ON THIS PAGE
Introduction: The Missing Message
Repentance in The Old Testament
The many calls to return to God and keep His commandments
Repentance in The New Testament
Two Greek words.
"Repent" and "Repentance" - explicitly linked to sin
The Parable of The Prodigal Son
The best illustration of Biblical repentance
What Biblical Repentance Isn't
Sorrow, pulling up your socks, or avoiding wrongdoing for fear of the consequences is NOT repentance
The Consequences of NOT Repenting
Rosh Hashanah - The Days of Awe and Yom Kippur - Day of Repentance
Signs of Things To Come
The two sides of the one coin
Introduction: The Missing Message
Considering that an uncountable number of verses (in both Testaments) make it very plain that repentance is an indispensable part of salvation, one would imagine that Christians would make every effort to understand how the Bible defines repentance.
Unfortunately this is far from the case.
All too often In the modern church belief alone is being touted as the basis of salvation with repentance largely ignored. Even if it is taught, the meaning of the word has either been so watered down or inaccurately explained that it no longer bears any resemblance to Biblical repentance.
No doubt much of our lackadaisical approach stems from the fact that in the 21st century we are tend to want everything instantly delivered with the least possible effort on our parts - a very dangerous attitude when it comes to our eternal safety.
Israel The 'Chosen' Nation?
However, some of us may also be misled by the fact that Israel in the Old Testament and believers in the New were called the Lord's 'chosen people'.
"For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6 NASB)
"The beasts of the field will glorify Me, The jackals and the ostriches, Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people. (Isaiah 43:20 NASB)
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9 NASB)
These verses may give one the impression that repentance was a side issue because these groups were already favored. However, this is not exactly true.
Repentance in The Old Testament
Initially God made a covenant with one man who responded by leaving Ur - the pagan world he lived in -and traveling to Canaan to found God's kingdom. As God told Abraham before he left Ur,
And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." (Genesis 12:2-3 NASB)
Abraham became the Father of a new nation that had a very definite and hugely important role. Not only was the Messiah to be born of Abraham's descendants but, as a nation, they were the keepers of God's law with the responsibility to preserve it for posterity. The first mention of the covenant God made with Abraham included his descendants
On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: (Genesis 15:18 NASB)
However, the covenant was not without conditions. For example these two verses from the books of Exodus and Leviticus make it clear that hearing and obeying the Father's voice was a non-negotiable stipulation. (Deuteronomy 28 is an outstanding example of what the nation was to expect depending on whether they obeyed or disobeyed the Lord’s commandments - as is much of Leviticus 26)
'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' ... All the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do!" (Exodus 19:8 NASB)
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect. 'But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, I, in turn, will do this to you... (Leviticus 26:15-16 NASB)
One has to believe that they meant well when they vowed to keep His statutes and commandments, but the fact is that they failed to do so over and over again. Therefore, it is little wonder that the calls to repentance in the Old Testament were a call to return to God and keep His commandments.
Shûb: The Hebrew word shûb occurs almost 1300 times in the Old Testament. As the following examples demonstrate, it literally means to return or turn back
until the Lord gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the Lord your God is giving them. Then you shall return (Heb. shûb) to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise." (Joshua 1:15 NASB)
Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, "O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child's life return (Heb. shûb) to him." (1 Kings 17:21 NASB)
Every one of the prophets repeatedly pleaded with the people to return (shûb) to God...
Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return (Heb. shûb) to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:7 NASB)
If you will return (Heb. shûb) , O Israel," declares the Lord, "Then you should return (Heb. shûb) to Me. And if you will put away your detested things from My presence, And will not waver, (Jeremiah 4:1 NASB)
Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God, "Repent (Heb. shûb) and turn (Heb. shûb) away from your idols and turn (Heb. shûb) your faces away from all your abominations. (Ezekiel 14:6 NASB)
Return (Heb. shûb), O Israel, to the Lord your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity. (Hosea 14:1 NASB)
Yet even now," declares the Lord, "Return (Heb. shûb) to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; (Joel 2:12 NASB)
From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return (Heb. shûb) to Me, and I will return to you," says the Lord of hosts... (Malachi 3:7 NASB)
And warned them of the dire consequences of not doing so.
If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready. (Psalms 7:12 NASB)
"I will winnow them with a winnowing fork At the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy My people; They did not repent of their ways." (Jeremiah 15:7 NASB)
Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord God. "Therefore, repent and live." (Ezekiel 18:31-32 NASB)
'Perhaps they will listen and everyone will turn from his evil way, that I may repent of the calamity which I am planning to do to them because of the evil of their deeds.' "And you will say to them, 'Thus says the Lord, "If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you, to listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you again and again, but you have not listened; then I will make this house like Shiloh, and this city I will make a curse to all the nations of the earth."'" (Jeremiah 26:3-6 NASB)
In other words, "chosen" meant God picked Israel for a very specific purpose which doesn't mean that they could do as they pleased. They were pretty much toast if they disobeyed His commandments - as are we.
Note: What may be confusing to some is the fact that the Bible also talks of God "repenting" - largely translated from the Hebrew word nâcham. However, nâcham carries several shades of meaning. See Footnote I
Repentance in The New Testament
The word "grace" simply means an unmerited favor freely given by one who was not bound in any way to do so. However, "grace" has become a very elastic term.
There are those that believe that repentance is part of the Old Testament Law and therefore does not apply to the New Testament believer who is under grace. Unfortunately for them, 'repent' is used over thirty times in the New Testament and 'repentance' near twenty five times. Not only did John the Baptist preach repentance but Jesus launched His ministry with a call to repentance. He also said that He had come to call sinners to repentance. And if you look at how the Bible defines sin, that includes all of us. See Sin
Now in those days John the Baptist *came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, "Repent (Gk. metanoia), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:1-2 NASB) ...
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent (Gk. metanoeo), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17 NASB)
I will have mercy, not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Gk. metanoia) (Matthew 9:13).
The early apostles beginning with John the Baptist had exactly the same message as the Old Testament prophets who, largely using two Greek words - metanoeo and epistrepho, relentlessly warned the people in no uncertain terms to repent and return ...
Explicitly Linked to Sin
The words "Repent" (Gk. metanoeo) and "Repentance" (Gk. metanoia) collectively occur close to fifty times in the New Testament. At least half the occurrences explicitly link repentance to sin. For example,
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance (Gk. metanoia) for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4 NASB)
So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? "Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. (Luke 3:7-8 NASB) See The Wrath of God - God's Judgment of Sin.
I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Gk. metanoia). (Luke 5:32 NASB)
I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (Gk. metanoia). (Luke 15:7 NASB)
Peter said to them, "Repent (Gk. metanoeo), and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38 NASB)
I have read numerous times that the word metanoeo means to change one's mind - a 'paradigm shift' or change from one way of thinking to another - when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a different way. While that may be technically correct, the expression 'paradigm shift' does not come anywhere near explaining the Biblical concept of repentance.
In English repent means to feel or express sincere remorse or contrition for one's past wrongdoing however, metanoeo indicates a fundamental change in thinking that leads to a fundamental change in behavior/way of living. As Paul explained, a total transformation has to be effected by the renewing of your mind.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NASB)
However, although it would be wonderful if many more people felt sorrow for wrongdoing and changed their conduct, the fact remains that salvation does not happen without faith in Christ.
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent (Gk. metanoeo) and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15 NASB)
how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance (Gk. metanoia) toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20-21 NASB)
As the following examples show, the Greek word epistrepho literally means to turn one's self about - or to turn back.
"Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. "Then it says, 'I will return (Gk. epistrepho) to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. (Matthew 12:43-44 NASB)
Then I turned (Gk. epistrepho) to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned (Gk.epistrepho) I saw seven golden lamp stands; (Revelation 1:12 NASB)
This is the word that God used when He commissioned Paul as ambassador to the Gentiles so that they might turn from light to darkness and receive forgiveness of sins.
But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn (Gk. epistrepho) from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26:16-18 NASB)
Walking in the footsteps of the OT prophets, the apostles urged the Jews to return to God. Peter told the men of Israel...
"Therefore repent (Gk. metanoeo) and return (Gk. epistrepho), so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19 NASB)
For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned (Gk. epistrepho) to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25 NASB)
In other words, the Greek clearly show that the call to repentance in the New Testament means exactly what it did in the Old.
The Prodigal Son
The concept of Biblical repentance is perhaps best illustrated by Jesus' parable of the 'Prodigal Son'.
The younger of two sons who, possibly seeking adventure and a better life, asked his father to give him his share of the estate. Not many days later, he gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and squandered his estate with loose living. He eventually found himself in a pigsty, feeding the pigs, who ate better than he did.
Finally, coming to his senses, he resolved to go back to his father and tell him "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."' (Luke 15:18-19 NASB). And, as the parable went on to say, he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
The prodigal son not only realized he had sinned against his father and God, but his actions proved his repentance was real - he arose and returned to his father asking forgiveness. However, what should be of immense consolation to us is how his father reacted when he saw him return.
What Biblical Repentance Isn't
Pulling Up Your Socks Is Not Repentance: It certainly isn't unknown for people to turn over a new leaf.. to reform themselves. Alcoholics have stopped drinking, thieves have become honest citizens and prostitutes have become exemplary wives and mothers. This in itself is not Biblical repentance. Those who understand the term repentance to mean 'turning from sin' have the cart before the horse. Turning from sin is not the Biblical definition of repentance, but one of the results of genuine repentance.
Sorrow For Wrongdoing Isn't Repentance: There are many people who feel genuine remorse for wrongs they have committed, have a real desire to change and make an often heroic effort to turn over a new leaf. Some succeed admirably and go on to lead worthy lives. However, while this is certainly more than commendable, it is not repentance as outlined in the Scriptures, simply because people who are simply penitent for something wrong that they have done do not usually come to God seeking forgiveness.
In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians he wrote that he was glad that a previous letter from him (in which he had chastised them for various wrong doings) produced repentance that led to salvation. He then added that the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10) Biblical Repentance is completely God centered, and involves a totally changed life.
Confession Is Not Repentance: Simply admitting to God we have made a mistake, and vowing not to repeat the same mistake again does not constitute repentance. As an example, King Saul claimed to have sinned, and on at least one occasion even asked pardon for his sin. However his actions did not change (1 Samuel 15:24-25; 24:17; 26:21).
A second example was the Pharaoh after the 7th plague of hail and fire came upon Egypt (Exodus 9:22-27, 33-34), sparing the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived. Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "I have sinned this time; the Lord is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones" (V. 27). However this was certainly not repentance since, when the hail ceased, Pharaoh "sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants" (V. 34). He refused to let Israel go.”
Avoiding Wrong Doing For Fear of The Consequences is Not Repentance: Adjusting our life-style, speech and conduct so as to look better in the eyes of others or to avoid consequences does not equate to real repentance. We may have done nothing but changed from being openly obvious sinners to hypocrites. Actually the prisons are full of people who fall into this category - they are very sorry they got caught, but if released would just go out and do it again.
What About Works?
I dread to think what would happen if someone in a modern church were to preach that you have to attain a certain level of righteousness to be saved. The hue and cry would be deafening, with the preacher soundly denounced (from one end of the Christian world to the other) as a false teacher who is teaching salvation by works.
But, consider for a moment Jesus' words in the sermon on the mount.... ""For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven". (Matthew 5:20)
And as James wrote
and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:16-18 NASB)
See What is Holiness and The Myth of Faith Alone
The Consequences of NOT Repenting
Jesus' warnings about the dire consequences of not turning to God were as clear as those of the Old Testament prophets. Very drastically, He even denounced entire cities
And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent (Gk. metanoeo), you will all likewise perish. "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent (Gk. metanoeo), you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:2-5 NASB)
Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent (Gk. metanoeo) . "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Matthew 11:20-21 NASB)
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance (Gk. metanoia ) But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant (Gk. ametanoetos ) heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, (Romans 2:4-5 NASB)
Jesus' warnings to the churches in Pergamum, Sardis and Thyatira were equally clear
Therefore repent (Gk. metanoeo); or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. (Revelation 2:16 NASB)
I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent (Gk. metanoeo) of her immorality. 'Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent (Gk. metanoeo) of her deeds. (Revelation 2:21-22 NASB)
So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent (Gk. metanoeo). Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. (Revelation 3:3 NASB)
Yet, man in his sheer stubbornness has refused to heed in the past, refuses to heed now and, apparently, will continue to do so to the end of days.
O Lord, do not Your eyes look for truth? You have smitten them, But they did not weaken; You have consumed them, But they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; They have refused to repent (Heb. shûb) . Then I said, "They are only the poor, They are foolish; For they do not know the way of the Lord Or the ordinance of their God. (Jeremiah 5:3-4 NASB)
Why then has this people, Jerusalem, Turned away in continual apostasy? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return. "I have listened and heard, They have spoken what is not right; No man repented of his wickedness, Saying, 'What have I done?' Everyone turned to his course, Like a horse charging into the battle. (Jeremiah 8:5-6 NASB)
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21 NASB)
Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory. and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds. (Revelation 16:9, 11 NASB)
The Days of Awe and Yom Kippur... Signs of Things To Come
What fools we must be to not take the message of the Old Testament Days of Awe and Day of Atonement to heart. Far from being merely quaint ancient rituals that were peculiar to the Jews, they are poignant reminders (or types) of what is yet to come.
According to the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus, Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement, which occurs on the 10th day of Tishri (the seventh month of the year) was a day of solemn fast on which all work was forbidden. The solemnity of the occasion is highlighted by the fact that God said that anyone who did not "afflict his soul" on that day would be cut off from the community (Leviticus 23:27-29)
Yom Kippur is also the final day of the Ten Days of Repentance which began with Rosh Hashanah - the Feast of Trumpets. Unlike other Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were not linked to remembrance of historical events, but were strictly a time for people to make a thorough assessment of their lives. These ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, were called The Days of Awe or The Days of Repentance. As said on Judaism 101...
"This is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur". (6)
It is held that, while judgment on each person is pronounced on Rosh Hashanah, it is not made absolute until Yom Kippur. The Ten Days are therefore an opportunity
However, it is well to note that this was not just applicable to the ancient nation of Israel and that we can blithely go forward and forget all about it. Although the church does not observe any of the Seven Feasts, they last thing we can afford to do is ignore them. All the Feasts were types... patterns or shadows of events to come... prophecies that needed no words.
It is also important to note that the Feasts ..."holy convocations" that took place at "appointed times" were given by God in a set chronological order, therefore symbolized a sequence of events that would take place in the same exact order.
The First Four: The first four feasts (Pesach or Passover, Unleavened Bread, First-fruits, and Shavuot the Festival of Weeks) have already been fulfilled... the first two by Jesus Christ on the actual feast days according to the Hebrew calendar. He was sacrificed on Passover, and resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits. The third Feast of Unleavened Bread carried great significance in light of His sacrifice, while Pentecost occurred on the exact day of the Fourth Feast Shavuot. (See The Seven Feasts of Israel)
The Final Three: All of which makes it reasonable to surmise that the remaining three feasts... Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement, and Sukkot or The Feast of Tabernacles will be fulfilled in that order and on the actual feast day.
In other words, the ten Days of Awe are symbolic of the final days of the age during which repentance is yet possible... when mankind (and the church) will be given their last opportunity to repent. After Yom Kippur the doors will be closed. While the significance of the number of days is not known, there is a pertinent story in 1 Samuel that typifies the final ten days.
When David and his men were on the run from King Saul, they asked from help from a "very great", and obviously rich man called Naval, who is described as "churlish and evil" and a "worthless fellow". In the past Naval had received protection from David's men, but refused to help David, who then led four hundred men to war on Naval. A potential disaster was averted by Abigail, Naval's wife who was not only beautiful, but "of good understanding". She, unknown to her husband, packed large amounts of food on asses and took it to David's camp where she asked David to spare her household, which he did.
However when Abigail returned home she found Naval very drunk and holding a feast in his house. So she said nothing until the next day when she told him that she had made amends. Instead of admitting his error and repenting, Naval hardened his heart... Scripture telling us that "his heart died within him, and he became as a stone".
Ten days later God struck him dead.
This is the story of a man who was given the opportunity to be a part of the coming kingdom of Israel under David; a type of the kingdom of God under Jesus. He refused the offer and, although he did not know it at the time, had ten days to change his mind and repent. However, he did not do so, and was slain at the end of the allotted period... A foreshadowing of those people who, in the final days, will refuse to turn from their sin and seek God.
Yet, in spite of this graphic reminder of what will take place, it's business as usual - way too many churches preaching a God that "loves everyone" and, like a celestial page boy, exists simply to give us our dearest wishes. The man in the pew who has the cockles of his heart warmed every Sunday by a feel good sermon can leave church and go about his business... nothing having changed in his life.
The Two Sides Of The One Coin
It is crucially important that we understand repentance is not something we do to earn salvation, but without repentance there is no salvation.
There is no salvation without forgiveness for sin, and there is no forgiveness for sin without repentance.
The Bible presents them as connected, but separate. Repentance is an indispensable part of the Gospel. Any so called Gospel message that does not include true Biblical repentance cannot be counted as the gospel at all. It is insufficient to save.
Therefore, if you believe that you have repented, but your life hasn't changed, you need to examine whether your faith merely consists of intellectual assent, which isn't Biblical faith at all. The Christian faith is a commitment to God. It is life changing and life defining.
However, it should be noted that repentance is NOT a one time event. As long as we live in our present bodies, then there will always be something to repent for. If repentance is not a regular part of the life of the believer, then that person needs to question their conversion.
If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10 NASB)
Footnote I - God's 'Repentance'
What may be confusing to some is the fact that the Bible also talks of God "repenting" - largely translated from the Hebrew word nâcham. However, nâcham carries several shades of meaning making it inaccurate to use just one English word in our translations. This is why newer translations tend to use other English words that are believed to more accurately convey the meaning of the particular passage. For example, nâcham was rendered 'repent' in the KJV translation of the verses below. However, the NASB uses sorry and regret (to express sad feelings about something that is disappointing or unpleasant).
The Lord was sorry (Gr. nâcham) that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:6 NASB)
"I regret (Gr. nâcham) that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands." (1 Samuel 15:11 NASB)
Nâcham has also been translated "relent" since it often been used in terms of God abandoning a previous hard intention - taking a softer, more compassionate line. For example,
When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented (Gr. nâcham) from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, "It is enough! Now relax your hand!" .. (2 Samuel 24:16 NASB)
For thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Just as I purposed to do harm to you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,' says the Lord of hosts, 'and I have not relented (Gr. nâcham) , so I have again purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear!' (Zechariah 8:14-15 NASB)
Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.... When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented (Heb. nâcham) concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. (Jonah 3:5, 10 NASB)
nâcham can also be legitimately translated as changing one's mind. For example, God changed His mind (relented) when Amos interceded on behalf of the country.
Thus the Lord God showed me, and behold, He was forming a locust-swarm when the spring crop began to sprout. And behold, the spring crop was after the king's mowing. And it came about, when it had finished eating the vegetation of the land, that I said, "Lord God, please pardon! How can Jacob stand, For he is small?" The Lord changed His mind (Gr. nâcham) about this. "It shall not be," said the Lord." (Amos 7:1-3 NASB)
Note: The Bible tells of more than one occasion when an appeal from a human caused God to relent.
"Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, 'With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind (Heb. nâcham) about doing harm to Your people. "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'" So the Lord changed His mind (Heb. nâcham) about the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Exodus 32:12-14 NASB) More about this Here - Can God Change His Mind / Be influenced by Humans (PLACE IN TEXT)