“Graven Upon the Palms of My Hands”

K. Douglas Bassett

(Isa. 49:16; Zech. 13:6; Luke 24:39–40; 3 Ne. 11:14–15; D&C 45:51–52)

The clause is an allusion to the ancient practice of tattooing the palm with a symbol of the temple or some other sacred emblem to show devotion so that it might serve as a reminder of one’s commitment. This is an idiomatic and graphic way for the Lord to say: “You are constantly before me; I have not forgotten my covenant with you.”

(Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987–1992], 1:165.)

This is a figurative way of expressing that Jehovah will never forget Zion… . It is thought that the Jews of that day were in the habit of tattooing on their hands or arms representations of the city or temple in order to keep before them something to remind them of the sacred places.

(James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible [Plainfield, New Jersey: Logos International, 1972], 272.)

The phrase “graven thee upon the palms of my hands” refers to the marks of the nails in Christ’s hands. These marks remained after his resurrection (Luke 24:38–40; 3 Ne. 11:13–14). The nail marks are a sign to Israel—and to the world—that Christ fulfilled his mission as Savior (Isa. 22:23, 25; John 20:25; 3 Ne. 11:14–15; D&C 6:37; 45:48–53).
The words “thy walls are continually before me” likely refer to the walls of Jerusalem. These walls are ever present in the consciousness of those who dwell in the city. In the same way, an awareness of the people of Israel is ever present with the Lord.

(Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah [Provo, Utah: The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2001], 88.)

“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed,” He said, “but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed [from thee]” (3 Ne. 22:10; see vv.13–14). I love that. The hills and the mountains may disappear. The seas and oceans may dry up completely. The least likely things in the world may happen, but “my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed [from thee].” After all, He has, He reminds us, “graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (1 Ne. 21:16). Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion, Christ is not going to turn His back on us now.

(Jeffrey R. Holland, Trusting Jesus [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2003], 67.)

Commentaries on Isaiah: In the Book or Mormon