In the Bible, all violence is considered an offense against God and humanity. While God condemns violence, the Old Testament has several stories of family bloodshed, wars, powerful oppressors, and destructive natural disasters, all of which have led to people perishing and bloodshed. So, what is the Hebrew word for violence?
The Hebrew word for violence is hamas. In the Old Testament, hamas is also used in the contexts of sin, cruelty, and injustice against God and fellow man. The Hebrew word gazal, when translated, carries a similar meaning to hamas, as it points to violence or taking away something by force. In the Old Testament, violence was carried out among the people of Israel themselves, but God sometimes used it as a means to punish the wicked.
What are the Ancient Hebrew Words for Violence?
Gazal (gaw-zal’) is a primitive root word that means to take something away by force or to be carried away. It also means tear away, seize, tear, or to rob. An example of where the word is used in scripture is in Job 24:9 which says;
The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; the infant of the poor is seized for a debt.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for violence is gazel, meaning something plundered, taken away, or robbed by violence. Other word clusters that come from the root word gazal include gēzel whose English equivalent is violent, gᵊzēlâ (ghez-ay-law’) which is translated to rob, plunder, spoil, and taken violently. While garash (gaw-rash’), a primitive root that means to expel or drive out, its past participle g@rushah (gher-oo-shaw’) means expulsion or violence.
Hamas/ ḥāmas is another Hebrew word that is translated to mean violence, made bare or violently taken away. This word is similar to ḥāmās, which means injustice, cruelty, or unrighteousness. Other Hebrew words that describe violence include mᵊruṣâ and ʿāšaq.
Examples In The Bible Where Hamas Is Used
Examples of where the Hebrew word Hamas is used in the Bible include:
Genesis 49:5: Simeon and Levi are brothers—their swords are weapons of violence.
Genesis 6:11: Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence
Habakkuk 1:2: O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! Even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!
What Does The Bible Say About Violence?
God hates violence. The scripture says Noah lived in a world filled with violence, but he set himself apart as a man who walked with God. He kept himself free from the violence and wickedness of that generation. (Gen. 6:9). Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth” (Gen. 6:13).
The flood details how Noah brought an end to the rampant violence in the world. It took centuries from the time of Adam to Noah for humanity to descend into such profound violence that it angered God so much that He had to destroy everything. All that while (before sending the floods), God was merciful in giving man a chance to repent and turn away from their violence and wickedness. God’s justice is merciful, and His punishment for the wicked is fair because He always gives ample opportunity for repentance (Isaiah 30:18; Deuteronomy 32:4).
God’s mercy amidst the violence is also seen in the story of Cain, who killed Abel. Rather than pay violence with violence, rather than killing Cain, God graciously spares his life and puts a physical mark on him to deter other family members from seeking revenge. As punishment, God curses Cain and expels him from the land of Eden. He is to work the ground that will not yield its crops and to be a restless wanderer on the earth (Genesis 4).
Lamech, a descendant of Cain, was also known for his violence. He openly bragged about killing a man, implying he had no regard for human life. Lamech touts his violent act as something to be glorified when he says, “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:23). He also paid violence with violence and put himself above God when he passed judgment on the man who hurt him. He exemplified that the human heart is deceitful over all other things (Jeremiah 17:9).
Scripture does not promote violence against anyone. In fact, the Bible warns us against violence in Proverbs 3:31 by saying, “Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways,” instead, we should embrace humility, as God favors the humble (verse 34).
What Is The Fate Of Those Who Carry Out Hamas/Violence?
While God might seem silent about the violence going on in today’s generation, the punishment of this sin is well elaborated in the Bible (Jeremiah 22:3; Psalm 11:5; Malachi 2:16; Ezekiel 45:9). The fate of those who engage in violence is seen in the story of Esau. The wrath of God against the descendants of Esau was so fierce that God decided to blot out the memory of Amalek (grandson of Esau) from under heaven (Deuteronomy 25:19). God’s word in this verse ends with “Do not forget!”
So, amidst all the violence, God is not silent. He assures believers and those who are persecuted that “violence will not be heard again in your land”; instead “you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise” (Isaiah 60:18). The Bible also describes false witnesses as people who “breathe out” violence (psalms 27:12) and warns that bloodshed will lead to more bloodshed (Hosea 4:2). But God says that He will rescue us from oppression and violence because our blood (life) is precious in His eyes (Psalms 72:14).
In Psalms 11:5, God makes it clear that He hates violence and that the habitation of violence is in the darkest places on earth (Psalms 74:20). According to scripture, the fate of those who engage in violence is a shame and being cut off forever, and the land on which blood was shed shall be a desolate wilderness (Obadiah 10:10; Joel 3:19). In addition, He will establish the righteous (Isaiah 54:14) and just like in the generation of Noah, God will bring destruction upon the wicked including those who pursue violence.
Many Hebrew words mean violence. However, hamas and gazal are the ones that provide a literal meaning that ensures God’s Word is not lost in translation. Violence, which often leads to bloodshed, is an act that is considered a sin in the eyes of God. Those who engage in violence have a disregard for God and the precious human life. But God, the judge of the world who calls on us to have relationships of peace and love, assures believers He will seek out the wicked and vindicate His people in broad daylight.