Bible History Online
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(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 Lk 23:33; 2 Cor 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:
The human hand (considered physically) and, anthropopathically, the hand of God (Gen 3:22; Ps 145:16): The hand included the wrist, as Will be seen from all passages in which bracelets are mentioned as ornaments of the hand, e.g. Gen 24:22,30,47; Ezek 16:11; 23:42, or where the Bible speaks of fetters on the hands (Jdg 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 Gen 41:42, etc.. According to the lexicon talionis, justice demanded "hand for hand" (Ex 21:24; Dt 19:21). We enumerate the following phrases without claiming to present a complete list: "To fill the hand" (Ex 32:29 m; 1 Ch 29:5 margin) means to consecrate, evidently from the filling of hands with sacrificial portions for the altar. Compare also Lev 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" (Dt 15:10; 23:20; 28:8,20), to commence to do; "to put forth the hand" (Gen 3:22; 8:9); "to stretch out the hand" (Ezek 25:13,16; Zeph 2:13); "to shake or wag the hand upon" (Isa 10:32; Zeph 2:15; Zec 2:9), to defy. "To lay the hand upon the head" (2 Sam 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" (Nu 24:10), and people "clap their hands" at a person or over a person in spiteful triumph (Job 27:23; Lam 2:15; Nah 3:19). "To put one's life into one's hand" is to risk one's life (1 Sam 19:5; 28:21). "To lay hands upon" is used in the sense of blessing (Mt 19:13), or is symbolical in the act of miraculous healing (Mt 9:18; Mk 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 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6); but it also designates the infliction of cruelty and punishment (Gen 37:22; Lev 24:14), the imposition of responsibility (Nu 8:10; Dt 34:9). Thus also the sins of the people were symbolically transferred upon the goat which was to be sent into the wilderness (Lev 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 (Dt 32:40) or a blessing pronounced over a multitude (Lev 9:22; Lk 24:50), a prayer (Ps 119:48). "To put the hands to the mouth" is indicative of (compulsory) silence (Job 21:5; 40:4; Prov 30:32; Mic 7:16). To "slack one's hand" is synonymous with negligence and neglect (Josh 10:6), and "to hide or bury the hand in the dish" is descriptive of the slothful, who is tired even at meals (Prov 19:24; 26:15).
2. The Hand as Power:
The hand in the sense of power and authority: (compare Assyrian idu, "strength"); Josh 8:20 margin, "They had no hands (the Revised Version (British and American) "power") to flee this way or that way"; Jdg 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"; 2 Ki 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"; Dt 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" (Gen 16:12). "Slay the priests of Yahweh; because their hand also is with David" (1 Sam 22:17). "Jonathan went to David into the wood and strengthened his hand in God" (1 Sam 23:16). In this sense penalty is exacted "from the hand" or "at the hand" of the transgressor (Gen 9:5; Ezek 33:8).
4. Hand, Meaning Side:
The hand in the sense of side: "All the side (Hebrew "hand") of the river Jabbok" (Dt 2:37); "by the wayside" (Hebrew "by the hand of the way," 1 Sam 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" (Eccl 4:1); "I was by the side (Hebrew "hand") of the great river" (Dan 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 Thess 2:2), and ephesteken, "is come" (2 Tim 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 Phil 4:5, "The Lord is at hand," though many, perhaps most, commentators regard the expression as a version of the Aramaic maran atha (1 Cor 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.
NOTE.--The ancients made a careful distinction of the respective values of the two hands. This is perhaps best seen from Gen 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 (Mt 25:33). We read in Eccl 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 Sam 23:19,24; 2 Sam 24:5). The right hand was considered the more honorable (1 Ki 2:19; Ps 45:9); therefore it was given in attestation of a contract, a federation or fellowship (Gal 2:9). It is the more valuable in battle; a friend or protector will therefore take his place at the right to guard it (Ps 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; Ps 109:6; Zec 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 (Ps 60:5; 63:8; 108:6; 118:15,16; 110:1; Mt 22:44; Mt 20:21,23). Both hands are mentioned together in the sense of close proximity, intimate association, in Mk 10:37.
H. L. E. Luering
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'hand'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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