The definition of the word ‘Love’ is very important. In English, we have one word with many different meanings and it is up to the reader/listener to figure out which meaning is appropriate. Usually, the context in which it is used is of value and aids greatly in deciding what it means. but not always. It is times like this where misunderstanding takes place.
When I was in college taking an American Literature class, one of the first things we learned is we needed to try to get in the head of the poet writing the poems and try to figure out what they were trying to say. To do this, we studied their lives, the times they lived in, the part of the country and possibly who their intended audience was. We must do very similarily when studying the Bible.
Smith Wigglesworth said there are three original languages in which to study the Bible. Hebrew, Greek and Holy Spirit and his favorite was the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t agree more but it is amazing what the Holy Spirit will reveal to a person that is willing to commit to in depth study of God’s Word. God has given us tools to use and teachers to teach and it is incumbent we make use of them.
The easiest to use is a dictionary. In Webster’s dictionary we find the meaning for ‘Love’ as follows:
Definition of love
1 : strong and warm affection (as of a parent for a child)
2 : a great liking <a love for reading>
3 : a beloved person
As a verb it means:
verb: love; 3rd person present: loves; past tense: loved; past participle: loved; gerund or present participle: loving
1. feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone).
This says nothing special about our ‘love’ for God. In the Hebrew and the Greek, there are three distinct words with distinct meanings for ‘love’.
In Hebrew, we have these words and meanings..
1. ahab – spontaneous, impulsive love (250 times in OT)
2. hesed – deliberate choice of affection and kindness
3. raham – to have compassion, brotherly love
While the word ahab is not the exact equivalent of eros in the Greek, it comes close. It describes an impulsive kind of love. That sort of infatuation usually spurred on by a physical attraction to another person. We will discuss ‘eros’ later in the study.
The definition of ‘ahab’ lies somewhere between and inclusive of both what ‘eros’ and ‘philia’ mean in the Greek. It covers the gambit of ‘brotherly love’ and ‘adultry’. It is a sensual type of love that leans toward the Hedonistic practices of the Greeks. It leans toward the satisfaction of ones sensual desires or it could also mean the friendly love one has with family and close friends.
Raham is the word that extends the idea from ‘ahab’ as a brotherly love much further. It contains the idea of compassion to go along with that love. The difference is if you enjoy someone’s company and like to be around them, that would be considered ‘ahab’ but if you share the feelings with your ‘best friend’ or ‘closest relative’ or if you care for the plight of the needy or concern for the welfare of our 1st responders, then that is ‘raham’. It is more caring and less sensual in nature.
Hesed occurs the first time of its 248 occurances in Genesis 19:19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy(hesed), which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die:
Exodus 34: 6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering , and abundant in goodness(hesed) and truth, 7 Keeping mercy(hesed) for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
Psalms 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy(hesed) shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Hesed is used in Psalms alone 127 times.
Hesed is one of those words that we are inadequate to actually translate it. One of my professors in college, Dr, Karen Joines, was a true Hebrew scholar. He wrote a book of over 200 pages trying to describe the word Hesed. At the end of the study, the only way you can say it is.. Hesed.
It is the Godly kind of love. It is given to show an intentional love that is not contingent upon anything the recipient has done to receive it, in general. It is the kind of love God gives to His people. It is the kind of unmerited favor that only God can give either directly or through His followers. It is akin to Agape in the Greek.
We will explore the Greek words in the next writing.
May God bless the reading of this teaching. Amen!
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