Arm- - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words

Usage Number: 1
Strong's Number: H2220
Original Word: zerôa‘

Usage Notes: "arm; power; strength; help." Cognates of zerôa‘ occur both in Northwest and South Semitic languages. Zerôa‘ is attested 92 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods. The related word ’ezrôa‘ appears twice (Job 31:22; Jer. 32:21). Biblical Aramaic attests dera‘ once and ’edra‘ once.

Zerôa‘ means "arm," a part of the body: "Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head" (Deut. 33:20). The word refers to arms in Gen. 49:24 (the first occurrence): "But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong…" The strength of his arms enabled him to draw the bow. In some passages, zerôa‘ refers especially to the forearm: "It shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm…." (Isa. 17:5). Elsewhere, the word represents the shoulder: "And Jehu drew a bow with his full strength, and smote Jehoram between his arms…" (2 Kings 9:24).

Zerôa‘ connotes the "seat of strength": "He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms" (Psa. 18:34). In Job 26:2, the poor are described as the arm that hath no strength.

God's strength is figured by anthropomorphisms (attributing to Him human bodily parts), such as His "stretched out arm" (Deut. 4:34) or His "strong arm" (Jer. 21:5). In Isa. 30:30, the word seems to represent lightning bolts: "And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones" (cf. Job 40:9).

The arm is frequently a symbol of strength, both of man (1 Sam. 2:31) and of God (Psa. 71:18): "Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come." In Ezek. 22:6 zerôa‘ may be translated "power": "Behold, the princes of Israel, every one were in thee to their power to shed blood." A third nuance is "help": "Assur also is joined with them: they have helped the children of Lot" (Psa. 83:8).

The word can represent political or military forces: "And the arms of the south shall not withstand, neither his chosen people, neither shall there be any strength to withstand" (Dan. 11:15; cf. Ezek. 17:9).

In Num. 6:19 zerôa‘ is used of an animal's shoulder: "And the priest shall take the sodden shoulder of the ram…" (cf. Deut. 18:3).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words