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Was Hamas predicted in the Bible?
Some evangelicals connect terror organization to common word in Old Testament
It has been common for decades within a small faction of American evangelicalism to connect current events in the Mideast to Biblical writings. Violence occurring in recent days has been no exception.
Claim: Within a few hours after the Palestinian terror organization Hamas abhorrently killed hundreds of Israeli civilians earlier this month, various evangelical leaders and organizations that focus on Biblical prophecy claimed that Hamas and, in some cases, even the event were predicted in the Bible. In most cases, their declarations revived statements they had made in previous years when Hamas was in the news.
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A few examples:
Living Waters: “Hamas Mentioned FOUR TIMES in the Bible? | Israel-Hamas War Prophecies”
Israel365 News: “Hamas: Described in the Bible as destroying the world”
Jeremiah J. Johnston: “‘Hamas’ is in the Bible - and the terrorist group lives up to the name”
Isaiah Salvidar: “Hamas in the Bible & In America - This might shock you”
Truth verdict: ❌✅ Although the word hamas is in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and is sometimes translated as “violence,” it is never used to refer to a terror organization or in a way that suggests it refers to events 2,500 or more years after it was first written.
What is true: The Hebrew word חָמָס transliterates1 to English as ḥāmās or, more simply, hamas, and the word and words related to it appear about five dozen times in the Biblical books from Genesis to Malachi. (In Hebrew, the first letter is pronounced similarly to the "ch" in "loch" or the guttural Spanish j.)
Hamas appears first in the Bible in Genesis 6:11, which describes the prelude to Noah’s flood. It is usually translated as “violence” and sometimes as “wickedness” or one of its synonyms:
The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
More generally, hamas refers to wrongdoing, especially when it involves oppression or taking unfair advantage. In the King James Version of the Bible, hamas is sometimes translated as “cruelty,” “wrong,” “oppressor” and “injustice.”
What isn’t true: In none of the verses using hamas is there any suggestion whatsoever that hamas refers to an organization, and all of the verses refer to what was the present tense at the time they were written. No uses of the word appear in the apocalyptic verses most often used by those who see Biblical prophecy as referring to modern-day events.
Tying hamas to Hamas is similar to folk etymology, where a coincidence leads to a false conclusions about the origins of a word.
But the coincidences here are interesting. The full name of Hamas in Arabic is Ḥarakah al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah when transliterated to English. Its Arabic acronym transliterates as HMS, which came to be pronounced as hamas, something like the way “RAdio Detecting And Ranging” came to be pronounced as “radar.”
That HMS came to be pronounced as hamas is understandable, because hamas in Arabic usually means something like “zeal” or “enthusiasm.”
And here’s where matters get even more interesting: Arabic and Hebrew are part of the same language family and share some vocabulary. Hamas is one of those words the two languages have in common.
Although the word is the same, its meaning evolved differently in the two languages. In Arabic, hamas over the centuries came to mean something usually good, while in Hebrew it came to mean something usually bad. It isn’t unusual for one word to have different meanings in different languages — the English “deception” refers to a type of falsehood, for example, while the same word in Spanish, spelled decepción, refers to a disappointment, and it’s easy to how the two meanings came from the same word.
It’s unlikely that Hamas had the Hebrew meaning in mind when settling on its name. As Shoshana Kordova, a columnist for the left-leaning Israeli news site Haaretz, wrote in 2014:
It’s pretty safe to assume that the Islamic terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip didn’t conduct market research on the meaning and resonance of the organization’s name in Hebrew before choosing to call itself Hamas.
But the fact that the word hamas is so common in Biblical Hebrew is a fascinating coincidence.
Unless otherwise indicated, Biblical quotes are adapted from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.
A transliteration is the conveying the word of one language by changing the letters of the word to the rough equivalents of the same letters in the target language.