There are six Hebrew words translated “love” in the Old Testament. They are Strongs numbers (157, 160), (1730)(2836),(5690, 5691), (7355) and (7474). Let me first simply condense down these six Hebrew words translated “love”.
The Hebrew word, ra’yah (Strongs 7474) is found 10 times in the OT. 9 times it is translated “my love” and 1 time “my fellows”. (Judges 11:37; Song of Solomon 1:9, 15; 2:2, 10, 13; 4:1,7; 5:2; 6:4) The root of word of “ra’yah” is “ra’a” (Strongs# 7453). “Ra’a” is masculine word. It is found 188 times in the OT. It is translated neighbor, 103 times; friend 42; another 23; fellow 10, companion 5; other 2; brother 1, husband 1, lovers 1. Thus, “ra’a” is a male friend, neighbor or companion. “ra’yah” is a female friend, neighbor or companion. To keep this distinction of female a good translation of “ra’yah” would be maiden, as in a female companion, and not necessarily as a “woman lover”. An example of a verse “ra’yah” is found in would be Song of Solomon 2:10.
Strongs 7355 is found 47 times in the OT. It is only translated 1 time, love. The one time it was translated love, it should be “mercy”.
Strongs 5690 and 5691 are the same word and their meaning is pleasure, delight, lust or desire. 5690 is the Hebrew word, “ehgeb”. It is found 2 times in the OT translated once “lovely” and the other “love” (Eze 33:31,32). 5691 is the Hebrew word, “agabah”. It is found only once in the OT, and translated “inordinate love” as lust or desire as in Eze 23:11. It can be used positively in regards to God, negatively in regards to lust, or naturally as any pleasure or desire, neither negative or positive. All said, love is not the best translation for these two words (5690 & 5691). Desire would be better translation.
Strongs 2836 is found 11 times in the OT. It is translated desire 3, set his love 2, filleted 3, long 1, delight 1, in love. Its meaning is more along the line of setting ones affections upon something, but again the best translation is not love.
Strongs 1730 is found 61 times in the OT. It refers to someone who one would have deep feelings for. It is translated the following: 34 times beloved, 16 uncle, love(s) 8, father’s brother’s 2, beloved 1. While love is involved in the relationship of or to a beloved or an uncle, the best translation for this word is not “love”. A better translation would be a close person one is attached to, a loved one. Thus, this person would be called uncle, or “a loved one”. Examine Proverbs 7:18.
Finally we are left only with the Strong’s words, 157 and 158. 157 is “ahab” and 158 “ahabah”. “Ahabah” is found 40 times in the OT each time and every time is is used it is translated “love”. This consistency of translation is very unusual. “Ahab: is found 208 times in the OT: 169, love; 19, lover; 12, friend; 5, beloved, 3, misc. It is fairly consistent in its translation. “Ahab” is found in the OT in Gen 27:4 and it refers to Yacob telling Esau to “make me savoury meat, such as I love”. “Ahabah” is found in Gen 29:20 and it refers to Yacob’s love for Rachel, “And Yacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had for her” – look at Yeshua ha Mashiach. The third time in the OT it is found in Deut 7:8 and it speaks of God’s love toward Yisrael, toward the people: “But because Yahavah loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath Yahavah brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharoah king of Egypt”. The fourth time it is found in the OT in 1 Sam 18:3 it refers of Yonathan love of David or friendship: “Then Yahawnathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul” – look at Yeshua ha Mashiach. Also it might very well be that “ab” in the midst of the word shows that the Hebrew word for “love”, ahab or ahabah, is closely connected to the Hebrew word for father, “ab”. This would make the Hebrew word for love derived from “father”. It is so in the gospel, for God, God the Father, is love. “Ahab” and “ahabah” are truly the Hebrew words for “love”. When we ponder the spiritual word, “love” we thing of the love of the Father toward the Son. We think of the God’s love toward all people without partiality.
Going back to the Hebrew word, “ahabah” it can refer to the love of food, love of man to woman, the love of friend to friend and God’s love to people, in particular in Yisrael as in Deut 7:8. So one can love food, love a woman, love a friend or God can love people. So from the perspective of people, we can love food, love another person as to marry and love as to a friend. But God’s love stands alone. For God so loves the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not persish but have unceasing life. And so the love of God is beyond earthly love. In fact without the love of God we cannot be His disciples. For this is why Yeshua said in Luke 14 the following words, “If any person come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Is it not so with Yeshua ha Mashiach? What Yeshua says is unless you love above earthly love, love of food, love of friends, love of family, love of spouse, you cannot be my disciple. These are not my words but the words of God.
I mark this writing by the one true gospel. And the one true gospel is the Mashiach died for our sins according to the OT, He was buried and He rose again the third day according the the OT. The testimony of two confirms the fact – Luke 24, 1 Cor 15:1-6.