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Leviticus describes an elaborate process for the purification of a leprous person. In one step the priest is to pour oil into the palm of "their own" left hand and dip their right finger in the oil:

Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. (14:15-16) [ESV]

"His own" in verse 15 is הַכֹּהֵ֖ן, "the priest." A literal translation would be, "the priest shall pour some of the oil into the palm of the priest's left hand"

וְלָקַח הַכֹּהֵן מִלֹּג הַשָּׁמֶן וְיָצַק עַל־כַּף הַכֹּהֵן הַשְּׂמָאלִֽית

This sounds like two priests are needed because the addition of "the priest" does not appear to be necessary to instruct a single priest to pour oil into his (own) left hand in order to use his right finger for the next step. Given the elaborate process, it seems unlikely something which is unnecessary to give clear instructions would be added such that it actually appears to "muddy the waters."

The addition is intentional as it is repeated in the secondary instructions for a person who is poor and cannot afford so much:

And the priest shall pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand (Leviticus 14:26)

וּמִן־הַשֶּׁמֶן יִצֹק הַכֹּהֵן עַל־כַּף הַכֹּהֵן הַשְּׂמָאלִֽית

More than one priest would follow the "let everything be established by two or more witnesses" requirement, so is that is what is going on here or is there something about pouring the oil into the left hand that requires הַכֹּהֵ֖ן to make the instruction clear?

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  • It’s regarding leprosy, I don’t see how the ancient Hebrew would have been convinced that two people would be needed if one priest can pour oil into his own left hand. The mere fact that it was a contiguous disease would have cautioned them to how much contact is made and how much is to be avoided. Also you can have a witness without touching oil. Witnesses are usually ocular not tactile. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 16 '19 at 21:30
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On the one hand (pun intended), you make an excellent point based on the literal meaning of the Hebrew words. On the other hand, you omit to highlight the evidence that it may refer to the priest himself, namely:

...and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. (14:16 ESV)

The Hebrew here reads כפו, his hand, referring to the same priest, making it clear that this is not taking place with a second priest.

The reason for the repetition of "the priest" is because if the verse were to use "his" again, we might assume that it refers to the person being purified. After all, we just finished hearing (in verse 14) that the priest took the blood and placed it on the ear, thumb and big toe of the person being purified. If so, we are likely to assume that "his" hand is the hand of the non-priest. To show this in the text to emphasize:

The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand. (14:14-15 ESV)

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  • Doesn't verse 18 make clear the oil is in the priest's hand? – Revelation Lad Jan 18 '19 at 17:30
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Are we to assume that all priest were right handed?? I am wondering if this could be why some children were forced to write with their right hand. Any thoughts??

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  • Hello D Tucker, glad to have you with us, welcome to BHSE. This site works a little differently than other sites you are perhaps familiar with. Make sure to take the tour to get yourself familiar. Thanks! (hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour) – sara Aug 20 '19 at 6:34

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