By Daniel Rendelman
In Portuguese it's called "saudade" and means "t
he feeling of intense longing for a person or place." The Chinese say "yuanfen." And to the Swahili, "updendo" is affection and care. The ancient Hebrew word "ahava" that is often translated as "love" in the Bible has a unique meaning too. Sadly, this amazing Hebrew word is hidden behind the nonchalant English term that everyone uses for everything. If only we would allow the Bible to be a type of dictionary could we really grasp this and other important concepts.
The Scriptures are full of teaching, history and laws. The Bible should also be our dictionary. This means we should allow the Scriptures to help us understand the words that it uses. The Bible should be used to interpret the Bible. And the Bible should be used to define words today. The best way to understand words like faith, hope, and love is through usage in the Scriptures and the original language of the Scripture - Hebrew.
It is a living language. Hebrew is a power-filled force that helps us better know the Bible and the Bible's author. Each Hebrew letter is a sign, a symbol, a sound, and a number. By digging into the depths of the original language of the Bible we can best grasp its message.
Love. The English term has many meanings. In modern thought love is an emotion that can be turned on and off like a light switch. The story is told of a young man who told his father at breakfast one morning that he was going to get married.
"How do you know you're ready to get married?" asked the father. "Are you in love?"
"I sure am," said the son. "How do you know you're in love?" asked the father.
"Last night as I was kissing my girlfriend good-night, her dog bit me and I didn't feel the pain until I got home."
Love or "ahava" in the Hebraic mind is very different in today's culture. In the Hebrew, love is connected directly with action and obedience. Strong's Exhaustive Dictionary defines ahava as "to have affection, sexually or otherwise, love, like, to befriend, to be intimate." It brings to mind the idea of longing for or breathing for another. Hebraically ahava is a verb and a noun, it is an act of doing. Ahava is not just a feeling. To get a clear understanding of ahava, let's examine the Hebrew word itself and learn how to love Hebraically.
First, most Hebrew words can be broken down to a three-consonant root word that contains the essence of the word's meaning. The root word of ahava is "ahav." The term ahav in Hebrew means, "to give." True ahava, true love, is more concerned about giving than receiving. Being the center of someone's attention isn't love. And love isn't about getting some feeling or fix. Ahava is about giving devotion and time. Giving is the vehicle of love. YHWH so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son. Meaningful relationships have mutual giving. Love may focus on receiving, but ahava is all about giving. There is a difference. Consider that the Hebrew word "ahava" is not an emotion but an action. It is not something that happens "to you" but a condition that you create when you give. You don't "fall" in love - you give love!
The Hebrew word "ahava" is spelled "aleph, hei, bet, hei." The root word ahav is spelled "aleph, hei, bet." These Hebrew letters reveal a secret of love hidden for thousands of years. This secret is exposed through the meaning behind each Hebrew letter in "ahav." Hang on for some amazing and alarming Hebrew insights!
Hebrew is read from right to right to left. The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is also the first letter in "ahav." This is the aleph.