Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, January 6, 2024
Shabbat Shalom,

Understanding Agape
by David Harwood

David’s Note: I thought that I’d share with you a sidebar I’m contributing to a study Bible now being edited by my friend, Dr. Michael Brown. It’s a brief examination of the Greek word, agape. Understanding the biblical definition of agape may enhance your relationship with God, others, and assist your understanding of the Scriptures.

Here’s my plan: This week I’ll share the entire definition. Over the next few weeks, I’ll break it up, include the Scriptures referenced, and make some comments.

These matters are more thoroughly examined in God’s True Love, available via Amazon and Audible. https://www.amazon.com/Gods-True-Love-David-Harwood/dp/1886296499  I commend that book for your consideration.

Agapaō (the verb) and agape (a noun) convey the emotion we call love. These words became familiar to the Jewish people through the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Septuagint. In the Septuagint ahavah (Hebrew for love) is translated as agapaō/agape over 200 times.

In the New Covenant Scriptures agapaō/agape is found a similar number of times. They parallel the use of agapaō/agape in the Septuagint. Here are some examples:

We are commanded to (agape) God (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37) and our neighbors (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39).

The psalms proclaim the worshiper’s agape for Adonai. (Psalm 5:11; 18:1, etc.) This love is echoed by John (1 John 4:20)

Agape can convey the meaning of a deep, emotional, paternal love. (Genesis 22:2; Matthew 3:17; 2 Timothy 1:2).

Agape is given for a reason. Yeshua revealed that Father loved (agapaō) Him: because He laid down His life so that He might take it up again (John 10:17). The psalmist loved (agapaō) Adonai because He heard his voice (Psalm 116:1).

God loves (agapaō) those who belong to Him (Deuteronomy 7:8; 10:15; Romans 8:39), and has a special love (agape) for the Jewish people. (Isaiah 5:7; 63:9; Jeremiah 31:3, 20; Hosea 14:4; Zephaniah 3:17; Romans 11:28).

Romantic (agape) is celebrated and commanded. (Genesis 24:67; Song of Songs 1:7; 2:7; 3:1, etc.; Ephesians 5:25).

There is also an agape which is sinful. (2 Samuel 13:1,4; Isaiah 1:23; Luke 11:43; John 3:19; 1 John 2:15-16).

Agape can describe natural affection: Sinners and tax collectors love (agapaō) those who love (agapaō) them (Luke 6:32; Matthew 5:46). A centurion loved (agapaō) Israel and built a synagogue for the people (Luke 7:5). Agape may wane (Matthew 24:12), and agape can increase (1 Thessalonians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:3).

We are commanded to love, but agape is not a dispassionate decision (1 Corinthians 13:3). It is the emotion we call love.

Adonai is holy and His agape is as holy as He is. Just as God’s power is greater than humanity’s, God’s agape is more strongly felt. Here are the pinnacles of holy agape: God’s love for the world and His love for Yeshua. Yeshua’s love for Father and Yeshua’s love for us (John 3:16, 35; 17:23 14:31; 15:9, 13).

Holy agape motivated God’s action when He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins (Romans 5:8; John 3:16; 1 John 3:16). This expression of love provides the pattern of loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Romans 5:8-10). Yeshua loving us, and giving Himself up for us, exemplifies how believers are to love one another (John 15:12-13; Galatians 2:20b; Ephesians 5:2). Within everyday life that type of agape is demonstrated through honoring and serving others like Yeshua did when He washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17).

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Shabbat 6-Jan-24 Parashat Shmot
Exodus 5:1-6:1 Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23