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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

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A. Verb.

'Âhab (אַהֵב, Strong's #157), or 'Âhêb (אַהֵב, Strong's #157), “to love; like.” This verb occurs in Moabite and Ugaritic. It appears in all periods of Hebrew and around 250 times in the Bible.

Basically this verb is equivalent to the English “to love” in the sense of having a strong emotional attachment to and desire either to possess or to be in the presence of the object. First, the word refers to the love a man has for a woman and a woman for a man. Such love is rooted in sexual desire, although as a rule it is desire within the bounds of lawful relationships: “And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her …” (Gen. 24:67). This word may refer to an erotic but legal love outside marriage. Such an emotion may be a desire to marry and care for the object of that love, as in the case of Shechem’s love for Dinah (Gen. 34:3). In a very few instances 'âhab (or 'âhêb) may signify no more than pure lust—an inordinate desire to have sexual relations with its object (cf. 2 Sam. 13:1). Marriage may be consummated without the presence of love for one’s marriage partner (Gen. 29:30).

'Âhab (or 'âhêb) seldom refers to making love (usually this is represented yada’, “to know,” or by shakab, “to lie with”). The word does seem to have this added meaning, however, in 1 Kings 11:1: “But King Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh …” (cf. Jer. 2:25). Hosea appears to use this nuance when he writes that God told him to “go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress …” (3:1). This is the predominant meaning of the verb when it appears in the causative stem (as a participle). In every instance except one (Zech. 13:6) 'âhab (or 'âhêb) signifies those with whom one has made or intends to make love: “Go up to Lebanon, and cry; and lift up thy voice in Bashan, and cry from the passages: for all thy lovers are destroyed” (Jer. 22:20; cf. Ezek. 16:33). 'Âhab (or 'âhêb) is also used of the love between parents and their children. In its first biblical appearance, the word represents Abraham’s special attachment to his son Isaac: “And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest …” (Gen. 22:2). 'Âhab (or 'âhêb) may refer to the family love experienced by a daughter-in-law toward her mother-in-law (Ruth 4:15). This kind of love is also represented by the word racham 'Âhab (or 'âhêb) sometimes depicts a special strong attachment a servant may have toward a master under whose dominance he wishes to remain: “And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free …” (Exod. 21:5). Perhaps there is an overtone here of family love; he “loves” his master as a son “loves” his father (cf. Deut. 15:16). This emphasis may be in 1 Sam. 16:21, where we read that Saul “loved [David] greatly.” Israel came “to love” and deeply admire David so that they watched his every move with admiration (1 Sam. 18:16).

A special use of this word relates to an especially close attachment of friends: “… The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam. 18:1). In Lev. 19:18: “… Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself..” (cf. Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:19) 'âhab (or 'âhêb) signifies this brotherly or friendly kind of love. The word suggests, furthermore, that one seek to relate to his brother and all men according to what is specified in the law structure God gave to Israel. This was to be the normal state of affairs between men.

This verb is used politically to describe the loyalty of a vassal or a subordinate to his lord— so Hiram of Tyre “loved” David in the sense that he was completely loyal (1 Kings 5:1).

The strong emotional attachment and desire suggested by 'âhab (or 'âhêb) may also be fixed on objects, circumstances, actions, and relationships.

B. Noun.

'Ahăbâh (אַהֲבָה, Strong's #160), “love.” This word appears about 55 times, and it represents several kinds of “love.” The first biblical occurrence of 'ahăbâh is in Gen. 29:20; there the word deals with the “love” between man and wife as a general concept. In Hos. 3:1 the word is used of “love” as a sexual activity. 'Ahăbâh means “love” between friends in 1 Sam. 18:3: “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul.” The word refers to Solomon’s “love” in 1 Kings 11:2 and to God’s “love” in Deut. 7:8.

C. Participle.

'Âhab (אַהֵב, Strong's #157), “friend.” This word used as a participle may mean “friend”: “… The rich hath many friends” (Prov. 14:20).

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Love'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​l/love.html. 1940.
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