Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, February 10, 2024
Shabbat Shalom,

Parental Love and Agape
By David Harwood

Thus far we’ve examined three sections of a definition of agapē. I’m going to place them at the end of the meditation together with today’s concentration. So, what’s next? How’s this? Agapē is the word chosen to convey the love of a parent for a child.

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

And he said, “Take your beloved (agapē) son, whom you love (agapē), Isaac, and go into the high land and take him up there as a sacrifice on one of the summits, whichever I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2 LES)

This is a deep, visceral, natural agapē. How natural? Well, at times it is possible to see that type of love in what is called the “animal kingdom.” It is certainly common to most of humanity. God have mercy, there are exceptions to this. For instance, abortion is commonplace amongst the nations (including Israel). The statistic I found is that there are approximately 73,000,000 abortions per year worldwide. Natural parental affection is not guaranteed. Nevertheless, parental love is the norm (about 140,000,000 live births per year).

Moving away from that digression, let it be said that Abraham really, really, really loved Isaac, his unique son. It is natural love that beautifully represents the way God feels towards Yeshua.

And behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My Son, whom I love (agapē); with Him I am well pleased!” (Matthew 3:17)

This parental agapē is also felt in the believing community. Here is a description of Paul’s unique love for a spiritual son.

To Timothy my beloved (agapē) child: Grace, mercy, and shalom from God the Father and Messiah Yeshua our Lord! (2 Timothy 1:2)

In addition to these Scriptures which stress a father’s love for a child, look at this:

Isaac loved (agapē) Esau because his hunting was meat for him. Rebekah loved (agapē) Jacob. (Genesis 25:28 LES)

Parental agapē is an emotion. What is communicated here is not a particularly spiritual, or holy, emotion. In Isaac and Rebekah’s household this agapē was dysfunctional. Also, parental agapē can be misplaced. For instance, consider David’s emotional attachment to Absalom. Here’s where that love is described and denounced by Joab:

(You) love (agapē) those who hate you and hate those who love (agapē) you. And you have announced today that your commanders are nothing and neither are your servants. For I know today that if Absalom was living, all of us today would be dead. Is that what you would prefer? (2 Samuel 19:7 LES)

Certainly, the emotions of love (agapē) and hate are contrasted in this indictment. They are natural feelings, agreed?

Now, please compare this data with that offered by these reference works.

agape, in the sense of Godlike love, is clearly distinguished from the rest.  The first three are all natural, even to fallen man, whereas Godlike agape-love is not…

Ferguson, Sinclair B. and David F. Wright, New Dictionary of Theology, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press) 2000, c1988.

(agapē) is an unselfish love that transcends natural affinities. In short, it is a love that we don’t naturally have. It is divine.

Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (328). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

The believing community has been fed misinformation about the nature of agapē. It is high time for the intent of Scripture concerning love to be restored.


Thank you, Abba, that we can understand something of the way Your agapē feels for us through the way Abraham loved Isaac. Please help me grasp this more and more. In Yeshua’s name, Amen.

(Please feel free to review the parts of the definition we’ve covered thus far.)

Agapaō (the verb) and agapē  (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/agapē  over 200 times.

In the New Covenant Scriptures agapaō/agapē is found a similar number of times. They parallel the use of agapaō/agapē in the Septuagint. 

Here are some examples:

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

The psalms proclaim the worshiper’s agapē 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). 

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
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