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Greek Word Study - Indignant

Plato called it the “soul in ferment,” an inner anguish like that of “a baby cutting teeth.” It described his grief and outrage at the death of Socrates, as well as his vexation at the thought of dying himself. The classical Greek word for this was aganakteo (ah gahn ahk TEH oh), which we usually translate as “to be indignant.” ¬

Josephus had a special fondness for the word, using it 55 times in his writings. Whenever someone was “reluctantly” compelled to oppose the “outrageous” conduct of another, he was indignant. Much against his own desire, for instance, Pompey's indignation at the behavior of Aristobulus forced him to lay siege to Jerusalem in 63 B.C. In the following century it was again indignation that forced the Romans to destroy Jerusalem and its temple--reluctantly, of course. The rebels were indignant at the Romans, the peaceful citizens were indignant at the rebels, and Josephus was indignant at everyone’s failure to follow his own sound advice.

Whenever you are unarguably in the right, and your opponent is inexcusably in the wrong, you have reason--nay, you have the duty—to be indignant!
What marvelous indignation the ruler of the synagogue felt when he opposed the upstart rabbi who dared to heal a woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:14). How righteous were the indignant priests who protested the children’s hosannas (Mark 14:4). Likewise, behold the injured innocence of the disciples as they indignantly resented the secret attempt of James and John to get seats of power (Mark 10:41). And when Mary lavishly wasted all that perfume on Jesus, little wonder that the disciples--especially Judas--were consumed with righteous indignation (Matthew 26:8).

Only once in the New Testament is the verb “be indignant” found in its proper place. When Jesus saw his own disciples turning away the little children, he was rightfully, unselfishly indignant (Mark 10:14).

Therefore, the next time you find your soul “in ferment” and grievously vexed over what someone has done, stop and check your motives. Righteous indignation isn’t always right!