Biblical Humility—A Key to the Kingdom

What is definition of humility? The Bible teaches us that humility is more than a mere theological abstraction, or simply an individualistic and introspective reality. It is an aspect of the social order and requirement of the kingdom of Elohim (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol 2, p. 776). Humility is something that has to be learned, so that it becomes a state of one’s heart and mind and that then will translate into a lifestyle, which determines what a person says,  and how one thinks and acts.

The biblical truth of justification by grace through faith speaks to the central importance and reality of humility as evidenced in Yeshua’s Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee in Luke 18:9–14. The Pharisee’s lack of humility before Elohim entails arrogance towards others, resulting in rejection by Elohim. On the other hand, the publican who humbled himself before the Almighty by admitting his sinful condition and plight was justified in the courts of heaven. The people who know that their salvation is a result of Elohim’s grace do not act presumptuously toward others (ibid. pp. 776–777). The well-known saying, “There for the grace of God, go I” should be a conscious reality in the heart and mind of every Bible believer. The ISBE goes on to say, “The reign of God constitutes a realm in which all previous ideas of prestige, privilege, and protocols are transformed. To submit to God’s kingship is to participate in a new social reality. ‘Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ (Matt 18:1). The one who submits to the rule of God.”

What  Is Biblical Humility in More Detail?

Let’s now go further to define the word humility from a biblical Hebraic perspective.

Humility or humbleness is a modest or low view of one’s own importance. It is “a freedom from arrogance  that grows out of the recognition that all we have and are comes from God” (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary). To the heathen Greek philosophers of the biblical era, “humility implied inadequacy, lack of dignity, and worthlessness….This is not the meaning of humility as defined by the Bible” (ibid.) In the world, pride in self not only is an accepted trait, but is expected of leaders and people of renown. As is the case here and in other areas of human understanding, the ways of Elohim are not only not men’s ways, but often the opposite.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith YHVH. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8–9)

For disciples of Yeshua the Messiah, he is the central focal point of all biblical truth including the living example of how humility is to be walked out.  The same is true of humility. Yeshua was the ultimate biblical example of humility in that he came from heaven, humbled himself and became a human, and was then murdered by the hands of sinners. 

Who, being in the form of Elohim, thought it not robbery to be equal with Elohim: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Phil 2:5–8)

Yeshua taught about and lived a humble lifestyle and then died a humble death as mankind’s Savior.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matt 11:29)

[Yeshua] riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. … If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. (John 13:4–5, 14–15)

Let this mind be in you, which was also in the Messiah Yeshua. (Phil 2:5)

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

With regard to humility, Yeshua blazed a new path, which his disciples have been endeavoring to follow ever since.

Yeshua and his apostles showed us that true humility is not a matter of play-acting by putting on appearances by feigning through ostentation or show (Matt 6:16–18). Rather, it is a realistic self-appraisal based on truth, and not an inflated view of oneself. 

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as Elohim hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Rom 12:3)

What are the ramifications of true humility? What are its practical applications in every day life? The Bible in many places explains the outworking of humility. For example, humility involves not praising oneself, but praising or lifting other (instead of self) up.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Phil 2:3)

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. (Rom 12:10)

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of Elohim. (Eph 5:21)

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for Elohim resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (1 Pet 5:5)

And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 14:7–11)

Biblical humility recognizes that of ourselves we are nothing, inadequate, without dignity and worthless, but because we were created in Elohim’s image, and because Yeshua has redeemed us and is living inside of us, we have infinite dignity, worth as well as the potential to be delivered from our sinful nothingness and to become his redeemed and glorified children (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p. 497).

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. (Isa 64:6)

Humility recognizes the fact that we of ourselves, without Elohim’s help, can do nothing.

When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Yeshua beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with Elohim all things are possible. (Matt 19:25–26)

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5)

The Word Humble or Humility Defined

Let’s now take our spiritual magnifying glasses and fine tune our understanding of humility from a biblical perspective. The Hebrew word for humility is anav, which means “poor, humble, afflicted, meek, needy, weak, lowly, meek.” According to The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, the primary definition of anav comes from its root, which is the verb anah meaning “to force, to try to force submission, to punish, to inflict pain upon.”Anah also means “to find oneself in a stunted, humble or lowly position.” What can we learn from this? Humility doesn’t come easily for a person! It’s not a naturally occurring character trait. We have to get knocked down a bit before we learn humility, if even then. Coming to a place of humility often involves one going through punishment, pain, forced submission or being knocked down to a lowly position. 

The Theological Word Book of the Old Testament (or The TWOT) goes on to explain how the verb anah is used in the Tanakh or Old Testament.

  • Anah describes what one does to one’s enemy (what Sarah inflicted upon Hagar in Gen 16:6). Does this not give us a clue what we must do to our pride (the opposite of humility)? In order to become humble, we must wound and afflict our pride. Wasn’t Hagar and here offspring, Ishmael, a function of Abraham’s pride and ingenuity in opposition to the will of Elohim? This act of human pride had disastrous effects, which last even to this day in the on-going and perennial Arab Israeli conflict.
  • Anah describes the pain that was inflicted upon Joseph’s ankles when we has shackled in prison (Ps 105:18). Is this what we must do to our human pride? Imprison it in shackles and inflict pain on it? Or maybe this is how YHVH disciplines us because of our pride in order to humble us.
  • Anah also describes how Elohim afflicts his enemies (Deut 26:6). Human pride is an abomination in the sight of Elohim and something he hates (Prov 6:16–17). Perhaps, some of the affliction that comes to us in our lives is from Elohim who is chastening us because we still have too much pride.

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, Elohim dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (Heb 12:5–7)

  • Anah is the humbling affliction Elohim uses on us to prompt repentance. 

And thou shalt remember all the way which YHVH thy Elohim led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of YHVH doth man live. (Deut 8:2–3)

Here YHVH allowed the Israelites to be tested and afflicted and to suffer in order to humble them. Maybe YHVH does the same to us because of our stubborn pride that is constantly asserting we’re better than we really are.

Another biblical theme related to anav is the “self-inflicted inner pain expressing contrition and often accompanied by fasting” (ibid.). Afflicting one’s soul or fasting is part of the Day of Atonement commandments (Lev 16:29, 31; Isa 58:10 cp. v. 3). 

Moreover, and as we’ve discussed above, but it’s worth noting again, Yeshua the Messiah afflicted himself for the sins of his people (Ps 53:7). He humbled himself from is lofty glorious position of deity (Phil 2:6–8) in order to deliver his people from the sin of pride along with all of man’s other sins. The TWOT goes on to explain that not only did Messiah afflict or humble himself, but humans, in their sinful pride, afflicted or humbled him by condemning him to death. Pride is a heinous and destructive sin! Human pride (the opposite of humility) caused the death of the Messiah. Moreover, pride blinds the sinner to his own sinfulness and to his need for a Savior. This is in part why Yeshua, while dying on the cross, declared to those who put him there, “Father forgive them, for they know no what they do.”

Sometimes, Elohim requires us to willingly submit to affliction and humbling at the hands of others for our own good. This was the case when the Messenger of Elohim instructed Hagar to return to Sarah, her persecutor (Gen 16:9). Many times a saint will find themselves in a place of affliction due to a difficult spouse, child, parent, employer, close friend, the government or some other authority figure from whose influence they can’t escape. In these situations, Yeshua instructs us to turn the other cheek, to bless those who curse us, to pray for them, and even to love them (Matt 5:44). He also promises not to give us more affliction or “humble medicine” that what we can handle (1 Cor 10:13). In these situations, we have to trust  that YHVH is allowing us to go through our affliction for our own benefit and character development—to teach us humility—and that he will deliver us from our trial when we have learned our lessons.

We have just analyzed how the Tanakh uses the root word behind the Hebrew word anah meaning “poor, humble, afflicted, meek, needy, weak, lowly or meek.” Now let’s look at the usage of anav in the Tanakh as well.

The TWOT  informs us that the adjective anav “stresses the moral and spiritual condition of the godly as the goal of affliction implying that this state is joined with a suffering life rather than with one of worldly happiness and abundance.” 

Anav or humility is the result or intended outcome of affliction. The TWOT suggests that Moses’ description of himself as the meekest or humblest man alive in Numbers 12:3 is, in reality, no proud boast, but merely a report of his position—one of absolute dependence of Elohim. Certainly, as a prince of Egypt, Moses, from his forty years exile in the wilderness of Midian to another forty years leading the children of Israel through that same wilderness, experienced great affliction resulting in his learning humility and meekness. Indeed, Elohim called Moses to this vocation and allowed him to go through this suffering for Moses’ own character development. Moses was a prophetic foreshadow of the Messiah who not only was humiliated through suffering, but also learned something from his experience as a mortal being, namely, obedience to his Father (Heb 5:8).

From one end of Scripture to the other, humility is a character trait that is lauded and blessed by heaven.

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith YHVH: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. (Isa 66:2)

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:3)

Humility is a character trait that YHVH requires of his people.

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth YHVH require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy Elohim? (Mic 6:8)

The Benefits of Humility

Although the godly character trait of humility is not natural to most humans, and is something that must be learned and determinately practiced, it is worth the effort. The Bible reveals that humility yields many wonderful blessings.

As just noted above, both Moses and Yeshua benefited by enduring affliction and learning humility. Here are some benefits of learning humility:

  • The meek, humble and contrite of heart are blessed of Elohim and will be rewarded with entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:3)

  • The meek or humble or more open to hearing the gospel message. 

 The Spirit of the Lord YHVH is upon me; because YHVH hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. (Isa 61:1)

  • YHVH is closer to those who are humble and will saves them.

YHVH is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. (Ps 34:18)

  • YHVH will justify, save and give grace to the humble, not the proud.

Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.  (Prov 3:34)

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, Elohim be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:13–14)

  • YHVH respects or favors the humble as compared to the proud. 

Though YHVH be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. (Ps 138:6)

Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matt 23:12)

  • Honor will come to those who are humble; those who are proud will be abased.

A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit. (Prov 29:23)

  • YHVH will exalt or lift up those who are humble.

So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. (Matt 20:16)

Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matt 23:12) 

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of Elohim, that he may exalt you in due time. (1 Pet 5:6)

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (Jas 4:10)

  • The humble will receive salvation. Why? Because they trust in Elohim, not in themselves. Because they are humble enough to admit that they need help and can’t save themselves from their problems.

YHVH, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear. (Ps 10:17)

When Elohim arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth. (Ps 76:9)

Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly. (Prov 3:34)

  • YHVH will guide the meek and humble and teach them his ways. This is because they’re not too proud to realize that they don’t know it all, and to trust in YHVH as the source of understanding, wisdom and knowledge.

The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. (Ps 25:9)

  • The meek or humble shall inherit the earth.

But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. (Ps 37:11)

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (Matt 5:5)

  • YHVH commends the humble. 

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. (Prov 16:18–19)

How to Gain Humility

The Scriptures reveal that there are several practical ways for one to learn humility. 

  • Don’t forget where you came from.

And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and YHVH thy Elohim redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day. (Deut 15:15)

When we forget our humble origins or our sinful past, it’s easy to become lifted up in pride. For those who were born into a godly or Christian environment, or into a biblically-oriented family and who don’t have a dark past of blatant sin, it’s easy to view yourself as better than you really are and to have a high opinion of yourself. This can be a spiritual a trap resulting in one thinking that we really don’t need Elohim, Yeshua’s sin atoning death, the Set-Apart Spirit to guide us, or an ongoing personal relationship with Elohim through a relationship with Yeshua. “After all,” we reason within ourselves,  I’m a ‘good’ person who has never really done anything that bad.” This notion is reinforced by the post-Christian, secular humanistic society around us that is constantly bombarding us with the message sin isn’t sin anymore, that you can do whatever you want to please yourself, that the rules and boundaries of the Bible are meaningless and archaic fables, or that God is either non-existent or irrelevant. In this atmosphere, it’s too easy to slip into a mental mind-set of human pride, to become lifted up, and to feel okay about one’s spiritual lukewarmness or even outright sin.

How can we keep ourselves from falling into pride? Here are several suggestions:

  • Keep your brain washed regularly in the truth of the Bible instead of the secular “wisdom” or mind of man that permeates modern culture and that all too often informs our thinking and molds our mindsets including the way we view ourselves. When the Bible informs our thinking and not secular society, we’ll tend to be more humble.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Prov 14:12)

  • Observe the biblical holiday of Yom Kippur where the saints of Elohim humble themselves annually. At that time, we are reminded of our great pride and our need to humble through affliction, confession and repentance of sin.
  • Become a servant to others.

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matt 23:11–12)

  • Become a humble and teachable like a child.

At the same time came the disciples unto Yeshua, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Yeshua called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. (Matt 18:3–4)

  • Don’t have a high opinion of yourself.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as Elohim hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Rom 12:3)

Esteem others better than yourself.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves [or count others better than yourself]. (Phil 2:3)

The word esteem in this verse in the Greek word hegeomai  meaning “ to consider, deem, account or to think” others better than you as well as “to let others go before you, to rule or have authority over you.” 

The ultimate example of humility is the life of Yeshua the Messiah. Study and emulate his life.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Messiah Yeshua: Who, being in the form of Elohim, thought it not robbery to be equal with Elohim: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore Elohim also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name. (Phil 2:5–9)


Learning humility doesn’t come easily for humans, since we all have a carnal nature that is indigenously inclined toward vanity, arrogance or pride. It’s just a part of us, and it’s hard to spot pride in ourselves, although it’s easy to spot pride in others. Often we don’t care to be around prideful people forgetting that we’re that way ourselves. 

Fighting the hidden sin of pride is a never-ending battle. Pride is one of the sins that YHVH hates the most and calls an abomination. In fact it is first on the list of the “seven deadly sins”:

These six things YHVH hates, yes seven are an abomination to him: a proud look… (Prov 6:16–17)

When, with YHVH’s help, we master our human pride and begin to walk in true humility, the rewards and blessings are extraordinary and eternal. As Yeshua proclaimed,

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:3)


4 thoughts on “Biblical Humility—A Key to the Kingdom

  1. Our ways are not Yah’s ways. We need to crucify our flesh, maybe that’s why He said take up your cross and follow me-to the crucifying of the flesh. If man shall not live=die, by bread alone which is why we need the Word of God in us because it is life. And the Word says to humble yourselves or else He will do it for us. If I am using J. Benner’s Ancient Hebrew lexicon of the Bible correctly then “weak” can mean ‘to be brought down low, as the head in humility, to lower the head (1081 B, page 93) Interesting because this pride in in our head! Which is why we need to let this mind be in us which is in Yeshua Messiah! Also when we are weak (humbled?) He is strong (again the lexicon this can mean mighty or ruling pictured by such as a Shepherd’s staff!) Me like 🙂

  2. Wonderful what Abba does for us….. Pretty much all haughty liars in one way or another before our meeting with Yeshua.

    Then being picked up and going through the washing machine cycles to get out the deep stains. Can get pretty rough tumbling around but we stay in as long as it takes and if we come out and the stain isn’t removed ………in we go again.

    This flesh pride takes some getting out when you let it set as habit.

    Natan this was tremendous to read, a real blessing as I have had a real season of growth after the Spirit guided me to pray to be worthy of the Kingdom and pride seems to be the big area of my ego that I have avoided seeing or not been enabled to see and confront because I wasn’t ready to deal with the depth of self deception, until some other issues were sorted a bit more..

    I attach humility with true peace as well. The storms of life seem different when riding in the humility position (lowly) you don’t get tossed about the same. What a gift.

    Blessings to all.
    love in Messiah

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