Hand

HAND. One of the most frequently used words in Scripture, occurring over sixteen hundred times. Besides its literal use, it occurs in many figurative senses as well. It very often stands for power, as in Gen.9.2. “They are given into your hands” would make no sense if taken literally. To put one’s hand under another’s thigh as in Gen.24.2, Gen.24.9; Gen.47.29 meant to take a solemn oath, evidently related to covenant obligations; to put one’s hand on the head meant blessing, as in Gen.48.14, and signified ordination, as in 1Tim.4.14 and 2Tim.1.6. To kiss the hand of another is one of the usual marks of respect in the East; however, this custom is not mentioned in Scripture.

In the OT the hand is also the symbol of personal agency. When the Lord stretches out his hand, it means that he is taking personal action in whatever case or situation is involved, and this usage carries over into the NT (e.g., 1Sam.5.11; John.10.29; Acts.4.30). Correspondingly, for human beings the hand signifies a person in action (e.g., 1Sam.26.23); and we should understand in this light the idiom by which the Hebrew expresses the consecration of priests to their holy duties: “to consecrate” is “to fill the hand” (e.g., Exod.29.9 kjv; see footnote), that is, to dedicate every capacity of personal action for the service and use of the Lord.

To be placed at the right hand of royalty is a high honor and, of course, at “the right hand” of God is incomparably higher. “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand”' (Ps.110.1), showing the supreme position of the Son of God. When he judges the nations (Matt.25.31-Matt.25.46), separating “sheep” from “goats,” “he will put the sheep on his right [hand] and the goats on his left,” showing that the left hand is equally the place of dishonor. The Hebrew word for “north” is the same as for “the left hand” and for “south” the same as for “the right hand.” In a trial the accuser stood at the right hand of the accused, as is shown in Zech.3.1, where Satan is the accuser; but our Advocate stands also at our right hand to defend us (Ps.16.8; Ps.109.31).——ABF




A job is begun when one “puts his hand unto” (Deut 15:11), or “to the plow” (Luke 9:62). To “put forth his hand” may be to snatch a future no longer permitted (Gen 3:22). One risks his own life if he puts it in his hands (1 Sam 19:5). Hands were lifted up to bless a multitude (Lev 9:22), and were stretched out to ask for help (Ps 143:6). Likewise “lifting holy hands” is beseeching (1 Tim 2:8).

Laying hands upon the head of children to give a blessing was done by both Israel and Jesus (Gen 48:13; Matt 19:13). Jesus also raised the daughter of Jairus by taking her hand (Matt 9:25). The Holy Spirit was received by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17; 1 Tim 4:14), but sins were transferred to a sacrificial animal in like fashion (Lev 16:21). The Egyptians had a similar custom.

The Lord God says, “I will stretch out my hand against” the wicked (Ezek 25:13) and to help His people (Deut 3:24; 4:34). God is near, i.e. “at hand” (Jer 23:23) but also every-where, and He may appear at anytime, “the Lord is at hand” (Phil 4:5). Jesus demonstrated His identity by showing the print of the nails in His hands (John 20:27). Christian assurance is guaranteed by no one’s being able to pluck the believer out of the Father’s hand (10:29). The Lord Jesus committed His spirit into His Father’s hands, and is sitting at the right hand of God (Ps 110:1).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(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 Lu 23:33; 2Co 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: Various Uses:


2. The Hand as Power:

The hand in the sense of power and authority: (compare Assyrian idu, "strength"); Jos 8:20 margin, "They had no hands (the Revised Version (British and American) "power") to flee this way or that way"; Jud 1:35, "The hand of the house of Joseph prevailed"; Ps 76:5, "None of the men of might have found their hands"; Ps 89:48 margin, "shall deliver his soul from the hand (the Revised Version (British and American) "power") of Sheol"; 2Ki 3:15, "The hand of Yahweh came upon him"; Ex 14:31 margin, "Israel saw the great hand (the Revised Version (British and American) "work") which Yahweh did upon the Egyptians"; De 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" (Ge 16:12). "Slay the priests of Yahweh; because their hand also is with David" (1Sa 22:17). "Jonathan went to David into the wood and strengthened his hand in God" (1Sa 23:16). In this sense penalty is exacted "from the hand" or "at the hand" of the transgressor (Ge 9:5; Eze 33:8).

4. Hand, Meaning Side:

The hand in the sense of side: "All the side (Hebrew "hand") of the river Jabbok" (De 2:37); "by the wayside" (Hebrew "by the hand of the way," 1Sa 4:13). The manuscripts have here the error yakh, for yadh; compare the Hebrew of Ps 140:5 (6) (leyadh ma`gal); "On the side (Hebrew "hand") of their oppressors there was power" (Ec 4:1); "I was by the side (Hebrew "hand") of the great river" (Da 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" (2Th 2:2), and ephesteken, "is come" (2Ti 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 Jer 23:23, "Am I a God at hand, saith Yahweh, and not a God afar off?" and probably in Php 4:5, "The Lord is at hand," though many, perhaps most, commentators regard the expression as a version of the Aramaic maran atha (1Co 16:22). Passages such as Ps 31:20; 119:151; Mt 28:20 would, however, speak for an interpretation which lays the ictus on the abiding presence of the Lord with the believer.