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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology


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Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.

The Old Testament . Gentleness is suggested by the waters of a stream (Isaiah 8:6 ) or by wine flowing over lips and teeth (Song of Solomon 7:9 ). It stands in contrast to baseness (Deuteronomy 28:54,56 ), harshness (2 Samuel 18:5 ), and wildness (Job 41:3 ). Gentle words wield great power (Proverbs 15:1 ; 25:15 ). Job's counsels were well received, because he spoke them gently (Job 29:22 ). Gentleness evidences itself in a willingness to yield, reminiscent of a lamb being led to slaughter (Jeremiah 11:19 ; cf. Isaiah 53:7 ). The supreme exemplar of gentleness is Israel's God. He cares tenderly for the flock under his care, and "gently leads those that have young" (Isaiah 40:11 ). He discloses himself not just in wind and earthquake and fire, but in "a gentle whisper" (1 Kings 19:11-13 ). His consolations are spoken gently (Job 15:11 ). As Yahweh's representative, the messianic king comes in humility and gentleness (Zechariah 9:9 ).

The New Testament . That king, now come in the flesh, is "gentle and humble in heart" (Matthew 11:29 ). In accord with the prophecy, he enters Jerusalem in gentleness and lowliness (Matthew 21:5 ). Paul appeals to believers "by the meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:1 ). By his Spirit, Christ cultivates the same quality in his people (Galatians 5:23 ). Following Jesus' example, Paul treats his people gently, "like a mother caring for her little children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7 ). He comes to them not "with a whip [but] in love and with a gentle spirit" (1 Corinthians 4:21 ). Church leaders are admonished to be "not violent but gentle" toward persons under their care (1 Timothy 3:3 ); it is a quality they are avidly to pursue (1 Timothy 6:11 ). Knowing themselves to be subject to weakness, they can more readily deal gently with the ignorant and the erring. Believers ensnared by sin must be restored gently (Galatians 6:1 ). A witness to Christian truth is the more effective for being made "with gentleness and respect, " especially toward a hostile or an unbelieving listener (2 Timothy 2:25 ; 1 Peter 3:15 ). The qualities to which gentleness is joined elucidate its setting and character. Wives should seek "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4 ). "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love, " exhorts Paul (Ephesians 4:2 ). Let believers clothe themselves "with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Colossians 3:12 ). "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23 ), a cluster of qualities each of which reinforces and finds expression in the others.

J. Knox Chamblin

See also Fruit of the Spirit

Bibliography . W. Barclay, New Testament Words, pp. 94-96,240-42; W. Bauder, NIDNTT, 2:256-64; H. Preisker, TDNT, 2:588-90; F. Hauck and S. Schulz, TDNT, 6:645-51.

Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Gentleness'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. 1996.

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Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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