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The Left Hand

The term "to the left" has always meant toward the left hand, regardless of compass direction, but to the ancient Israelites, and some others, it also could mean to the north. With the person facing east (toward the rising sun), left was north, right was south. An example: Hobah was a city that was located to the north of Damascus, but in this reference it is described as being "on the left hand of Damascus."

"And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus" (Genesis 14:15 KJV)

"On the left hand"

A number of different Hebrew words have been translated into English as left, but one Hebrew word in particular, pronounced sem-ole, sometimes (but not always) referred to north, as it obviously does in the example of Genesis 14:15 shown above.

Compass Other examples where sem-ole, which was sometimes used to mean north, has been translated into English as "left":

When Abraham (see also On His Own Two Feet) and his nephew Lot separated because their herds had grown too numerous for them to remain together, Abraham gave Lot the choice of settling to the north ("left") or to the south ("right") of Abraham.

"And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left" (Genesis 13:8-9 KJV)

When the eastward moving Israelites crossed the miraculously-parted sea, they had "walls" of water on their north and south ("left" and "right").

"And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall [see The Walls Of Water] unto them on their right hand, and on their left." (Exodus 14:22 KJV)

In this example, facing "the sunrising" is the basis of how "left" means north and "right" means south.

"And turneth toward the sunrising to Bethdagon, and reacheth to Zebulun, and to the valley of Jiphthahel toward the north side of Bethemek, and Neiel, and goeth out to Cabul on the left hand" (Joshua 19:27 KJV)

Samaria (Samaria is in central Israel with Galilee to the north and Judea to the south) is north ("left") of Sodom (Sodom was in the south, near the Dead Sea).

"And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters." (Ezekiel 16:46 KJV)

Fact Finder: What significance did facing east have to the Israelites in matters of Bible History, Bible Places and Prophecy?
See Why Did They Face East?

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