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Sin, Transgression & Iniquity

Rom 3:23; 5:14; Ecc 7:20; Exo 34:6-7

We are told in the Bible that God forgives three things: Iniquity, transgression and sin.

High Priest's Confessions on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement)
During the offering of his bullock:
"O Lord, I have committed iniquities, I have transgressed, I have sinned before you, I and my house. O Lord forgive, I pray the iniquities, the transgressions, and the sins which I have committed, transgressed, and sinned before you, I and my house."(Yoma 3:8)
During the offering of the scapegoat to be sent forth:
"O Lord, I have committed iniquities, I have transgressed, I have sinned before you, I and my house and the children of Aaron, your holy people. O Lord forgive, I pray the iniquities, the transgressions, and the sins which I have committed, transgressed, and sinned before you, I and my house and the children of Aaron, your holy people."(Yoma 4:2)
During the offering of the scapegoat to be slaughtered:
"Pray, O Lord, your people, the house of Israel, have committed iniquity, transgressed and sinned before you. Pray, O Lord, atone, I pray, the iniquities and the transgressions and the sins that your people, the house of Israel have committed and transgressed, and sinned before you..."(Yoma 6:2)

(Source: S.Y. Agnon, Days of Awe [New York: Schoken Books, 1965], 244-249)

We generally think that we understand about the forgiveness of sin but do we really and what about the other two?

We are told in Isaiah 59:2 that iniquities separate us from God and that sin hides his face from us so that he does not hear. Therefore we need to understand what these three things are and how we are to deal with them.

Occurrences of the terms in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament)
  • Hataah (sin) - 459 times
  • Avon (iniquity) - 229 times
  • Pesha (transgression) - 136 times.
Terms together:

In the Hebrew Bible

Exo 34:7; Lev 16:21; Isa 59:12; Jer 33:8; Mic 7:18-19; Psa 32:1-2; 51:1-13; 59:3-4; Job 7:20-21; 13:23 ; Dan 9:24

In the Mishnah

Yoma 3:8; 4:2; 6:2


  • Hataah (sin) - Any straying from the right path whether caused by levity, carelessness or design. And may include wrongs committed unwittingly. (Apathy or carelessness)
  • Pesha (transgression) - A wicked act committed presumptuously in defiance of God and his law. (Rebellious acts to anger God-Rashi; willful sin with intent to anger God.
  • Avon (iniquity) - A crookedness or perversion of the straight order of the law. (Intentional acts to satisfy base desires-Rashi)

(Source: Kaufmann Kohler, Jewish Theology [Cincinnati: Forgotten Books, 2012 (Reprint of 1917 edition])

  • Hataah (sin) - Any deviation in normal behavior. Inadvertently.
  • Pesha (transgression) - A rebellious or defiantly wicked act. Presumptuously.
  • Avon (iniquity) - A perversion in the order of things. High-handedly.

Source: (S.Lyonnet, Sin, Redemption, and Sacrifice [Biblical Institute Press; 1970])


What is sin?
  • High look, proud heart, plowing of the wicked. Pro 21:4
  • Thought of foolishness Pro 24:9
  • Whatsoever not of faith Romans 14:23
  • Knowing to do good, not doing Jam 4:17
  • Transgression of the law 1 John 3:4
  • All unrighteousness 1 John 5:17
Sin is disobedience.

John 8:7, 11; Matthew 18:21; John 5:14; 1 4:26; 1 Timothy 5:20; Heb 10:26; 1 Corinthians 8:12

Sin is charged to the individual and the sinner dies for own sin. Iniquities embrace generations and affect multitudes.

  • Born in sin: Psa 51:5; 58:3; Isa 48:8
  • Sinful by nature: Psa 14:2-3; Job 14:4; Rom 11:24; Gen 6:5; 8:21; Rom 7:17-18
  • None that sins not: 1Kings 8:46; Jer 17:9; Eph 2:2-3; Ecc 7:20; 9:3

Holiness is not transferred but uncleanness is. Sin is inherited but goodness is not.


Transgression has to do with practice and custom. It involves the practice of false teaching. It is overstepping or being unfaithful to God's authority.

  • False gods - 1Chr 5:25; 2Chr 36:14
  • Strange wives - Ezr 10:10-13
  • Religious arrogance and assumption - 2Chr 26:16
  • False teaching - Isa 43:27
  • Unbelief - Num 14:41
  • Self-will and stubbornness - Jdg 2:19-20
  • Rebellion - 1Kings 8:50
  • Tradition - Mat 15:1-3
  • Respect of persons - Jam 2:9
  • Cities, nations, civilizations - Amo 1:3, 6, 9, 13


Iniquity is that which is unequal, not level. A lack of righteousness or justice. Wickedness of the heart. A lack of principle or integrity.

Iniquity = to make crooked, pervert, to bow down, to turn, perversity. Iniquity is not a deed or an act but a lack of principle in one's life. Mat 24:12 We have been told that all iniquity is sin, but not all sin is iniquity. We will examine this statement.

We have been told that iniquity is a classified sin. A sin that stands by itself, that means division. This is not so.

We are guilty of iniquity when we lose our ideals, our standards, when we compromise our principles, when we refuse to be shocked by wrong.

Iniquity is in our lives when we shut our eyes to evil, when we can smile at sin, when we fail to be as Lot, and be vexed at the filthy conversation that goes on around us.

  • Isa 50:1; 52:3; 59:2; Lam 5:7 Ezr 9:6-8 - principle and practice
  • Neh 9:2 - principle and individual deeds (sin)
  • Job 13:23 - principle, practice, deed
  • Psa 90:8 - iniquity is secret sin
  • Isa 64:6 - iniquities, like wind
  • Psa 130:3 - mark iniquities, who could stand, sin is always marked.
  • Isa 59:12 - transgression, sin, iniquity
  • Jer 11:10 - turned back to iniquities of fathers
  • Jos 22:17 - iniquity of Peor, Baalim
  • Isa 32:6 - heart will work iniquity
  • Mat 7:23 - workers of iniquity
  • Luk 13:27 - men without principle laboring in religious activity
  • Psa 66:18 - if I regard iniquity in my heart
  • Hab 1:13 - God cannot look on iniquity

People forsake God in principle first, then theyfall into acceptable patterns or customs, then individual sin becomes easy. 2Thess 2:7

Recognizing Iniquity and Handling it

(This section is based on personal discussions with Pastor W. D. Streit of Missoula, Montana, USA and an article he wrote following those discussions. Scriptures in this section from the KJV)

Mat 13:41 KJV The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;...
Psalm 40:12-13 KJV For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me. Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me.

Our problem is personal iniquity, and NOT personal sin in the classic sense of the word!

CONFESSION of that iniquity differs from, but is just as important to us as confession of sin. I also see in the scriptures, that God has provided both a way for us to see hidden iniquity in ourselves as individuals

Sin and iniquity are two separate but related subjects in the scriptures. Most Christians are aware of the need for confessing their sins and receiving forgiveness as recorded in the scriptures.

Few Christians know of their own inherent iniquity and how to deal with it in a scriptural manner.

Let us consider how the psalmist David regarded both his sin and his iniquity:

Psalm 32:5 KJV I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said,I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
Isa 53:6 KJV All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Iniquity is walking in our own individual ways that are not really God's ways.

This going our own way is what keeps us walking in our own self-deceptions and hinders us from seeing ourselves. After all, we are walking in all the light that we know....

Pro 16:25 KJV There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.

Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24 KJV), and there, was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21 KJV). But BEFORE He went to the cross, He was bruised for our iniquities (Isa. 53:5 KJV).

Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Eze 16:49-50 KJV Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw [good].
Isa 59:2 KJV But your iniquities (ways) have separated between you and your God, and your sins (results) have hid [his] face from you, that he will not hear.
Isa 64:6 KJV But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Jer 14:7 KJV O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou [it] for thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.
Jer 33:8 KJV And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.
Does This Apply To Us Today?
Eze 43:10-11 KJV Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And IF they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write [it] in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.
Hebrews 10:16-17 KJV This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Mat 24:12 KJV And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
God's Pattern To Expose Hidden Iniquity

God has given a step by step program that allows Him to get us out of our own ways, into where we should be. We can find it laid out plainly in the book of Leviticus.

Lev 26:40-41 KJV If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; and [that] I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: .....
  • First Step: If they confess their iniquity
  • Second: ...and the iniquity of their fathers
  • Third: ...with their tresspass which they tresspassed against me,
  • Fourth: ...and that also they have walked contrary unto me
  • Fifth: ...and that I also have walked contrary unto them,..
  • Sixth: and have brought them into the land of their enemies;
Pro 3:6 KJV In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Heb 1:8-9 KJV But unto the Son [he saith], Thy throne, O God, [is] for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness [is] the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, [even] thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Lets look at the steps in Leviticus again.....

  1. Confess our iniquities, our ways, our habitual paths.
  2. Confess the iniquities of our fathers, the source examples we have chosen to follow that were not true examples of God.
  3. Confess the transgression or first step out of Christ into going our own ways.
  4. Confess that we were walking contrary to God when continue walking in ways that seem right in our own sight.
  5. Confess that in going our own way, we caused God to walk contrary to us whether we recognize it or not
  6. and finally...
  7. Confess that because of this, God has brought us into the land of our enemies and we begin reaping what we have sown.
God's Response To Confessed Iniquity

There are two things that God is watching for when we confess according to those six directions in Leviticus.....

Lev 26:41 KJV ... if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:
Lev 26:42 KJV Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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