Jews and Joes

What does the word "Wickedness" mean in Hebrew?

Wickedness = "Ra" (רע) in Hebrew. According to the Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, רע (Resh-Ayin) means "to break" (pg.772).

During a Rosh Hashana conference, Brad Scott, in typical animated humor, defines our English word "Wickedness". He starts out quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14:

"'If my people who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and seek my face, and turn from their... wicked ways.' I don't think we do too bad a job praying, seeking His face, humbling ourselves in many cases, but I don't know if we're all so good in this culture of ours at turning from our wicked ways. And that's because the culture has taught us the paradigm of what wickedness is."

"Wickedness, according to our culture, is: Ted Bundy and baby killers and satan worshippers. And so given the Greek thinking of our culture, "I say to myself... lets see... I'm not Ted Bundy... I don't kill babies... and I don't worship satan so therefore... I'm not wicked.'"

"Wickedness has a meaning in Hebrew. Guess what! The language in which the Bible was written has a meaning in Hebrew that isn't the same as it is in English."

Continuing on, Scott gives a profoundly accurate example of "Wickedness":

"A woman enters the house and she has a large, deep bowl on the table. The purpose and design of that bowl... remember that word, "design" of the bowl. The 'function'! Remember, I told you the difference between 'form' and 'function' this morning. Hebrew teaches 'functionally'. Greek teaches 'form'. Alright... so the design and function of the bowl is to put stuff in it and make a cake. Throw in some flour. Throw in some water. Throw in some eggs and so forth and you stir it and make a cake. That's the 'design' of the bowl. That's its function. But if I take that bowl and I pick it up and I throw it on the floor and I break it into a zillion pieces, or even five, that action of destroying the purpose of it, or the design of it, in Hebrew is called 'Ra'. Translated, by the time it gets through a zillion languages and gets to English, its 'wick-ed-ness', which is a very abstract term in our culture. But in Hebrew it means 'to destroy, to break something into pieces and destroy it'. That's 'wickedness'. So if God has a design for His Feasts, if God has a design for His Days, and we pervert that or circumvent that or eliminate that, we have destroyed the purpose of Him giving it to us in the first place. And God calls that what? Wickedness! And God says 'if you'll turn from that, I will come and I will heal your Land'!!"

To watch the entire video, go here. More of the series by Brad Scott can be found at: Way to Zion.

Jeff A. Benner gives further insight into the word "Ra" in his article titled Good and Bad:

It should be noted that the English word "evil" has no Ancient Hebrew equivalent, while most English translations will use the word "evil" it is usually the Hebrew word "ra" which simply means "bad". In the Ancient Hebrew mind there is no such thing as an "evil" person or thing. To understand the words "good" and "bad" from a more Hebraic understanding these words should be understood as "functional" and "dysfunctional". God is both functional (such as seen in the Creation story of Genesis one) as well as dysfunctional (such as the destruction of the flood).

The "Lashon Ha-Ra" connection

Many have likely heard the phrase "Lashon Ha-Ra" in connection with "Gossip", vaguely defined as "Evil tongue" or "Evil speech". Lashon is generally the Hebrew word for "tongue" or "language", while "Ha-Ra" means "the-evil", but with the deeper Hebraic understanding of what "Ra" means, we would more accurately translate "Lashon Ha-Ra" to mean "the-destroying Tongue". So when a person gossips about another person, they are in a very real sense destroying that person or destroying that person's name and/or character. Some persons, such as Hitler for example, deserve to have their name destroyed, but frequently gossip wrongly destroys a person's character when the said person isn't present and unable to correct or refute the destructive attack on his/her character. We all know destructive forces of Lashon Ha-Ra well, so it should profoundly help us re-define in our English dominated minds what "Wickedness" or "Evil" (Ra) truly means.

Strongs and BDB definitions

The Strong's and Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) poorly define Wickedness, largely because of the way English speakers perceive the associated defining words which do not rightly convey the Hebrew word: "Ra".

Strong's H7451 (defining the English word Wickedness)
רעה רע
ra‛ râ‛âh
rah, raw-aw'
From H7489; bad or (as noun) evil (naturally or morally). This includes the second (feminine) form; as adjective or noun: - adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, + displease (-ure), distress, evil ([-favouredness], man, thing), + exceedingly, X great, grief (-vous), harm, heavy, hurt (-ful), ill (favoured), + mark, mischief, (-vous), misery, naught (-ty), noisome, + not please, sad (-ly), sore, sorrow, trouble, vex, wicked (-ly, -ness, one), worse (-st) wretchedness, wrong. [Including feminine ra’ah; as adjective or noun.]

רעה / רע
ra‛ / râ‛âh
BDB Definition:
1) bad, evil (adjective)
1a) bad, disagreeable, malignant
1b) bad, unpleasant, evil (giving pain, unhappiness, misery)
1c) evil, displeasing
1d) bad (of its kind - land, water, etc)
1e) bad (of value)
1f) worse than, worst (comparison)
1g) sad, unhappy
1h) evil (hurtful)
1i) bad, unkind (vicious in disposition)
1j) bad, evil, wicked (ethically)
1j1) in general, of persons, of thoughts
1j2) deeds, actions
2) evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity (noun masculine)
2a) evil, distress, adversity
2b) evil, injury, wrong
2c) evil (ethical)
3) evil, misery, distress, injury (noun feminine)
3a) evil, misery, distress
3b) evil, injury, wrong
3c) evil (ethical)
Part of Speech: see above in Definition
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H7489
Same Word by TWOT Number: 2191a, 2191c


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