Why did oaths involve putting a hand under someone's thigh?


Genesis 24:9

ESV - 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.

Clarify Share Report Asked August 30 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
In our culture, taking an oath usually involves raising the right hand or placing a hand over the heart or on a Bible. In ancient Hebrew culture, we find something a little different. Genesis 24:9 ...

August 30 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
My Ryrie Study Bible says "thigh" is a euphemism for the procreative organ. I have always believed this for half a century now. It was an act symbolizing that the yet unborn children would get involved by attesting to this oath and/or avenging any violation of the oath.

The Strong's Concordance has this:
yarek: thigh, loin, side, base
Original Word: יָרֵךְ
Part of Speech: Noun Feminine
Transliteration: yarek
Phonetic Spelling: (yaw-rake')
Definition: thigh, loin, side, base

Brown-Driver-Briggs, undoubtedly the best Hebrew lexicon of the Old Testament, says “thigh”, 
יָרֵךְ noun feminine Numbers 5:27 thigh, loin, side, base 
This word, “thigh” means loins, as seat of procreative powerְ ירך those proceeding from the loins of any one Genesis 46:26; Exodus 1:5, Judges 8:30; hence שִׂים יַד תַּחַת ירך place the hand under thigh, in taking oath Genesis 24:2, 9, Genesis 47:29.

March 16 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini John Appelt
The ‘hand under the thigh’ is found twice. In Genesis 24:2-4, Abraham had his servant put his hand under his thigh and swear an oath about getting a wife for Isaac. Also, Jacob had Joseph his son put his hand under his thigh and swear an oath to not have him buried in Egypt, but in Canaan, Genesis 47:29. 

From early on, the majority of commentators believed the taking of oaths had symbolic meaning of touching the privates and thus swearing on the circumcision, the covenant with God. But this is pushing symbolism to an extreme and this would be beyond the limits of decency in any culture. Besides, these oaths had nothing whatever to do with procreation as some claim.

Genesis 46:26 and Exodus 1:5 mention those who came from Jacob’s thigh, and Judges 8:30 mentions the seventy sons from Gideon’s thigh. However, the term ‘thigh’ is never used in reference to privates, but the general area of the waist. The thigh includes the upper leg and side of the hip. Jacob’s muscle shrank at the hip where the thigh is joined to the pelvis, causing him to limp, Genesis 32:31, 32. The thigh was the place a sword or dagger hung, Judges 3:16, 21. The priest’s linen trousers reached from the waist to the thighs being the upper leg, Exodus 28:42. Ezekiel was commanded to strike the thigh in mourning, Ezekiel 21:12. Rather than the ‘thigh’ being euphemistic, it refers to one of the most powerful muscles, that is, the hip. The true symbolism is that the hip is figurative of strength.

The term is used outside anatomy as in the side of the altar, Leviticus 1:11, the shaft of the lamp stand, Exodus 25:31, and the side of the tabernacle, Exodus 40:22. The families of Kohath and Merari were to set up their tents on the side of the tabernacle, Numbers 3:29, 35. Solomon had the brazen altar placed on the north side of the altar, II Kings 16:14. In many of these cases, it speaks of strength and support. 

Some ancient commentators noted a custom in their day. Humble servants in India and Ethiopia placed the hand under the upper leg, between the hip and knee, of their masters as a statement of submission. It is suggested this action in essence put the promiser in a vulnerable position with his neck and head open while his hand was kept from using it to attack. In this symbolic way he became willing to bend before his superior to do his will. 

In both of these totally different situations, an individual was asked to promise to fulfill a request asked of them. Abraham and Jacob both used the word ‘na,’ a very strong ‘please,’ that would not accept ‘no’ for an answer. The promiser was bound to fulfill the request. In taking the oath, the inferior submitted to the authority of the superior by placing the hand by the place of strength and authority.

January 15 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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