Mercy; Merciful


mur'-si, mur'-si-fool (checedh, racham, chanan; eleos, eleeo, oiktirmos):

"Mercy" is a distinctive Bible word characterizing God as revealed to men.

In the Old Testament it is most often the translation of checedh, "kindness," "loving-kindness" (see LOVINGKINDNESS), but rachamim, literally, "bowels" (the sympathetic region), and chanan, "to be inclined to," "to be gracious," are also frequently translated "mercy"; eleos, "kindness," "beneficence," and eleeo, "to show kindness," are the chief words rendering "mercy" in the New Testament; oiktirmos, "pity," "compassion," occurs a few times, also oiktirmon, "pitiful," eleemon, "kind," "compassionate," twice; hileos, "forgiving," and anileos, "not forgiving," "without mercy," once each (Hebrews 8:12; James 2:13).

(1) Mercy is

(a) an essential quality of God (Exodus 34:6,7; Deuteronomy 4:31; Psalms 62:12, etc.); it is His delight (Micah 7:18,20; Psalms 52:8); He is "the Father of mercies" (2 Corinthians 1:3), "rich in mercy" (Ephesians 2:4), "full of pity, and merciful" (James 5:11);

(b) it is associated with forgiveness (Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; 1 Timothy 1:13,16);

(c) with His forbearance (Psalms 145:8, "Yahweh is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great lovingkindness"; compare Romans 2:4; 11:32);

(d) with His covenant (1 Kings 8:23; Nehemiah 1:5), with His justice (Psalms 101:1), with His faithfulness (Psalms 89:24), with His truth (Psalms 108:4); mercy and truth are united in Proverbs 3:3; 14:22, etc. (in Psalms 85:10 we have "Mercy and truth are met together");

(e) it goes forth to all (Psalms 145:9, "Yahweh is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works"; compare 145:16, "Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing," the Revised Version margin "satisfiest every living thing with favor");

(f) it shows itself in pitying help (Exodus 3:7; Ezra 9:9), supremely in Christ and His salvation (Luke 1:50,54,58; Ephesians 2:4);

(g) it is abundant, practically infinite (Psalms 86:5,15; 119:64);

(h) it is everlasting (1 Chronicles 16:34,41; Ezra 3:11; Psalms 100:5; 136 repeatedly).

(2) "Mercy" is used of man as well as of God, and is required on man's part toward man and beast (Deuteronomy 25:4; Psalms 37:21; 109:16; Proverbs 12:10; Daniel 4:27; Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful:

for they shall obtain mercy"; 25:31-46; Lu 6:36, "Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful"; Lu 10:30, the Good Samaritan; Luke 14:12-16; James 3:17).

(3) In the New Testament "mercy" (eleos, usually the Septuagint translation of checedh) is associated with "grace" (charis) in the apostolical greetings and elsewhere. Trench points out that the difference between them is that the freeness of God's love is the central point of charis, while eleos has in view misery and its relief; charis is His free grace and gift displayed in the forgiveness of sins--extended to men as they are guilty; His eleos (is extended to them) as they are miserable. The lower creation may be the object of His mercy (eleos), but man alone of His grace (charis); he alone needs it and is capable of receiving it (Synonyms of the New Testament, 163 f).

(4) From all the foregoing it will be seen that mercy in God is not merely His pardon of offenders, but His attitude to man, and to the world generally, from which His pardoning mercy proceeds. The frequency with which mercy is enjoined on men is specially deserving of notice, with the exclusion of the unmerciful from sonship to the all-merciful Father and from the benefits of His mercifulness. Shakespeare's question, "How canst thou hope for mercy rendering none?" is fully warranted by our Lord's teaching and by Scripture in general; compare especially the parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35).

(5) As the rule, the American Standard Revised Version has "lovingkindness" for "mercy" when checedh is used of God, and "kindness" when it is used of men in relation to each other. "Compassion" (translation of racham) is also in several instances substituted for "mercy" (Isaiah 9:17; 14:1; 27:11; Jeremiah 13:14; 30:18), also "goodness" (translation of checedh referring to man) (Hosea 4:1; 6:6).

W. L. Walker

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