Sin: What is it?

Illustration by Elhanan ben-Avraham

The Hebrew word for sin is khet, which is the word used on a firing range when a target is missed. The opposite of the wordkhet is torah, which means the standard of instructions for hitting the targeted objective. The three-letter Hebrew root of that word torah is yara, which means to shoot in a direction, the same root as mora (teacher), and hora (parent), and horaot (instructions). Torah is often poorly translated as Law (which is in Hebrew, khok). This is well understood by such writers of the New Testament as Yohanan (1 John 3:4), who wrote “Whosoever commits sin (khet) transgresses the Law (torah), for sin (khet) is the transgression of the Law (torah).”

Sin is not only a single act of stealing or committing adultery, but is a direction travelled. It is a dynamic movement that may begin with a single step in the wrong direction, but then will most assuredly lead to a second step in that direction, and ultimately to a voyage culminating by incremental changes in catastrophe.

The Ten Commandments (in Hebrew: the Ten Words) inform us that the process proceeds from the first generation to the third and fourth generations and, if not repented, to destruction. The first generation took the first step in the wrong direction, away from the Light, whose behavior then is inherited to the next, and by the third the sin has become a normalized lifestyle, and by the fourth, near to irredeemable chaos of darkness, ripe for the consequences of judgment. This principle is also illustrated in Israel being held in Egyptian captivity until the fourth generation, until the sin of the Amorites came to its fullness (Genesis 15:16).

Perhaps one of the best illustrations of this process appears in Spielberg’s film Back to the Future. There we have a marvelous story of events occurring in a normal small California town in the 1980’s, until Doc comes up with a time machine. His time travel with young McFly to that same town in the 21st century is thrown into skelter when a bad fellow, Biff, discovers and takes an almanac tossed into the trash that tells of all the sports wins of the 20th century. Biff travels back to the 1950’s and gives his younger self the almanac, and the young bad Biff becomes a multi-millionaire. When doc and McFly return to the quiet town of the 1980’s they discover a totally different town of violence and corruption, led by the rich Biff. Then Doc discovers they were now in their alternative town, and the only way to change history back was to take the time machine to the 1950’s and get the almanac from the young Biff, bringing salvation by preventing that disastrous outcome. Which finally they succeed in doing. It is like the Bible’s description of the Jerusalem that is above, and the Jerusalem which is below: sin has created the alternative Jerusalem, until the Heavenly Jerusalem descends from its upper dimension.

It is the miracle of grace in the Messiah’s crucifixion and resurrection in the fallen alternative Jerusalem of the 1st Century that the inevitable catastrophic course may be stayed and turned and re-directed back to the Light of life and health. The dark consequences of sin are taken into that sacrificial Lamb of God, the merciful divine provision for the forgiveness of sin, a healing and new beginning available to individuals and nations, if they so choose.

 Come, let us return to YHVH. He has torn us to but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. – Hosea 6:1-2

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Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published five illustrated books of poetry, painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, and most recently produced THE JERUSALEM ILLUSTRATED BIBLE, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.