Monday, May 9, 2022
Bible & Archaeology (University of Iowa)

The Hebrew noun יד (yâd) is the word for "hand." For example, Genesis 27:16 and 22 state that when Jacob disguises himself to appear as his brother Esau, he puts "skins of the kids on his hands (ידו)" so that Jacob "did not recognize him, because his hands (ידיו) were hairy like his brother Esau's handsידי)." The noun יד (yâd) can also be translated as "arm" as in Genesis 24:27: "So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms (ידיה)." While יד (yâd) is a noun, it often appears in connection with the performance of activity, as occurs in Genesis 22:10: "Then Abraham reached out his hand (ידו) and took the knife to kill his son." Symbolically, יד (yâd) is used to represent "power" or "possession." The word יד (yâd) can be used in this way to refer to "power" over persons as in Genesis 16:6: "But Abram said to Sarai, 'Your slave-girl is in your powerידך)'." It is also used to describe the "power" of objects as in Jeremiah 18:21: "Therefore give their children over to famine; hurl them out to the power of (lit.: ידי) the sword." The word יד (yâd) is also a common euphemism for the genitalia, as seen in Isaiah 57:8: "Behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your symbol; for, in deserting me, you have uncovered your bed, you have gone up to it, you have made it wide; and you have made a bargain for yourself with them, you have loved their bed, you have gazed on their nakedness (lit.: יד)."

Genesis 39:3-4 draws on both the literal and symbolic meanings of יד (yâd) when it describes the activity of Joseph in Potiphar's house, "His master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his handsידו). So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him; he made him overseer of his house and put him in chargeידו) of all that he had."

The word יד (yâd) also appears in a common divine epithet which recalls the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt as seen in Deuteronomy 26:8: "The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty handיד) and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders."