When I ask the internet about “Israel Hamas Bible prophecy”, I get over 5 million hits. These include YouTube videos wondering if the war between Israel and Hamas is a sign of the end times.
I have some knowledge of biblical Hebrew, the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), and the New Testament, albeit from an admittedly secular perspective. In my opinion, to give these views even one minute of your time, let alone support them with money, is intellectually dishonest, morally lazy and downright dangerous.
The historical record is filled with literally hundreds of recorded predictions of impending doom, with doubtless thousands more that were never written down. These claims have existed since humans could write, and exist in numerous religious texts. They are a reflection on our unique capacity as human beings to wonder about the future.
That might make them important. That might make them worthy of study. But it doesn’t make them right. In fact, at the risk of stating the obvious, every single one of them has been wrong.
Yes, the word “hamas” appears in the Bible. Its first occurrence is the last word in Genesis 6:11, in the book of Noah. “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence (hamas).”
But that’s just one translation. Other translations I’ve seen include “lawlessness”, “robbery”, or “injustice”, sometimes all within the same edition. That’s not a bad thing. It means the translators are paying attention to context.
But it’s different in Arabic. The name of the organization Hamas originated as an acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement” in Arabic. The Arabic word “Hamas” is best translated as “strength” or “bravery” or “valor”. If we’re going to talk about world-ending prophecies, shouldn’t the fact that we’re interpreting across two millennia and multiple languages engender a little humility?
What worries me the most about connecting the terrible events of the past two weeks to apocalyptic predictions is what it does to our moral sensibilities. If all this is foretold, then we’re powerless to prevent it. Why even try?
In a recently published complaint filed with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, active-duty soldiers reported their commander saying exactly this at a mandatory briefing: “The war between Israel and Hamas has all been foretold by the Book of Revelation … and no one can do anything about that.” I beg to differ.
I believe Hamas is a terrorist organization. As their charter makes clear, they have no interest in improving Palestinian welfare. They are only interested in Israel’s destruction. Their faith tells them the rape, torture and slaughter of Jewish men, women and children will send them straight to paradise.
I also believe that innocent civilians of Gaza, who will die as the human shields of Hamas, have lives of equal value to Israelis killed by Hamas. I don’t believe efforts to solve the problems of the Middle East are doomed to fail just because some people think the world might be ending.
The events of these past two weeks should cause the democracies of the world, supported by all their citizens of goodwill, to wipe barbaric murderers from the face of the earth. They should also inspire them to give the residents of Gaza a future where their legitimate concerns are addressed and they can enjoy healthy, flourishing lives.
If we seek to ground our efforts in a traditional text, I prefer the one my grandmother taught me long ago. It’s from the Jewish Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers):
“It is not up to you to finish the task, but neither are you free to shirk from it”.
Barry Fagin is a lay Torah reader at Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs, and the author of the Radical Center. His views are his alone. Readers can write Fagin at [email protected].
Click to read on The Colorado Springs Gazette