Yep, I’m still in Exodus.
Today, I was reading about and reflecting upon compassion. My interest comes from a personal as well as professional curiosity, as various psychological studies have noted that compassion (and its cultivation) is a integral component in the formation of safe, secure relationships.
Ex. 34 tells the story of Moses going back up the mountain (Sinai) and God renewing the covenant He made with Israel. Vrs. 4-7 read:
So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
The NIV (and probably others) translate whatever Hebrew word is there as “compassionate”. The ESV on the other hand translates the Hebrew as “merciful and gracious”. These are very similar concepts, but, in my understanding of compassion, they vary slightly. Compassion has to do with being with – suffering with – whereas mercy and grace, while indicting some type of relationship, don’t necessarily have a with-ness about them. They are things that can be bestowed from afar. Compassion cannot be experienced from afar; that would be merely pity.
As God is speaking in this passage, I am curious if anyone might have any insight on the Hebrew word that is used here? I am curious as to “best” translation…that is, a conceptual understanding of how God would describe himself.
Additionally, if someone can point me to a helpful tool to help translate from the original language, that would also be appreciated!