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A Handful With Quietness

The English word "hand" originated from an old Teutonic (i.e. primitive German, from which Anglo-Saxon, and thereafter English, developed) word, pronounced hent. It meant to seize, or to capture (the word hunt is actually just a variation of the original word for hand).

By far the most prevalent Hebrew word in the Scriptures that is translated as "hand" is pronounced yawd. It has a far-wider range of applied meanings than the English "hand," but moreover it also means a physical hand. A "handful" was literally just that, although it could be used in both a positive or negative sense, such as in this example where a "handful" is better than "hands full."

"4:4 Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit. 4:5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh. 4:6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit." (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 KJV)

"Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit"

As a fulfillment of the LORD's prophecy given to the Egyptian pharaoh, and as given to interpret by the Israelite patriarch Joseph (see The Pharaoh's Dreams), "the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls" in Egypt.

The Holy Scriptures

"41:46 And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. 41:47 And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls. 41:48 And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same." (Genesis 41:46-48 KJV)

Four centuries after the time of Joseph, the Israelites had become slaves. Moses was given miraculous means to deliver the LORD's warnings to the Pharaoh at that time, including "blains upon man" which were symbolized by "handfuls of ashes of the furnace."

"9:8 And the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. 9:9 And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt." (Exodus 9:8-9 KJV)

The Levites were given to serve at the Tabernacle by means of specific observances that included substances and ingredients measured by the "handful."

"2:1 And when any will offer a meat offering unto the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon: 2:2 And he shall bring it to Aaron's sons the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD: 2:3 And the remnant of the meat offering shall be Aaron's and his sons': it is a thing most holy of the offerings of the LORD made by fire." (Exodus 2:1-3 KJV)

A "handful" remained a common unit of measurement for centuries, as shown in this example with the miracles of Elijah (see also Elijah's Journey To Mount Sinai).

"17:12 And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.

17:13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. 17:14 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth." (1 Kings 17:12-14 KJV)

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