Love your “Neighbour” as yourself, is one of the main tenets that we live by. But who is My Neighbour? Is it everyone on earth? Is it the person living next door? is it those who we can call our own? Let’s look for answers in the Scriptures and the Writings.
There are 4 Hebrew words which are commonly translated as Neighbour in our English Translations. These 4 Hebrew Words have different meanings, and understanding these meanings will help us understand the real meaning of the Golden Rule.
1. H7934 – Shaken
2. H7453 – Reya
3. H5997 – Amiyth
4. H7138 – Qarob
1.H7934 – שׁכן – shâkên
This is the Neighbour living next door to you. The person who becomes a Neighbour because of the physical closenes you have by living close to each other.
Exo 3:22 But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour(H7934), and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.
Exo 12:4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour(H7934) next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
Rth 4:17 And the women her neighbours(H7934) gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
2Ki 4:3 Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours(H7934), even empty vessels; borrow not a few.
2.H5997 – עמית – ‛âmı̂yth
This is the Neighbour who is a fellow citizen. The person who is a Neighbour because of being in the same race or nationality.
Lev 6:2 If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour(H5997) in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour(H5997);
Lev 18:20 Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s(H5997) wife, to defile thyself with her.
Lev 19:15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour(H5997).
Lev 19:17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour(H5997), and not suffer sin upon him.
3.H7138 – קרב / קרוב – qârôb
This is the Neighbour who is related to you by blood. The person who is a Neighbour because of being in the same family.
Lev 21:2,3 But for his kin(H7138), that is near unto him, that is, for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother, And for his sister a virgin, that is nigh(H7138) unto him, which hath had no husband; for her may he be defiled.
Lev 25:25 If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin(H7138) come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.
Exo 32:27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour(H7138).
Psa 15:3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour(H7138), nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour(H7138).
4.H7453 – ריע / רע – rêa‛ / rêya‛
This is the Neighbour who is a friend. The person who you are affectionate towards and consider an intimate companion.
Gen 11:3 And they said one to another(H7453), Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
Exo 20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour(H7453).
Exo 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s(H7453) house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s(H7453) wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s(H7453).
Gen 38:20 And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend(H7453) the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not.
Exo 2:13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow(H7453)?
Exo 33:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend(H7453). And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
Lev 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour(H7453) as thyself: I am the LORD.
Deu 13:6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend(H7453), which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
2Sa 13:3 But Amnon had a friend(H7453), whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man.
2Sa 16:17 And Absalom said to Hushai, Is this thy kindness to thy friend(H7453)? why wentest thou not with thy friend(H7453)?
Psa 88:18 Lover and friend(H7453) hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.
Pro 17:17 A friend(H7453) loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Pro 18:24 A man that hath friends(H7453) must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend(H7453) that sticketh closer than a brother.
Pro 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend(H7453).
So it is clear that the Neighbour mentioned in the Commandment does not mean the next door neighbour or a general countryman or a person of your family. The Neighbour mentioned in the Commandment speaks of a person who you are affectionate towards, whether the person is the next door neighbour, a general countryman, a person of your family or any other human being.
But does this mean that we love only those who we count as friends or fellow companions? The Scriptures are clear about how we should treat even our enemies.
Exo 23:4,5 If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
Pro 25:21 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
Pro 24:17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:
Pro 29:10 The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the just seek his soul.
The Sermon on the Mount
Our Messiah Yeshua speaks of the above tenets when He says “Love your enemies”. If you curse a person who curses you or hates a person who hates you or persecute a person who persecutes you, you are no better than that person. Yeshua expects us to take the high road and keep the judgement unto our Father in Heaven.
Mat 5:43-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
While there is no commandment or instruction to “Hate one’s enemies” in the Scriptures, Yeshua’s instruction shows us that we must strive to be better than our enemies.
Who is my Neighbour? The Parable of the Good Samaritan
When the expert in the Law asked this particular question in Luke 10:29, Yeshua shows that a person who is merely one of your people does not guarantee to be your Neighbour. The person who shows compassion towards another is deemed the Neighbour whether he/she be close to you or not.
The Neighbour as we saw through the above Scriptures was the one deemed as the true friend – a person who shows compassion without hesitation just like the Samaritan. The Samaritan truly lives upto the Commandment “Love your Neighbour as yourself”, as he shows his love for the injured man even when he does not know him.
Is not God just like this? Has He not loved us when we did not even know Him?
1Jn 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
By extending His Salvation when we were left for dead in Sin, God has shown us that He is the true friend and Neighbour towards us. And that is how we must live towards others as well. It is a tall order, but as Yeshua said in Mat 5:48, we must also strive to be perfect just as our Heavenly Father is perfect.