Mercy – Hebrew: Chemlah


Chemlah in Hebrew means ‘compassion’ or ‘pity.’ This word comes from the same root as chamal which means ‘to spare.’ The morning prayer from the Sidur known as the Modeh Ani utilizes the word chemlah.

There are only two verses in Scripture that use chemlah; otherwise they use chamal.

“But he dallied, so the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand and the hands of his two daughters — Adonai was being merciful [chemlah] to him — and led them, leaving them outside the city” Genesis 19:16).

“In all their troubles he was troubled; then the Angel of His Presence saved them; in his love and pity [chemlah] he redeemed them. He had lifted them up and carried them throughout the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9).

The following verses use chamal meaning ‘to spare.’

“She opened it and looked inside, and there in front of her was a crying baby boy! Moved with pity [chamal] , she said, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children” (Exodus 2:6).

“But the king spared [chamal] M’fivoshet, the son of Y’honatan the son of Sha’ul, because of the oath before Adonai between David and Y’honatan the son of Sha’ul” (2 Samuel 21:7).

“For jealousy drives a man into a rage; he will show no mercy [chamal] when he takes revenge …” (Proverbs 6:34).

“Who will take pity [chamal] on you, Yerushalayim? Who will grieve for you? Who will turn aside to ask about your welfare?” (Jeremiah 15:5).

Hebrew Word Pictures

ח Chet – A Fence means ‘protect.’

מ Mem – Water means ‘chaos’ or ‘mighty.’

ל Lamed – A Shepherd’s Staff means ‘to urge forward.’

ה Hey – A Window means ‘reveal’ or ‘behold.’

The Hebrew Word Picture for chemlah : protect chaos by urging forward revealed

In Greek, eleos means ‘the outward manifestation of pity.’ The word assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and the resources necessary to meet the need on the part of him who gives it.

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