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Hamas is in the Bible

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Hamas is everywhere in the news, but I found it in the Bible this week.

Acknowledgment: As I was making the final revisions to this text and checking my linguistic sources, I came across a couple of articles that corroborated and amplified my point. After reading The Flood, the Tower and the Battle against Hamas by Rabbi Pesach Wolicki, I inserted the references to Genesis 6.11 and 13 in the closing paragraphs

Language fascinates me. I’m addicted to word games and explanations of word origins. Abbie and I wrestle with words on puzzle challenges like Spelling Bee, Wordle and Quordle every day.

Languages fascinate me. My English teacher in the 7th and 8th grades opened the door of my mind to English grammar, and then launched me on a four-year journey in my first foreign language, Latin, which culminated in a 500-word paper in Latin (or was it 250 words?). Mercifully, that paper has long since been lost, but it was the harbinger of studies in the next 60 years of my life.

I began adding to my “collection of languages” with New Testament Greek in university, and since then I have formally studied 5 more languages and gained a passing knowledge of yet another 4 or 5 related languages. It’s a bit like climbing a tree. One branch leads to the next, and the more branches there are, the easier it is to climb. Within the Latin, Scandinavian or Slavic groups of languages, overlapping similarities in grammar and vocabulary are a great aid to understanding sister languages. The challenge is to get a good hold on the first branch in a new “family” of languages, and that’s where Hebrew comes in for me. It’s the first in a new family, the Semitic languages, which include Arabic and Aramaic.

Discovering “hamas” in the Bible

As I mentioned in a recent blog, after studying Hebrew off and on for fifty years on my own, I decided to sign up for online courses from a school based in Jerusalem. I enrolled in the second level of studies, but when the school sent me the materials for Hebrew B, they also included the vocabulary list for Hebrew A. I recognized many of the 451 words on that list, but the word list for Unit 8 included a word I didn’t know: “hamas”.

Now, every language is subject to a play on words. English is rife with words that sound the same or nearly the same, some of them spelled differently. They have entirely different meanings and are therefore an almost unlimited source for puns. In studying other languages, one comes across similarly sounding words in totally distinct languages. In Brazil, when my missionary colleagues and I engaged in a battle of puns and plays on words, it was understood that mixing English and Portuguese in translingual word play didn’t count.

I had already studied German before I tackled Russian, where I encountered the simplest example of translingual confusion. “Ja” (German) and “Я” (Russian) are pronounced exactly the same, but a German is saying “yes” and a Russian says, “I”. Now I had found a word in Biblical Hebrew dating back 3000 years that is currently appearing in the news almost every hour. But the word “hamas” in Amos 3.10 or Habakkuk 2.8, 17, or Psalm 7.16 cannot be the “Hamas” in the news from Gaza, which is an invented word. It’s an acronym like UN for the United Nations. Some groups intentionally choose a name to turn an everyday word in our language into an acronym: LASER, for example, which stands for Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform. Ironically, the word “laser” itself is an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.

In the Bible, hamas is blamed for causing the flood in Noah’s day

The founders of Hamas chose their name Ḥarakah al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah (Islamic Resistance Movement) to turn the Arabic word “hamas” into an acronym. In Arabic “hamas” is translated by Google as “agitation”, but it is a perfect example of a cruel play on words between languages. In the Bible, the Hebrew word “hamas” is usually translated as “violence” (e.g., in Amos, Habakkuk, the Psalms). “hamas” is the last word in Genesis 6.11 and is translated “violence” in the KJV. Describing the situation that led to the destruction of mankind by the flood, the text reads, “The earth was also corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with hamas.” The Israel Bible, translated by rabbis, translates the verse this way, “The earth became corrupt before Hashem; the earth was filled with lawlessness.”

“Hamas”, violence, lawlessness—a very apt description, indeed, and “lawlessness” is an interesting translation. It’s the literal rendering of the Greek word the KJV translates as “iniquity” in Matthew 24.12. Most of the recent translations render the word literally, “Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many shall grow cold.” Other versions read “Because evil will multiply…”

Hamas is notorious for spreading lies and proved it again this past week by intentionally and falsely claiming that the IDF had attacked a hospital in Gaza City. But we have to give Hamas credit for making one thing clear from the outset, they aren’t out to fool anyone: they put what they stand for in their very name. In Arabic, “hamas” may mean “agitation”, which certainly describes that terrorist organization. But the organizers knew what “hamas” means in Hebrew, the language of their target: violence, lawlessness, evil. To support Hamas is to literally support violence and lawlessness. It’s their name, one they wear proudly.

Israel’s determination to completely wipe out Hamas is laudable, but ultimately, it is doomed to fail.

When Jesus spoke of His return, He said, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” (Luke 17.26) Genesis 6.13 says,“Then God said to Noah, ‘I have decided to put an end to every creature, for the earth is filled with hamas because of them…’”

Israel’s determination to completely wipe out Hamas is laudable, but ultimately, it is doomed to fail. Hamas is not limited to the Palestinian terrorist organization we see in the news; hamas is found wherever there is lawlessness and rebellion against God and His rule over the lives of men. It existed in Noah’s day; it exists in our country and our cities; we may find it in our churches, our homes and our hearts. But wherever hamas is found, it is God who will put an end to it. Not even the flood, which cleansed the earth of all but 8 souls, could eradicate the evil seeds of sin in the human heart, from which hamas quickly flourished again. No amount of water, whether our tears of suffering or the waters of baptism, can eliminate the evil seed of sin. It’s not through a flood, but only through the blood of the sacrífice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, that hamas can be eliminated in each of our hearts. And it is through His Son, Jesus, that God will work out the final solution to eliminate every enemy, hamas included.

1 Cor. 15.24-26: “Then comes the end, when He [Jesus] hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet.”

Until then, we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, and in us, even as it is in heaven.” In Matthew 5.9, Jesus said, “The peacemakers are blessed, for they will be called the sons of God.” Anyone who is born of God can never be a supporter of hamas.

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