Hamas in the Bible

Gaza town of Gaza Strip, Israel, map.

Part 2 in a Series on Politics and Theology

Did you know that the Bible speaks about “hamas?” And not only once, or twice; but you can find hamas mentioned 60 times in the Old Testament (OT).

I’m sure that you’ve seen it – even if you didn’t know that you were seeing it when you saw it! Allow me to share a few of the passages where hamas gets mentioned:

“And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Gen. 6:13).

“O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and You will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2).
Each of those passages mentions hamas; but you would only see it if you were looking at the passage in its original Hebrew language. In the above passages the word translated as “violence” comes from the Hebrew word, “hamas”; and though commonly interpreted as “violence,” it actually connotes any type of unjust destructive, harmful and life-denying behavior.

Conflation That Causes Confusion

It would be nice if we could end this little Hebrew vocabulary lesson right here, but unfortunately some of our Evangelical brethren have taken this little word and twisted it into a theological pretzel! Instead of simply accepting the word hamas as one among thousands of other Hebrew words in the Bible, some of our Evangelical and Zionist friends are trying to conflate this biblical word with the terrorist organization, “Hamas.”

Let’s be clear: there is no connection between the terrorist group Hamas and the Hebrew word – Zero! The name of the terrorist organization is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement – Harakat Al-Mukawama Al-Islamiyah – while the hanas found in the Old Testament is a completely separate Hebrew word. Simply put, one of these things is not like the other.

Yet, there seems to be a committed attempt by some pro-Zion interests to assign some sort of biblical value to the fact that the two words seem exactly the same in today’s language. Apparently, these folks are motivated by the fact that the language in the Old Testament makes hameas a target of God’s wrath! For example, consider Genesis 6:13:

“…the earth is filled with hamas because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth,” (emphasis supplied).

And this passage in in Obadiah (vs 10) “For hamas against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.”

God Doesn’t Need to Co-Sign This

Clearly, God is opposed to hamas; and in the wake of the horrific terrorist attack launched by the terrorist group, Hamas, it’s easy to see why many people might enlist God’s opposition against them! I get it; Hamas’ (the terrorist group) evil – which led to the slaughter of over 1200 innocent Israelis last October – cries out for justice and retribution. And any group of people who would capture, then use, innocent lives as political bargaining chips has to be viewed as behaving beneath animal standards. So, there is that.

Frankly, Hamas’ actions are enough to condemn them without having to co-opt the Bible into co-signing an indictment. Still the effort is being made by many to force the Bible into this conflict, and to make it say something that it does not say. Recently I read an article in Israel Today, an online journal that claims to “bring a biblical dimension to journalism” (their words). The article attempted to make a connection between hamas  in the Bible, and Hamas, the terrorist organization.

“The name of the terrorist group Hamas translated from Arabic means enthusiasm, zeal or fighting spirit, and is also an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement. Since we in Israel do not believe in coincidences, this terrorist group has chosen a name that reflects its essence in Hebrew. Furthermore, the Bible warns us with this hint that Hamas is very, very evil… This is how you have to see today’s Hamas. It is hateful to God and must be eliminated.”

They are not alone in this effort; but those who do this sort of thing are guilty of trying to build their political positions by making the Bible say something that it simply does not say! This happens more often than you might imagine because people realize that their point of view will have more oomph if they can make it appear that the Bible is backing them up.  They therefore manipulate biblical texts for that purpose. From the purveyors of chattel slavery (“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything…” Colossians 3:22), to those who promote material wealth as a sign of God’s favor (“you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich… he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” 2 Corinthians 8:9), people have always played fast and loose with scriptures.

Hamas on Warning Road Sign on Sunset Sky Background.Where God Does Draw the Line

But the real crime here is that in trying to make the Bible say what it isn’t trying to say, you make the grave error of missing what it actually is trying to say. And in the matter of the use of the word hamas, the Bible really is making a much bigger point than simply alluding to one terrorist group.

According to the Journal for Semitics, vol. 3/2,1991, pp.1S6-I66, “hamas” is reflective of more than simply violence. Instead, the word embraces a wide range of actions that are opposed to the overall will and purposes of God, including “injustice, unrighteousness, wickedness, sin or evil” in general. Accordingly, the violence represented by the word hamas may be reflective of actions that deny life-sustaining resources to people who need them, and may even include actions that foster poverty. In short, any group or nation that uses force in a manner that leads to the unjust deprivation of life and fair entitlements may be guilty of hamas.

Using that perspective, hamas in the scriptures isn’t confined to the actions of one Middle Eastern terrorist organization; in fact, hamas may land a little closer to home than most of us might be willing to consider!

Injustice, Hamas, to be Condemned in Everyday Life 

For example, when a polite banking executive, wearing a pricey business suit in a gleaming uptown office, systematically denies financial resources to people because of their race – thereby starving whole communities of the capital needed for progress and survival – he is guilty of hamas!

And, when the American Justice system sat silently by, while more than 3,500 people were lynched by racists and White Supremacists between the 1890’s and the 1920’s in America, it was guilty of hamas!

And, while fine, upstanding religious people raise money to send missionaries to far off lands, while they simultaneously support politicians who routinely eradicate programs that relieve the suffering and despair of the poor people who live in the same town with them – that, too, is hamas!

Rather than twisting the scriptures in order make it say what we want it to say for political reasons, we would be better served to hear what it actually does say! And in this instance, the Bible is echoing the sentiment of the African American Spiritual that reminds us that sometimes we ourselves are guilty of what we are busy indicting others for – “…not my brother, not my sister – but it’s me, o’ Lord!”

When the Bible is speaks of hamas it is not limiting it to one terrorist organization; but in a world where injustices and violence prevail – both by outlaws and legally constituted authorities – we must all look within to make sure that we have not become the hamas that we would condemn in others.


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