Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Love, Lover, Lovely, Beloved

Additional Links


1. ‘Love’ (noun and verb, native Eng.) represents a single Heb. word, which ranged, like the Eng. term, from (1) sensuous , and often (though not necessarily) evil, desire (as in Genesis 25:28 , 2 Samuel 13:4 , Jeremiah 2:33 ), through (2) family affection and natural friendship ( Genesis 22:2 , Exodus 21:5 , 1 Samuel 18:16 , 2 Samuel 1:26 ), up to (3) the highest spiritual passion . Under (3) comes ( a ) J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ’s love to Israel , to the righteous, etc. ( Deuteronomy 4:37; Deuteronomy 7:7 f., 1 Kings 10:9 , Hosea 3:1; Hosea 9:5; Hosea 11:4; Hosea 14:4 , Zephaniah 3:17 , Jeremiah 2:2 , Isaiah 43:4; Isaiah 48:14; Isaiah 63:9 , Malachi 1:2 , Psalms 11:1; Psalms 47:4; Psalms 78:68; Psalms 87:2; Psalms 146:8 , Proverbs 3:12; Proverbs 8:17 , 2 Chronicles 2:11; 2 Chronicles 9:8 ); and ( b ) Israel’s love to J″ [Note: Jahweh.] , His name, word, ways, etc. ( e.g . in Exodus 20:6 , Deuteronomy 6:5 etc., Nehemiah 1:5; 1 Kings 3:3 same verb as in 1 Kings 11:1; Psalms 5:11; Psalms 31:23; Psalms 116:1; Psalms 119:97 etc.; Micah 6:8 ). Under a strong synonym meaning to cleave to or hang upon ’ J″ [Note: Jahweh.] is said ( Deuteronomy 7:7 ) to have ‘ set his love upon ’ Israel, and the saint ( Psalms 91:14 ) to have ‘ set his love upon ’ J″ [Note: Jahweh.] . Passages coming under ( b ) are relatively numerous, and date from the redemption of the Exodus. The instances of ( a ) we have enumerated in full; none of these is certainly earlier than Hosea, who first represented the covenant of Jehovah as a spousal contract. In similar connexion, J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ’s love to His people is poetically expressed by a word, of twofold form, signifying ‘darling’ (‘beloved,’ etc.), in Deuteronomy 33:12 , Isaiah 5:1 , Psalms 60:5; Psalms 127:2; this term figures much in Canticles. ‘Love does not appear with this association in Gn.; but the phrass ‘walked with God,’ of Genesis 5:22; Genesis 5:24; Genesis 6:9 (also Micah 6:8 , Malachi 2:6 ), conveys the idea of companionship. Several other Heb. synonyms occur, of limited use and slight significance. Lover (OT) is used in the evil meaning of (1) = paramour , and in sense (2) above a derivative (in Heb.) from the main stem first referred to. Lovely in 2 Samuel 1:23 = lovable . For ‘greatly beloved’ in Daniel 9:23 etc., see RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] .

Love, like joy (wh. see), holds a unique place in the Israelite as compared with other religions, as it signifies the reciprocal affection of God and people . According to Greek philosophy, the gods are as much above human affection as inanimate things are below it: ‘for friendship demands reciprocity; but relationship with God admits of no return of love, and therefore of no love in the proper sense, for it would be preposterous if any one said that he loves Zeus!’ ( Magna Moralia ). The sentiment of the OT is just the opposite of this; J″ [Note: Jahweh.] calls Israel ‘the seed of Abraham, my friend’ ( Isaiah 41:8; cf. Psalms 91:1-16; Psalms 116:1-19 etc.). In several of the texts referred to under (3) above, usages ( a ) and ( b ) are correlative; the people’s love to J″ [Note: Jahweh.] presupposes and grows out of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ’s love to it. The fact that the word denoting this affection comes from the sphere of conjugal love and of friendship imports reciprocity; see, in illustration, Exodus 33:11 , Hosea 2:14-23; Hosea 11:1-4 , Isaiah 62:3-5; Isaiah 63:7-10 . The Divine Wisdom says, in Proverbs 8:17 , ‘I love them that love me,’ conditioning J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ’s affection on the return made to it (cf. John 14:28; John 15:4; John 15:10 ). Yet it was not because of the greatness or the worth of this people that J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ‘chose’ them the case was quite otherwise but out of His unmerited goodness and His faithful regard for their forefathers ( Deuteronomy 7:7 ff; Deuteronomy 9:4 ff., Ezekiel 16:3-4; cf. Romans 5:7 f.; the characteristic saying of 1 John 4:19 , ‘We love, because he first loved us,’ equally applies to the OT redemption. The union of affection between J″ [Note: Jahweh.] and Israel, grounded on the covenant with the fathers and the redemption from Egypt, is the distinctive and vital element in the OT doctrine of love. ‘Love’ becomes increasingly prominent in the prophetic speech as the relations between God and people become increasingly strained, during the national downfall and exile; see esp. Hosea and Deutero-Isaiah.

The character of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] , ‘the Holy One of Israel,’ gives to His love its qualities purity, intensity, selflessness, fidelity; reciprocal love calls forth like qualities in His people (see the relevant expressions of love to J″ [Note: Jahweh.] in the Psalms). Israel’s sin is the base requital it has rendered; see Deuteronomy 32:4-6 , Isaiah 5:1-4; Isaiah 63:7-10 , Micah 6:3 f., Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 2:31 , Malachi 1:2; Malachi 1:6 , Nehemiah 9:7-17 . God’s love is kindness, lovingkindness (see artt.: very frequent); to those in any degree worthy and approved, becoming delight, joy , in special cases, it is mercy (wh. see) toward the weak, sinful, needy ‘mercy’ is more conspicuous than ‘love’ in the OT, and looks beyond the covenant-bond. God’s love breaks into grief, anger, wrath, threatening (the reaction of affronted love) against the faithless and wanton ( Deuteronomy 7:7-11 , Psalms 78:40 , Isaiah 63:9 f., Amos 3:1 f. etc.); it burns with jealousy , when its chosen are seduced into idolatry and vice J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ’s loathing of Israel’s corruption reveals at once the purity of His nature and the zeal of His affection ( Exodus 20:5 , Numbers 25:11 , Deuteronomy 29:18-21 , Zephaniah 1:18 , Jeremiah 44:4 etc.). For the same reason, there is in Him a ‘jealousy over Zion,’ etc., when His ‘beloved’ is injured or wronged ( Joel 2:18 , Zechariah 1:14 etc.). Isaiah 19:25; Isaiah 42:1-5 etc., adumbrate the inclusion of ‘the nations’ in the covenant; and Psalms 100:1-5; Psalms 103:13-15; Psalms 145:8-12 , Jonah 4:11 reveal a universal and truly humane love in J″ [Note: Jahweh.] (cf. Luke 2:29-32 , Titus 3:4 ).

2. The Greek language discriminated in expressing love: it distinguished (1) sexual love. erôs; (2) family love, natural affection, storgç; (3) social love, friendship, philia; (4) sometimes, in a broader ethical sense, philanthropia , humanity, kindness. The LXX [Note: Septuagint.] translators, though not consistent in their usage, enlisted (5) agapç to denote religious love, the love of God to man or man to God, or of man to man under God’s covenant ( Leviticus 19:18 ) i.e. love suffused with religion . The lower kinds of love, (1) and (2), they express by philia erôs is avoided; agapç , however, encroaches here upon philia . The verb agapaô (or -azô; noun agapç rare outside of Scripture) was used in all periods of Greek synonymously with phileô , implying in distinction therefrom affection rather than passion, and practical affection , love shown by signs, rather than sentiment. The AV [Note: Authorized Version.] , after the Latin caritas ( charitas ), rendered agapç in NT 30 times by ‘ charity ,’ which RV [Note: Revised Version.] has corrected to ‘love.’ Being a term of the heart, free from debasing and narrow associations, agapç was suitable for Biblical use. In the NT vocabulary of love, (1) never occurs ‘lust’ represents the evil erôs; agapç and philia are the prevailing synonyms (verbs agapaô and phileô ), the latter sometimes replacing the former in application to the higher love, with the connotation of endearment or intimacy; see John 5:20; John 16:27 John 16:27 , (a quasi -family affection), John 11:3; John 11:36 spoken about Jesus ( agapaô in John 11:5 ), John 20:2 ( agapaô , in parallels), John 21:15 ff. (no idle variation); and in 1 Corinthians 16:22 , where the negative coalesces with the verb (‘If any one is no friend of the Lord’), storgç (2) is found in its negative in Romans 1:31 , 2 Timothy 3:3; and in the peculiar compound of Romans 12:10 , the adjective ‘tenderly-affectioned.’ In Titus 3:4 Paul speaks of ‘the philanthropy (4) of God.’ ‘ Beloved ’ (‘well-.’ ‘dearly-’) represents a derivative of agapaô , used of Christ, or Christians as dear to God; and of Christians, as dear to fellow-believers. It is synonymous with ‘brethren’; this usage is frequent in salutations and apostrophes. ‘ Lovely ’ in Philippians 4:8 reproduces an adjective akin to philia (3) = amiable’ or ‘affectionate.’ There are several NT Gr. compounds of phil -, rendered ‘love of ’ and ‘lover(s) of .’

agapç ( agapaô ), signifying primarily a voluntary, active affection, has brought from the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] into the NT the deeper sense of spiritual affection , the love that links God and man and unites soul and soul in the Divine communion. Like philia , it implies reciprocity, fellowship, if not existing, then desired and sought.

The Apostle John gives the final and complete NT doctrine of love. ( a ) The love of God John sees ‘perfected’ in those who ‘love one another’ and thus ‘keep God’s commands,’ from whose souls accordingly ‘fear’ is ‘cast out,’ who ‘abide’ wholly in the realm of love that is constituted by the one Spirit dwelling in their hearts ( 1Jn 2:5; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:11 f., 1 John 4:15-21 ); by such love men are ‘perfected into one,’ even as Christ is ‘one’ with the Father by virtue of the love subsisting eternally between them ( John 17:21-26 : cf. Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5 ) there is love’s prime fountain. Gradually, almost timidly, OT saints had learned to speak of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ’s ‘love’ to men; Christ builds everything upon this. Coming from His ‘bosom’ ( John 1:18 ), He knows the Father’s love, and seeks to convey it to and share it with His brethren. His mission is to ‘show the Father,’ to declare how much, and to what effect, ‘God loves the world’ ( John 3:16 f., John 17:25 f. etc.), ‘thankless and evil’ though it is ( Luke 6:35 ). In love which heaps kindness on the worst and seeks out the most alienated, lies the ‘perfection’ of God in His character of Father ( Matthew 5:48 , Luke 15:1-32 etc.; cf. Romans 2:4 , Colossians 1:21 f.). The bestowment of ‘the Son of his love,’ ‘the only begotten,’ on our race, and the sacrifice of that Son’s life for man’s redemption, display with infinite force and effect the love of the Father towards His unworthy children; see John 1:14; John 3:14-19 , Romans 5:5-8 (‘love of God,’ or ‘of Christ,’ means always in Paul God’s, or Christ’s, love to man) John 8:32 , 1Jn 4:9 f., 1 John 4:14 , Colossians 1:13 . The love which God thus ‘commends’ subsisted in Him apart from and anterior to this proof; it actuates all God’s dealings with mankind, in creation, providence, and moral discipline ( Matthew 5:45; Matthew 6:26-33; Matthew 10:29 ff., James 1:17 f., 1 Peter 4:18 ). ‘Love is of God,’ since ‘God is love’; it comes from Him, being absolutely in Him; ‘love’ gives the best conception we can form of God’s nature. Since its objects are pitiable, God’s redeeming love is mercy ( Luke 1:50 , Ephesians 2:4 , Tit 3:6 , 1 Peter 1:3 ‘love’ predominates in the NT, as ‘mercy’ in the OT); and as men are sinful and undeserving, love wears the form of grace (wh. see: Paul’s favourite term, as ‘love’ is John’s). God’s ‘good-will’ (or ‘pleasure’) is His love taking determinate expression ( Luke 2:14; Luk 12:32 , 1 Corinthians 1:21 , Ephesians 1:5 ff. etc.); His ‘kindness’ is love in its considerateness or bounty ( Luke 6:35 , Romans 2:4 ); His ‘long-suffering’ is love in its patience. restraining anger and delaying chastisement ( Romans 2:4; Romans 9:22 , 1 Timothy 1:16 , 1 Peter 3:20 ). Jesus Christ is not the mere channel of the Father’s good-will; He shares in it infinitely ‘the love of God’ is seen in ‘the love of Christ ’ ( Romans 8:35; Rom 8:39 , 2 Corinthians 5:14 , Galatians 2:20 , Ephesians 3:19; cf. John 10:11-15; John 13:1; John 13:34; John 14:21 , Revelation 1:5 etc.). James 4:5 testifies to a ‘jealous yearning ’ in the Holy Spirit, over Christians infected with ‘love of the world’; cf. Ephesians 4:13 , Isaiah 63:10 .

( b ) The love of Christians towards God and Christ is the heart’s response to the Father’s love exhibited in Christ ( 1 John 4:18 ). This is not spontaneous on man’s part, but comes by ‘knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge’ ( Ephesians 3:19 , Romans 5:17 f., Ephesians 2:3-5; Ephesians 3:17-19 , John 15:16; John 17:23 ). Grateful and obedient love to God results from faith (wh. see: ‘faith and love,’ also ‘faith, hope, love,’ are companions; 1 Corinthians 13:13 , 1Th 1:3 , 1 Timothy 1:14 , Philippians 1:5 etc.) in Jesus Christ His mission and sacrifice for sin, His Person recognized as the full representation of the mind of God ( 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 , Galatians 5:5 , Ephesians 5:1 f.; cf. Ephesians 2:8 , 1 Peter 1:8 f., 1 John 4:16; 1 John 4:19 ); it is the ‘fruit’ and evidence of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, who is the Father’s ‘gift’ of love to His reconciled children ( Galatians 5:22 , 1 Corinthians 2:12 , Rom 5:5 , 1 John 4:13 f.). ‘Abba, Father!’ was the cry of this new-horn filial love ( Romans 8:15 , Galatians 4:5 ). Its antithesis is found in ‘the love of the world,’ of ‘self,’ ‘pleasure,’ ‘money’ ( 1 John 2:15 ff., James 4:4 , 2 Timothy 3:2-5 , Luke 16:13 f., John 15:19-24 ). Love towards God is the fundamental law of man’s nature, broken by his transgression a law proclaimed in comprehensive terms in the OT, recalled by Jesus and recognized by the true Israelite ( Matthew 22:37 ); the false professors of Judaism ‘had not the love of God in them,’ for indeed they ‘had not known Him’ or they would have ‘received’ His messenger, they would have ‘loved’ His Son ( Luke 11:42 , John 5:33; John 5:42 f., John 8:42; John 8:55 ). The world’s radical hostility towards God shows itself in unbelief towards Christ, and consequent persecution of Christians ( John 15:19 to John 16:3 , Romans 8:7; Romans 8:38 , Gal 4:29 , 1 John 3:12 f.). Love towards God (and Christ) renovates and purifies the heart, inspires a constant self-devotion, and makes the perfect vision of God the object of fervent anticipation ( 1 Peter 1:3-9; 1 Peter 1:18-23 , Ephesians 4:31; Ephesians 5:5 , Col 3:12-15 , 1 John 3:1-3; 1 John 4:11 , Revelation 21:7; Revelation 22:3 f., John 14:23; John 17:24 ). To cherish this love to the Father is to live as one who ‘has learnt Christ’; it is to follow in His steps, with the certainty of arriving where He is ( John 17:24 ff; John 15:8 ff; John 14:2 ff., Ephesians 4:20-24 ). Thus one wins ‘the crown of life’ ( James 1:12 , Revelation 2:10 , Romans 8:28-30 ); hence the coupling of ‘love and hope’ (wh. see).

( c ) If love to God is rekindled by the knowledge of God’s love to man in Christ, this holds no less of man’s love to man , to which most NT instances of the word refer. This was the matter of ‘the second commandment’ of Jesus, which is ‘like unto the first and great commandment,’ and is grounded equally with it upon creation and the true order of the world ( Matthew 22:38 ff.). Sin, brought in by ‘the wicked one,’ confounded this order, planting hate, lust, deceit, the destroyers of love and life, in human nature ( John 8:44 , 1 John 3:12 , James 1:14 f., James 4:1 f., James 4:11 ); this whole evil brood Paul traces to wilful ignorance of God ( Romans 1:19-32 , Ephesians 4:17-19 ). In ‘laying down his life for us’ Jesus Christ has laid the foundation of a new empire of love, a regime and fashion of life the opposite of that inaugurated by Cain ( 1 John 3:12; cf. 1Pe 2:21 ff., 2 Corinthians 5:15 f., Ephesians 4:31 to Ephesians 5:5 , Colossians 1:13 , Titus 3:3-7 ). The ‘ new commandment ’ is, after all, ‘the old commandment which’ men ‘had from the beginning’ ( 1 John 2:7 f.); God’s Fatherly love manifest in the unstinted bounties of nature, which visit ‘just and unjust’ every day, dictates to His ‘children’ love to ‘enemies’ and kindness to ‘the evil’ ( Matthew 5:43-48 ). ‘The love of Christ,’ reaffirming and immensely reinforcing the primeval law, ‘constrains us’ to ‘live no longer to ourselves but to him’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:14-19 ); in living to Him one lives for His Church and for humanity ( Ephesians 5:25 ff., Matthew 25:34-45 , 1 Corinthians 8:11 f., Romans 1:14 f., 1 John 3:16 , Ephesians 3:3-9 , Colossians 1:24-29 ). ‘If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar’ ( 1 John 2:9; 1 John 4:20 f.; cf. Titus 1:15 ); true love ever speaks in beneficent deed ( James 1:27; James 2:15 f., 1 John 3:17 ff.). The terms of Christ’s redemption bind His redeemed to human service; they have become both witnesses and engaged parties to God’s covenant of grace in Christ made with mankind ( John 1:29; John 6:33; John 6:51 , Matthew 10:8; Matthew 26:28 , Mark 16:15 , Luke 24:45 ff., Acts 1:8 , Romans 5:12-21 , Colossians 1:23 , 1 John 2:2 , Revelation 5:9 , etc.). The gift of the Spirit is bestowed expressly with this world-aim in view; the salvation of each sinner is a step towards and an earnest of the world’s salvation ( Matthew 5:13 f., Matthew 13:33 , Jam 1:18 , 1 Peter 2:9 , Ephesians 3:7 ff., Galatians 3:14 ). The love of God must reach the world and rule the world through those who know it in ‘knowing the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

G. G. Findlay.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Love, Lover, Lovely, Beloved'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Prev Entry
Love Feast
Next Entry