English speakers often use the word “hope” to express speculative desires: “I hope that I get the job,” or “I hope we win this game.” In these contexts, we invoke “hope” as we close our eyes, cross our fingers, and wait for the best possible conclusion to an unsure situation, but this is not what the Bible means when it speaks of hope. In Hebrew, “hope” (תקוה/מקוה) is associated with God, so that the term expresses confidence, not in a future outcome, but in a present divine strength.

According to the Psalms, hope is decisive because it comes from God: “Only for God does my life [wait] silently, for from him comes my hope (תקותי; tiqvati). He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (Ps 62:5-6). The psalmist is already certain of his deliverance since God is the one in whom he puts his “hope.”

The Hebrew word for “hope” is the same as the word for a “pooling” or “gathering together” of waters (מקוה; miqveh). The Bible uses mikveh when God gathers together the waters at creation: “God called the dry ground ‘Land,’ and the gathering (מקוה; miqveh) of waters (מים; mayim) he called ‘Seas’” (Gen 1:10). Jeremiah connects this gathering of waters with his hope in God: “Lord, the hope (מקוה; miqveh) of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame… for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters (מים; mayim)” (Jer 17:13). The hope that Jeremiah has in God recalls God’s strength as the Creator: just as surely as God gathered the waters in the past, Jeremiah describes God as his present hope and living water. In biblical parlance, “hope” is not an abstract wish, but rather a complete assurance in God’s strength to sustain all things.

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41 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you! I have always wanted there to be some good teaching to the Body of Christ about this word. Our modern context always positions the practitioner of hope in speculativeness and uncertainty. I have long realized now, however, that in the context of the breadth of G d‘s Word, it must have the more powerful context of having CONFIDENCE in G d.

  2. The verb qavah means “to bind together” – in the meaning of the COMMITMENT. And the word “tiqvah” means hope through the “binding oneself” to YHVH. Without this “binding oneself” to YHVH in the COVENANT there is NO HOPE !!! So the word HOPE=TIQVAH is ONLY through the COMMITMENT in the COVENANT. For instance Isaiah 40:31 says – “But those BINDING themselves with YHVH will slip out in firmness (koach)….” And the word “miqveh” in Genesis 1:10 means literally “…binding of waters…” – because in the verse 9 it is written – “And elohiym spoke: Waters be bound together under…”

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

    • Pastor John & Dr Nicholas, thank you for unbundling hope in such a deep but simple manner. Quite profound & am really empowered. Shalom

  3. A few days ago I asked about ghosts; whether the Jews believed in ghosts in OT or NT. I discovered through Jewish Mysticism That they indeed did believe in Ghosts, but not all. There were at least two sects that believed in the OT. In the NT era there also were those who believed, and there are two very clear instances in the scriptures. When Jesus came to the Apostles walking on the water. And the time when an angel helped (Peter?) escape. There was also recorded in Mysticism that it was believed that demons inhabited the desolate areas.

    • The concept of “ghostlike” figures can be found in the OT (cf. 1 Sam 28:13; Isa 29:4). Whether or not the ancient Israelites conceived of these figures in the same way that we think of “ghosts” today is another question. Jewish mysticism as a interpretive framework, as expressed in things like the Hekhalot literature and Kabbalah, far postdates the OT & NT, so it’s best to go to Scripture to find the root of Peter’s experience before we move too quickly to Jewish mysticism.

  4. How do we differentiate between the types of “hate” mentioned in primarily the OT? Just like different types of love, there must be different types of hate. I don’t have any hebrew documents to compare the different instances where hate is used.

  5. When Jesus was on the cross he said as he was dying, My God, My God Why hast thou forsaken me? The same words are in Psalm 22. I am having trouble understanding the meaning and what’s really going on with the statement. Can you shed some light on it?

    • IBC offers a whole course on the Psalms, which includes an analysis of Ps 22 and Jesus’ use of it — perhaps you’d like to enroll.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

    • Wesley. It is my understanding that when Jesus or Paul et al quote something from the Torah we must read the entire passage to get the full meaning. For Ps 22 the meaning, why Jesus said this, is very clear as you read and finish the entire passage.

      • You’re absolutely right, David. In citing Ps 22:1, Jesus hopes to draw our attention to the entire Psalm, which tells the story of a righteous sufferer who God saves and whose vindication is told to “people yet unborn” (22:31). In dying and being raised from the dead, Jesus recapitulates the psalmist, and the gospel is told to generations to come.

  6. When Jesus saw the disciples returning from a night of fishing empty handed he told them to cast their net on the other side of the road. Was this an indicator that after going to the Jews first with the gospel they should cast their net on the gentiles – as fishers of men..

    • Good question. I wouldn’t read too much into the fishing episode in John 21 — especially since Jesus and the disciples end up eating the fish (21:9-13), which would mean that they are eating Gentiles (!). More, the “fishers of human beings” line is in Mark & Matthew (Mk 1:17; Matt 4:19), but not in Luke or John, so John 21 is likely not making a reference to the disciples fishing for Gentiles.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  7. I like the explanation from Jeremiah ‘…gathering of the waters…’. It’s a gathering of strength from the LORD, just as the waters gather strength. ONLY GOD is in control of the waters (and the wind too) and it can be very overpowering at times depending on the circumstances. Thus hope is being strengthened by the LORD that what HE says (HIS WORD), HE will do-it WILL COME to pass. I am on the right path or did I stray?

    • Hi, Vida. You’re certainly right that God’s gathering of the waters is a reflection of God’s strength, and that this act (and others) gives us the assurance we need to hope (i.e., trust) in God’s promises.

  8. This is my first entry, as I just bagan my studies with you. I’m very happy for the previlege. If I may, hope is certainty that God is the same yesterday, today and for ever. Revelations 1:8; “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (‭‭Revelation‬ ‭1:8‬)‭NIV‬‬. So then, the theological implication is parallel with the historical context with an additional expectation. He can be trusted to fulfill the future prophecies of the ”Davidic Covenant”. Hope is eternal. Thanks so much for the information. ??

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  9. If I may, hope is certainty that God is the same yesterday, today and for ever. Revelations 1:8; “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (So then, the theological implication is parallel with the historical context. We can trust him to fulfill his promises.

  10. I can now see where every jot and tiddle must be in place I suppose if you were awash with hope; ‘How high is the water mama?’ ‘Four feet high and risin”. could be you need a boat to float. In Job Eli’hu says: “Do not long for the night, when people are cut off in their place. Take heed do not turn to iniquity, for this you have chosen over affliction.’ A gathering for the salvation of grace, or those rip roaring for justice. It has been said; the young cry for justice, the old cry for mercy.

    • John, Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) means “the Lord exalts” or, in the particular prophet’s case, it could have the more specific meaning of “the Lord appoints.”

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  11. I’m reminded of the refrain of a song by Don Francisco: “Love is not a feeling; it’s an act of the will!” Feelings may flit through our heads, but they don’t impact our lives and world until there is an act of the will to establish them in our lives.

  12. For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea – Habakkuk

  13. I was just noticing how hope is associated with praise
    Psalm 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

  14. I have been much encouraged, inspired with confidence or given hope by you in your explanation of hope to rely on GOD our father in heaven for all needs.The lord even taught us not to worry Mathew: 6 25-34 depend on GOD for anything we want if asked in faith.

  15. Regarding biblical languages, a scholar said once said, “words don’t mean, people mean with words.” As I explore Hope, I envision the word picture of “desire plus expectation,” communicating the intended meaning.

  16. I always considered “Hope” as “earnest expectancy” rather than wishful thinking. Hope = You Expect to happen what you’re certain for. As we read:
    “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hbr.1:1).
    “For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of…” (Gal.5:5).
    “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Rom.8:24-25).
    Hope and faith are binded together in echad. 😉
    Is it in line to Hebrew though?

    • Thanks for these comments, Krzysztof. Yes, hope and faith are of a piece in Hebrew thought. You’re right to understand “hope” as “expectancy,” and “faith” (emunah in Hebrew) is really “trust” based on God’s prior and present action.

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