From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Holman Bible Dictionary [1]

Chamal   2 Samuel 12:4 Exodus 2:6 2 Samuel 21:7 Zechariah 11:6 Joel 2:18 Malachi 3:17 Genesis 19:16 2 Chronicles 36:15 Isaiah 63:9

Chen represents what is aesthetically beautiful. It means then to possess grace and charm and to be gracious. God looked to pour out a spirit of grace or “compassion” (  Zechariah 12:10 NRSV) on His people so they would mourn for the one they pierced. Bildad told Job to “implore the compassion of the Almighty” (  Job 8:5 NAS).

Chus is an emotional expression of crying and feeling with someone who is hurting. With the emotion goes the intent to help. God could forbid Israel to have such pity (  Deuteronomy 7:16 ). God refuses to have pity on a disobedient people ( Ezekiel 5:11 ). God's history had been a history of compassion in which He did not destroy His people ( Ezekiel 20:17 ). God's people should pray for Him to “spare” them ( Joel 2:17 ). Jonah had “compassion” ( Jonah 4:10 NAS) on a plant but did not want God to have compassion on a city (  Jonah 4:11 ). Nehemiah asked for “compassion” ( Nehemiah 13:22 ). Chus most often appears in Hebrew in a formula which may be translated, “Do not let your eye cry over, or have regrets over” something.

Nichum or nocham means to “be sorry for,” “regret,” “comfort,” “console.” It is more than emotion. It includes a will to change the situation. Thus God “was sorry” He made people (  Genesis 6:6 NAS). Still God acted to preserve human life (  Genesis 8:21 ), for He identifies with human weakness. In His basic nature He does not “change His mind” ( 1 Samuel 15:29 NAS), translating Hebrew nicham . Still Scripture describes times when Yahweh “repented” ( Exodus 32:14;  2 Samuel 24:16;  Jonah 3:10 as examples). In His freedom God can announce one set of plans, see the response and weakness of the people affected, and decide not to carry out the plans. Thus   Hosea 11:8 concludes, “my repentings are kindled together” (KJV) or “all my compassion is aroused” (NAS). At another time God can say, “I will have no compassion” (  Hosea 13:14 NAS).

Racham is related to the Hebrew word for “womb” and expresses a mother's (  Isaiah 49:15 ) or father's ( Psalm 103:13 ) love and compassion, a feeling of pity and devotion to a helpless child. It is a deep emotional feeling seeking a concrete expression of love ( Genesis 43:14;  Deuteronomy 13:17 ). This word always expresses the feeling of the superior or more powerful for the inferior or less powerful and thus never expresses human feeling for God. The word seeks to bring security to the life of the one for whom compassion is felt. The majority of Bible uses of racham have God as subject. Compare   Hosea 2:4 ,Hosea 2:4, 2:23;  Zechariah 1:16;  Zechariah 10:6 . God “has compassion on all he had made” ( Psalm 145:9 ).

The New Testament builds on the Old Testament understanding of God's compassion. The central New Testament words are eleeo and splagxnizomai . The first— eleeo —is used in the Greek Old Testament to translate most of the Hebrew words listed above. It represents the emotion aroused by another person's undeserved suffering or pain. It is something an orator tries to kindle in an audience or a lawyer seeks to elicit from a judge. Jesus commanded the Pharisees to learn God's desire for compassion ( Matthew 9:13;  Matthew 12:7 ). Jesus said even slaves should practice compassion as He taught Peter about forgiveness ( Matthew 18:33 ). God showed compassion in healing the demoniac ( Mark 5:19 ). Christians need to show compassion to those who waver or doubt ( Jude 1:22 ). God's commands for compassion from disciples finds its roots in the nature of God, who is full of compassion ( Ephesians 2:4;  1 Peter 1:3 ). See Mercy.

Splagxnizomai is related to the Greek noun for inward parts much as Hebrew rachemim . Here is located the center of personal feelings and emotions. Before Christ's appearance the Greeks apparently did not use this word to speak of compassion and mercy, it being more closely related to courage. It is not clear when the shift in meaning to compassion occurred. Some of the apocryphal Jewish writings before Christ do use the term to mean mercy. In the parable of the unforgiving servant, the master had compassion and forgave the servant's debt ( Matthew 18:27 ). The prodigal son's father had compassion on him ( Luke 15:20 ). The Good Samaritan had compassion for the injured traveler ( Luke 10:33 ). Jesus had compassion on the crowds ( Mark 6:34 ). People needing help asked Jesus for compassion ( Mark 9:22; compare  Matthew 9:36;  Matthew 20:34 ). Paul saw compassion as a quality expected of believers ( Philippians 2:1;  Colossians 3:12 ). Paul said he related to his readers in the compassion of Christ ( Philippians 1:8 ), that is, the quality is not an achievement by the believer but a result of being in Christ. The love of God dwells only in those who are compassionate to a person in need ( 1 John 3:17; compare  Ephesians 4:32;  1 Peter 3:8 ). Compassion finds its source in God's compassion ( James 5:11 ). In compassion He has provided salvation and forgiveness ( Luke 1:78 ).

Oiktiro is related to lamentation and grief for the dead and came to mean sympathetic participation in grief. Such sympathy or compassion stands ready to help the one who has suffered loss. In the Greek Old Testament translation oiktiro translates words related to chen and racham . Paul taught that God is the Father and source of compassion ( 2 Corinthians 1:3; compare  James 5:11 ). He has total freedom in exercising compassion ( Romans 9:15 ). Humans can sacrifice themselves for God's causes only because God has sacrificed Himself in mercy ( Romans 12:1; compare  Luke 6:36;  Philippians 2:1;  Colossians 3:12 ).

Sumpatheo means to suffer what someone else suffers. It came to mean to suffer with, alongside, to sympathize. Peter listed it among the basic Christian virtues (  1 Peter 3:8 ). Having come to earth and endured all kinds of human temptations, Jesus exercises sympathy for our weaknesses ( Hebrews 4:15 ). The writer of Hebrews could recall his readers' experience of having sympathy for and thus helping others imprisoned for their faith ( Hebrews 10:33-34 ).

Metriopatheo refers to the ability to be moderate in emotions or passions. An Old Testament or human minister realizes personal weaknesses and thus moderates personal anger at another's weaknesses (  Hebrews 5:2 ).

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [2]

That (human) disposition that fuels Acts of kindness and mercy. Compassion, a form of love, is aroused within us when we are confronted with those who suffer or are vulnerable. Compassion often produces action to alleviate the suffering, but sometimes geographical distances or lack of means prevent people from acting upon their compassionate feelings. Compassion is not a uniquely Christian response to suffering (cf.  Exodus 2:6;  Luke 10:33 ), even though Christians have unique reasons for nurturing their compassionate dispositions.

The Hebrew ( hamal [חָמַל חֻמְלָה], rachuwm [רַחוּם]) and Greek ( splanchnisomai [Σπλαγχνίζομαι]) words sometimes translated as "compassion" also bear a broader meaning such as "to show pity, " "to love, " and "to show mercy." Other near synonyms for compassion in English are "to be loved by, " "to show concern for, " "to be tenderhearted, " and "to act kindly."

The Old Testament . God's compassion is freely ( Exodus 33:19;  Romans 9:15 ) and tenderly given, like a mother's ( Isaiah 49:15 ) or father's ( Hosea 11:8 ) compassion for a child. Yahweh boldly declares, "I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" ( Exodus 33:19 ). While his compassion can be thwarted by disobedience ( Deuteronomy 13:17;  30:3;  2 Chronicles 30:9 ), there are times when his disobedient people's only hope is that his compassion overcomes his anger ( Hosea 11:8 ). Yahweh's compassion is rooted in his covenant relationship with his people ( 2 Kings 13:23 ). Hope for the future ( Isaiah 49:13;  Jeremiah 12:15 ) is also rooted in God's compassion. It is said that compassion follows wrath ( Jeremiah 12:15;  Lamentations 3:32 ), is new each morning ( Lamentations 3:22-23 ), and overcomes sin ( Psalm 51:1;  Micah 7:19 ) rather than ignoring it.

Since compassionate Acts flow from compassionate persons, we are not surprised to learn that compassion is constitutive of God's very being ( Exodus 34:6 , "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God" ). Echoes of this declaration are found throughout Scripture. God's compassion was essential for the maintenance of the covenant and his people praised him for it continually ( Psalm 78:38;  86:15;  103:13;  145:8 ).

"Compassion" is not frequently used with a human subject. It is found, however, in a mother's attitude toward her son ( 1 Kings 3:26 ), a princess's reaction to an abandoned child ( Exodus 2:6 ), and the Ziphites' treatment of Saul ( 1 Samuel 23:21 ).

The New Testament . The intertestamental literature and the New Testament continue to speak about God as the compassionate one. God's compassion is demonstrated in his Son's ministry for and among his people ( Matthew 9:36;  Mark 6:34 ). The messianic compassion is extended to the helpless crowds ( Matthew 9:36 ), the sickly masses ( Matthew 14:14 ), the hungry people ( Mark 8:2 ), and the blind men ( Matthew 20:34 ). The waiting father ( Luke 15:20 ) is filled with compassion when he sees his wayward son returning—just as God has compassion on us and accepts us when we repent and return to him.

Believers learn about compassion through example and exhortation. Imitating God and/or Christ has led many to lives of exemplary compassion. The Scriptures also exhort believers to make compassion an integral aspect of their lives ( Zechariah 7:9;  Colossians 3:12 ). Compassion needs to be nurtured and practiced or even this basic love response can grow dull and cold.

David H. Engelhart

See also Love; Mercy

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [3]

Is that species of affection which is excited either by the actual distress of its object, or by some impending calamity which appears inevitable. It is a benevolent sorrow for the sufferings or approaching misery of another. The etymology of the word expresses this idea with strict propriety, as it signifies suffering with the object. Hobbes makes this a mere selfish passion, and defines it as "being fear for ourselves." Hutcheson resolves it into instinct; but Dr. Butler much more properly considers it as an original distinct particular affection in human nature. It may be considered as a generic name, comprehending several other affections; as mercy, commiseration, pity. This affection, (as well as every other of our nature, ) no doubt, was wisely given us by our Creator. "Ideas of fitness, " as Saurin observes, "seldom make much impression on the bulk of mankind; it was necessary therefore to make sensibility supply the want of reflection; and by a counter-blow with which the miseries of a neighbour strike our feeling, produce a disposition in us to relieve him."

King James Dictionary [4]


1. A suffering with another painful sympathy a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another pity commiseration. Compassion is a mixed passion, compounded of love and sorrow at least some portion of love generally attends the pain or regret, or is excited by it. Extreme distress of an enemy even changes enmity into at least temporary affection.

He being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity.  Psalms 78 .

His father had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  Luke 15 .


Webster's Dictionary [5]

(1): (n.) Literally, suffering with another; a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another; pity; commiseration.

(2): (v. t.) To pity.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [6]


Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [7]

See Mercy .

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [8]

See Pity.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

kom - pash´un  : Compassion is the translation of רחם , rāḥam , "to love," "pity," "be merciful" ( Deuteronomy 13:17;  Deuteronomy 30:3 ); of raḥămı̄m , "mercies" ( 1 Kings 8:50 ); of חמל , ḥāmal , "to pity," "spare" ( Exodus 2:6;  1 Samuel 23:21 ); רחום , raḥūm ( Psalm 78:38;  Psalm 86:15;  Psalm 111:4;  Psalm 112:4;  Psalm 145:8 ), is rendered by the American Standard Revised Version "merciful." We have σπλαγχνίζομαι , splagchnı́zomai , "to have the bowels yearning," in  Matthew 9:36;  Matthew 14:14 , etc.; sumpathéō ( Hebrews 10:34 ), "to suffer with (another)"; sumpathḗs ( 1 Peter 3:8 , the Revised Version (British and American) "compassionate," margin, Greek, "sympathetic"); metriopathéō ( Hebrews 5:2 , the Revised Version (British and American) "who can bear gently with"); eleéō , "to show mildness," "kindness" ( Matthew 18:33;  Mark 5:19;  Judges 1:22 , the Revised Version (British and American) "mercy"); oikteı́rō , "to have pity" or "mercy" ( Romans 9:15 bis ).

Both rāḥam and splagchnizomai are examples of the physical origin of spiritual terms, the bowels being regarded as the seat of the warm, tender emotions or feelings. But, while rāḥam applied to the lower viscera as well as the higher, splágchnon denoted chiefly the higher viscera, the heart, lungs, liver.

The Revised Version (British and American) gives " compassion " for "mercy" ( Isaiah 9:17;  Isaiah 14:1;  Isaiah 27:11;  Isaiah 49:13;  Jeremiah 13:14;  Jeremiah 30:18;  Daniel 1:9 the King James Version "tender love with"; for "bowels of compassion,"   1 John 3:17 ); for "mercy" ( Hebrews 10:28 ); "full of compassion" for "merciful" (the American Standard Revised Version "merciful" in all cases) (Ex  Exodus 34:6;  Nehemiah 9:17;  Psalm 103:8;  Joel 2:13;  Jonah 4:2 ); "compassions for mercies" ( Isaiah 63:15;  Philippians 2:1 ), for "repentings" ( Hosea 11:8 ).

Compassion , literally a feeling with and for others, is a fundamental and distinctive quality of the Biblical conception of God, and to its prominence the world owes more than words can express. (1) It lay at the foundation of Israel's faith in Yahweh. For it was out of His compassion that He, by a marvelous act of power, delivered them from Egyptian bondage and called them to be His own people. Nothing, therefore, is more prominent in the Old Testament than the ascription of compassion, pity, mercy, etc., to God; the people may be said to have gloried in it. It is summed up in such sayings as that of the great declaration in  Exodus 34:6 : "Yahweh - a God full of compassion (the American Standard Revised Version merciful) and gracious" (compare   Psalm 78:38;  Psalm 86:15;  Psalm 111:4;  Psalm 112:4;  Psalm 145:8;  Lamentations 3:22 , "His compassions fail not"). And, because this was the character of their God, the prophets declared that compassion was an essential requirement on the part of members of the community ( Hosea 6:6;  Micah 6:8; compare  Proverbs 19:17 ). (2) In Jesus Christ, in whom God was "manifest in the flesh," compassion was an outstanding feature ( Matthew 9:36;  Matthew 14:14 , etc.) and He taught that it ought to be extended, not to friends and neighbors only, but to all without exception, even to enemies ( Matthew 5:43-48;  Luke 10:30-37 ).

The God of the New Testament, the Father of men, is most clearly revealed as "a God full of compassion." It extends to the whole human race, for which He effected not merely a temporal, but a spiritual and eternal, deliverance, giving up His own Son to the death of the cross in order to save us from the worst bondage of sin, with its consequences; seeking thereby to gain a new, wider people for Himself, still more devoted, more filled with and expressive of His own Spirit. Therefore all who know the God and Father of Christ, and who call themselves His children, must necessarily cultivate compassion and show mercy, "even as he is merciful." Hence, the many apostolic injunctions to that effect ( Ephesians 4:32;  Colossians 3:12;  James 1:27;  1 John 3:17 , etc.). Christianity may be said to be distinctively the religion of Compassion.