The Old Testament. While pride is sometimes used in the Old Testament in a positive sense (i.e., the "pride" of the land of Israel [ Psalm 47:4 ; Ezek 24:21 ] or, God's "pride/majesty/excellency" [ Exod 15:7 ; Job 37:4 ; Isa 2:10 ]), its negative sense predominates, occurring in sixty-one texts. "Pride" is found mainly in the prophets and the books of poetry.
The main Hebrew root is gh [h'aG]; the most common term is gaon [/a"G], which occurs a total of twenty-three times. Included are the ideas of arrogance, cynical insensitivity to the needs of others, and presumption. Pride is both a disposition/attitude and a type of conduct.
A synonym gaba [H;b"G] means "to be high." While used in a variety of senses, the normal meaning is pride or arrogance, in particular "an inner attitude of pride," often linked with parts of the human body ( Isaiah 2:11 Isaiah 2:17 ). There is pride of the eyes ( Psalm 101:5 ; Isa 5:15 ); of the heart ( Ezekiel 28:2 Ezekiel 28:5 Ezekiel 28:17 ); of the spirit ( Prov 16:18 ; Eccl 7:8 ); and of one's mouth/speech ( 1 Sam 2:3 ). A classic text includes the words "pride," "conceit," "arrogance," and "haughtiness" ( Jer 48:29 ).
Fifteen Old Testament texts (NIV) contain the word "arrogance, " nearly half of them (7) in the prophets ( Isa 2:17 ; 9:9 ; 13:11 ; Jer 13:15 ; 48:29 ; Ezek 7:10 ; Hosea 5:5 ; 7:10 ). Five references are in poetical texts ( Job 35:12 ; Psalm 10:2 ; 17:10 ; 73:8 ; Prov 8:13 ), and three others are found in Deuteronomy 1:43; 1 Samuel 2:3; 15:23.
What constitutes a "proud" person? The negative sense points to a sinful individual who shifts ultimate confidence from God to self. In the Wisdom literature, "the proud" are distinct from "the righteous" and "the humble." Here the term is applied to non-Israelites, rather than to Israel. The Septuagint uses hyperephanos [uJperhvfano"], meaning one who is insolent, presumptuous, or arrogant, a scoffer or a mocker ( Psalms 119:21 Psalms 119:51 ; Prov 3:34 ). When the prophets accuse Israel of pride ( Jer 13:9 ; Ezekiel 7:10 Ezekiel 7:20 ; 16:56 ; Hosea 5:5 ; 7:10 ; Amos 6:8 ; 8:7 ; Zeph 2:10 ), the word hybristes [uJbristhv"] connotes a wanton, insolent person. Thus, in the Old Testament books, the prideful are generally associated with the wicked, the arrogant, the presumptuous, and those who are insolent toward God.
Most of the adjectives joined with "pride" in the Old Testament are negative in connotation, including words such as "stubborn" ( Lev 26:19 ), "overweening" ( Isa 16:6 ), "willful" ( Isa 10:12 ), and "great" ( Jer 13:9 ). In one instance the positive phrase "everlasting pride" describes the status of a restored Zion ( Isa 60:15 ). Most of the synonyms give a negative sense: contempt ( Psalm 31:18 ); wrongdoing ( Job 33:17 ); trust ( Psalm 62:10 ); arrogance ( Prov 8:13 ; Isaiah 2:11 Isaiah 2:17 ; 9:9 ); insolence ( Isa 16:6 ); and conceit ( Jer 48:29 ). An exception is "glory" ( Isa 4:2 ).
Finally, in the Old Testament, what are some of the results of pride? It led to Uzziah's downfall ( 2 Chron 26:16 ); it hardened the heart of Nebuchadnezzar ( Dan 5:20 ); it goes before destruction ( Prov 16:18 ); it does not seek God ( Psalm 10:4 ); it brings disgrace ( Prov 11:2 ); it breeds quarrels ( Prov 13:10 ); it deceives ( Jer 49:16 ; Obad 1:3 ); it brings low ( Prov 29:23 ; Isa 2:11 ; 23:9 ); it humbles ( Isa 2:17 ; Dan 4:37 ).
The New Testament. In the New Testament, the abstract use of hybris [u&bri"] (pride) is completely absent. Rather, it refers to ill-treatment, hardship, disaster, or a violent or insolent person ( Acts 27:10 Acts 27:21 ; 2 Cor 12:10 ; 1 Tim 1:13 ). The word hyperephanos [uJperhvfano"] and its derivatives occur six times; twice in the Gospels ( Mark 7:22 ; Luke 1:51 ) and four times in the Epistles ( Rom 1:30 ; 2 Tim 3:2 ; James 4:6 ; 1 Peter 5:5 ). In its Greek background, the word meant overweening, arrogant, haughty.
God opposes the proud ( Prov 3:34 ). Both James ( 4:6 ) and Peter ( 1 Peter 5:5 ) cite this Old Testament text, including the word hyperephanos [uJperhvfano"], the "proud/arrogant" person. It stands in contrast to the word "humble, " a quality that God honors. Paul's list ( Rom 1:30 ) includes hybristes [uJbristhv"], one who behaves arrogantly toward those who are too weak to retaliate.
Finally, a remarkable example of hyperephanos [uJperhvfano"] occurs in the Magnificat ( Luke 1:51 ). Using language largely from the Old Testament, Mary tells how God will scatter the proudpossibly a reference to a specific group in society and political life. They are characterized by suppressing the masses, the poor and humble in Israel. God will overthrow them and exalt the lowly. While his wrath is upon the proud, he will visit the humble in grace.
Walter M. Dunnett
Bibliography. G. Betram, TDNT, 8:295-307, 525-29; V. P. Hamilton, TWOT, 1:143.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook
[J] indicates this entry was also found in Jack Van Impe's Prophecy Dictionary
Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Pride'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".