Mercy and compassion are one of the themes which are transparent in both the old and the New Testament. Mercy is the act of forgiveness to someone that you are within the power to harm them while compassion is the sympathetic concern to people who are suffering. The theme in the Old Testament is mainly shown by the ways in which God takes care of his people. He shows mercy to them at all times whenever they disobey and go against his will. He forgave them and made peace and continued protecting them as his people. The source of compassion and mercy in the Old Testament has its source to God. In order to have mercy and compassion, two parties must be involved. One part must show mercy while the other party does the wrong deed. The human beings were the wrong doers while God was slow to anger. At Mount Sinai when the Israelites worshiped other gods, God is referred as slow to anger, loving, merciful and gracious to his people (Exodus 34:6). Also, through the fact that God promised to be merciful to Joel, he was able to be called for repentance. Israel was also saved from being taken to exile through the mercy and compassion of God. The Jews also extended their gratitude to God and described him as one who overlooks sins so that they may repent and come to a good understanding with him (Wisdom 11:23).
In the New Testament, mercy and compassion is a great theme that has been mainly depicted by Jesus throughout the gospels. He used to help those in need by healing those who were sick; he was able to perform various miracles in places that he was to deliver people from need. It reached a time that he even wept when he saw the people in distress after the death of Lazarus (John 11:35). Through his compassion to the people and feeling mercy for them, he was able to resurrect Lazarus from death. He also felt compassion for the man who was possessed by evil spirits the Gerasene Demonic and removed the demons from him (Mark 5:19).
In this way, there was a difference in the interpretation of mercy and compassion in the Old and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, mercy and compassion from God were in form of taking care of his people. Also, it was in form of forgiveness of sins of the people. However, in the New Testament, Mercy and compassion was shown in form of healing and performing miracles. It was more of physical actions to the people than emotional. In the Old Testament, Mercy and compassion are shown to the chosen one of God. They are forgiven always when they sin. On the New testament, Mercy is shown to the poor and the needy while the rich are asked to help the poor or else they will be punished for their sins (Matthew 5:4).
On the similarity of mercy and compassion in the new and the Old Testament, compassion is shown to the humans in both cases. The humans are the inferior party that requires compassion. “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). The acts of mercy are also used to bring the humans closer to God.
Balentine, Samuel E. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Theology., 2014. Internet resource.