Engraving the Palms
Isa 49:15-18 "Can a woman forget her nursing
child, And not have compassion on the son of her
womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not
forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the
palms of My hands; Your walls are continually
"I have inscribed you on the
palms of My hands"
In the verse, "Behold, I have inscribed you on the
palms of My hands" (Isa 49:16), there is an allusion to the
ancient custom of puncturing ornamental figures and
mementoes upon the hand, arm, and forehead, and coloring the
punctures with indigo, cypress, etc. This gives us the
figure of Zion being as close to God as He is to Himself,
and facing Him amid all the emotions of His divine life. -
Unger's Bible Dictionary
In this figurative way of God
expressing His love for His people, the Lord is in essence
saying that He will never forget Zion, the city (people) of
God. They are inscribed (engraved) upon the palms of His
hands so that they will always be in His sight and kept as
an everlasting remembrance.
It is most probable that this
expression is referring to an actual custom among the Jews
who actually tattooed their hands or arms with paintings of
Jerusalem or the Temple, thus they would always have a
remembrance ever before them. This view is accepted by most
scholars and these palm painting representations were called
"ensigns of Jerusalem" and were performed in this sort of
1. They would have an
impression on a block of wood of something relation to the
city such as the Temple, and and they print it onto the palm
or arm with powder or charcoal.
2. Then they would take two
needles tied close together, and dipping many times in
certain inks they would make small punctures quickly and
accurately all along the lines of the figure they have
printed, being careful not to draw blood.
3. Then they would wash it in
wine once the figure was finished.
note: Strongs Hebrew
dictionary renders the word "palms" as (Heb. kaph OT:3709
from OT:3721) the hollow hand or palm as distinguished from
its fingers, thumbs, and back, and the word "inscribed" as
(OT:2710 chaqaq ) a primitive root meaning to hack or
This verse teaches us that
God constantly cares for and remembers His people, using an
imagery that was familiar to the ancient custom of the day.
Even in the midst of the most terrible trials, as in the
background of this verse, He will always remember His
beloved. Just as their city walls were built for safety, so
our safety and protection depends upon His continual care.
The wounds in Christ's hands
(palms) when he was crucified is a clear message hinting
(remez) back to this ancient custom and bringing forth the
message that the Lord will always cherish and protect those
for whom he suffered and died, and His remembrance of us is
as close to God as He is to Himself.
Bibliography on Ancient Customs
The Art of Ancient Egypt, Revised
by Robins, 272 Pages, Pub. 2008
Return to Ancient Customs
Bible History Online
© Bible History Online (https://www.bible-history.com)