Bible Dictionaries
Humble (Self)

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Search for…
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Humbled, to Be; Afflicted
Resource Toolbox

A. Verbs.

Kâna‛ (כָּנַע, Strong's #3665), “to be humble, to humble, subdue.” This biblical Hebrew word is also found in modern Hebrew. The word can mean “to humble, to subdue,” and it can have a passive or reflexive use, “to be humble” or “to humble oneself.” While kâna‛ occurs some 35 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, the word is not found until Deut. 9:3: “… The Lord thy God … shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down.…” Kâna‛ is frequently used in this sense of “subduing, humbling,” enemies (2 Sam. 8:1; 1 Chron. 17:10; Ps. 81:14). “To humble oneself” before God in repentance is a common theme and need in the life of ancient Israel (Lev. 26:41; 2 Chron. 7:14; 12:6-7, 12).

Shâphêl (שָׁפֵל, Strong's #8213), “to be low, become low; sink down; be humiliated; be abased.” This root appears in most Semitic languages (except Ethiopic) with the basic meaning “to be low” and “to become low.” Shâphêl occurs about twenty-five times in the Old Testament. It is a poetic term.

The verb, as can be expected in poetic usage, is generally used in a figurative sense. Shâphêl rarely denotes a literal lowness. Even in passages where the meaning may be taken literally, the prophet communicates a spiritual truth: “… The high [trees] of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled” (Isa. 10:33), or “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low …” (Isa. 40:4). Isaiah particularly presented Judah’s sin as one of rebellion, self-exaltation, and pride (2:17; 3:16-17). In the second chapter he repeated God’s indictment on human pride. When the Lord comes in judgment, He will not tolerate pride: “… The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (Isa. 2:11); then “the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low” (Isa. 2:12). Isaiah applied to Judah the principle found in Proverbs: “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit” (Prov. 29:23).

Pride and self-exaltation have no place in the life of the godly, as the Lord “brings low” a person, a city, and a nation: “The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up” (1 Sam. 2:7).

The prophets called the people to repent and to demonstrate their return to God by lowliness. Their call was generally unheeded. Ultimately the Exile came, and the people were humbled by the Babylonians. Nevertheless, the promise came that, regardless of the obstacles, God would initiate the redemption of His people. Isaiah expressed the greatness of the redemption in this way: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.… Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.… And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.…” (Isa. 40:3-5) In the Septuagint shâphêl is represented by |tapeino| (“to level, be humble, humiliate”). It is translated in English versions as “to be low” (KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV); “to bring low” (KJV, RSV); “to bring down” (NASB, NIV); “to be humble” (KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV).

B. Nouns.

Some nouns related to this verb occur infrequently. Shêphêl refers to a “low condition, low estate.” This word appears twice (Ps. 136:23; Eccl. 10:6). The noun shiplah means a “humiliated state.” This noun occurs once: “When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place” (Isa. 32:19); the city is leveled completely. Shelah means “lowland.” This word is used most often as a technical designation for the low-lying hills of the Judean hill country (cf. Deut. 1:7; Josh. 9:1). Shiplut refers to a “sinking.” This noun’s single appearance is in Eccl. 10:18: “By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness [shiplut] of the hands the house droppeth through.” The word implies a negligence or “sinking” of the hands.

C. Adjective.

Shâphâl (שָׁפָל, Strong's #8217), means “low; humble.” This word means “low” in Ezek. 17:24: “And all the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree.…” In Isa. 57:15 shâphâl refers to “humble”: “… I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Humble (Self)'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words.​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​h/humble-self.html. 1940.