What Is Love?
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deu 6:5)
In our modern Western culture we love someone because of cultural, emotional, and moral bonds, or simply because he or she loves us. If someone is nice to us, we love him; if not—we do not.
And this is exactly what is behind the Greek word for love agapo (to love in a social or moral sense, Strong Dictionary).
Another Greek word for love is phileo, to be a friend to an individual or an object, that is, to have affection for denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; specifically to kiss as a mark of tenderness.
Agapo is being chiefly of the heart and phileo of the head, according to Strong Dictionary. Or, we can see that Graeco-Roman love is an abstract word meaning it cannot be seen, heard, touched, or smelled; it is all about emotions and emotion is another abstract word.
However, YHVH commands us in Deu_6:5 to love; to love Him and our fellowman. This leads us to the question, “How can we be commanded to love, to feel a feeling? If one does not love, no command in the world will make him or her love, and if one loves, he or she needs no command to love. And yet, we are commanded to love.
Yeshua the Messiah also teaches us to love by giving us a deeper meaning of love connecting love with guarding His Father’s commands:
If you love Me, you shall guard My commands. Joh 14:15
If you guard My commands, you shall stay in My love, even as I have guarded My Father’s commands and stay in His love. (Joh 15:10)
Since the Hebrew Messiah spoke Hebrew to the Hebrews, we need to study the Hebrew text of Deu 6:5 in order to correctly understand the command to love. The meaning of love in the Hebraic culture goes much deeper than what we know as love in the West. So, what is “love?”
The first Hebrew word we will study is אָהַב ahav often translated as to love. The Hebrew word אַהֲבָה ahavah which means love, has at its root the word הַב hav – to give. Therefore, from the Hebrew language we glean that the more we give, the more we grow to love the recipient of our giving. And we are told to love the Messiah, not only in an emotional sense, but in the sense of our actions as we give and provide.
And by this we know that we know Him, if we guard His commands. (1Jn 2:3)
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (1Jn 3:18)
Another word for “love” is חָשַׁק chashak with its literal meaning of “to be attached to” as seen in Exo_38:17, but better seen in connection with ahav in Deu_10:15 used as “affection”:
YHVH delighted (chashak) only to your fathers, to love (ahav) them.
Here חָשַׁק chashak is translated as delighted in a sense that YHVH delighted as He was attached emotionally to the fathers.
There is one more Hebrew word for love:דֹּד dod which can spelled also this way דּוֹד. From this root comes the word יְדִיד yedid, “beloved,” with the meaning to love in sense of passion including sex as seen in Eze_23:17. Related word is דּוּדַי duday, mandrake or love-apple: a plant of rivery between Leah and Rachel in Gen_30:14. It comes from the same root דּוֹד and what is interesting is that couples with word שַׁד shad meaning breast, nipple, as seen in Son_1:13.
However, ahav, is to love in sense of responsibility and compassion. When we provide for our family and loveones and charity for someone we do not even know, we show the true love in us.
The second Hebrew word in Deu 6:5 is לֵבָב levav, also a form of לֵב translated as heart and commonly understood to be the organ that pumps up blood. לֵב also means an inner part of something, midst, an inner man. This word comes from the verb לָבַב lavav. The pictograph of lehav is Bbl: The pictograph l is a picture of the shepherd staff representing authority, the b is a picture of a tent representing what is inside and combined it means “authority inside.” The consciousness of man is seen as coming from deep inside the chest or where the heart is. This organ is also seen in Hebraic culture (unlike in the western culture where the heart is seen as a seat of emotions) as the seat of thought and the mind as the verb לָבַב lavav means also to become inteligent, to get a mind.
The literal meaning of lehav, chest or breasts, can be seen in Nah_2:7
And it is established: she shall be exiled, she shall be led away. And her female servants are moaning as with the voice of doves, beating on their breasts (lehav).
Or, we may conclude that lehav is the inner man, mind, will, heart, and consciousness.
The third word is נֶפֶשׁ nephesh often translated as “soul” but it means the whole of a person consisting of the body, breath, life, mind, person, or we may say: the whole being. Comes from naphash which means to take breath and to refresh oneself as a soul is refreshed by taking a breath. It also means appetite.
The fourth Hebrew word that is translated as “might” in Deu 6:5 is the word מְאֹד me’od. But what does it mean “to love God with a might?” Should one love YHVH flexing muscles and roaring like a lion to show how much he loves? No! מְאֹד me’od means an abundance of things but it literally “above and beyond” as we can see its literal meaning in Gen_7:19 when the waters of the flood went above and beyond the high mountains. Or, we may translated as “something exceeding.”
In conclusion, depending only upon the translation “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might” we may think that all we need is to carry warm thoughts about God in emotions trying really hard with all our “might.”
Let us read the literal translation of the command to love the Creator of the universe as He wants to be loved:
וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ and you will love אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ your Elohim Yehovah
בְּכָל in all your לְבָבְךָ֥ inner being
וּבְכָל and in all נַפְשְׁךָ֖ your being
וּבְכָל and in all your מְאֹדֶֽךָ ׃ far and beyond
In truth, Yehovah is asking us to be willing to make ourselves and even our bodies obedient to Him. It is not just about thoughts, feelings and sentiments that can all be expressed without something we need to give up. It is something more than this.
And how can we fulfill the greatest command of all to love Yehovah, if not through His Messiah’s words to do Yehovah’s commands:
You shall stay in My love, even as I have guarded My Father’s commands and stay in His love.