Hope (in the Bible)
HOPE (IN THE BIBLE)
Hope is an analogical term that has many different meanings in the Bible. The Hebrew words most frequently translated into English by hope have the basic meanings to trust (bṭḥ ), seek refuge (ḥsh ), expect (yḥl ), and wait for (qwh and śbr ). Following the usage of the Greek OT (LXX), the biblical Greek of the NT uses ἐλπίς in much the same way as the OT, especially in theological contexts, in contrast to the classical Greek usage, which makes hope to be more neutral, i.e., an expectation for the future that may be either good or bad, dependent upon how a man acts at the present time. Biblical hope is much more of a confidence in God, who is uncontrollable by man but who has committed Himself to His covenant promises. For the biblical man God is the basis for any future hope, whereas to base one's expectations on anything less than God, be it human endeavor or magic, leads to frustration. Biblical hope is God-grounded, while the Greek ἐλπίς stands or falls on the character of men and how they act.
In the Old Testament. Confident reliance on God, eager longing for His fidelity to be manifested, patient bearing of present trials in view of God's promises of vindication, and taking refuge with God as one's rock or fortress to escape one's foes are all attitudes of OT hope. The object of such longing is not the future good, which may or may not be specified, so much as the person upon whom the realization of the future good depends, God who is full of loving covenantal loyalty (ḥesed, Ex 34.6 and parallels). God is the "Hope of Israel," its "savior in time of need" (Jer 14.8).
A graphic example of such confidence in yahweh is found in ch. 18 and 19 of 2 Kings. Hezekiah is classified as a king who above all others "trusted in the Lord"(18.5). He therefore fulfilled Isaiah's advice given to his father to trust not in foreign allies but in God alone who had made a covenant with the House of David (Is7.10–16), but he had turned away from this advice by relying on Egypt, a reliance that led to the destruction of almost all his southern cities. Now Jerusalem itself was under siege, and, in a mocking speech, he was challenged to renew his trust in God (18.19–25) by an envoy of the king of Assyria, Sennacherib. Hezekiah's confident prayer that follows (19.15–19), Isaiah's oracle of deliverance for the holy remnant of Israel (19.20–34), and the destruction of Sennacherib's army (19.35–36) describe the ideal of Israelite hope in action; God is, indeed, Israel's "savior in time of need."
The quiet waiting for God, preached by Isaiah (Is 30.15) and so many other Prophets, eventually developed into a confident longing for deliverance not merely from present affliction but from all sorrow and pain in a new world (Is 11.6–9 and parallels; 25.9; 51.5–6; Jer 29.11;31.16–17). There is nothing right in the world upon which one could rely for future happiness; but every faithful servant of Yahweh can cry out with Micah, "But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will put my trust in God my savior; my God will hear me!" and, "I will arise" (Mi 7.7, 8).
In the New Testament. The patient yearning for the one who is to come to establish the new order continued to motivate the oppressed and poor servants of Yahweh (Zep 2.3; 3.11–20) until they recognized in Jesus "the consolation of Israel" (Lk 2.25), "the redemption of Jerusalem" (2.38), the revelation to the Gentiles and Israel's glory (2.32), and the Lord's gentle servant who was the hope of the Gentiles (Mt 12.21; 8.17). Their hope was for a moment shattered by His death (Lk 24.21), but it was revived in a way they had never dreamed by His Resurrection (24.25–35). Henceforth, the hope of the new Israel rested on Christ's Resurrection from the dead (Acts 23.6; 24.15; 26.6–7; 28.20), through which He had been proclaimed Lord and Christ (Acts 2.29–36), the giver of the promised Holy Spirit (1.4; 2.33, 38–39), and the only one "under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (4.12). Even more concretely than in the OT, the new Israel's hope was grounded on God's presence in its midst rather than on any expectation based on human striving (Mt 1.23; 28.20). God had proved His fidelity once for all. Now all men must respond by turning to Him and waiting for the return of His Son for the restoration of all things (Acts 3.19–26).
For Paul hope is intertwined with faith and love, not as if they were separate virtues, but as aspects of the activity of Jesus Christ in His faithful, giving them the power to perform arduous good works with constancy and steadfastness (1 Thes 1.3; 1 Cor 13.7, 13). Christian hope, which is Christ Himself (1 Tm 1.1), expects the ultimate glory destined for God's sons and is very much involved in the process of patient endurance that produces tried character and thereby even greater hope. The whole movement is based on the Father's love for mankind revealed in His Son's death and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Rom 5.1–9). All creation is concerned with this hope and it will not be confounded because it is embedded in God's and Christ's ardent loyalty (Rom 8.18–39). Revelation, a book that is full of hope without specifically mentioning it, ends with the cry of hope, "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rv 22.20).
Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr and adap. l. hartman (New York 1963) 1024–27. p. s. minear, The Interpreters' Dictionary of the Bible, ed. g. a. buttrick (Nashville, Tenn. 1962) 2:640–643. j. duplacy, Vocabulaire de Théologie biblique, ed. x. leon-dufour (Paris 1962) 305–310. r. bultmann, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. g. kittel (Grand Rapids, Mich. 1964—) 2:517–523, 529–535. c. f. d. moule, The Meaning of Hope (Philadelphia, Pa. 1963).
[j. e. fallon]