A Short Study on Pride, Part 4—OT Concepts

Pride is not always negative. Parents can experience good pride whenever their children accomplish sought-after goals. Teachers may stand proud beside students who finally grasp difficult concepts. People should take pride in working with excellence. Of course, anyone in these three examples can become "puffed up" and develop an idolatrous heart, but that does not negate the existence of godly pride.

That is because pride bears positive elements—it is an attribute of God commonly translated “majesty” (see the last paragraph of this post) and Scripture speaks well of “the pride of Jacob” (Psa 47:5 [v. 4 in English]).

The word also contains neutral elements—it helps describe billowing smoke (Isa. 9:17 [v. 18 in English]) and the swelling of plant life in Jeremiah 12:5, 49:19, 50:44; and Zechariah 11:3.

As such, Victor Hamilton writes that we “can observe that pride is not intrinsically wrong. It describes a part of God’s character. It is to become a part of the life style of the believer (Job 40:10; Deut 33:29). Sin enters the picture when there is a shift of ultimate confidence from God as object and source to oneself as object and source.
—Victor P. Hamilton. “גָּאָה.” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
R. Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer, Bruce K. Waltke, eds. 
Electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press), 1999, c1980.

Yet (and now we turn back to the obvious), pride can lead to the vilest kinds of sin. Hamilton writes that the Old Testament word group for pride preponderantly appears in the negative sense (ibid.).   Among the fifty-three examples of condemnatory pride in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Psalms, Proverbs, and Job, most are against “noncovenant peoples” (ibid.).

However, it is not others but Israel who “comes under heaviest judgment”(ibid.).  Believers should be most cognizant of their prideful conditions, but God offers a stinging rebuke by comparing Israel’s pride to Sodom’s (Ezekiel 16:48–49). “The precise charge is arrogance, cynical insensitivity to the needs of others, and presumption. It is both a disposition and a type of conduct (both of which are inextricably connected)”(ibid.).

To wrap things up, God wants us to get our eyes off ourselves, as only destruction can follow egocentric living.   All of our thoughts must be theocentric or God-centered.

Scripture, as already pointed out above, portrays God as One who is self-interested: for instance, Leviticus has indictments against profaning or blaspheming the name of the Lord, He delivers for the sake of His name, and He even describes Himself as jealous (Deut 5:9). Jesus is a part of God and fully God, as per our Trinitarian understanding, yet He is constantly trying to get our eyes heavenward.  Yet, as we shall see, this divine example is the only antidote for proud hearts. God will not display a false humility for our sakes, for He alone is God (Isa 45:6), uniquely able to deliver us.

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