A recent question came in from Facebook about a passage in Leviticus that’s a little odd—ok, really odd!—to modern readers.
Then he presented the other ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. And he killed it, and Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. Then he presented Aaron’s sons, and Moses put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet… (Leviticus 8:22-24, ESV)
Question: WHY? What is the purpose, significance and symbolization?
In context, Moses is ordaining the priests and, using water (Lev. 8:6), oil (Lev. 8:10, 12) and blood (8:15), ceremonially cleanses all the parts of the sacrificial system—the altars, the implements, everything used in the sacrificial system was set aside from ordinary use with these special baptisms.
When Moses finishes with the inanimate parts of the Tabernacle, he moves to the human parts—the priests. They are also anointed/baptized with water, oil and blood.
This application of blood “consecrated” them, or set them aside for special religious functions. No longer could they live their lives anyway they might choose—priests lives were forever changed, see Leviticus 21 for details.
The location of the blood on the right ear, foot and thumb seems to symbolize that the whole being, the entire person, and all his strength (the right side was viewed as stronger) belonged to the Lord. It also would have been a way of checking off the requirements for office—no one with any deformities could serve as a priest. Ears were inspected, and marked as passed. Hands then feet checked for deformities then passed with a spot of blood applied.
For believers today, we are baptized and have Jesus’ blood applied to us, spiritually speaking, inside and out. We too are set aside for special use. And as Jesus showed in his ministry, rather than rejecting those with imperfections from his ministry, he drew them close to himself and healed them and made them a part of his family. This could only happen under the New Covenant that Jesus inaugurated.