Laying On of Hands (1)

Bible Reading: Genesis 48

1 Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. 2 When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.3 Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me 4 and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’5 “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. 6 Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers. 7 As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem).8 When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?”9 “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”12 Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the first-born.15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,“May the God before whom my fathersAbraham and Isaac walked faithfully,the God who has been my shepherdall my life to this day,16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys.May they be called by my nameand the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,and may they increase greatlyon the earth.”17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the first-born; put your right hand on his head.”19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” 20 He blessed them that day and said,“In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing:‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”_ _So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers. 22 And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”

"The doctrine of laying on of hands" is the fourth of the "first principles" which form "the foundation" of the Christian life. Laying on of hands occurs a number of times in the Bible, and we shall consider most of these. However, as an elementary Christian doctrine, it specifically refers to the reception of the Holy Spirit. The act of laying on of hands, signifies "TRANSFERENCE, TRANSMISSION, IMPARTATION, and IDENTIFICATION."

What does the Old Testament say about "laying on of hands"?


This is the first occurrence of the laying on of hands for the purpose of symbolizing the transmission of spiritual benefit. With his hands laid on the heads of Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob prayed "_the Angel who has delivered me from all harm__—may he bless these boys_!" Thus, in this first instance of the laying on of hands, we are taught something of its symbolic meaning.


God required the Israelite to bring an animal sacrifice to the "door of the Tabernacle" which was directly in front of the Brazen Altar. Before the sacrificial animal was slain and offered, the Israelite was required to "You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering", with the accompanying promise that "it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you." In putting his hand on the head of the sacrificial animal, the Israelite was indicating the transference of his sin and guilt to the victim, and by this symbolical act implying, "This animal is now myself, and its life is my life." As Jacob's act symbolized the transmission of blessing, the Israelite's act symbolized the transmission or transference of sin and guilt.

This is further seen in the sacrificial ceremony on the Day of Atonement. On this great day of national contrition, Aaron, the High Priest, representing the people, "He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelitesall their sinsand put them on the goat’s head. . .

Here, transmission and transference are clearly symbolized.


The Levites were ordained by God to "they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting" (vs. 15). In this service they represented the congregation. The "laying on of hands signified that the obligation to assist personally in the service of the sanctuary was transferred from the whole congregation to the Levites". So, again, we see the principle of transference and identification symbolized in the laying on of hands.

d. MOSES AND JOSHUA - Num. 27:15-23; Deut. 34:9

In appointing a successor to Moses, God instructed the greater Leader to "Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him." In so doing, God said, "Give him some of your authority." That there was also at that time an impartation of spiritual enablement, is indicated in the Deuteronomy passage, which says that "Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him."

What does the New Testament say about "laying on of hands"?


Mark 6:5 — ". . . except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them."

Luke 4:40 - "At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them."

Luke 13:13 - "Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God."


Matt. 19:13, 15 — "Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them . . . When he had placed his hands on them . . .".


Mark 16:18 — "_. . . they will place their hands on_ sick people, and they will get well! "


Acts 5:12 (NASB) - "At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people. . . . "

Acts 9:17 - "Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."

Acts 14:3 (NASB) - "Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands."

Acts 19:11 (NKJV) — "Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul."

Acts 28:8 - "His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him."

Study Questions for Lesson No. 11

Back to Lesson 10 - "Baptism (4)"

Read Lesson 12 - "Laying On of Hands (2)"