At the start of story of Job, there is a recurring phrase - ‘stretch out your hand and touch’. The accuser is demanding this of the Lord. What is the meaning of the two parts (stretch out your hand [and] touch.) in this Hebraic phrase?

JOB 1:11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

JOB 2:5 But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

[Edit/Add] I’m not so much looking for syntax and the individual Hebrew word meanings, although further insight might help - but this seems to be an idiom. A Hebraic idiom. Here, the accuser is asking the Lord to do something. But, what?

2 Answers 2


Yes, this is an expression. For example in the law, when you can't afford, say, a goat, then you are allowed to bring a dove for sacrifice. The expression which is translated "can't afford" or "too poor" is literally "your hand can't reach". When your hand can't reach something, or something is outside your grasp, then it is impossible for you to accomplish.

But God is omnipotent, and his hand can reach everywhere, and this is often used when visiting destruction:

  • Ex 7.5: And the Egyptians will know that I am Yahweh when I stretch out my hand over Egypt and bring the Israelites out from their midst.

  • Zeph 2.13: And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and he will destroy Assyria and will make Nineveh a desolation, a dry wasteland like the desert.

  • Eze 6.14: And I will stretch out my hand against them, and I will make the land a desolation and a wasteland from the desert to Riblah in all of their dwellings, and they will know that I am Yahweh.

  • Jer 6.12: And their houses will be turned over to others, their fields and their wives together. For I will stretch out my hand against the inhabitants of the land,” declares Yahweh

PS on multiple roots

Some are concerned that two different verbs are used in these examples, one is n-t-h, to stretch, spread, lengthen, and another is sh-l-h, to stretch out, to send.

It's really important to understand that when you are talking about word pictures and imagery, it is a great error to assume that each word picture is limited to a single root or lemma. When there is a metaphor that something in the reach of your hand is within your power, then it does not matter if you are reaching, grabbing, stretching, swooping, with your hand. All of these are examples of this hand-reaching metaphor.

Similarly, in Hebrew to forgive is literally to cover, and there is a set of powerful images that require us to have the right clothing to cover ourselves, and great punishment if our clothing is spotted by the flesh, or filthy, or we drop our clothing and reveal nakedness underneath, etc. This occurs multiple times in the old testament. Now it doesn't matter whether the root word for clothing used in a phrase is beged or ephod or something else. We can still use this metaphor during exegesis. There may be other subtleties to mine within these different variants, but all are examples of this clothing as proxy for our state of forgiveness.

So I really want to attack this hyper-literalist notion that denies the existence of imagery and metaphor that can cross word boundaries, and considers solely individual roots, denying either multiple roots having the same sense or the same root having multiple senses in a given phrase. That is a terrible way to do exegesis.

  • +1 You're good and fast. Welcome to BH.
    – user35953
    Jan 12, 2021 at 18:49
  • The action נְטֹתִ֥י used in "Exodus" / Shemot 7:5 is not the same imperative שְׁלַח used in "Job" / Iyov 1:11 & Iyov 2:5. [See: chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9868/jewish/Chapter-7.htm] Jan 12, 2021 at 19:58
  • The phrase וְיֵ֚ט יָדוֹ֙ used in "Zephaniah" / צְפַנְיָה֙ Tsefaniah 2:13 is not the same imperative שְֽׁלַח־נָ֣א יָֽדְךָ֔ used in "Job" / Iyov 1:11 & Iyov 2:5. [See: chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16201/jewish/Chapter-2.htm] Jan 12, 2021 at 20:09
  • 1
    Not sure why you think this is relevant. The issue is with hand (yad) and power, and specifically to "stretch". Both roots nth and slh are synonyms for "stretch" and these two occur in the examples I gave. שׁלח šlḥ to let free; to stretch out; to send, dispatch; to dismiss, and נטה nṭh to stretch, spread, lengthen; to bend down; to turn aside; to entice, deceive
    – Robert
    Jan 12, 2021 at 20:33
  • 1
    @Dave It's not used in this sense anywhere in the Old Testament. There are many senses corresponding to this root, but the key is the combination with 'hand'. E.g. in other cases, it means "to send away"/"to send out" but then you do not have the construction of stretching your hand ("yad"). This is why it is translated as I've cited -- you can check the different translations, and they are consistent in translating this text with this sense.
    – Robert
    Jan 14, 2021 at 21:45

When reading Iyov 1:11 and Iyov 2:5 the phrase " שְֽׁלַֽח־נָ֣א יָֽדְךָ֔ וְגַ֖ע " means what specifically?

  • How is the imperative request "please-Send Your-Hand and-Touch" suppose to be understood in a physical world?

The Malbim on Job 2:5 writes:

אולם, אך בזה תבחנהו בחינה ברורה, אם תשלח ידך ותגע אל עצמו ואל בשרו לא בעורו לבד רק מכה הנוגע בעצמו ובשרו שיש בה סכנת נפש עד שיתיאש מרפואה, ואז לא יהיה לו במה להתנחם ומה לירא ולקוות אז על פניך יברכך ויגנה הנהגתך:

However, were You to stretch out Your hand and touch his person, his very flesh; not just skin-deep but so severely that he becomes convinced that his condition is terminal, then he would surely curse You to Your face and damn Governance.

[See: https://www.sefaria.org/Malbim_on_Job.2.5.1?with=all&lang=bi]

Like Iyov - Are we left without deeper insight regarding how " שְֽׁלַֽח־נָ֣א יָֽדְךָ֔ וְגַ֖ע " works? Is Malbim saying the imperative request instantly occurs but cannot be seen? Does this mean "Ga!" ( גַ֖ע ) is the physical moment when a person feels abnormal from the unseen presence of Yad-kha ( יָֽדְךָ֔ )?

Although God is incorporeal, ancient Ivrim like King David believed His-Hand could literally touch ( Ga, גַּ֖ע ) physical objects. In Tehillim 144:5 [ https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16365/jewish/Chapter-144.htm ] : "YHVH, bend Your heavens and descend; touch the mountains and they will smoke." ( יְהֹוָה הַט־שָׁמֶ֥יךָ וְתֵרֵ֑ד גַּ֖ע בֶּֽהָרִ֣ים וְֽיֶֽעֱשָֽׁנוּ ) testifying the same touch ( גַ֥ע ) requested by Ha-Satan in Iyov 1:11 & 2:5 is a physical encounter with God's Hand.

In Job 1:11 + Job 2:5, Ha-Satan ( הַשָּׂטָ֛ן ) submits a request to God with two imperatives : Send ( שְׁלַח ) and-Touch ( וְגַ֥ע ). The first imperative is addressing masculine figure to "Send!" : "שְׁלַח" Shlach! | If The-Adversary was addressing a feminine figure, then his imperative statement would have been : "שִׁלְחִי" Shilchi!.

  • Since The-Adversary uses the phrase :"שְׁלַח" Shlach! , readers are reminded that YHVH ( יְהוָה֙ ) is masculine.

In respect to God, Ha-Satan adds the word "please" = "נָ֣א" Na to reshape his imperative command into a polite request to God : "please Send!" ( שְֽׁלַֽח־נָ֣א ) Shlach-na!

  • What does the Adversary angel ask God to use as an instrument of destruction on Iyov's possessions? : Your-Hand = " יָֽדְךָ֔ " Yad-kha . This overwhelming Hand is masculine. | If God's Hand was feminine, Ha-Satan would have requested : " יָדֵךְ " Yade-k.

The second imperative requested by Ha-Satan from God is "and-Touch!" : " וְגַ֥ע " ve-Ga! | If The-Adversary angel of Iyov was addressing a feminine figure, then Ha-Satan would have stated : "גְּעִי" Ge'i which means Ha-Satan is still addressing the same masculine figure.

In full, The-Adversary angel of Iyov requests " שְֽׁלַֽח־נָ֣א יָֽדְךָ֔ וְגַ֖ע " Please Send Your-Hand and-Touch! " בְּכָל־אֲשֶׁר־ל֑וֹ " on-all which [belongs] to him [ אִיּ֖וֹב ]. - this is not just an expression but an event that is physically felt by Iyov.

  • Does ‘touch’ = ‘destroy’?
    – Dave
    Jan 15, 2021 at 17:18

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