Word Study: Sin “Avoni”


I Kings 17:18: “And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God?  Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?”
Sin – Hebrew:  Avoni – Sin, to make crooked
We are familiar with the Hebrew word for sin, chatah, which means to miss or fall short of a target or mark.  Yet there is another word in Hebrew for sin and it is avoni which means to make something crooked, to pervert, and to fall short of an expected standard.  I Kings 17:18 tells the story of Elijah’s three years stay in with the widow woman in the Northern Kingdom while Elijah was a fugitive from Jezebel.  The Northern Kingdom was cut off from Jerusalem and temple worship.  Hence they were unable to worship God according to the laws of Moses, so the faithful to God devised their own substitute, so to speak, form of temple worship.  I remember a story of a young girl in the 1800’s who was sent to live with a relative out West.  Back in the East she attended church regularly but out West there was no church so every Sunday she would go out to the desert alone and read the Bible and pray as a substitute for her church attendance.  She felt condemned that she could not attend a real church but she loved God just the same and worshipped the best she could.
In the three years that Elijah lived with the widow woman, this woman came to realize that her form of worship was not the proper form, did not meet the proper standard and like this young girl out West, felt condemned for worshipping God in a way that was not considered proper.  It took a rather drastic move to finally convince this widow woman that her worship was acceptable to God and not an avoni or perversion of something proper.
Somewhere during the three year stay of Elijah, the woman’s son died.  She accuses Elijah of causing her son’s death because he calls her “sin (avoni)” into remembrance.   In Jewish literature, the Aggadic Midrash, Pesikta Rabbati chapter 3 it is suggested that what the woman was saying was that until Elijah came God only weighed her actions in comparison to the other people in her community and she was found worthy.  But with Elijah coming into her household God was weighing her actions in light of his righteousness and she was found lacking and as result her son died. Don’t you just hate that when people treat you, as Elijah,  like you are such a righteous person and you know in your heart that you are not all you are cracked up to be?   Elijah was very aware of his shortcomings, one of which was his inability to understand God’s ways.  Even Elijah questioned God as to why the son died in verse 20.
People often wonder how this woman could accuse Elijah of causing her son’s death after this great miracle of the bread and oil.   But put yourself in her shoes.   To her the blessing of the bread and oil was for Elijah’s sake, he was the righteous man, she certain wasn’t.  She benefited because he was staying with her and she did his cooking for him.  She was obedient, had faith in God, was prospering, then boom, her son died.  What would think?  Most people would think what this woman thought, “Hoo boy, my sin (avoni), my improper form of worship has found me out.”  If it were not for this righteous man showing the contrast, I might have kept my sin hidden.  Now it’s time to pay the piper.”
God made it quite clear to this woman and to Elijah, that her so called avoni (sin) had nothing to do with her misfortune and that was shown by her son’s resurrection.   Her son’s death was only to reaffirm that all that she had, her food, her newfound status, her son was all a gift of God and that the Lord gives and He can take away, blessed be the name of the Lord.
Avoni does exist, however.  This sin of perverting, making crooked, falling short of an expected standard can very well exist right in church and maybe with you.  Have you ever raised your hands in worship so people could see how spiritual you are, have you ever performed a service to draw attention to yourself?  Have you taken something like worship, something so dear to the heart of God and perverted it into an instrument to make you feel good and look good to others.  Then you are guilty of avoni – sin.