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Hesed She Said

Psalm 23 is a well known scripture even outside of religious influences.  In fact, I bet most of  the visitors who just read the two words that began this post started saying, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”, inside of their heads.  This post isn’t going to be about the 23rd Psalm, however… though I do want to allude to one verse – the 6th – and only to half of it..

Here are three different translations of the first part of the 6th verse:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life ~ KJV

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life ~ NIV

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life ~ NASB

I have highlighted the only difference between the three translations.  Isn’t it interesting that the 3 different translations used a different word to translate the Hebrew word that sits in the original language? What is that word, you ask? Good question.

The Hebrew word in question is checed which is pronounced as HEH SED with a throat clearing sound for that first letter ‘C’ in the word.  What is beautiful about that word is that the English language trips all over itself trying to find a short definitive response that makes sense to the readers.  Consider that those 3 different translations use 3 different words to try and explain it.

Mercy, Love, Lovingkindess – all great words but all short of the full meaning behind hesed.  I got to studying this word because it is used in the book of Ruth when Naomi is addressing and blessing Ruth for her kindness towards her.  Heced points to a covenant loyalty – it entails faithfulness.

Ruth lives out that word when she speaks those timeless words:

“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

She said those words to a woman that had nothing left to offer her except empty hands and a home in a land where she would be an outcast.  Naomi recognized this devotion from Ruth as heced.

Maybe that is why I like how one group on the internet has described this Hebrew word:

The consistent, ever-faithful, relentless, constantly-pursuing, lavish, extravagant, unrestrained, furious love of our Father God

Isn’t it awesome to think that when David penned the words, “Surely goodness and heced will follow me…”, that in his mind he pictured something far stronger than those three English words that we have been given.

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