Updated: Nov 11, 2019
The Hebrew word hesed can be found throughout the Jewish manuscripts and is a key word of the Old Testament.
[Technically the Hebrew word is חֶסֶד and a rendering of it is checed according to blueletterbible.com and Strong's. Different languages have different alphabets. Transliteration is when you change a word into corresponding characters of another alphabet or language. Just like we often call Chanukah, Hanukkah (the English version); we call checed the English version, hesed.]
It is the translators' purpose to translate the original language manuscripts into words of a receptor language (in our case English) so that what the word meant to the original writers of the day is as close as possible to the same meaning for us today. The people who compose the translation teams have incredible credentials. These translators are at the top of their field in biblical studies and linguistics and usually have some training in anthropology and sociology. They realize they are working with the Word of God and treat their translation task with reverence.
The Hebrew word hesed refers to God’s faithful, kind, and merciful love. It expresses the love between people who are bound by a covenant – God’s favor towards His covenant people or the love that people are to show to others. It is often translated “love”, “lovingkindness,” or “unfailing love.”
I primarily read from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and it translates hesed to "lovingkindness." As I was reading the Old Testament I kept seeing the word over and over and I realized it is a key word. The word “lovingkindness” is found in 182 verses in the Old Testament of the NASB! I love the word “lovingkindness” because of the image it evokes in my mind. Spellcheck doesn’t like it though because it really isn't a word and puts that red squiggly line under it.
"Lovingkindness" is used often in the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the Orthodox Jewish Bible.
Modern versions of the Bible like the English Standard Version (ESV), New International Version (NIV), and New Living Translation (NLT) often translate hesed to “love,” “unfailing love,” “mercy,” and “steadfast love.”
I’m partial to the word "lovingkindness" though. It makes me think how you treat a newborn baby or puppy - gentle, compassionate, loving, merciful, tender, and protecting.
We may say God loves us, but we are so casual with the word love. We say we love our job. We love the color green. We love our spouse and our children. We love pizza. We love to sing. We love your new haircut. We love our dog. Are those all the same kind of love? Of course not. Yet we only have that one word for all of those different levels. We fall in and out of love with each other. We are so undependable and fickle with our love. But not God. "For His lovingkindness is everlasting." So when we hear or read God loves us, we are like yeah, yeah, sure He does. We can't really fathom how much He loves us. In our minds we are comparing His love to our shallow perception of what love is. But I think the magnitude of His love is much more clearly conveyed with the word "lovingkindness."
Stop and visualize that word. Adding the word “kindness” to “loving” gives it a whole new depth.
God loves us kindly. Smile.
People often have this perception that God is mean and angry in the Old Testament. Nothing is further from the truth! And when people say the God of the Old Testament is angry, I know they haven’t read it. God is described over and over there as a God full of lovingkindness towards us.
Just a few of the "lovingkindness" verses:
1 Kings 8:23 He said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart,
Nehemiah 9:17 “They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; so they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; and You did not forsake them.
Psalm 25:10 All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.
Psalm 32:10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.
Psalm 86:15 But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
Psalm 100:5 For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 117:2 For His lovingkindness is great toward us, and the truth of the LORD is everlasting. Praise the LORD!
Isaiah 54:10 “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says the LORD who has compassion on you.
There are days I feel completely unloveable. Sometimes I wonder how God could possibly love a sinful wretch like me. And then I think of the word lovingkindness and all the verses that promise that is how He feels towards me. And towards you too.
How about doing a word study and reading the list of lovingkindness verses in the NASB? You can find the list on this link: (There are many pages of verses. At the bottom of the page click the next page arrow.)
Maybe God put the word "hesed" over and over in the Old Testament so we would truly believe it.
[For the other side see Fearing God post on May 12, 2016.]