The HESED of God in Psalm 136

  • NIV – his love endures forever
  • KJV – his mercy endureth for ever
  • ESV – his steadfast love endures forever
  • MESSAGE – his love never quits
  • NLT – his faithful love endures forever
  • NASB – his lovingkindness is everlasting
  • HCSB – his love is eternal

All these are translations of the phrase, kiy l’olam hesedo, which creates the refrain of Psalm 136.

It is hard to take a robust word like hesed and condense its meanings to one word in the English language. There are parts of the word with which these different translations do well. Hesed involves kindness, and surely when it is described of God, his kindness to us, a sinful creature, must involve mercy and we know its motivation is his love for us. There are examples of its use in the Bible that relate to its enduring quality, which is fitting here given that it is coupled with the word olam, which means everlasting or without end.

It is kindness, but it is more than that. It is love, but more. There is more than just the action and orientation, it brings in a commitment, such as the covenant God has made with us. When speaking of God it conveys the steady faithfulness he has to his undeserving people, and is descriptive of one who has done so much to save and shepherd his own. We could never remain faithful as he has, nor could we maintain the covenant. But God, with his great hesed, goes beyond what we deserve to forgive us and lavish his love upon us.

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