The basic concept for comfort in both the Old and New Testaments is encouragement, whether by words or the presence of another to help in time of need. Synonymous words are console, help, give relief, cheer up, exhort, and fear not.
In the Old Testament naham [j"n] is most often translated "to comfort." God is the God of all comfort: "I, even I, am he who comforts you" ( Isa 51:12 ; see also Isaiah 51:3 Isaiah 51:19 ). God is not only the creator God who consoles, but he comes in time of calamity and gives help. The gospel is given in Isaiah 40:1, where he exhorts, "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God." The final twenty-six chapters of Isaiah are often called "the volume of comfort" with its promise of present comfort and the future promise of the suffering servant who comes to give hope, help, and release"to comfort all who mourn" ( 61:3 ). The command of Moses to not be afraid ( Exod 14:13 ; 20:20 ) is a command intended to bring comfort to the people. Isaiah intends to bring comfort as he echoes God's presence among his people: "So do not fear, for I am with you" ( 41:10 ).
In the New Testament the words parakaleo [parakalevw] and paraklesis [paravklhsi"] come from the verb kaleo [kalevw], meaning "to call, " and the preposition para [parav], "alongside of." The meaning is to call or summon to one's aid, to call for help, to stand alongside of. Further meanings are to comfort, to encourage, to cheer up, to exhort. The second beatitude offers a blessing to those who mourn, "for they will be comforted" ( Matt 5:4 ). But the mothers whose children have been murdered by Herod refuse to be comforted ( Matt 2:18 ). In these instances the meaning is closely related to "console."
Paul's classic passages on comfort ( 2 Cor 1:3-7 ; 7:2-16 ) suggest the dominant note of encouragement. The King James Version and the New International Version use the word "comfort." God is the author of comfort and "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" ( 1:4 ). This is made possible through Christ, and makes patient endurance overflow to others. Paul was encouraged through the coming of Titus, who had received the comfort of the Corinthian church ( 7:4-7 ).
Jesus promised the disciples another Counselor (Comforter, KJV) who would be with them forever. He is the Spirit of truth; he will be sent in the name of Jesus; he will teach all things relating to what Jesus had taught them ( Joh 14:15-27 ). He will be sent by Jesus after Jesus goes away. He appears in Christ's behalf as mediator, intercessor, helper, and comforter: "he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come" ( John 16:8 John 16:13 ).
In both Testaments, God is the author of comfort ( Isa 51:12 ; 2 Cor 1:3 ). Christ is comforter, intercessor, advocate. The Holy Spirit is the Counselor sent by Jesus to be our Comforter. The church and the Christian are to function as comforters ( 2 Cor 1:4 ; 7:7 ).
William J. Woodruff
See also Consolation
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