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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Violence

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A. Noun.

Châmâs ( חָמָס, Strong's #2555), “violence; wrong; maliciousness.” This word appears about 60 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew.

Basically châmâs connotes the disruption of the divinely established order of things. It has a wide range of nuances within this legal sphere. The expression “a witness in the case of violent wrongdoing” means someone who bears witness in a case having to do with such an offense (cf. Deut. 19:16). In this context the truthfulness of the witness is not established except upon further investigation (Deut. 19:18). Once he was established as a false witness, the penalty for the crime concerning which he bore false witness was to be executed against the lair (cf. Deut. 19:19). In Exod. 23:1 Israel is admonished: “… Put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness,” i.e., a witness who in accusing someone of a violent crime intends to see the accused punished severely.

Châmâs perhaps connotes a “violent wrongdoing” which has not been righted, the guilt of which lies on an entire area (its inhabitants) disrupting their relationship with God and thereby interfering with His blessings.

It is this latter sense which appears in the phrase “the earth was full of violent wrongdoing”: “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 6:11—the first occurrence of the word). Thus, in Gen. 16:5 Sarai summons God to judge between Abram and herself because he has not acted properly toward her keeping Hagar in submission: “My wrong [done me] be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord judge between me and thee.” Abram as God’s judge (in God’s stead) accepts the correctness of her case and commits Hagar to Sarai’s care to be dealt with properly.

B. Verb.

Hamas means “to treat violently.” This verb, which occurs 7 times in biblical Hebrew, has cognates in Aramaic, Akkadian, and Arabic. This verb appears in Jer. 22:3 with the meaning of “to do no violence”: “… And do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.”

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Violence'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/v/violence.html. 1940.

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