Friday, June 30, 2023

Hesed Love

Friday, June 30, 2023 Submitted by Kay Crumley

Hesed Love 

There are several familiar words in the Bible that are translated as love. The English language is limited in adequately translating those words. Our word, love, is used for a wide range of emotions, feelings, and actions. Love for family, siblings, parents, extended relatives is different from love for friends. We say we love some foods or beverages. We love our pets. We may love our possessions.  Love for our spouse is still different from each of the other kinds of love expressed here. While each of those examples are different, we use the same term, love.   

Three forms of love are included in 1 Corinthians 13 from the original Greek. 

·  Eros is physical or sexual love.  

·  Philos means warm affection for friends.  Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, is derived from the Greek.  

·  Agape is sacrificial, unconditional love. That’s the love we have from God. As humans we tend to put conditions on love for others, but only God can love unconditionally. 

Those three terms are familiar to those studying the New Testament.   

In a recent study of Ruth by Kelly Minter, I learned a Hebrew term for love, Hesed. It is another word that is impossible to translate adequately into English and retain the original meaning. For that reason, different English words are used to best convey the original meaning. The word hesed is used 250 times in the Old Testament. Theologian John Oswalt said hesed is “… a completely undeserved kindness and generosity”.  Isaiah 54:10 says, “Though the mountains be shaken, and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love (hesed) for you will not be shaken”.  In just these two examples we see three variations.   

Hesed is “wrapping up in itself all the positive attributes of God: love, covenant faithfulness, mercy, grace, kindness, loyalty–in short, acts of devotion and loving-kindness that go beyond the requirements of duty,” elaborates Bible scholar Darrell L. Bock. 

Hesed love is more than a feeling, it is putting those feelings into action. In Ruth, Naomi was widowed and lost her sons leaving their wives, Naomi’s daughters-in-law, widowed. One of the two returned to her family, and the other, Ruth, committed to staying with Naomi. Ruth left her home, family, and country to be with Naomi and care for her. She demonstrated loyalty, commitment, and going above and beyond everything that was expected. She devoted herself to doing whatever it took for their survival. She devoted herself completely to Naomi with this statement. “Do not urge me to leave you or return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16. At the end of the book of Ruth we see that she married well and had a son but even then, she laid him in the arms of Naomi.  That son would continue the family name of Naomi’s husband. Her love was extraordinary.  

Hesed expresses an essential part of God’s character. In Exodus 34:6-7 God describes Himself as abounding in or filled with hesed. That is translated in various versions as love and faithfulness, unfailing love, faithful love, steadfast love, and loyal love.  It expresses God’s faithfulness to His people.  In Exodus 20:6 God says that He lavishes His love for a thousand generations for those who love Him and obey His commandments. His love is trustworthy, loyal, and ever enduring. 

 How do we show hesed love to one another?  Is that even possible? Just as Ruth committed herself to Naomi, we can commit to those we love. We act on that commitment. We do what is necessary for the welfare of others. We put God first, others second, and self-interest last. Jesus set the example as servant leader. He served those He met and even bowed to wash the feet of His disciples when He knew one of them would betray Him. We can humble ourselves to go above and beyond cultural expectations to love others faithfully, in a trustworthy manner, and with mercy.     

Hesed is lovingkindness, faithfulness, goodness, mercy, and love. All are correct but none express it correctly. Hesed describes an emotion, links to salvation, binds the relationship between people and covenants with God. It moves toward actions and endures for all time.   

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