Right Side - Strong Side

Why was the right side emphasized in the Bible?

By Rabbi Robert

The right side of a person is considered their strong side. From the earliest days, left handed people were not thought of very highly and were even believed to be witches during the Medieval times. In the early Jewish and ANE (Ancient Near East) culture, as well as today in most Arab countries, the left hand is used for all dirty things, like wiping after visiting the bathroom, and the right hand is used for eating and greeting people. The left side of the street was considered dirty, as that was the sewer side. Jewish and Christian people living in dhimmitude were forced to cross on the left side of the street when passing Muslims.

According to Jewish tradition, the Jewish priests were consecrated by placing blood of the sacrifice on their right ear, right thumb and right toe (Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8). The right side was considered the strong and clean side in ANE (Ancient Near-East) culture. The thought process for the ear, thumb and toe in Judaism is taught as follows:

The right ear is because the ANE culture is a culture of hearers, not readers. It was required for the priests to hear the word of God and obey. The priests were to live differently because they were the hearers of the oracles of God. Therefore the blood of the sacrifice was placed on their right ear so that they would correctly hear God and obey, hear the people and help them as their office required (confessions, prayers and to rule correctly in disputes).

Next the blood was applied to their thumbs because the priests should work righteously and thumbs are needed to handle the things of God in the Temple. The priests needed their thumbs to cut and burn the sacrifice offerings of which there were many. Without the thumb it would be difficult to properly serve in the Temple.

The big toe was touched with the blood so that the priests would remember to walk righteously before the Lord. It is difficult to walk without the big toe, as balance can become an issue. So where the big toe of the priests were touched with the blood the priests would remember what was expected by them in their faith walk as they modeled walking humbly and circumspectly before the Lord.

Notice the three things that were consecrated to God. Always, the right side was the spiritual blessing. The right ear being consecrated to the LORD would mean that the priest being consecrated would listen to clean things. His hearing would be cleansed by the blood of the sacrifice. The thumb of his right hand being anointed with the blood would indicate that everything he put his hand to do for the Lord would be clean through the blood. The priests needed their thumbs for the Aaronic benediction to make the letter shin a symbol for Shaddai, Almighty God. This priest should not do anything except God's work. With the anointing of the great toe of the right, the walk of the priest would be holy. This should be a good example for all those who are called to minister for God.

This concept of toes and thumbs is not unknown in the Scriptures. Read the story of Adoni-Bezek in Judges 1:6ff:
But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adoni-bezek said, seventy kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, have picked up scraps under my table: as I have done, so God paid me back. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.
Adoni-Bezek was a king of Canaan who was defeated by the Israelites. After they caught him, they cut off his great toe and thumbs as a means of humiliating him, crippling him as a king. Without toes one cannot run into battle or flee and without thumbs one cannot wield a weapon. This was common treatment of prisoners among the nations in that day, and Adoni-Bezek accepted his punishment acknowledging that he had done the same to those he had conquered.

So like most behaviors, there is a good and bad application. These symbolic locations of the body were good in the consecration of the priests and bad in the humiliation of one's defeated enemies.

The rabbis also teach that Aaron was consecrated in this manner because of his participation in the golden calf incident. This is an ordination ceremony, with the blood sprinkled on these particular parts of Aaron's body, in a way becomes an atonement for Aaron's involvement with the golden calf.

This is how the midrash teaches: Aaron's ear heard the words of the 10 commandments — lo yhiyeh lcha elohim acheirim al panai — you shall have no other gods besides me. But then that same ear listened to the people when they demanded an idol to worship. Aaron's hands had been dedicated to God's service, but then those very hands took gold from the people and made a golden calf — the Hebrew there is U+05E8U+05E6U+05F1 — Aaron formed it, shaped it. And then finally Aaron's feet, which had walked part of the way up Mt. Sinai with his brother Moses, taking him close to God's presence, those same feet ran to do something terrible, to lead the people in worshipping an idol. So when you put the blood on the ear, the thumb, and the foot, you are in a sense rededicating those parts of Aaron, and his sons, to proper service of God and God's word and godly behavior.

BeShem Yeshua (In the name of Jesus), Rabbi Robert

Image Credit: Illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible; "Moses consecrates Aaron and his sons and offers their sin offering"; 1728; Public Domain


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Published 4-6-15