The Hands in the Scriptures
THE hands, by reason of the wonderful way in which they serve man, truly demonstrate the Creator’s love and wisdom. They being so useful and capable of so much skill, it is not surprising that they come in for much attention in the Scriptures, being referred to, literally and symbolically, some two thousand times.
The literal hand was used for measuring. Thus the handbreadth was three inches and the span nine inches or a half cubit.
While nowhere do we read of the hands’ being clasped or folded in prayer as religious pictures so often show, the Bible repeatedly tells of those praying spreading out their palms or lifting up their hands to heaven.
When an oath was sworn in Jehovah’s name the right hand was raised, as when Abram swore that he would touch none of the recovered goods of the king of Sodom at the time he rescued his nephew Lot.
Handshaking was used to make certain a promise, as when certain Israelites promised Ezra that they would put away their foreign wives. (Ezra 10:19, NW) And when Paul and Barnabas were sent forth to preach to the nations the pillars of the early church gave them “the right hand of joint participation.”—Gal. 2:9, NW.
Going surety for another, or giving a pledge, was indicated by striking the hands together in the presence of witnesses.
Hands were laid upon a person by those with authority to appoint such a one to a certain office, as when Moses laid hands on Joshua, thereby commissioning him. Likewise the apostles laid their hands upon the seven that were to serve as ministerial assistants in the distribution of food. Also the holy spirit was repeatedly received by reason of the apostles’ laying their hands on certain ones. When Aaron and his sons were consecrated for the priesthood their hands were literally filled with offerings and figuratively ‘filled with power,’ which is the meaning of the Hebrew word there translated variously “consecrate,” “install” and “ordain.” And when an atonement for sins was made the hands were laid upon the animal victim.—Lev. 8:33, NW.
The Bible also speaks of the hands of sinners having spots on them or being full of blood and they are urged to wash their hands, by faith, repentance and right works. Pilate, feeling guilty, washed his hands literally as a symbol of disclaiming any responsibility for Jesus’ death.
The Bible often speaks of God’s hand, his right hand being a symbol of favor. Christians are told to humble themselves under God’s power or mighty hand. The hand of Jehovah being upon one means that his power is exercised toward that one, either for good, blessing and protection, or for punishment and destruction, as the one may deserve.