Psalm 103: 8 and Kindness

    רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן יְהוָה;
    אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב-חָסֶד

    οἰκτίρμων καὶ ἐλεήμων ὁ κύριος
    μακρόθυμος καὶ πολυέλεος

    The LORD is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. KJV

I wonder if we would recognize that when 1 Cor. 13 says “Love is patient, love is kind” that it refers to the attributes of God, which can also be found in this psalm. I am not sure about the Hebrew, but the Greek says to me,

    “Pitying and having mercy, the Lord,
    patient and full of kindness.”

There is very little concordance in either the LXX or the KJV with respect to these attributes of God. By tracing back one can find that חָסֶד hesed is translated into Greek by δικαιοσύνη, and ἔλεος, and into English as “kindness” and “mercy”.

It seems from the LXX as if “justice”, “mercy” and “kindness” run into each other. I realize that in English we would keep these distinct.

In Gen. 20:13, Abraham asks Sarah to show him hesed and it is translated as δικαιοσύνη, “justice”, but when Rahab and Ruth showed hesed, it was translated as ἔλεος – “mercy”. Both of these are translated into English as “kindness”. However, when God shows hesed, it is usually translated into English as “mercy”. Only the Rotherham Bible has kindness for Psalm 103:8.

    Compassionate and gracious, is Yahweh, –
    Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness.

In fact, the Rotherham Bible has “lovingkindness” in Gen. 20:13, Joshua 2:12, Ruth 2:20, Ruth 3:10 and Psalm 103:8.

3 thoughts on “Psalm 103: 8 and Kindness

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    The psalmist is of course quoting Exodus 34:6, slightly adjusted probably for poetic effect. This verse and the following one became a standard description of God, which is more or less quoted in several places in the Hebrew Bible. The LXX translators seem to have recognised the quotation and used the same Greek words.

  2. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    יְהוָה יְהוָה, אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן–אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם, וְרַב-חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת.

    κύριος ὁ θεὸς οἰκτίρμων καὶ ἐλεήμων μακρόθυμος καὶ πολυέλεος καὶ ἀληθινὸς

    The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, KJV

    Yes, this is where hesed is translated as goodness. I was looking for that. Thanks.

  3. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    This explanation from Baker’s helps define the problem for me.

    The main problem in understanding kindness is the fact that it is one of a series of terms that are overlapping and not clearly or consistently distinguishable in meaning. This is true not only in English (kindness, goodness, mercy, pity, love, grace, favor, compassion, gentleness, tenderness, etc.) but also in Greek (chrestos, eleemon, oiktirmon, charis, agape, splanchnon, epieikeia, etc.) and in Hebrew (hesed, tob, rahamim, hemlah, hen, etc.). Consider, for example, the relationship of love, goodness, kindness, and mercy in lu 6:35-36. Nevertheless, although distinctions are not consistent, kindness (like goodness, love) tends to cover a broad range of meaning, with mercy and grace being progressively narrower.

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