Longsuffering | Free Online Biblical Library

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LONGSUFFERING (Heb. ’erekh, ‘appayim, slow to anger, Gr. makrothymia). The noun preferred by KJV (other versions use “forbearance”) to account for the delay of the Lord in inflicting punishment or exercising his anger/wrath. The idea is that God delays his exercise of wrath to give time for repentance and amendment of life (Exod.34.6; Num.14.18; Ps.86.15; Jer.15.15; Rom.2.4; 2Pet.3.9). In a similar manner, Christ is said to be longsuffering (1Tim.1.16; 2Pet.3.15).

KJV also uses the noun to describe human beings (other versions use “patience” and “forbearance”). As so used, it refers to being patient especially when being faced with evil. It is one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5.22), for the Lord’s servants must be longsuffering (2Tim.2.24). The relation between divine and human longsuffering/forbearance/patience is conveyed by the parable of the unforgiving servant told by Jesus in Matt.18.21-Matt.18.35 (where the verb makrothymeō, “to have patience,” is used in Matt.18.26 and Matt.18.29).——PT

’Ereke ’appayim means lit. “length of noses” or “faces.” Hence “length of wrath” (or “slowness of anger”) because anger is manifested by violent, rapid breathing through one’s nostrils. Makrothumía is lit. “long of mind” or “soul” (considered as the locus of the emotions); opposed to shortness of soul or mind, i.e., impatience, intolerance.

The divine longsuffering is illustrated by (1) the song of the vineyard (Isa 5:1-7), and two parables, viz., (2) the wicked husbandmen (Matt 21:33-41), and (3) the barren fig tree (Luke 13:6-9).

Christians ought to imitate God’s long-suffering (Rom 15:5) and plead it in prayer (Jer 15:15). In the NT longsuffering is a virtue which enables the disciple to carry his cross patiently (2 Cor 6:6; Eph 4:2; 2 Tim 4:2). See Patience.


A. Clarke, A Commentary and Critical Notes, I (n.d.), 68; J. Owen, “Of Communion With God The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” Works, II (1850-1853), 85f.; J. Wesley, “Sermon XXII Upon Our Lord’s Sermon On The Mount,” Works, V (1872), 276; J. T. Mueller, Christian Dogmatics (1934), 174f.; J. Smith and R. Lee, Handfuls On Purpose, I (1947), 247; F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, I (1950), 461; P. Melanchthon, “Apology Of The Augsburg Confession,” The Book of Concord (c. 1959), IV. 160. 345; L. Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine (1965), 67f.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)