What is Emunah?
The Hebrew word Emunah may not sound familiar to you at first, but how about the word AMEN? Read on to find out how these two Hebrew words are connected and what they mean.
Exploring the meaning of Hebrew words is like receiving an unexpected gift. The depth of God’s character is unveiled in the process. That, in turn, can make way for new facets of trust to be established in our relationship with Him.
The Hebrew word emunah (אמונה, pronounced “eh-moo-nah”) is understood in English to mean “faith” or “belief”. But it is often also translated as “faithfulness.” And yet, it describes much more than just believing a statement about God. It reveals a life of full reliance upon Him.
What does Amen mean?
Emunah is faith that results in faithfulness, implying action. It shouldn’t be a total surprise then that the word amen shares the root with Emunah. Amen means “so be it” or “may it be so,” and shares the root also with eman, meaning “to confirm”. Add to that haemeen, which means “to trust” or “confide in”.
Consider all their meanings together and you’ll realize something very profound. When we say “amen” at the end of a prayer, it is not just a closing statement or ritual word. It is an agreement to act upon what we have prayed!
Think about that for a moment and allow the awareness of “amen” to serve as a reminder each time you pray. It’s easy to ask something of God in prayer. But as His children, we are invited into a partnership with Him – what a beautiful concept!
Faith doesn’t just happen in your head – it happens in your entire body.
Throughout the Bible, the idea of faith is like a staircase. You may intellectually know that the stairs go up to the next level. But until you climb the stairs, you won’t actually experience that next level. This is what Martin Luther King Jr. meant when he said: “faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
You can’t just believe in the stairs and settle for knowing the stairs are there. You have to climb the stairs!
I love what James, who was the brother of Jesus, wrote: “Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?” (James 2:17)… Maybe you’ve heard it in a different translation that says, “In the same way, faith without works is dead.”
Emunah is not faith alone, it is faith completed by works. According to the biblical definition of faith, what you do is more important than what you know.
Heroes of Faith
The Emunah kind of faith is what set apart the biblical saints described in Hebrews 11. This chapter is commonly referred to as the “hall of heroes”. We read here about Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses and Rahab. And more!
Though their stories and circumstances varied, they each held a firm conviction in their hearts. They lived with the expectation that God would accomplish all that He had promised. This was reflected in the way they lived.
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (NASB 1995)
The same should be true of us as followers of Yeshua. Keep in mind that our spiritual heroes credited in Hebrews 11 weren’t without flaws. And thankfully God doesn’t expect total perfection of us in order to recognize or accept the steps taken in faith.
Different Kind of Dependence
In fact, it is not about us or dependent upon our humanity. Emunah faith is powerful because it is a reflection of the great I Am. We can take those steps into the unknown because we are relying on and putting our trust in God and His Word.
On this note, the late theologian Dr. Edmund Perry offers a beautiful revelation:
This steadiness, however, is not the result of stabilizing oneself with one’s own resources. One steadies himself by taking hold of or supporting himself on something or someone regarded to be stable and reliable.1
What about when the Lord allows us, His sons and daughters, to face a challenge to our faith? The times when He knows and allows us to walk into circumstances that turn out to be challenging or even downright wretched?
Keeping the Faith in the Storm
Consider the account in Matthew 14:22, which says:
“Immediately afterward He compelled the disciples to get into the boat and to go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.” (NASB, emphasis mine)
Other translations say Jesus “made the disciples” (ESV), “constrained his disciples” (KJB) and even “insisted” (NLT). Which sounds like He intentionally sent them into the storm.
Dave Adamson, director of IsraelU, reflects on this seemingly irrational (perplexing?) idea:
“Jesus knew His followers would be scared, and He knew they would cry out to Him. But He sent them anyway. Jesus sent them into the storm because He knew it was in the middle of the storm that He would reveal His love and mercy! He knew He would calm their storm.”
Jesus’ friends and disciples knew about God. But this circumstance necessitated that they press in and cry out for His intervention. We need BOTH the understanding and the action. When we assume faith is just about what you know, then we miss half of what it means to HAVE Emunah – faith!
Emunah means Steadfast
In His sovereign wisdom, God gives us these storms for our advantage and sanctification. So that our faith might be “perfected”. Lately I’ve been recognizing this in terms of building layers of trust to the foundation of faith that I have in Jesus.
“We hope for power in the midst of weakness; we hope for peace in the midst of conflict and for joy in the presence of sorrow. For all these reasons, God’s people require faith to persevere in a difficult world.” Explains Richard Philips.2
In a sense, emunah is also an expression of persistence, or steadfastness. It is often in those difficult circumstances that a certain level of endurance is cultivated. Our faith becomes tenacious.
In Exodus 17 we read about how Moses raised his hands all day long until the Israelites won a key battle. The details say that his hands remained steady, emunah, until sunset. In this sense emunah means steadfast.
Other words to describe emunah are: reliable, dependable, stable, steady, verified, true.
In Word and Deed
Emunah is faithfulness in fulfilling promises and is applicable to both man (Psalm 37:3, Habakkuk 2:4) and God (Deut 32:4, Psalm 36:6).
“Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.” Habakkuk 2:4, NLT.
Emunah faith is backed up with action consistent with the assertion of faith. Faith placed in God and all that He promised to us in Jesus is the means by which we possess the kingdom of heaven while on the earth.
So here’s the question of the day: Do the people around you SEE your faith in actions? Do they experience your faith in God only through words …or through the way you serve them?
He rewards the faith of those who passionately seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 TPT)
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- Perry, Edmund. “The Meaning of ‘Emuna in the Old Testament.” Journal of Bible and Religion, vol. 21, no. 4, 1953, pp. 252–256. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1457965. Accessed 30 Apr. 2021.
- Philips, Richard. “What is Faith? The Answer from Hebrews 11.” https://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-faith-answer-hebrews-11/. Accessed 2 May 2021.