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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Hand

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Yâd (יָד, Strong's #3027), “hand; side; border; alongside; hand-measure; portion; arm (rest); monument; manhood (male sex organ); power; rule.” This word has cognates in most of the other Semitic languages. Biblical Hebrew attests it about 1,618 times and in every period. The primary sense of this word is “hand”: “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life …” (Gen. 3:22—the first biblical occurrence). Sometimes the word is used in conjunction with an object that can be grasped by the “hand”: “And if he smite him with throwing a stone [literally, “hand stone”] …” (Num. 35:17). In a similar usagethe word means “human”: “… He shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand [i.e., human agency]” (Dan. 8:25; cf. Job 34:20) .

In Isa. 49:2, “hand” is used of God; God tells Moses that He will put His “hand” over the mouth of the cave and protect him. This is a figure of speech, an anthropomorphism, by which God promises His protection. God’s “hand” is another term for God’s “power” (cf. Jer. 16:21). The phrase “between your hands” may mean “upon your chest”: “And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands [upon your chest]?” (Zech. 13:6).
Yâd is employed in several other noteworthy phrases. The “lifting of the hand” may be involved in “taking an oath” (Gen. 14:22). “Shaking” [literally, “giving one’s hand”] is another oath-taking gesture (cf. Prov. 11:21). For “one’s hands to be on another” (Gen. 37:27) or “laid upon another” (Exod. 7:4) is to do harm to someone. “Placing one’s hands with” signifies “making common cause with someone” (Exod. 23:1). If one’s hand does not “reach” something, he is “unable to pay” for it (Lev. 5:7, RSV). When one’s countryman is “unable to stretch out his hand to you,” he is not able to support himself (Lev. 25:35).

“Putting one’s hand on one’s mouth” is a gesture of silence (Prov. 30:32). “Placing one’s hands under someone” means submitting to him (1 Chron. 29:24). “Giving something into one’s hand” is entrusting it to him (Gen. 42:37).

A second major group of passages uses yâd to represent the location and uses of the hand. First, the word can mean “side,” where the hand is located: “And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate …” (2 Sam. 15:2). In 2 Chron. 21:16, the word means “border”: “Moreover the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines, and of the Arabians, that were near [literally, “by the hand of”] the Ethiopians.” A similar use in Exod. 25 applies this word to the “banks” of the Nile River: “And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river, and her maidens walked along by the [Nile].…” In this sense, yâd can represent “length and breadth.” In Gen. 34:21 we read that the land was (literally) “broad of hands”: “These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them.…”

Second, since the hand can receive only a part or fraction of something, the word can signify a “part” or “fraction”: “And he took and sent [portions] unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s [portion] was five times so much as any of theirs” (Gen. 43:34).

Third, yâd comes to mean that which upholds something, a “support” (1 Kings 7:35ff.) or an “arm rest” (1 Kings 10:19).

Fourth, since a hand may be held up as a “sign,” yâd can signify a “monument” or “stele”: “… Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place [monument], and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal” (1 Sam. 15:12).

Fifth, yâd sometimes represents the “male sex organ”: “… And art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it [you have looked on their manhood]” (Isa. 57:8; cf. v. 10; 6:2; 7:20).

In several passages, yâd is used in the sense of “power” or “rule”: “And David smote Hadarezer king of Zobah unto Hamath, as he went to stablish his dominion by the river Euphrates” (1 Chron. 18:3). “To be delivered into one’s hands” means to be “given into one’s power”: “God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars” (1 Sam. 23:7; cf. Prov. 18:21).

“To fill someone’s hand” may be a technical term for “installing him” in office: “And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them [literally, “fill their hands”], and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office” (Exod. 28:41). Yâd is frequently joined to the preposition |beand other prepositions as an extension; there is no change in meaning, only a longer form: “For what have I done? or what evil is in mine hand?” (1 Sam. 26:18).

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Hand'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/h/hand.html. 1940.

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