Q: #159. Why is the "right hand" emphasized so much in the Bible?
By: Steve Shirley
A: The "right hand" in the Bible is generally associated in some way with a position of power, strength, or honor. For example, in (Ex 15:6)(NASB) it says, "Your right hand, O Lord, is majestic in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy." Verse 12 continues, "Thou stretchst out thy right hand, The earth swallowed them."
One of the first places that God placed this emphasis on the "right" side is found in the book of Leviticus when Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests. Moses slaughtered a ram and put some of its blood on the right ear, thumb, and big toe of each of them (Lev 8:23-26). Later, blood from a male lamb was to be placed by a priest in these same places on anyone who was a leper (Lev 14:14-28).
In the Psalms, God's right hand is associated with saving strength: (Ps 20:6)(Ps 60:5)(Ps 138:7).
In the New Testament, the "right hand of God" is emphasized over and over, especially in Jesus' relationship to the Father. Traditionally, when a person in authority (i.e. a king) seated someone on his right side, it meant that while the person on the right submitted to the authority of the king, he/she was equal to the king in power and authority and was to be accorded the same honor (See: 1 Kin 2:19).
This is exactly how the Bible pictures Jesus.
While Jesus IS God and equal to the Father (Phil 2:5-6)(Jn 10:30), He also submits to the Father (1 Cor 11:3)(1 Cor 3:23). Because He is God, He has the same authority and power as the Father. We see this in a number of verses:
(Mt 26:64) Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Also see: Mk 14:62)
(Eph 1:20-22) which he (the Father) wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (21) far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: (22) and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church...
[Also see: (Mk 16:19)(Acts 2:32-35)(Acts 7:55-56)(Rom 8:34)(Col 3:1)(Heb 10:12)(1 Pet 3:22)]
On the other hand, nowhere in the Bible do we find the left hand given any honor. According to Strong's, the left side was considered the lucky side among the Pagan Greeks. It seems fitting that the Pagan lucky side is actually the unlucky side in the Bible. Nowhere is this made more clear than when Jesus spoke of the "sheep and goats" at the final judgment in (Mt 25:31-46). At this final judgment, "He (Jesus) shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Then shall he say also unto them on his left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
Finally, the gripping of right hands was sometimes used to seal a covenant (Ezek 17:18) (2 Kin 10:15)(Ezra 10:19)(Lam 5:6) or extend fellowship (Gal 2:9). We continue this today when we shake right hands. The raising of the right hand in making a vow was also done (Isa 62:8). This practice is continued as well today (i.e. placing one's left hand on the Bible and raising the right hand in taking an oath).