israel/the people of God).  Ruth attaches herself to Naomi (who knows “the way”) swears allegiance to her and her God and begins down the path of returning to where they belong.  Once there, Ruth does things as Naomi instructs, she is like a tutor to Ruth telling her how to act, what to do and how to do it.  Ruth meets Boaz and he begins to take Ruth under his wing.  A light bulb goes off in Naomi’s head that he is the redeemer! (why didn’t she think of that before? Her eyes were closed to what was right under her nose!).  Both Ruth and Naomi now put their hope in Boaz and through that hope they are restored to their people, their land, the inheritance and the blessings of all that Boaz can provide.  In a spiritual sense, Naomi represents Israel, Ruth represents the nations, Boaz represents Yeshua, and the path is the teachings/commandments of YHWH.  The restoration to the promises and relationship with God in His Kingdom is the goal!

We have not been fully restored to the Kingdom of God!  It is here in a sense (we can live as Kingdom people according to the Word), but until all that is prophesied in Revelation and in the prophets happens we are not YET fully restored.  We are on the way though!  Our eyes are opened to WHO our redeemer is and the PATH will bring us to Him (the Door) that grants us entrance into the World To Come.  The book of Revelation is full of the word “repent”.  He is demanding that His people return to His Commandments so that they might LIVE (this is the whole message of Deuteronomy by the way – Keep His commandments that you may LIVE). 

To sum things up, to repent – according to the bible – means to return to God’s paths of righteousness, which are the commandments found in the Torah.  By coming to or returning to the paths of righteousness, you will ultimately be restored to the Kingdom in the World to Come. It does not mean to simply stop doing things you know are “bad” or “wrong” according to society or your definitions.  To repent means to stop breaking Torah, and to return to Torah. (Torah meaning teaching and instruction found in the five books of Moses).  Stop doing what Torah tells you not to do, and instead, start doing what it says you should do.  In our own strength, this is impossible because our flesh is strong.  We want to do what our flesh cries out for!  But by the Spirit we can overcome our flesh and begin to do what God wants us to do!  This is what it means to repent according to the bible.  If you have not done this, you have not repented at all!   I mentioned the “Great Commission” previously.  If you do not understand what repentance means, you cannot properly teach others to repent and therefore you are not making true disciples.  You are making copies of and perpetuating your doctrinal errors.   

I have mentioned many times that is not the works of Torah that “saves” you, but the faith in God alone and the blood of the Lamb that makes atonement for you.  Once you have come into this relationship, you now are compelled by the Spirit to walk according to His Commandments because the Spirit bears witness to the desires of YHWH. 

I hope that I have at the very least inspired you to research this out for yourself further as I realize I have only scratched the surface.  All over scripture this is what God is saying, and the stories of the people are also showing this same restoration process all throughout the Bible. In this season of repentance prior to Yom Kippur, we should ask ourselves:  Have I repented?

Mat 4:17  From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Shalom for now,


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2 Responses to Word Study ~ What is “Repent/Repentance”

  1. RJ Dawson says:

    Excellent, Great study!

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