‘The Armed Dove’ street art by Banksy near the Israeli separation West Bank Wall in Bethlehem.

Blog #361: The Meaning of the word ‘Hamas’

John Cline

Last week a Harvard Caps Harris poll asked its participants, “Do you think the Hamas killing of 1200 Israeli civilians [in] Israel can be justified by the grievances of Palestinians or is it not justified?” A slim majority of those aged 18-24 said it was “justified.” 49 percent said the massacre was “not justified.”

Of those aged 25-34, a slim majority of 52 percent said the massacre of the Israeli civilians was unjustified, while 48 percent said it was. Ages 35 to 44 — 39 percent said justified, while 61 percent said not justified. Ages 45 to 54 — 23 percent said justified, while 77 percent said not justified. Ages 55-64 — 11 percent said justified, while 89 percent said not justified. Ages 65 and up — nine percent said justified, while 91 percent said not justified.

Hamas live-streamed its attacks, and in recorded telephone conversations the assailants can be heard bragging of what they had done or were doing, so what actually happened is known. Yet, the world is divided as to its response. On the one hand, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did not comment on what Hamas did in a speech this week in which he accused Israel of violating international law in its retaliation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, while Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan defended Hamas as “liberators” while calling Israel’s response a “massacre” and a “disproportionate response” to the attacks by Hamas. On the other hand, Canada’s Defence Minister Bill Blair says Hamas is a terrorist organization that is a threat to the whole world and must be “eliminated”, while adding that he has “no expectation that Hamas would respect international law, including any agreement on a ceasefire, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated, “I unequivocally condemn the attack carried out by Hamas terrorists against Israel… Israel has the right to defend itself against such heinous attacks.”

So, what are Christians to think about Hamas? Certainly, Christians are also divided on this issue, just as the world is. We are to pray for the Palestinian people of Gaza, that is clear. Though, in 2006, the Palestinians of Gaza (unlike the Palestinians in the West Bank) voted Hamas into power (over the more-moderate Fatah party who were voted into power in the West Bank), many Palestinians in Gaza are dismayed that Hamas then scrapped any future elections. Certainly, they do not support what has happened since. We do agonize for the Palestinian people. It should also be noted that 20% of the population of Israel are Arabs and that the support for Hamas in Israel is very limited.

What about the word “hamas”? Does it have any significance? The following paragraph is from the internet “Summarizer” page: “Hamas is an acronym in the Arabic language for “Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah,” which means “Islamic Resistance Movement”. It is a militant Palestinian nationalist and Islamist movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that is dedicated to the establishment of an independent Islamic state in historical Palestine. Hamas emerged in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada, as an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch. In its 1988 charter, Hamas maintained that Palestine is an Islamic homeland that can never be surrendered to non-Muslims and that waging holy war to wrest control of Palestine from Israel is a religious duty for Palestinian Muslims. Hamas opposes peace with Israel and uses terrorism as a weapon, seeking to create an Islamic state in place of Israel.” That is a strong and revealing statement from an objective site on the internet. Interestingly, quite apart from the title of the Hamas organization, the word “hamas” in modern Arabic means, “zeal, fervour, fire, and fanaticism.”

Knowing that background for Hamas and hamas, it is interesting to note the “hamas” is also a word in ancient Hebrew, meaning “violent thievery, evil, violation, wrong, and destruction”. Genesis 6:11 reads, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of “violence” (Hebrew = “hamas”). The question is being asked by many on the internet, “Is it a coincidence that the word “Hamas” means “violent thievery” in Hebrew or were the Hamas founders just trying to sound nasty?” Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, a well-known Messianic Jew, reveals that in the One Year Study Bible (which I read), for the daily readings on September 11th (9/11), Psalm 55:9 and 11 (“I see violence (hamas) and strife in the city…destructive forces (hamas) are at work in the city”) are part of that day’s readings. Cahn also states that the same violence, evil, wrong, and destruction (“hamas”) on 9/11 was what took place earlier this month when the organization Hamas attacked Israel with hamas (

It is not entirely clear if the founders of the Hamas political organization were aware of the Hebrew meaning of the word “hamas” when they chose it as the name for their group. At the most innocent, it could be said that it seems that the Palestinians did not do their homework or conduct any background checks into the immediate horror that any Hebrew-reading person in 1987 would have in first hearing that a group of Palestinians calling themselves, “Hamas”, had arisen, and that the creation of “Hamas” had one overriding purpose: violence and the destruction of the Hebrews/Israel.

Let’s face it, the word “hamas” is sinister and disturbing, no matter which language it is being spoken in, Arabic or Hebrew. Personally, I believe that demonic forces were at work in the choosing of the word to represent what should be a noble cause, that of helping and caring for the Palestinian people.

For Christians, we must recognize that we are to have nothing to do with violence or with people of violence. We are to seek peace and reconciliation. We are to live as “people of the light” and to avoid the darkness of intentional sin and evil. Certainly, we know that we are to pray for peace in the biblical land of Israel (which includes modern-day Gaza). But we are also to live in the full knowledge that both the Jewish and Palestinian people groups must turn to Jesus if they want peace, for Jesus is the “Prince of Peace”, and, as such, is the hope for lasting peace, reconciliation, and even love in the lands of Israel and the Gaza. Only through Jesus can “hamas” (violence) and Hamas be overcome.

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