What does “froward” mean?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The word is found two dozen times in a King James Bible, mostly in Proverbs. Let us read them:

  • Deuteronomy 32:20: “And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.” (This does not sound good, does it?)
  • 2 Samuel 22:27: “With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself unsavoury.” (Repeated in Psalm 18:26: “With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.”)
  • Job 5:13: “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.”
  • Psalm 101:4: “A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.”
  • Proverbs 2:12,14-15: “[12] To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;…. [14] Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; [15] Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths:….”
  • Proverbs 3:32: “For the froward is abomination to the LORD: but his secret is with the righteous.”
  • Proverbs 4:24: “Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.”
  • Proverbs 6:12,14: “[12] A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth…. [14] Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord.”
  • Proverbs 8:8,13: “[8] All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them…. [13] The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.”
  • Proverbs 10:31-32: “[31] The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out. [32] The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.”
  • Proverbs 11:20: “They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight.”
  • Proverbs 16:28: “[28] A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends…. [30] He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass.”
  • Proverbs 17:20: “He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.”
  • Proverbs 21:8: “The way of man is froward and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right.”
  • Proverbs 22:5: “Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them.”
  • Isaiah 57:17: “For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.”
  • 1 Peter 2:18: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.”

It is this last instance that makes the sense the clearest: “froward” is the opposite of “good and gentle.” “Froward” is from the Old English “fraward,” meaning “leading away from” (as in shortening of “fromward;” “weard” is a Germanic base meaning “turn”). A simple definition for “forward” is “difficult to deal with; contrary.” Someone has “turned away.” If you re-read the verses above, it often describes the sinner being headstrong in refusing God’s path for life. Sinners do not want to cooperate with their Creator in accomplishing His will. Another way to think of it is perversity, drifting from the right course. Proverbs 23:33 says to this point: “Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things [“tahpukah,” same Hebrew word as “froward” in Deuteronomy 32:20—our first verse in the list].” Here, speech is far removed from sound Bible doctrine. It is nothing but falsehoods or lies.

Also see:
» What does “untoward” mean?
» What is the difference between apostasy and heresy?
» Can you explain the “spot” in Deuteronomy 32:5?