Called by Galen "the instrument of instruments." It is the symbol of human action ( Psalms 9:16 ; Job 9:30 ; Isaiah 1:15 ; 1 Timothy 2:8 ). Washing the hands was a symbol of innocence ( Psalms 26:6 ; 73:13 ; Matthew 27:24 ), also of sanctification ( 1 Corinthians 6:11 ; Isaiah 51:16 ; Psalms 24:3 Psalms 24:4 ). In Psalms 77:2 the correct rendering is, as in the Revised Version, "My hand was stretched out," etc., instead of, as in the Authorized Version, "My sore ran in the night," etc.
The right hand denoted the south, and the left the north ( Job 23:9 ; 1 Samuel 23:19 ). To give the right hand was a pledge of fidelity ( 2 Kings 10:15 ; Ezra 10:19 ); also of submission to the victors ( Ezekiel 17:18 ; Jeremiah 50:15 ). The right hand was lifted up in taking an oath ( Genesis 14:22 , etc.). The hand is frequently mentioned, particularly the right hand, as a symbol of power and strength ( Psalms 60:5 ; Isaiah 28:2 ). To kiss the hand is an act of homage ( 1 Kings 19:18 ; Job 31:27 ), and to pour water on one's hands is to serve him ( 2 Kings 3:11 ). The hand of God is the symbol of his power: its being upon one denotes favour ( Ezra 7:6 Ezra 7:28 ; Isaiah 1:25 ; Luke 1:66 , etc.) or punishment ( Exodus 9:3 ; Judges 2:15 ; Acts 13:11 , etc.). A position at the right hand was regarded as the chief place of honour and power ( Psalms 45:9 ; 80:17 ; 110:1 ; Matthew 26:64 ).
(yadh, "hand"; kaph, "the hollow hand," "palm"; yamin, "the right hand"; semo'l, "the left hand"; cheir, "hand"; dexia, "the right hand"; aristera, "the left hand" (only Luke 23:33; 2 Corinthians 6:7), or euphemistically (for evil omens come from the left hand; compare Latin sinister, German linkisch, etc.); euonumos, literally, "having a good name"):
The Hebrew words are used in a large variety of idiomatic expressions, part of which have passed into the Greek (through the Sepuagint) and into modern European languages (through the translations of the Bible; see Oxford Hebrew Lexicon, under the word "yadh"). We group what has to be said about the word under the following heads:
1. The Human Hand:
The hand included the wrist, as Will be seen from all passages in which bracelets are mentioned as ornaments of the hand, e.g. Genesis 24:22,30,47; Ezekiel 16:11; 23:42, or where the Bible speaks of fetters on the hands (Judges 15:14, etc.). On the other hand, it cannot seem strange that occasionally the expression "hand" may be used for a part, e.g. the fingers, as in Genesis 41:42, etc.. According to the lexicon talionis, justice demanded "hand for hand" (Exodus 21:24; Deuteronomy 19:21). We enumerate the following phrases without claiming to present a complete list: "To fill the hand" (Exodus 32:29 m; 1 Chronicles 29:5 margin) means to consecrate, evidently from the filling of hands with sacrificial portions for the altar. Compare also Leviticus 7:37; 8:22,28,29,31,33, where the sacrifice, the ram, the basket of consecration are mentioned. "To put or set the hand unto" (Deuteronomy 15:10; 23:20; 28:8,20), to commence to do; "to put forth the hand" (Genesis 3:22; 8:9); "to stretch out the hand" (Ezekiel 25:13,16; Zechariah 2:13); "to shake or wag the hand upon" (Isaiah 10:32; Zechariah 2:15; Zechariah 2:9), to defy. "To lay the hand upon the head" (2 Samuel 13:19) is an expression of sadness and mourning, as we see from Egyptian representations of scenes of mourning. Both in joy and in anger hands are "smitten together" (Numbers 24:10), and people "clap their hands" at a person or over a person in spiteful triumph (Job 27:23; Lamentations 2:15; Nahum 3:19). "To put one's life into one's hand" is to risk one's life (1 Samuel 19:5; 28:21). "To lay hands upon" is used in the sense of blessing (Matthew 19:13), or is symbolical in the act of miraculous healing (Matthew 9:18; Mark 8:23; Acts 28:8), or an emblem of the gift of the Holy Spirit and His endowments (Acts 8:17-19; 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6); but it also designates the infliction of cruelty and punishment (Genesis 37:22; Leviticus 24:14), the imposition of responsibility (Numbers 8:10; Deuteronomy 34:9). Thus also the sins of the people were symbolically transferred upon the goat which was to be sent into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:21). This act, rabbinical writings declare, was not so much a laying on of hands, as a vigorous pressing. "Lifting up the hand" was a gesture accompanying an oath (Deuteronomy 32:40) or a blessing pronounced over a multitude (Leviticus 9:22; Luke 24:50), a prayer (Psalms 119:48). "To put the hands to the mouth" is indicative of (compulsory) silence (Job 21:5; 40:4; Proverbs 30:32; Micah 7:16). To "slack one's hand" is synonymous with negligence and neglect (Joshua 10:6), and "to hide or bury the hand in the dish" is descriptive of the slothful, who is tired even at meals (Proverbs 19:24; 26:15).
2. The Hand as Power:
The hand in the sense of power and authority:
(compare Assyrian idu, "strength"); Joshua 8:20 margin, "They had no hands (the Revised Version (British and American) "power") to flee this way or that way"; Judges 1:35, "The hand of the house of Joseph prevailed"; Psalms 76:5, "None of the men of might have found their hands"; Psalms 89:48 margin, "shall deliver his soul from the hand (the Revised Version (British and American) "power") of Sheol"; 2 Kings 3:15, "The hand of Yahweh came upon him"; Exodus 14:31 margin, "Israel saw the great hand (the Revised Version (British and American) "work") which Yahweh did upon the Egyptians"; Deuteronomy 34:12, "in all the mighty hand .... which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel."
3. The Hand for the Person:
The hand used (pars pro toto) for the person:
"His hand shall be against every man" (Genesis 16:12). "Slay the priests of Yahweh; because their hand also is with David" (1 Samuel 22:17). "Jonathan went to David into the wood and strengthened his hand in God" (1 Samuel 23:16). In this sense penalty is exacted "from the hand" or "at the hand" of the transgressor (Genesis 9:5; Ezekiel 33:8).
4. Hand, Meaning Side:
The hand in the sense of side:
"All the side (Hebrew "hand") of the river Jabbok" (Deuteronomy 2:37); "by the wayside" (Hebrew "by the hand of the way," 1 Samuel 4:13). The manuscripts have here the error yakh, for yadh; compare the Hebrew of Psalms 140:5 (6) (leyadh ma`gal); "On the side (Hebrew "hand") of their oppressors there was power" (Ecclesiastes 4:1); "I was by the side (Hebrew "hand") of the great river" (Daniel 10:4).
5. English Idiom:
Mention must also be made here of the English idiom, "at hand," frequently found in our versions of the Scriptures. In Hebrew and Greek there is no reference to the word "hand," but words designating nearness of time or place are used. The usual word in Hebrew is qarabh, "to be near," and qarobh, "near"; in Greek eggus, "near," and the verb eggizo, "to come near." Rarely other words are used, as enesteken, "has come," the English Revised Version "is now present" (2 Thessalonians 2:2), and ephesteken, "is come" (2 Timothy 4:6).
Frequently the words refer to the "day" or "coming of the Lord"; still it must not be forgotten that it may often refer to the nearness of God in a local sense, as in Jeremiah 23:23, "Am I a God at hand, saith Yahweh, and not a God afar off?" and probably in Philippians 4:5, "The Lord is at hand," though many, perhaps most, commentators regard the expression as a version of the Aramaic maran atha (1 Corinthians 16:22). Passages such as Psalms 31:20; 119:151; Matthew 28:20 would, however, speak for an interpretation which lays the ictus on the abiding presence of the Lord with the believer.
NOTE.--The ancients made a careful distinction of the respective values of the two hands. This is perhaps best seen from Genesis 48:13-19, where the imposition of the hands of aged Israel upon the heads of Joseph's sons seems unfair to their father, because the left hand is being placed upon the elder, the right hand upon the younger son. The very word euonumos proves the same from the Greek point of view. This word is a euphemistic synonym of aristera, and is used to avoid the unlucky omen the common word may have for the person spoken to. Thus the goats, i.e. the godless, are placed at the left hand of the great Judge, while the righteous appear at His right (Matthew 25:33). We read in Ecclesiastes 10:2, "A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left," i.e. is inclined to evil. As the Jews orientated themselves by looking toward the rising of the sun (Latin oriens, the east), the left hand represented the north, and the right hand the south (1 Samuel 23:19,24; 2 Samuel 24:5). The right hand was considered the more honorable (1 Kings 2:19; Psalms 45:9); therefore it was given in attestation of a contract, a federation or fellowship (Galatians 2:9). It is the more valuable in battle; a friend or protector will therefore take his place at the right to guard it (Psalms 16:8; 73:23; 109:31; 110:5; 121:5), but the enemy will, for the same reason, try to assail it (Job 30:12; Psalms 109:6; Zechariah 3:1). It was also the unprotected side, because the shield was carried on the left arm:
hence, the point of danger and honor. The right hand is also the side of power and strength (Psalms 60:5; 63:8; 108:6; 118:15,16; 110:1; Matthew 22:44; Matthew 20:21,23). Both hands are mentioned together in the sense of close proximity, intimate association, in Mark 10:37.
H. L. E. Luering
These files are public domain.