What does the Bible say about hugs?

We’re allowed to hug one another again in the UK, but what does the Bible say about embracing one another?

The news that post-lockdown hugs are now allowed was warmly welcomed by many people across the UK (though some were seen shuddering in horror!), but what does the Bible say about hugging one another? There is plenty of ‘embracing’ in God’s word, with a clear distinction between good and bad embracing.

Bad physical embracing

There is a time and a place for hugs (see Ecclesiastes 3:5), but that time and place should never be in a romantic setting with someone who is not your spouse!

Proverbs 5:20: “Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?”

Good physical embracing

Physical hugs in the Bible are used to communicate affection, gladness, relief and love:

Genesis 29:13: “As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things.”

Genesis 33:4: “But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”

Genesis 45:14: “Then [Joseph] threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping.”

Genesis 48:10: “Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.”

Song of Songs 2:6 (and 8:3): “His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.”

Acts 20:37: “They all wept as they embraced [Paul] and kissed him.”

Bad theoretical embracing

The Bible makes it clear that embracing other gods and evil practices is a recipe for disaster.

1 Kings 9:9 (and 2 Chronicles 7:22): “People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’”

Isaiah 2:6: “You, Lord, have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs.”

Good theoretical embracing

Three of the most important theoretical things to embrace, according to the Bible, are justice, wisdom and God’s promises.

Micah 3:1: “Then I said, ‘Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel. Should you not embrace justice…?’”

Proverbs 4:7-8: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.”

Hebrews 11:17: “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son.”

This final verse reminds us that it is only by embracing God’s ultimate promise – Jesus – that we can be saved:

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This is God’s amazing embrace to all his people, for now and for eternity.