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The meaning of Good in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

good (Tobh, Tubh, yaTabh; agathos, agathon, kalos, kalon): In English "good" is used in various senses, most of which are represented in the Bible.

(1) In the Old Testament the commonest word is Tobh, occurring very frequently and translated in a great variety of ways. Of the different shades of meaning, which frequently run into each other, the following may be distinguished: (a) Possessing desirable qualities, beneficial, agreeable, e.g. "good for food" (Genesis 2:9); "We will do thee good" (Numbers 10:29); Who will show us any good?" (Psalms 4:6); "good tidings of good" (Isaiah 52:7). (b) Moral excellence, piety: "to know good and evil" (Genesis 3:22); "that which is right and good" (Deuteronomy 6:18; I Samuel 12:23); "good and bad" (I Kings 3:9, the Revised Version (British and American) "evil"); "Depart from evil and do good" (Psalms 37:27); "a good man" (Proverbs 12:2); compare Isaiah 5:20; Micah 6:8, etc. (c) Kind, benevolent: "The men were very good unto us" (I Samuel 25:15); "Give thanks unto Yahweh; for he is good" (I Chronicles 16:34); "the good Yahweh" (II Chronicles 30:18); "God is good to Israel" (Psalms 73:1); "Yahweh is good to all" (Psalms 145:9), etc. (d) Serviceable, adequate, sufficient: "saw the light that it was good" (Genesis 1:4; so Genesis 1:10, Genesis 1:12 etc.); "not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18); in the frequent phrase, "if it seem good" (I Chronicles 13:2; Esther 5:4, etc.), sometimes rendered, "if it please" (Nehemiah 2:5, Nehemiah 2:7; Esther 1:19, etc.). (e) Not small or deficient (full, complete): "a good old age" (Genesis 15:15; Genesis 25:8); "a good dowry" (Genesis 30:20); "good ears," "years," "kine" (Genesis 41:24, Genesis 41:26, Genesis 41:35); "good understanding" (I Samuel 25:3); "good trees—"land" (II Kings 3:19, II Kings 3:25), etc. (f.) Not blemished, fair, honorable: "tender and good" (Genesis 18:7); "good kids" (Genesis 27:9); "good report" (I Samuel 2:24; compare II Kings 20:3; Jeremiah 24:2); and the renderings "fair" (Genesis 26:7, etc.), "beautiful" (II Samuel 11:2), "pleasant" (II Kings 2:19), etc. (g) Pleasure-giving, happy: "glad of heart" (I Kings 8:66; Esther 5:9); sometimes in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) translated "merry" (Judges 16:25; I Samuel 25:36; II Samuel 13:28; Proverbs 15:15, the Revised Version (British and American) "cheerful"), etc.

Changes that may be noted in the Revised Version (British and American) are such as, "good" for "ready" (Isaiah 41:7); "I have no good beyond thee" for "My goodness extendeth not to thee" (Psalms 16:2); "goodly" for "good" (Psalms 45:1); "good" for "goodness" (Psalms 107:9); "good" for "well" (Zechariah 8:15).

Tubh means something good, e.g. "the good of the land" (Genesis 45:18, Genesis 45:20; Deuteronomy 6:11; Job 21:16, the Revised Version (British and American) "prosperity").

YaTabh, "to do good," occurs several times, as, I will surely do thee good" (Genesis 32:12); "to do good" (Leviticus 5:4); "Make your ways and your doings good," the Revised Version (British and American) "amend" (Jeremiah 18:11; Zephaniah 1:12, etc.).

Numerous other Hebrew words are rendered "good" in various verbal connections and otherwise, as "to bring good tidings" (II Samuel 4:10; Isaiah 40:9, etc.); "take good heed" (Deuteronomy 2:4; Deuteronomy 4:15; Joshua 23:11); "make good" (Exodus 21:34), etc.; "good will" (ratson, Deuteronomy 33:16; Malachi 2:13); "what good?" the Revised Version (British and American) "what advantages?" (kishron, Ecclesiastes 5:11); "good for nothing," the Revised Version (British and American) "profitable" (tsaleah, Jeremiah 13:10), etc. In Jeremiah 18:4, "as seemed good to the potter," the word is yahsar, which means literally, "right."

(2) In the New Testament the words most frequently translated "good" are agathos and kalos. The former, agathos, denotes good as a quality, physical or moral. Thus, "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good" (Matthew 5:45); "good gifts" (Matthew 7:11); "Good Master (the Revised Version (British and American) "Teacher") .... Why callest thou me good? none is good save one" (Mark 10:17 f.; Luke 18:18 f.; compare Matthew 19:16 f.); "they that have done good" (John 5:29). Sometimes it is equivalent to "kind" (thus Titus 2:5 the Revised Version (British and American)); to agathon is "that which is good" (Luke 6:45; Romans 7:13; I Thessalonians 5:15; I Peter 3:13), etc.; "that which is honest," the Revised Version (British and American) "honorable " (II Corinthians 13:7); "meet" (Matthew 15:26; Mark 7:27); "worthy," the Revised Version (British and American) "honorable" (James 2:7); agathon is "a good thing," as "good things to them that ask him" (Matthew 7:11); Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46), etc.; agathoergeo (I Timothy 6:18), and agathopoieo (Mark 3:4; Acts 14:17), etc., "to do good."

Kalos is properly, "beautiful," "pleasing," "useful," "noble," "worthy" in a moral sense, e.g. "that they may see your good works" (Matthew 5:16); "She hath wrought a good work on me" (Matthew 26:10; Mark 14:6); "the good shepherd" (John 10:11, John 10:14); "Many good works have I showed you" (John 10:32); "good and acceptable before God" (I Timothy 5:4; the Revised Version (British and American) omits "good"); "the good fight" (II Timothy 4:7); "good works" (Titus 2:7); "the good word of God" (Hebrews 6:5). But it is often practically equivalent to agathos, e.g. "good fruit" (Matthew 3:10); "good ground" (Matthew 13:23); "good seed" (Matthew 13:24); but the idea of useful may underlie such expressions; to kalon is properly "that which is beautiful." It occurs in Romans 7:18, Romans 7:21; I Thessalonians 5:21, "Hold fast that which is good." In Rom. 7 it seems to be used interchangeably with to agathon. In Romans 5:7, "the good man" (ho agathos) is distinguished from "a righteous man" (dikaios): "For the good man some one would even dare to die" (compare Romans 7:16; Hebrews 5:14; James 4:17); kalos, "well," "pleasantly," is translated "good" (Luke 6:27; James 2:3); kalodidaskalos (Titus 2:3), "teachers of good things," the Revised Version (British and American) "of that which is good."

"Good" occurs in the rendering of many other Greek words and phrases, as eudokia, "good pleasure" (Ephesians 1:9); "good will" (Luke 2:14; Philippians 1:15); sumphero, "to bear together," "not good to marry" (Matthew 19:10), the Revised Version (British and American) "expedient"; philagathos, "a lover of good" (Titus 1:8); chrestologia, "good words" (Romans 16:18, the Revised Version (British and American) "smooth speech," etc.).

The following changes in the Revised Version (British and American) may be noted. In Luke 2:14 for "men of good will" (eudokia) the Revised Version (British and American) reads "in whom he is well pleased," margin "good pleasure among men, Greek men of good pleasure." The meaning is "men to whom God is drawing nigh in goodwill or acceptance"; compare Luke 4:19, "the acceptable year of the Lord"; Luke 4:43, "Preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God." In Matthew 11:5; Luke 4:43; Luke 7:22; I Peter 1:25 and (American Standard Revised Version) Revelation 14:6 "the gospel" is changed into "good tidings." In Matthew 18:8 f.; Mark 9:43, Mark 9:15, Mark 9:47; Luke 5:39, good is substituted for "better"; on the last passage in notes "Many authorities read 'better' "; in I Corinthians 9:15 "good .... rather" for "better"; "good" is substituted in Luke 1:19; Luke 8:1 and Acts 13:32 for "glad"; in Acts 6:3 for "honest"; in Hebrews 13:9 for "a good thing." In II Thessalonians 1:11, all the good pleasure of his goodness" becomes "every desire of goodness" (m "Gr good pleasure of goodness"); in I Timothy 3:2, "good" (kosmios) becomes "orderly." There are many other instances of like changes.


W. L. Walker

DISCLAIMER: Church of the Great God (CGG) provides these resources to aid the individual in studying the Bible. However, it is up to the individual to "prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21). The content of these resources does not necessarily reflect the views of CGG. They are provided for information purposes only.

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