Handbreadth: a unit of linear measure from 2½ to 4 inches (6.4 to 10 centimeters). – dictionary.com
I was reading Psalm 39:5 and came across the word handbreath. Not exactly a term commonly used today. I checked some other Bible translations to see if they used another word, but the NKJV, ESV and NIV all use the same word. I became curious as to why the term handbreadth is so significant that four translations use it. Then it occurred to me that your hand is always right in front of you.
There’s a phrase, “I know you like the back of my hand.” If you look at the width of your hand, even if you have large hands, it’s not very wide. It’s far short of a mile or kilometer and doesn’t measure up to a yard or meter. It doesn’t even measure up to half a foot. If you walked on your hands, a handbreadth step would barely move you forward.
The psalmist tells us in Psalm 39:5: “Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath (NASB).” It’s a reminder of our limited time on this earth. When we look at our hand each day, we should note it’s meager width and the limited number of days we have on this earth. Reflect on how you can focus on the eternal and what you can do for God’s eternal Kingdom.
© 2022, CGThelen
LORD, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. – Psalm 39:4