Monday, August 23, 2010



Well, the above word is is not 'Cheesed' or 'Cheezed' or 'Cheez It' but as my hebrew scholar friend Glen will point that the right pronunciation would be with the jaw and the tongue going in backward and pronouncing the 'Ch' with almost a slight rough growl. Anyway that is the oddness of the Hebrew language but its deep meanings make it a beautiful language for expressing the heart of God. The words have so much depth and meaning so much so a exact literal translation word-to-word into English is not possible. So an entire post on a word?- Yes, from my last  post you might remember in Jeremiah Chapter 2 God uses this word "Chesed" in addressing Israel.

Biblical scholars have often complained that the word חֶסֶד in the Hebrew Bible is difficult to translate into English, because it really has no precise equivalent in our language. English versions usually try to represent it with such words as "loving-kindness," "mercy," "steadfast love," and sometimes "loyalty," but the full meaning of the word cannot be conveyed without an explanation, such as the one given in the article below. This article, by Norman H. Snaith, is reproduced from A Theological Word Book of the Bible, edited by Alan Richardson (New York: MacMillan, 1951), pp. 136-7.

This word cannot be used unless the two parties have a very intimate relationship as was with God and Israel. It is a word that is exclusively used in the marriage-covenant relationship that God had with Israel. He uses this very romantic term of endearment several times in the scriptures. As said earlier in english the word is loosely translated as "loving-kindness"; but it is so much more,  the exact depth of meaning comes close to something like Israel is the young maiden in love with God and when God looks at this young maiden with 'chesed', she looks into His eyes and sees herself in Him. He therefore considers her as the apple of His eye and will do anything for her. Sir George Adam Smith suggested the rendering of the word to "leal-love" which combined the meanings of extreme loyalty and utmost love. In this case God's loving-kindness or 'chesed'  is something more than sure love, His faithfulness will not let Israel go in spite of her unfaithfulness. God in His 'chesed' love for Israel will not wash His hands, He is not willing to break covenant even when His bride will. The wider meaning then also encompassed covenant and mercy. We know from Israel's history how His mercy has been exemplified time and again in spite of Israel's straying away from Him. For this reason the Greek translators of the Old testament in the 3rd century B.C used the Greek word 'eleos' which meant mercy or pity as the regular rendering.

Rashi the (eleventh-century A.D) Jewish commentator said that Yahweh gave the precedence 'rule of mercy' and joined it with the 'rule of justice' which meant that because of His passion of righteousness he will not thwart justice but to estimate the depth of His love he continually shows his 'chesed' in coming after Israel. In my previous post on Hosea we saw this aspect of God of how He demonstrated this point through Hosea's life story.  One can almost also loosely relate God's heart for justice and love to the analogy of King Arthur who wanted Lancelot to come and whisk away Guinevere because Arthur as a king could not stop being just or executing the law of the land for adultery and treachery but at the same time his love for Guinevere wanted her to escape so that she could live.

So 'chesed' - Is God viewing us as the maiden He is madly in love with, we are the apple of His eye and His loving kindness, mercy, covenant relationship and faithfulness and relentless pursuit is all what is encompassed in this powerful expression.

Blessings & Shalom,

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