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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature


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Hand, the organ of feeling, rightly denominated by Galen the instrument of instruments, since by its position at the end of the forearm, its structure and its connection with the mind, the hand admirably executes the behests of the human will, and acquires and imparts to man incomparable skill and power. By the peculiarities of its conformation—the inclination of the thumb to the palm, the comparative length of the thumb and of the fingers, 'the hollow of the hand,' and the fleshy protuberances by which that hollow is mainly formed—this member is wonderfully adapted to the purposes for which it was designed, and serves to illustrate the wisdom and providence of the great Creator. The hand itself serves to distinguish man from other terrestrial beings. No other animal has any member comparable with the human hand. Of the two hands the right has a preference derived from natural endowment. Its universal use, as the chief instrument in acting, serves to show that its superiority is something more than an accident. But the preference which it holds is only a part of the general advantage which the right side has over the left, not only in muscular strength, but also in its vital or constitutional properties.

From the properties already described, the student of Scripture is prepared to see the hand employed in holy writ as a symbol of skill, strength, and efficacy. As a part of that general anthropomorphism, without whose aid men in the early ages could probably have formed no conception of God, the Deity is frequently spoken of in the records of revelation as if possessed of hands.

The phrase 'sitting at the right hand of God,' as applied to the Savior of the world, is derived from the fact that with earthly princes a position on the right hand of the throne was accounted the chief place of honor, dignity, and power:—'upon thy right-hand did stand the queen' (; compare; ). The immediate passage out of which sprang the phraseology employed by Jesus may be found in : 'Jehovah said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.' Accordingly the Savior declares before Caiaphas (; ), 'Ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven;' where the meaning obviously is that the Jews of that day should have manifest proofs that Jesus held the most eminent place in the divine favor, and that His present humiliation would be succeeded by glory, majesty, and power (; ). So when it is said (;;;;; ) that Jesus 'sits at the right hand of God,' 'at the right hand of the Majesty on high,' we are obviously to understand the assertion to be that, as His Father, so He worketh always () for the advancement of the kingdom of heaven, and the salvation of the world.

As the hand is the great instrument of action, so is it eminently fitted for affording aid to the mind, by the signs and indications which it makes. Thus to lay the hand on any one was a means of pointing him out, and consequently an emblem of setting any one apart for a particular office or dignity. Imposition of hands accordingly formed, at an early period, a part of the ceremonial observed on the appointment and consecration of persons to high and holy undertakings (see;;; ). A corruption of this doctrine was, that the laying on of hands gave of itself divine powers; and on this account Simon, the magician () offered money, saying, 'Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands he may receive the Holy Ghost,' intending probably to carry on a gainful trade by communicating the gift to others.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Hand'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature".

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