A Better Definition of Kindness
A Comparative Study
A paper submitted to Dr. Ronald Giese
In partial fulfillment of the Requirements for
the course OTCL 505
Liberty Theological seminary
Frankie L. McCurley
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Hesed (חֶסֶד) is a noun parsed from the verbal root Hasad (חָסַד). Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) gives this term a dual meaning leading to an inherent possibility of conflict. As everything else dealing with man’s charge, these grammatical states link to emotional ties and the actions that accompany them. As a result the first meaning governs the actions between God and his children and his children’s interaction with each other. Being good and kind, חָסַד, are the basic definitions for this main meaning of the term. It is more prominent than the second definition and BDB separates these two hundred and forty-seven listings into the two previously mentioned categories, each with its own set of sub-categories. In this study a key question will be touched on. What does חֶסֶד, goodness and kindness, have to do with the relationship of man toward God? By exploring BDB and the context where חֶסֶד resides we will uncover the depth and truth of its meaning. The occurrences of חֶסֶד are so common that BDB uses almost four columns of text to cover the passages where חֶסֶד and its derivatives appear. The basic translation of חֶסֶד, in relation to its verbal relative, is goodness and kindness. As a masculine gender noun, this is used to describe or identify those who will initiate or receive the true force behind the movement of חֶסֶד. Following in this same format is the second meaning that is translated, according to BDB, as the act of disapproving to point of one becoming ashamed of their actions. Based on the listings for both meanings in BDB they appear more often in the wisdom books of Psalms and Proverbs and in the writings dealing with the Davidic covenant located in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. “…he who hears it will reproach you (יְהַסֶסְךָ), and the evil report about you will not pass away” (Proverbs 25:10 NASB). This verse in Proverbs is about publicly arguing with a neighbor, being overheard by someone who would use the information in a negative way against you. “But sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Psalm 14:34b), is the perfect textual example of the second meaning of חֶסֶד. DEFINITION AND DESCRIPTION
“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless” (2 Samuel 22:31). There is one main point that stands out from the assignments and lectures, the fact of Biblical Hebrew being highly contextual. חֶסֶד produces zeal and from this is developed an emotional attachment between members of various parties. THE KINDNESS OF GOD TOWARD MAN
All forms of חֶסֶד in the Scriptures are a result of an action taken by one person involved in an interaction with another person. Hosea represents the translation of חֶסֶד as loyalty. He delivers a description of just how fickle Israel’s loyalty had become. He compares it with the passing presence of the clouds in the morning. In order for someone to be loyal they must possess a demeanor of kindness without this prime ingredient being loyal to another would be impossible. God has Hosea use the term loyalty in describing the true attribute he expects and actually searches for among Israel. This turns into another area of meaning for חֶסֶד.
In Genesis chapter 19 we come across the use of חֶסֶד in defining the relationship held between God and man. One of God’s most valuable character traits is his mercy which is never failing. The NIV translates this as great kindness while the writers of the King James Version (KJV) changes things around and translates חֶסֶד as mercy. Mercy is defined in the Blue Letter Bible as “compassion for the miserable.” Mercy is a better fitting terminology for the following example of God’s lovingkindness....