Y O U N G P E O P L E ' S D I C T I O N A R Y O F S C R I P T U R A L • & • R E L I G I O U S T E R M S
Contrite appears 5 times in the KJV Bible; only in the Old Testament. The meaning
of the word, however, appears much more often and is usually translated into
English as humbled. Two words that help explain the original Hebrew word for
contrite are “dust” and “crushed”. These words refer to the spirit of a person rather
than a physical condition.
A person who is truly contrite for their sins, will take a very ‘humble’ place before
God. If truly repentant, they will feel the heavy weight of their sins. Job is an excel-
lent example of one who was truly contrite when he said: “Wherefore I abhor
myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).
We often read, specially in the Old Testament, of those who, when sorrowing and
repenting of their sins “rent” (tore or ripped) their garments (“clothing”) and put
“dust” on their heads. This was all done to show the reality of their being humbled
and repentant before God.
In Isaiah 57:15 we read: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth
eternity, whose name is Holy; 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”. Here the sense of contrite in the Hebrew suggests the
thought of being ‘stricken’.
So we see that when we are truly sorrowing in our spirit, ‘stricken’ and ‘in the dust’
before God about our sins, no longer making any excuses for what we have done,
simply feeling how we have dishonored the Lord, He promises to forgive and
comfort us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and
to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).