Image: The Left Handed Painter
Artist: Carlo Maria Mariani
According to a recent study, about 10% of the population of the US are left-handed. In addition, about 1% of the population is mixed-handed, that is they are ambidextrous. Ambidextrous people are able to use both hands to do things such as writing or drawing.
In the Old Testament the warriors from the tribe of Benjamin favored their left hand in training for combat. There are several references in the Hebrew Bible to people who were left-handed or could use both hands.
The Bible says that Ehud, a judge in Israel was left-handed (Judges 3:15). In the army of the tribe of Benjamin, the best seven hundred soldiers were all left-handed (Judges 20:16). In David’s army, some of his soldiers were Benjaminites. These mighty men of war were ambidextrous. They served as archers who could shoot arrows and sling stones with either the right hand or the left (1 Chronicles 12:2).
It seems that Benjaminite soldiers prided themselves on being left-handed. According to the text, David’s warriors probably belonged to the same clan or to the same family. Thus, it was possible that left-handedness was a hereditary trait of certain families in the tribe of Benjamin.
It is also possible that their left-handedness was the result of training, since normally the left hand is not naturally as strong as the right hand. Since left-handedness was advantageous in combat, it is probable that many Benjaminite soldiers began to train early in being left-handed or ambidextrous.
The ability of the Benjaminite soldiers can be seen in the skills they exhibited in battle: “That day the Benjaminites mustered from their cities twenty-six thousand sword-wielding soldiers, besides seven hundred well-trained soldiers from Gibeah. Among this army were seven hundred specially-trained left-handed soldiers. Each one could sling a stone and hit even the smallest target” (Judges 20:15-16 NET).
In the two posts below, I study the prowess of the Benjaminites as left-handed warriors and speculate whether or not Moses was left-handed.
Studies on Left-handedness in the Hebrew Bible
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary