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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
Leviticus 8




Leviticus 24:10-23.

Verse 2

A bullock … two rams … a basket - compare Exodus 29:1-3. This shows the coherence of this part of Leviticus with the latter part of Exodus. The basket of unleavened bread used on this occasion appears to have contained:

(1) cakes or loaves of the ordinary unleavened bread;

(2) cakes of oiled bread, rather, oil bread (see Leviticus 2:1, Leviticus 2:4); and

(3) oiled wafers (see Leviticus 2:4, Leviticus 2:6).

Rabbinical tradition says that there were six cakes of each sort.

Verse 3

Gather … - Rather, gather all the assembly together toward the entrance of the tent of meeting. See Leviticus 4:13. The whole body of the people were summoned on this occasion, and the elders probably occupied the first places. The elders are especially called together in an unequivocal manner to receive directions to provide the first sacrifices for the nation to be offered by the newly consecrated priests Leviticus 9:1, and the body of the people afterward assemble as they do here Leviticus 9:5. The spot designated was the portion of the court in front of the tabernacle (see Leviticus 1:3 note). Toward this space the people were commanded to assemble to witness the great national ceremony of the consecration of the priesthood, the solemn setting apart of one of their families, the members of which were henceforth to stand as mediators between them and Yahweh in carrying out the precepts of the ceremonial law. Those who could do so, may have come into the court, and a great number of others may have occupied the heights which overlooked the enclosure of the court. As the series of ceremonies was repeated every day during a week Leviticus 8:33, it is natural to suppose that some of the people attended on one day and some on another.

Verse 6

Washed them with water - Moses caused them to bathe entirely (compare Leviticus 16:4), not merely to wash their hands and feet, as they were to do in their daily ministrations. See the marginal reference. This bathing, which the high priest had also to go through on the day of atonement, was symbolic of the spiritual cleansing required of all 2 Corinthians 7:1, but especially of those who had to draw near to God to make reconciliation for the sins of the people Hebrews 7:26; Matthew 3:15.

Verses 7-9

See the notes at Leviticus 8:9

The holy crown - The golden plate of the mitre was so called as the distinctive badge of the high priest‘s consecration. See Leviticus 21:12.

Verse 10

Moses first anointed with the holy oil Exodus 30:25 the tabernacle and all therein, that is, the ark of the covenant, the table of showbread, the candlestick and the golden altar, with all the articles that belonged to them.

Verse 11

Sprinkled … the altar seven times - The altar of burnt-offering was distinguished by this sevenfold sprinkling with the holy oil. The number of the covenant was thus brought into connection with those acts of sacrifice by which the covenant between Yahweh and the worshipper was formally renewed and confirmed.

Verse 12

As investing the priest with official garments was a recognition before men of the official position of the person (see Exodus 28:3 note), so the anointing him with oil was an acknowledgment that all fitness for his office, all the powers with which he would rightly fulfill its duties, must come from the Lord.

So, again, with the sanctification of the holy things. Each of them was intended by divine wisdom to convey a spiritual meaning to the mind of man. They were means of grace to the devout worshipper. The oil poured upon them was a recognition of this fact, and at the same time it made them holy and set them apart from all profane and ordinary uses. On kindred grounds, though to express another idea, the altar was to be sanctified also by blood. See Leviticus 8:15 note.

Verse 13

Aaron‘s sons - The common priests. Nothing is said here, or in Exodus 29:7-9, of the anointing of the common priests, though it is expressly commanded in Exodus 28:41; Exodus 40:15, and is evidently implied as a fact in Leviticus 7:36; Leviticus 10:7; Numbers 3:3. It would seem that the anointing of the common priests consisted in some rite common to them and the high priest Exodus 40:15, and this was the sprinkling mentioned in Leviticus 8:30. Compare further Leviticus 10:7 with Leviticus 21:12.

Verses 14-36

Moses as the mediator of the covenant of the Law Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 8:6 was called to perform the priestly functions, in consecrating those on whom henceforth those functions were to devolve, and in inaugurating the legal order of sacrifices. See Exodus 40:23 note. The sin-offering was now offered for the first time. The succession in which the sacrifices followed each other on this occasion, first the sin-offering, then the burnt-offering, and lastly the peace-offering, has its ground in the meaning of each sacrifice, and became the established custom in later ages. The worshipper passed through a spiritual process. He had transgressed the Law, and he needed the atonement signified by the sin-offering: if his offering had been made in truth and sincerity, he could then offer himself as an accepted person, as a sweet savour, in the burnt-offering; and in consequence, he could enjoy communion with the Lord and with his brethren in the peace-offering.

Leviticus 8:14-17

See the marginal references. The flesh of the sin-offering could not be eaten by any but a legally consecrated priest (Leviticus 6:25 note). Moses therefore could not eat of it himself, though he was, for the occasion, performing the duties of a priest. Those whom he was consecrating could not eat it, not only because they were not yet duly installed, but because the sacrifice was offered on their behalf, and the body of the victim stood to them in the same relation as that of the regular sin-offering afterward stood to the high priest.

Leviticus 8:15

Purified the altar … sanctified it, to make reconciliation upon it - The altar had been sanctified by the anointing oil Leviticus 8:11 like the priests who were to officiate at it; it was now, like them, sanctified by blood, in acknowledgment of the alienation of all nature, in itself, from God, and the need of a reconciliation to Him of all things by blood. Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:21-22. See Leviticus 17:11; Exodus 28:38.

Leviticus 8:18-21

Atonement having been made, Aaron and his sons were now permitted, by the laying on of their hands, to make themselves one with the victim, which was to be sent up to Yahweh as “a burnt sacrifice for a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” All was done strictly according to the ritual Leviticus 1:3-9, except that Moses performed the duties of the priest.

Leviticus 8:22

The ram of consecration - The sacrifice of this ram was by far the most unique part of the whole ceremony. The words may be literally rendered “the ram of the fillings”, and the name has been supposed to have reference to the ceremony in which Moses filled the hands of the priests; see Leviticus 8:27. The offering was in the highest sense “the sacrifice of completion or fulfilling”, as being the central point of the consecrating rite. The final perfection of the creature is consecration to the Lord.

Leviticus 8:23, Leviticus 8:24

Before casting forth the blood round the altar in the usual manner, Moses took a portion of the blood and put some of it on the right extremities of each of the priests. This, being performed with the blood of the peace-offering, has been supposed to figure the readiness of the priest who is at peace with Yahweh to hear with the ear and obey the divine word, to perform with the hand the sacred duties of his office, and to walk with the feet in the way of holiness.

Leviticus 8:25-28

In the rite of filling the hands of the priests, Moses took the portions of the victim which usually belonged to the altar, with the right shoulder (or leg); he placed upon them one cake of each of the three kinds of unleavened bread contained in the basket (see Leviticus 8:2 note), and then put the whole first upon the hands of Aaron and in succession upon the hands of his sons: in each case, according to Jewish tradition, he put his own hands under the hands of the priest, moving them backwards and forwards, so as to wave the mass to and fro.

In this remarkable ceremony the gifts of the people appear to have been made over to the priests, as if in trust, for the service of the altar. The articles were presented to Yahweh and solemnly waved in the hands of the priests, but not by their own act and deed. The mediator of the Law, who was expressly commissioned on this occasion, was the agent in the process.

Leviticus 8:25

The rump - See Leviticus 3:9 note.

Leviticus 8:29

The heave-shoulder was the ordinary perquisite of the officiating priest, but the wave-breast appears to have been awarded to Moses as the servant of Yahweh now especially appointed for the priestly service.

Leviticus 8:30

The sprinkling was on their garments as well as their persons, because it belonged to them in reference to the office with which they had been formally invested by putting on the garments. (See Exodus 28:3 note). The union of the two symbols of the atoning blood and the inspiring unction appears to be a fit conclusion of the entire rite.

Leviticus 8:33-36

The rites of consecration were to last a whole week, and thus, like the longer of the annual festivals, were connected in an emphatic manner with the sabbatical number of the covenant. During this period the priests were not to leave the holy precinct for the sake of any worldly business; and the whole series of ceremonies, including the sacrifice of the Ram of consecration, was to be gone through on each day. Compare the marginal references.

Leviticus 8:33

Rather, ye shall not go away from the entrance of the tent. With this agree Cranmer, the Geneva Bible, etc. The meaning is evidently that they were not to go out of the court, as is more clearly expressed in Leviticus 8:35.

Leviticus 8:35

That ye die not - See Exodus 28:35 note.


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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Leviticus 8:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

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