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THIGH (יָרֵכְ, H3751; μηρός, G3611). The upper portion of one of either of the two lower extremities of the human body between the hip and the knee. It is supported by the largest, longest, and strongest bone of the body—the femur. It is in the form of an inverted and truncated cone. Above, the thigh is bounded by the groin in front, the perineal region medially, the fold of the buttocks behind, and the hip laterally. Below, it is delimited by the prominence of the knee in front, and by the so-called popliteal space, or ham, in back. Besides the femur, it consists of strong muscles in addition to blood vessels, lymphatics, and nerves, all of which structures are surrounded with a strong fibrous sheath like the firm bark of a tree.

Dislocation of the hip joint occurs at the upper end of the femur, most commonly forward, although backward dislocation is also recognized. Evidently the fold of the buttock (i.e., hollow of the thigh) on one side of Jacob’s body was struck from behind to produce the more usual forward dislocation, if one accepts the KJV interpretation that the hip went out of joint (Gen 32:25). This causes one to limp in a toe-out position on the affected side. In this connection it should be noted that the head of the femur rides upward on the bony pelvis so that the muscles in that area become shortened. These shortened muscles could well constitute the “sinew that shrank” (Gen 32:32 KJV).

Another interpretation of Jacob’s injury is given by Short who thinks that Jacob had “the modern, very fashionable, diagnosis of ruptured and prolapsed intervertebral disc producing severe and intractable sciatica from pressure on the nerve roots.” From this standpoint the “sinew of the hip” (32:32 RV) is considered to be the sciatic nerve. However, this interpretation presents the difficulty of explaining how touching the hollow of the thigh can produce disc injury to the vertebrae. Moreover, in the opinion of this writer, Short belittles unnecessarily the strength of the wrestler and the effect of his surprise move in producing a dislocation. Neither the dislocation of the hip nor the ruptured intervertebral disc exactly fits the picture of the ASV that the “thigh was strained,” although the former more nearly does.

It is noteworthy that the patriarchs put a hand under a thigh in connection with taking an oath (Gen 24:2; 47:29). It was also customary to gird the sword on the thigh (Ps 45:3), evidently because there, where the hand naturally falls, the sword is esp. accessible for use in an unforeseen encounter with an enemy Song of Solomon. In contrast, striking one’s hand against the thigh is evidently a manifestation of shame and bewilderment (Jer 31:19; Ezek 21:12), as though one was feeling for a sword which was not there, and suddenly realized that he was defenseless.

Finally, the thigh at the moment of the Lord’s triumph will bear His glorious name, “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” (Rev 19:16).


A. R. Short, The Bible and Modern Medicine (1953), 60; H. Gray, Anatomy of the Human Body, 27th ed. (1959), 528-543; A. H. Crenshaw, Campbell’s Operative Orthopaedics 4th ed. (1963), I, 319-327.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

See also HIP.