Holman Bible Dictionary
A personal quality in which an individual shows dependence on God and respect for other persons.
Old Testament The Old Testament connects the quality of humility with Israel's lowly experience as slaves in Egypt—a poor, afflicted, and suffering people (Deuteronomy 26:6 ). The Hebrew word translated as humility is similar to another Hebrew word meaning “to be afflicted.” In Old Testament thought, humility was closely associated with individuals who were poor and afflicted ( 2 Samuel 22:28 ).
What God desires most is not outward sacrifices but a humble spirit (Psalm 51:17 ; Micah 6:8 ). Such a humble spirit shows itself in several ways: (1) a recognition of one's sinfulness before a holy God (Isaiah 6:5 ); (2) obedience to God (Deuteronomy 8:2 ); and (3) submission to God (2 Kings 22:19 ; 2 Chronicles 34:37 ).
The Old Testament promised blessings to those who were humble: (1) wisdom (Proverbs 11:2 ); (2) good tidings (Isaiah 61:1 ); and (3) honor (Proverbs 15:33 ).
The experience of many kings indicated that those who humble themselves before God will be exalted (1 Kings 21:29 ; 2 Kings 22:19 ; 2 Chronicles 32:26 ; 2Chronicles 33:12;2 Chronicles 19:1 ). Those who do not humble themselves before God will be afflicted (2 Chronicles 33:23 ; 2 Chronicles 36:12 ). The pathway to revival is the way of humility (2 Chronicles 7:14 ).
New Testament Jesus Christ's life provides the best example of what it means to have humility (Matthew 11:29 ; 1 Corinthians 4:21 ; Philippians 2:1-11 ). Jesus preached and taught often about the need for humility (Matthew 23:12 ; Mark 9:35 ; Luke 14:11 ; Luke 18:14 ). He urged those who desired to live by Kingdom standards to practice humility (Matthew 18:1 ; Matthew 23:12 ).
The person with humility does not look down on others (Matthew 18:4 ; Luke 14:11 ). Humility in the New Testament is closely connected with the quality of “meekness” (Matthew 5:5 ). While God resists those who are proud, He provides grace for the humble (James 4:6 ). Primary in the New Testament is the conviction that one who has humility will not be overly concerned about his or her prestige (Matthew 18:4 ; Matthew 23:12 ; Romans 12:16 ; 2 Corinthians 11:7 ).
Paul believed that quality relationships with other people, especially those who had erred spiritually, hinged on the presence of meekness or humility (1 Corinthians 4:21 ; Galatians 6:1 ; 2 Timothy 2:25 ). The New Testament affirms, as does the Old Testament, that God will exalt those who are humble and bring low those who are proud (Luke 1:52 ; James 4:10 ; 1 Peter 5:6 ). The Greek world abhorred the quality of meekness or humility, but the Christian community believed these qualities were worthy (2 Corinthians 10:18 ; Colossians 3:12 ; Ephesians 4:2 ).
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Interpretation: Discovering the Bible for Yourself
New Collegeville Bible Commentary #5: Numbers