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What is lovingkindness in the Bible?

Question: "What is lovingkindness in the Bible?"

Lovingkindness is a word found in older, more traditional versions of the English Bible, such as the King James (KJV) and the New American Standard (NASB). The Hebrew word most often translated “lovingkindness” is checed, which literally means “covenant loyalty.” Most newer English translations of the Bible substitute more common English words such as faithfulness, unfailing love, mercy, or good favor. All of these are viable substitutions, but, as with many Hebrew words, checed has no exact match in English.

While lovingkindness can describe one person’s actions toward another (Genesis 20:13; 21:23; Joshua 2:12), it is most often used to describe the character of the Lord. Many places in Scripture speak of the lovingkindness of the Lord (Exodus 20:6, 34:6–7; Deuteronomy 7:12; 2 Chronicles 1:8; Psalm 31:16). Lovingkindness is part of who God is; He delights in showing lovingkindness (Micah 7:18), and we praise Him for it (Psalm 138:2), but this specific word seems to imply a slightly different character trait than His basic goodness and compassion for all His creation (Psalm 145:9).

Checed or lovingkindness, as it relates to the character of God, is most often used to describe God’s heart toward those who are His own. Lovingkindness is God’s kindness and steadfast love for His children, especially evident in His condescending to meet our needs. In Scripture, God shows His lovingkindness in saving His children from their enemies and delivering them from their troubles (Exodus 15:13; Jeremiah 31:3; Ezra 7:28; Psalm 6:4; 33:18; 119:149). His lovingkindness comforts us (Psalm 119:76), redeems us from sin (Numbers 14:19; Psalm 25:7; 51:1), and assures us of His promises (Deuteronomy 7:9; Nehemiah 1:5; 2 Samuel 7:15; Psalm 18:50).

God’s lovingkindness is abundant (Numbers 14:18), great in extent (Psalm 33:5; 145:8), everlasting (Jeremiah 33:11; Psalm 100:5), and full of goodness (Psalm 69:17). God’s lovingkindness, His steadfast, loving actions on our behalf, knows no bounds: “Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens / And Your truth to the clouds” (Psalm 57:10, NASB).

Recommended Resource: The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson

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