The song Exit (from The Joshua Tree by U2) repeatedly refers to "the hands of love." The full lyrics are below:

You know he got the cure
But then he went astray
He used to stay awake
To drive the dreams he had away.
He wanted to believe
In the hands of love.

His head it felt heavy
As he came across the land
A dog started cryin'
Like a broken-hearted man
At the howling wind
At the howling wind.

He went deeper into black
Deeper into white.
He could see the stars shine
Like nails in the night.

He felt the healing
Healing, healing, healing hands of love
Like the stars shiny, shiny from above.

A hand in the pocket
Fingering the steel
The pistol weighed heavy
And his heart he could feel was beating
Beating, beating, beating,
Oh my love, oh my love
Oh my love, oh my love.

So hands that build
Can also pull down
The hands of love.

What are the "hands of love" and why does the character in the song want to believe in them?

  • @Mithrandir Out of curiosity, are we no longer tagging specific albums? Is there a Meta post on how to tag song lyric questions? Aug 24, 2017 at 21:33
  • I don't think we've ever tagged with albums, have we? I don't remember ever seeing an album tag before, aside from this one.
    – Mithical
    Aug 24, 2017 at 21:46
  • @Mithrandir That could actually be an interesting question for Meta, come to think of it - how we want to tag song lyrics questions. Aug 24, 2017 at 21:52

3 Answers 3


Hands of Love are often referred to God's care, blessing and love directed towards humanity (e.g. here or here). So Love is used as a synonym of God.

The lines can be interpreted as the protagonist, who is on the verge or already in the state of deep religious \ ideological psychosis, fanatic fervour. He is motivated and driven by better ideals, however his actions are going to be destructive.

  • Interesting... so his killing is motivated by fanaticism of some kind? Now that makes me wonder if there's any relation to The Troubles. Sep 1, 2018 at 15:00
  • I think they are somehow connected on the deep existential level, in Troubles the protagonist addresses with dignity to his offender about responsibility for a judgement & moral choice, which the latter, being just a conductor of superiors will, gave up to the higher authority.
    – Artem
    Sep 1, 2018 at 15:16

Due to the context of "cure" and "healing", "hands of love" appears to be an allusion to Jesus touching people to heal them. The BibleQ article How many times did Jesus touch to heal? (February 2011) lists a dozen examples. Below are a few examples from the King James Version:

  • “And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.” (Mark 6:5),
  • “Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.” (Luke 4:40)

The apostles also heal by touching:

  • “Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:6)
  • “Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 8:17)

The healing can be physical or spiritual.

The last two stanzas, however, seem to be intended to subvert the listener's expectations: from healing we move to "steel" and a "pistol", which are presumably there to do quite the opposite of healing. The words "my love" suggest that there has been a conflict or a break-up with a loved one; probably this loved one provided the healing influence that seemed connected with Jesus or faith in the preceding stanzas. The inner conflict between wanting to believe in the hands of love (and presumably trying to mend the broken relationship) seems to be giving way to a will to destroy the loved on.


I would agree that "Love" is used as a synonym of God. The "Hands of Love" are the people of God. You could say the "Hands of Love" are Christians, but that limits us to a Judeo-Christian beliefs only. I would say all who believe in God (regardless of the religion) are the "Hands of Love". And those that believe in God can do some amazing and wonderful things. But, they can also "tear down".

  • This adds nothing to the accepted answer.
    – Chenmunka
    Jan 13, 2023 at 18:26

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