long-suf'-er-ing ('erekh 'appayim; makrothumia):

The words 'erekh 'appayim, translated longsuffering, mean literally, "long of nose" (or "breathing"), and, as anger was indicated by rapid, violent breathing through the nostrils, "long of anger," or "slow to wrath." The adjective is applied to God (Exodus 34:6 the King James Version, in the name of Yahweh as proclaimed to Moses; Nu 14:18 the King James Version; Ps 86:15 the King James Version; the Revised Version (British and American) "slow to anger," which is also the translation in other places; the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 103:8; 145:8; Proverbs 15:18; 16:32; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3); it is associated with "great kindness" and "plenteous in mercy." The substantive occurs in Jeremiah 15:15: "Take me not away in thy longsuffering." In Ecclesiastes 7:8, we have 'erekh ruach, the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) "patient in spirit."

The word in the New Testament rendered "longsuffering," makrothumia (once makrothumeo, "to be longsuffering"), which is the rendering of 'erekh 'appayim in the Septuagint, is literally, "long of mind or soul" (regarded as the seat of the emotions), opposed to shortness of mind or soul, irascibility, impatience, intolerance. It is attributed to God (Romans 2:4; 9:22; 2 Peter 3:9), of His bearing long with sinners and slowness to execute judgment on them. It is, therefore, one of "the fruits of the Spirit" in man (Galatians 5:22) which Christians are frequently exhorted to cherish and show one toward the other (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 1:11; 3:12, etc.); it belongs, Paul says, to the love, without which all else is nothing:

"Love suffereth long (makrothumei), and is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4); The verb makrothumeo is sometimes translated by "patience" (Matthew 18:26,29, "Have patience with me"). Luke 18:7 has been variously rendered; the King James Version has "And shall not God avenge his own elect .... though he bear long with them"; the Revised Version (British and American) "and yet he is longsuffering over them," the American Revised Version margin "and is he slow to punish on their behalf?" Weymouth (New Testament in Modern Speech) has "although he seems slow in taking action on their behalf," which most probably gives the sense of the passage; in James 5:7,8 the verb occurs thrice, the King James Version "be patient," "hath long patience"; the Revised Version (British and American) also translates by "patient"; this, however, as in Matthew 18:26,29, seems to lose the full force of the Greek word. According to Trench (Synonyms of the New Testament, 189), the difference between hupomone ("patience") and makrothumia is that the latter word expresses patience in respect to persons, and the former in respect to things; hence, hupomone is never ascribed to God; where He is called "the God of patience," it is as He gives it to His servants and saints. But in James 5:7 it is used with reference to things, and in Colossians 1:11 it is associated with patience (compare Hebrews 6:12,15), suggesting patient endurance of trials and sufferings. In Colossians 1:11 it is also associated with "joy," indicating that it is not a mere submissiveness, but a joyful acceptance of the will of God, whatever it may be. In The Wisdom of Solomon 15:1; Ecclesiasticus 5:4, we have "longsuffering" (makrothumos) ascribed to God; also in Ecclesiasticus 2:11, the Revised Version (British and American) "mercy."

W. L. Walker

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'LONGSUFFERING'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.