The anointing of Aaron

  • Question 172, from Cheryl B

    I am reading through a bible in a year bible – at present it is Leviticus where you get little nuggets of detail that just intrigue me with which things are mentioned. “Moses slaughtered the ram and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.” WHY so precise and SO random?

    Blood is significant in the Old Testament because it was thought to contain the ‘life’ of the person or animal killed (see Leviticus chapter 17, verse 11). This is why there are taboos against eating animal blood Leviticus chapter 17, verses 12-14), or shedding human blood (see 1 Chronicles chapter 22, verse 8).

    When animals were sacrificed to make atonement for the sins of people, it was believed that “it is the blood that makes atonement” (again see Leviticus chapter 17, verse 11). The ‘sprinkling’ of the blood of sacrificed animals on those present at the sacrifice was thought to carry atoning power – a metaphor that was carried into Christianity (see 1 Peter chapter 1, verse 2 7 Hebrews chapter 10, verses 19-22), where the ‘Blood of Christ’ is regarded as having the same atoning effect.

    The specific details of Moses bloodying various parts of Aaron’s body in Leviticus chapter 8, verse 23, follow extensive, very precise instructions regarding sacrificial practices. The anointing is highly symbolic – the bodily extremities are anointed instead of the whole body, but cover Aaron from ‘tip to toe’, as it were. The same practice is then performed on his sons.

    Once anointed in this way, Aaron and his sons would be considered ‘clean’ as he would covered by the atoning power of the sacrificed animal’s blood, and could then present other sacrifices to God. The hands, represented by the thumb, are especially important as they would carry many of the offerings to the altar. The ear might also be symbolic as it represents hearing from God, or could represent devotion. A pierced ear rendered a slave in permanent service to his master (see Exodus chapter 21, verses 5-6).

    In conclusion, the main point of this whole sequence is to show the complete dedication of Aaron to serving as high priest of Israel.

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