The word “pitieth” appears several times in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, but it is not commonly used in modern English. The meaning of “pitieth” in the Bible is to have compassion, show mercy, or extend kindness. Here we will examine the original Hebrew and Greek words behind “pitieth” and look at how modern English translations render this term. We will also consider key biblical passages that use “pitieth” and what they teach us about God’s compassion.
- “Pitieth” translates Hebrew and Greek words meaning to show mercy, have compassion, or feel sympathy.
- God is described as one who “pitieth” His children, showing His love and compassion.
- We are called to “pity” those in need, following God’s example of mercy.
- Jesus had compassion on people and “pitied” them in their afflictions.
- The Holy Spirit helps produce pity, kindness and compassion in believers.
The Meaning Behind “Pitieth”
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The word “pitieth” in the KJV comes from several Hebrew and Greek terms. The main words are:
- “Racham” – to love, have compassion, show mercy.
- “Chamal” – to spare, show pity or mercy.
- “Chus” – to pity, look upon with compassion.
- “Eleeo” – to show mercy or pity, have compassion.
- “Oiktirmos” – compassion, pity, mercy.
- “Splagchnizomai” – to be moved with compassion.
These original language words convey a sense of deep sympathy, tender concern, and extension of mercy to someone in need. The pity shown is not just a superficial feeling, but a tangible demonstration of love and kindness.
Modern English versions translate “pitieth” in various ways to convey this compassionate meaning:
- “Have mercy” (NIV, NASB, ESV, NRSV)
- “Be compassionate” (NLT)
- “Show pity” (CSB)
- “Extend mercy” (AMP)
- “Be kind” (CEB)
God as One Who “Pitieth” His Children
One of the most well-known verses using “pitieth” describes God’s compassion for His faithful ones:
“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13 KJV).
The Hebrew word translated “pitieth” is “racham,” meaning to show mercy, deep love and tenderness. God relates to believers as a loving Father filled with compassion. He knows our weakness and shows us grace and kindness beyond what we deserve (Psalm 103:14).
Even when God disciplines His people for their sins, it is an expression of His pity and mercy, not uncontrolled anger. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6). His correction flows from a heart of love.
In Hosea 11, God agonizes over having to punish wayward Israel. He cries out:
“How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.” (Hosea 11:8).
Though justified in judgment, God takes no pleasure in it. His heart “pities” His people, longs for their restoration, and aches over their suffering.
As Psalm 86:15 (KJV) declares, “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” His pity emanates from His tender and compassionate heart.
We Are Called to “Pity” Others
Followers of Christ are exhorted to model God’s characteristic of pity and compassion. Jesus said to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36, NIV). We are called to care for the less fortunate and extend grace to those who wrong us, just as God has done for us.
The apostle Paul urges us: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” (1 Peter 3:8, NIV). As God’s ambassadors, we represent Him through genuine pity that moves us to tangible actions.
In the Old Testament, oppressing widows, orphans, foreigners and the poor was considered evil in God’s eyes. The prophets exhort Israel to “learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17, NIV).
Followers of God must reflect His compassionate heart for people who cannot help themselves. We show the Lord’s pity through defending, protecting and caring for the vulnerable.
Proverbs 14:21 and 31 echo this: “He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he…He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.”
Jesus “Pitied” People in Their Afflictions
In the Gospels, Jesus consistently modeled divine pity through His ministry. He was “moved with compassion” (Greek: splagchnizomai) when he saw the hungry crowds (Matt. 15:32), the plight of widows (Luke 7:13), and the oppression of the helpless (Matt. 9:36).
Christ did not merely feel sympathetic emotions. He extended mercy by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, delivering the oppressed, and restoring the outcast.
Matthew 18:27 uses “pitied” (Greek: splagchnizomai) to describe a king who forgave all of a servant’s debt. Similarly, Christ’s compassion moves Him to pardon our moral debt before God. His pity is not passive, but results in sacrificial action for our salvation.
A leper once begged Jesus, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Matt. 8:2). Moved by pity, “Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean” (v. 3). He extended mercy by cleansing a social outcast.
Similarly, Jesus was “moved with compassion” upon encountering two blind men (Matt. 20:34). He mercifully restored their sight. These examples demonstrate how Christ embodied the pity of God in tangible ways.
The Holy Spirit Produces Pity in Believers
While human pity is often limited in its scope and sincerity, the Holy Spirit cultivates divine compassion in believers’ hearts. Paul calls it a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22).
Paul pleads with the Colossian church to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12, NASB). This is not a natural human response. It is the work of the Spirit conforming us to Christ’s character.
The Spirit produces pity that compels us to love the unlovely, offer mercy to enemies, and bind up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1-3). We share in Christ’s ministry of compassion as we walk in the Spirit.
Paul says in Romans 12:1 (NIV): “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” As we present ourselves fully to God, the Spirit renews our mind to reflect God’s perfect will of pity for others.
Key Bible Passages on God’s “Pity”
Here are some other notable verses that reveal God’s merciful and compassionate heart using forms of the word “pity”:
- “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13 KJV)
- “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5 KJV)
- “The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy” (Psalm 145:8 KJV)
- “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12 KJV)
- “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7 KJV)
- “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36 KJV)
- “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children” (Psalm 103:14-17 KJV)
In summary, the term “pitieth” in the KJV conveys the compassionate heart of God toward those who fear Him. He mercifully pities His children in their weaknesses and sufferings. We are called to show the same compassion to others, following Christ’s model. As we walk in the Spirit, He produces divine pity, kindness and mercy through us. Our mandate is to manifest God’s heart by extending concrete love and care to a hurting world. May our lives be characterized by the beautiful spirit of pity.