What is Hope?
What is “hope?” In our western gentile culture “hope” is perceived as to expect and wish or to intend with some possibility of fulfilment like in “Keep your fingers crossed. I hope to take the test” or chance like in “I hope it is not going to rain.”
But what is “hope” from Hebraic perspectives? Let us read from the Book of Ezekiel 37, the resurrection chapter, where the Hebrew word for “hope” is used:
Son of man, these bones are all the house of Israel. See, they say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope has perished, and we ourselves have been cut off!’ (Eze 37:11)
בֶּנ־אָדָ֕ם Son of man הָעֲצָמֹ֣ות bones [are] הָאֵ֔לֶּה these כָּל־בֵּ֥ית the whole house of יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל Israel הֵ֑מָּה they הִנֵּ֣ה seeאֹמְרִ֗ים say יָבְשׁ֧וּ driedעַצְמֹותֵ֛ינוּ [are] our bones ְ וְאָבְדָ֥ה perished תִקְוָתֵ֖נוּ [is] our hopeנִגְזַ֥רְנוּ we ourselves [are] cut off לָֽנוּ׃
What is our hope is perished? The Hebrew word for hope is tikvah and is derived from the root verb קוה (kavah) meaning “to collect, to bind together.” The concrete meaning of tikvah is a “line” or “cord” as a cord is a collection of fibers that are twisted together to make a strong and firm cord or rope, as found in its concrete meaning in the story of the spies Joshua sent to Jericho.
And the men said to her, “We are released from this oath of yours which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord (tikvah) in the window through which you let us down. (Jos 2:17-18)
The Hebrew words tikvah (hope) and emunah (faith, trust) are closely related, as seen in:
And you shall trust (batach), because there is hope (tikvah). (Job_11:18)
The words aman (to believe) and batach (to trust) are close synonyms as we say in English “In God we trust” but also as seen in the Biblical text:
Because they did not believe (aman) in Elohim, neither did they trust (batach) in His deliverance. (Psa 78:22)
That the word tikvah is used for the abstract idea of “hope”in Graeco-Roman culture, but more concretely a “strong and firm mind” in Hebraic mind like in:
For you are my hope, tikvah (strength and firmness), O Lord GOD: you are my trust (mibtach) from my youth. (Psa_71:5)
The Hebrew word mibtach is anoun derived from the verb batach. Therefore, we see again that hope, tikvah, is closely related to the word trust, faith, mibtach, and we can hardly translate tikvah as a wish, desire, possibility or chance of fulfilment, but “strength and firmness”, a firmness that leads to trust. For more insight on the Hebrew word for faith, emunah, read the article Faith.
But in Eze_37:11 the word tikvah is used with its both meanings as firmness and as a cord, since a cord is firm and strong bond.
We also can make the association with the umbilical cord which vitally connects a baby to a mother and once this cord is cut off, the baby is cut off from the strength of the mother and starts living on his/her own.
Or, in the literal meaning of the text in Eze 37:11 we can make another close association of tikvah as tendons and ligaments in a human body keep the bones together in a firm bond.
‘Our bones are dry, our hope (cord, firmness) is perished, and we ourselves have are cut off!’
In conclusion tikvah in Hebrew is a “strong and firm mind”, not a hopeful or wishfull expectation.