THIRTEEN ATTRIBUTES OF MERCY
Since the Feast of Trumpets heralds the Day of Judgment (Yom Ha Din), prayers for God’s compassion should be included before, during, or after it. The Thirteen Attributes of God’s Mercy is one of those prayers. It comes from Exodus 34:6-7: “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, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation’” (NKJV).
When the Lord first showed Moses the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, it was a precursor to receiving the Second Tablets of the Testimony (Cubes of the Covenant). Before reaffirming the Ketubah (Marriage Contract) between God and man after the sin of the Golden Calf, God showed Moses how to prevent a national catastrophe that nearly caused Him to wipe out His nation. The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy prayer is recited in times of crisis, on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), fast days in times of threatening calamity, before Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets) and every day. This is a fantastic prayer for these trying times where crisis, calamity and tumult abounds.
These Thirteen Attributes of God’s Mercy are said to reveal the inner meaning of God’s Unspeakable Name YHVH (יהוה). The Name of YHVH (יהוה) carries the meaning of both ehyeh (אֶהְיֶה) “Presence” and rachum ve’chanun (רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן) “Mercy and Grace." Please refer to Exodus 3:14 and Exodus 34:6-7.
The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are actually thirteen names and descriptions of God, which all refer to His incomparable compassion in various situations. Some of the attributes may appear identical, but they apply to various people in diverse situations.
The Tanach version of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy goes like this: “HASHEM, HASHEM, God, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth; Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of Iniquity, Willful Sin, and Error, and Who Cleanses…” (Exodus 34:5-7). The list of thirteen attributes can vary, so let’s simply look at the version followed by most major commentators:
1. HASHEM - YHVH (יהוה) – The first mention of YHVH indicates that God is merciful to those who don’t deserve it.
2. HASHEM - YHVH (יהוה) – The second mention of YHVH refers to God mercifully accepting repentance even after a person has sinned.
3. God – This Name denotes a particular power that implies a degree of mercy even greater that indicated by the Name YHVH.
4. Compassionate – God eases the punishment of the guilty and does not put people in extreme temptation. The Lord helps people avoid distress.
5. And Gracious – God is gracious even to the undeserving. He saves people from distress once it has overtaken them.
6. Slow to Anger – God is patient with both the righteous and the wicked. He give people time to reflect, improve, and repent instead of punishing sinners immediately.
7. And Abundant in Kindness – God is kind to everyone.
8. And Truth – God never reneges on His Word to reward those who serve Him.
9. Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations – This kindness refers to the good deeds that people have done, which God regards as if they had done Him the kindness. God preserves these deeds of kindness for the benefit of their offspring.
God forgives three categories of sin. Each forgiveness is reckoned as a separate attribute:
10. Iniquity – This is an intentional sin, which God forgives if the sinner repents.
11. Willful Sin – This is a sin that is committed with the intention of angering God. God also forgives this serious transgression with repentance.
12. And Error – This is a sin committed out of apathy or carelessness, which God forgives if the sinner repents.
13. And Who Cleanses – When someone repents, God washes their sin white as the pure-driven snow. However, if one does not repent, God does not cleanse the sin so that it vanishes. God does not whitewash sin for many reasons. One reason is that evildoers would be encouraged to feel secure if they could act with impunity.
Messiah Yeshua is our advocate: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1b NKJV). He is our compassionate and merciful High Priest according to the Order of Melchizedek: “He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness… though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest ‘according to the Order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 5:2, 8-10 NKJV). “For indeed He does not give