Previous Verse


but showing mercy

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to the thousandth [generation]

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of those who love

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me and keep my commands.


but showing compassionate mercy always and forever

to those who

love me and demonstrate it by obeying what I have charged them to do.



“mercy” is a great Hebrew word that is extremely important for our understanding of who God is and what He is like. The word means “compassion, kindness, mercy, love, piety, and goodness.” Of these possibilities the word “kindness is the one that seems to be repeated most. It is difficult to use one English word to capture the richness of this Hebrew word, so Bible translators often render this word with a descriptive phrase such as “loving kindness,” or “unfailing love.”

In this context I believe “mercy” needs to be included in the rendering because it is used in contrast to the punishment in the previous verse. However, our word “mercy” standing alone is not adequate to express the richness of this Hebrew word, therefore, I have chosen the phrase “compassionate mercy.”


The word “generations” is not found in the Hebrew text but is supplied by the context. It can properly be assumed that this is talking about the thousandth generation, not just thousands of people, because it stands as the completion of the phrase in the previous verse, the construction of which is most logically fulfilled by adding “generation.” This is the nature of Hebrew, where many things are left unwritten and thus must be assumed; sometimes the things left unwritten are quite important, but such was their reliance on context to fill in the blanks.

The “thousandth generation” is used here as a way to indicate an extremely long time, basically forever. The point being made is that, while God does punish sin fully because He is a holy God, He is always compassionate and merciful; He only punishes when punishment is absolutely warranted. His patience with the children of Israel is amazing to observe in Scripture. His patience with us is amazing to see as well.


In the context of a covenant relationship, “hate” means to disobey, and “love” means to follow and obey.