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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 8

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



The material in this chapter is closely related to Exodus 28 and Exodus 29, where the divine instructions were given for the making of the garments of the High Priest and the priests under him, and for a number of the items mentioned in connection with the ceremonies here recorded. Exodus 35-39 deal with the execution of all those instructions regarding the tabernacle, and some have wondered why the execution of the instructions for consecration of the priesthood “did not follow as the natural sequel to the dedication of the Tabernacle.”(F1) The logical reason for the Biblical sequence of these various instructions was pointed out by Allis, thus:

“Since the chief function of the priests is to offer sacrifice and also because the offering of sacrifice on their behalf formed an indispensable part of their own consecration, the manual of sacrifice given in Leviticus (Leviticus 1-7) is very properly made to precede this important section.”(F2)

The events of this chapter are, in some respects, absolutely unique. Since no consecrated priest was available to function as the administrator of God’s instructions here, Moses himself, although not a priest in the sense of those later consecrated to the office, served as executor. There were important variations in the sequence of some of the things done, as, for example when the anointing of Aaron (Leviticus 8:12) preceded the offering of the sin-offering (Leviticus 8:14). As we study the significance of these variations we shall find that they had no relation whatever to “various sources” or “different traditions,” as vainly supposed by unbelievers, but that they concern the typical symbolism inherent in these ceremonies as prophetic testimonials of the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, and of the “royal priesthood” of the New Institution, the Church of Jesus Christ. (See the special articles on these subjects at the end of this chapter.) “Aaron appears throughout as foreshadowing Christ, while his sons speak of individual believers of this age.”(F3) “Aaron and his sons constitute the subject here, and yet Jesus and his people are the theme.”(F4)

There is no believer in Christ even today who cannot discover in this eighth chapter truth that is vital to him, not only for the present, but forever.

Verses 1-5

“And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Take Aaron and his sons with him and the garments, and the anointing oil, and the bullock of the sin-offering, and the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread; and assemble thou all the congregation at the door of the tent of meeting. And Moses did as Jehovah commanded him; and the congregation was assembled at the door of the tent of meeting. And Moses said unto the congregation, This is the thing which Jehovah hath commanded to be done.”

The public nature of the impressive ceremonies about to begin is an important factor in true consecration to God. It points, first of all, to the glaring light of publicity that attended the coming of Christ as the High Priest of all believers. “For this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Also, there may be an application to the fact that believers are commanded to confess Christ “before men” (Matthew 10:32-33). As Seiss put it, “If there is any such thing as secret discipleship, it is a very imperfect discipleship.”(F5)

“Take Aaron and his sons with him” The four sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar - all four being closely associated with Aaron in his consecration to the office of high priest. In a sense, they correspond to the four Gospel witnesses - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - the great N.T. witnesses of the Christ. Notice also, that it was “the sons of Aaron” alone who, in these instructions had access to that lesser priesthood which corresponds to that of every Christian. Only by virtue of being “sons of the high priest” were they admitted. So it is with us, only because we are sons of God in Christ are we admitted to the royal priesthood. It is true, of course, that the Levites later succeeded to the status here reserved to Aaron and his sons, but the typology is here. “We can become priests only by our connection with the High Priest, Jesus Christ.”(F6)

“The garments… the anointing oil… the bullock… etc.” The definite articles here refer back to Exodus 28 and Exodus 29, where instructions for all of these things were provided, thus establishing a very close connection with Exodus. As a matter of fact, the Pentateuch is not FIVE books, but ONE.

“Assemble thou all the congregation” This obviously does not mean an assembly of over 600,000 men besides women and children, which was the size of Israel at that time. The meaning is: “the nation in the person of its elders.”(F7)

“And Moses did as Jehovah commanded him” Anti-biblical scholars like to late-date Leviticus, making it an invention of the Jewish priesthood at some time long after the days of Moses, but “twelve times in this chapter it is stated that the Lord commanded Moses.”(F8) We shall discuss the preposterous and impossible allegation that attributes Leviticus to Jewish priests, at the end of this chapter. Suffice it to say here that the profound revelations of this chapter were never understood by the reprobate Jewish priesthood (which God Himself repudiated in its entirety in the prophecy of Malachi). It was therefore impossible for Jewish priests to have invented teaching which they were totally incapable even of understanding after God gave it! Do you believe in the inspiration of God’s Word? If so, you cannot believe what evil men say in their efforts to discredit and destroy it.

“The commandment… (Leviticus 8:5) “refers to Exodus 29.”(F9)

Verses 6-9

“And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water. And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith. And he placed the breastplate upon him: and in the breastplate he put the Urim and the Thummim. And he set the mitre upon his head; and upon the mitre, in front, did he set the golden plate, the holy crown; as Jehovah commanded Moses.”

For the detailed description of all these particular items of which the official dress of the High Priest consisted, see a full discussion under the appropriate verses (Exodus 28; Exodus 29) in my commentary on the Book of Exodus.

It is of the very greatest importance here that the investiture of the High Priest in his sacred office did not begin with robing him in his official robes, as mistakenly thought by Clements,(F10) who omitted the teaching of Leviticus 8:6 altogether. The first thing was the “washing” of Aaron (and all other priests of whatever grade). The significance of this initial “washing” is profound. Not even Jesus Christ was anointed as the Messiah by his reception of the Holy Spirit until he had been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River! The inescapable connection of the “washing” here with the ordinance of Christian baptism, as a symbol and type thereof is certain. “His baptism was part of his installation.”(F11)

Yes, it was indeed actually a baptism. (See a more complete discussion of this under Exodus 29:4 in my commentary on Exodus.) As Michael Esses, a noted Jewish Christian scholar, wrote:

“Now they are to be baptized. The baptism was to be 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.”(F12)

Some comments one finds amusing, appearing as nothing more than clever little devices by which men seek to excise “baptism” from this passage. Note these: “How do we get that washing? It is by confession that we are forgiven and cleansed.”(F13) This is simply not true. There is no reference whatever in this whole ordination to confession, and even if the laying of Aaron’s hands upon the head of the sacrifice somewhat later, and after the washing, should be considered as a confession, it could not possibly have been a confession of his already being forgiven, but a confession of his sins that yet needed to be forgiven, and for which the bullock was afterward offered. Furthermore, the Biblical confession by a Christian is never a confession of his being ALREADY saved and forgiven, but as a confession of Jesus Christ.

It is of the most astounding interest that the purpose of Aaron’s baptism was not typical of the baptism of Christians, but of the baptism of Christ. In the case of Aaron, therefore, his baptism referred primarily to the fact that Jesus Christ would be baptized BEFORE his anointing (the reception of the Holy Spirit), and BEFORE the sacrifice (representing the death of Christ) was offered! Neither the baptism of Aaron nor the baptism of Christ was “for the forgiveness of sins.” In the case of Aaron, the bullock was for his forgiveness, and in the case of Christ there were no sins to be forgiven. Now, in the case of lesser priests, which correspond to Christians, their baptism was indeed symbolical of forgiveness, indicated by their anointing which followed it, in their case, the sacrifice (typical of Christ) having already been offered. This is an essential difference between the baptism of Aaron, and that of the suffragen priests.

This is a prize-winner: “The washing, or bathing, took place in the sight of the people. The whole of the person, except so much as was covered by the linen drawers, was washed.”(F14) This writer has baptized literally thousands of persons, and there was never any trouble whatever baptizing THE WHOLE PERSON no matter what kind of drawers they wore! Modern prejudice against Christian baptism is unsupported by anything in the entire Bible.

“The washing” mentioned in this verse was most surely designed to teach the necessity of Christian baptism as an essential, necessary, and invariable pre-condition of entering the kingdom of God.

The clothing of the priests was also typical of the clothing of Christ our great High Priest in the magnificent robes of holiness, perfection, and glory. And in the case of the lesser priests it symbolized the robes of forgiveness, and righteousness, of which the Lord admonished his people to “buy of me… white garments, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness be not made manifest” (Revelation 3:18). Christians are to “put on Christ,” “put on the whole armour of God,” etc.

Verses 10-13

“And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them. And he sprinkled thereof upon the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and its vessels, and the laver and its base, to sanctify them. And he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head, and anointed him, to sanctify him. And Moses brought Aaron’s sons, and clothed them with coats, and girded them with girdles, and bound head-tires upon them; as Jehovah commanded Moses.”

“Poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head” There was a significant difference in the manner of anointing the High Priest and that of anointing the lesser priests, a difference required by the typical difference. Aaron represented Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, and the lesser priests were typical of Christians. In both cases the anointing with the sacred oil, prepared after the prescription by God Himself, typified the reception of the Holy Spirit, not on the part of any of those priests, however, for the Holy Spirit would not come until after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. The lesser priests did not have the oil “poured” upon them, but merely “sprinkled” upon them. The Jewish interpretation of Leviticus 8:30, below, is that, “It constituted the anointing of the priests, while the High Priest was distinguished by having oil poured on his head (Leviticus 8:12).”(F15) This difference was designed to show that Jesus received the Holy Spirit “without measure,” that is, in its completeness and entirety, whereas, Christians receive merely a token, or “earnest” of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34; Ephesians 1:13-14). The amazing typology in these verses is simply astounding.

The clothing of the priests here shows that a double consecration was being made, that of the High Priest, and that of the priests ordinary. The marked difference in the High Priestly robes, and those of the other priests has already been made apparent in Exodus 28 and Exodus 29.

Verses 14-17

“And he brought the bullock of the sin-offering: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the bullock of the sin-offering. And he slew it; and Moses took the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about with his finger, and purified the altar, and poured out the blood at the base of the altar, and sanctified it, to make atonement for it. And he took all the fat that was upon the inwards, and the caul of the liver, and the two kidneys, and their fat; and Moses burned it upon the altar. But the bullock, and its skin and its flesh, and its dung, he burnt with fire without the camp; as Jehovah commanded Moses.”

“He brought the bullock” Moses officiated at this consecration. On all subsequent occasions, it was the High Priest who did so; but as yet there was no High Priest.

The procedure here followed the instructions given in Leviticus 4:6-7 in most particulars, but not in all of them, due to the special circumstances. “The blood is smeared on the altar of burnt-offerings rather than on the veil and altar of incense.”(F16)

There was another variation in the handling of the ram of burnt-offering later in the ceremony (a type of peace-offering). The flesh was burnt upon the altar of burnt-offerings instead of being eaten by the priests, for, “There were as yet no priests to eat it.”(F17)

“He purified the altar” This action constituted a once-for-all action making the altar acceptable to God as a place where sacrifices were to be offered. By the repeated offerings of these sacrifices, “God wrote indelibly in their souls and burned it into their hearts that they were sinners, even though they were in the service of God.”(F18)

The implication here of the sinfulness of the altar and its need to be cleansed shows that, for Christians, it is not the WOOD of the Cross that saves, but the BLOOD of Him who died upon it.

Verses 18-21

“And he presented the ram of the burnt-offering: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram. And he killed it; and Moses sprinkled the blood upon the altar round about. And he cut the ram into pieces; and Moses burnt the head, and the pieces, and the fat. And he washed the inwards and the legs with water; and Moses burnt the whole ram upon the altar: it was a burnt-offering for a sweet savor: it was an offering made by fire unto Jehovah; as Jehovah commanded Moses.”

The variations in this once-for-all ceremony, with Moses officiating, from instructions provided in Leviticus 1-7 are in no sense evidence of “various sources” or “different traditions.” The differences were required by the unique circumstances of this initial establishment of the priesthood of Israel. Never again would Moses officiate at these sacred altars, a duty reserved to the anointed priests and the High Priest of the new institution making its formal appearance in this chapter. The instance of the ram offered here being referred to as a sweet-savor shows that it was one with the peace-offering.

Verses 22-29

“And he presented the other ram, the ram of consecration: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram. And he slew it; and Moses took of the blood thereof, and put it upon the tip of Aaron’s right ear, and the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot. And he brought Aaron’s sons; and Moses put of the blood upon the tip of their right ear, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot; and Moses sprinkled the blood upon the altar round about. And he took the fat, and the fat tail, and all the fat that was upon the inwards, and the caul of the liver, and the two kidneys, and their fat, and the right thigh: and out of the basket of unleavened bread, that was before Jehovah, he took one unleavened cake, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer, and placed them on the fat, and upon the right thigh: and he put the whole upon the hands of Aaron, and upon the hands of his sons, and waved them for a wave-offering before Jehovah. And Moses took them from off their hands, and burnt them on the altar upon the burnt-offering: they were a consecration for a sweet-savor; it was an offering made by fire unto Jehovah. And Moses took the breast, and waved it for a wave-offering before Jehovah: it was Moses’ portion of the ram of consecration; as Jehovah commanded Moses.”

Notice that the rules concerning wave-offering (Leviticus 7:33-34) were not followed here. “This ordination was a one-time event; presumably there were no special rules.”(F19)

The touching of bodily extremities with blood was probably a symbolical sprinkling of the whole body in which, “the extremities served as a kind of summary of the whole body.”(F20) This same ritual, or variation of it, was also utilized in the cleansing of a leper (Leviticus 14:14), indicating extreme contamination of the whole body as being thus purified.

What is the spiritual meaning of this? Despite all of the marvelous ceremonies already performed upon the High Priest, he was not yet ready to make atonement for Israel. This typifies the fact that the great Captain of our Salvation was made perfect to perform the Great Atonement on Calvary by suffering. God would make Jesus to be sin upon our behalf (See Hebrews 5:8-9 and 2 Corinthians 5:21). To portray this, Aaron must be accounted as a leper, and touched all over by the cleansing blood before he can fulfill his office!

Verse 30

“Moses took of the anointing oil, and of the blood which was upon the altar, and sprinkled it upon Aaron, upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon his sons’ garments with him, and sanctified Aaron, his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him.”

The holy anointing of the High Priest and of his sons is outlined here. Aaron had already been profusely anointed with the holy oil, which was symbolical of Jesus’ ultimate reception of the Holy Spirit “without measure,” but now the lesser priests also were to be anointed, symbolizing the ultimate reception of the Holy Spirit, but merely in token or earnest measure. It is not surprising that Aaron too was sprinkled thus at the same time, for no Christian has any measure of God’s Spirit that does not also belong to Christ. This mention of the anointing of the lesser priests here shows that they too were anointed, although not in the “measureless” anointing of Aaron.

There is also another priceless suggestion of Christ, the great High Priest, in the blood-sprinkled garments of Aaron. Here is an O.T. glimpse of the Mighty One, traveling in the greatness of his strength with the “Dyed garments from Bozrah” (Isaiah 63:1. Note “crimsoned garments” as the alternative reading). Here is the O.T. typical prophecy of him of whom the N.T. prophet declared, “And he is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood: and his name is called the Word of God” (Revelation 19:13).

Verses 31-36

“And Moses said unto Aaron and his sons, Boil the flesh at the door of the tent of meeting: and there eat it and the bread that is in the basket of consecration, as I commanded, saying, Aaron and his sons shall eat it. And that which remaineth of the flesh and of the bread shall ye burn with fire. And ye shall not go out from the door of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your consecration be fulfilled: for he shall consecrate you seven days. As hath been done this day, so Jehovah hath commanded to do, to make atonement for you. And at the door of the tent of meeting shall ye abide day and night seven days, and keep the charge of Jehovah, that ye die not: for so I am commanded. And Aaron and his sons did all the things which Jehovah commanded by Moses.”

Notice another variation from the instructions in previous chapters. The flesh of certain offerings could be eaten on the morrow following their being sacrificed, but in this case, there was a day by day burning of all portions left over. That was perhaps due to the fact that a fresh supply would be provided daily for the whole seven-day ceremony.

“And there eat it” (Leviticus 8:31). Just as there was something the ancient priests of Israel were commanded to eat, so it is with Christians. They ate of the flesh of the sacrifice, and Christians must eat of the “flesh and the blood” of the Great Sacrifice, even that of Christ (John 6:53 ff). It is significant that the sons of Aaron (typical of Christians), and not Aaron (typical of Christ) were commanded in this particular what to eat. Aaron doubtless ate as did the priests, just as Christ also partook of the Lord’s Supper the night he established it, but the commandment was for the priests. Unger summarized what many believe to be the symbolism of this passage thus:

“The eating of the sacrifices and the bread illustrates the necessity of believer-priests feeding upon Christ (John 6:50-55) and remembering the benefits of His death through partaking of the Lord’s table (1 Corinthians 11:25-27). The seven-day span of the feast may envision this present age, when a heavenly priesthood (the church) is spiritually feasting on Christ.”(F21)

The necessity for the priests to remain at the door of the tent of meeting and not to depart from it either day or night for a whole seven days has its particular symbolism for Christians. We too have been baptized, and have received the token gift of God’s Spirit, and, by faith, our hearts have been sprinkled with the blood of the Atonement, even that of Christ, but God is not through with us. Seiss was doubtless correct in seeing this seven-day period as a symbolical indication of the Christian’s entire earthly life. “That complete period can be nothing less than our entire earthly life.”(F22) The same also applies in the life of Christ, the great Antitype. He too had to complete the total circle of human life and then make the Atonement, and re-enter heaven.

The symbolism of the seven whole days in which these solemn rites were to be repeated daily derives from the “significance and holiness of the number seven as the sign of the completion of the works of God.”(F23) It is needless to repeat here the many examples of the symbolical usages of this number in the sacred text.


1. The utmost publicity attended his calling and consecration.

2. He began his entry into his great work by baptism, as did Christ.

3. He received anointing, as did Christ when he was baptized.

4. His anointing was by “pouring of oil liberally upon his head,” symbolical of the “measureless” gift of the Holy Spirit to Christ.

5. Aaron’s baptism was by IMMERSION, just as the baptism of Christ was.

6. His baptism was not “for remission of sins”; neither was Christ’s.

7. Blood on ear, hand, and toe indicated suffering and bloodshed of Christ.

8. Four sons of Aaron witnessed Aaron’s consecration, suggesting the Four Gospels and their witness of Christ.

9. His beautiful clothing symbolized the completeness and perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially the seamless robe worn upon the Day of Atonement.

10. Garments of Aaron were sprinkled with blood, symbolizing the Word of God, even Christ (Revelation 19:13).

11. His anointing preceded the sin-offering, just as Christ’s came before the Atonement on Calvary.

12. Eating flesh and bread of the sacrifices within the tent of meeting was symbolical of the Lord’s Supper.

13. The seven-day period in which it was unlawful to leave the tent of meeting speaks of the fact that Christians are not free to leave the church during the days of their probation.

14. Aaron’s remaining in the tent for seven days shows that Christ is always in heaven interceding for the redeemed ones.

All of these foreshadowings of the Great High Priest by Aaron’s consecration in this chapter are discussed in detail throughout this chapter. The presentation in this summary is merely to show the extent of the analogy. In the aggregate it is as convincing as anything found in Holy Writ. There is absolutely no way that a reprobate and unfaithful Jewish priesthood in a million years could ever have invented and written down such a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ who in future ages would be revealed to mankind as that which is found in this single chapter of the Word of God. Yes, indeed, it is the Word of God! Men had nothing to do with it, except in the case of Moses, who preserved the record for mankind.


1. The initial act of the priest was his submission to baptism; so it is with Christians.

2. In their case, as in ours, it was a cleansing from sin (the sacrifice already having been offered).

3. Their anointing was a mere sprinkling of the holy oil, indicating an earnest (guarantee) only of the Holy Spirit.

4. Their right to be priests was dependent solely upon their being the sons of Aaron; ours depends solely upon our being the sons of God.

5. They had to be “born into” this privilege. So do we by being “born of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5).

6. They were required to feed upon the flesh of the sacrifice; so are Christians (John 6:53 ff).

7. All of the privileges and blessings they hoped to receive were contingent upon their remaining within the tent of the meeting; ours is contingent upon our remaining inside God’s church.

8. They offered up animal sacrifices; Christians offer up spiritual sacrifices.

Christians today are, in every way, the antitype of the ancient Jewish priesthood, “a royal priesthood,” as witnessed by the apostle Peter. The above is only a partial list of the specifics in this analogy, but these are sufficient to show how thoroughly the New Institution was typified and set forth under the forms and shadows of the Law of Moses. May God bless these studies to the benefit and blessing of all who peruse them.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Leviticus 8". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/leviticus-8.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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