What is the significance of the consecration ceremony of Aaron and his sons with particular emphasis on Leviticus 8:23?

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Reading through Leviticus was quite a daunting task for me. There was a lot of repetition and I found it difficult to be particularly struck by any one instance or passage until, however, I came upon Leviticus 8:23 which states,” 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.“(Biblehub). After reading that, I was wonder-struck.  What on Earth just happened? If you read this passage and were not confused you are crazy in my opinion! I was just completely caught off guard. I was following the idea of blood being put on Aaron, but the placement made no sense to me after merely reading it. I became absolutely DETERMINED to decipher the craziness found in this ceremony.

After a little bit of research, it became obvious that in order to understand this verse you have to look at the ceremony as a whole to some extent. So, for the sake of going in logical order, let’s look at the definition of consecration in order to determine the purpose for the ceremony to begin with. According to Dictionary.reference.com the word consecration means, “to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of adeity‘ (Dictionary.reference.com) This definition helps give purpose to the actions about to take place in the text. This ceremony was to set these men apart from other men. These men were to “sacred” or God focused rather than focused on the things of the world.

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This idea of being “set apart” is supported by Douglas Jacoby. Jacoby believes that this verse’s meaning is universal to modern Christians, but for the purpose of this blog let’s just concentrate on his theorized meaning and not who he meant it for. He believes there is a specific purpose for each extremity. First off he explains the ear lobe’s significance by saying that they were supposed to be, “holy in the things we listen to–what goes into our head”. He goes into specifics of that by including, “avoiding worldly thinking, gossip, etc“. Next he explains the purpose of the hand was to show the need to be, “holy in our actions, not using our hands to sin“. Lastly he theorizes that the foot intended to symbolize the need to be, “holy in the places we go, not walking into temptation or darkness” (DouglasJacoby.com) Similarly, David Guzik’s theory is about a differentiation in lifestyle. Guzik states, “They should hear differently because the blood was on their ear. They should work differently because the blood was on their thumb. They should walk differently because the blood was on their toe.” (enduringword.com) I believe both Jacoby and Guzik’s explanations go perfectly with idea of being set apart, because it emphasizes the importance of using these body parts for Yahweh. There is no mention of self, but instead a concentration on a life that is dedicated to the protagonist only. That was exactly the life these men would be expected to live and therefore did this ceremony as a physical sign of there commitment and sacredness.

Similarly, Aaron McCarter believes that, “The putting the blood of the sacrifice on the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot, was doubtless intended to signify that they should dedicate all their faculties and powers to the service of God; their ears to the hearing and study of his law, their hands to diligence in the sacred ministry and to all acts of obedience, and their feet to walking in the way of God’s precepts. And this sprinkling appears to have been used to teach them that they could neither hear, work, nor walk profitably, uprightly, and well-pleasing in the sight of God, without this application of the blood of the sacrifice.“(AaronMcCarter.com). McCarter goes a step beyond the theories above by showing the significance of the blood sacrifice. According to McCarter, these men cannot be the people they are to be before the protagonist without the sacrifice. For the Hebrew people, this idea would be a familiar one. They, too, cannot be the people God is calling them to be with the sacrifice and the cleansing it brings.

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Micheal Ballai has a view similar in nature to those previously stated. We see that he believes this was a physical symbol of commitment as well. Ballai states, “The blood being applied to the ear lobe provides a beautiful picture. The people of Israel were freed from their slavery, yet someone who wanted to be a willing slave would have his ear lobe pierced with an awl”.(theologica.ning.com) This theory paints to a different picture than the ideas of my other sources. The idea here is that the blood on the ear lobe represents both the willingness of Aaron and his sons as well as the extent of their commitment. As a slave you are subject to the every command of your master and lose all selfish desires. You would show your willingness for this relationship by piercing your ear as stated by Ballai. Though these men did not pierce their ear with an awl, the blood on the lobe can be seen as a symbol of the same kind of commitment to their heavenly master.

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  I found a completely different interpretation that totally fascinated me. This theory focuses on the thumb and toe. According to Melissa of torahsparks.wordpress.com, “the Israelite people bring their animals to the altar in front of the sanctuary, and there the priests officiate over the slaughter and over the burning of certain parts to create a fragrance pleasing to God.  Thus both the priests and the altar are intermediaries between the people and God.” This idea of priests and the alter as intermediaries between the Hebrew people and God is bridged together with Leviticus 8:23. According to Melissa, “Moses also poured the blood of purification on the ground at the foundation, or footing, of the altar.  Both the priests and the altar must be pure where they reach toward heaven, and also where they have their feet on the ground.” (torahsparks.wordpress.com)  This idea was very different from anything else I came across during my research. As a “bridge” to God for the people, they needed to be sacred on both “ends”. The hands lifted up to God and the feet connected to secular things or Earth being touched with blood can be seen as symbols of the priest’s holy connection to Yahweh.

In conclusion, I think it’s safe to say that this ceremony represented the physical and emotional commitment of the role they are being called to fill by the protagonist. There are several theories on the exact symbolism behind these particular body parts. The correct interpretation is not quite clear. I believe it was a combination of all of them. It showed the commitment to the master to use all their faculties to be the intermediary that Yahweh was calling them to be.

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