Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, March 9, 2024
Shabbat Shalom,

Abominable Agape
By David Harwood

There is a holy agape, there is also a damnable agape. Examining sinful agape can help cement the understanding that agape conveys an emotion. Let’s continue our study.

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). 

If God’s agape is the highest then what we’re going to look at is the lowest.

Consider 2 Samuel 13. It contains a sick story of unbridled, incestuous, violent lust. It is sad. It is shocking. Basically, King David’s son, Amnon, raped his half-sister. Then he despised her. Please read the two verses wherein agape is used to describe this perverted young man’s motivation.

And it happened after this that Absalom, David’s son, had a sister who was very beautiful in appearance. And her name was Tamar. And Amnon, David’s son, loved (agape) her. (2 Samuel 13:1 LES)

And he said to him, “Why are you sick in this way, son of the king, morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” And Amnon said to him, “It is Tamar, the sister of Absalom my brother, I love (agape) her.” (2 Samuel 13:4 LES)

Someone might remonstrate, “Surely the writers of the Septuagint made a mistake. This can’t be agape! It must be eros.” Beloved, this is not a mistake. Agape can be employed to describe the emotion which leads to deception and incestuous rape.

There is an agape which is a temptation to evil. There is an agape which, in and of itself, is sinful.

The following uses agape to describe an aspect of the character of certain rulers.

Your rulers rebel; companions of thieves, lovers (agape) of gifts, pursuers of rewards, they are judging not the fatherless, and they disregard the case of widows. (Isaiah 1:23 LES)

They agape bribes. In our day it may be said that they agape insider trading. Will something enrich them? They agape it.

Moving into the New Covenant Scriptures we find Messiah’s denunciation of the agape of status.

Woe to you Pharisees, for you love (agape) the best seats in the synagogues and the greetings in the marketplaces. (Luke 11:43) 

There are religious functionaries who agape public honor. Perhaps many of us can relate to this form of abhorrent agape.

An example of a grievous, horrifying use of agape was when Yeshua said this:

“Now this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world and men loved (agape) the darkness instead of the light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19) 

In John 3 agape is found three times. God’s redemptive agape (3:16), humanity’s agape for darkness, and Father’s agape for Yeshua (3:35). They describe the same emotion: love. There is holy love. There is also an agape that will bring a soul down to perdition. Agape is an emotion. It’s love, but it’s not necessarily a morally good love.

Finally, let’s contrast two types of agape.

Do not love (agape) the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves (agape) the world, the love (agape) of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the boasting of life—is not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:15–16) 

In 1 John 2:15-16 we read of an abominable agape which is the agape of the cosmos, or the things of the cosmos. This is contrasted with an agape which is love for/of the Father.

The object of one’s agape determines the relative goodness of that love. There is a holy agape. There is a sinful, misdirected agape. It is the same emotion. You are the object of God’s pure, deeply felt, agape.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
29 Adar I Shabbat 9-Mar-24
Parashat Vayak’hel Shabbat Shekalim Exodus 38:1-20; 30:11-16 2 Kings 12:1-17