In Scripture, all the words are significant, but if something is mentioned more than once, we take notice. If something is repeated numerous times within close proximity, we should definitely pay attention. This past year, in my Bible reading time, I’ve been paying attention to how G-d, or his angelic messengers, address different people. What words does He use to speak to them? What tone of voice is expressed – anger, patience, love? How is that specifically tailored to the person and the situation that they are facing within the Biblical account? It has been so insightful to be observant of how G-d reaches out to people in the text.
As I was reading through the book of Daniel, I came across something that I had not paid attention to before in my reading of the text. Of course we all know that Daniel was a man of great personal integrity and moral strength. His faith was HUGE! How many of us could’ve gone against an ancient Kim Jung Un type and spent a night in a pit with lions? His book explodes with prophecies that have been and have yet to be fulfilled. Daniel was definitely a spiritual titan, but that’s not what G-d had to show me in my reading this year.
He brought me to one word – חמדה – chemdah. The Strong’s Concordance defines it as a noun meaning “delight; – desire, goodly, pleasant, precious.” I think this is a rather flat definition of the word. When you look at its use contextually, you see that it’s used to describe things that are highly valued and of great worth or very desirable, even to the point of causing covetousness. This word is used eight times in the book of Daniel, but there are three times that stood out to me when it was used directly to Daniel as the angel Gabriel brings him a message. Daniel 9:23 is the first time it is used, and shortly thereafter it is repeated in Daniel 10:11 & 19.
At the beginning of your please for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision. Daniel 9:23 ESV
And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you,” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Daniel 10:11 ESV
And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” Daniel 10:19 ESV
The TLV, NASB and NIV all translate the word, חמדה – chemdah, in this context as “greatly/highly esteemed,” which speaks of a level of respect, but lacks the intense love component that we see in other uses of the word. The JPS translation, CJB, ESV, ASV, and NKJV, among others, translate it as “greatly loved/beloved.” This is closer to what I think the meaning is, but still doesn’t quite give us the depth of the original Hebrew word. For that, I think we need to look at the way the Holman Christian Standard Bible translates chemdah. This is not a I have used much personally, but one I thought really conveyed this word –
He said to me, “Daniel,
Not greatly loved, not highly esteemed, not appreciated, not respected or honored – treasured by God. When we think about how G-d relates to us, I think we all can agree that G-d “loves” us. Sometimes, we may struggle to feel, know, or understand what that love means because our earthly understanding of “love” has been negatively shaped by people or circumstances. For a long time, even though I became a believer at a very young age, I had a hard time seeing G-d as anything other than the righteous judge who sat upon his throne and looked reproachfully down upon me as I struggled to live up to his standards. It took a still, small voice that whispered to me in the middle of praise and worship at a shabbat service when I was 25 for me to truly understand that He loved me above all else. That moment fourteen years ago, broke down walls in my relationship with G-d and changed me, but it was overshadowed when he had me read this phrase – “Greatly Loved – Treasured by God”
His love for you far surpasses anything you can comprehend. It eclipses any wrongs you have done or ways that you feel you don’t measure up. When he looks at you, he sees something to be coveted, protected, desired, treasured. If we can grasp that, take that understanding and face every moment with the knowledge that the Creator of the Universe calls us חמדה – chemdah, then we will begin to see ourselves and our circumstances in a new light.