Sometimes a question just sticks with you.
This one comes courtesy of my sister. "Off the top of your head...are there examples on the Bible of a woman receiving the laying on of hands for a blessing/leadership moment?"
My gut was no, but it didn't take much to flip one of my laptops and search all 31,103 verses for any variation on the words "laying" and "hands."
Every time I do that, I think about the early church fathers and the dessert fathers and the 19th century exegetes who spent their lives preparing tools for a thing I can do so casually and instantly. I didn't even sit down.
Since I still haven't made an adjustment to Accordance (RIP Bibleworks), this was an English search, but skimming the 96 search results confirmed my instincts: no, there isn't. And that's what I told her.
While writing this, it occured to me that I've been too disconnected from how lay people approach biblical research questions. I know how I was taught (and caught) before going to two Bible colleges and seminary, but that was over 20 years ago. I imagine a lot has changed in Christian pedegogy in those 20 years. And I wonder how contemporary cultural forces have evaporated much of the interest that would have made it popular.
Anyway, I FaceTimed her to see how she was going about her question. It turns out the process is what you'd expect: Googling the question and finding a lot of craziness, then searching the key words in the ESV app, then using the digital, public domain resources like Matthew Henry's Commentary as well as some published resources they had in the house. Her latest step was that her husband handed her a copy of "The Women of the Bible (the Lockyer from 1988) and recommended checking the Index (I skimmed the Index on Amazon and I don't think she's going to find her answer there. But it'd be great if I'm wrong).
All of that is a really solid approach, but she and I were raised almost identically. So I'm definitly going to annoy a lot of people this month with questions about how they approach their questions--assuing they do.
Researching Like a Cook
Leaving the Thanksgiving season means I've left the season of looking up recipes for all kinds of dishes I'm ill-equipped to tackle. I was experimenting with a Raspberry Cordial (not to be confused with currant wine) recipe from the 1970s. It was a three day process and mid-commitment I realized I was following the steps but I didn't know why.
A "step" exists because a logic exists. And I think every pedogogical conflict boils down to miscommunication between people who want steps and people who want logics.
In that spirit, I'm going to walk through the steps I'd take to answer the question, hopefully explaining the logic with each of the steps.
Step 1: Establish The Scope of the Question
Fortunately, this question has a pretty well defined scope: "Is there a mention of women being blessed or commissioned by the laying on of hands?" It's not like, "What does the Bible say about salvation?" or a million other less-scopeable questions.
The reason we want scope is that it protects us. Research and space exploration are similar in that, if you're not tethered to something, you'll spin out into oblivious.
Plus, anytime we start to dig into something, the knowledge we didn't have becomes knowledge we do have and that causes us to unconciosuly move our goal posts (we usually call this "going down a rabbit hole"). So we can keep ourselves sane by giving ourselves bright parameters that'll tell us when we've accomplished what we wanted.
Our scope for this question is that we'll want to find every occurrence of the phrase "laying on of hands" as well as all the possible grammatical variants ("laid hands" "lay hands" "Lay a hand" "laid a hand" etc) within the 66-books of the Protestant Bible. From there, we can see how many of them refer to women and, voila!, we'll have our answer. We'll have a thousand more questions, too. But that just means we're learning.
Step 2: Do a Fuzzy Search
If you're using printed resources, you're going to have a very difficult time because concordances and lexica will give you words but not phrases.
The real breakthrough of Bible databases was that you can do extremely complex phrase and grammar searches--a breakthrough that has really turned New Testiment Greek studies on its head.
Because our question is specifically looking for a phrase ("laying on of hands") we want a phrase-searching tool.
Just about any Bible app or bible searching website will let you do this.
That said, if you only have word-searching tools (like a concordance) you can go to the entry for "Hands", it's just going to be a lot if irrelevant results and the first task of any search is to exclude irrelevant results. So if I can narrow down the search by adding the verb "lay" next to "hand", it's just going to make the sifting process faster.
On the other hand (as it were), we don't want to narrow the search too much, otherwise we might accidentally exclude a relevant result and we wouldn't know it. So we're trying to strike a balance by casting a wide enough net to get the fish we want without casting a net that gives us every creature in the sea.
To make sure our net is wide enough, we want all the grammatical variants, too. Not just "laying on of hands", but also "laying of hands", "lay hands", "laid hands" etc. because, again, our goal here is to have a list of every instance of laying on of hands.
Because we live in the best era of history, the computer will do this automatically.
To see if your tool is doing it, just search for "lay hands" and skim the results. If they include noun variations ("hand" "hands") and verb variations ("lay" "laying" "laid"), then we have our results!
If they don't, just switch tools. Yes, there are work arounds (which is how I learned back in the day), but they're cumbersome and the new tools are doing all that manual labor for you. Let the computer do as much work as possible.
Step 3: Read ALL the Results
My search for "lay hands" returned 96 verses in the NASB (the 1995 edition, which I'm only using because I'm an old fuddy-duddy. Use whichever translation you want).
The important thing here is to review all the results, not just the ones you're looking for. There may be relevant patterns in the verses you cull from the results and you'll want to know about them.
So here they are:
Gen. 22:6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.
Gen. 37:22 Reuben further said to them, “Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him” — that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father.
Gen. 37:27 “Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.
Gen. 48:14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn.
Gen. 48:17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.
Ex. 7:4 “When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments.
Ex. 22:8 “If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges, to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor’s property.
Ex. 22:11 an oath before the LORD shall be made by the two of them that he has not laid hands on his neighbor’s property; and its owner shall accept it, and he shall not make restitution.
Ex. 29:10 “Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull.
Ex. 29:15 “You shall also take the one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram;
Ex. 29:19 “Then you shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram.
Lev. 1:4 ‘He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.
Lev. 3:2 ‘He shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood around on the altar.
Lev. 3:8 and he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it before the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.
Lev. 3:13 and he shall lay his hand on its head and slay it before the tent of meeting, and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.
Lev. 4:4 ‘He shall bring the bull to the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, and he shall lay his hand on the head of the bull and slay the bull before the LORD.
Lev. 4:15 ‘Then the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be slain before the LORD.
Lev. 4:24 ‘He shall lay his hand on the head of the male goat and slay it in the place where they slay the burnt offering before the LORD; it is a sin offering.
Lev. 4:29 ‘He shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slay the sin offering at the place of the burnt offering.
Lev. 4:33 ‘He shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slay it for a sin offering in the place where they slay the burnt offering.
Lev. 8:14 Then he brought the bull of the sin offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull of the sin offering.
Lev. 8:18 Then he presented the ram of the burnt offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram.
Lev. 8:22 Then he presented the second ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram.
Lev. 16:21 “Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness.
Lev. 24:14 “Bring the one who has cursed outside the camp, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head; then let all the congregation stone him.
Num. 8:10 and present the Levites before the LORD; and the sons of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites.
Num. 8:12 “Now the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bulls; then offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering to the LORD, to make atonement for the Levites.
Num. 27:18 So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him;
Num. 27:23 Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses.
Deut. 34:9 Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Josh. 2:19 “It shall come about that anyone who goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be free; but anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him.
Judg. 9:24 so that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood might be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers.
Judg. 9:48 So Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a branch from the trees, and lifted it and laid it on his shoulder. Then he said to the people who were with him, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do likewise.”
2Sam. 13:6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill; when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.”
2Kings 4:29 Then he said to Gehazi, “Gird up your loins and take my staff in your hand, and go your way; if you meet any man, do not salute him, and if anyone salutes you, do not answer him; and lay my staff on the lad’s face.”
2Kings 4:34 And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands, and he stretched himself on him; and the flesh of the child became warm.
2Kings 13:16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands.
2Chr. 29:23 Then they brought the male goats of the sin offering before the king and the assembly, and they laid their hands on them.
Ezra 5:8 “Let it be known to the king that we have gone to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God, which is being built with huge stones, and beams are being laid in the walls; and this work is going on with great care and is succeeding in their hands.
Esth. 2:21 In those days, while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s officials from those who guarded the door, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.
Esth. 3:6 But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him who the people of Mordecai were; therefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.
Esth. 6:2 It was found written what Mordecai had reported concerning Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who were doorkeepers, that they had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.
Esth. 9:2 The Jews assembled in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm; and no one could stand before them, for the dread of them had fallen on all the peoples.
Esth. 9:10 the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Jews’ enemy; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
Esth. 9:15 The Jews who were in Susa assembled also on the fourteenth day of the month Adar and killed three hundred men in Susa, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
Esth. 9:16 Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces assembled, to defend their lives and rid themselves of their enemies, and kill 75,000 of those who hated them; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
Job 9:33 “There is no umpire between us, Who may lay his hand upon us both.
Job 40:4 “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth.
Job 41:8 “Lay your hand on him; Remember the battle; you will not do it again!
Psa. 139:5 You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.
Psa. 139:10 Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
Is. 5:25 On this account the anger of the LORD has burned against His people, And He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down. And the mountains quaked, and their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the streets. For all this His anger is not spent, But His hand is still stretched out.
Is. 25:11 And he will spread out his hands in the middle of it As a swimmer spreads out his hands to swim, But the Lord will lay low his pride together with the trickery of his hands.
Ezek. 25:13 therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “I will also stretch out My hand against Edom and cut off man and beast from it. And I will lay it waste; from Teman even to Dedan they will fall by the sword. 14 “I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel. Therefore, they will act in Edom according to My anger and according to My wrath; thus they will know My vengeance,” declares the Lord GOD.
Ezek. 39:21 “And I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed and My hand which I have laid on them.
Zech. 4:9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.
Zech. 8:9 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Let your hands be strong, you who are listening in these days to these words from the mouth of the prophets, those who spoke in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, to the end that the temple might be built.
Matt. 9:18 While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.”
Matt. 19:13 Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.
Matt. 19:15 After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.
Matt. 26:50 And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.
Mark 5:23 and *implored Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.”
Mark 6:5 And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.
Mark 7:32 They *brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they *implored Him to lay His hand on him.
Mark 8:23 Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?”
Mark 8:25 Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.
Mark 10:16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
Mark 14:46 They laid hands on Him and seized Him.
Mark 16:18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Luke 4:40 While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them.
Luke 13:13 And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.
Luke 20:19 The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them.
Luke 21:12 “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.
Luke 22:53 “While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.”
John 7:30 So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.
John 7:44 Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him.
Acts 4:3 And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening.
Acts 5:18 They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail.
Acts 6:6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.
Acts 8:17 Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 9:12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.”
Acts 9:17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 12:1 Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.
Acts 13:3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Acts 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.
Acts 21:27 When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him,
Acts 28:3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand.
Acts 28:8 And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him.
1Tim. 4:14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.
1Tim. 5:22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
2Tim. 1:6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Heb. 1:10 And, “YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;
Heb. 6:2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
Step 4: Sort the Results
Skimming these, I'm starting to see broad categories for "laying hands":
- Laying hands for blessing,
- Laying hands for the transference of guilt
- Laying hands for destruction
- Laying hands for assault/arrest
- Laying hands for healing
- Laying hands for the impartation of the Holy Spirit,
- Laying hands for--and we have to be careful here--"commissioning"?
We have to be careful because this last category is the category we're wanting to explore. We don't want to make any biasing descriptions about it or else we'll end up assuming what we're trying to prove, which is the definition of a circular argument.
These seven categories are just what I get from skimming the results. But I'm trying to challenge my instinct, not codify them. So I actually need to go through every verse and give each one a thoughtful, specific category.
Again, because I'm an old, fuddy-duddy, I'm just going to open a spread sheet and do the whole thing by hand. When I do that, I get categories that are quite a bit more robust:
(In this process, I categorize every passage that speaks to our question as "follow up" and every passage that's not immediately obvious but also not relevant to the question as "uncertain".)
The pay dirt is that I now have 10 verses that might contribute to answering our question specficially.
- Num. 8:10 and present the Levites before the LORD; and the sons of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites.
- Num. 27:18 So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him;
- Num. 27:23 Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses.
- Deut. 34:9 Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.
- Acts 6:6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.
- Acts 13:3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
- 1Tim. 4:14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.
- 1Tim. 5:22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
- 2Tim. 1:6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
- Heb. 6:2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
That's 10 verses out of 96.
So. Much.Time. Saved.
More succinctly, we can categorize these 10 results as:
- Laying hands on the Levites (Numbers 8)
- Laying hands on Joshua (Numbers 27 and Deuteronomy 34)
- Laying hands on Deacons (Acts 6)
- Laying hands on Barnabas on Saul (Acts 13)
- Laying hands and Timothy's Ministry (1 Timothy 4, 5; 2 Timothy 1)
- Laying hand "Instructions" (Hebrews 6)
We started with a question for 31,103 verses. We used a flex search to narrow it down to 96 verses. Then we went through and narrowed the results to 10 verses, which are all covered in 9 chapters. The delicious syrup at the end of this reduction is that I've identified 10 verses on which we can focus further study.
But that makes the project far more accessble, doesn't it?
Step 5: Let the Data Speak
Thankfully, this was a relatively uncomplicated search and assembly--taking me about three hours to get to this point (but I also wasn't very focused).
I'm sure that's much fodder for debate and discussion (assuming it means anything at all--and I'm still not convinced it does), but that's the next step.
What we have here is a solid data set from which to work. Debates, further research, and questions can come next, but we want this part of the journey to remain neutral so that everyone has an even playing field. And that's what the result of this process is.
But is it worth it?
Here's a screenshot of the exchange that started this whole thing:
Which raises an uncomfritble question I ask myself a lot: The answer I had after seven minutes of intution and a quick search is the same answer I had after 3 hours of computer-aided research, so was that a waste of an afternoon?
I'd say no for four reasons.
Firstly, that just happened to be the case. I've gone through this process and a stunning piece of evidence absolutly and inarguably upends my assumptions. That's an exciting moment and, if you haven't been a jerk about your opinions, being won to truer positions is way more fun than tediously documenting your correct opinions.
Secondly, my position is now far more than my intuition. I can not only say that woman are not the recipient of the kind of "hands laying" that we're wondering about, I can now show (and link) to the work so other people can see it for themselves. That's the brilliant thing about post-Enlightment theological studies: nobody has to believe me or trust me; they can do the work themselves.
Thirdly, it's good for me. Knowledge aquisition is cumulative. Just because the conclusions were the same doesn't mean I didn't find some interesting, new threads. For example, I didn't realize how diverse the "laying hands" idiom was, esepcially across both Testiments. Today's project was in English, but I have questions about how the brothers' "lay hands" on Joseph and how it should be translated (since it seems like it could be "murder"?). I'm also intreagued by the poetical uses in Job and Psalms, particularly in Psalm 139, where "You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me." In light of the broder use, it might be a statement of judgment rather than the comfort and protection that I've always assumed.
Finally, it's good for community-building. My experience has been that when I write up something like this, people will find it helpful for their own research process, or they'll be doing some work and this was three hours of work that they can now put towards something else, or they were listening to a discussion that speaks into the question and they'll send a link to me, or they happaned to be reading some obscure Mishna that is exactly the thing I was looking for and they'll pass it along. It's what a vibrant academic culture looks like. And also what the internet was built for.
So was it worth it? Sure! Time spent learning is almost always worth it.
Still Not Enough
Having said that, I'd describe the above work "adaquate". This three hours of work really only demonstrates that there's a lot more work to be done. This was a warm-up, not a workout.
For example, the scope of the dataset isn't broad enough. I've already alluded to expanding the search parameters to the larger Christian canon (aka the "apocrapha" or "deuterocanon"). We also didn't look at any extra-biblical texts (like the books found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and both Talmuds). We also didn't push into early Christian writings (like the Apostolic Fathers). We'd want to repeat this process in those texts before getting too definitive. And going through dictionaries and the lexical entries to see if they have any obscure, relevant references would be a basic next step.
Again, we want as solid a dataset as possible.
I'd also want to return to my original intuition and ask whether this "hand laying' is unusual. Sure, no women appears to receive it, but few men did, either (Levites, Joshua, the seven, Paul and Barnabas, and maybe Timothy). And I'd like to know if the "hand laying" "instruction" mentioned in Hebrews is relevant to the question or if it's referring to the Holy Spirit "hand laying".
Of course, reading the discussion in the commentaries usually gives threads for questions like these.
I'd also be shocked if this kind of "hand laying" hasn't been taken up in some monograph or journal article. And if that work was done in the last thirty years, it'll probably have an entire section dedicated to how the topic intersects with women.
But even if that's not the case, the "women in ministry" debate devastates miles of forest every year, so there must be an article or chapter somewhere that takes up this question specifically--even if it's just in a subsection. Those are searchable in an academic database.
At this point, what makes next steps difficult is that we're still looking for the thread. We've demonstrated that something doesn't exists in whithin our parameter. That's a tough foundation to build on. The next steps, then, is just to keep expanding the parameter, otherwise we may find ourselves dogmatically claiming a thing just to have the entire position up-ended because we missed some scrap of something.
How the Sausage Gets Made
Research is different from search. We've gotten so used to having the exact answer one voice command away that actually taking the time to do "do the work" is only taken on by a select few. But it's also very basic. Everything I've done here is taught to first-year Bible students. It's not impressive; it's just the gig.
That said, the tools for doing this kind of work are easily available to anybody and have been for about 20 years or so. The scarcity of our age isn't information, it's time.