There are 2 Hebrew words that are commonly translated as “repent.” The focus of this word study is the Hebrew word “shuv.”
Shuv שׁוּב (H7725 – shüv) means “to turn back, return, go back/come back, restore, refresh, repair, and repent.” It is the primative root of the Hebrew word “teshuvah” תְּשׁוּבָה (H8666- tesh·ü·vä) which is usually translated as “repentance,” but more accurately means “to return to the previous way.”
The literal translation is represented in the notion of man “returning to his home after the day’s work.” The security of his home and the hook or draw of a man’s family prompts the desire to turn back from where he came, thus giving the full picture of the meaning of the word “shuv.”
First Occurance of “shuv” :
Beresheit (Genesis) 3:19: “By the sweat of your face will you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
– In the same sense as we literally defined the word, here “shuv” is translated as “return.” By dying and returning to the ground, man is going back to the original way, existence, or state of being that was pure and unadulterated. When we repent, we are supposed to do the same in the sense that we should go back to the original way not tainted by sin.
Other Notable Scriptures with “shuv”
Beresheit (Genesis) 8:9: “but the dove found no place to rest her foot, and she returned to him into the ark; for the waters were on the surface of the whole eretz. He put forth his hand, and took her, and brought her to him into the ark.”
– This is a beautiful and direct representation of the word “shuv,” when the dove had no place to put its feet, it returned back to the original path or point of origin.
Beresheit (Genesis) 20:7: “Now therefore, restore the man’s wife. For he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you will live. If you don’t restore her, know for sure that you will die, you, and all who are yours.“
– The restoration of Sarah back to Avraham, back to her rightful place, is yet another symbolism of returning to the righteous path. Had she not been restored, Yitshaq (Isaac) may have never been born and the blessing and birthright would have been through Yishma’el (Ishmael) or through Eliezer (Eleazar).
Shemoth (Genesis) 4:21: Yahweh said to Mosheh, “When you go back into Mitsrayim, see that you do before Pharoah all the wonders which I have put in your hand, but I will harden his heart and he will not let the people go.”
– Mosheh was directed to go back to where he had come from, to be the Deliverer of the Children of Yisra’el. The righteous path for him was to begin where he began and thank goodness he did, for the deliverance would have been through someone else, if it came during that generation at all!
Tehellim (Pslams) 23:3: He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
– There approximately 1066 instances of the word shuv, please take time to reflect further as the Spirit leads!