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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 29

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries


There are seven paragraphs in this chapter, three short ones, one long one, and three more short ones. It reminds us of the signals on party lines at the beginning of the telephone era - three shorts, a long, and three shorts! The chapter might be titled The Consecration of the Priests. It should be noted that what we have here is God’s instructions for their consecration, a commission to be discharged by Moses, and not the actual consecration, which is recorded in Leviticus 1-7. At this point of time in Exodus, the tabernacle had not yet been completed. There has been no mention, as yet, of a laver, and, for that matter, not all of the instructions given by God to Moses have been enumerated, some of which will not appear until the more thorough account in Leviticus. This is in full harmony with the manner of Moses’ writings. In the account of Noah, it will be remembered, there occurred the expansion and elaboration of God’s instructions as the narrative developed, and the same is true in the records of the Consecration.

Liberal critics opposing the divine origin and Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch appear to be totally ignorant of this salient feature of the Word of God, consequently denominating the Leviticus elaboration of these instructions as “an older stratum.”(F1) Napier even went so far as to say that the account here is dependent upon the Leviticus account and that, “It must therefore be later than the Leviticus material”(F2) Such a cavalier treatment of the Word of God is an excellent example of how critics interpret their own rules. In the N.T., we noted many “examples” of the “shorter is older” theory, an imaginary rule appealed to repeatedly in making Mark the shortest Gospel, the oldest. Here in the O.T., that “invariable rule” gets turned completely around and becomes “longest is older.” Only the thoughtless can be thus deceived!

What then is the purpose of this chapter’s occurrence exactly here and in somewhat of an abbreviated and incomplete form? As Fields expressed it, the answer is that, “The insertion of this chapter gives purpose to the instructions about material things in the adjoining chapters.”(F3) This chapter illuminates this whole section of Exodus, demonstrating that an entire religious system is being provided for Israel, and also stressing the paramount concern of the true God for the righteousness and ultimate salvation of his people. The holy things that have been stressed in previous chapters are subordinate and must subserve the purpose of developing holy people.

(Exodus 29:1-4) This concerns the “washing” of the candidate for priesthood. Standing, as it does, at the head of the list on the agenda of the consecration ceremonies, it is typical of Christian baptism, the initiatory rite into the Christian religion. Esses, a former Rabbi now a believer in Christ went so far as to call the ablution here “their baptism.”(F4) We agree with this, and shall entitle this first paragraph:

Verses 1-4


“And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them, to minister unto me in the priest’s office: take one bullock and two rams without blemish, and unleavened bread, and cakes unleavened mingled with oil.’ of fine wheaten flour shalt thou make them. And thou shalt put them into one basket, and bring them in the basket, with the bullock and the two rams And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tent of meeting, and shalt wash them with water.”

“And this is the thing that thou shalt do” God is addressing Moses in this command, for Moses himself will act as High Priest in the consecration of the Jewish priesthood, despite the fact that Moses was never to hold that office. Moses was indeed a priest after the manner of all priests during the Patriarchal Dispensation of God’s grace. Significantly, on the mountain of transfiguration, it was not Aaron who appeared with Elijah and Christ, but Moses.

“That they may minister to me in the priest’s office” The priority of service to God appears in this. We remember that the first commandment is toward God, and not toward men. The manward commandment is secondary. Again from Esses: “The people are always out there to be ministered unto, but unless we minister unto God first, we are powerless to do anything for the people.”(F5)

The candidate was not to appear before God for the purpose of being consecrated without appropriate offerings. These were one bullock, two rams, and three kinds of unleavened bread: bread, cakes, and wafers, all unleavened and all made with the finest wheat flour.

The first step in the consecration was the baptism of the priest.

Now they are to be baptized. The baptisms were performed in the court of the tabernacle, and the priest’s entire body had to be immersed in water. As Christians we will not have the power to overcome unless we have gone to death with Christ in the waters of baptism.(F6)

One should consult the first seven chapters of Leviticus for a description of exactly how all of these heavenly instructions were carried out. The great lesson that stands out here is that before any man could be a priest unto God, he had to be immersed (baptized) in water. Is it any less true today? And the answer is NO! No one is a Christian until he is baptized.

After the baptismal service, came the investiture.

Verses 5-6


“And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron, the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod; and thou shalt set the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre.”

As Rawlinson noted, there are actually nine steps in the investiture of Aaron:

(1) Putting on the linen tunic.

(2) The girding with the under-girdle.

(3) Putting on the robe of the ephod.

(4) Putting on the ephod.

(5) Girding with the curious girdle of the ephod.

(6) Putting on the breastplate.

(7) Putting the Urim and Thummin into the breastplate.

(8) Putting on the mitre.

(9) Putting the gold plate “Holy to Jehovah” on the mitre.(F7)

Numbers (2) and (7) are here omitted, due to the abbreviated nature of these initial instructions. Fields pointed out that the omission of (2), the breeches, was due to the fact that the priests put on the breeches themselves, whereas God mentioned here only those things that “Moses was to put upon them.”(F8)

There is a remarkable description of the Christ arrayed in the regal splendor of his heavenly garments in Revelation 1, resembling in a superficial way the splendid attire of Aaron; and due to this, some have mistakenly assumed that our Lord is there depicted as our great High Priest. However, it is not as High Priest, but as Judge of all the earth, that Jesus appears there. The dominant feature that proves this is the sharp, two-edged sword that went out of the mouth of Jesus.

Verse 7


“Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him.”

The very word “Messiah” means anointed one, and thus Aaron as Israel’s High Priest would serve in some particulars as a type of Christ, despite the fact of Jesus’ being a “priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,” and not “after the order of Aaron.” Note that this anointing followed very shortly after the baptismal ceremony, and so it was with Christ. When he came up straightway out of the water, the heavens were opened unto him, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended and alighted upon him and remained upon him. Thus, the anointing was a type of the reception of the Spirit of God, an event that followed at once upon the baptism of Christ. Likewise, Christians today receive the Holy Spirit, not before they are baptized, but AFTERWARD. Furthermore, the extraordinary exception to this seen in the case of the Gentile Cornelius does no violence whatever to the general rule, for the purpose of the Spirit’s falling upon Cornelius was for a drastically different reason. It was visible, serving as a command to Peter that Cornelius should be allowed baptism, and it is evident that even Cornelius received the “earnest of the Holy Spirit” after his baptism, just like all other Christians; and that reception of the Holy Spirit is invisible. As even the great Baptist scholar Beasley-Murray stated it, “The gift of the Holy Spirit without baptism must be viewed as exceptional, due to a divine intervention in a highly significant situation.”(F9)

Verses 8-9


“And thou shalt bring his sons, and put coats upon them. And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and bind head-tires on there’ and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons.”

The investiture of the sons of Aaron to be priests unto God consisted of only three things, contrasting with the nine steps pertaining to that of the High Priest. These were: (1) putting on the coats; (2) girding with the girdles; and (3) adorning with the head-tires. “They do not seem to have been anointed, as Aaron was, by having oil poured upon their heads, but only by having some of it sprinkled upon their garments (Exodus 29:21; Leviticus 8:30).”(F10)

Verses 10-14


Concerning the Sin-offering (Exodus 29:10-14):

“And thou shalt bring the bullock before the tent of meeting: and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock. And thou shalt kill the bullock before Jehovah, at the door of the tent of meeting And thou shalt take the blood of the bullock, and put it upon the horns of the altar with thy finger; and thou shalt pour out all the blood at the base of the altar. And thou shalt take all the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul upon the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and burn them upon the altar. But the flesh of the bullock, and its skin, and its dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it is a sin-offering.”

“Lay their hands upon the head of the bullock” There was nothing casual or perfunctory about this action. By so doing, Aaron and his sons identified themselves with the animal about to be slain. It was a symbolical acknowledgement upon their part of their sinfulness and their confession before God that they deserved death because of sin. “Killing the bull was an admission that `We deserve to die, but God in His grace accepts the death of this creature instead of my death.’“(F11)

Significantly, the sin-offering had to be carried “without the camp” to be disposed of finally in fire. Christ is our sin-offering, indeed the sin-offering for all mankind, and true to the type, our Saviour also suffered “without (outside) the camp.”

Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us therefore go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing his reproach (Hebrews 13:12-13).

“Caul of the liver” refers to the appendages of the liver. The burning of this upon the altar symbolized the consumption of the whole animal in the fire symbolizing the wrath of God. The difficulty of burning an entire bull in such a manner probably resulted in the directions to dispose of the greater part of it “without the camp.” Also, there was the God-given design of prophesying the crucifixion of Jesus Christ outside the walls of Jerusalem. It is such facts as this that devastate the foolish notion of critics that a self-seeking priesthood in the 6th century B.C. invented these instructions and imposed them upon the writings of Moses half a millennium afterward! There has never been anything any more ridiculous than such “alleged explanations” of the Pentateuch. Fields outlined a hundred specific prophecies of Jesus Christ in Exodus,(F12) but, actually, there are many more than that. These, in the aggregate, constitute the imprimature of the Holy Spirit upon these sacred pages, and all the infidels on earth shall never be able to erase half a line of it!

Note that it is the sin-offering which is first offered. “Until guilt is removed, no acceptable service can be rendered.”(F13)

Verses 15-18

THE BURNT-OFFERING (Exodus 29:15-18):

“Thou shalt also take the one ram; and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands upon the head of the ram. And thou shalt slay the ram, and thou shalt take its blood, and sprinkle it round about upon the altar. And thou shalt cut the ram into its pieces, and with its head. And thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar: it is a burnt-offering unto Jehovah; it is a sweet savor, an offering made by fire unto Jehovah.”

Despite the fact of the bullock’s having been called a sin-offering, and this a burnt-offering, there are elements of the same figure in both. “The various types of sacrifices are not wholly distinct from each other in purpose.”(F14) One animal alone could not suffice to typify the Christ, because the type required that the animal be consumed wholly upon the altar, and at the same time, be burned without the camp. Therefore, two beasts were required. Also, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world could not be adequately represented by a “bull.” Yet, the enormity of humanity’s load of guilt could hardly be represented by anything else!

“It is a sweet savor” “A pleasing smell” is the meaning of these words, but they are an ancient idiom meaning, actually, “an action God approves.” This should be understood, “Not after the carnal fashion in which skeptics have interpreted the words, but in the same sense in which the wicked are a smoke in His nostrils from a continually burning fire.”(F15) As Clements observed: “It is evident that the author has thought of God in spiritual terms, and not as though He needed a meal.”(F16)

Verses 19-25

THE PEACE OFFERING (Exodus 29:19-25):

“And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands upon the head of the ram. Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of its blood, and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about. And thou shalt take the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him.’ and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments Also thou shalt take of the ram the fat, and the fat tail, and the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul of the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and the right thigh (for it is a ram of consecration), and one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer, out of the basket of unleavened bread that is before Jehovah; and thou shalt put the whole upon the hands of Aaron, and upon the hands of his sons, and shall wave them for a wave-offering before Jehovah. And thou shalt take them from their hands, and burn them on the altar upon the burnt-offering, for a sweet savor before Jehovah: it is an offering made by fire unto Jehovah.”

“The other ram” This ram is called the “ram of consecration” in Exodus 29:22. This is, by far, the most peculiar part of the entire ceremony.

“It must be viewed as a peace-offering (Leviticus 3:1-17), but one of a peculiar character. The application of the blood to the persons of the priests was altogether unique, and most significant. It was the crowning act of consecration and implied the complete dedication of their lives and of all their powers to the service of the Almighty.(F17)

“Blood on… ear… thumb… toe” The symbolism here is not hard to see. The blood sprinkled ear must be always willing to hear God’s Word; the blood sprinkled thumb on the right hand symbolizes hands that are ever ready to do God’s will; and the blood-sprinkled toe is a symbol of feet ever committed to walk in the Way of righteousness and truth.

“And shall wave them” Actually, there are three names applied to this sacrifice of the second ram: (1) burnt-offering (Exodus 29:25); (2) peace-offering (Leviticus 3:1-17); and (3) wave-offering (Exodus 29:24). Furthermore, there is a variation in the kind of wave-offering, which was usually retained and eaten by the priests, but here portions of that which was “waved” were consumed in fire upon the altar.

What is meant by waving?. Two ideas have been advocated:

“The priests waved the offering before the Lord from the North to the South, and then from the East to the West. It is called a wave-offering because the priests thus turned the offering to all parts of heaven and earth, which was a symbol that it was offered to the God who is Lord of heaven and earth.”(F18)

Esses also supposed that the so-called “sign of the cross” had its origin here. Other commentators are sure that something else was meant. For example, “The officiating priest moved the sacrifice toward the altar and back again, as opposed to a right and left motion.”(F19)

In this passage (Exodus 29:21 ff), Aaron and his sons were sprinkled with blood before the wave-offering; whereas in Leviticus 8:30, they were sprinkled with blood and oil after the wave offering. Of course, this variation is a critic’s paradise leading to shrieks about “contradictions.” Well, where is the contradiction? They were sprinkled twice, both before and after! We have already noted that our account here is a summary. It is upon a pretext like this that scholars like Noth find evidence of “secondary additions”(F20) and presumptuously arrogate to themselves the right to tell all men exactly how it was; but neither they nor we can do such a thing. As Fields observed, this chapter is not a procedure manual “for repeating the ceremony.”(F21)

Verses 26-28

THE HEAVE-OFFERING (Exodus 29:26-28):

“And thou shalt take the breast of Aaron’s ram of consecration, and wave it for a wave-offering before Jehovah: and it shall be thy portion. And thou shalt sanctify the breast of the wave-offering, and the thigh of the heave-offering, which is waved, and which is heaved up, of the ram of consecration, even of that which is for Aaron, and of that which is for his sons: and it shall be for Aaron and his sons as their portion forever from the children of Israel: and it shall be a heave-offering from the children of Israel of the sacrifices of their peace-offerings, even their heave-offering unto Jehovah.”

In most cases, the wave-offerings, having been moved first toward the altar, symbolizing their having been given to God, and then moved toward the worshipper, showing that God was giving it back to him for food, constituted the food of the priests “forever.” This word has come up frequently regarding the Aaronic priests, but it does not mean “eternity.” The Hebrew word from which “forever” comes can mean “eternity, distant future, or everlasting”,(F22) however, it is also used in Deuteronomy 15:17 to mean “for life.” The term therefore cannot be used to deny the annulment that fell upon the whole Mosaic system in the coming of Jesus Christ.

The difference in wave-offerings and heave-offerings was merely a matter of their handling by the priests. The wave-offering was distinguished by a maneuver that was repeated, whereas the heave-offering was simply lifted up and disposed of without formality. Both were portions of the peace-offering.(F23) “The waving was the more solemn process of the two: it was a movement several times repeated, while heaving was simply a lifting up once.”(F24)

Verses 29-30


“And the holy garments of Aaron shall be for his sons after him, to be anointed in them, and to be consecrated in them. Seven days shall the son that is priest in his stead put them on, when he cometh into the tent of meeting to minister in the holy place.”

From this, it is clear that the regalia of the high priest as well as the office would be transferred from son to son through the history of Israel. The mention of “seven days” shows that each rite of consecration would follow the same pattern seen in this first instance of it.

Verses 31-34


“And thou shalt take the ram of consecration, and boil its flesh in a holy place. And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram, and the bread that is in the basket, at the door of the tent of meeting. And they shall eat those things wherewith atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them: but a stranger shall not eat thereof, because they are holy. And if aught of the flesh of the consecration, or of the bread, remain unto the morning, then thou shalt burn the remainder with fire: it shall not be eaten, because it is holy.”

Despite the fact of “atonement” in a sense having been provided by the sacrifices mentioned in this chapter, all such “atonements” under the Old Covenant were tentative, secondary, incomplete, and ineffectual for achieving any actual forgiveness of sins. Unger’s discernment of this was excellent:

“At the root of the Hebrew term for atonement is the idea of “covering.” Mosaic sacrifices covered sin from God’s sight in view of Christ’s future redemptive work. Thus, the sinner’s forgiveness was secured by God’s passing over sin (Romans 3:25). Not until Christ died was sin finally `put away’ (Hebrews 9:15) and actual atonement was made between God and man.”(F25)

Verses 35-37


“And thus shalt thou do unto Aaron, and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded thee: seven days shalt thou consecrate them. And every day shalt thou offer the bullock of sin-offering for atonement: and thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou makest atonement for it; and thou shalt anoint it to sanctify it. Seven days shalt thou make atonement for the altar, and sanctify it: and the altar shall be most holy; whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy.”

These verses set forth the order to repeat the entire ceremonies every day for seven days; and in Exodus 29:36-37 is the commission to make an atonement for the altar itself and to sanctify it! Since it is impossible for sin to attach to any inanimate object, some have wondered why this was necessary. Robert Jamieson answered the question thus:

“It was constructed of materials belonging to a world lying under a curse for man’s sake; and, therefore, as it was to be used for sacred purposes, there needed to be an expiation for it also.”(F26)

Perhaps another important reason for the seven-fold repetition of these atonement services was that of demonstrating that none of them was final and effective, but that they existed only temporarily as a tentative arrangement until the true Atonement should be made by Christ. Any thoughtful person must have reasoned that if any one of those “atonements” had been really effective, it would have been unnecessary to have repeated it. The author of Hebrews made exactly that observation: “Else those sacrifices would have ceased to be offered” (Hebrews 10:2).

Verses 38-42


“Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar: two lambs a year old day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even: and with the one lamb a tenth part of an ephah of fine flour mingled with a fourth part of a hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of a hin of wine for a drink-offering. And the other lamb thou shalt offer at even, and shall do thereto according to the meal-offering of the morning, and according to the drink-offering thereof, for a sweet savor, an offering made by fire unto Jehovah. It shall be a continual burnt-offering throughout your generations at the door of the tent of meeting before Jehovah, where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee.”

Here is the institution of one of the most distinctive features of the Judaic faith, that of the Daily Sacrifice, an institution that was observed by Israel throughout their history unto the destruction of Jerusalem by Vespasian and Titus in A.D. 70. It ceased, as God prophesied that it would, “upon the wings of abomination” when God made a full end of the Old Israel (Daniel 9:27).

“Where I will meet you to speak there unto thee” God ordained that there should be only one altar for Israel throughout her generations, the one introduced in Exodus, the one in the tabernacle. The foolish notion that this restriction to the one altar “took place in Josiah’s reign (1 Kings 23:4ff),”(F27) is refuted and denied by every word of Exodus.

Some of the terminology here is not meaningful today without translating it into current language. “The ephah,” for example “is about 3/5ths of a bushel.”(F28) A tenth part of an ephah would be about three and a half pints. The hin was “one sixth of an ephah, and a quarter of a hin was therefore about a pint and a half.”(F29) “The drink offering,” mentioned here for the first time in connection with the rites of the altar, is subject to the Law of Drink Offerings in Numbers 25:5 ff.(F30)

Verses 43-46


“And there I will meet with the children of Israel; and the Tent shall be sanctified by my glory. And I will sanctify the tent of meeting, and the altar: Aaron also and his sons will I sanctify, to minister to me in the priest’s office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God, And they shall know that I am Jehovah their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them: I am Jehovah their God.”

“And they shall know that I am Jehovah their God” The knowing here means knowledge through experience; and it is exactly the same kind of knowledge referred to in the early chapters of Exodus (Exodus 3:14; Exodus 6:3) as a knowledge they had not previously known. The same pattern is here. Yes, Israel already knew Jehovah had brought them through the Red Sea on dry land; but the knowledge spoken of here is a greater, more complete, knowledge. Here is the explanation, absolutely, of the troublesome problem associated with Exodus 6:3. This endless expansion of the true knowledge of Jehovah was to be an endless and continuing thing in Israel, and even throughout Christian times. The prophet Ezekiel used this expression, “Ye shall know that I am Jehovah, etc.,” no less than “sixty-six times, usually in the context of a warning.”(F31) Thus God says to every generation of believers “you shall know (future) that I am Jehovah your God.”

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Exodus 29". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/exodus-29.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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