Abraham preferred a hand under the thigh to a handshake

I am not suggesting that Abraham was a dirty old man. Only that when it came to making a serious oath with someone, he preferred a hand under his thigh rather than a handshake. For instance, when Abraham implores an elder servant to make a pledge by Jehovah God he says:

“Put I pray thy hand under my thigh.” (Genesis 24:2)

According to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, it was an ancient custom to do such a thing when someone was making a solemn oath to another. This custom was based on a special symbolism in which the various parts of the human body represented psycho-spiritual values.

Hands represent power and ability, because one’s power and ability is directed towards the muscles of the hands. So when two people give a handshake they are communicating a willingness of friendship and making agreement to the best of their ability and power of their understanding (hands like the human intellect “grasps” things).

The thigh is in close proximity to the genitals and represents the prolific power of love. So any reference to the thigh brings in a whole new dynamic to an oath or pledge.

Whereas shaking hands represents an intellectual agreement, a hand under the thigh signifies a much deeper agreement—a pledge between the understanding and genuine goodness or between love and wisdom. In other words, it is a spiritual pledge, made by a person’s soul not only to another person, but to God. It is similar to the more modern custom of putting one’s hand’s on the Bible in a courtroom and pledging to tell the truth.

It is a pledge made by an agreement and union between the heart and mind.

Every part of the biblical story of Abraham asking his servant to make an oath to find the proper wife for Isaac contains these deeper symbolic meanings that communicate greater details about doctrine and faith than can ever be obtained by a mere literal interpretation of its words.

Above the literal meanings of the biblical narratives there are two distinct levels of higher symbolic meaning. On the first higher level, the story of Abraham and his servant represents the creation of a new church through new God-given directives that seek to arrange (regenerate) the ideas of the human psyche to serve a higher master.

On the highest level, the story of Abraham represents the process of glorification that the Lord underwent while in the world. If every word in Scripture did not ultimately refer to hidden details of the Lord’s life, He could not have “made the Word flesh” nor could Scripture have a rational basis for its sanctity.



About thegodguy

EDWARD F. SYLVIA, M.T.S. Philosopher/Theologian Edward F. Sylvia attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Master of Theological Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies. He is a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (C.T.N.S.) and the Swedenborg Scientific Association (S.S.A.). Award-winning author of "Sermon From the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An Inner Garden" and "Proving God," which fulfills a continuing vision that God’s fingerprints of love can be found everywhere in the manifest universe. His most recent book, "Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links" is an edgy collection of anti-intuitive essays for personal transformation that challenges and inspires. He has been a student of the ideas of both Emanuel Swedenborg and George I. Gurdjieff for over thirty years. Read more about TheGodGuy, his books and his ideas at http://www.staircasepress.com
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10 Responses to Abraham preferred a hand under the thigh to a handshake

  1. SWword says:

    Hi GoodGuy,
    What a good explanation above, especially about the 2 higher levels of symbolic meaning. Thank you.
    I wanted to offer another thought, too. I think the interaction between Abraham and the elder servant is also, in a sense, a foreshadowing of the interaction possible today between a person and the Holy Spirit [or possibly another of God’s servants or messengers]. I think there can be a manifestation of feeling in the physical body as a result of a pledge or impartation from the Lord to the person willing to come into agreement with Him. I think the Lord can signal specific meanings depending on the specific section of the body touched, just like the touching between Abraham and the elder servant you mentioned above. Kind of hard to explain, but I thought I would share the thought.

    God bless,

  2. thegodguy says:

    Dear SWword,

    Yes, the interaction between Abraham and the elder servant also expresses the action of the Holy Spirit (Divine proceeding) during the spiritual regeneration of an individual. The Lord’s church is not just a building or something “outside” us. It is the religious doctrine that we house our spirit in. The Lord’s true church resides within us.

    Spiritually yours,

  3. Lisa Gautier says:

    Very interesting insights. I had a dream about someone putting their hand under my thigh and felt it Biblically significant (related to the oaths made this way in the Word). It was interesting to me to consider how this oath could be more than that of a handshake!

  4. Lisa Gautier says:

    Interesting points in considering the difference between a handshake and under the thigh oath. I had a dream which I believe is related to the latter and in seeking the interpretation ended up on your site. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Zama Matseke says:

    I had a dream, where a man of God, was putting his hand on my thigh, could it be that the meaning is the same

    • thegodguy says:

      Maybe. I would need more details on the rest of the dream. However, you were being communicated with by a symbolic language!

      Spiritually yours,

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