International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
joi (simchah; chara):
The idea of joy is expressed in the Old Testament by a wealth of synonymous terms that cannot easily be differentiated. The commonest is simchah (1 Samuel 18:6, etc.), variously translated in English Versions of the Bible "joy," "gladness," "mirth"; from sameah, properly "to be bright," "to shine" (Proverbs 13:9, "The light of the righteous rejoiceth," literally, "is bright"), but generally used figuratively "to rejoice," "be glad" (Leviticus 23:40 and very frequent).
Other nouns are masos and sason, both from sus, properly "to spring," "leap," hence, "exult," "rejoice"; rinnah, "shouting." "joy"; gil, from verb gil or gul, "to go in a circle," hence, "be excited" (dancing round for joy), "rejoice." In the New Testament, far the commonest are chara, "joy," chairo, "to rejoice" (compare charis, "grace"). But we have also agalliasis, which expresses "exuberant joy," "exultation" (not used in classical Greek, but often in the Septuagint; in the New Testament, Luke 1:14, 44 Acts 2:46; Jude 1:24; Hebrews 1:9), and the corresponding verb agalliaoo (-aomai), "to exult," "rejoice exceedingly" (Matthew 5:12, etc.). In English Versions of the Bible we have sometimes "to joy" (now obsolete as a verb), used in an intransitive sense = "to rejoice" (Habakkuk 3:18 2 Corinthians 7:13, etc.).
2. In the Old Testament:
Besides joy in a general sense, as the response of the mind to any pleasurable event or state (1 Kings 1:40 Esther 8:17, etc.), joy as a religious emotion is very frequently referred to in the Old Testament. Religion is conceived of as touching the deepest springs of emotion, including the feeling of exultant gladness which often finds outward expression in such actions as leaping, shouting, and singing. Joy is repeatedly shown to be the natural outcome of fellowship with God. "In thy presence is fullness of joy; in thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11; compare 16:8, 9). God is at once the source (Psalm 4:7; Psalm 51:12) and the object (Psalm 35:9 Isaiah 29:19) of religious joy. The phrase "rejoice (be glad) in Yahweh" and similar. expressions are of frequent occurrence (e.g. Psalm 97:12; Psalm 149:2 Isaiah 61:10 Zechariah 10:7). Many aspects of the Divine character call forth this emotion, such as His lovingkindness (Psalm 21:6, 7; Psalm 31:7), His salvation (Psalm 21:1 Isaiah 25:9 Habakkuk 3:18), His laws and statutes (Psalms 12; 119 passim), His judgments (Psalm 48:11), His words of comfort in dark days (Jeremiah 15:15, 16). The fundamental fact of the sovereignty of God, of the equity of the Divine government of the world, gives to the pious a joyous sense of security in life (Psalm 93:1; Psalm 96:10; Psalm 97:1) which breaks forth into songs of praises in which even inanimate Nature is poetically called upon to join (Psalm 96:11-13; Psalm 98:4-9). In the case of those who held such views of God, it was natural that the service of God should elicit a joyous spirit ("I will offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy," Psalm 27:6; compare 1 Chronicles 29:9), a spirit which is abundantly manifest in the jubilant shouting with which religious festivities were celebrated, and the trumpet-sound which accompanied certain sacrifices (2 Samuel 6:15 Psalm 33:1-3 Numbers 10:10 2 Chronicles 29:27), and especially in psalms of praise, thanksgiving and adoration (Psalms 47; 81; 100, etc.). "Rejoice before Yahweh your God" is an oft-repeated phrase in Deuteronomy with reference to the sacrificial feast (e.g. 12:12). But joy is a Divine, as well as a human, emotion; for God Himself is represented in the Old Testament, not as a rigid, impassible Being, but as susceptible to pleasure and pain. God may be conceived of as "rejoicing in his works" (Psalm 104:31; compare Genesis 1:31), and over His people "for good" (Deuteronomy 30:9). "He will rejoice over thee (Zion) with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing" (Zechariah 3:17). Such noble and vivid anthropomorphisms are a nearer approach to the truth than the abstract doctrine of the impassibility of God which, owing to Platonic influences, dominated theology of the early Christian centuries.
3. In the New Testament:
The element of joy in religion is still more prominent in the New Testament. It is the appropriate response of the believer to the "good tidings of great joy" which constitute the gospel (Luke 2:10). In the four Gospels, especially Luke, this element is conspicuous. It is seen in the canticles of Luke 1 and 2. It is both exemplified in the life and character, and set forth in the teaching of Jesus. There are many intimations that, in spite of the profound elements of grief and tragedy in His life, His habitual demeanor was gladsome and joyous, certainly not gloomy or ascetic: such as, His description of Himself as bridegroom, in defense of His disciples for not fasting (Mark 2:18-20); the fact that He came "eating and drinking," giving occasion to the charge that He was "a gluttonous man and a winebibber" (Matthew 11:19); His "rejoicing in the Holy Spirit" (Luke 10:21); the fact that His presence was found to be congenial at social festivities (Mark 14:3 Luke 14:1 John 12:1), and at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1); His mention of "my joy" (John 15:11; John 17:13). His teaching with reference to His followers harmonizes with this. The Christian virtues confer on those who attain them not only beatitude, a calm and composed state of felicity (Matthew 5:3-11), but also a more exuberant state of joy, which is in sharp contrast to the "sad countenance" of the hypocrites (Matthew 6:16) ("Rejoice, and be exceeding glad", Matthew 5:12). This spirit is reflected in many of the parables. The discovery of the true treasure of life brings joy (Matthew 13:44). The three parables in Luke 15 reveal the joy of the Divine heart itself at the repentance of sinners (see especially 15:5-7, 9, 10, 22-24, 32). The parable of the Talents lays stress on the "joy of the Lord" which is the reward of faithfulness (Matthew 25:21, 23). Jesus confers on His followers not only peace (John 14:27; John 16:33), but participation in His own fullness of joy (John 15:11; John 16:24; John 17:13), a joy which is permanent, in contrast to the sorrow which is transient (John 16:22). In the dark days of disappointment that succeeded the crucifixion, the joy of the disciples passed under a cloud, but at the resurrection (Luke 24:41) and still more on the day of Pentecost it emerged into light, and afterward remained a marked characteristic of the early church (Acts 2:46; Acts 8:39; Acts 13:52; Acts 15:3). Paul speaks of joy as one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22) and of "joy in the Holy Spirit" as an essential mark of the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). This joy is associated with faith (Philippians 1:25), hope (Romans 5:2; Romans 12:12), brotherly fellowship and sympathy (Romans 12:15 2 Corinthians 7:13 Philippians 2:1 f). To rejoice in the Lord is enjoined as a Christian duty (Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4; compare 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). In Christ, the Christian "rejoices with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8), in spite of his temporary afflictions (1 Peter 1:6). Christian joy is no mere gaiety that knows no gloom, but is the result of the triumph of faith over adverse and trying circumstances, which, instead of hindering, actually enhance it (Acts 5:41 Romans 5:3; James 1:2, 12; James 5:11 1 Peter 4:13; compare Matthew 5:11, 12). Even our Lord Himself "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame" (Hebrews 12:2).
D. Miall Edwards