Hesed and Kindness
- I would add is that this isn't mere faithfulness or loyalty. It's faithfulness or loyalty to a covenant. But it also has connotations of love and not just mere faithfulness as a duty.
My Old Testament professor Saul Olyan preferred to translate it as "covenant love" in order to get that element. Since it's love in the context of a covenant, the faithfulness aspect is sort of implied rather than explicit. That's the one downside of his translation.
- Here too the usual English translation of "lovingkindness" misses a key element. In the Bible, chesed meant living up to a covenantal responsibility, so my Bible professors taught me to translate chesed as "covenant loyalty." Loyalty captures the blend of duty and feelings of concern, connection, and sympathy that we naturally have for those with whom we feel a bond. Doing chesed means feeling that loyalty toward all other human beings. We owe each other our compassion, not only when it happens to well up within us.
Gemilut chasadim literally means "paying back chesed." Since chesed is showered on us each day, all our lives-from family and loved ones, from the created world around us-the only way to repay it is to do chesed for others.
- When the word is applied to God, it refers to his faithfulness to the relationship. Thus, the word is best translated “faithfulness,” “unfailing love,” “loyalty.” When the word is applied to human beings, it refers to the loyalty and commitment that people should bring to that relationship. In this case, a good translation of hesed should be “commitment,” “loyalty.”
- Ruth acts with חסד (loyalty or caring responsibility) only because both women act with initiative and mutual support
Concise Oxford Dictionary (the state or qulaity of being kind) kind:
- of a friendly, generous, benevolent or gentle nature
- showing friendliness, affection or consideration
- archaic loving
- the quality of being warmhearted and considerate and humane and sympathetic
- forgiving: tendency to be kind and forgiving
- a kind act
If we take this back to the original context which I started with, it means that Ruth was not just warmhearted and gentle but she was responsible and committed. She contradicted Naomi, she left her own country to accompany Naomi, she worked in the fields to provide for Naomi, she put herself in a compromising position, she initiated a marriage relationship, and she gave her firstborn to her mother-in-law to name. We don't know how gentle she was, we do know she must have been strong and determined. She was loving and committed and fulfilled her caring responsibilities.
- kindness KJV, RSV, ESV, NIV, TNIV, NASB, HCSB
- What a splendid expression of love! Message
- family loyalty NLT
- truly loyal CEV
- loyalty NRSV
- ἐλεος - compassion LXX
- He said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your caring responsibility is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.