Lovingkindness


For bibliography see Love.——JAM


LOVINGKINDNESS (חֶ֫סֶד, H2876, goodness, kindness; LXX usually ἔλεος, G1799, mercy, compassion, pity; also φιλανθρωπία, G5792, love for mankind, (loving) kindness of God). Kindness originating in personal attachment; tender and benevolent affection; esp. the loving care of the Creator for His rational creatures. (Originally “lovingkindness” was two words; the combination was coined by Coverdale.)

“Loving-kindness” occurs thirty times in the KJV but only once in the RSV (Titus 3:4). In the KJV it is invariably the tr. of ḥesed; whereas in these thirty examples (except Jer 9:24; 31:3) the RSV trs. “steadfast love.” In these same passages (except Jer 16:5; 31:3; 32:18) the LXX renders ḥesed as éleos.

Sometimes the RSV trs. ḥesed as “loyalty” or “kindness” but almost always “steadfast love”; whereas the KJV and ASV usually render ḥesed as “lovingkindness” or “mercy.” In the ASV ḥesed invariably appears as “lovingkindness” when it refers to God; but usually “kindness” when it concerns man (e.g., Gen 21:23; Judg 1:24; Ruth 3:10; 2 Chron 24:22; Job 6:14).

Ḥesed in the OT signifies an attitude of either God or man born out of mutual relationship. Hesed is the attitude that each expects of the other, e.g., master/subject, host/guest, friend/relative. Primarily ḥesed is not a disposition but a helpful action; it corresponds to a relationship of trust. Hesed in a sovereign protects his dominion; ḥesed gives men security in their mutual dealings.

Ḥesed also denotes “kindness” or “help” received from a superior. The meaning fluctuates between “obligation” (covenant), “faithfulness,” and “love” or “grace.” Frequently ḥesed is associated with forgiveness and is almost equal to “mercy” or “mercifulness” (Exod 20:6; 34:6, 7; Mic 7:18). However, the principal connotation of ḥesed is “loyal love”—a love which is associated with the covenant (Deut 7:12; 1 Sam 20:8). Men could always rely upon the divine ḥesed.

When ḥesed refers to God it indicates in general the divine love flowing out to sinners in unmerited kindness. On the divine side ḥesed comes to designate particularly grace. In a religious sense the ḥesed of God always signifies His merciful and faithful aid. (This restricted meaning is expressed by éleos.) God has promised ḥesed; one may expect it but dare never claim it.





Ḥesed is an essential and distinctive quality of God; but it should also characterize God’s people (Hos 4:1; 12:6; Mic 6:8). On God’s part perhaps ḥesed denotes paternal affection; on man’s part filial affection and brotherly love.

In later Judaism ḥesed is used to designate human kindness and pity. The rabbis employed ḥesed to signify the act of love; exhortations to mercy occur frequently. Especially, ḥesed means God’s mercy.

“Lovingkindness” is absent from the KJV NT, but equivalents are “mercy,” “goodness,” “kindness,” “brotherly love,” and maybe “grace.”

Bibliography

G. Vos, Biblical Theology (1948), 276; W. G. Scroggie, The Psalms, IV (1951), 201; M. Luther, Selected Psalms III, Vol. XIV of Works (c. 1958), 24, 28, 50f., 55, 105, 166, 201, 241, 254f., 272, 275, 320; J. J. S. Perowne, The Book of Psalms, II (1966), 204.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


When used of God checedh denotes, in general, "the Divine Love condescending to His creatures, more especially to sinners, in unmerited kindness" (Delitzsch). It is frequency associated with forgiveness, and is practically equivalent to "mercy" or "mercifulness" (Ex 20:6), "showing lovingkindness (the English Revised Version "mercy") unto thousands of them that love me"; Ex 34:6 f, "slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness (the English Revised Version "plenteous in mercy")"; (34:7) "keeping lovingkindness (the English Revised Version "mercy") for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (compare Nu 14:18); Mic 7:18, "He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in lovingkindness" (the English Revised Version "mercy"). This quality in Yahweh was one by which He sought to bind His people to Himself. It is greatly magnified in the Old Testament, highly extolled and gloried in, in many of the psalms (Ps 136 has the constant refrain, "For his lovingkindness endureth forever"). In De 7:12 it is associated with the covenant, and in 2Sa 7:15 with the covenant with David (compare Isa 55:3, etc.). It was something that could always be relied on.

Being such an essential and distinctive quality of God, the prophets taught that it should also characterize His people. It is part of the Divine requirement in Mic 6:8, "to love kindness" (compare Zec 7:9, "Show kindness and compassion every man to his brother"). The want of it in the nation was a cause of Yahweh’s controversy with them, e.g. Ho 4:1, "There is no truth, nor goodness (checedh) (the King James Version and the English Revised Version "mercy"), nor knowledge of God in the land"; Ho 12:6, "Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep kindness (the King James Version and the English Revised Version "mercy") and justice, and wait for thy God continually." Cheyne (Encyclopedia Biblica) regards [~checedh as denoting paternal affection on God’s part, answered by filial and loyal affection and brotherly love on man’s part (philadelphia in the New Testament).

The word "lovingkindness" does not occur in the New Testament, but as its equivalents we have such terms as "mercy" "goodness," "kindness," "brotherly love" (see special articles).