Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 8

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 2

Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, and the anointing oil, and a bullock for the sin offering, and two rams, and a basket of unleavened bread;

Take Aaron and his sons. The consecration of Aaron and his sons had been ordered long before (Exodus 29:1-46), but it is now described with all the details of the ceremonial, since it was gone through after the tabernacle was completed, and the regulations for the various sacrifices enacted. In reference to this, it was manifestly expedient for the Israelite people to be satisfied that Aaron's appointment to the high dignity of the priesthood was not a personal intrusion nor a family arrangement between him and Moses; and nothing, therefore, could be a more prudent or necessary measure, for impressing a profound conviction of the divine origin and authority of the priestly institution, than to summon a general assembly of the people, and in their presence perform the solemn ceremonies of inauguration which had been prescribed by divine authority.

Verse 3

And gather thou all the congregation together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Gather thou all the congregation together, [ haqheel (H6950)] - summon, convoke, without regard to the object of the meeting. The order was given to Moses, who could have no difficulty in executing it by speedily circulating the intelligence through the whole congregation; because he had only to announce it to the elders, who were the established media of communication with the people; and, besides, he had thousands of Levites at command, whose business it was to perform every kind of secular work connected with the tabernacle. By the agency of those numerous officers information could be rapidly conveyed to all parts of the camp. It may be presumed that, on an occasion of so great national interest as the consecration of the Aaronic priesthood-the first ceremonial of its kind that had taken place-piety or curiosity must have led all to give a prompt obedience to the call, and that no Israelite would be absent unless he were prevented by age, sickness, local duties, or other unavoidable circumstances.

Unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, [ 'ohel (H168) mow`eed (H4150)] - the tent of meeting, 'the appointed tent,' where God promised to meet His people (see the notes at Exodus 25:22; Exodus 29:43). The door was the usual place of concourse; and not an instance is on record, during the lifetime of Moses, of the people being admitted further.

Dr. Colenso has directed against this point the full force of his sceptical battering-ram, with a view to demolish the credibility of the Pentateuch. He pronounces it impossible that the people could witness the ceremony in such a place, unless they had been admitted into the court; and yet, since that court was only 180 feet long and 90 feet wide, it could scarcely have accommodated 5,000, much less the 600,000 male adults; while the door of the tabernacle being 10 cubits, or 18 feet wide, and allowing 2 feet for each Man 1:9 men only could have stood in front of it. Had the people, then, been ranged according to regimental order in rows of 9, the mighty throng would have extended back 20 miles; or had they stood in front of the whole end, they would have reached back 4 miles.

These extraordinary conclusions are grounded on two false assumptions in relation both to the door of the tabernacle and to the actual scene of the inauguration service. It is assumed that the service was to be performed within the tabernacle. But that is an error. Though God appointed the tabernacle as a place for meeting with His people, the divine oracles were issued from above the mercyseat in the most holy place, into which none but the high priest was privileged to enter, and by him they were communicated to the people outside. None but the priests and some of the Levites on certain occasions were admitted into any part of the sanctuary, while all others designated "strangers" were prohibited, under the penalty of death (Numbers 3:10; Numbers 4:18-19).

It is especially observable that Aaron and his sons could not enter on the day of their consecration without washing their feet (Exodus 40:30-32); and if the members of the congregation were to be admitted indiscriminately within the court, they must have undergone the same ablutions also, which would have occupied a great length of time.

It is said (Leviticus 9:5) that they stood "before the Lord," which is equivalent to 'before the tabernacle;' and this (namely, the tabernacle) is evidently to be taken in the widest sense, as denoting not the sanctuary merely, but also the court belonging to it-as in Exodus 31:7-9 the altar of burnt offering and the laver, neither of which were stationed in the sanctuary, are included among the contents of the tabernacle. The word bears the same general acceptation also, Exodus 33:7; Numbers 2:2; Numbers 7:1; and in Exodus 39:33, where the tent is specified as part of the tabernacle. That it must be viewed in the same light here, as denoting the whole of the sacred establishment, appears from Leviticus 8:33, where the priests are prohibited from going out of the door of the tabernacle for seven days; while in Leviticus 8:35 they are enjoined to "abide at the door;" and hence, "the door of the tabernacle of the congregation" - the appointed place of muster-must be the door of the court. The people therefore were without, not within the tabernacle (Leviticus 9:22-24).

Indeed, it is apparent upon the face of the record that the transactions took place under the open sky. The court of the tabernacle was an unroofed enclosure; and as the laver stood there, the priests must have been washed and attired in their official robes there also (Leviticus 8:7-9). Besides, the anointing of the altar of burnt offering (Leviticus 8:10-11) and of the head of the high priest (Leviticus 8:12), the offering of special sacrifices in succession, particularly of the sin offering, in which the bullock was brought to the door of the tabernacle, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon it-all required the court to be kept vacant and clear for the performance of so diversified and solemn a ceremonial. [Moreover, in the phrase, 'el (H413) petach (H6607), unto the door, 'el (H413) denotes motion toward, in the direction of, a place; petach (H6607), a doorway-not a solid door, as Colenso takes it to be, for which delet (H1817) is used, but an opening, an entrance to a tent as well as a house; and as he speaks of the end of the tabernacle as distinguished from the door, it may be proper to state that the end was the door, formed by maacaak, a hanging drawn across (Exodus 26:36).] At or unto the door is distinguished from in the tent door (Genesis 18:1), and denotes the front of the tabernacle-the place where the people were summoned to assemble.

Verse 4

And Moses did as the LORD commanded him; and the assembly was gathered together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

The assembly was gathered together. "The assembly" is an indefinite and a general term; but it is evidently used to describe those who were actually present. According to the ordinary use of language, "the assembly" would be synonymous with "all the congregation," although the Israelites might not have been universally present; just as when the parish, the city, the county is convened, or the House of Commons is summoned to the House of Lords, it is said, in current style, the parish, the city, the county, the Commons, did so and so, although comparatively few attended the meeting.

The observation is especially applicable to the phrase "all the congregation," which occurs in cases where it was physically impossible that it can be interpreted in a literal sense-as when "all the congregation" is said to have stoned the blasphemer (Leviticus 24:14) and the sabbath breaker (Numbers 15:35-36), it is impossible to conceive that every man, woman, and child acted a personal part in the execution of those offenders; and therefore the general term must be taken in a limited sense, as meaning only an appointed portion of the people.

There is reason to believe that [ haa`eedaah (H5712)] "the assembly" very often denotes 'the appointed assembly,' the body of elders, representatives of the people (cf. Numbers 35:12; Numbers 35:24-25 with Joshua 20:4; Joshua 20:6; Joshua 20:9; Exodus 12:3 with 21; 9:5 with 1:23,24). This is the view of Dr. Benisch, and of Michaelis ('Commentary on Laws of Moses,' vol. 1:, p. 229, Smith's Translation), who quotes Numbers 1:16; Deuteronomy 29:10. At the same time, admitting it to be true that Moses is represented sometimes as speaking to the people, when his communications were made through the elders, there seems to be no necessity for considering "the assembly" as consisting exclusively of this representative body. For the order given to Moses was to gather together not the elders, not the Levites, but "all the congregation;" not to receive a divine revelation, but to assist at the sacred ceremonial; and in the circumstances there would be an immense gathering.

Colenso assumes that none but those who stood in the front row could witness the ceremony. Like every large collection of people, those who were near would see best-those who were further off would see less distinctly. Nor would there be anything of the dense packing and squeezing among the assembled multitude which the imagination of this cavilling objector has conjured up.

There was an area or vacant space of 2,000 cubits - i:e., about two-thirds of a mile-in every direction around the outside of the court of the tabernacle, into which the people of the congregation did not come unless when specially summoned. On the outskirts of that unoccupied ground the whole congregation were encamped, each tribe by itself "far off" (Numbers 2:2), or right opposite the tabernacle, the twelve tribes being ranged in four divisions, so that three were stationed respectively on the north, south, east, and west, the tabernacle forming the center. From these different quarters of the encampment, then, the people, when summoned to the door of the tabernacle, would press forward to that sacred tent as a common point of attraction. Each person, of course, would strive to make his way to the door; but as such immense masses from every tribe, converging to one spot, must necessarily have obstructed each other's way, so that it would be impossible for any but a few to reach the door, the crowd would be gathered around the tabernacle itself; and supposing, on Colenso's own hypothesis, that this congregated multitude consisted of the 600,000 adults-each of whom had, according to his estimate, two square feet of ground for standing on-an irregular circle would have been formed of about 1,800 feet in diameter. In other words, instead of the line extending twenty miles off, the radius of such a circle would be no more than 900 feet.

It is further natural to suppose that, on such an occasion, the curtains which enclosed the court would be withdrawn, so that the ceremony of inauguration could be seen by numbers of the bystanders, both in front and on the two sides of the tabernacle; and although a large proportion of those standing behind at a distance might have to content themselves with merely knowing what was being done within the court, all would be in a position to witness the grand object of interest-the anticipated descent of the heavenly fire (cf. Leviticus 9:24), which attested the divine acceptance of the first national offering in Israel.

Verse 5

And Moses said unto the congregation, This is the thing which the LORD commanded to be done.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 6

And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water.

Moses ... washed them with water. A summary account of this ceremony is given, Exodus 40:11-12. At consecration they were subjected to entire ablution, though on ordinary occasions they were required, before entering on their duties, only to wash their hands and feet. This symbolical ablution was designed to teach them the necessity of inward purity, and the imperative obligation on those who bore the vessels and conducted the services of the sanctuary to be holy.

Verses 7-9

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 curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith.

He put upon him the coat. The investiture took place on the same spot, and near the laver. The splendour of the official vestments, together with the gorgeous tiara of the high priest, was intended doubtless, in the first instance, to produce in the minds of the people a high respect for the ministers of religion; and in the next, from the predominant use of linen, to inculcate upon Aaron and his sons the duty of maintaining unspotted righteousness in their characters and lives.

Verses 10-12

And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them.

Took the anointing oil ... - which was designed to intimate that persons who acted as leaders in the solemn services of worship should have the unction of the Holy One both in His gifts and graces.

Verse 13

And Moses brought Aaron's sons, and put coats upon them, and girded them with girdles, and put bonnets upon them; as the LORD commanded Moses.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 14-17

And he brought the bullock for the sin offering: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the bullock for the sin offering.

Brought the bullock ... - a timely expression of their sense of unworthiness, a public and solemn confession of their personal sins, and a transference of their guilt to the typical victim.

Verses 18-21

And he brought the ram for the burnt offering: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram.

Brought the ram ... - as a token of their entire dedication to the service of God.

Verses 22-30

And he brought the other ram, the ram of consecration: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram.

Brought the other ram ... 'We learn from the Egyptian sculptures that the victim, having its feet tied together, was thrown on the ground; and the priest having placed his hand on its head (as in Leviticus 1:4; Leviticus 3:8), or holding it by the horn, cut its throat, apparently from ear to ear, as is the custom of the Moslems at the present day. The skin was then removed, and after the head had been taken away, the foreleg or shoulder, generally the right shoulder (as in Leviticus 8:26), was the first joint cut off. This was considered and called the choicest part, and was the first offered on the altar (cf. Leviticus 8:25; 1 Samuel 9:24). The other parts were afterward cut up; and the shoulder, the thigh, the head, the rump, the heart, and the kidneys were the principal ones placed on the altar. The body was filled with cakes and various things, after which it was burnt (as in Leviticus 8:25-26)' (Wilkinson, in Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' 2:, 69-72).

After the sin offering and burnt offering had been presented on their behalf, this was their peace offering-a federal rite, by which they declared the pleasure which they felt in entering upon the service of the God of Israel, and being brought into close communion with Him as the ministers of His sanctuary, together with their confident reliance on His grace to help them in all their sacred duties (see the notes at Exodus 29:19-22). Since Aaron was consecrated to the office of high priest by the blood of the ram of consecration [Septuagint, krios teleiooseoos, the ram of perfection], so the apostle (Hebrews 5:8-10) uses the same word [ teleioosai (G5048)] to express the consecration of Christ to His spiritual office; and hence, He is said to have been consecrated (Hebrews 7:28).

Verses 31-32

And Moses said unto Aaron and to his sons, Boil the flesh at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and there eat it with the bread that is in the basket of consecrations, as I commanded, saying, Aaron and his sons shall eat it.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 33

And ye shall not go out of the door of the tabernacle of the congregation in seven days, until the days of your consecration be at an end: for seven days shall he consecrate you.

Ye shall not ... After all these preliminaries, they had still to undergo a week's probation in the court of the tabernacle before they obtained permission to enter into the interior of the sacred building. During the whole of that period the same sacrificial rites were observed as on the first day; and they were expressly admonished that the smallest breach of any of the appointed observances would lead to the certain forfeiture of their lives. 'The case of the high priest differed from that of the common priests, who were never consecrated afresh after the original consecration of their fathers, the immediate sons of Aaron. The reason of this difference was, that the pontificate descended according to personal claims, but the priesthood was by hereditary right' (Outram On Sac. Dis.,' 1:, ch. 5:, Allen's Translation).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Leviticus 8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/leviticus-8.html. 1871-8.
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