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Holman Bible Dictionary

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A favor or item bestowed on someone. Gifts were given on numerous occasions for a variety of purposes: as dowry for a wife (Genesis 34:12); as tribute to a military conqueror (2 Samuel 8:2); as bribes (Exodus 23:8; Proverbs 17:8; Isaiah 1:23); as rewards for faithful service and to insure future loyalty (Daniel 2:48); and as relief for the poor (Esther 9:22). Since gifts might be required by custom, law, or force, modifiers are sometimes used to specify gifts given voluntarily: “willing” or freewill offerings or gifts (Exodus 35:29); free gift or “gift by grace” (Romans 5:15-17; Romans 6:23); bountiful gift not motivated by covetousness (2 Corinthians 9:5).

Both Testaments witness to God as the giver of every good gift (1 Chronicles 29:14; James 1:17). Human life is God's gift (Job 1:21), as are all things necessary for physical life: the sun for light (Jeremiah 31:25); plants (Genesis 1:29) and animals for food (Genesis 9:3); water (Numbers 21:16); clothing (Genesis 28:20); grass for herds (Deuteronomy 11:15); seasonal rains for crops (Leviticus 26:4); companionship of male and female (Genesis 2:18-24; compare Genesis 3:12); the ability to have children (Genesis 17:16); and sleep (Psalms 127:2). Various human abilities are likewise given by God: the ability to work (Deuteronomy 8:18); artistic abilities (Exodus 31:6); the ability to acquire learning and master communication skills (Daniel 1:17). These gifts demonstrate God's general providence.

Scripture also witnesses to God's gifts as evidence of a special providence. In the Old Testament such gifts include: the Promised Land (Genesis 12:7)—including its successful conquest (Deuteronomy 2:36), possessing its cities (Deuteronomy 6:10), and its spoils (Deuteronomy 20:14); the sabbath (Exodus 16:29); the promises (1 Kings 8:56); the covenants (2 Kings 17:15); the law (Exodus 24:12); and peace (Leviticus 26:6). In the New Testament God's special providence is especially evident in the gift of God's Son (John 3:16) and of God's Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).

God makes relationship with Himself possible by giving His people wisdom (1 Kings 4:29), understanding (1 Kings 3:9), a new heart (1 Samuel 10:9), and a good Spirit to teach them (Nehemiah 9:20). The New Testament expresses these gifts as the power to become children of God (John 1:12), justification from sin (Romans 3:24; Romans 5:15-17); and eternal life (John 10:28; Romans 6:23).

Both Testaments witness to God's gift of leadership to God's people as: priests (Numbers 8:19; Zechariah 3:7); Davidic kings (2 Chronicles 13:5); deliverers (2 Kings 13:5); shepherds with Godlike hearts (Jeremiah 3:15); apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers (Ephesians 4:11-12). Paul spoke of God's giving the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), authority for building up the church (2 Corinthians 10:8), and grace for sharing the gospel with the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8). The New Testament also stresses God's gift of spiritual abilities to every believer (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Peter 4:10).

God's gifts should prompt the proper response from the recipients. This response includes not boasting (1 Corinthians 4:7; Ephesians 2:8); amazement at God's inexpressible goodness (2 Corinthians 9:15); the using of gifts for the furtherance of Christ's kingdom (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6-11); and a life of good works (Ephesians 2:10).

Chris Church

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'GIFT, GIVING'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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