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Shame [N]

Shame is a consequence of sin. Feelings of guilt and shame are subjective acknowledgments of an objective spiritual reality. Guilt is judicial in character; shame is relational. Though related to guilt, shame emphasizes sin's effect on self-identity. Sinful human beings are traumatized before a holy God, exposed for failure to live up to God's glorious moral purpose. The first response of Adam and Eve to their sinful condition was to hide from God, and consequently from one another ( Gen 3:7-8 ; 2:25 ). Christ's unhindered openness to the Father was both a model for life and the means of removing humanity's shame. Christian self-identity is transformed "in him."

The word-group for shame ("disconcerted, " "disappointed, " "confounded") occurs in the Old Testament most frequently in the Wisdom Literature and in the prophets (especially Isaiah and Jeremiah). David captures the pervasive Old Testament perspective when he says, "Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I have cried out to you; let the wicked be put to shame, and lie silent in the grave" ( Psalm 31:17 ). The godly Israelite believed God would remove his or her shame ( Psalm 119:31 ) while expecting God to defeat his or her enemies in the present as he will do it utterly at the judgment ( Psalm 35:26 ; 44:7 ; 132:18 ). Some presumed on their elect status, ignoring faith and obedience. God shamed them and the nation by causing its defeat and dispersion ( Isa 22:18 ; Jer 2:26 ; 7:19 ; Ezek 7:18 ; Dan 9:7-8 ). The believing Israelite remnant trusted God through suffering ( Isa 49:23 ; 54:4 ). At the final judgment the wicked will be shamed because of their utter defeat ( Isa 47:3 ) and because of the manifest impotence of their idols ( Isa 42:17 ; Isaiah 44:9 Isaiah 44:11 ; Jer 22:22 ; Hosea 10:6 ). Israel, however, will not bear its shame forever ( Isa 45:17 ; 61:7 ). Proverbs emphasizes the shame of public humiliation for undisciplined behavior ( 13:18 ; 18:13 ; 25:8 ), with particular attention to family relationships ( 12:4 ; 17:2 ; 19:26 ; 29:15 ).

The New Testament deepens and expands the concept of shame. A disciple of Christ stands with him unashamedly in a world that finds the cross ( Heb 12:2 ), God's ways ( 1 Cor 1:27 ), and God's persecuted messengers ( 2 Timothy 1:8 2 Timothy 1:12 ) shameful. Those ashamed of him now will find Christ ashamed of them on the day of judgment ( Mark 8:38 ; Luke 9:26 ). Conversely, God is not ashamed to call the faithful "brothers" of Christ ( Heb 2:11 ).

Suffering for Christ is identification with Christ, glory not shame ( Acts 5:41 ; 1 Peter 4:16 ). Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because it is the only antidote for humanity's shame ( Rom 1:16 ). Ultimately, the Christian who trusts in Christ need not be ashamed of anything ( Php 1:20 ; cf. Isa 28:16 ; Rom 9:33 ; 10:11 ; 1 Peter 2:6 ). When one confesses Christ and openly rebels against him, however, the work of Christ is publicly shamed ( Heb 6:6 ). Christians must be diligent to renounce shameful behavior, though tempting because of its hidden character ( 2 Cor 4:2 ).

Shame is a godly motivator. A virtuous life shames the ungodly, providing a context for evangelism ( Titus 2:8 ; 1 Peter 3:16 ). A believer's shame for past sin is a spur to forsake sinning ( Rom 6:21 ), to renounce disobedience ( 2 Thess 3:14 ), and to minister the gospel ( 2 Cor 4:2 ). The prospect of shame at Christ's return is sometimes a necessary inducement to godliness ( Rev 3:18 ; 16:15 ). Paul uses the concept of shame most frequently with the immature Corinthian believers, urging them not to shame themselves ( 1 Cor 4:14 ; 6:5 ; 15:34 ; 2 Cor 9:4 ) or him ( 2 Cor 7:14 ; 10:8 ).

Shameless people flaunt their unholiness, calloused to God ( Zep 3:5 ) and glorying in their shame ( Php 3:19 ). Yet no one is shameless ultimately. "Shameless Acts" receive the judgment inherent in the act ( Rom 1:27 ). Also, at the final judgment the nakedness of those not clothed with Christ' righteousness will be exposed ( Rev 3:18 ; 16:15 ).

Bradford A. Mullen

See also Guilt; Sin

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Shame'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.


sham (bosh, "to be ashamed," bosheth, "shame," qalon; aischune, "ignominy," atimia, "dishonor," and other words):

An oft-recurring word in Scripture almost uniformly bound up with a sense of sin and guilt. It is figuratively set forth as a wild beast (Jeremiah 3:24), a Nessus-garment (Jeremiah 3:25), a blight (Jeremiah 20:18), a sin against one's own soul (Habakkuk 2:10), and twice as the condensed symbol of Hebrew abomination--Baal (Jeremiah 11:13 margin; Hosea 9:10 margin; see ISH-BOSHETH). It is bracketed with defeat (Isaiah 30:3), reproach (Psalms 69:7; Isaiah 54:4; Micah 2:6), confusion (Isaiah 6:7), nakedness (Isaiah 47:3; Micah 1:11), everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2), folly (Proverbs 18:13), cruelty (Isaiah 50:6; Hebrews 12:2), poverty (Proverbs 13:18), nothingness (Proverbs 9:7 the King James Version), unseemliness (1 Corinthians 11:6; 14:35 the King James Version; Ephesians 5:12), and "them that go down to the pit" (Ezekiel 32:25). In the first Biblical reference to this emotion, "shame" appears as "the correlative of sin and guilt" (Delitzsch, New Commentary on Genesis and Biblical Psychology). Shamelessness is characteristic of abandoned wickedness (Philippians 3:19; Jude 1:13, margin "Greek: `shames'"). Manifestly, then, shame is a concomitant of the divine judgment upon sin; the very worst that a Hebrew could wish for an enemy was that he might be clothed with shame (Psalms 109:29), that the judgment of God might rest upon him visibly.

Naturally, to the Hebrew, shame was the portion of those who were idolaters, who were faithless to Yahweh or who were unfriendly to themselves--the elect people of Yahweh. Shame is to come upon Moab because Moab held Israel in derision (Jeremiah 48:39,27), and upon Edom "for violence against his brother Jacob" (Obadiah 1:10). But also, and impartially, shame is the portion of faithless Israelites who deny Yahweh and follow after strange gods (Ezekiel 7:18; Micah 7:10; Hosea 10:6, and often). But shame, too, comes upon those who exalt themselves against God, who trust in earthly power and the show of material strength (2 Chronicles 32:21; Isaiah 30:3); and upon those who make a mock of righteousness (Job 8:22; Psalms 35:26; 132:18). With a fine sense of ethical distinctions the Biblical writers recognize that in confessing to a sense of shame there is hope for better things. Only in the most desperate cases is there no sense of shame (Hosea 4:18; Zechariah 3:5; Philippians 3:19; Jude 1:13); in pardon God is said to remove shame (Isaiah 54:4 twice; Isaiah 61:7).

On conditions beyond the grave the Biblical revelation is exceedingly reticent, but here and there are hints that shame waits upon the wicked here and hereafter. Such an expression as that in Daniel (12:2) cannot be ignored, and though the writing itself may belong to a late period and a somewhat sophisticated theological development, the idea is but a reflection of the earlier and more elementary period, when the voice of crime and cruelty went up from earth to be heard in the audience chamber of God (Genesis 4:11; 6:13). In the New Testament there is similar reticence but also similar implications. It cannot be much amiss to say that in the mind of the Biblical writers sin was a shameful thing; that part of the punishment for sin was a consciousness of guilt in the sense of shame; and that from this consciousness of guilt there was no deliverance while the sin was unconfessed and unforgiven. "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt." From one's own past there is no deliverance, save through contrition of spirit and the grace and forgiveness of God. While the sense of shame persists, or, in other words, while the moral constitution of man's nature remains as it is, there will never be wanting an avenger of sin.

Charles M. Stuart

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'SHAME'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.  

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