The Deeper Meaning of the Hebrew Word for Good

Just before the people of Israel left Mount Sinai, the following dialogue between Moses and Jethro took place:

“And Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will do good to you, for the LORD has promised good to Israel.” But he said to him, “I will not go. I will depart to my own land and to my kindred.” And he said, “Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us. And if you do go with us, whatever good the LORD will do to us, the same will we do to you.” (Numbers 10:29-33)

If one reads this biblical segment carefully, one notices the word ‘good’ is frequently repeated in this dialogue.

The Hebrew word for ‘good’ is ‘Tov’ {טוב} and here, in this case, we can find the deeper meaning of this Hebrew word – which is also used as another word for a ‘covenant’. This use can be found in the following example from the Book of Samuel:

“And now, O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this GOOD thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord GOD, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.” (2 Samuel 7:28-29)


When Moses said to Jethro ‘come with us, and we will do good to you, for the LORD has promised good to Israel’ he meant that Jethro and his descendants share the Promised Land with the people of Israel – precisely as happened later:

“And the descendants of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad, and they went and settled with the people.” (Judges 1:16)

The Hebrew word ‘Tov’ (‘good’) can be used as another word for ‘covenant’ because at the heart of every solid and strong covenant, treaty or alliance (all have the same word in Hebrew ‘Berit’ {ברית}) lies trust.

In other words, all of these terms (covenant, treaty or alliance) are based on good intentions and good deeds between all parties. In fact, the Modern Hebrew word for ‘favor’ and ‘act of grace’ ‘is ‘Tova’ {טובה} which derived from the same Hebrew word for ‘good’.