XXlong-suf-er-ing (erekh appayim; makrothumia): The words erekh appayim, translated longsuffering, mean literally, "long of nose" (or "breathing"), and, as anger was indicated by rapid, violent breathing through the nostrils, "long of anger," or "slow to wrath." The adjective is applied to God (Ex 34:6 the King James Version, in the name of Yahweh as proclaimed to Moses; Nu 14:18 the King James Version; Ps 86:15 the King James Version; the Revised Version (British and American) "slow to anger," which is also the translation in other places; the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) Neh 9:17; Ps 103:8; 145:8; Prov 15:18; 16:32; Joel 2:13; Jon 4:2; Nah 1:3); it is associated with "great kindness" and "plenteous in mercy." The substantive occurs in Jer 15:15: "Take me not away in thy longsuffering." In Eccl 7:8, we have erekh ruach, the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) "patient in spirit."
The word in the New Testament rendered "longsuffering," makrothumia (once makrothumeo, "to be longsuffering"), which is the rendering of erekh appayim in the Septuagint, is literally, "long of mind or soul" (regarded as the seat of the emotions), opposed to shortness of mind or soul, irascibility, impatience, intolerance. It is attributed to God (Rom 2:4; 9:22; 2 Pet 3:9), of His bearing long with sinners and slowness to execute judgment on them. It is, therefore, one of "the fruits of the Spirit" in man (Gal 5:22) which Christians are frequently exhorted to cherish and show one toward the other (Eph 4:2; Col 1:11; 3:12, etc.); it belongs, Paul says, to the love, without which all else is nothing: "Love suffereth long (makrothumei), and is kind" (1 Cor 13:4); The verb makrothumeo is sometimes translated by "patience" (Mt 18:26,29, "Have patience with me"). Lk 18:7 has been variously rendered; the King James Version has "And shall not God avenge his own elect .... though he bear long with them"; the Revised Version (British and American) "and yet he is longsuffering over them," the American Revised Version margin "and is he slow to punish on their behalf?" Weymouth (New Testament in Modern Speech) has "although he seems slow in taking action on their behalf," which most probably gives the sense of the passage; in Jas 5:7,8 the verb occurs thrice, the King James Version "be patient," "hath long patience"; the Revised Version (British and American) also translates by "patient"; this, however, as in Mt 18:26,29, seems to lose the full force of the Greek word. According to Trench (Synonyms of the New Testament, 189), the difference between hupomone ("patience") and makrothumia is that the latter word expresses patience in respect to persons, and the former in respect to things; hence, hupomone is never ascribed to God; where He is called "the God of patience," it is as He gives it to His servants and saints. But in Jas 5:7 it is used with reference to things, and in Col 1:11 it is associated with patience (compare Heb 6:12,15), suggesting patient endurance of trials and sufferings. In Col 1:11 it is also associated with "joy," indicating that it is not a mere submissiveness, but a joyful acceptance of the will of God, whatever it may be. In The Wisdom of Solomon 15:1; Ecclesiasticus 5:4, we have "longsuffering" (makrothumos) ascribed to God; also in Ecclesiasticus 2:11, the Revised Version (British and American) "mercy."
W. L. Walker