Thursday, December 6, 2012

Selected Word Studies: Jonah 4:2

Gracious, compassionate and abundant in loving-kindness. Here are three descriptive words that seem nearly synonymous in the nature of positive meaning when describing the character of God. The combination of the three is used in many other places in the Bible (see Exo. 34:6; Psalm 86:5, 15; 103:8; 145:8; Num. 14:18; Joel 2:13), and has been called an ancient liturgical formula because of the fact (Lemke, 358). Although the positive nature of the words seems to focus on the goal of one certain thing, they definitely all have their own place.
Loving-kindness, Hebrew: ‘khesed’, can be well understood by the translations that interpreters chose to use in its place. Such as, “In its preference for ‘mercy’ the KJV was obviously influenced by the Septuagint (lxx) which in 168 instances renders khesed as ‘mercy’ or ‘compassion’ (Gk. eleos)” (Gammie, 581). By this, one can understand why one would label God as having abundance in loving-kindness. For most of us know from experience that He is full of mercy, and is compassionate.
As far as discerning the character of God through the study of certain words, we can get a better idea by understanding the fact that “this word is used chiefly, but not exclusively, of God. The ‘kindness’ the prophet Micah enjoins humankind to love includes both its human and divine aspects (Micah 6:1-6). It is thus a metonym for covenantal loyalty and performance” (Gammie, 581). In other words, Gammie is saying loving-kindness is a figure of speech that places emphasis on continuing or reassuring His promises. With all of this, one should have a clear understanding on the character of God through the definition of loving-kindness.
The Dictionary of Biblical Languages defines this word, “rahum” or “rakhum”, as “Pertaining to showing favor and not punishment as is often deserved, implying a forgiving relationship” (Swanson, 8157). As we can see in Isaiah forty-nine verse fifteen, this word is used “of a mother’s love toward her nursing baby. It can also refer to a father’s love according to Psalm 103:13” (Harris, Archer and Waltke, 841). The fact that it can be shown to mean love towards someone who is viewed as helpless, such as a nursing baby, and from either parent, gives us an idea of how to correctly view the character of God through the context of the word compassionate.
 A verse comes to mind when I think of the definition of this Hebrew word, “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (NIV, Psalm 103:14). Now that I see verse thirteen and fourteen together in literary context, I can understand how verse fourteen defines verse thirteen, as far as the Lord is compassionate because he knows our frame.
            Gracious, or in Hebrew, “Khannun”, defines as “pertaining to being merciful to the needy and repentant” (Swanson, 2843). I believe the key word in this definition is ‘repentant’ mainly because that is what it takes to receive favor. A lexicon shows us how this word is “only used as an attribute of God, as hearing the cry of the vexed debtor Exo. 22:26” (Brown, Driver and Briggs, 337). We can understand better if we read on to verse twenty-seven which describes the Lord hearing the cry of the vexed debtor, and why he is gracious to that debtor.
            In conclusion, we can see that the nature of God that is developed in the book of Jonah chapter four, verse two is one of showing love to the undeserved. Through this we can have a better understanding about the many names that describe God our Heavenly Father, such as “jireh”, Gen. 22:14, “nissi”, Exo. 17:15, and “shalom” Judges 6:24, which are describing God as being the great provider, a banner, and finally, the Lord of peace. 

 Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

Works Cited
Werner E. Lemke, Th.D.; Professor of Old Testament Interpretation; Colgate Rochester Divinity School; Rochester, New York, Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper's Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985).
John G. Gammie, Ph.D.; Emma A. Harwell Professor of Biblical Literature; University of Tulsa; Tulsa, Oklahoma, Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper's Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985).
James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
R. Laird Harris, Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, c1980).
The Holy Bible: New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).
Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000).

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