Spiritual Meaning of

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The signification of hand, is power. For example, to put forth his hand and take the dove and bring her in to himself, is to apply and attribute to himself the truth meant by the dove. That by hand is signified power, also authority (potestas), and the derivative self confidence, is evident from many passages in the Word, as in Isaiah:--

I will visit upon the fruit of the greatness of heart of the king of Assyria, because he hath said, By the strength of my hand I have done it and by my wisdom, for I am intelligent (Isaiah 10:12, 13),

where hand manifestly denotes his own strength to which he attributed what he did, and this was the cause of the visitation upon him. Again:--

Moab shall spread forth his hands in the midst of him, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim, and he shall lay low his pride together with the cataracts of his hands (Isaiah 25:11);

where hands denote man's own power, from regarding himself as above others, thus from pride.

[2] Again:--

Their inhabitants were short of hand, they were dismayed and put to shame (Isaiah 37:27);

short of hand meaning of no power. Again:--

Shall the clay say to the potter, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? (Isaiah 45:9).

Here he hath no hands, means that he has no power. In Ezekiel:--

The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with stupefaction, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled (Ezekiel 7:27),

where hands denote power. In Micah:--

Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds; when the morning is light they practise it, because their hand is their god (Micah 2:1),

where hand denotes their own power in which they trust as their god. In Zechariah:--

Woe to the worthless shepherd that leaveth the flock; the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye; his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened (Zechariah 11:17).

[3] Because hands signify powers, man's evils and falsities are continually called in the Word the works of his hands. Evils are from the Own of man's will, falsities are from the Own of his understanding. That this is the source of evils and falsities is evident enough from the nature of man's Own, which is nothing but evil and falsity (AC 39, 41, 141, 150, 154, 210, 215). As hands in general signify power, hands are many times in the Word attributed to Jehovah, or the Lord, and then by hands is understood in the internal sense Omnipotence, as in Isaiah:--

Jehovah, Thy hand is lifted up (Isaiah 26:11),

denoting the Divine power. Again:--

Jehovah stretched out His hand, all are consumed (Isaiah 31:3),

denoting the Divine power. Again:--

Concerning the work of My hands command ye Me; My hands have stretched out the heavens and all their army have I commanded (Isaiah 45:11, 12),

denoting the Divine power. The regenerate are often called in the Word the work of the hands of Jehovah. In the same:--

Mine hand hath laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand hath measured the heavens with the palm (Isaiah 48:13),

where hand and right hand denote omnipotence.

[4] Again:--

Is My hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? (Isaiah 50:2),

denoting the Divine power. In Jeremiah:--

Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and by Thy stretched out arm; and didst bring forth Thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm (Jeremiah 32:17, 21),

denoting the Divine power; power being named in (verse 17), and band in the twenty-first. That Israel was brought out of Egypt with a strong hand and with a stretched out arm, is often said. In Ezekiel:--

Thus saith the Lord Jehovih, In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up Mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made My self known unto them in the land of Egypt; I lifted up Mine hand unto them, to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt (Ezekiel 20:5, 6, 23).

In Moses:--

Israel saw the great hand which Jehovah executed upon the Egyptians (Exod. 14:31).

[5] That by hand is signified power is now plainly manifest from these passages. Indeed hand was so significant of power that it became also its representative, as is evident from the miracles that were done in Egypt, when Moses was commanded to stretch forth his rod, or hand, and so they were done; as in Exodus:--

Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven, and Jehovah rained hail upon the land of Egypt (Exodus 9:22, 23);

Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven, and there was a thick darkness (Exodus 10:21, 22);

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and Jehovah made the sea dry land; and Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned (Exodus 14:21, 27).

No one with mental capacity for right thinking can believe that there was any such power in the hand or rod of Moses, but because the lifting up and stretching forth of the hand signified the Divine power, it became a representative in the Jewish Church.

[6] It was similar when Joshua stretched out his javelin, as in Joshua:--

And Jehovah said unto Joshua, Stretch out the javelin that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand; and Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city, and they entered into the city and took it; for Joshua drew not back his hand, wherewith he stretched out the javelin, until he had devoted all the inhabitants of Ai (Joshua 8:18, 26).

From this it is also evident how the case is with the representatives that were the externals of the Jewish Church; and also how it is with the Word: that the things in its external sense do not appear to be representative of the Lord and His kingdom, as here the stretching forth of the hand, and likewise all the other things, which bear no appearance of being representative while the mind is fixed only on the historic details of the letter. It is evident also how far the Jews had fallen away from a true understanding of the Word and of the rites of the church, while making all worship consist in externals only, even to the extent of attributing power to the rod of Moses and the javelin of Joshua, when yet there was no more power in them than in wood. But because the omnipotence of the Lord was signified, and this was understood in heaven when they stretched forth their hand or rod, the signs and miracles followed.

[7] So too it was when Moses on the top of the hill held up his hands, and Joshua prevailed; and when he let down his hands, and Joshua was overcome; and therefore they stayed up his hands (Exod. 17:9-13). Thus it was that hands were laid upon those who were being consecrated, as on the Levites by the people (Num. 8:9, 10, 12), and on Joshua by Moses, when he was substituted in his place (Numbers 27:18, 23), in order that power might so be given. Hence also come the rites still observed of inauguration and benediction by the laying on of hands. To what extent the hand signified and represented power, is evident from what is said in the Word concerning Uzzah and Jeroboam. Concerning Uzzah it is said that he put forth (his hand) to the ark of God, and took hold of it, and therefore he died (2 Sam. 6:6, 7). The ark represented the Lord, thus all that is holy and celestial. Uzzah's putting forth (his hand) to the ark, represented man's own power, or what is his own; and as this is profane, the word hand is understood, but is not expressed in the original, lest it should be perceived by the angels that such a profane thing had touched what is holy.

[8] And because Uzzah put it forth, he died. Concerning Jeroboam it is said:--

And it came to pass, when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar, that Jeroboam put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him; and his hand which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back again to him; and he said unto the man of God, Intreat now the faces of Jehovah thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again; and the man of God intreated the faces of Jehovah, and the king's hand was restored him again, and became as it was before (1 Kings 13:4-6).

Here in like manner by putting forth the band is signified man's own power, or his Own, which is profane, and that it wished to violate what is holy by putting forth the hand against the man of God; wherefore the hand was dried up; but as Jeroboam was an idolater and therefore could not commit profanation, his hand was restored. That the hand signifies and represents power, is evident from the representatives in the world of spirits, where a naked arm sometimes comes into view, in which there is strength enough to crush one's bones and squeeze their inmost marrow to nothing, causing such terror as to melt the heart; and in fact this strength is actually in it.

from AC 878

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Author:  E. Swedenborg (1688-1772). Design:  I.J. Thompson, Feb 2002. www.BibleMeanings.info