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Holman Bible Dictionary


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An adversary, foe, or hater. An enemy is one who dislikes or hates another and seeks to harm the person. It can refer to an individual opponent or to a hostile force, either a nation or an army.

Several Hebrew words are rendered “enemy” in the Old Testament. Tsar means an “adversary, foe, oppressor, or enemy.” It comes from the verb tsarar, which means “to show hostility toward.” An ohev is “one who is hostile, an enemy or foe.” The term sane' means, “one who hates.” Zur is a “stranger, foreigner, or alien.” One Greek term, echthros, is used for each of the Hebrew words in the New Testament. Its basic definition is simply “enemy.”

In the Old Testament enemy generally referred to the national enemies of Israel. These included most of their neighboring nations at one time or the other. The enemies of Israel often were considered the enemies of God, for Israel was God's nation (Exodus 23:22 ). This view is also espoused by many of the prophets. Though the word “enemy” is not used there, the first chapter of Amos is a classic example of this.

Enemy is also used to speak of one's personal foes. This is especially true in the Psalms. David asked for help against his enemies on a number of occasions (Psalm 25:2 ,Psalms 25:2,25:19 ). Other poets in the Psalter often sought this same protection (Psalm 119:84 ,Psalms 119:84,119:86 ).

In the New Testament enemy most often refers to one's personal enemies, for the nation of Israel was no longer a force on the political scene. But it also was used of strangers and foreigners in general.

The natural inclination of all people is to hate their enemies. Some have even misconstrued God's law to teach hatred. Jesus taught rather to love one's enemies and to seek their good (Matthew 5:43-47 ). This is also the teaching of the Old Testament (Proverbs 24:17 ; Proverbs 25:21 ).

In the Bible, a person who disobeys divine commands is declared to be God's enemy. Paul referred to sinners as the enemies of God (Romans 5:10 ). Job felt that God had become his enemy, too (Job 13:24 ). Because of this severed relationship, God has made provision for our forgiveness in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Satan is also called “the enemy” (1 Timothy 5:14-15 ). He has revealed himself as such throughout history by seeking to hurt men and women, leading them away from God.

The greatest and final enemy is death itself (1 Corinthians 15:24 ). It is feared by all because of its finality and unknown nature. But the Bible teaches that Jesus has “abolished” death once for all (2 Timothy 1:10 ). Death need not be feared by those who have trusted Christ for the salvation He freely gives.

Bradley S. Butler

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Enemy'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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