According to “Ordination In the Old Testament” by Afolarin Olutunde Ojewole, Ph.D.

"The phrase “fill the hand,” containing the word mālēᵓ is translated as “consecrate” or “ordain.” The phrase ultimately became the idiomatic expression for “installing a priest into office,” or “ordination” . See passages like: Exod 28:41; 29;9, 35; 32:29; Lev 8:33; 16:22; 21:10; Num 3:3; Judges 17:5, 12; 1 Kings 13:33; 1 Chron 29:5; 2 Chron 13:9; 29:31. This could have originated from the wages or support a priest received for his services as evidenced in Judges 17 where Micah made his son a priest by ‘filling his hand’ with silver (17:5) and later hiring a Levite and paying him for his priestly services (17:10-12). It could reflect the practice of filling the priest’s hands with the offerings of the sacrificial animals as the reason for the term. In Lev 8:25-29, Moses placed portions of the sacrificial ram and cake offerings in the hands of Aaron and his sons to offer them as a wave offering to God and later consumed them on the altar as “an ordination offering for a soothing aroma” to the Lord (Beck, 1962, p. 667). Numbers 3:3 reads: “These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he consecrated to minister as priests.” The multiplication of verbs that refer to cultic actions in this short verse is interesting:lemallôt yādô , literally, “fill his hand” meaning “consecrate himself.” This has no cultic connotation but that they commit themselves and their services to God whole-heartedly and sacrificially. In Judges 17:5, a man named Micah made a shrine and installed one of his sons as the priest for it. He waymallēᵓ ᵓet-yad , literally “filled the hand of” meaning “he consecrated.” Later on in Judges 17:12, Micah had found a Levite to install as his personal priest instead; literally: “Micah filled the hand of the Levite” meaning “Micah consecrated the Levite.” Like Numbers 3:3, these two verses have strong cultic connotations pointing to some form of “ordination.” In Numbers 3:3, the phrase millē yādā, as a figure of speech, it literally means: “fill their hand,” thus describing the ceremonial rite of ordination (Kiel & Delitzsch, 1973). This signified two things for the ordination of priests. First, it represented the duty and privilege the priest had in making offerings to the Lord on behalf of others. Second, it represented that the Lord would indeed fill their hand in the sense of providing for the material needs of the priests, representing God’s sufficiency. “‘To fill one’s hand’ (with sacrifices) is ‘to consecrate’ one’s service (1 Chron 29:5; Exod 32:29) or a priest (Judges 17:5)” (Kaiser, p. 506). In Exodus 32:29, after the molten calf experience, Moses told all the children of Israel to milᵓû yedḵem , literally, “fill your hand” meaning “consecrate yourselves.” This has no cultic intention but just that they confess their sins, and re-dedicate themselves to serving God alone.

According to the writer the term מִלֵּא יָדָם could be used with non-priests ,to mean " confess ones sins, and re-dedicate himself to serving God alone" ...

in one Jewish apocalyptic text (testament of Moses):

"And then His kingdom shall appear throughout all His creation, And then Satan shall be no more, And sorrow shall depart with him. Then "the hands of the angel shall be filled." Who has been appointed chief, And he shall forthwith avenge them of their enemies. For the Heavenly One will arise from His royal throne, And He will go forth from His holy habitation With indignation and wrath on account of His sons."

My question:

Why did the writer use The phrase “fill the hand,” with an angel? what is his intention behind such strange usage? why do the hands of an angel shall be filled (as a priest ),for a mission of revenge?


  • are you asking for an explanation of the intent of the writer of a non-canonical text?
    – rosends
    Apr 9, 2021 at 10:09
  • I would like to understand better, the meaning of the Torah's term מִלֵּא יָדָם ,if not applied to ,“installing a priest into office,” and how could it be understood, especially ,the unusual usage of it with an angel of revenge?
    – capri reds
    Apr 9, 2021 at 15:21

2 Answers 2


First, it must be noted that the text which your question concerns is not canonical in Judaism and there is no extant Hebrew or Aramaic version of the text. So your question concerns the wording of phrasing that passed through multiple stages of translation - Hebrew/Aramaic, to Greek, to Latin, to English.

That said, assuming that the phrase was in fact originally מלא יד, the general understanding of the phrase is that it typically denotes an investiture of authority, or designation for a particular task or function. While the idiom may have originated in the priestly context, it is not restricted to it.

For example, see Rashi on Exodus 28:41:

ומלאת את ידם: כל מלוי ידים לשון חנוך, כשהוא נכנס לדבר להיות מוחזק בו מאותו יום והלאה הוא מלוי, ובלשון לעז כשממנין אדם על פקידת דבר, נותן השליט בידו בית יד של עור שקורין גנ"ט בלעז [כפפה], ועל ידו הוא מחזיקו בדבר, וקורין לאותו מסירה ריוישטי"ר בלעז [להסמיך] והוא מלוי ידים

Heb. וּמִלֵאתָ אֶת-יָדָם, [lit., and you shall fill their hands.] Every mention of “filling of the hands” is an expression of initiation. When he a person begins something such as a position that he will be in possession of from that day on it is referred to as “filling” a position. In Old French, when they appoint a person to be in charge of something, the ruler puts in his hand a leather glove, called guanto [gant in modern French], and thereby he grants him authority over the matter. They call this transmission revestir, invest, transmit this glove, and this is the expression “filling of the hands.”

Accordingly, the sectarian author of the work under question appears to have intended that the specified angel was appointed to the particular task, and did not intend to imply that the angel assumed any sort of priestly capacity.


I have found a commentary on Ezekiel 9:2, that may clarify the matter!

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary: Ezekiel 9:2

(2. clothed with linen—(Da 10:5; 12:6, 7). His clothing marked his office as distinct from that of the six officers of vengeance; "linen" characterized the high priest (Le 16:4); emblematic of purity. The same garment is assigned to the angel of the Lord (for whom Michael is but another name) by the contemporary prophet Daniel (Da 10:5; 12:6, 7). Therefore the intercessory High Priest in heaven must be meant (Zec 1:12).) ...................

It is possible that the writer of "testament of Moses" believed the same as what Jamieson-Fausset-Brown ,claims to be the meaning of Ezekiel 9:2

avenging Priestly angelic heavenly being, who will take that role at the end of days.


any comments?

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