How Many Times is “Repent” Mentioned in the Bible?

Repentance is a central biblical concept. But exactly how often does Scripture mention “repent” or related words? In this comprehensive article, we will explore the frequency and meaning of “repent” throughout both the Old and New Testaments.


The specific word “repent” occurs 80 times total in the Bible, according to the New King James Version. This includes 23 times in the Old Testament and 57 times in the New Testament. Looking closely at the context and Hebrew/Greek meanings provides valuable insight into the biblical doctrine of repentance.

How Many Times is “Repent” Mentioned in the Bible?

Old Testament Usage

In the Old Testament, the main Hebrew word translated “repent” is נָחַם (nacham). It occurs around 108 times and can mean to be sorry, moved to pity, have compassion, or comfort oneself. It has the sense of grieving over something, being regretful, or changing one’s mind.

The word נָחַם predominately shows up in prophets such as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. The prophets repeatedly warned God’s people to turn from their sinful ways and return to the Lord. They called Israel and Judah to repent from various sins such as idolatry, social injustice, religious hypocrisy, and breaking the covenant.

For example, Ezekiel urged, “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations” (Ezekiel 14:6). Jeremiah said, “Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings” (Jeremiah 26:3).

Other Hebrew words translated “repent” include שׁוּב (shub), meaning to turn back or return, and נָחָם (nacham) meaning to be sorry or comfort oneself. Overall, when the Old Testament speaks of repentance, it means a sincere turning from sin in one’s heart that results in righteous living.

The book of Jonah provides a narrative example of repentance. Though reluctant at first, Jonah preached coming judgment to the pagan city of Nineveh. In response, the people turned from their evil ways, even fasting and wearing sackcloth (Jonah 3). When God saw their genuine change of heart and behavior, Scripture says He “relented from the disaster” (Jonah 3:10).

So in the Old Testament, repentance is closely tied with turning away from wickedness and turning back to the Lord. God responds with mercy when people’s repentance is sincere and wholehearted.

New Testament Usage

The New Testament contains even more references to repentance – about 57 instances of the word “repent” itself. beyond just statistics, looking closely at the context illuminates the biblical meaning of repentance.

The main Greek word translated “repent” is μετανοέω (metanoeo), occurring 34 times. It means to change one’s mind or purpose, always in a positive moral or religious sense. A related word μετάνοια (metanoia) meaning repentance or a change of heart is used 24 times.

John the Baptist began his ministry preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). When he saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized, he said to them “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). To repent meant more than just showing up – they must demonstrate a changed life.

When Jesus began preaching, His message echoed John’s: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus said He came to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). He warned cities like Chorazin and Bethsaida that refused to repent, even though they saw His miracles (Matthew 11:20-24).

After His resurrection, Jesus told the disciples “repentance for forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). At Pentecost, Peter urged the crowd, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

Paul declared that God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). He reasoned that God’s kindness is meant to lead people to repentance (Romans 2:4). Throughout Acts, Paul and others preached repentance toward God and faith in Christ.

The Epistles also instruct churches to turn from sinful practices. For example, Revelation repeatedly warns five of the seven churches to repent from sins such as idolatry, sexual immorality, and spiritual complacency.

So in the New Testament, repentance is a change of mind and heart that leads to a changed life in obedience to Christ. The gospel calls all people everywhere – not just God’s covenant people – to repent and believe.

The Meaning of Biblical Repentance

Looking at all 80 occurrences of “repent” in their contexts shapes a biblical understanding of repentance. At its core, repentance means turning away from sin and turning back to God.

True repentance involves:

  • A change of mind and heart about sin – realizing it offends God’s holy character.
  • A sorrow for sin that leads to a change of behavior – 2 Corinthians 7:10 says “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation.”
  • Turning from all known sin – repenting from specific actions, attitudes, and idolatry.
  • Turning to Christ in wholehearted commitment – surrendering to Him as Savior and Lord.
  • Bearing fruit in keeping with repentance – demonstrating new obedience, purity, and love.
  • Persevering in faith and holiness – making repentance a lifestyle.

So repentance is not merely feeling sorry or guilty. It requires decisively turning away from sin and turning to God by faith. When repentance is genuine, God responds with mercy and forgiveness.


In summary, the word “repent” occurs around 80 times in the Bible – stressing an important change of heart and life in response to God’s Word. Both the Old and New Testaments emphasize this theme, culminating with Christ and the apostles calling everyone everywhere to repent and believe. The biblical doctrine of repentance remains crucial for followers of Jesus to understand and apply today.

As 2 Peter 3:9 reminds us, God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” May this motivate us to regularly examine our lives and repent from anything displeasing to the Lord, turning wholly to Him.

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