What does God look like? This has been the topic of many a debate. Artists have depicted God in many different ways, after all. Is God black or white? Man or woman? Does God even look like a person at all? What If God Was One of Us?
Or what if He's just a big, disembodied hand in the sky? Is it the hand of God? No, the hand IS God.
Put simply, this is where God (whether it be the Judeo-Christian one or some similar supreme being) is depicted as a disembodied hand or hands. It may be implied that He still has a body somewhere, but it's obscured by mountains, clouds, light, energy, or any number of other things... or maybe it just isn't there at all. Usually, this hand will be giant-sized, coming out from the sky, and possibly accompanied by a booming voice, though those attributes aren't strictly necessary. For example, the hand of God which appears in the Book of Daniel is apparently normal size, appears inside a building, and is completely silent.
The important thing is that only the hand and at most part of the arm is ever seen. In medieval artwork, the hand of God was usually just that, stopping just before the wrist. Some depictions go a little bit further up the forearm. It will almost never reach the elbow, and if it reaches all the way to (or past) the shoulder, then it's definitely not this trope anymore.
This trope is Older Than Feudalism. The image of the hand to symbolize God occurs quite a lot in the Pentateuch, and it was popular in artwork from the late Antique and early Medieval periods when full body images of God were considered close enough to idolatry to be heretical. Since hands are naturally the human body part most used for doing things, the disembodied hand therefore could be used to show agency and action from a supernatural force, without risking heresy by attempting to show the full form of God.
- The Great Will of the Macrocosm in Excel Saga appears as a pair of hands that extend out from a swirling energy vortex.
- In the art world, this is referred to as Manus Deinote or Dextera Domini / Dextera Deinote . The motif of God being depicted as a hand was particularly popular in late antique and early medieval era art, where depicting the full body of God was considered heretical as it came too close to idolatry. The Other Wiki has a page on it here.
- The DCU has The Presence, also known as The Voice, The Hand, and The Source who plays essentially the same role. His most directly visible role is being the source of power behind the Spectre's abilities, since the Spectre is, technically speaking, a Fallen Angel who repented, and as such gets micromanaged a fair bit more than usual just in case. As The Source, meanwhile, it shows up as a giant burning hand in the New Gods stories, and as witnessed by Krona created the Universe in that form (the "Big Hand" theory).
- The Adventures of Mark Twain: In the Adam and Eve segment, God is depicted as a live-action hand in an otherwise entirely claymation world.
- God is referenced as the Hand that stopped the bullets from killing Jules and Vincent in Pulp Fiction. Vincent is less than convinced, Jules decides to change his life over it. The audience is left to decide for themselves, but Vincent's fate tends to indicate Jules was right.
- Played With in George of the Jungle and its Direct to Video sequel, where the narrator (something of a metaphorical God to the series) will frequently interfere with the plot by reaching down and fixing things himself, comically invoking the "hand of god" imagery.
- Played for Laughs in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, which also provides the page image. A British Army officer is opining about how "we'll always need a military, and may God strike me dead if it's ever otherwise." Cue Bolt of Divine Retribution doing just that, and a giant right hand withdrawing into a cloudbank afterwards. Which is immediately followed by a sergeant major lambasting his troops, "Don't stand there gawping, like you've never seen the hand of God before!"
- The poster for Monty Python and the Holy Grail depicts the right hand of God reaching out from a cloud and holding the titular grail.
- In The Stand, at the end Randall Flagg tortures one of his men with a ball of electricity he'd conjured. At this point, there is a huge distraction and Flagg loses concentration on the ball and it flutters away. The distraction was the Trashcan Man, who'd found a nuclear bomb and towed it all the way back to Las Vegas. Flagg panics and tries to tell Trashcan to get rid of it. Then one of the men who'd been sent to challenge Flagg screams "The Hand Of God!" and points. The ball of electricity had grown to an enormous size, it was heading straight for the nuclear bomb, and it looked just like a hand. You only get one guess as to what happened when it reached the bomb...
- In Cultivation Chat Group the 8th Heavenly Way used the appearance of huge transparent hands to capture the protagonist and move him to a special prison area that makes the world forget the prisoner.
- Bottom: In "Hole", Richie and Eddie are saved from falling off a Ferris wheel by God, depicted as a giant hand. (Which then vanishes when they realise they don't actually believe in Him).
- In Monty Python's Flying Circus, the Church Police pray, "Oh Lord we beseech thee tell us who croaked Leicester," whereupon a huge hand descends and points a finger at the culprit.
- This trope does have some accuracy to The Bible where God was He Who Must Not Be Seen lest the viewer die or go mad. As such God appears in A Form You Are Comfortable With, with perhaps the most famous being the burning bush that appeared before Moses. In the book of Daniel, chapter 5, He fills this trope, appearing as a disembodied hand (or just fingers, depending on the translation) in the palace of King Belshazzar, where He writes a prophecy of doom on the wall, foretelling the judgment of Belshazzar's kingdom.
- Most decks of Tarot Cards have Ace cards that depict a giant disembodied hand extending from a cloud and holding a Sword, Cup, Staff, or Pentacle.
- In the Black & White games, A God Is You and the Themed Cursor is your hand. It morphs to match your place on the Karma Meter and is shown physically picking up items, casting Miracles, and interacting with your Bond Creature.
- Super Smash Bros. has Master Hand, a huge glove-like hand that is responsible for creating the game's world through giving life to a bunch of toys. Later games add Crazy Hand as its equal, more chaotic counterpart.
- Invoked in the manner of the Humans Are Cthulhu in Empires of the Undergrowth, with the Mad Scientist who studies the gene thief ant behavior in the wild. Only his hands are visible, and he acts as a Jerkass God to gene thief ants, frequently going on to make the life of their colony more difficult, purely for his own amusement. He even compares his hand to 'the hand of God' when he crushes ants with his finger.
- In Metal Gear Awesome, Jesus calls out God's name in disgust when Otacon gushes out urine on the entire room. God appears in this form, and wonders aloud why He created humans to produce this gross stuff.
- Sinfest: The God of Sinfest is literally a giant disembodied hand (sometimes two) and a booming, disembodied voice. Sometimes He uses a hand puppet.
- In multiple episodes of Chowder, giant hands represent godly beings, whether the show's creator C.H. Grenblatt or the unnamed god character.
- The Simpsons:
- In one episode, Ned Flanders prays for divine intervention to save his son Todd, who is floating down a river. A branch falls, damming up the river and saving Todd, then a hand is seen in the sky making the "OK" sign.
- In the episode "Simpsons Bible Stories", God appears in the "Adam and Eve" segment as a giant hand from the sky. It's actually the hand of Ned Flanders, who is providing the voice for God in that segment.