Tikvah • תִּקְוָה Cling to Hope: A Hebrew Word Study

“For you are my hope (tikvah), O LORD God: you are my trust from my youth.” (Psalm 71:5)

Would you wait differently if you had an assurance of a certain conclusion? In the English language we casually use the word “hope” to mean a “wishful thought” or “optimistic desire,” such as: “I hope it doesn’t rain this weekend.” The lack of strength behind the English word “hope” can cloud our understanding of the powerful promise of biblical hope, which, in contrast, is a “guaranteed assurance of a desired outcome.”

Israel’s devotion to hope is truly awe-inspiring. What would a people ravaged by millennia of persecution and exile choose as their national anthem? No one would have blamed them for lamenting as Ezekiel did: “Our bones are dried up; our hope (tikvah) is lost.” (37:11) But remarkably, the collective heart song of the Jewish people instead declares: “Our hope is not yet lost, our hope of two thousand years, to be a free nation in our Land, the Land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

The words to this anthem, “Ha-Tikvah” (“The Hope”), were written in 1878, 70 years before the Jewish people’s long-awaited desire was finally realized. The hope they had placed in their faithful God and in His promise to replant them in their homeland was firmly planted in biblical truth: “And there is hope (tikvah) in your end, says the LORD, that your children shall come again to their own border” (Jeremiah 31:17).

Tikvah (תִּקְוָה) speaks of certain hope and derives from the Hebrew verb qavah (קָוָה), which means, “to gather together, wait for, hope for, or bind (by twisting) together.” While the idea of hope in English is abstract, this Hebrew root word offers us a helpful visual of hope as an ever-strengthening rope. In fact, Rahab’s “scarlet cord,” a beautiful symbol of the hope of salvation, was called a tikvah in Hebrew (Joshua 2:18).

Traditionally, to make a durable, useful rope, the process of binding and twisting many fibers together in a careful, lengthy process was essential. Our instant-gratification culture has taught us that waiting is a waste, but the Hebraic, biblical viewpoint highly values it: “But they that hope/wait expectantly (qavah) upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31a).

We may not know the details, but the substance of our hope is secure and firm. Hope is summed up in the Lord Jesus. He is our hope incarnate, and He will not fail.

However, let us steer away from the dangerous temptation of offering false hope—to ourselves or to one another—in the form of unfounded “assurances” that contradict or go beyond what the Scriptures say. “My soul, you wait only upon God; for my expectation (tikvah) is from him” (Psalm 62:5).

Hope is a gift that God has given His children. Hope comforts us in our sorrows, fills us with courage to face our daily walk, and envisions us for the future. Cling to biblical hope like the sturdy rope that it is!

“Surely there is a future, and your hope (tikvah) will not be cut off” (Proverbs 23:18).

—by Melissa Briggs

Melissa Briggs is an experienced Hebrew teacher passionate about making the riches of the Hebrew language accessible to everyone. Receive $50 off Explore Hebrew courses for beginners with coupon code “ICEJ.” For every code used, Melissa will donate $30 to the work of the ICEJ.