As students , we learned to raise our hand in the classroom to gain recognition to speak. The en masse raising of hands at a sporting event signals celebration. Neither of these forms of hand raising are apparent in the art and literature of the ancient Near East, but we do find both morals and gods depicted with uplifted hands in a variety of scenarios.
Mortals are pictured as raising a hand when taking an oath, offering a blessing, attacking an opponent, or praying. Abram refused to accept the plunder he had rightfully won in combat, saying instead to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you” (Gen 14:22–23; also read Rev 10:5). Uplifted hands accompanied not only an oath but the blessing given by Aaron on all Israel (Lev 9:22).
Ironically, the raised hand is also associated with bringing harm. Weapons used in hand-to-had combat were often raised so that the arm functioned as a lever that added forced to the downward blow. Although Saul saw David as a competitor for the throne, he would not personally “raise a hand against him.” Instead Saul arranged for David to be put in harm’s way, hoping that the Philistines would end his life (1 Sam 18:17; 22:17).
Frequently, raised hands are connected with worship, perhaps a gesture that began naturally as the supplicant reached in the direction of heaven for assistance (1 Kings 8:22, 38, 54; Ezra 9:5-6; and especially Psa 28:2; 63:4; 134:2; Lam 2:19). “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice” (Psa 141:2). END OF PART 1
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