INTRODUCTION (skip the intro)
A FEW SCRIPTURES ON THE EFFECT OF GOD'S WORD
Deuteronomy 32:46-47 "Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. "For it (God's Word) is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you shall prolong your days in the land...
Psalm 12:6-note The words of the LORD are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.
Psalm 107:20-note He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.
Proverbs30:5 Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
Matthew 4:4 "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'"
Luke 1:37ASV For no word from God shall be void of power.
Jeremiah 15:16 Thy words were found and I ate them, And Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Thy name, O LORD God of hosts.
Job 23:12-note I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. (Job's "secret" for survival)
COMMENTS AND QUOTES ON WORD STUDIES
Simple observation of the effects of God's Word in the preceding passages should leave little doubt regarding the incredible benefit of in depth study of individual words in their original language. What effects did you observe? (life, healing, shield, nourishment, power, joy and delight, more valuable than our necessary food).
Someone once said that "words are building blocks of thought" and since God uses the words written in the Bible to communicate with us, it follows that a proper understanding of the meaning of His individual Words in the original language (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) is important for a full understanding of His "thoughts" (revelation). Every saint should seek to become competent in doing basic Bible word studies. That is the goal of this page -- to give you a simple method of how to perform studies on Greek words using Web based tools accessible to all. The interested student is referred to more detailed discussions in any number of books on Hermeneutics (study of the methodological principles of interpretation) (E.g., see recommended resources). In addition, following the basic introduction to word studies, I have attached a more in depth discussion from Dr Stephen Lewis' seminary notes on Biblical Hermeneutics (see below). See also the simple study on The Power of God's Word.
One of my favorite Spurgeon quotes related to the Word of God - It is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in scriptural language, and your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord, so that your blood is 'bibline' and the very essence of the Bible flows from you. (Charles Spurgeon).
Irving Jensen emphasizes the importance of word studies writing that "Just as a great door swings on small hinges, so the important theological statements of the Bible often depend upon even the smallest words, such as prepositions and articles (Ed: See example below using the simple adverb "up") (Enjoy Your Bible).
Scott Duvall - Words are like pieces of a puzzle. They fit together to form a story or a paragraph in a letter (i.e., the big picture). Until you know the meaning of certain words, you will not be able to grasp the meaning of the whole passage. Not knowing the meaning of certain words in a passage of Scripture can be compared to the frustrating discovery that you don’t have all the pieces to your puzzle. Like individual pieces of a puzzle, words bring the larger picture to life. Words are worth studying! (Grasping God's Word: A Hands-on Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible)
Most of the great doctrines of the Word of God revolve around a single word, such as faith, grace, redemption, justification, gospel, sanctification, etc. It follows that In order to fully understand the meanings the great doctrines of the faith, one needs to study the specific Greek words that are foundational for that specific doctrine. In the present example we will focus on the foundational truth of redemption, a vitally important doctrine which permeates Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Keep in mind that when the original text of the Bible was translated into English, some 6,000 different English words were used, but the original manuscripts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts used about 11,280 words according to Irving Jensen (Enjoy Your Bible). So how do you fit 11,280 Greek and Hebrew words into 6,000 English words? The only way is to translate several Greek or Hebrew words with the same English word. An excellent example is the the English word servant which in some versions translates up to seven different Greek words, each with a slightly different meaning. Clearly for the most complete understanding of a passage, we need to be able to discover which Greek words were used in that text. Note that the converse is also true -- different English words translate the same Greek word, so we need to be able to identify and understand that Greek word in context in order to fully comprehend the passage.
When performing word studies, it is imperative to pay close attention to the context in which the word is used, lest we arrive at meaning of the word that was not intended by the Spirit. This caveat should not be surprising, for even in English, context is critical to understand what a given word means. So if I say "trunk", what pops into your mind? Now what if the context includes the word "tree"? Or what if I am describing a car? Or a big, gray mammal? You get the point. So clearly, you were able to determine the correct meaning of "trunk" in each instance by noting the context. The same principle applies to Greek Word studies.
In summary, Greek and Hebrew word studies are vitally important in order for us to glean the full meaning of God's Word, but they must be performed with a sense of "reverence and awe" lest one derive a meaning which is not what the Spirit intended in a given passage. Every saint should become conversant with Word Studies that they might be better Bereans (Acts 17:11-note) when using the Greek and Hebrew Lexicons. Otherwise how do you know their definition is accurate?
John Bunyan author of Pilgrim's Progress alluded to the value of personal original language word studies when he wrote - "Read the Bible, and read it again. Do not despair of help in understanding something of the will and mind of God. Though you have no commentaries and expositions, pray and read, and read and pray. A little from God is better than a great deal from man. What is from man is uncertain and often lost, but what is from God is fixed as a nail in a sure place. There is nothing that so abides with us as what we receive from God. The reason many Christians are at a loss as to some truths is that they are content with what comes from men’s mouths without searching and kneeling before God to learn of Him. Even known truths are new to us when they come with the breath of heaven upon them."
Recommended Background Reading:
Helpful Hints on Hebrew by Bob Smith and David Roper
Performing a Hebrew word study is not as easy as Greek word study, for there are fewer resources and Hebrew is a more poetic language than Greek. Remember though that the ultimate goal for performing a Hebrew word study is that we might KNOW God better and GROW more like His Son learning to walk "in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" and growing in "the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." (Colossians 1:10, 2Peter 3:18, cp John17:3, Php 3:10, Eph 4:15). Therefore it behooves us as we begin our word study to go to God in prayer beseeching our Heavenly Father to grant that our Teacher, the Spirit would guide us into all truth (Jn 16:13), for spiritual truth is spiritually revealed by the Spirit (1Cor 2:10; see The Bible and Illumination).
For illustration, we will do a study on the English word lovingkindness in Exodus 15:13
"In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; In Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation."
(a) Enter Ex 15:13 in the Search box above.
(b) Click on the word Lovingkindness to open a dropdown window.
(c) Note Strong's Number in the Upper Left Corner. (Strong's 2617) Record that number in the word study worksheet (see example). You will need Strong's number to perform Step 2.
(d) Note that beneath the Strong's Number is the transliterated Hebrew Word chesed (also spelled hesed, heced in other lexicons). (Transliterate simply means to spell out the Hebrew word in the English.)
(e) Note the box labeled Origin - This box has the Strong's Number (02616) of the verb form chasad from which the noun chesed is derived. Clicking on ORIGIN can occasionally give insights into the meaning of the word you are studying. Record your observations.
(d) Note the bottom box labeled Translated Words which is the total number of times the Hebrew word chesed is used in that the KJV or NAS followed by all of the ways it is translated into English. By observing the different ways chesed is translated you can begin to get a sense of the different nuances of meaning (e.g., "faithful love," "loyalty," "love," etc). Step 3 will look in more detail at all the OT uses of chesed and how they can be used in your word study.
(e) Note Brown-Driver-Brigg's (BDB) Definition - Below is the abbreviated version of BDB's original definition of chesed, and if click on Strong's, you also get his abbreviated definition. Contrast the brevity of these definitions with the unabridged BDB definition obtained in Step 2.
Definition [ Brown-Driver-Brigg's | Strong's ]
- goodness, kindness, faithfulness
- a reproach, shame
Strong's Definition From H2616; kindness; by implication (towards God) piety; rarely (by opprobrium) reproof, or (subjectively) beauty: - favour, good deed (-liness, -ness), kindly, (loving-) kindness, merciful (kindness), mercy, pity, reproach, wicked thing.
STEP 2: DETERMINE BROWN-DRIVER-BRIGGS UNABRIDGED DEFINITION
Explanation - Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) is considered to be one of the most comprehensive Hebrew lexicons available to the English speaking student and is based on the classic work of Wilhelm Gesenius, the "father of modern Hebrew lexicography." BDB gives not only dictionary definitions for each word, but relates each word to its Old Testament usage and categorizes its nuances of meaning. The definitions are in English and Hebrew, but don't be put off by the Hebrew, as the English definitions are all you need. Notice that the definitions are usually linked with Scriptures that apply to that specific definition. (See below for BDB's full definition of chesed)
a). Select the appropriate range below (e.g., 2617 for chesed). Scroll to Strong's number and click for BDB's full definition. Record your notes. I cannot read Hebrew but still find these definitions useful as the main portion of the definition is in English. As you can see, chesed has a lengthy definition and it may take a while to read over it.
b). Note that in the right column of this resource are the uses of chesed in NAS, KJV and Interlinear (INT). Click the INT and note from top to bottom - Strong's, Transliterated Hebrew, Original Hebrew word, English word, and Parsing of the word (click parsing for key). Note that Interlinear retains the word order of the original Hebrew text.
Here is Brown-Driver-Briggs full definition of chesed (02617). Note how BDB divides the definition into chesed of man and chesed of God. And while there is a considerable amount of original Hebrew, notice how the essence of the definition is easily determined as are the passages that use chesed with that particular definition.
חֶ֫סֶד: 247 noun masculine2Samuel 16:17goodness, kindness; — absolute ׳ח Genesis 24:12 85t.; חָ֑סֶד Genesis 39:21 12t.; construct חֶסֶד 8t 1Sa 20:8.; suffix חַסְדִּי Psalm 59:18 120t. suffixes; plural חֲסָדִים Genesis 32:11; constructחַסֵדֵי Isaiah 55:3 5t. (BaerJes p. 79 Ges§ 93, R, 1. F.); suffix חֲסָדַי Nehemiah 13:14 + 10t. suffixes; (not in H or P).
I. of man:
1 kindness of men towards men, in doing favours and benefits 1 Samuel 20:15; 2 Samuel 16:17; Psalm 141:5; Proverbs 19:22; Proverbs 20:6; יהוה ׳ח 1 S 1Sa 20:14 the kindness of ׳י (such as he shews, Thes MV; that sworn to by oath to Yahweh Mich Dathe; shewn out of reverence to Yahweh Th Ke); compare אלהים ׳ח s-.. 2Sa 9:3 ׳תּוֺרַתאחProverbs 31:26 instruction in kindness, kindly instruction עָשָׂה חֶסֶד עִמָּדִי do or shew kindness(in dealing) with me Genesis 20:13; Genesis 40:14 (E),1 Samuel 20:14; 2 Samuel 10:2 (עִמִּי in "" 1 Chronicles 19:2); with עִם Genesis 21:23 (E), Genesis 24:12,14; Joshua 2:12 (twice in verse); Judges 1:24(J), Judges 8:35; 1 Samuel 15:6; 2 Samuel 2:5; 2 Samuel 3:8; 2 Samuel 9:1; 2 Samuel 9:3; 2 Samuel 9:7,10:20a = 1Chronicles 19:2a, 1Chronicles 19:2b 2Chronicles 24:22; with עַל 1 S 2 Sa 20:8 with לְ 1 s 1Ki 2:7 לפני ׳נשׂא ח obtain kindness before Esther 2:9,17; ׳היטיב ח Ruth 3:10.
2 kindness (especially as extended to the lowly, needy and miserable), mercy Proverbs 20:28; Job 6:14; אישׁ חסד merciful man Proverbs 11:17 (opposed toאַכְזָרִי); ׳מַלְכֵּי ח merciful kings 1 Kings 20:31;׳עשׂה ח Psalm 109:16; in this sense usually with other attributes (see also below II.2); "" אמת Hosea 4:1; Isaiah 16:5; ואמת ׳ח Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 14:22; Proverbs 16:6; Proverbs 20:28; ואמת ׳עשׂה ח Genesis 24:49; Genesis 47:29; Joshua 2:14 (J; RV gives thse under 1); "" צדקה Hosea 10:12; ׳צדקה וח Proverbs 21:21; "" משׁפט Micah 6:8; ומשׁפט ׳חs Hos 12:7; "" חוֺנֵן Psalm 109:12; ורחמים ׳חZechariah 7:9; Daniel 1:9. — (On Hosea 6:4,6 see 3 below)
3 (rarely) affection if Israel to ׳י love to God, piety:נְעוּרַיִךְ ׳ח Jeremiah 2:2 piety of thy youth ("" love of thine espousals to Yahweh); possibly alsoחַסְדְּכֶם כַּעֲנַןבֹּֿקֶר Hosea 6:4 your piety is like a morning cloud (fleeting), and כִּי חֶסֶד חָפַצְתִּי וְלאֹזָֿ֑בַח Hosea 6:6 for piety I delight in and not in peace-offering ("" דעת אלהים, compare 1 Samuel 15:22); — so Wü Now Hi (1Samuel 15:4) Che; Ke Hi (1 Samuel 15:6) al. below 2 (or 1); — נַנְשֵׁי חֶסֶד men of piety Isaiah 57:1 (""צַדִּיק); plural pious acts 2Chronicles 32:32; 35:26;Nehemiah 13:14.
4 lovely appearance: כָּלחַֿסְדּוֺ כְּצִיץ הַשָֹּׁדֶהIsaiah 40:6 all its loveliness as the flower of the field (so Thes Hi De Che Di and others; but δόξα ᵐ5 1Peter 1:24 & gloria ᵑ9 favour an original reading הוֺדוֺ Lo orכְּבֹדוֺ Ew, see BrMP 375; Du הֲדָרוֺ).
II. of God: kindness, lovingkindness in condescending to the needs of his creatures. He is חַסְדָּם their goodness favor Jonah 2:9; חַסְדִּי Psalm 144:2;אֱלֹהֵי חַסְדִּי God of my kindness Psalm 59:18; in Psalm 59:11 read אֱלֹהַי חַסְדּוֺ my God with his kindness ᵐ5 ᵑ9 Ew Hup De Pe Che Bae; his is the kindness Psalm 62:13; it is with him Psalm 130:7; he delights in it Micah 7:18.
1 specifically lovingkindness:
a. in redemption from enemies and troubles Genesis 19:19; Genesis 39:21 (J), Exodus 15:13 (song), Jeremiah 31:3; Ezra 7:28; Ezra 9:9; Psalm 21:8;Psalm 31:17; Psalm 31:22; Psalm 32:10; Psalm 33:22;Psalm 36:8; Psalm 36:11; Psalm 42:9; Psalm 44:27;Psalm 48:10; Psalm 59:17; Psalm 66:20; Psalm 85:8;Psalm 90:14; Psalm 94:18; Psalm 107:8; Psalm 107:15; Psalm 107:21; Psalm 107:31; Psalm 143:8;Psalm 143:12; Job 37:13; Ruth 1:8; Ruth 2:20; men should trust in it Psalm 13:6; Psalm 52:10; rejoice in it Psalm 31:8; hope in it Psalm 33:18; Psalm 147:11.
b. in preservation of life from death Psalm 6:5; Psalm 86:13; Job 10:12.
c. in quickening of spiritual life Psalm 109:26; Psalm 119:41; Psalm 119:76; Psalm 119:88; Psalm 119:124;Psalm 119:149; Psalm 119:159.
d. in redemption from sin Psalm 25:7; Psalm 51:3.
e. in keeping the covenants, with Abraham Micah 7:20; with Moses and Israel שׁמר הַבְּרִית וְ(הַ)חֶסֶד keep-eth the covenant and the lovingkindness Deuteronomy 7:9,12; 1 Kings 8:23 2Chronicles 6:14; Nehemiah 1:5; Nehemiah 9:32;Daniel 9:4; with David and his dynasty 2 Samuel 7:15 =1 Chronicles 17:13; 2 Samuel 22:51 = Psalm 18:51, 1 Kings 3:6 (twice in verse) = 2Chronicles 1:8; Psalm 89:29; Psalm 89:34; with the wife Zion Isaiah 54:10.
2 חֶסֶד is grouped with other divine attributes: חסד ואמת kindness (lovingkindness) and fidelity Genesis 24:27 (J), Psalm 25:10; Psalm 41:11; Psalm 40:12;Psalm 57:4; Psalm 61:8; Psalm 85:11; Psalm 89:15;Psalm 115:1; Psalm 138:2; ואמת עם ׳עשׂה ח 2 S 2Sa 2:6; 2 Samuel 15:20 (ᵐ5, see Dr); with אֶתֿGenesis 24:49; ואמת ׳רַב ח Exodus 34:6 (JE),Psalm 86:15; also "" אמת Micah 7:20; Psalm 26:3;Psalm 117:2; "" אֱמוּנָה Psalm 88:12; Psalm 89:3;Psalm 92:3; ׳אמונה וח Psalm 89:25; ואמונה ׳חPsalm 98:3; "" רחמים Psalm 77:9; ורחמים ׳חJeremiah 16:5; Hosea 2:21; Psalm 103:4; ומשׁפט ׳חJeremiah 9:23; Psalm 101:1; "" צדקה Psalm 36:11;׳טוב וח Psalm 23:6.
3 the kindness of God is
a. abundant: רַבחֶֿסֶד abundant, plenteous in kindness (goodness) Numbers 14:18 (J), Nehemiah 9:17 (Qr), Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Psalm 86:5; Psalm 103:8 (compare Exodus 34:6 J E; Psalm 86:15); רֹב חַסְדְּךָ Nehemiah 13:22; Psalm 5:8; Psalm 69:14;Psalm 106:7 (ᵐ5 ᵑ9 Aq Targan, to be preferred to ᵑ0חֲסָדֶיךָ); רֹב חֲסָדָו֯ Lamentations 3:32; Psalm 106:45 (Kt ᵐ5 in both to be preferred).
b. great in extent: ׳נֹּדֶל חִ greatness of thy mercy Numbers 14:19 (J); ׳נְּדָו֯וֺלחֿ Psalm 145:8; it is kept for thousands Exodus 34:7 (JE), Jeremiah 32:18, especially of those connected with lovers of ׳י, Exodus 20:6 = Deuteronomy 5:10; for 1000 Generations Deuteronomy 7:9; it is great as the heavens Psalm 57:11; Psalm 103:11, compare Psalm 36:6; Psalm 108:5; the earth is full of it Psalm 33:5; Psalm 119:64.
c. everlasting: לעולם חסדוֺ Jeremiah 33:11; 1 Chronicles 16:34,41; 2Chronicles 5:13; 7:3,6; 20:21;Ezra 3:11; Psalm 100:5; Psalm 106:1; Psalm 107:1;Psalm 118:1; Psalm 118:2; Psalm 118:3; Psalm 118:4;Psalm 118:29; Psalm 136:1 (26 t.); חסדךָ לעולםPsalm 138:8; מעולם ׳ח ועד עולם Psalm 103:17;עולם ׳ח Isaiah 54:8; אל כּל ׳ח היום Psalm 52:3.
d. good: כִּיטֿוֺב חַסְדְּךָ Psalm 69:17; Psalm 109:21; כי טוב חסדךָ מחיים Psalm 63:4.
4 plural mercies, deeds of kindness, the historic displays of lovingkindness to Israel: shewn to Jacob Genesis 32:11 (R); but mostly late Isaiah 63:7; Psalm 25:6; Psalm 89:2; כְּרֹב חסִדיו Isaiah 63:7, see 3a; promised in the Davidic covenant Psalm Psa 89:50; חַסְדֵי דָוִיד mercies to David Isaiah 55:3; 2Chronicles 6:42; mercies in General Lamentations 3:22; Psalm 17:7; Psalm 107:43f. — חֶסֶד in proper name, masculine ׳בןחֿ see below בֵּן. On Leviticus 20:17; Proverbs 14:34 see חֶסֶד below II. חסד.
II. חֶ֫סֶד noun masculine shame, reproach, only absolute: — הוּא ׳ח Leviticus 20:17 (H) it is a shame (shameful thing); לְאֻמִּים חַטָּאת ׳חProverbs 14:34 sin is a reproach to peoples.
As you can see, BDB's format is somewhat intimidating, so below is an attempt to help you decipher the many notations in the BDB definition...
STEP 3: EXAMINE ALL USES OF THE HEBREW WORD IN OT PASSAGES
In the search box above Enter Strong's Number for the word you are studying (as an example use lovingkindness - chesed and enter 2617) to retrieve a brief definition beneath which is a table labeled "Frequency/Word [Book|Word] (Note: the chart below is just an example - it does not copy well so you need to see the original chart). This table is a list of all the OT uses of chesed in the OT - KJV 248) , NAS (248) and HCS (246). Now click on a book name like Genesis and in the right column you can see all the verses that use chesed and how each use is translated into English.
Dr Robert Lewis (from his study on Hermeneutics) gives some simple guidelines for examining all the uses of a Greek or Hebrew word in Scripture --
The basic procedure for study is to look up each of the verses in which the target word appears, determining the possible meanings for the word, and then make a decision--based on the context (Keep Context King) of the verses being studied--about the meaning to assign to the word in that verse....Remember that the meaning of a word depends on its context. For instance, the English word "run" can have many meanings. You can say that paint "runs" down a wall or that you will "run" a classified add; and you can refer to a "run" on a bank, a long "run" of a Broadway play, or a 10K "run" for charity." And so you see that the single, simple English word "run" has multiple distinct meanings depending on the context. The same principle applies to word studies in which one examines every OT use.
Let's review how to do a study of all the uses of a Hebrew word - Click here for the Frequency Chart (the example below . Then Click Genesis to open all the uses with the English translation highlighted for easy recognition (eg. lovingkindness). Now click on Exodus in the KJV and HCS (Holman Christian) versions and note the different ways chesed is translated. I personally do most of my word studies in the NAS but often check the other versions. The HCS translation of chesed as faithful love is worth noting. As noted it is always important to examine the context, which you can do by clicking on the verse (e.g., open uses in Exodus and click Exodus 15:13 under Verse Results) and toward the bottom of the new window select Show Context (see below highlighted in yellow). With some practice and reliance on your Teacher, the Holy Spirit, you will begin to glean a good sense of how a word is used in the OT and thus how it is "defined." The Frequency/Word list also gives you a quick sense of which book has the most uses (e.g., 127 uses of chesed in Psalms, which is almost 50% of all the OT uses).
Frequency / Word [ Book | Word ]
When I perform Hebrew word studies, Step 3 is one of the primary tools I use to arrive at a definition. In fact if you look at many of the popular lexicons like the Theological Wordbook of OT words and Vines Expository Dictionary of OT words, you will note that often their definitions are a compilation of the information gleaned from the various uses in the Scripture. In the case of chesed there are 248 uses which makes for a lengthy study (when there are that many uses, I usually do not examine every use.) Below is an example of my personal definition of chesed gleaned just from examination of the Scriptural uses.
Hesed can be "defined" or described Biblically as God's lovingkindness to man (Ge 19:19; 24:12; Ex 15:13; 20:6; 2 Sa 2:6; 7:15; 1Ki 3:6; 8:23; 2 Chr 6:14; Ezra 7:28; Job 10:12; Ps 17:7; Pr 16:6; Je 9:24; 32:18; Hos 2:19), as abundant and great (Ex 34:6; Nu 14:18, 19; 1 Ki 3:6; 2 Ch 1:8; Ne 9:17; 13:22; Ps 5:7; 33:5; 86:5, 13; 119:64; 136; La 3:32; Joe 2:13; Jon 4:2), as everlasting (1Ch 16:34, 41; 2 Ch 5:13; Ezra 3:11; Ps 100:5; 118:1, 2, 3, 4; Is 54:8, 10; Je 33:11; La 3:22), as that which can be trusted (Ps 13:5; 52:8), as that in which we can rejoice (Ps 31:7, Ps 59:16), as that which evokes (or should evoke) gratitude (Ps 107:8, 15, 21, 31, 138:2), as that which is proclaimed (Is 63:7, Ps 92:2), as precious (Ps 36:7-see notes below), as good (Ps 69:16), as marvelous (Ps 17:7; Ps 31:21), as multitudinous (Isa 63:7), as great (Ps 117:2) as better than life (Ps 63:3), as that for which saints should pray (Ps 17:7, 25:6, 143:8, 36:10, Ge 24:12, 2Sa 2:6) One can also gain some sense of the "variegated" meaning of hesed by observing the Biblical effects or associations of hesed on individuals (some contexts speak of Israel) -- drawn by God's hesed (Jer 31:3), preserved by God's hesed (Ps 40:11), revived according to God's hesed (Ps 119:88), comforted by God's hesed (Ps 119:76), looking for forgiveness of one's sins through God's hesed (Ps 51:1), receiving mercy through God's hesed (Israel = Isa 54:8), heard by God on the basis of His hesed (Ps 119:149), to be pondered in worship (Ps 48:9), expecting God's hesed when in affliction (Ps 42:7,8), crowned with God's hesed (Ps 103:4). (For my full definition click Lovingkindness-Definition of Hesed)
Now compare the definition of chesed by W E Vine (online version) to illustrate how even this well respected lexicon tends to define the OT word by discussing its uses in Scripture...
Hesed has both God and man as its subject. When man is the subject of checed, the word usually describes the person’s kindness or loyalty to another; cf. 2Samuel 9:7...Only rarely is the term applied explicitly to man’s affection or fidelity toward God; the clearest example is probably Jer 2:2...Man exercises checed toward various units within the community—toward family and relatives, but also to friends, guests, masters, and servants. Hesed toward the lowly and needy is often specified. The Bible prominently uses the term hesed to summarize and characterize a life of sanctification within, and in response to, the covenant. Thus, Hosea 6:6 states that God desires “mercy [RSV, “steadfast love”] and not sacrifice” (i.e., faithful living in addition to worship). Similarly, Micah 6:8 features checed in the prophets’ summary of biblical ethics: “and what doth the Lord require of thee, but...to love mercy?” Behind all these uses with man as subject, however, stand the repeated references to God’s hesed. It is one of His most central characteristics. God’s loving-kindness is offered to His people, who need redemption from sin, enemies, and troubles. A recurrent refrain describing God’s nature is “abounding/plenteous in hesed" (Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 103:8; Jonah 4:2). The entire history of Yahweh’s covenantal relationship with Israel can be summarized in terms of checed. It is the one permanent element in the flux of covenantal history. Even the Creation is the result of God’s checed (Ps 136:5-9). His love lasts for a “thousand generations” (Dt. 7:9; cf. Dt. 5:10 and Exodus 20:6), indeed “forever” (especially in the refrains of certain psalms, such as Ps. 136) (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. 1940)
Yes, this method of determining the shades of meaning of an OT word takes some work but it can be extremely rewarding and significantly enhance your understanding of how the Spirit used the word in the OT.
STEP 4: CHECK VINE'S DICTIONARY OF OT WORDS
This 1940 Pdf edition of Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words states that it has no copyright and therefore I presume it can be used. (If you find out otherwise please let me know). The most efficient way to search this Pdf of Vine's is by using the Strong's number. For example, continuing our study of chesed, if we search using Strong's Number 2617 we retrieve 5 hits but only one is the Hebrew word hesed. This resource includes both Hebrew and Greek words, and Greek words with the same Strong's number will be retrieved. This resource is more difficult to search by the English word. E.g., if you search for "lovingkindness" you will not find Vine's definition of chesed, because he spells it "loving-kindness" (hyphenated). Note also that Vine does not have an entry for all OT words, in contrast with the BDB which has definitions for all the Hebrew words.
STEP 5: CHECK GIRDLESTONE'S SYNONYMS OF THE OT
This 1897 work on the Hebrew synonyms examines 127 Hebrew terms (e.g., altar, almighty, atonement, etc). Using the Septuagint (Lxx), Girdlestone explains the relation of the Hebrew word to the corresponding Greek word in the NT. This work is designed to be used by those who understand little or no Hebrew. In the alphabetical list below there is no hit for Lovingkindness but there is one for Mercy, which is our Hebrew word chesed.
Don't overlook the value of a simple study of Webster's dictionary when doing WORD STUDIES. For the plain definition of a word, I prefer the 1828 edition as it is more Bibliocentric (often using Scripture to illustrate definitions).
Search the MODERN EDITION of Merriam-Webster's Dictionary
Click and enter WORD between QUOTES to search
SEARCH FOR WORDS IN WEBSTER'S 1828 ENGLISH DICTIONARY…