Theology of Grace

James Strauss

Lincoln Christian Seminary


HESED in the Bible. [By Nelson Glueck (Compare Glueck with TDOT)]


1. Chapter 1.  “Hesed as Human Conduct—Its Secular Meaning.”


I.  A preliminary clarification of the concept—those who practice hesed.


     A. The hesed relationship between relatives and related tribes”!


          1) Genesis 47:29. Jacob and Joseph.

          2)  Genesis 20:13. Abraham and Sarah.

          3)  Ruth 3:10. Ruth to Boaz.

          4)  Ruth 2:20. Boaz to Ruth.

          5)  Genesis 24:49; Isaiah 15:6.f


     B. Between host and guest.


          1)  Genesis 19:19.

          2)  Joshua 2:12, 14.

          3)  Genesis 21:13.


     C. Between allies and their relatives.


          1) 1 Samuel 20:8: 20:14, 15; 2 Samuel 9:1-7.


     D. Between friends.


          1) 2 Samuel 16:17; 10:2


     E.  Between ruler and subject.


          1) 2 Samuel 3:8; 2 Chronicles 24:22; 1 Kings 20:31; Esther 2:9, 17.


     F.  Hesed as merited obligation.


          1)Judges 1:24; 1 Kings 2:7; 2 Samuel 2:5; Judges 8:35; Genesis 40:14.




          Hesed is received or shown only by those among whom a definite relationship exists.




II. Hesed as conduct corresponding to a mutual relationship of rights and duties.


     A. Hesed as the mutual relationship of rights and duties between the members of a family or

          tribe. In ancient Israel, families and tribes were very close with mutual rights and



          1) Kinship.


              a)  Consanguinity: Father and son. Genesis 47:29. Every son owed his father love based

                   on personal affection and duty.


              b)  Relationship by marriage.


                   (1)     Husband and wife. Genesis 20:13. Family members were obligated to help one

another. Hesed demanded that husband and wife care for each other. Hesed was love based on loyalty and duty. Sarah risked herself to save Abraham.


                   (2) The redeemer and the widow of his kinsman. Only in the book of Ruth is hesed

used in a sense similar to that employed in the older sources. In Ruth 3:10, hesed is used in that mode of conduct which is in accordance with familial obligations. Ruth in obeying Naomi and going to Boaz showed hesed to her dead husband. This hesed was surpassed by her love and loyalty to her husband. She could have married out of the family and the kinsman redeemer line/ but she felt the obligation to do so. She was not obliged to do it. She was free to go back home; yet/ in faithful love/ she followed Naomi. Boaz also showed hesed in his willingness to marry Ruth.


          2) The tribal community.


              a)  The tribal community in its more limited sense: Related families. Genesis 24:49.


              b)  The tribal community in a broader sense: Related tribes.1 Samuel 15:6.


     B. Hesed as the mutual relationship of rights and duties/ between guest and host.

          The law of hospitality was sacred. The host/ if necessary/ would risk his life for a guest.

          They became like brothers. When you were host and guest/ it was like being a part of the

          family. This relationship was called hesed.


          1)  Host and guest. Genesis 19:19. Lot saved his guest and his guests rescued him from

Sodom. This mutual relationship was hesed. = He was ready to sacrifice for him; they were ready to come to his assistance. The mutuality of their relationship was determined by hesed. Joshua 2:12/ 14. Rahab showed hesed to the spies and was then able to make them vow to show her hesed.





          2)  The Gar and his Protector.  Genesis 21:3. By showing Abraham hesed/ Abimelech

could charge Abraham to show hesed to him later. Hesed here refers to the attitude stemming from the mutual relationship of rights and responsibility between protector and ger.


     C. Hesed as the Mutual Relationship of Rights and Duties between Allies.

          This mutual relationship was unsurpassed in importance. Hesed was the only possible

mode of conduct. Anyone not showing hesed could not be a part of the alliance. Allies for all practical purposes were brothers. (Amos 1:9) David and Jonathan had this kind of relationship.  (1 Samuel 20:8) A breach of this obligation was punishable by death. The only way a covenant could be translated into action was for both parties to show hesed. Note/ especially/ the hesed of David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:14, 15, and 2 Samuel 9:1, 3, 7; 21:7.


     D. Hesed as conduct stemming from the mutual relationships of rights and duties between



Even without a covenant, David and Jonathan would have been bound to show hesed to one another since they were friends. It was a friendship of mutual rights and duties. Friends were considered brothers.


2 Samuel 16:16,17 shows hesed as the expected conduct in friendship. Love, friendship, brotherliness, and loyalty are all-inherent in the concept of hesed.


E.  Hesed as the mutual relationship of rights and duties between ruler and subjects.


     1)  The king and his subjects.

2 Samuel 3:8 is an account of broken hesed.

2 Chronicles 24:22 shows the break of mutual hesed.


2)  The king and those who submit to him.

     1 Kings 20:31. Hesed was what saved the life of Benhadad. (See 1 Kings 20:34)


NOTE: In Esther/ hesed takes on more of the idea of grace and mercy which is arbitrarily given. (2:9, 17)


F.  Hesed as mutual aid.


Judges 1:24; 1 Kings 2:7.

The idea is that/ when someone offered aid/ they became like a brother and therefore since the helper showed hesed/ the helped must also show hesed. Note also 2 Samuel 2:5; Judges 8:35; Genesis 40:14.




A. Hesed is conduct corresponding to a mutual relationship of rights and duties.


B. Hesed/ when understood as such conduct/ explains the previously mentioned fact that only those participating in a mutual relation-shipof rights and duties can receive or show hesed.


C. Hesed is conduct in accord with a mutual relationship of rights and duties or conduct corresponding to a mutually obligatory relationship.


D. The component parts of the general concept hesed/ in which the interpretation of hesed as procedures or performances corresponding to a mutually obligatory relationship/ are principally: reciprocity/ mutual assistance/ sincerity/ friendliness/ brotherliness/ duty/ loyalty/ and love.


E. In the older sources/ the common use of hesed never means an arbitrary demonstration of grace/ kindness/ favor/ or love.


2. Chapter 2. “Hesed as Human Conduct—Its Religious Meaning.”


I.  Hesed in the prophetic and cognate literature as the reciprocal conduct of men toward one another and explicitly toward God.


In the prophets/ hesed is greatly expanded. It grows from the conduct of mutual relationships of rights and duties of groups to the conduct of all men toward one another. Religion gives life a deeper significance and value. Hesed/ therefore/ has to be understood not only in the mutual relationships of men/ but at the same time the relationships of men toward God.


A. In the book of Hosea.


Hesed in Hosea is a reciprocal relationship among men and an explicit one toward God. Between God and His people is the idea that He provides for them/ (Hosea 2:20/1:9;2:10). He grants peace and rest(2:20)/ stands by to help(12:10)/ and is full of benevolence (11:3-4/3:1). The people in return must obey his demands and remain faithful. If they don’t/ they are in danger of rejection. (6:10/ 10:12.12:7/ 4:l-3/ 11:8, 9:15,2:4,4:6,5:6)


The people’s relationship is based on ethical conduct. They were to be faithful to him. He required fidelity and love/ both to God and of men toward one another. An interesting thing to note is the relationship of hesed and emeth (4:1). Hesed may be rendered as “religiosity” or pietas/or duty.


In 6:4, their hesed is shown as inconsistent. Note 6:6 and compare to 1 Samuel 15:22 ff; Psalm 50:8; Isaiah 10:1; Hesed is demanded by God/ being both man’s task and hope (2:23-25). God calls for inner transformation that must become actual ethical action. Their ethical action proved their obedience to divine commands. He who acts in accordance with hesed will naturally practice loyalty and righteousness. It is the true expression of genuine religiosity.



B. In other prophetic books and cognate literature.


There is hesed between God and the righteous man tied to Him by ethical and religious conduct.  (Jeremiah 2:2-3) Men were expected to show hesed to God. They showed it to one another (chapter one)/ and could be asked to do no less to God. When men become a part of the people of God/ every man becomes his brother and hesed becomes the natural relationship. (Job 6:14) Note Proverbs 16:6—Hesed and Emeth are the characteristics of a man devoted to God. The possibility of returning to God comes through hesed and emeth.


II. Hesed in the prophetic and cognate literature as the reciprocal conduct of men toward one another and implicitly toward God.


It is impossible to separate ethics from religion. Hence/ you cannot separate hesed from the relationship of man to man and man to God. The one who practices hesed is favored by man and God. (Proverbs 3:4)


A. Hesed deeds and their consequences.


1) By people in general. (Proverbs 11:17) Hesed entails a subtle kind of reward. When we show hesed/ we lead out in the kingdom of God. The idea expressed is that those who practice goodness may express like conduct from God. Remember/ this is within the covenant relationship.


2) By rulers. (Proverbs 20:28) Note 1 Samuel 16:5; here we see hesed as the conduct of a king who is a servant of the Lord. Hesed is the conduct of men toward one another. It is also the proper relationship of men toward God. It is in accord with the demands of morality and true religion.


III.  The Hasid.


A. As the opposite of the sinner.


The hasid is the faithful servant of the Lord. He has communion with God because he has proved himself worthy through ethical and religious conduct. He lives his daily life in accordance with the commandments. (Psalm 86:2; 79:2; 143:12; 119:124; 32:6; Nehemiah 13:14.) He is contrasted with the wicked (Psalm 37:28: 1 Samuel 2:9); he loves God and enjoys the love of God (Psalm 27:28) and he is the opposite of the heartless (Proverbs 11:17).


B. As the identical of the honest and the just. (Psalm 18:26; 2 Samuel 22:26; Micah 7:2)


C. As identical to the faithful.


He is one who actually performs acts of charity and is loyal/ pious/ and charitable. This demands that hesed be shown to God. The hasid (the hesed-practicing individual) fulfills the demands of loyalty/ righteousness/ and love.


SUMMARY: From the preceding investigation/ we conclude:


A. Hesed is practiced mutually by all men/ as co-equal members of the human society.


B. Hesed is the reciprocal conduct of men toward one another and/ at the same time/ explicitly and implicitly/ the proper relationship toward God. These two aspects of hesed are inseparable.


C. As reciprocal ethical and religious conduct/ hesed fulfills the demands of loyalty/ justice/ righteousness/ and honesty. These concepts are embraced in its meaning.


D. Hesed is embodied in the concepts “knowledge of God” and “fear of God” and can be used interchangeably for them.


E. The meaning of hesed can best be translated as religiosity/ piety/ kindness/ and love of mankind.


F. Hesed is very closely related to the concept of mercy/ but is distinguished from it in that hesed is obligatory.


G. Subjectively understood/ hesed can appear as favor/ mercy/ compassion. Objectively/ hesed remains obligatory/ determined by the divinely-based ethical commandments which are the laws of human society.


H. The hasid/ as one who practices hesed/ is similarly defined.


I.  Hesed/ as human conduct in the ethical and religious sense/ occurs only in the prophetic and related literature.


3. Chapter 3. “Hesed as Divine Conduct.”


I.  Hesed as the reciprocal relationship of God to the patriarchs.


Abraham/ Isaac/ Nahor/ and a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:12/ 13/ 14, 27). What we see here is the relationship between God and Abraham. It involved rights and duties. Abraham could ask for hesed from his neighbors/ and he could also ask it from God. Here/ hesed is understood not so much as favor or kindness/ but as the covenantal relationship of faithfulness. It is joined with emeth/ showing loyalty.


In Genesis 32:10-13/ we see an example of hesed expressed in God’s of a promise and mans keeping of commandments. It is important to note here and in Micah 7:20 that hesed and emeth are used together. This always means loyalty. Berith is also used in connection with hesed to show the covenantal relationship between God and His people (Deuteronomy 7:12). They can be used as synonyms because they show God’s acceptance of Abraham and his descendants with the covenant.


II. Hesed as the reciprocal relationship of God to David and his house.


Note 2 Samuel 7:14-16 and 1Chronicles 17:13-14. We see hesed here in God’s choosing of David. God would be faithful in maintaining the throne if the descendants would keep the covenant (Psalm 132:11-12). The relationship was like that of a father and son. Again/ hesed and berith are used together. (Psalm 89; 2 Samuel 7:14-16). Hesed here can be understood as covenantal loyalty.


III. Hesed as the reciprocal relationship of God to His people.


A. God and His faithful people. Psalm 85:8/ 9 connects hesed/ emeth/ and shaloam. They form an indissolvable unity. It shows again the mutual relationship of faithfulness and loyalty between God and man.


God’s hesed was granted to those who were loyal to the covenant. Because He was going to have hesed with His people/ He must at times war with His enemies. Those who did not keep hesed were His enemies.  We find in this context that His hesed was covenantal loyalty which resulted in steadfast assistance for His people. (Psalm 48:5-10 and Exodus 15:13).


B. God and His people: Loyal again after their defection.


When God’s people turned from Him and then repented/ He practiced hesed over again. This had to be evidenced by ethical and religious conviction and conduct. Hesed showed that God had pardoned their sins and restored them to fellowship.


1)  The people bound to God in marriage.


Hosea 2:21-22. God uses the hesed of marriage to show faithfulness between Him and man. Here/ hesed and rahamim is used. Rahamim carries the idea of acknowledgment. It also carries the idea of love and tender mercy. It is the acceptance of one back in a positive sort of way. (Like being back in the womb.) It is very close to hesed and hen. Note also Isaiah 54:8-10; Jeremiah 16:5; 3:12-13.


2) The people bound to God by consanguinity. In Jeremiah 31:19-20/ God and His people are like a father and son. In Isaiah 63:7-8/ the father shows the son hesed and rahamim.


3)  The people in general in the covenantal community.


In Psalm 130:7-8/ we see God forgiving the sins of the repentant. In Psalm 103:4/ we again see hesed and rahamim; forgiving grace and reciprocal love.


IV. Hesed as the reciprocal relationship of YAHWEH to His community.


A. God and His faithful.

1)   God and those who know Him. To know God means to live in accordance with His commands and ethical standards. To know God is to act according to what He tells us. Jeremiah 31:33.


2)   God and those who fear Him. Psalm 5:7-8. For God to show hesed/ man must pray to Him and trust wholly in Him.


3)  God and His servants.


Hesed in daily life was shown between servants and masters. This is true with God as Master. Psalm 143:12 shows how God cares for us. Hesed here may mean strength. Whatever it means/ it signifies loyalty.


4)  God’s faithfulness in a general sense.


a)   The prayer for the granting of God’s hesed. (Micah 7:18; Jeremiah 9:23; Psalm 6:5). Note especially Psalm 109:26 and Psalm 43:1.


b)  The confident faith in God’s granting of hesed.


Psalm 23:6. Because of covenantal loyalty/ the faithful follower is not afraid to die. Note also Psalm 13:5; 21:8; 94:17-18. God here is giving His hesed/ His loyal aid to the faithful. It could be redered as “loyal aid reciprocated”.


B. God and those who become loyal to Him again after their defection.


Psalm 51:1 ff.  David cries out for hesed and rahamim. God can do this through His hesed. Note also Micah 7:18; 6:8; Psalm 86:5; Lamentations 3:31-32. Trusting that God will receive His faithful back into His communion even if they have sinned against Him. The worshiper prays for His rahamim/ hesed/ and emeth. Psalm 40:8-13.


In Psalm 69:14, 17, hesed is conditioned by emeth. For the pious/ all that God did was full of love and grace.


V. Hesed as the reciprocal relationship of God and mankind to His community. Hesed could be induced by God so that others would show hesed to His covenant people. See Genesis 39:21; Ezra 7:28; 9:9; Daniel 1:9.


SUMMARY: We may draw the following conclusions:


A.  God’s hesed can only be understood as YAHWEH’s covenantal relationship toward His followers.


B.  If God’s hesed is comprehended in this manner/ then it is certain that only those who stand in an ethical and religious relationship to Him may receive and expect His hesed.

C.  God’s hesed corresponds to the demands of loyalty/ justice/ and righteousness and already contains these concepts. God’s hesed and emeth are to be considered a^tjendiadys/ in which emeth has the value of a descriptive adjective.


D.  In His hesed/ God manifests His strength and power in behalf of His faithful and brings them aid and salvation.


E.  God’s hesed is the result of His covenant/ or His promise or oath.


F.  The hesed of God is very closely related to His rahamim but distinguished from it by its more positive character. The characteristic of loyalty which belongs to the concept of hesed is alien to the concept of rahamim.


G.  The hesed of God/ while it is not to be identified with His grace/ is still based upon the latter/ insofar as the relationship between God and people/ structured by Him as a covenantal relationship/ was effected by electing Israel through an act of grace. H. The significance of hesed can be rendered by “loyalty”/ “mutual aid”/ or “reciprocal love”.