Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, April 20, 2024
Shabbat Shalom,

Shabbat Shalom,

We’re beginning a several week study about one of my favorite words: Chesed-חֶסֶד. (Yes, I have favorite words.) It is chock-full of meaning. This week I’ll share the definition I wrote out. Over the ensuing weeks we’ll examine this word by considering some representative Scriptures from which the definition arose. I hope you take the time to study this. I believe it will be worthwhile.

So, without further ado, let’s look at Chesed-חֶסֶד.

Chesed- חֶסֶד – Part 1 by David Harwood

Chesed-חֶסֶד is found about 250 times in the Tanach. Introduced in Genesis, its meaning is consistent throughout the Scriptures. When shown by God to humanity it demonstrates His willingness to show mercy and is a model for human interaction.

In order of its occurrence: Angels showed Lot chesed-חֶסֶד (Genesis 19:19). Sarah showed chesed- חֶסֶד when she called Abraham her brother (Genesis 20:13). Abimelech asked Abraham to show him chesed-חֶסֶד (Genesis 21:23). The Lord showed chesed-חֶסֶד to Abraham’s servant who asked Laban and Bethuel to show chesed- חֶסֶדto Abraham by sending Rebekah with him (Genesis 24:12,14,27,49). Jacob attributed his prosperity to God’s chesed- חֶסֶד(Genesis 32:10). Adonai extended chesed- חֶסֶדto Joseph when he was in prison. Joseph asked the cupbearer for chesed- חֶסֶד. Jacob asked Joseph to show him chesed- חֶסֶדand bury him with his fathers (Genesis 39:21; 40:14, 47:29).

Examples like these can be multiplied.

From the context we find that chesed- חֶסֶדis something one willingly does for others who are in need. It expresses everything from kind actions to loving, life-saving, interventions. When English Bibles speak of showing lovingkindness they are translating, doing chesed- חֶסֶד. Chesed- חֶסֶדis something that is done.

chesed- חֶסֶד describes God’s merciful acts towards all who rely upon Him. The Lord’s willingness to help and His active chesed- חֶסֶד is a theme of His people’s praise (Psalm 117:2; Lamentations 3:22). God’s chesed-חֶסֶד, that He swore to Israel (Deuteronomy 7:12), was celebrated at the dedication of the temples (2 Chronicles 5:13; 7:3; Ezra 3:11). Judah’s choir sang that Adonai’s chesed-חֶסֶד is everlasting and the nation was rescued (2 Chronicles 20:21). Rehearsing God’s actions in creation, and His intervention on behalf of Israel, Psalm 136 reiterates the refrain that God’s chesed-חֶסֶד is everlasting twenty-six times. It is the result of His everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

The Scriptures were written within the context of a covenanted people. Therefore, we primarily find chesed-חֶסֶד experienced and expressed by those who are in covenant with Adonai and one another.

It is a strongly relational term. chesed-חֶסֶד is not legislated in the Torah, but God seeks it (Micah 6:8; Zechariah 7:9). God’s chesed- חֶסֶד is the model for human chesed- חֶסֶד(1 Samuel 20:14; 2 Samuel 9:3).

In the Septuagint chesed-חֶסֶד is translated eleos (mercy) over 200 times. It is a consequence of the command to love one’s neighbor and illustrated in the story of the “Good Samaritan” wherein chesed/eleos is demonstrated (Luke 10:30-37). Yeshua quoted Hosea when confronting merciless religionists. He reinforced this: Father delights in chesed/eleos (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; 12:7).

The Lord requires us to love chesed-חֶסֶד (Micah 6:8). Since He delights in chesed-חֶסֶד, God will pardon Israel’s iniquity, forgive their rebellion, trample their iniquities, and cast their sins into the sea. This is in fulfillment of the chesed-חֶסֶד He swore to the Patriarchs (Micah 7:18-20; Romans 11:28).

God overflows with transgenerational chesed- חֶסֶד (Exodus 34:6; Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 100:5). His chesed- חֶסֶד reveals His goodness and is a reason for gratitude (Psalm 106:1).

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