What Is Biblical Compassion? Understanding Compassion at Its Root

What pictures, stories, or events come to mind when you read the words “Biblical compassion”? Compassion in the Bible can be defined as showing or having mercy, sympathy, empathy, or pity. Most people think of giving to those in need. But is there a deeper meaning God wants you to understand about Biblical compassion?

Hebrew Word for Compassion

The Hebrew word for compassion is “rakhum.” This word is related to the Hebrew word translated into English as “womb.” How are compassion and womb related?

The Hebrew language uses word pictures to convey words. “Rakhum,” or compassion, takes on the picture of a mother caring for her vulnerable and weak baby. It conveys intense emotion and can be translated as “deeply moved.” 

But compassion isn’t just an emotion. It also communicates action. 

A Mother’s Compassion Is a Picture of Biblical Compassion

Think about God’s wings…

  • “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.”—Psalm 91:4 (emphasis added)

This verse can be seen as a mother hen gathering her young and covering them under her wings, protecting them from danger. Not only is the mother hen “deeply moved” to protect her young, but she also does something about it… she “covers” them. 

Think about the two women who come to King Solomon fighting over the newborn baby…

  • And the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one,’ and the other says, ‘No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one’” Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, “Divid the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.” 
  • Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!’” —1 Kings 3:23-25 (emphasis added)

The actual mother of the child “yearned with compassion.” She wanted to do anything she could to spare his life, even if that meant giving up her son. 

This kind of merciful, Biblical compassion is how God is described. The Father gave up His Son so that you could have life. Jesus Christ was moved with compassion for those who were hurting. Today, the Holy Spirit allows you to feel the same Biblical compassion that moves Him. 

Greek Word for Compassion

The Greek word for compassion is “splagchnizomai.” This word is translated into English as “filled with love and compassion.” It comes from the Greek noun “spalgchna,” which means “internal organs.”  In other words, compassion is a gut feeling or a feeling deep in the heart. 

A Father’s Love Is a Picture of Biblical Compassion 

Think about the prodigal son…

  • “’And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”—Luke 15:20-21 (emphasis added)

The Greek word for compassion is used in this passage. The father was moved with compassion for his wayward son and ran to him and kissed him. His son returned, and the father wanted to celebrate his return. 

Think about Jesus raising the widow’s dead son from death… 

  • “And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”—Luke 7:12-13 (emphasis added)

Jesus’ heart was moved when the widow's heart was broken.  He does the same today. God is a God of compassion. He hears your cries. He sees your pain. He is slow to anger and abounding in love and does not desert you. 

Are You Moved with Biblical Compassion?

If God is compassionate, and you are made in His image, then you too are to exhibit compassion.

Have you ever felt as though you were a sheep without a shepherd? God felt compassion for you (Matthew 9:36). As a result, you have likely been moved by deep compassion. Perhaps someone has wronged you. Perhaps someone who seems undeserving needs your forgiveness.

Ephesians 4:32 reminds us that we must be kind to one another, forgiving each other because Christ forgave us.

The truth of God’s compassion transforms us. When we see others who are suffering, in need, and desperate to know the love of God in a practical way, let's decide to exhibit Biblical compassion—feeling and acting in a way that displays living proof of a loving God. 

  1. Bible Verses About Biblical Compassion
  1. But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.”—Psalm 86:15
  2. “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”—Lamentations 3:22-23
  3. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.”—Psalm 145:8
  4. “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…’”—Exodus 34:6-7
  5. “Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’”—John 11:33-36
  6. “And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”—Matthew 14:14
  7. “Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’”—Mark 1:40-41
  8. “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”—Colossians 3:12-13
  9. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.”—Isaiah 49:15
  10. “But the Lord was gracious to them, had compassion on them, and regarded them, because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not yet destroy them or cast them from His presence.”—2 Kings 13:23
Group of volunteers spending their free time planting trees.

Praying God’s Compassionate Word

Ask the Lord to highlight someone in your life who needs to receive Biblical compassion today. 

“Father God, thank you for your longsuffering, abounding love, goodness, and truth. You have shown me such great mercy. You are slow to anger and full of compassion. Lord God, you are moved with compassion, and I ask you to move me with the same compassion. Show me someone today, this week, or this month who you want to touch with your compassionate heart. Use me to show them you. May your tender mercies be known as I show them compassion in your name. Amen.”