To the ancient Hebrew mind, between self-aggrandisement and total self-effacement stands humility. The Hebrew mindset does not see humility as equating with weakness, cowardice or wretchedness; a humble person is not a weak person. Indeed it is acceptable to speak of one’s good qualities, as long as one acknowledges that one’s good qualities and successes come from YHVH.
The prophet Jeremiah says, “Let not the wise man glorify himself in his wisdom, neither let the strong man glorify himself in his might; let not the rich glorify himself in his riches: but let him that glorifies himself glorify in this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am God who exercises love, justice, and righteousness.” (Jer. 9:22-23).
The Jewish concept of humility is based on a reasonable estimate of the world and of the proper worth of human beings. Abraham, Moses (described as the humblest man on earth), Gideon (who refused a crown), and David are set up as types of humility and meekness.
The Hebrew words usually translated as humility are tsenu`im (a plural word conveying a singular idea in English), and the more common one, `anavah. The word tsenu`im comes from a verb root meaning ‘to be modest or lowly’, and `anavah comes from a verb root meaning ‘to be modest, or meek’.
Humility is a virtuous estate to be achieved, where one realises and understands one’s modest place in the universe and in the infinite scheme of time, and that everything is ultimately under the control, and in the loving care of YHVH.
God’s Promises to the Humble
The prophet Isaiah says, ‘This is the one I esteem: the one who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word’. (Isaiah 66:2b)
The psalmist says, ‘The meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.’ (Psalm 37:11). This sentiment is echoed by the prophet Yeshua` in the Beatitudes: ‘Blessed are the meek, because they shall inherit the land.’ (S.Yesh. 3:2b = Mt 5:5)
‘He guides the humble in what is right, and teaches them His way.’ (Psalm 25:9)
’YHVH takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.’ Psalm 149:4
Someone who is humble in spirit is someone who acknowledges that God is in charge. Someone who thinks that their beliefs alone are right, and seeks forced justification for their beliefs in the bible, reading things that are not there, is one who is haughty and proud; but one who seeks God’s will directly, and accepts God’s hand to lead them, that person is humble. Such a person has a living relationship with YHVH, and will prosper:
’Humility and the reverent awe of YHVH bring wealth and honour and life.’ (Prov 22:4)
The Israelite people, and indeed all who follow YHVH, are called to be a people humble before God, who are able to achieve great things; but so that the reputation of YHVH may be spread throughout the earth, the nations should see that it is YHVH who causes those great things to be done, not human beings:
“Unless YHVH build the house, its builders labour in vain.”(Ps127:1).
The prophet Yeshua` said, ‘Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.’ (S.Yesh. 19:1-2)
This reflects concepts from several verses from the Bible, ‘YHVH sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.’ (Psalm 147:6) and, ‘You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.’ (2Sam 22:28)
He also taught, ‘Whoever humbles themselves like a child will be the greatest in the kingdomof God.’ (S.Yesh. 149:1). A child of YHVH is called to service, and that service was possible by becoming child-like towards God.
‘The practice of religion with humility and compassion’
This is a common saying to describe the spirit of Talmidaism. In it we admit that God is in charge; that we do not have all the answers ourselves, but that if we trust in YHVH our Heavenly Father, we will prosper and succeed in everything we do. It reflects the Yahwist belief that putting our complete and total trust in anyone and anything else will cause our endeavours to end in failure.
Pagan religion, with its belief in predestination and in sacred mysteries which ordain our destiny irrespective of merit or good works, did not in practice encourage humility or meekness, but gave rise to religious overbearing and arrogance. An individual may preach humility, but the overall religion itself practiced pride and arrogance to those of other religions.
So-called religious people think that because they carry out the externals of their religion, that is all God requires, but these religious people do not do what is pleasing to God. In contrast, the prophet Isaiah tells us what kind of person God looks upon with high regard.
“The skies are my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What house could you possibly build for me? What place could you possibly give Me for My rest? Has not My hand made all these things, and so they came into being? Whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; …… They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations. Rather this is the one whom I esteem: the one who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word.” (Isa. 66:1, 3, 2).