Exhibition advertisement on Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem
HAND OF SATAN—HAND OF GOD!
Hamsa (or, Khamsa) is an occult amulet or talisman popular in the Middle East, shaped like a hand with a thumb on either side. Often bearing an engraving or painting of an eye, it is believed by many to ward off an “evil eye” (i.e. a glare thought to release a curse), or to provide its wearer with general “protection” or means of good fortune.
This week one may see a large Hamsa on many buses weaving through Jerusalem; it is advertising an exhibition which opened this past Thursday at the Museum of Islamic Art in the capital. The exhibition, entitled Khamsa, Khamsa, Khamsa (see above) has on its English website the following introduction:
“555 different hamsas will be displayed in an exhibition, which is entirely devoted to the hamsa, one of the most widespread motifs and artifacts in popular culture. Over the course of many years, the hamsa turned from a traditional object with a magical role – both in Moslem culture and Jewish culture – into an iconic object, which represents popular culture and art. In a process of cultural evolution hamsa production became commercial and penetrated numerous areas of life: commercials and street billboards, business premises and public institutions, key holders and as an ornamental object in the car. Many strata of the population now use the hamsa, and it has become an integral part of Israeli identity in 2018.”
The last phrase is unfortunately and tragically true; the amulet has in many ways become what might be considered “an integral part of the Israeli identity.” Children in First Grade will proudly bring home a depiction of a hamsa as “artwork” which they’ve colored in school. Tourist shops are filled with all manner of hamsa trinkets (key chains, necklaces, wall plaques, etc.), their proprietors assuring visitors that this is a really Israeli souvenir to take home.
A glance at the Wikipedia site reveals that the amulet may be traced back as an object of magic to Mesopotamia and Carthage (modern Iraq and Tunisia) and the goddess Ishtar–before that, perhaps Isis, Osiris and Horus in Egypt. Yet, it found its way into Islam (the name Khamsa itself is Arabic, referring to the five fingers), where it has sometimes been called the Hand of Fatima. Some streams of Roman Catholicism in the region adopted it as the “Hand of Mary.” Through the Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews who lived in the East it entered Judaism. Among women of all three religions, it has at times been seen as a charm for warding off barrenness. Today, it is popular throughout Israeli Judaism—among secular Jews as a good-luck charm (something like a rabbit’s foot in the West); among religious Jews, as representing the “strong hand of YHVH” which brought Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 13:9). In fact, amongst many religious Jews it is today revered, even seen as holy—appearing as decorations on Ketubbah’s (Wedding Contracts), Haggadot (guides for observing the Passover Seder) and in some Synagogues on coverings for the Torah.
Israel continues to return to the land of her Fathers. Yet, except for a remnant, she has not yet experienced the cleansing God promised in Ezekiel 36:25-26 would take place following that return—the new heart and new spirit which would cause her to recognize the sin, the uncleanness, the idolatry in which, whether secular or religious, she still walks. It is the Spirit of Truth, sent by her Savior and Messiah Yeshua, which must convict Israel of her sin—of the righteousness which can come only in her crucified and resurrected Messiah, of God’s judgment on this world system and the works of the Evil One…it is this Spirit who must lead her out of error and into all Truth! (John 16:7-8, 13). Until then, Israel remains susceptible to error and deception, to the devices of the Enemy which cause confusion and separate her from the blessings of her God.
We believe our embracing of the Hamsa to be one of these devices. Whether seen as a harmless folk-superstition, a part of our culture to be played with by our children, and worn as jewelry by our wives—or viewed as a genuine means for receiving supernatural protection or grace, it still falls within an area which God’s Word to His people long ago called witchcraft or sorcery. The practice of sorcery and magic arts brings a curse. Even having it in one’s home opens a door of vulnerability to darkness. Witchcraft is linked with rebellion (1st Samuel 15:23). It first appeared in the Garden of Eden when the serpent tempted the first Adam to seek after a “way” to knowledge and power different than that provided and countenanced by God (A word often translated into English “witchcraft” or “divination”( See Numbers 23:23) is nakhash—the Hebrew word for “serpent” in the Garden). God does not want His children to trust in talismans and amulets for their protection and salvation. They are not the Hand of God, but the hand of darkness. In Isaiah 47:9-12, He warns Babylon (one of the areas from which the Hamsa originated),
“You will be overwhelmed by tragedies, despite your many incantations and your numerous amulets. Disaster will overtake you; you will not know how to charm it away…persist in trusting your amulets and your many incantations, which you have faithfully recited since your youth; maybe you will be successful—maybe you will scare aware disaster!” (NET)
And to those who devise magical charms to deceive the souls of His people Israel:
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: SEE! I am coming after your amulets (NIV: “magic charms”) by which you ensnare lives like prey. I will tear them from your arms and set free the lives of those you have ensnared like prey.” (Ezekiel 13:20 NAB-RE)
The Hamsa is a snare in Israel, brought hidden by the Evil One within the supposed identity of the People the LORD is returning to His Land. There are others—an incantation, formed from the name of a dead rabbi is supposed to bring instant “redemption” to those who chant it. One sees it in shops, embroidered into kippot (headpieces worn by religious Jewish men), on bumper stickers. Some fervently believe it will bring redemption, others are skeptical, but don’t want to be left out, just in case it works. We are not saying these are the source of all of Israel’s troubles—but they are symptomatic of the wounds, the darkness, the errors and confusions she has picked up in her wanderings outside of the Light which was sent to her.
She must return to the One who is her true “Rock” of security, her only way to Redemption—“God Most High” (Psalm 78:35). And to Hands, not bearing eyes to protect from a curse, but marks from having been pierced—bearing a curse so that all of Israel—and all other children of Adam might be saved.
* That the Holy Spirit of Truth would work in Israeli hearts to expose the falsehood of every occult power in which she is placing her trust for security or good fortune. “There is no sorcery against Jacob, Nor any divination against Israel!” (Numbers 23:23)
* That Israel would become aware that there is One sovereign LORD, who is the God of her Fathers. That all amulets through which Man seeks prosperity, protection from evil, or redemption from death are actually idols through which the Evil One seeks to capture their souls. By embracing them, Israeli’s are breaking the first and second of the Ten Commandments.
* That both religious Jews and Muslims will become aware and convicted of the darkness and curse of the occult, which leads to death. That they would be drawn to the One who came forth from the Father to redeem Humankind from the curse!
* That Jews will understand that the Hand of the LORD is indeed their strength—they do not need replicas which become Idols. “It was not by their sword that they won the land nor did their arm bring them victory; It was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face, for You loved them!” (Psalm 44:3)