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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Leviticus 8

Introduction

B. The institution of the Aaronic priesthood chs. 8-10

The account of the consecration of the priests and the priesthood (chs. 8-10) follows the regulations concerning offerings. This section of Leviticus clarifies the way all approaches to God were to be mediated under the Old Covenant.

"With the laws of the sacrifices in place, the next section of Leviticus focuses on who has the right to offer sacrifices in the holy place and in what way such people were qualified to do so." [Note: Ross, p. 197.]

We have a change in literary genre here from legal to narrative material. The legal material in chapters 1-7 has prepared the reader to understand the narrative in chapters 8-10.

The consecration ceremonies involved many of the sacrifices just described. The institution of the Aaronic priesthood constituted the fulfillment of God’s commands recorded in Exodus 28-29, 40. Almost every verse in chapter 8 is a quotation or allusion to commands first given in Exodus 29. Chapter 9 contains freer summaries of the laws in Leviticus 1-7. Thus we learn that Moses adhered strictly to God’s instructions.

Until now Israel followed the custom common in the ancient Near East that the father of a family functioned as a priest for his family (Cf. Job 1:5). The Levites as a tribe now assumed this role for the families of Israel under the leadership of Aaron and his sons. The main function of the priests in Israel was to guard and protect the holiness of God.

"God’s grace and forgiveness are such that even a sinner like Aaron [who apostatized by building the golden calf] may be appointed to the highest religious office in the nation. Perhaps the closest biblical parallel to Aaron’s experience was that of Peter. In spite of his threefold denial of his Lord at Christ’s trial, he was reinstated as leader of the apostles after the resurrection." [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 132.]

"Kings . . . sometimes offered sacrifices: David, when he transferred the ark of the covenant, offered burnt and peace offerings and blessed the people (2 Samuel 6:17); and Solomon, at the dedication of the temple, did likewise (1 Kings 8:5; 1 Kings 8:62-66). But these were exceptions, as these kings were actively involved in establishing temple worship in the nation.

"On the other hand, Saul (1 Samuel 13:8-14), Adonijah (1 Kings 1:9), Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16-21), and Ahaz (2 Kings 16:13-14; 2 Chronicles 28:1-5) also performed the priestly ritual of offering sacrifices-but without the LORD’s approval as some of the prophetic responses indicate." [Note: Ross, p. 199.]

The three chapters in this section parallel each other in form and content as well as containing contrasts. The effect of this triptych is to present an especially impressive panorama of this great event. A triptych is a group of three pictures each of which has its own individual scene and beauty but when placed side by side reveal that each one is also part of a larger picture that all three complete.

The phrase "Moses did as the Lord commanded him" occurs 16 times in this section (Leviticus 8:4-5; Leviticus 8:9; Leviticus 8:13; Leviticus 8:17; Leviticus 8:21; Leviticus 8:29; Leviticus 8:34; Leviticus 8:36; Leviticus 9:6-7; Leviticus 9:10; Leviticus 9:21; Leviticus 10:7; Leviticus 10:13; Leviticus 10:15). It stresses Moses’ faithfulness to God (cf. Hebrews 3:1-6).

1. The consecration of the priests and the sanctuary ch. 8

God gave a double command to Moses (Leviticus 8:1-3), which Moses obeyed (Leviticus 8:4-30). Then Moses gave Aaron a command (Leviticus 8:31-35), which Aaron obeyed (Leviticus 8:36). Within the first section (Leviticus 8:1-30) there is a chiastic structure. God commanded Moses to take Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 8:2) and to assemble the congregation (Leviticus 8:3). Moses then assembled the congregation (Leviticus 8:4-5) and carried out God’s orders concerning Aaron and his sons. The second main section (Leviticus 8:31-36) acts as a transition by bridging the gap between Aaron’s ordination and its completion a week later (cf. Leviticus 9:1).

Verses 1-5

The assembling of the congregation 8:1-5

Evidently a representative group of the Israelite congregation, likely the elders, responded to Moses’ summons to witness Aaron’s ordination in the tabernacle courtyard. [Note: See my comments on the "congregation" at 4:13.]

Verses 6-9

Aaron’s washing and clothing 8:6-9

God specified certain garments for Aaron that distinguished him from everyone else. A uniform draws attention to a person’s office or function and plays down his or her individual personality. Physical washing (Leviticus 8:6) was symbolic of spiritual cleansing. The reference to being washed with water may imply full immersion. [Note: See Rooker, p. 142; and Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, p. 501.]

"Active and ongoing sanctification is an essential part of being set apart for ministry; and the first step in sanctification is removing defilement and sin." [Note: Ross, p. 210. Cf. Exodus 30:17-21.]

The priest’s investiture with the garments of glory (Leviticus 8:7-9) pictured his endowment with the qualities required for the discharge of his duties.

Verses 10-13

The anointing 8:10-13

The anointing of the tabernacle and the priests with oil (Leviticus 8:10-12) signified their sanctification whereby God set them apart to holy purposes and filled them with the power of His Spirit. Filling and indwelling are two distinct ministries of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit did not permanently indwell these priests, as He does all believer-priests today, but He did temporarily fill them (i.e., control them). [Note: See Walvoord, pp. 70-73.] The significance of the sevenfold sprinkling seems to have been that seven was "the covenant number," [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 2:336.] the guarantee of the completeness of the work, as in the seven days of creation. The leaders anointed the vessels because they became the instruments of blessing to the Israelites. The Israelites may have repeated this ritual with each new generation of priests, though Moses did not state this in the text.

The procedure for consecrating consisted of two parts.

1. The priests experienced consecration to their office by washing, clothing, and anointing (Leviticus 8:6-13).

2. Israel’s leaders then consecrated the sacrificial rites by which the priests experienced consecration (Leviticus 8:14-36).

Verses 14-30

The ordination offerings 8:14-30

Moses as the mediator of the covenant performed the sacrificial ceremony recorded in these verses. He presented three offerings.

1. He offered a young ox as a sin (purification) offering (Leviticus 8:14-17).

2. He offered a ram as a burnt offering (Leviticus 8:18-21).

3. Then he offered another ram as a peace (fellowship) offering (Leviticus 8:22-30).

Moses applied blood from the peace offering to Aaron’s ear, hand, and foot (Leviticus 8:23).

". . . the ear, because the priest was always to hearken to the word and commandment of God; the hand, because he was to discharge the priestly functions properly; and the foot, because he was to walk correctly in the sanctuary." [Note: Ibid., 2:340.]

The sprinkling of the priests and their garments with blood and oil (Leviticus 8:30) represented endowment with the benefits of atoning blood and the Spirit of God’s power.

Verses 31-36

Further instruction to Aaron 8:31-36

A meal concluded the consecration of the priests because in it the priests entered into more intimate fellowship with God. This relationship entitled them to blessings and privileges that God did not grant the other Israelites.

The consecration lasted seven days. During this time the priests were not to leave the tabernacle courtyard day or night (Leviticus 8:35). Their role was that of worshipers rather than priests. Evidently Moses repeated the consecration ritual on each of these seven days (Leviticus 8:33). This would have emphasized its importance to the Israelites.

"A man may defile himself in a moment, but sanctification and the removal of uncleanness is generally a slower process." [Note: Wenham, The Book . . ., p. 144.]

Note that it was God who consecrated the priests. This was His work. The "congregation" witnessed the consecration, but they did not initiate it. The priests were responsible to wash, but God cleansed them. Confession of sin is our responsibility, but God provides the cleansing (1 John 1:9).

God did not demand perfection of the priests. He even graciously appointed the man most responsible for the golden calf incident to the office of high priest. God provided the clothing (covering), the atonement, and the enablement that made the priests acceptable in their service. Likewise He provides all that we as His priests need also.

"In this section one doctrine emerges very clearly: the universality and pervasiveness of sin. The men chosen to minister to God in the tabernacle pollute the tabernacle and therefore purification offerings have to be offered. Their clothes and bodies are stained with sin and they must be smeared with blood to purify them. These sacrifices are not offered just once; they have to be repeated, because sin is deep-rooted in human nature and often recurs. There is no once-for-all cleansing known to the OT. It is the incorrigibility of the human heart that these ordination ceremonies bring into focus [cf. Psalms 14:3]." [Note: Ibid., pp. 144-45.]

"Those who lead the congregation in spiritual service must be fully consecrated to the LORD." [Note: Ross, p. 214.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Leviticus 8". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/leviticus-8.html. 2012.