Enemy

En-gedi, where David hid from Saul (1 Sam. 24).
Waterfall in En-gedi that made survival possible for David. See also Song of Songs 1:14.

One who feels or behaves in a hostile manner.

Original vocabulary


Old Testament teaching

Enmity among men, resulting in Murder, is one of the first recorded results of the Fall (Gen 4:5-8). This enmity between men will someday be removed (Mic 4:3, 4). Enmity is opposed to Love, a basic ethical principle even in the law (Lev 19:18). The law commanded love even for the resident foreigner (19:34).

The enmity of nature toward man is also a result of the Fall (Gen 3:17, 18). The future will include reconciliation of the parts of nature with one another, as, for example, in the case of reconciling the enmity between the animals (Isa 65:25).

Men, including God’s chosen people (Lam 2:4; Isa 1:24, 25), who oppose God’s purposes can become enemies of God. Scriptures hint that their hatred of God is self-destructive (Isa 26:11c: “your enemies’ fire will consume them”—writer’s tr.). God’s vengeance on His enemies is coming (Jer 46:10), and God’s enemies must be destroyed when God reigns (Ps 97:1, 3).

The Old Testament principle of Revenge (Lev 24:19-21) seems to sanction revengeful enmity against one’s enemy. On the other hand, revenge may have been a necessary, though unpleasant, expedient for maintaining public order in the absence of central governmental authority. Also, the Old Testament principle of revenge prevented the act of revenge from becoming disproportionately larger than the original crime. The revenge could not exceed in degree the crime or hurt committed. As such, the principle of revenge would not have been an unconditional warrant for personal hatred. In personal relations, the Old Testament attitude is expressed in the warning not to rejoice in the enemy’s misfortunes (Prov 24:17) and in the command to return the enemy’s lost goods (Exod 23:4, 5).


New Testament teaching

The New Testament specifically and unequivocally commands love both for the stranger (Luke 10:29-37) and the hostile enemy (Matt 5:38-44).

The message of Christ, however, may produce enmity (Matt 10:34-36). Theologically, enmity with God has been universalized and used to describe fallen mankind (Rom 5:10). “Reconciliation,” then, views salvation as making enemies of God into friends of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20). See Wrath.

Additional Material

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(’oyebh, tsar, tsar; echthros):



In the Revised Version (British and American) "adversary" is frequently substituted for "enemy" (Nu 24:8; De 32:41; Ps 6:7; 7:6; 44:10, etc.); for "O thou enemy," etc. (Ps 9:6) we have "The enemy are come to an end"; instead of "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him" (Isa 59:19) we have "For he will come as a rushing stream, which the breath of Yahweh driveth" (with the text of the King James Version in margins); for "The fire of thine enemies shall devour them" (Isa 26:11), "Fire shall devour thine adversaries" (text of the King James Version in the margin).

The frequent reference to enemies in the Old Testament is what we should expect to see in these early times on the part of a people settling in a land that had been occupied by other tribes, worshipping other gods. The spirit of their law was that expressed by our Lord in His Sermon on the Mount, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy." This He changed: "but I say unto you, Love your enemies." An approach toward this spirit had been made in the later prophets by their inclusion of the whole world under one God, who had a gracious purpose toward all, but the near statement of it we only find in Pr 25:21 (quoted by Paul, Ro 12:20). See also Ex 23:4, and compare 2Ki 6:22; 2Ch 28:15.

Bibliography

  • D. Philipson, “Enemy,” Jew-Enc (1901);
  • W. Foerster, “ἐχθρός, G2398,” TDNew Testament (1964).