What Does Repent Really Mean?


Can you give us a great understanding of the Hebrew and Greek words for our English word called Repentance? I know you think its translated from Hebrew and Greek to English as a change of heart but can you actually show us in words the translation from Hebrew/Greek to English?


A good translation of repent from Hebrew to English is in the KJV of Jonah 3:10 where it says, “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did [it] not.”

God had Jonah tell the people of Nineveh that he would judge them in 40 days, but when He saw how they responded He changed His mind and delayed the judgment. The Hebrew word is nacham and as you can see, means to change one’s mind.

In Hebrew, there can also be an attitude of sorrow or regret associated with the change, which is not in evidence here. God was obviously not sorry that He didn’t get to judge Nineveh, but in Genesis 6:6 the same word is used to show that God was sorry that he ever created mankind. But in neither case does the text imply that God needed to clean up His behavior. (As if He could.)

The examples I gave of John the Baptist in Matt. 3:2, and Peter in Acts 2:38 in the article, What Is Sin? demonstrate the same idea in the New Testament. In both places, the Greek word is metanoeo and means to change one’s mind. Both John and Peter were admonishing their listeners to change their minds about their need for a Savior.

Commentators sometimes attach their own opinions in defining the word, but according to Strong’s Concordance, from which I got this definition, the meaning is clear. Like I said, it’s one of the Bible’s most misunderstood words.