There are four main Hebrew roots for sin. The first and most common with its derivatives convey the underlying idea of missing the mark, or deviating from the goal. The vast proportion of its occurrences refers to moral and religious deviation.
The second refers to action in breach of relationship, ‘rebellion’, ‘revolution’. Used of sin it is perhaps the profoundest OT term reflecting as it does the insight that sin is rebellion against God, the defiance of his holy lordship and rule (Is. 1:28; 1 Ki. 8:50; etc.).
The third conveys a literal meaning of deliberate perversion or ‘twisting’ (Is. 24:1; La. 3:9). Used in relation to sin it reflects the thought of sin as deliberate wrongdoing, ‘committing iniquity’ (Dn. 9:5; 2 Sa. 24:17). It occurs in religious contexts which stresses the idea of the guilt which arises from deliberate wrongdoing (Gn. 44:16; Je. 2:22).
The fourth has as its basic idea straying away from the correct path (Ezk. 34:6). It is indicative of sin as arising from ignorance, ‘erring’, ‘creaturely going astray’ (1 Sa. 26:21; Jb. 6:24). It often appears in the cultic context as sin against unrecognized ritual regulations (Lv. 4:2). Reference should also be made to be wicked, to act wickedly (2 Sa. 22:22; Ne. 9:33); and, mischief done to others (Pr. 24:2; Hab. 1:13).
The definition of sin, however, is not to be derived simply from the terms used in Scripture to denote it. The most characteristic feature of sin in all its aspects is that it is directed against God (cf. Ps. 51:4; Rom. 8:7). Any conception of sin which does not have in the forefront the contradiction which it offers to God is a deviation from the biblical representation. The common notion that sin is selfishness betrays a false assessment of its nature and gravity. Essentially, sin is directed against God, and this perspective alone accounts for the diversity of its form and activities. It is a violation of that which God’s glory demands and is, therefore, in its essence the contradiction of God.
 Milne, B. A. with J.M. (1996). Sin. In (D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman, Eds.)New Bible dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Published on Friday, March 7, 2014 @ 4:25 AM CDT