Blood on the Thumb of the Right Hand
“The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.” – Leviticus 14:25
Oftentimes when we read passages in the Old Testament like the one above, we can get bogged down just a little bit. Many people I know have attempted to read through the Bible, only to become discouraged somewhere around Leviticus because of the bulky wording used in what is referred to as Old Testament law. When this happens, one of two actions usually follow; either they will take a literary detour and skip Leviticus, or they get so discouraged that they quit their daily bible reading altogether. I will be the first to admit that reading the intricate details and instructions of Old Testament law can be very tedious and at times quite cumbersome. When you stumble across bizarre instructions involving Old Testament worship, it feels as if you are staring at some lone jigsaw puzzle piece that has been hidden from your sight, pressed under the baseboard of God’s Law and buried in the shag carpet of Biblical theology. You pick it up and walk away even more confused, not really knowing how it fits into the bigger picture of the Bible. But this doesn’t mean that such passages should not be read and studied. We must remember that God has a purpose for every single word recorded within the pages of Scripture. The Bible is the story of Jesus. It is the story of God redeeming sinful man and saving a people for Himself through the death of His Son. And even bulky verses in Leviticus about the thumb on the right hand must be seen in light of this over-arching theme within God’s Word.
Allow me to illustrate. This particular passage pertains to the process of cleansing a leper. Leprosy was a flesh eating disease. It started with a white patch of skin that became numb. The infected section of skin would spread all over the body. It eventually led to spongy tumors on the face. The nerve endings become so numb that the victim can’t even tell when something is hurting him, like burning fire. Some lepers were missing fingers and toes because of this flesh eating disease. Throughout scripture, this flesh-eating disease of leprosy served as a picture of sin. It depicted how sin eats away at the soul of man. In this text, the blood of a lamb would be applied to the one who had been infected with leprosy, but only done so after their recovery. They would not be considered clean until this ritual was complete. And so it is with us spiritually. The only way to be cleansed from the soul-eating disease of sin is to be covered by the blood of Jesus. This Old Testament ritual set the leper free, and we as sinners are set free from the shackles of sin and pronounced clean only after the blood of Jesus has been applied to our lives. The blood was applied to the particular body parts for specific reasons; the ear symbolized a willingness to hear from God; the hands and feet symbolized consecrated service to God. The right side carried great significance in scripture as well. For instance, the right hand symbolized distinction and favor (Genesis 48:13-19) wisdom (Ecclesiastes 10:2), honor (1 Kings 2:19), along with power and strength (Psalm 60:5). It was applied to the thumb because it is the thumb that offers strength to the other four fingers.
So the next time you want to just simply breeze over some seemingly cumbersome passage of scripture, remember every word in the Bible points to our Lord Jesus Christ, even awkward passages about placing blood on body parts.
– Pastor Eric