One of our readers, Dr. Kathy Larsen, pointed out a scripture yesterday that intrigued me. It is Leviticus 21:10:
And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes;
There is a footnote on the second instance of the word “that” in our LDS King James Version. The footnote reads “HEB (literally) whose hand is filled; i.e. who is equipped, or authorized.” This means that the original Hebrew would have read something like, “and whose hand is filled to put on the garments.” Apparently the word translated as “consecrated” came from a Hebrew phrase for “a filled hand” or “a full hand.”
I did a little bit of digging into this, and found some more interesting things related to this. Now, first understand that I am not a Hebrew scholar; I’m not even an amateur. I have just barely begun learning some basic Hebrew. So if I am way off, I’m sure there are those who will correct me. It takes a few stumbles to learn how to walk.
The Hebrew words that have been translated as “consecrated” are male’ (מלא – Strong’s 04390) and yad (יד – Strong’s 03027). The transliterated word male’ most commonly means “to fill,” “be full,” or “to be filled.” It was translated 107 times in the KJV as “fill,” and 48 times as “full.” It was only translated as “consecrate(d)” about 17 times (see below). Each time it is translated as “consecrate(d),” the word yad accompanies it. Yad almost always means a “hand” (1359 times in the KJV OT). It can also be a symbol of strength or power, or even as a “sign.”
Many of the male’ yad (phonetically “maw-lay’ yawd”) combinations are found in the account of Moses and Aaron, but there are other instances that follow through Ezekiel, but always in connection with the temple. In each of these cases where the King James translators used the word “consecrate(d)” the original Hebrew read “a filled hand,” “a full hand,” “hand is filled,” “fill the hand,” or something similar: 1
- Ex. 28:41 – And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.
- Ex. 29:9 – And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest’s office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons.
- Ex. 29:29 – And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons’ after him, to be anointed therein, and to be consecrated in them.
- Ex. 29:33 – And they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate [and] to sanctify them: but a stranger shall not eat [thereof], because they [are] holy.
- Ex. 29:35 – And thus shalt thou do unto Aaron, and to his sons, according to all [things] which I have commanded thee: seven days shalt thou consecrate them.
- Ex. 32:29 – For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.
- Lev. 8:33 – And ye shall not go out of the door of the tabernacle of the congregation [in] seven days, until the days of your consecration be at an end: for seven days shall he consecrate you.
- Lev. 16:32 – And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, [even] the holy garments:
- Lev. 21:10 – And [he that is] the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes;
- Num. 3:3 – These [are] the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests which were anointed, whom he consecrated to minister in the priest’s office.
- Judg. 17:5 – And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.
- Judg. 17:12 – And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.
- 1 Kgs. 13:33 – After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became [one] of the priests of the high places.
- 1 Chr. 29:5 – The gold for [things] of gold, and the silver for [things] of silver, and for all manner of work [to be made] by the hands of artificers. And who [then] is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the LORD?
- 2 Chr. 13:9 – Have ye not cast out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of [other] lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, [the same] may be a priest of [them that are] no gods.
- 2 Chr. 29:31 – Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto the LORD, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of the LORD. And the congregation brought in sacrifices and thank offerings; and as many as were of a free heart burnt offerings.
- Ezek. 43:26 – Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves.
There are other instances in which the word “consecrate(d)” was translated from a different Hebrew word, but the male’ yad combination is the most common.
The yod (י) Hebrew character itself is of interest here as well (probably where we get our English letter I). The original pictograph from which this character developed was of a squared arm and hand:2
It is thought that this character may have descended from the Egyptian hieroglyphic of an arm and hand:3
This hieroglyphic could have been a representation of a common Egyptian censer, or incense vessel, that was used.
As can be seen in the painting at the beginning of this post, the incense was moved from place to place in the holy place with the use of an incense shovel or spoon. The Temple Institute has reproduced what they think this may have looked like:4
Even more ancient, however, the Egyptians had a similar tool for offering incense to the gods. I believe this is an authentic Egyptian censer:5
The unique thing about this instrument is the sculpted cupped hand at the end of the tool. A drawing of it can be seen here. This tool being used by an Egyptian can be seen here, or offering incense straight from the hand here. A modern studio recreation of this instrument can be seen here, which they call “An Heru.” Notice that sometimes it appears that the incense was offered directly from the hand, whereas in other instances it was in a bowl held in a cupped hand. Other Egyptian examples can be seen here, or here, or here, or here, and here.
Why the symbolic use of a cupped hand to offer incense? Dr. Hugh Nibley taught:
Incense was often burned in special holders made in the form of a cupped hand, the “golden spoons” of Exodus 25:29 . . . the “filled hand” (the Hebrew letter kaph כ means “palm”) is the widespread sign of offering sacrifice.6
Nibley brings up another interesting Hebrew letter, the kaph כ (probably where we get our English letter K). The original pictograph for this letter looks like this:7
The Egyptian representation of this pictograph was:8
Kaph literally means “palm” in Hebrew, and represents:
. . . the open palm of a hand. The meanings of this letter are bend and curve from the shape of the palm as well as to tame or subdue as one who has been bent to another’s will.9
Hebrew4Christians.com has some interesting commentary about this letter also:
The literal meaning of Kaf is “palm” which is considered the location where potential of the Yod (hand) is actualized (interestingly, the gematria for the word Yod is the same for the letter Kaf). For this reason we bless children with palms facing them and we envision God as having His palms over us, for this image suggests the calling forth of the latent power of the spirit within for manifestation in the physical world. . . .
The word Kaf means “palm” of a hand and also what might be contained within the palm of the hand. The word “spoon” in Hebrew is the word Kaf, which is a natural extension of the palm as a container.10
So bringing all of this together, when we read of God commanding Moses and Aaron to be “consecrated,” or to “consecrate,” the Hebrew words behind this term connote filling a cupped hand with incense in order to make sacrificial offerings to God in His holy place of the temple.Notes:
- See Hilton’s article referenced in the comments for a discussion from Dr. John Tvedtnes on this. [↩]
- http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Pictograms/pictograms.html. See also http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Aleph-Bet/Yod/yod.html [↩]
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yodh [↩]
- http://www.templeinstitute.org/vessels_gallery_10a.htm [↩]
- http://www.rosicrucian.org/publications/digest/digest1_2007/table_of_contents.html [↩]
- Hugh Nibley, “Sacred Vestments,” Temple and Cosmos, 106. [↩]
- http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Pictograms/pictograms.html [↩]
- http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/3_kaph.html [↩]
- http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/3_kaph.html [↩]
- http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Aleph-Bet/Kaf/kaf.html [↩]