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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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SHAME . 1 . In the first Biblical reference to this emotion ( Genesis 2:25; cf. Genesis 3:7 ) ‘shame’ appears as ‘the correlative of sin and guilt’; it is ‘the overpowering feeling that inward harmony and satisfaction with oneself are disturbed’ (Delitzsch, Com., in loc .). From the OT point of view the crowning shame is idolatry: ‘As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they say to a stock, Thou art my father’ ( Jeremiah 2:26; cf. Isaiah 41:11; Isaiah 42:17 ). The all-inclusive promise to those who trust in God is ‘none that wait on thee shall be ashamed’ ( Psalms 25:3 RV [Note: Revised Version.]; cf. Psalms 119:8; Psalms 119:30 , Isaiah 45:16 f., Isaiah 49:23; Isaiah 54:4 f., Jeremiah 17:13 , Joel 2:25 f., Romans 5:5; Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11 ). The absence of shame is always regarded as an aggravation of sinful conduct: Job ( Job 19:3 ) reproaches his friends because they are ‘not ashamed’ of dealing hardly with him; the climax of Jeremiah’s complaint ( Jeremiah 6:15 ) against those who had ‘committed abomination’ is that ‘they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush’ (cf. Jeremiah 8:12 , Zephaniah 3:5; Zephaniah 3:11 ). The culmination of shamelessness is seen in those ‘whose glory is in their shame’ ( Philippians 3:19 ); but in this passage, as elsewhere ( Isaiah 50:3; cf. Proverbs 10:5; Proverbs 25:3 ), ‘shame’ is, by a natural transference of ideas, applied not to the inward feeling, but to its outward cause. The degradation of those ‘whose god is their belly’ is seen in their boasting of conduct which ought to have made them ashamed of their perversion of gospel liberty into sinful licence. The return of shame is a sign of true repentance: ‘then shalt thou remember thy ways and be ashamed’ ( Ezekiel 16:61 , cf. Ezra 9:6 ).

2 . The consciousness of shame varies with the conventional standards adopted in any society. For example, poverty ( Proverbs 13:18 ), leprosy ( Numbers 12:14 ), widowhood ( Isaiah 54:4 ) may be viewed as involving ‘shame,’ though there is no blame. In the sense of violation of propriety St. Paul applies the word to men who wear their hair long and to women who wear it short ( 1 Corinthians 11:6; 1 Corinthians 11:14 , cf. 1 Corinthians 6:5; 1 Corinthians 14:35 ); by an analogous adaptation of its meaning he describes God’s ideal ‘workman’ as one ‘that needeth not to be ashamed’ ( 2 Timothy 2:15 ).

3 . In the NT sin is pre-eminently the shameful thing ( Romans 6:21 , Philippians 3:19 , Ephesians 5:12 , Judges 1:13 , 1 John 2:28; cf. 1 John 3:6 ). But the distinguishing characteristic of the early ‘Christian use of the word is’ the trans valuation of values.’ ‘Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, … endured the cross, despising shame’ ( Hebrews 12:2 ). When St. Paul says ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel’ ( Romans 1:16 ), by a well-known figure of speech his negative statement emphatically asserts his positive glorying ( Galatians 6:14 ). To ‘suffer as a Christian’ and ‘not (to) be ashamed’ Is to ‘glorify God’ ( 1 Peter 4:16; cf. 2 Timothy 1:8 f., 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:16 ). The same heightening of the contrast is Implied when, on the one hand, the Son of Man declares that in the day of judgment He will he ashamed of all who are now ashamed of Him and of His words ( Mark 8:38 , Luke 9:26 ); and on the other hand, St. John’s assurance is that those who abide in Christ ‘may have boldness and not be ashamed before him at his coming’ ( 1 John 2:28 ). Of them who desire a heavenly country ‘God is not ashamed … to be called their God’; for the city He has prepared, they are being prepared by the sanctifying grace of Him ‘who is not ashamed to call them brethren’ ( Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 2:11 ).

J. G. Tasker.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Shame'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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