Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.
The Old Testament. Gentleness is suggested by the waters of a stream (Isa 8:6) or by wine flowing over lips and teeth (So 7:9). It stands in contrast to baseness (Deut 28:54,56), harshness (2 Sam 18:5), and wildness (Job 41:3). Gentle words wield great power (Prov 15:1; 25:15). Job's counsels were well received, because he spoke them gently (Job 29:22). Gentleness evidences itself in a willingness to yield, reminiscent of a lamb being led to slaughter (Jer 11:19; cf. Isa 53:7). The supreme exemplar of gentleness is Israel's God. He cares tenderly for the flock under his care, and "gently leads those that have young" (Isa 40:11). He discloses himself not just in wind and earthquake and fire, but in "a gentle whisper" (1 Kings 19:11-13). His consolations are spoken gently (Job 15:11). As Yahweh's representative, the messianic king comes in humility and gentleness (Zec 9:9).
The New Testament. That king, now come in the flesh, is "gentle and humble in heart" (Matt 11:29). In accord with the prophecy, he enters Jerusalem in gentleness and lowliness (Matt 21:5). Paul appeals to believers "by the meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Cor 10:1). By his Spirit, Christ cultivates the same quality in his people (Gal 5:23). Following Jesus' example, Paul treats his people gently, "like a mother caring for her little children" (1 Thess 2:7). He comes to them not "with a whip [but] in love and with a gentle spirit" (1 Cor 4:21). Church leaders are admonished to be "not violent but gentle" toward persons under their care (1 Tim 3:3); it is a quality they are avidly to pursue (1 Tim 6:11). Knowing themselves to be subject to weakness, they can more readily deal gently with the ignorant and the erring. Believers ensnared by sin must be restored gently (Gal 6:1). A witness to Christian truth is the more effective for being made "with gentleness and respect, " especially toward a hostile or an unbelieving listener (2 Tim 2:25; 1 Peter 3:15). The qualities to which gentleness is joined elucidate its setting and character. Wives should seek "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4). "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love, " exhorts Paul (Eph 4:2). Let believers clothe themselves "with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Col 3:12). "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal 5:22-23), a cluster of qualities each of which reinforces and finds expression in the others.
J. Knox Chamblin
See also Fruit of the Spirit
Bibliography. W. Barclay, New Testament Words, pp. 94-96, 240-42; W. Bauder, NIDNTT, 2:256-64; H. Preisker, TDNT, 2:588-90; F. Hauck and S. Schulz, TDNT, 6:645-51.