Defamation, disgrace, or scorn, whether for just cause or not. Commonly translated from the Greek noun o·nei·di·smosʹ (and oʹnei·dos) and the Hebrew noun cher·pahʹ.—Compare Ge 30:23; Ps 69:9; Lu 1:25; Ro 15:3.
Causes for reproach could, of course, vary according to circumstances. For an Israelite male to be uncircumcised during the period of the Law covenant would be cause for reproach. (Compare Jg 14:3.) Thus when all the males born during the wilderness journey were finally circumcised just after the crossing of the Jordan, Jehovah stated: “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you.” (Jos 5:2-9) Since the evidence indicates that the Egyptians practiced circumcision, this may mean that now the Egyptians would have no basis for reproaching Israel because so many of its males were uncircumcised. (Jer 9:25, 26; see CIRCUMCISION.) On the other hand, circumcision was “a sign of the covenant” between Jehovah and Abraham’s seed. (Ge 17:9-11) Now, by this circumcision of the new generation that had grown up in the wilderness (the older generation having died there), circumcision could point to a reaffirming of their covenant relationship with God. The 40 years of wandering having ended, God was also showing them his favor; he had introduced them into the Promised Land and would now enable them to conquer it. Therefore any past Egyptian taunts, or reproach, because of what may have seemed to the Egyptians to be inability of Jehovah to bring Israel into a land of their own were now proved false. Christians under the new covenant, whether Jew or Gentile, were not subject to reproach for uncircumcision.—Ro 2:25-29; 3:28-30; 4:9-12; 1Co 7:18, 19.
For Hebrew women, continuous singleness or widowhood (Isa 4:1; 54:4), also barrenness (Ge 30:23; Lu 1:25), was viewed as a reproach. God’s promise concerning the Abrahamic seed and its becoming like “the grains of sand that are on the seashore” doubtless contributed to this feeling. (Ge 22:15-18; compare 24:59, 60.) By contrast, the apostle Paul commended singleness on the part of both men and women where the motive was service to God with undivided attention, and he said of the widow that “she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my opinion.”—1Co 7:25-28, 32-40; compare Mt 19:10-12.
Wrongs such as idolatry, adultery, thievery, and other types of immorality, however, were constant in being cause for reproach, as was all disloyalty to God.—2Sa 13:13; Pr 6:32, 33; Ro 1:18-32; 2:17-24.
Those seeking God’s approval cannot be defaming others. Concerning one who would be a guest in God’s tent, the psalmist declared: “To his companion he has done nothing bad, and no reproach has he taken up against his intimate acquaintance,” that is, he does not spread defamatory information about his intimate acquaintance. (Ps 15:1, 3) One who defrauds the lowly one or holds him in derision actually reproaches God (Pr 14:31; 17:5), as do those who level reproach against God’s servants. (Ps 74:18-23) Ultimately such reproaching leads to calamity for those engaging in it.—Zep 2:8-10.
Jehovah Silences Reproach of His People. When the Israelites engaged in false worship or in unrighteous practices, they reproached Jehovah God, because they made the worship of Jehovah appear no better than that of the nations around them. (Isa 65:7) For their unfaithfulness God permitted calamity to befall them, causing them to become an object of reproach among the nations. (Eze 5:14, 15) Not appreciating that the judgment was from God, other nations attributed it to his inability to save Israel, so additional reproach was brought upon Jehovah. Therefore, in restoring the Israelites on the basis of their repentance, Jehovah cleared his name of such reproach.—Eze 36:15, 20, 21, 30-36.
Whenever situations arise that make it appear that God has seemingly forsaken his people, others conclude that he is not protecting or blessing them and so they heap reproach upon them. (Ps 31:9-11; 42:10; 74:10, 11; 79:4, 5; 102:8, 9; Joe 2:17-19) But eventually Jehovah demonstrates his saving acts and thereby silences those who reproach.—Ne 1:3; 2:17; 4:4; 6:16.
Bearing Reproach for Sake of Christ. Also, in carrying out their commission, Jehovah’s servants have been reproached by those to whom they were sent. This was the experience of Jeremiah (Jer 6:10; 15:15-18; 20:8), of Christ Jesus (Mt 27:44; Mr 15:32; Ro 15:3), and of his followers (Heb 10:33). An individual who is reproached for the sake of Christ has reason for rejoicing, because his continued faithfulness under such reproach leads to a great reward in the heavens (Mt 5:11; Lu 6:22, 23) and constitutes a proof of his having God’s spirit. (1Pe 4:14) Therefore, reproach should not be feared. To those knowing righteousness, Jehovah said: “Do not be afraid of the reproach of mortal men, and do not be struck with terror just because of their abusive words.”—Isa 51:7.
Although knowing the great reproach that would come upon him, Jesus voluntarily submitted to the doing of his Father’s will to the point of dying a shameful death on a torture stake. (Isa 53:3-7; Joh 10:17, 18; Heb 12:2; 13:12, 13) To render good to others, he did not seek to please himself but was willing to take reproach from persons who by word and deed reproached Jehovah God. The apostle Paul pointed to this when highlighting the right attitude toward spiritually weak ones: “We, though, who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong, and not to be pleasing ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding. For even the Christ did not please himself; but just as it is written: ‘The reproaches of those who were reproaching you have fallen upon me.’” (Ro 15:1-3) In the previous chapter (Ro 14), Paul had discussed the weaknesses of some Christians who had conscientious scruples regarding certain foods or the observance of a certain day; he had shown the need to avoid being a cause for stumbling such ones and the need to build them up. This would likely mean that those strong in understanding, faith, and conscience would have to restrict themselves in the exercise of their rights, and this might be somewhat unpleasant to them. Nevertheless, they must “bear” (the verb here allowing both the sense of “carry” and “put up with or endure” [compare Ga 6:2; Re 2:2]) whatever burdens such weaknesses might cause them, imitating Christ. (Compare Mt 17:17-20; also Moses’ expression at Nu 11:10-15.) Additionally, they should not simply forge ahead in their own pursuit of God’s favor, blessings, and rewards, while pushing aside these spiritually weak ones as an encumbrance or allowing them to be lopped off by the Adversary because of lack of consideration and help from these strong ones.—Compare 1Co 9:19-23; 10:23-33.
Avoid Bringing Reproach by Wrongdoing. While expecting reproach for righteousness’ sake, a Christian should never “suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a busybody in other people’s matters.” (1Pe 4:15, 16) One of the qualifications for an overseer in the Christian congregation is that he “have a fine testimony from people on the outside, in order that he might not fall into reproach.” This would prevent bringing dishonor to the position and would avoid the spread of unfavorable talk about true Christians because of the conduct of one of the prominent members of the congregation.—1Ti 3:7.