Character of God Word Studies
What does it mean for God to be gracious? In this video, we’ll look at grace as a rich concept that has profound implications for how we see God.

Questions for Personal Reflection or Group Discussion:

  1. The Hebrew word for “gracious” in Exodus 34:6 is “khanun,” which is related to the Hebrew noun “khen.” This word, “khen,” is often translated as “grace,” but it can also be translated with words like “delight,” “favor,” “charm,” or “beauty.” People with wise, eloquent, or physically beautiful qualities naturally attract khen. Read Proverbs 1:8-9, 22:11, and 31:30 in a few translations. What do you notice about how your Bible translates the word “khen”? Discuss the different ways khen is used in these examples.
  2. Khen can also be used to communicate an act of generous favor. In these cases, the recipients of khen are usually undeserving or perceived as such, so translators use words like “mercy” or “plead” for khen or khanun. With this in mind, read Genesis 42:21, Esther 4:8, and Ruth 2:10 before discussing how khen works in these examples.
  3. Let’s look at more ways khen is used in the Bible. When undeserving people cry out for God to be khanun or gracious (e.g. Psalm 4:1, Psalm 102:12-14), how does God consistently respond (e.g. Psalm 102:17-21, Isaiah 30:18-20)?
  4. God’s consistent response of grace ultimately leads us to Jesus. So let’s turn to the New Testament, where the Greek word “kharis” is often translated as “grace.” Read John 1:14-17 aloud together in your group. How does Jesus fully embody God’s glorious grace?
  5. When extraordinary gifts of grace are given, they cannot be experienced unless they are received. Read Ephesians 2:8-9 as well as 1 Peter 5:4-7. According to these passages, with what attitude do people receive God’s gift of kharis?

The Attributes of God

Exodus 34:6-7 is the first description of God’s attributes found in the Bible, and it’s also the most referenced passage in the Bible. Here we learn that all of God’s actions are an expression of these attributes: compassion, grace, patience, loyal love, and faithfulness. This list of God’s character traits has been carefully designed to help us see the meaning and importance of each trait in relation to the others.

God's Core Character

How does God’s mercy relate to his passion for justice? Sometimes God brings severe consequences in response to human evil. But how does God’s mercy and love balance with his anger at destructive human behavior? These are crucial questions that the biblical authors love to explore in narrative, poetry, and in the literary design of this Exodus passage.

The passage tells us that God’s core character traits are rooted in generous mercy and loyal love, which means that God’s anger is not a primary attribute. It’s a divine reaction to selfish and destructive human decisions, and it’s rooted in God’s love. Just like you would get angry if you saw a beautiful work of art being vandalized, so God’s anger is a response to evil done to or by his human images. God would not be good if he didn’t get angry at evil.

God's Judgment

God’s anger and judgment is a really important theme in the Bible, but it’s not the whole story. God’s core character is one of generous love that created the world, and he plans to rescue and restore his creation from human evil. Exodus 34:6-7 invites us into a lifetime of pondering the depths and mysteries of the character of God.

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Podcast Series
Character of God
14 Episodes
Exodus 34:6-7 is quoted and adapted by biblical authors more than any other passage in the Bible. In
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