Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
I have trouble finding uplifting topics about which to write these days. If you are a Christian, and a conservative, the outlook, except for the hope of the Rapture, seems less than cheery. But today is Valentine’s Day, so what better topic to cover than “Love.”
The English word “love” appears 311 times in the King James Bible, 131 times in the Old Testament and 180 times in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, “love” is used to translate eight different Hebrew words. The most common Hebrew word translated as “love” is ‘âhab, and its first appearance is in Genesis 27:4 when Isaac asks Esau to prepare some “savory meat such as I “love.” The Hebrew word ‘âhab means “to have affection for (sexually or otherwise),” so it allows for a lot of latitude in the way that it can be used, much like the way we use the word “love” in our day. I “love” Whataburger!
The second most used Hebrew word translated “love” is ra‛yâh used nine times and all in the Song of Solomon. The word means “a female associate” and it is used in the same way we would use it in speaking to a girlfriend or wife – “my love.”
The third most used Hebrew word translated “love” is dôd (translated “love” seven times), which means “to boil, that is (figuratively) to love; by implication a love token, lover, friend; specifically an uncle.” I can easily associate “boil” with “love,” i.e., “passion,” but I do not get “uncle,” which is the way it is often translated. The Song of Solomon finds the most uses of the word dôd, which makes sense considering the content of the poem. It is used in Proverbs 7:18 by the adulterous woman seducing the fool, and in Ezekiel 16:8 describing God’s passion for Israel. Also in Ezekiel 23:17 it is used to describe Israel’s and Judah’s passion for idolatry like an adulterous woman.
There is no word in the Old Testament (that I could find) that describes God’s love like there is in the New Testament. Love appears as a verb (agapaō) 140 times and as a noun (agapē) 117 times (sometimes translated “charity”). Strong’s Dictionary translates it as “affection or benevolence,” but biblical scholars have long assigned greater meaning to the word. Indeed, when reading the “Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) in the KJV, agapē is translated as “charity” because “charity” better conveys the deeper significance of the word. As charity is selfless giving without expectation of reciprocation, so agapē expresses the love of God completely.
John expressed God’s love in the third chapter of his Gospel, “For God so loved (agapaō) the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus said (our starting verse), “Greater love (agapē) hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He proved this by giving His own life on the cross to rescue us from eternal damnation.
In like manner, Paul exhorts, “Husbands, love (agapaō) your wives, even as Christ also loved (agapaō) the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Love unselfishly without expecting anything in return. Although, I believe you will be rewarded.