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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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( יָרֵךְ yarek; Sept. μηρός; Vulg. femur), properly the part of the body from the legs to the trunk, of men, quadrupeds, etc. (Genesis 32:25; Genesis 32:31-32; Judges 3:16; Judges 3:21; Psalms 45:3; Song of Solomon 3:8), occurs in several phrases of special significance in the Bible.

1. Putting the hand under the thigh appears to have been a very ancient custom, upon occasion of taking an oath to any one. Abraham required this of the oldest servant of his house, when he made him swear that he would not take a wife for Isaac of the daughters of the Canaanites (Genesis 24:2-9). Jacob required it of his son Joseph, when he bound him by oath not to bury him in Egypt, but with his fathers in the land of Canaan (Genesis 47:29-31). The origin, form, and import of this ceremony in taking an oath are very doubtful Aben-Ezra says, "It appears to me that it was the custom in that age for a servant to place his hand on his master's thigh, at the command of the latter, to show that he considered himself subject to, and undertook, his master's bidding; and such is at present the custom in India." Grotius thinks that, as the sword was worn upon the thigh (comp. Judges 3:16; Judges 3:21; Psalms 45:3; Song of Solomon 3:8), this custom was as much as to say, If I falsify, kill me. Not a few commentators, ancient and modern, explain it of laying the hand on or near the sectio circumcisionis, to protest by that solemn covenant of God, whereof circumcision was the badge and type, in the Abrahamic family. So R. Eleazar says, "Before the giving of the law, the ancient fathers swore by the covenant of circumcision" (Pirke, c. 49). The Targum of Jonathan ben- Uzziel explains it כגזירת מהולתי, "in sectione circumcisionis meae;" the Jerusalem Targum, תחות יר ִקימי, "sub femore foederis mei." Dr. Adam Clarke adopts the former of these two explanations (Commentary on Genesis 24:9). This interpretation supposes meiosis, or metonymy such as is supposed by some to attend the use of the word with regard to the effect of the water of Jealousy (Numbers 5:21-22; Numbers 5:27). Bochart adduces many similar instances (Hieroz. II, 5, 15). We may also refer to the margin or Heb. of Genesis 46:26; Exodus 1:5; Judges 8:30. No further allusion to this ceremony in taking an oath occurs in Scripture, unless the phrase "giving the hand under" ? refer to it. (See Heb. or margin of 1 Chronicles 29:24, and "giving the hand," 2 Chronicles 30:8; Jeremiah 1:15; Ezekiel 17:18.) (See OATH).

2. Our translation states that "the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint by the touch of the angel who wrestled with him" (Genesis 32:25). Some, however, (prefer to render וְתָקִע, was sprained or wrenched, and adduce Jeremiah 6:8; Ezekiel 23:17-18. The Sept. renders it καὶ ἐνάρκησε τὸ πλάτος τοῦ μηροῦ; the Vulg. tetigit nervum femoris ejus, et statim emarcuit. Some such sense better suits Ezekiel 23:31, where we find Jacob limping on his thigh; see Gesenius on צלע . The custom of Jacob's descendants, founded upon this incident, is recorded in Ezekiel 23:32, which has been thus translated: "Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the nerve Nashe, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day; because he struck the hollow of Jacob's thigh, on the nerve Nashe (Sept. τὸ νεῦρον,Vulg. nervus). The true derivation of the word נשה is considered by Dr. Fü rst, in his Concordance, to be still a secret; but, along with Gesenius, he understands the nerve itself to be the sciatic nerve, which proceeds from the hip to the ankle. This nerve is still extracted from the hinder limbs by the Jews in England, and in other countries where properly qualified persons are appointed to remove it (New Translation, etc., by the Rev. D. A. De Sola, p. 333).

3. (שׁוֹק, shok.) The phrase "hip and thigh" occurs in Judges 15:8, in the account of Samson's slaughter of the Philistines. Gesenius translates עִל in this passage with, and understands it as a proverbial expression for "he smote them all." The Chaldee paraphrase interprets it, "He smote both footmen and horsemen, the one resting on their legs (as the word שׁוֹק should be rendered), the other on their thighs, as they sat on their horses." Others understand that he smote them both on the legs and thighs. Some give another interpretation: smiting on the thigh denotes penitence (Jeremiah 31:19), grief, and mourning (Ezekiel 21:12).

A few mistranslations occur. The word "thigh" should have been translated "leg" in Isaiah 47:2, שׁוֹק, κνήμας , crura. In Song of Solomon 7:1, "The joints of thy thighs," etc., the true meaning is "the cincture of thy loins (i.e. the drawers, trousers) is like jewelry." Lady Wortley Montagu describes this article of female attire as: composed of thin rose-colored damask, brocaded with silver flowers" (Letters, 2, 12; see Harmer, On Solomon's Song, p. 110). Cocceius, Buxtorf, Mercerus and Junius all adopt this explanation. In Revelation 19:16 it is said "the Word of God (Revelation 19:13) hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." Schleusner thinks the name was not written upon the thigh, but upon the sword. Montfaucon gives an account of several images of warriors having inscriptions on the thighs (Antiquite Expliquae, III, 2, 268, 269; Grupter, 3, 1489; and Zornii Opuscula S. S. 2, 759).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Thigh'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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