His Love Endures Forever

חסד chesed (Strong’s Hebrew word #H2617) is one of the most intriguing words in Scripture. Translated as love, lovingkindness, and mercy, there isn’t really one English word to convey its meaning. Much has been written about it.

There is a recurring phrase in Scripture that includes this word: כי לעולם חסדו kiy l’olam chasdo, “his love endures forever” (NIV), “his lovingkindness is everlasting” (NASB) or “his mercy endures forever” (NKJV). Rather than analyze what this phrase means, I want to just look at where we find it in the Bible.

The First Use

Finding the first use of this phrase is not as easy as it might seem. If we go strictly by where we find it first starting with the beginning of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, the first occurrence is in Jeremiah 33. Chronologically, though, it is used much earlier than that. The phrase is found in several of the Psalms, but we don’t know the author of any of them nor do we know the occasion of their writing.

So chronologically it seems that the first time we find the phrase kiy l’olam chasdo used in Scripture is actually in the very last book of the Tanakh, Chronicles. Before we look at that, let’s review the structure of the Hebrew Bible.

The word Tanakh is actually an acronym, תנך. The Hebrew letters Tav, Nun, Kaph (reading from right to left) are respectively the beginning of the words (transliterated into English) Torah, Neviim and Ketuvim, or the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Most sources will identify these as the three divisions of the Masoretic Text, although the concept is much older. We see Yeshua referring to these as speaking about him:

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures… (Luke 24:44-45).

The final book of the Tanakh, in the section known as ketuvim or the Writings, is the Divrei Hayamim – the Book of the Days – that we call Chronicles. Originally it was one composition, probably divided into First and Second Chronicles when the Septuagint was translated. Chronicles begins with Adam and ends with the return from captivity under Cyrus. And while much of the history is also covered in the books of Samuel and Kings (which are part of the Neviim – the Prophets), many of the details mentioned are different.

David, Solomon and Jehoshaphat

This poetic phrase kiy l’olam chasdo, “for is lovingkindness is everlasting,” is found in Chronicles but not in Samuel and Kings.

Here we see it six times in three passages. The first is during a celebration when King David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem:

O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Then say, “Save us, O God of our salvation,
And gather us and deliver us from the nations,
To give thanks to Your holy name,
And glory in Your praise.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
From everlasting even to everlasting.
Then all the people said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD…
With them were Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest who were chosen, who were designated by name, to give thanks to the LORD, because His lovingkindness is everlasting (1 Chronicles 16:34-36,:41).

David’s Psalms don’t recite the phrase kiy l’olam chasdo, but one of them contains a similar thought, Yahweh chasdekha l’olam.

The LORD will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
(Psalm 138:8)

It may be that David wrote this around the same time as he first coined the phrase when bringing the Ark back to Jerusalem. In most translations, Psalm 138 makes reference to “Your holy temple” (verse 2), though it should be noted that there was no temple during King David’s time. The phrase is exactly the same as in Psalm 5, another one of David’s psalms and one that is recited in the liturgical Ma Tovu prayer.

Eshtachaveh el heykhal kadsh’kha – I will worship/bow down toward your holy temple.

A better translation might be “holy sanctuary.” Yet it is the lovingkindness of Adonai that reassured King David of the future hope of a temple, one that his own son would build for the Ark he was now bringing back to the place where God had chosen to place His name.

Psalm 106 is one of the “anonymous” or orphaned Psalms – meaning that the author is not known. It may be one of David’s, or it may be one that is derived from David. Psalm 106 begins with these words, and ends with the same thoughts as the 1 Chronicles 16 song mentioned above:

Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Save us, O LORD our God,
And gather us from among the nations,
To give thanks to Your holy name
And glory in Your praise.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
From everlasting even to everlasting.
And let all the people say, “Amen.”
Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 106:1,47-48)

Psalm 106 ends Book 4 of the Psalms, and Psalm 107 (another of the orphaned Psalms) begins Book 5 with the same verse:

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
(Psalm 107:1)

The second time we see this phrase in Chronicles is with Solomon at the dedication of the Temple:

When the priests came forth from the holy place (for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves, without regard to divisions), and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the LORD saying, “He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting,” then the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God (2 Chronicles 5:11-14).

All the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the LORD, saying, “Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Then the king and all the people offered sacrifice before the LORD. King Solomon offered a sacrifice of 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. Thus the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. The priests stood at their posts, and the Levites also, with the instruments of music to the LORD, which King David had made for giving praise to the LORD–“for His lovingkindness is everlasting“–whenever he gave praise by their means, while the priests on the other side blew trumpets; and all Israel was standing (2 Chronicles 7:3-6).

The 100th Psalm is also one of those orphaned Psalms. Though we don’t know the author or occasion, it is clearly a song of praise and thanksgiving, perhaps one used early on in the newly dedicated temple.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
(Psalm 100:4-5)

The third time we find the phase in Chronicles is when King Jehoshaphat brings the army of Judah out to battle the Moabites and Ammonites.

They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.” When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the LORD and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, “Give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” When they began singing and praising, the LORD set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed (2 Chronicles 20:20-22).

And of course, we have a Psalm of victory that begins with a four-fold proclamation of kiy l’olam chasdo.

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Oh let Israel say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Oh let the house of Aaron say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Oh let those who fear the LORD say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
(Psalm 118:1-4)

The unknown author extols Adonai for his victorious care of Israel, culminating in praise for the coming Messiah, then ends the same way it began.

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
This is the LORD’S doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day which the LORD has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O LORD, do save, we beseech You;
O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD;
We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and He has given us light;
Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I give thanks to You;
You are my God, I extol You.
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
(Psalm 118:22-29)

During and After The Exile

The Prophet Jeremiah warned that because of Judah’s unfaithfulness and idolatry the land would be conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar and the people taken captive to Babylon. But along with that message of judgement was the promise of restoration. Jeremiah’s words of hope contained this familiar phrase.

Thus says the LORD, “Yet again there will be heard in this place, of which you say, ‘It is a waste, without man and without beast,’ that is, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say,
Give thanks to the LORD of hosts,
For the LORD is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
and of those who bring a thank offering into the house of the LORD. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at first,” says the LORD (Jeremiah 33:10-11).

During the exile, three young Hebrew men stood firm in the conviction of their faith. As a result, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (also known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) were thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. But in the midst of this deadly intent, they were seen walking around in the fire with a fourth man, described as “like a son of the gods!” (Daniel 3:25). You know the story.

But what you might not know is that while they were in this furnace of blazing fire, these three young men were both praying and blessing (praising) God. You find their words recorded in the Apocrypha in The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Yong Men, a text that appears in some Bible translations in Daniel chapter 3 between verses 23 and 24. This book describes “the inside of the furnace as though a moist wind were whistling through it” or “as though a dew-laden breeze were blowing through it” (verse 27 NRSV, or Daniel 3:50 NAB). Their song concludes with this refrain:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods,
sing praise to him and give thanks to him,
for his mercy endures forever.”
(Prayer of Azariah 67-68 NRSV, or Daniel 3:90-91)

The Prayer of Azariah is preserved in Greek, but the meaning of the words is the same.

And during the return from the exile, as Zerubbabel oversaw the laying of the foundation for the restoration of the Temple, they sang this same song.

Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD according to the directions of King David of Israel. They sang, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid (Ezra 3:10-11).


One more orphaned Psalm, Psalm 136, repeats the refrain kiy l’olam chasdo as it recounts God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the conquest of the Promised Land.

Psalm 136 consists of 26 verses, each one ending in with kiy l’olam chasdo. This Psalm declares twenty-six times that Adonai’s lovingkindness, his mercy, his love is everlasting. And twenty-six is not a random number – it is the number of the Divine Name, Yahweh. In the Hebrew alphabet, the letters are also numbers, and the letters Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey total twenty-six.

י  Yod = 10
ה Hey = 5
ו  Vav = 6
ה Hey = 5

This Psalm proclaims the name Yahweh as it recounts his chesed. Traditionally we recite this Psalm as part of the Passover Seder. It is step 14 of 15, the fourth cup, the Cup of Praise or hallel. This may be the Psalm sung by Yeshua and his disciples after their final Passover together, before going out to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26). Yeshua was about to become the Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), making the way to the Father, because his lovingkindness is everlasting.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us (Romans 5:8 TLV).

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
Kiy l’olam chasdo.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
Kiy l’olam chasdo.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
Kiy l’olam chasdo.
To Him who alone does great wonders,
Kiy l’olam chasdo;
To Him who made the heavens with skill,
Kiy l’olam chasdo;
To Him who spread out the earth above the waters,
Kiy l’olam chasdo;
To Him who made the great lights,
Kiy l’olam chasdo:
The sun to rule by day,
Kiy l’olam chasdo,
The moon and stars to rule by night,
Kiy l’olam chasdo.
To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn,
Kiy l’olam chasdo,
And brought Israel out from their midst,
Kiy l’olam chasdo,
With a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
Kiy l’olam chasdo.
To Him who divided the Red Sea asunder,
Kiy l’olam chasdo,
And made Israel pass through the midst of it,
Kiy l’olam chasdo;
But He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
Kiy l’olam chasdo.
To Him who led His people through the wilderness,
Kiy l’olam chasdo;
To Him who smote great kings,
Kiy l’olam chasdo,
And slew mighty kings,
Kiy l’olam chasdo:
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
Kiy l’olam chasdo,
And Og, king of Bashan,
Kiy l’olam chasdo,
And gave their land as a heritage,
Kiy l’olam chasdo,
Even a heritage to Israel His servant,
Kiy l’olam chasdo.
Who remembered us in our low estate,
Kiy l’olam chasdo,
And has rescued us from our adversaries,
Kiy l’olam chasdo;
Who gives food to all flesh,
Kiy l’olam chasdo.
Give thanks to the God of heaven,
Kiy l’olam chasdo.
(Psalm 136:1-26)

Unless marked otherwise, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation

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