Greek word - (misthos G3408)
Quiz - Choose the answer that is closest to what you think MERCY is.
A - compassion
B - forgiving kindness
C - alleviation of distress
D - an expression
Problem - Outdated
KJV Example - "And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me." (Luke 18:38)
"Have mercy on me." What does that mean?
The Greek word for mercy, eleos, is a small word and does not give us a hint as to what it means.
There is a saying that may help. It defines mercy, justice, and grace. I do not know who came up with it, but it seems to be correct. "Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you don't deserve."
In other words, when you do something bad, justice pays you back with bad things, but mercy does not pay you back with those bad things. So if I am mean to you, you can show mercy to me by not being mean back to me. That is mercy.
With that in mind, the meaning of mercy in the Bible falls on one of two sides of this: a proactive side and a reactive side. The proactive side is kindness. Being kind to people, especially people who do not deserve it, bad people, sinners, is mercy.
The reactive side is forgiveness. When people are bad to you, mercy reacts by forgiving them.
Mercy involves both of these: kindness and forgiveness. So mercy is forgiving kindness.
The Greek verb of mercy, eleeo, is translated with the word, mercy, every time in the KJV (28 of 28 times). The Greek noun, eleos, is translated as mercy 27 of 31 times in the KJV. It could have been translated as mercy every time.
Matthew 18:33 has eleos in it twice but it is translated differently each time (neither of which is mercy): "Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?" (Matthew 18:33 KJV) Why didn't they just put mercy instead of compassion and instead of pity? "Shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy fellowservant, even as I had mercy on thee?" That is how the KJV translates eleos the other times. Why not here? I don't know. The Breakthrough Version translates it as "Wasn't it necessary for you to also show forgiving kindness to your fellow slave as I also showed forgiving kindness to you?"
What does "have mercy on me" mean? It means, show forgiving kindness to me. It implies that the person saying it has done something bad but he wants the person he is talking with to forgive his misdeed and be kind to him.
Mercy is forgiving kindness.
Modern Synonym - forgiving kindness
Bible Version Tally (how other versions translate this word) - mercy (44 of 53), pity (5 of 53), help (3 of 53), deal kindly (1 of 53)
Breakthrough Version - "And he shouted, saying, 'Jesus, Son of David, show forgiving kindness to me.'" (Luke 18:38)
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