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Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsShannon, Avram R.
EditorHalverson, Taylor
Book TitleOld Testament Cultural Insights
PublisherScripture Central
CitySpringville, UT
KeywordsBible; Covenant; Covenants; Exodus; Hesed; Loyalty; Mercy; Old Testament

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The principle of ḥesed is one of the most important doctrinal principles in the Hebrew Bible. It is somewhat difficult to translate into English, but the primary meaning of ḥesed is something like “covenant loyalty,” referring to the proper behavior in a covenant relationship. It is often translated in the King James Version as “mercy” or “lovingkindness” because this is how Jehovah acts toward those who enter into a covenant relationship with Him. In His famous statement in Exodus 20:6, Jehovah reminds Israel that He shows “mercy [ḥesed] unto thousands of them that love [Him] and keep [His] commandments.” In Psalm 89:28, the psalmist poetically pairs Jehovah’s mercy (ḥesed) with His covenant, suggesting the close connection between these two concepts. Later in the same psalm, the same word is translated as “lovingkindness,” another common translation. In Psalm 89:33, Jehovah promises to not forsake Israel, even if they break their covenant, because of His “lovingkindness” (ḥesed), or His covenant loyalty. This same concept refers to what the Lord wants out of those who enter into covenants with Him. In Hosea 6:6, the Lord states, “For I desired mercy [ḥesed], and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” The use of ḥesed here indicates that the mercy that God wants His people to possess is not just being nice or tolerant but instead is being loyal in their covenant relationship with Him.

Related verses

Genesis 19:19
Genesis 20:13
Genesis 24:12–49
Genesis 39:21
Exodus 15:13
Exodus 20:5–6
Exodus 34:6–7
Deuteronomy 5:10
Deuteronomy 7:9–12
Joshua 2:12–14
Ruth 1:8
1 Samuel 15:6
1 Samuel 20:8–15
2 Samuel 7:15
2 Samuel 9:1–3
1 Kings 8:23
1 Chronicles 16:34
Ezra 3:11
Psalm 5:7
Psalm 6:4
Psalm 13:5
Psalm 17:7
Psalm 21:7
Psalm 23:6
Psalm 25:7
Psalm 31:7
Psalm 33:5–22
Psalm 89
Psalm 100:5
Psalm 103:4–11
Psalm 118
Psalm 136
Isaiah 16:5
Isaiah 40:6
Isaiah 55:3
Jeremiah 2:2
Jeremiah 9:24
Jeremiah 31:3
Jeremiah 32:18
Jeremiah 33:11
Lamentations 3:22
Hosea 6:4–6
Joel 2:13
Micah 6:8
Zechariah 7:9