The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the LORD” (John 1:23)

Is God Primarily Merciful or Loving?

The Hebrew word hesed / khesed / chesed (Strong’s H2617) is an efficient short-hand for the heart of God. It’s used almost 250x in the OT, particularly in the Psalms.

This word has a long history of being translated strictly as “mercy” in English (see Coverdale, Geneva, Bishops, KJV). I believe it was the Young’s Literal Translation that first broke with tradition by rendering “[c]hesed” as “loving-kindness” in the mid 19th century. Darby and American Standard, published over the next 50 years, followed suit. And every major modern version (save NKJV) has emphasized love since.

To see just how layered hesed can be, I attached some highlighted photos of Psalm 136 from the One Unity Resource Bible (which is the World English Bible with inline enhancements from a Jewish & Messianic Jewish perspective). In every other Bible, Psalm 136 will simply repeat whatever single word (or compound word) that the translator(s) feel is appropriate for hesed. In the OUR Bible, the translators decided to unfurl the full splendor of this word!

I would point out that covenant loyalty is a foundational concept that undergirds hesed (according to experts who have studied it) and, indeed, our Lord! He longs to dwell with us (Ex 29:46, 1 Cor 6:19)! He, like any good spouse (Isa 62:5, Matt 9:15, Rev 21:9) expects faithfulness from whomever enters into covenant with him (Matt 24:45, 1 Pet 1:15-16). Fortunately, for us, He, according to the great love with which He loves us, is more than capable of delivering whatever we may need to love Him and BE Him in this world (John 15:7, Acts 1:8, Eph 3:20, Phil 2:13, 2 Pet 1:3-4).

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