When we think of love in the Bible, we often think of the Greek words mentioned in the New Testament: Agape, storge, and eros. A video by the Bible Project invites us to look at a Hebrew word for love and what it can teach us about how we are to act.
The Hebrew Word for Love
The Hebrew word for love is “ahavah” which essentially describes the kind of “affection or care that one person shows another.” It is seldom used to describe the feelings or passions between romantic partners, but it is generally used in a more broad sense.
The examples we are given in the Bible of this word being used include a wide range of relationships. When ahavah is used, we are told Abraham had ahavah for his son, Isaac. Jonathan showed David ahavah. We are even told that the people had ahavah for David, their leader. We are shown instances where the word for love is used for parental and brotherly love, and even to describe the love a people have for their leader. In fact, when the Bible describes the relationship between Hiram, the King of Tyre, and David, this word is used.
Moses told the Israelites “God showed affection for you, He chose you…because of his ahavah for you.” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8) Anyone who has read any significant part of the Old Testament knows that God did not show the Israelites love because of something they did or how they acted toward him. Rather, he loved them because it is in his nature to love.
In Jeremiah, we are told that God’s ahavah is everlasting (31:3). The narrator of the video says that everlasting means God’s love knows no beginning or end—it simply is.
What Is God’s Love Like?
Hosea describes God’s love as a husband’s love for his wife, or a parent’s for a child, describing it as a feeling. In addition to a feeling, though, it’s an action. In other words, it is something God does.
God’s love compels action in us as well. In Deuteronomy, we are instructed to show ahavah for others as God has shown to us. Just as God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and shows ahavah to the immigrants by giving them food and clothing, we are to do the same. The Bible instructs us that to actively love God we are to actively love the others in our midst.
This concept of actively loving others is the underlying understanding behind Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
And while the video sticks to Old Testament examples (hence, the Hebrew), this concept of actively loving God by loving others is a theme Jesus spoke about as well. He told us “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
If you want to know if you really love God, evaluating the things you do to help others is a good place to start.
If you enjoyed this video from the Bible Project, you’ll like these as well:
What the Book of Job Teaches Us About Unexplainable Suffering
Animated Explanation of ‘The Messiah’
Understanding the Book of Proverbs