Discomfited – definition

Discomfited definition
Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

Discomfited – the definition according to two gospel models. This page includes the word “pricks.”

Traditional Legal Model – God’s action to destroy or at least aid in destroying the enemies of Israel.

Biblical Healing Model – God’s last-minute appeal to the conscience to turn to Him.

Modern Dictionary (dictionary.com)

Discomfit – verb (used with object)
to confuse and deject; disconcert: to be discomfited by a question.
to frustrate the plans of; thwart; foil.
Archaic. to defeat utterly; rout: The army was discomfited in every battle.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (webstersdictionary1828.com)

Discomfit – verb
To rout; to defeat; to scatter in fight; to cause to flee; to vanquish.

Oxford: (www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com)

Discomfit – verb
to make somebody feel confused or embarrassed

It could be related to our word “discomfort” or maybe to that funny word “discombobulate.” Here is an example of the use of the original word, in this verse of the KJV, translated as “destroy:”

“For indeed the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from among the host, until they were consumed.” (Deut 2:15)

That verse (discussed in detail here) reads as though God is destroying them but is that the true meaning; the Biblical definition of the original word?

“Discomfited” in the Bible, is translated from several different Hebrew words. However, in the verse above where it is given as “destroyed” and in all cases where God is indicated as doing it, the original word is “hamam” (H2000).

Here is one verse using discomfited that obviously involved physical force:

“And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” (Exo 17:13)

However, that is not describing an action by God and it is using a different original Hebrew word. From this point, we will focus on cases of discomfiting connected to God and using the Hebrew word “hamam” – the word we are trying to define.

Discomfited Not the Same as Destroyed

Does “discomfited” (from “hamam”) as performed by God always (or ever) mean to destroy as in to kill? Let’s consider some examples:

“And the LORD discomfited (H2000) Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.” (Jud 4:15)

Sisera couldn’t have fled away if discomfited there meant to be killed. That should be a clue to cause us to look more closely.

“And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled (H2000) the host of the Egyptians.” (Exo 14:24)

Does “troubled” mean destroyed in that case? No, it was the returning waters that drowned them. Did God send the water? No, He just stopped holding it up on both sides for Israel who were trusting in Him to pass through. God did not submerge the Egyptians (who did not trust in Him), gravity did. (But that is another subject.)

“And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city: for God did vex (H2000) them with all adversity.” (2 Chron 15:6)

Who destroyed them? They destroyed (from a different word) each other – “nation … of nation” and “city of city.” God only “vexed” them. The question is what does that mean and how did God do it?

Discomfiture Means Confusion

“And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled themselves, and they came to the battle: and, behold, every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture (H4103).” (1 Sam 14:20)

Many versions have “confusion” rather than discomfiture. For example:

“Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and came to the battle; and behold, every man’s sword was against his fellow Philistine, and there was very great confusion.” (1 Sam 14:20, NASB)

Something unusual and significant would have to be going on to cause enough confusion for Philistine soldiers to start turning on each other with their swords. While “discomfiture” is from a different Hebrew word in this case, it helps to see that the confusion is separate from the physical fighting with swords.

In the case of discomfiture resulting from something sent by God, it is a very interesting form of confusion.

Discomfiture by Hornets

Here is a clue as to what is happening in some of these cases:

“I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy (H2000 = “discomfited”) all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.” (Exo 23:27-28)

You don’t need to drive out people who are literally destroyed or killed. Also, a few verses later we are told:

“… for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.” (Exo 23:31)

It seems the “hornets” played a part but the Israelites actually drove them out. Please see the definition for hornets for a possible symbolic meaning to that term. From that Biblical definition of hornets it can be seen that “hornets,” can represent a call to the conscience. And so it seems that, in Exodus 23, God is not killing Israel’s enemies but appealing to their consciences which of course, would be to get them to change and repent.

Discomfiture by Arrows

Another symbol used in connection with the conscience is that of arrows. They were so used in connection with King David:

“For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand (H3027) presseth me sore.” (Psa 38:2)

See the definition for arrows which shows that they often (as hornets do) refer to calls to the conscience. On that page it is shown that “lightning” is used in the same way.

Discomfiture by Pricks

Consistent with both “hornets” and “arrows,” “pricks” also penetrate or pierce and do so metaphorically to the conscience.

Saul’s conscience was smitten:

“And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5)

The “pricks” (goads) were his conscience smitting him, telling him to change course.

“Pricks” is from:

2759 κέντρον kentron ken’-tron
from kenteo (to prick);
AV-sting 3, prick 2; 5

1) a sting, as that of bees, scorpions, locusts. Since animals wound by their sting and even cause death, Paul attributes death, personified as a sting, i.e. a deadly weapon
2) an iron goad, for urging on oxen, horses and other beasts of burden
2a) hence the proverb, “to kick against the goad,” i.e. to offer vain and perilous or ruinous resistance

The connection to bees or hornets can be seen in that definition. The e-Sword software mentions that this word means figuratively “divine impulse.”

Peter’s Pentecost message pricked many a conscience:

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

When they heard what?

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36)

There was the discomfiture; the troubling of the mind over past actions. The solution to those pricks was repentance and baptism (v38) with those responding positively to their consciences being saved:

“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41)

That is a very obvious connection to the conscience. There would have been plenty of guilt feelings and affliction of conscience there.

Smiting to Discomfit

There are cases where to smite (when done by God) refers to a call to the conscience to repent. A very good example is the case of King Herod which only a surface-reader would understand to be a case of God killing. In the Old Testament as well, there are good examples such as:

“In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.” (Jer 2:30)

See the definition for “smote.” for more evidence of an appeal to the conscience.


We can see that “discomfit” often refers to the state of mind resulting from a call to the conscience that has gone unheeded. That is important to a correct understanding of Deuteronomy 2:15.

All these words, referred to earlier on this page, point to that meaning:

  • Hornets
  • Arrows
  • Lightning
  • Pricks
  • Smite

And there are likely others. Remember, God is out to save, not destroy.

“For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” (Luke 9:56)

He will make many appeals to the conscience. He will use whatever means He can, consistent with His character, to awaken people to their spiritual danger. Likely, dear reader, you have felt some of those appeals yourself.

And in a life-or-death situation (such as when going into battle) God is most likely to make a last-minute appeal to the conscience. The evidence shows that in situations where Israel’s enemies were discomfited (using the meaning scripture gives) resulting in confusion and defeat in battle that was often the situation. If any were lost in the fighting but at the last minute turned to God then victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat.

This understanding of the Biblical meaning of discomfit is critical to understanding such key verses as Deuteronomy 2:15.

See a video of a group study on the meaning of discomfited.

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