What Does Meek Mean In the Bible?

Readers find the concept of meekness in some of the most memorable verses in the New Testament. One of Jesus Christ’s most famous teachings includes a statement about the importance of meekness and its result. The Apostle Paul also referred to it several times.

In the Bible, meek means gentle. The word describes a person who is humble, caring, and selfless. The opposite of meekness is pride regarding oneself and cruelty in relation to others. Jesus called himself meek, as did Paul. The New Testament instructs Christians to be meek.

What does the Greek word for “meek” mean? What does Jesus say about it in the Gospel of Matthew? How do major English translations render the Greek word? Is there a difference between meekness and gentleness? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also, see What Is Hyssop in the Bible? to learn more.

What does the Greek word for “meek” mean? See below

The New Testament Greek Word for Meek

The Greek word translated as “meek” is praus. It appears 11 times in the New Testament. About the word praus, a well-reviewed New Testament Greek dictionary reads, “Gentleness means to approach others (including one’s enemies) in a humble and caring spirit, not using force to get one’s way.” [1]

Greek wordπραΰς
Part of speechadjective
Translationmild or gentle

Meekness in Matthew 5:5

The most well-known Bible verse about meekness is Matthew 5:5, which reads, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” in the KJV. Most Bible translations render praus as “meek” or “gentleness.”

Is there a difference between meekness and gentleness? According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the English word “meek” means “enduring injury with patience and without resentment.” The word “gentle” has a similar meaning: “free from harshness, sternness, or violence.” [2]

TranslationMatthew 5:5
NIVBlessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
NLTGod blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
ESVBlessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
KJVBlessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
NKJVBlessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
NASBBlessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Christian author Jerry Bridges argues that there is a difference between meek and gentle. “Gentleness is an active trait, describing the manner in which we should treat others. Meekness is a passive trait, describing the proper Christian response when others mistreat us.” [3]

Also, see What Is a Cubit in the Bible? to learn more.

Why do the meek inherit the earth? See below

Blessed Are the Meek

Matthew, chapters 5-9, are commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount. The first section, Matthew 5:1-12, is called The Beatitudes. In the passage, Jesus identifies nine kinds of people that God blesses.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

A.W. Tozer explains: “The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life.”

He continues: “He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto.”

Why do the meek inherit the earth?

Some scholars cite Psalm 37:11 to explain why the meek inherit the earth. “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace” (ESV).

In the ancient world, violent and armed aggressors often acquired land, not kind, selfless and loving people. However, with God, the meek will experience a reversal of fortunes and inherit the land.

Other scholars think Jesus is referring to the new earth and his reign on it (Rev. 21:1). Another part of the description refers to followers of Jesus receiving an inheritance: “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” (Rev. 21:7, NIV, emphasis added).

Also, see Where is Purgatory in the Bible? to learn more.

meek inherit
Where did Jesus refer to himself as meek? See below

Christians Should Be Meek Like Jesus

Matthew commentator Michael Wilkins writes, “Jesus exemplifies best what it means to be gentle. It takes tremendous strength to bring others into God’s will, but when that strength is coupled with selfless nonassertiveness, it produces a gentle person who can patiently endure much to bring about God’s purpose for people.” [4]

Jesus was gentle

Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29, ESV)

“I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!” (2 Cor. 10:1, ESV)

“Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'” (Matt. 21:5)

Christians should be gentle

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph. 4:1-2)

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Col. 3:12)

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Pet. 3:15)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:23-24)

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” (Jas. 3:13)

Also, see What is Circumcision in the Bible? to learn more.

[1] Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. p. 281.
[2] Source
[3] The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges. p. 181.
[4] Matthew by Michael Wilkins. NIVAC. p. 207.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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