Thursday, April 4, 2013

[ḥesed] and [’ĕmet]

As I work my way through the colossal Kingdom Through Covenant by Wellum and Gentry, I am enjoying reviewing, and learning anew, information about covenants. One particularly encouraging section deals with the words [ḥesed] and [’ĕmet] and their connection to covenants. This word pair is somewhat ineffable; a precise definition does not present itself. However, the authors give a helpful, though incomplete, summary definition by relating this word pair as "faithful loyal love." That alone is breath-taking when we consider these words are regularly used to describe the supremely sovereign God's posture towards all of us sinners.

Wellum and Gentry give us an example of how these two words are used in the bible by presenting Psalm 117 to us. They reveal the use of [ḥesed] and [’ĕmet], but also demark the psalm in question as a summary of the entire Psalter. This is very interesting and uplifting. Consider the following which appears at the end of chapter four of Kingdom Through Covenant:

Psalm 117Praise the LORD, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love [ḥesed] toward us,
and the faithfulness [’ĕmet] of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD. (NIV)
This is the briefest and shortest hymn in the whole of Israel’s Songbook (Psalms). According to the format standard for a hymn, there is a call to praise Yahweh, followed by the reason for praise. In Psalm 117, verse 1 is the Call to Praise and verse 2 is the Reason for Praise. In the section giving the reason for praise the word pair ḥesed and ’ĕmet is split over parallel lines. Thus the reason for boasting about the Lord is his faithful loyal love in his covenant with his people Israel. In fact, the celebration of this quality summarises the entire Psalter. When a budding scholar completes a doctoral dissertation, the dissertation must be summarised in three hundred words. This is called a dissertation abstract. And Psalm 117 is the dissertation abstract for the entire book of Psalms. It summarises in just a very few words all of the Laments, Hymns, and Songs of Thanksgiving in Israel’s hymnal, including the enormously long Psalm 119. The Lord is worthy of the worship of his people Israel because he demonstrates faithful loyal love in the covenant relationship. (145)

1 comment:

  1. Interestingly I believe these are the 2 same words used in John 1:14 to describe Jesus. I think they are translated 'full of grace and truth'.