“I thought surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife” (Genesis 20:11). These are the words uttered by Avraham after he is confronted by Avimelech, the king of Gerar. Avraham asked his wife, Sarah, to lie to the king and tell him that she was his sister, instead of his wife. Once king Avimelech comprehended what happened and the sin (adultery) that he was to commit, he confronted Avraham. The response by Avraham and his reasoning to the king consisted of one notion: the fear of God. The fear of God is the closest thing in the Bible that we may call “religion” or “morality.” It is a universal principle and not exclusive to any one people. Avraham believed there to be no fear of God in Avimelech’s kingdom, a place where Avraham as a foreigner had no rights. Where the fear of God is missing, one is compelled to lie to save themselves from death even though they are not guilty of any crime. Where the fear of God is missing, one is compelled to put their wife in a dangerous and traumatic situation in order to save one’s own life.
The phrase “fear of God” is used in other places throughout Torah. Most notably, it is used to describe the nation of Amalek after it killed the weak and smote the feeble because the nation “feared not God” (Deuteronomy 25:18). Where the fear of God is missing, the weak and innocent are legitimate targets. Where the fear of God is missing, people feel authorized to prey on the stragglers, the famished, or the weary. Where the fear of God is missing, people operate far below the level of ordinary decency expected by human beings made in the image of God.
At the beginning of the book of Exodus, we see one of the most courageous and inspiring episodes in all of Torah. After Pharoah’s genocidal decree that all Israelite baby boys should be thrown into the Nile, two midwives transgressed Pharoah’s command and refused to kill the Israelite boys. What phrase is used to describe the midwives state of mind during this episode? You guessed it: the fear of God! (Exodus 1:17). Where the fear of God is present, people are compelled to do what is just and right, even in the face of tyranny and power. Where the fear of God is present, people muster the bravery to stand up against evil. Where the fear of God is present, people harness the strength to stay the moral course despite allegations to the contrary by those who hate them.
The fear of God was surely missing in the brutal attacks waged by Hamas terrorists on October 7th. The chilling similarities between the attack on children and the elderly by Hamas and the description from Torah about the nation of Amalek is all too real. The cowardly use of innocent Gazan civilians as human shields by Hamas terrorists is morally reprehensible. It is quite the opposite of the job of the government of a group of people, especially during wartime, which is to protect and serve its citizenry. It is an affront to values held dear by much of the world, especially Israel, and certainly an affront to God. The stationing of Hamas operations under hospitals, schools, and mosques is another example of Hamas’ spineless ideology and lack of fear of God. The taking of innocent peoples prisoner and holding them as hostages to be used as political pawns is despicable and another offense to decency, morality, and goodness everywhere.
In stark contrast, Israel and the IDF have displayed a consistent fear of God throughout this war. The numerous avenues that the IDF pursues to avoid civilian causalities proves this. These include dropping leaflets detailing when and where an airstrike will occur, encouraging civilians to leave and giving them well-enough time to do so, and being extremely transparent about their goals, stages, and operations for the ongoing war. Israel has spent large sums of its own money building and constructing bomb shelters for its citizens to protect them from Hamas rockets. Hamas has used billions of dollars to not build any forms of protection for its own citizenry, but instead to construct elaborate underground tunnels so it can hide away like a pack of rats. Just the other day, a senior Hamas official declared that it is not the job of Hamas to protect civilians in Gaza, but rather that of the UN and Israel. Meanwhile, Israel has evacuated 30,000 of its citizens in the North in order to protect them from Hezbollah rocket fire, because Israel is a legitimate and moral government that performs its duties to its citizens. Hamas is anything but.
It is abundantly clear that there is no moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas. Anyone, whether in the media, on college campuses, or in other positions of institutional power that attempts to equate Israel’s behavior and Hamas’ behavior lacks an understanding of the situation and lacks a fundamental understanding of morality, or what we may call the fear of God. Shame on the dozens of universities around America for contributing to the sinful lie of moral equivalence. Shame on the legacy media for only focusing on the heartbreaking death toll of civilians in Gaza without describing Hamas’ refusal to allow certain population of civilians to leave Gaza, Israel’s methods of preventing civilian casualties, or calling for Hamas to surrender and return the hostages. Shame on anyone who criticizes Israel for defending itself, all the while not condemning Hamas. Your colors are truly showing. The fear of God is not a new concept, and holding fast to it is crucially important. The lack of a fear of God is nothing new either, and the last 4 weeks have shown the world that Hamas and its allies have no intent for it to become a relic of the past.