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B'resheet/Genesis 48:17 And Yosef saw that his father was setting his right hand on the head of Ephraim
The expression , translated "his right hand", more literally means "hand of his right side", based upon the verb root , to take, use or turn to the right. As today, the majority of people in ancient times were right-handed, so that the right hand was seen as the hand of strength and blessing. Here, Ya'akov places his right hand, the symbol of his authority, upon the head of the younger son to confer his blessing contrary to the natural birth order, and we see G-d again making His choice between older and younger as with Yitz'chak and Ishma'el, Ya'akov and Esav; now here again with Ephraim and Manasseh.
The Psalmist sees G-d's right hand as a source of blessing: "In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever" (Psalm 16:11, NASB), support: "Thy right hand upholds me" (Psalm 18:35, NASB) and victory: "His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him" (Psalm 98:1, NASB). Moshe speaks of the power of G-d's hand: "Your right hand, Adonai, is sublimely powerful; Your right hand, Adonai, shatters the foe" (Shemot 15:6, CJB). The prophet Mikhay'hu "saw Adonai sitting on His throne with the whole army of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left" (1 Kings 22:18, CJB), while the L-rd speaks through Isaiah to say, "My hand laid the foundations of the earth, My right hand spread out the heavens" (Isaiah 48:18, CJB). Isaiah also seesHaShem's right hand as a standard of truth and proof of His faithfulness: "Adonai has sworn by His right hand and by His mighty arm: 'Never again will I give your grain to your enemies as food; nor will strangers drink your wine, for which you worked so hard'" (Isaiah 62:8, CJB) - the authority and power of G-d's right hand guarantees the promise He is making.
All these images form the backdrop to a request put to Yeshua - depending on which gospel you read - by two of His talmidim or their mother: "Then Zavdai's sons came to Yeshua with their mother. She bowed down, begging for a favour from Him. He said to her, 'What do you want?' She replied, 'Promise that when you become king, these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right and the other on your left'" (Matthew 20:21-22, CJB). What sort of a request is that?! Perhaps she thought that it would be nice for for her boys to be recognised as important people in the kingdom, those who knew Yeshua and had the King's ear. Yeshua points out that "to sit on My right and My left is not mine to give, it is for those for whom the Father has prepared it" (v23, CJB). The positions of power in the kingdom are positions of real power and authority and only the Father determines who shall occupy them, on the basis of obedience and servanthood. But each of us has the ear of the King at any time and access to His throne whenever we need it.
Further Study: Acts 7:55-56; Colossians 3:1-3
Application: Although the Scriptures use the images of G-d's right hand as a sign of His majestic power and authority - and it is so - via His Son Yeshua we not only have access to G-d, but can know His kingdom authority flowing through us as He places His right hand on our heads to commission us to serve Him. Do you know that power today?
© Jonathan Allen, 2006
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