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The hamsa (khamsah) is an Arabic word which means five. The hand of hamsa represents “the five fingers of the hand.” And it is common as a palm-shaped amulet in the Middle East. It is generally used in jewelry and wall hangings as a sign of protection against the evil eye. Others consider it as a bearer of good fortune.
The hamsa is also variously known as the Hand of Fatima after the daughter of Muhammad, the Hand of Mary, the Hand of Miriam, and the Hand of the Goddess. Some Jewish traditions link the five fingers of the hamsa to the five books of the Torah. Sunni Muslims associate it with the Five Pillars of Islam.
Early use of the hamsa goes back to ancient Mesopotamia as well as ancient Morocco. The image has been seen on the goddess Ishtar or Inanna. Other symbols of divine protection based around the hand include the Hand-of-Venus (or Aphrodite). One theory suggests a connection between the khamsa and the Mano Pantea (or Hand-of-the-All-Goddess), an amulet known to ancient Egyptians as the Two Fingers. In this amulet, the Two Fingers represent Isis and Osiris, and the thumb represents their child Horus.
Amongst some Jewish people, the hamsa is a very respected, holy, and common symbol. It is used in the Ketubah, or marriage contracts, as well as items that dress the Torah such as pointers, and the Passover Haggadah. The use of the hand as images both in and out of the synagogue suggests the importance and relevance that the Jewish people associated with the hamsa. The hand decorated some of the most religious and divine objects. The hamsa holds recognition as a bearer of good fortune among Catholics. Levantine Christians call it the hand of Mary (Arabic: Kef Miryam, or the “Virgin Mary’s Hand”).
The symbol also is used in several Indian religions. In Hinduism and Buddhism, besides carrying the meaning of protection against the evil eye, the symbol is also used to represent the interplay of the body’s chakras. In addition, the Native American Southeastern Ceremonial Complex contained images of a human hand with an eye in the palm. However, the meaning and purpose are unconfirmed.
What Does the Bible Say About Hamsa?
The Lord warned His people in the Old Testament against superstition and idolatry which are referred to as divination and soothsaying (Leviticus 19:26). And He forbade the practice of astrology (Deuteronomy 4:19), magic, and sorcery (2 Kings 21:6, Isaiah 2:6). The Lord spoke against making amulets to hang or wear (Ezekiel 13:18,20; Isaiah 3:18-20). And the New Testament warns the believers to, “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14 also 1 John 5:21; Colossians 3:5).
The Lord instructed that no one who practices idolatry will enter the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:27). Paul warned the believers saying, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
People need not fear evil if they are walking with the Lord. The Lord assures His children with His protection and presence. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge…” (Psalm 91:1,3,4). For by God’s power and might, believers can “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).
In His service,