Thursday, January 23, 2014
Different Types of Biblical Love -- HESED & RAChAM
Today, I received an email with the following question:
In the Hebrew Bible, what is the difference between hesed and rahamim?
These are two very important biblical words that are translated by the same English words often, but they have very important differences.
(If you haven’t downloaded and learned how to use our FREE Hebrew-English Transliterator CLICK HERE for Part 1 & CLICK HERE for Part 2. These are very short exercises that teach you how to use the BHC Hebrew-English Transliterator. It will transform the way you study your Bible. The Hebrew Lexicon we use and recommend is A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by William L. Holladay. For more information about it, or how to order your copy -- CLICK HERE.)
The first word we will examine is HESED.
The definition is found in A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by William L. Holladay on page 111a entry # II:
1. obligation to the community in relation to relatives, friends, guests, master, and servants; loyalty; faithfulness.
2. In relationship of God to people or individuals, faithfulness, kindness, grace.
The second word is RAChAM (rahamim is the plural form).
Its definition is found on page 337b:
1. show love for
2. have compassion on
When a Hebrew speaker sees or hears this word, they understand its relationship to another Hebrew word that has the same root and is found written exactly as the above word – RAChAM. Its meaning is found below the definition above:
I was discussing this with a rabbi many years ago and I haven’t forgotten what he said:
RAChAM means “to show love or compassion like a mother shows for her child.” It denotes a “motherly type of love.” This parental type of love is seen in Psalm 103:13 where RAChAM is used twice – “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”
On the other hand, HESED is “linked to a relationship based obligation” and denotes a “loyalty and faithfulness type of love.” This type of love is seen in Psalm 33:5 – “He loves (AHAV) righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the loving-kindness (HESED) of the LORD.”
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SHALOM & Be Empowered!