Tuesday, June 6th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Pett's Commentary on the Bible Pett's Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 8". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ pet/ leviticus-8.html. 2013.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 8". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
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Chapter 8 The Anointing of the High Priest.
This chapter again, as with Leviticus 1:0, takes up from the last part of Exodus (see Exodus 40:33). It describes the anointing of Aaron as the first High Priest of Israel, to oversee the tabernacle. Or, as he is mainly known in the text, as ‘The Priest’. This was together with his sons who would be his deputies as ‘priests’, and one of whom would replace him when he died. Nations around all had High Priests and it is not therefore surprising that it was an idea that Israel took up under God (for the actual term High Priest see Leviticus 21:10; Numbers 35:25; Numbers 35:28). Had they not had a High Priest they would have been an oddity among the nations.
His responsibility was to look after the religious life of Israel, and to act as Israel’s representative before, and mediator with, God. As such he had to ensure the proper working of the cult, to ensure that all was done rightly, and to ensure that the people knew the Law of God. He had to ensure that all the correct procedures were carried through with regard to the offering of sacrifices, that the daily and weekly ministrations were fulfilled, and that the people were made aware of the Law of God and what was required of them. And above all he was responsible for ensuring the successful celebration of the great Day of Atonement when all Israel’s sins were ‘atoned for’ for each year, for another year (see Leviticus 16:0).
The importance of all this for us today is that we too have all been called to be priests under our own Great High Priest ( 1Pe 2:5 ; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6), and in what happened to Aaron and his sons we can see something of our privileges in Christ. But like Jesus Himself our priesthood is not earthly, but heavenly. According to the Law no one, apart from the descendants of Aaron (Hebrews 8:4), can serve as a priest on earth, not even Jesus. But their ministry has ceased, both because invalidated by the offering up of Christ, and because of world events. Earthly sacrifices are therefore no longer acceptable, and can no longer be offered. Thus we do not serve on earth as an earthly priesthood, we serve in a heavenly priesthood (Hebrews 10:19-22). Through the work of Christ all earthly priesthood has lost both its function and its validity. They were but shadows and types of a reality to come (Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 10:1). Any man who claims to carry out priestly functions on earth on behalf of others, who is not descended from Aaron, is a fake. And anyone who does as a descendant of Aaron is out of date.
Our responsibilities and privilege are made clear in the New Testament. As His priests we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5), the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving (Hebrews 13:15; Philippians 4:6), and to show forth the excellences of Him Who has called us out of darkness into His most marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9). This includes a constant presentation of our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service, in order that we might carry out His will (Romans 12:1-2), praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit for all God’s true people (Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6), offering up the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving (Hebrews 13:15; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 2:7; Colossians 4:2) and ministering to God’s people and to the world (Philippians 2:17; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:16; Romans 15:16). And we do this in the Name of the One Who offered up one final sacrifice for sins for ever, a sacrifice never needing to be repeated. Thus the only offering and sacrifice that we can now make is the offering of ourselves to and through Him, as we are made one with Him in His sacrifice (Galatians 2:20).
And this is the basis on which we can read ourselves into these chapters. For like Aaron and his sons we too have been called to priesthood. And like them we must treat it as a serious business. Aaron is a type and shadow, partly of the High Priesthood of Christ, and partly of our position as priests under Christ’s High Priesthood.
The Beginnings of the Priesthood (Leviticus 8:1 to Leviticus 10:20 ).
In these chapters Aaron and his sons are installed by Moses as priests on earth, with Aaron as ‘the Priest’ (Leviticus 8:0). This can be compared with how Christ installs all Who come to Him as priests, in order that they may be worshippers of God and His ministers to the world. These new priests then carry out their first duties which God seals in a miraculous way (Leviticus 9:0), but sadly pride will overcome two of Aaron’s sons and they will be smitten by God which causes Aaron great grief (Leviticus 10:0). High privilege in the things of God brings great responsibility.
‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,’
The chapter begins with these words. They probably indicate a new revelation from God to Moses at this point, rather than just a continuation link. However, either way we are being assured that the words that follow are those spoken by God to Moses.
At Yahweh’s Command The People Are Called Together And Informed That What They Are About To See Is Taking Place At The Command of Yahweh (Leviticus 8:2-5 ).
An epoch making moment was about to take place. It was therefore important that all should see that it was of God. On this day God would establish a priesthood that would have responsibility before God for the whole people of God over the next a thousand years and more, until they were finally replaced by Jesus Christ. Over that period they were to be His representatives on earth. It would be a great responsibility.
Some would bear it nobly and their lives would reveal something of the glory of God, and many would be blessed through their activity. We may consider such as Eleazar, who with Joshua led the people into Canaan, Samuel who restored the reputation of the priesthood, only for it to fail at the hands of his sons, and Joshua who with Zerubbabel helped to restore the nation after the Exile (Zechariah 3:1-9; Zechariah 6:11-13). And there were others too, many unknown, who laboured faithfully for God through the ages.
Note on the Priesthood.
On the death of Aaron, his son Eleazar succeeded to the office of ‘the Priest’ and was inaugurated by Moses on Mount Hor alone with God (Numbers 20:28; compare Deuteronomy 10:6). He was already ‘prince of the princes of the Levites’, and had had oversight of those who had charge of the Sanctuary (Numbers 3:32 compare Leviticus 4:16). He was clearly a figure of high authority, first with Moses (Numbers 26:1; Numbers 27:2; Numbers 27:19; Numbers 27:21-22; Numbers 31:12-13; Numbers 31:21; Numbers 31:13-54; Numbers 32:2; Numbers 32:28; Numbers 34:17) and then with Joshua (Numbers 27:21 where he was to use ‘the Urim’ on Joshua’s behalf; 34:17; Joshua 14:1; Joshua 17:4; Joshua 21:1 where he has precedence over Joshua). His death is recorded in Joshua 24:33.
In Joshua 22:30, Phinehas his son, who is usually called ‘the son of Eleazar the Priest’, is called ‘the Priest’, suggesting that he now acted in his father’s place, his father being old, and in Judges 20:28 he is named as ‘the one who stood before the Ark of Yahweh’ and he clearly used the Urim and Thummim. That someone had taken over comes out in what was almost certainly a use of the Urim and Thummim in Judges 1:1, and is confirmed by the fact that when Joshua died the people ‘served Yahweh’ all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua (Judges 2:7). This required both a priesthood and a central Sanctuary. For an example of how the central Sanctuary still came into play see Judges 19-21, especially Judges 20:1-2; Judges 20:18; Judges 20:23 where the Urim and Thummim are used, Judges 20:26 where whole burnt offerings and peace offerings are offered before Yahweh, Judges 20:27-28 where Phinehas is clearly in authority and is ‘before the Ark of Yahweh’ and uses the Urim and Thummim; Judges 21:4 where an altar was ‘built’ at Mizpah, which seems to have been where the tabernacle was for a time, and probably signifies the making ready of the bronze altar of burnt offering, the building up of the fire on it, with that followed by the offering of whole burnt offerings and peace sacrifices on it.
The movements from place to place probably signify that the Ark was on the move (Mizpah (Judges 20:1; Judges 21:1); Bethel (Judges 20:18; Judges 20:26-29; Judges 21:2)) in order that Yahweh would be with them in battle (compare Numbers 10:35-36). Whether the tabernacle moved with it we are not told, but it was probably so.
But by the time of Eli the Sanctuary was at Shiloh (1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Samuel 1:7; 1 Samuel 4:4; Jeremiah 7:12), where it seems to have been permanently stationed until it was destroyed by the Philistines (Jeremiah 26:6-9). 1 Samuel 1:9 speaks of ‘the doorpost of the temple of Yahweh’, but ‘doorpost’ could mean tentpole (compare ‘the door of the tent of meeting’), and the tabernacle is elsewhere named a temple by David (2 Samuel 22:7; Psalms 5:7), at a time when the tabernacle is regularly spoken of. The ‘temple’ (heycal - ‘a spacious, magnificent structure’) of a god could be a tent, or could be a building. Thus here it is the magnificent tabernacle. And it may well also be that on the tabernacle’s ‘permanent’ site buildings to house the skins and the tithes had been erected, and even a defensive wall with a ‘door’.
Eli was informed by God that He had called his ‘father’ Aaron by choosing him out of all of Israel to be His Priest, to go up to His altar, to burn incense and to wear the ephod (1 Samuel 2:28) with the inference that Eli now did the same. But he was to be replaced by one chosen by God (1 Samuel 2:35), which in context must, at least in the first place, indicate Samuel his adopted son, for Samuel interceded for Israel ( 1Sa 7:5 ; 1 Samuel 7:8;), offered sacrifices (1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 7:17), anointed those who would be king and wore a linen ephod (1 Samuel 2:18). Samuel is never named ‘the Priest’, but he certainly acted as a priest, presumably through adoption (while Eli’s grandsons were growing up?). A child by adoption was treated as a true son. Eli is not mentioned in the genealogies in 1 Chronicles, because, like Ahimelech and Abiathar after him, he was descended from Ithamar (1 Kings 2:27).
By the time of David Ahimelech, descended from Ithamar and of the house of Eli (1 Samuel 21:2; 1 Kings 2:27; 1 Chronicles 24:3), was ‘the Priest’, and he was followed by Abiathar who bore the ephod and ‘the Ark of the Lord Yahweh’ (1 Samuel 30:7; 1 Kings 2:26), who because of treachery was replaced by Zadok (1 Kings 2:35), of the house of Eleazar.
(End of note).
But this priesthood, which was intended to bind the nation together within the covenant and keep it in the truth, in the end proved unworthy, and while some sometimes genuinely sought to do so, only too often the priests as a whole would fail in their responsibility. They would become too taken up with other things, with politics, with seeking power and riches, and with the lure of false gods, so that the covenant and its significance ceased to be important. We see in the time of Jesus the faithful among the priests (Luke 1:5), but this did not tend to extend to the hierarchy (John 2:16; Mark 11:17). And none would fulfil it as it should be fulfilled until the One came Who would be God’s perfect High Priest in things pertaining to God (Hebrews 2:17), Jesus Christ Himself.
However, at the time in which this was written all that was still in the future. This day was a day of great hope. Israel’s future with God was being catered for in the light of their establishment as a nation.
‘Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, and the anointing oil, and the bull ox of the purification for sin offering, and the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread, and assemble all the congregation at the door of the tent of meeting.’
Moses is first called on to bring Aaron and his sons into the court of the tabernacle at the door of the tent of meeting, and to gather the people and all the equipment that will be necessary for their consecration. The bull ox was for the purification for sin offering, one of the rams for a whole burnt offering and the other for the ‘consecration’ (the ‘filling’). Also brought are the unleavened bread and cakes in their basket. Then the people are to be gathered together.
Note how the instruction assumes that full details have already been given. Thus the existence of the information in Exodus 29:0 is here assumed.
We have in this a reminder of what Christ did for us in consecrating us to His service. He offered Himself up (as our purification for sin offering) that we might be purified, that He might set us apart to Himself and sanctify us in God’s eyes (as our whole burnt offering and ram of consecration), and that He might feed us with Himself as the bread of life (our unleavened bread)
‘And Moses did as Yahweh commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the door of the tent of meeting.’
Godly man as he was Moses did exactly as Yahweh had commanded him, with the result that all was soon ready and the whole of the people were gathered round the tabernacle in expectancy. It was a great day. Their leaders and important men would be pressed into the court of the tabernacle, while the people amassed round about, mainly outside the court, but facing the door of the tent of meeting.
‘And Moses said to the congregation, “This is the thing which Yahweh has commanded to be done.” ’
Moses then explained why they were gathered. His explanation, received by the leaders would be conveyed to the wider crowds through messengers. Note that his first concern was that they should be aware that what he was about to do was on Yahweh’s command. ‘Be sure to realise,’ he kept repeating, ‘that this is the command of Yahweh’ (Leviticus 8:4-5; Leviticus 8:9; Leviticus 8:13; Leviticus 8:17; Leviticus 8:21; Leviticus 8:29).
While the people constantly complained about Moses he was in the last analysis the one whom they trusted. And while Aaron had been with him throughout their adventures in Egypt it was Moses whom they had looked on as the prime figure. It was he who had divided the Reed Sea. It was he who had been with God in the Mount, who had brought them the Law, and who had previously acted as priest when it was necessary. It was he whom they had seen go into the old tent of meeting to meet with Yahweh. It was he who had organised the making and erection of the tabernacle. They might well have asked, why then should Aaron now supplant him? Others might simply have looked on it as Mosaic nepotism, a favouring of his own brother. So Moses wanted them to be sure that they were aware of the truth. That Aaron was being appointed at the command of God. That Aaron was appointed by none other than God to be their High Priest. (Inevitably, man being what he is, it would not be long before this was challenged - Numbers 16:0)
The Preparation for The Consecration Of Aaron and His Sons - The Sanctifying of The Tabernacle and Its Contents, The Robing of the Priests, and The Anointing of Aaron (Leviticus 8:6-13 ).
Aaron and his sons are first robed in the robes of their office. For the full details of these robes, and their manufacture, see Exodus 28:0. It is a reminder that as Christians who have responded fully to Christ we too have been robed in the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21 compare Isaiah 61:10) so that we may serve Him as priests before God. Without that robe, giving us status and authority in Him, we could not serve a holy God.
‘And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water.’
Moses first action with Aaron and his sons was to wash them with water. This was a ceremonial washing and indicated the preliminary removal from Aaron and his sons of the taint of earthiness. They were to be made outwardly as free of earthly taint as when they came into the world (that is, once they had been washed after birth). No earthly stains of life should remain on them. They were coming into the presence of the Holy One, the One Who was not of this earth. Nothing earthy must cling to them.
Like all ceremonial washing this had nothing to do with spiritual ‘cleansing’. Water did not ‘cleanse’ (unless mixed with sacrificial ashes as in the water of purification - Numbers 19:0). It washed off earthiness preparatory to cleansing. The constant refrain after ceremonial washing is ‘and shall not be clean until the evening’. Men were cleansed as they waited on God in their tents, (as Aaron and his sons would wait in the Sanctuary - Leviticus 8:33-35) not by the washing of water. The point being made by the washing in water was that in order even to enter God’s presence they needed to leave ‘earthiness’ behind.
We too when entering into the presence of God must learn to leave earthiness behind. We should ‘wash’ our hearts and our minds clear of earthly things (Isaiah 1:16-18) that in His presence our concentration may be on heavenly things, and on what is pleasing to God. And then we should seek cleansing through the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7), and washing of water with the word (Ephesians 5:26), a ‘washing’ that goes deeper than the mere removal of earthiness. Bold we may be (Hebrews 10:19) but we should not enter God’s presence lightly.
Through loose interpretation some equate baptism with this washing in water. But washing is not the idea behind baptism. Baptism is symbolic of the rain, which watered the earth and resulted in the rivers and springs, which was life-giving and fruit-bearing as John the Baptiser’s (Matthew 3:7-12; Luke 3:8-9; Luke 3:17) and Jesus’ teaching (John 4:10; John 4:14; John 4:23; John 7:37-39) makes clear, and as is described vividly in the prophets (Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:1-5). It is not symbolic of a cultic rubdown which symbolises simply the removal of earthiness. Peter in fact specifically points out that baptism is ‘not the removal of the filth of the flesh’ (1 Peter 3:21), it is not to be seen as like a cultic washing, but rather it is like the water that lifted up the Ark to bring deliverance and salvation. Paul talks of it as illustrating dying and living again. All speak of life and deliverance.
Note On Washing With Water.
We will come across this cultic washing again and again. We should therefore recognise what is involved. Water was in short supply in the wilderness, except when at large oases, and, apart from the rainy months, it was short in Palestine as well, especially in the hills. In many places in Palestine, in order to survive, rainwater when it came had to be gathered in cysterns, which were holes in the ground, narrowing in at the top and lined with lime-plaster. And while it was carefully guarded, the water soon became soiled as people regularly came to the cystern and drew from it, and it had to be used sparingly. Cities would be built by copious springs, from which water could also be collected and kept in earthenware jars, but even then it was rarely available, except to the rich, in ample quantities. So water, especially in the summer months, had to be preserved and used sparingly. Bathing was a luxury for the rich and for kings. Men and women did not see themselves as dirty. They saw no need to wash for that reason. And for those who could afford it and felt it necessary, the smells, which were for most a normal part of life, were disguised by the use of perfumes.
Thus water was not seen as something by which you kept clean. It was rather seen as intended for drinking and for watering the fields, producing life. However, through the cult, washing in order to remove the worst of dirt was encouraged, and this was undoubtedly hygienically beneficial, but cultically it was in order to remove men’s earthiness, the earthiness that inhibited approach to a heavenly God. While it thus had its part in removing cultic uncleanness, it was not because the water was itself seen as symbolising cleansing within. The water was seen as simply removing earthiness so that men could approach God in order to be cleansed. That is why regularly after speaking of washing in water the refrain is added, ‘and shall not be clean until the evening’. Spiritual cleansing took place through spending time before God.
And even cultic washing was not the equivalent of ‘bathing’. Where it was ‘necessary’ hands and feet would be washed (Exodus 30:19-21), and water might be applied to the body, but it was perfunctory rather than adequate. Even the High Priest’s washing on the Day of Atonement would probably not be a full-scale bath (Leviticus 16:4) in those early days. It was ‘earthiness’ that was being removed, not dirt. And it was mainly symbolic. (Even the later proselyte conversion bath had this aim in mind, the removal of cultic ‘uncleanness’ resulting from living in the Gentile world, and was not for the removal of dirt or sin as such).
On the whole then the idea that baptism symbolises spiritual ‘cleansing’ (as against renewal) does not come from the Scriptures. In fact it is rather remarkable how little suggestion there is of this. The only possible reference to it is in Acts 22:16, and even then it is doubtful if it bears the weight put on it, for Ananias probably had in mind Isaiah 1:16-18, seeing the washing as preliminary, and the baptism rather as following it and related to calling on the name of the Lord resulting in reception of the Spirit. The idea of baptism as washing came from societies who saw washing as necessary in order to be clean. But these were not in Palestine. In Palestine water was rather the symbol of life and hope and growth. John the Baptiser spoke in terms of fruitful fields and trees, not in terms of bathing and being clean, and Jesus spoke in terms of ‘new birth’ and of water giving life. Paul saw baptism as symbolising the rising from the dead, and Peter as lifting men up to salvation. It spoke of new life and new hope. Spiritual ‘cleansing’ was through the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7).
Thus this ‘washing with water’ should not be equated with baptism. It should rather be seen as denoting the need for us to recognise our earthiness in contrast with the heavenly. To put it in modern terminology we should, when we seek to approach God, put aside our earthly way of thinking and should think in heavenly terms, recognising that we are approaching a heavenly God, with the result that God may then be able to deal with us and bring us to cleansing through His blood.
In fact the wrong interpretation of baptism actually caused great harm in the church, with people refusing to be baptised until their death bed lest they lose its benefit by sinning after being baptised. They saw it as a once for all ‘cleansing from sin’. But this was to totally destroy the true essential significance of baptism which was that when a man became a Christian the ‘drenching’ of the Spirit as with life-giving rain, and the springing up of new life, came upon him. There was, of course a sense in which that was cleansing, but not in the sense of washing.
(End of note.)
‘And he put on him the coat, and put round him the sash (or ‘girdle’), and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him, and he girded him with the skilfully woven band of the ephod, and bound it to him with it.’
Moses now carried out the process of arraying Aaron with the detailed clothing of The Priest, with all the robes that had been prepared under God’s guidance. These priestly garments were to be ‘for glory and for beauty’ (Exodus 28:2). They were unique and were to separate him off as holding an office of splendour, as being a reflection of God’s beauty, as being distinguished from all others in his being ‘sanctified’, which signified that he was ‘set apart as holy’, as belonging to God, as being God’s supreme representative to His people, as being God’s mediator between God and man. They were not intended for his glory. They were in order to reveal to the people a hint of Yahweh’s own glory and beauty, and that this one acted before God on their behalf, and that when he came from the tabernacle he came to them from God. He was to be a shadow of the Greater Who was yet to come.
So God was concerned that men should honour ‘the Priest’ as His representative and mediator, and through his clothing God intended to reveal some small hint of His own glory and beauty. In comparison with what they all wore in the wilderness he would be beautiful indeed. And the intention was that the outer clothing would also reflect the inner life. To wear the one and not do the other would be hypocritical indeed. Aaron was called on to also reveal ‘the beauty of holiness’ (Psalms 29:2; Psalms 96:9; 1 Chronicles 16:29), the beauty of total dedication and separation to God. And in fact his failure to fully do so would sadly lead to his death (Numbers 20:24). But not before two of his sons had died before him for deliberate disobedience with regard to the ritual of the Sanctuary (Leviticus 10:1). Aaron and they were called to a high office. But it was also a demanding one. Those who wore the uniform were called on to live the life. And if they did not do so they would die. As so often through salvation history at the first establishment of something spiritually significant those involved who sinned were punished severely (Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 16:1-50; Joshua 7:1-26; 2 Samuel 6:6-7; Acts 5:1-11).
But at this moment of consecration all that was in the unknown future. On this day no clouds gathered over their heads. Aaron and his sons were proud and content as they approached Moses in order to be arrayed in their priestly garments, as the whole of Israel looked on.
First he put on Aaron the undercoat, which was of patterned work. It was probably of fine linen. This covered him from head to toe and included sleeves that he might not be ‘naked’ before God. Then the first ‘belt’ or ‘girdle’ was put round him, possibly a sash, in order to hold the coat in, and this was then followed by his over-robe. This was an embroidered robe of bluey-purple fine linen (Exodus 28:39) put on over the top. After this the ephod was put on him and belted on with the skilfully woven band of the ephod.
The ephod was made of costly material embroidered in gold, bluey-violet, purpley-red and scarlet. To put it simply it consisted of front and back pieces which reached from below the shoulders to the hips and was held in place by two shoulder bands, and was tied round the waist. Two precious stones were on its shoulder pieces which bore the names of the children of Israel. Attached to it by gold fittings was the breastpouch of judgment.
We may see in the colours a connection with splendour and glory (the gold), Heaven itself (the blue), royalty (purple) and the blood (scarlet). They represented different aspects of the High Priest’s position. He was a figure of splendour, was to connect with Heaven, was to be royal in status and was to be the one who made atonement for men. They are a fitting picture of Jesus Christ Who was Himself all this and more.
The High Priest was always intended to be a national leader under God, as Aaron had already proved himself to be, and as Eleazar his son was after him. See Number 26:63; 27:2, 19-22; 31:12-31; Joshua 14:1; Joshua 17:4. Note Eleazar’s precedence to Joshua in Numbers 34:17; Joshua 14:1. As spiritual leader he stood alongside the one who acted as war leader and ‘judged’ Israel. Phinehas then followed on (Numbers 31:36; Joshua 22:13; Joshua 22:30-32; Judges 20:28). It was partially the failure of the High Priest to fulfil this function properly that resulted in the laxness and weakness of the period of the Judges, and Eli later judged Israel, followed by Samuel.
In Samuel, war leader and High Priest were probably combined. But though the High Priest had royal power he was never king. God was Israel’s king (Numbers 23:21; Deuteronomy 33:5; 1 Samuel 8:7), and the High Priest his deputy. It was the people’s dissatisfaction with God as king (1 Samuel 8:7) and the failure of the priesthood (1 Samuel 8:5) that led to Saul’s appointment. They wanted a charismatic war leader, not to be dependent on a possibly failing and weak High Priest.
Christ was arrayed in His priestly robes through His exemplary life, girded with truth, and ‘wore the ephod’ as One Who was spoken to directly from God. On the Mount of Transfiguration the beauty of His garments, so hidden on earth, was revealed (Mark 9:3; Matthew 17:2; Luke 9:29), and He was appointed God’s High Priest (Mark 9:7 with Hebrews 5:5-6; Hebrews 5:10, see also Mark 1:11) so that He could offer up Himself as a sacrifice for sin.
We too as Christians need to be clothed properly if we are to be servants of Jesus Christ and are to approach God as His priests. We need the robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21), and the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14), the one provided by the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us, the other by being saturated in His word. Only those can serve Him who have received His covering righteousness and who love the truth.
‘And he placed the breastpouch on him, and in the breastpouch he put the Urim and the Thummim.’
This Breastpouch of Judgment was so-called (Exodus 28:5; Exodus 28:29-30) because it contained within it the Urim and the Thummim by which decisions were reached before Yahweh. It was like a 23 centimetre (nine inch) bag, was foursquare, and also contained on it twelve semiprecious stones on which were inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israel whom he represented before God. It would be attached to the ephod when Aaron was preparing to go in to the Holy Place before Yahweh. The Urim and Thummim, contained in the pouch, were probably used in a similar way to how we would toss a coin. Tossed down they probably gave two or three alternatives read from how they fell, possibly ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘no verdict’, but all this is highly conjectural on the basis of instances of its usage (in fact there is no specific example in Scripture of a negative answer by them, but that may be because no one was interested in recording details of such an answer).
This meant that when the nation needed to know God’s will it was to the High Priest that they looked. Once the men who knew God face to face (Moses and Joshua) had departed, he alone had the means for its discernment (Judges 20:28). Joshua probably looked to the Urim and Thummim in Joshua 7:16-19. David also at first looked to the Urim and Thummim in the ephod (1 Samuel 14:3 with 41-42; compare also 23:9-12; 28:6; 30:7-8; 2 Samuel 2:1-2). They are later mentioned after the Exile as something which might one day return (Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65) when disputed questions could be decided. The meaning of the two words used is unknown.
Jesus Christ had better than the Urim and Thummim, for He received communication directly from the Father and thus knew all the Father’s will (John 5:19-20; John 8:28-29; John 8:38; John 8:40; John 17:8).
Today we do not look to the Urim and Thummim. Rather do we look to the Spirit of God to guide us as we come together to seek to determine His will. We are confident that if our hearts are truly open and willing He will direct us in the right way (Genesis 24:27). But as with the Urim and Thummim we may receive no answer. If this be so, and our hearts be truly right, then we can go forward confident that He will go before us to prepare the way. But if our hearts are not right, then like Saul we may be led astray (1 Samuel 28:6). Spiritual discernment is an important gift.
‘And he set the turban on his head; and on the turban, in front, he set the golden plate (literally ‘flower’), the holy crown, as Yahweh commanded Moses.’
It should be noted that the turban is secondary, only worthy of mention because of the plate or flower of gold which had on it HOLY TO YAHWEH which was to be on Aaron’s forehead. The turban is not itself anywhere described in any way, except to say that it is of fine linen. All eyes are to be on the golden plate/flower with its powerful declaration.
This plate/flower is remarkable. It sums up why Aaron can come before Yahweh as the representative of the people. It is because he has in his official capacity as ‘the Priest’ been made ‘holy to Yahweh’, set apart as ‘holy’, as belonging to Yahweh, through due process as His ‘set apart one’. He has an aura from God about him. It sums up the significance of his office. It is why he can make atonement for all the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel had ‘set apart to God’, and can ‘bear the iniquity of sacred things’ (Exodus 28:38). He stands alone, a picture of a Greater yet to come.
He can be this because of God’s appointment, the shedding of blood on his behalf, and his various preparations which we have yet to consider. He is God’s appointee. But as such he represents all Israel. Thus in him Israel too is holy to Yahweh. The whole of the sacrificial system and the ordinances, and the covenant, are summed up on that plate/flower of gold. They are Yahweh’s provision for those who desire to be true to the covenant. The High Priest is ready to function as Yahweh’s anointed on their behalf.
The ‘flower’ shape may indicate the blossoming forth in new life of the priesthood from God in holiness, or it may be a reminder of mortality, that as the flower of the field he will die. The former seems more probable, but the latter ever a warning. Blossoming forth is often the symbol of new life (Isaiah 35:1; Isaiah 58:11).
And no one was more worthy of that head plate/flower than Jesus Christ. He was God’s blossoming forth (see Hebrews 1:2). And His whole life testified to the fact that He was ‘holy to Yahweh’. The High Priest bore it on his head in the temple, but Jesus bore it to the cross (unknowingly Pilate would spell it out on the cross as ‘this is the King of the Jews’, that is, the anointed one of God). That was why He suffered ‘outside the camp’ (Hebrews 13:12-13). As with the purification for sin offering for the High Priest and the nation, and on the Day of Atonement (see on 4:12, 21; 16:27), He was too holy to be finally committed to God within the camp. On that day Jerusalem ceased to count. It was no longer worthy. The true sacrifice had been offered outside the gates. And from that day it was the true High Priest in Heaven who bore the title ‘holy to Yahweh’. He was the One Who could truly wear gold, and blue, and purple and scarlet, for He was truly the One Who enjoyed the glory of God, was welcome in Heaven, was of full royal status and was the complete sacrifice for sin.
Note that this was all done ‘as Yawheh commanded Moses’. On such a solemn occasion, nothing must be done that Yahweh has not specifically commanded. The emphasis all though is on Moses’ total obedience.
‘And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and sanctified them.’
Having clothed Aaron in his splendour before the spellbound crowd, Moses now moved on to the task of ‘making holy’ (sanctifying, setting apart to God) the tabernacle and all the furniture in it. This was done by use of the holy anointing oil (see Exodus 30:22-33). All the crowd would probably see was Moses disappearing into the tabernacle with the anointing oil and emerging a short time later. That it is not described in any detail is a sign of authenticity. This record was made by someone standing outside, possibly Joshua. (Alternately we may see it as being intended to be a literal fulfilment of Exodus 40:9 where it is similarly abbreviated, indicating that as Yahweh had commanded, so was done).
The oil, made with God’s own unique constituents and never to be used except in relation to the prescribed holy things, signified that this was all set apart to God’s holy service. From now on it was His. It was most holy. None must touch it except those whom He had appointed.
Jesus as the tabernacle of God among men (John 1:14-18) was on His appointment also anointed, but in His case with the Holy Spirit Who came down from Heaven (Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38). Here was greater wonder and a better anointing, the real as against the shadow. He was supremely the Anointed One.
‘And he sprinkled of it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its vessels, and the laver and its base, to sanctify them.’
Once Moses came back outside more detail begins to enter the narrative. First he sprinkles the anointing oil on the altar seven times, thus is the altar anointed, then he anoints the vessels, the laver for holding the water for priestly washing, together with its base (even the base is now mentioned. All is detail now that it is visible to the recorder). The purpose again is to make them holy. The sevenfold anointing demonstrates the importance of the altar which needs divinely perfect dedication. But can we doubt that some of the important items inside the sanctuary had similar treatment, possibly the ark of the covenant and the altar of incense? Yet we are not told so because the one who recorded this did not see what happened. A later inventor would have known exactly what happened inside! And he would have been eager to describe the anointing of the sacred items that had by then disappeared, especially the holy Ark and the holy altar of incense.
Even more was that holy place temporarily anointed that bore the cross, where was the spiritual altar on which Christ offered Himself (Hebrews 13:10). It was not in Jerusalem, for that city was not worthy, but at an unknown site ‘outside the gates’. And its holiness was lifted up to Heaven with Him. We should not seek holy places on earth. God is in Heaven, and we live in heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1-3)
‘And he poured of the anointing oil on Aaron's head, and anointed him, to sanctify him.’
See Exodus 29:6. The anointing oil was then poured on Aaron’s head. The head was probably chosen because it was on the head that the crown would be placed which declared him ‘Holy to Yahweh’. This anointing identified him directly with the tabernacle and its furniture, and made him equally ‘holy’, as set apart to God in His service so that his person should be revered (that is why later David will not touch one who is ‘Yahweh’s anointed’ - 24:10; 26:9, 11, 23; 2 Samuel 1:14; 2 Samuel 1:16). He was brought into a new sphere, the sphere of being God’s unique representative. He could now go once a year where no other could go, into the very Holy of Holies. But he was still not greater than Moses, and it did not save him from the criticism of men, nor from judgment. Indeed it made him more open to it.
The anointing on the head separated him off as supreme over the whole priesthood. The other priests would be anointed (Leviticus 8:30), but not on the head.
Such anointing would later also be applied to kings and prospective kings of Israel (1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:13 and often) and prophets (1 Kings 19:16), so much so that the coming, expected great King would be called the Messiah, the Anointed One (Daniel 9:25).
In the same way was Jesus anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism, as God’s great alternative High Priest, King and Prophet (Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38). He too could go where no other has gone, into Heaven itself (Hebrews 9:24). And He too will anoint His own with the same Holy Spirit. He ‘drenches with the Holy Spirit’ (Mark 1:8; Matthew 3:11) all who come to Him.
‘And Moses brought Aaron's sons, and clothed them with coats, and girded them with girdles, and bound caps on them, as Yahweh commanded Moses.’
For fuller detail see Exodus 29:9. The sons of Aaron, while not being clothed in quite the same splendour, were also clothed with their priestly garments, but there is no mention of anointing (although see Leviticus 8:30 which brought them within the anointing). They came, as his assistants, within the anointing of the High Priest. The one who was approved to exercise the office also bore the anointing, which was why they shared his anointing later (Leviticus 8:30).
The robes of Aaron’s sons were probably, like Aaron’s under-robe (kethoneth), from neck to toe and with sleeves. They were probably also of fine linen. The verb used in Exodus 28:0 may indicate that they were not patterned like Aaron’s, but it may be that the patterning was assumed. They were fastened with a sash, girdle, or belt, and they were to wear caps, probably close-fitting. Such caps were often worn in Egypt, but not by priests. It would consist of a piece of cloth tied with ties. The caps were in order to retain the hair. Man must be totally covered in the presence of God in order to cover his unworthiness. The letting down of the hair was also a symbol of sadness and distress (Leviticus 10:6), and this must not occur in the Sanctuary where all was holy joy. The caps would also have another practical purpose. They would prevent sunstroke through constant service in the courtyard in connection with the altar.
The word used for their robe was used of the provision of robes for Adam and Eve in the Garden. Man in his puniness and his sinfulness must be totally covered before God. He is no longer fit to come before God as he is in himself.
We are given no information about the sash/girdle, except that it was embroidered (Exodus 28:39), but Exodus 39:29 shows it to be of fine linen, and possibly bluey-violet, and purpley-red, and scarlet, unless that is just describing Aaron’s. The remainder of their clothes were probably white. They also were to be clothed in purity from head to foot.
Their clothes too were ‘for glory and for beauty’. As priestly garments they covered their wearers, as it were, in the glory and beauty of God, depicting their status. Indeed white robes are regularly elsewhere depicted as the mark of the heavenly and the garb of angels and of the redeemed who have died (Mark 9:3; Matthew 28:3; Mark 16:5; John 20:12; Acts 1:10; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 7:14; Revelation 19:14).
We can see in these priests a picture of ourselves. We too are to be clothed with white, the righteousness of Christ; we too are to be girded with truth ready for service on Christ’s behalf. But our heads are to be uncovered because we are no longer under the Law, but share in Christ’s headship (1 Corinthians 11:4). And yet we must still wear the ‘cap’ of humility.
The Offering of the Purification For Sin Offering (Leviticus 8:14-17 ).
‘And he brought the bull ox of the purification for sin offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull ox of purification for sin offering.’
Having sanctified the tabernacle and it contents, and having put the priestly garments on Aaron and his son’s, and having anointed Aaron with oil to inaugurate the priesthood, Moses now commenced the offerings and sacrifices to seal the occasion.
The first stage was the purification for sin offering. In order to be initiated all must first be purified from their sins. This is the first stage for all of us. And it was so for Aaron. If we would be become God’s priests, anointed to serve Him, we must commence with being purified, in our case through the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:10).
The bull ox was brought forward, and Aaron and all of his sons laid their hands on it. By this they united themselves with the bull ox and it became their representative. It may be that they confessed their sins over it, but in fact confession of sin is only specifically linked to guilt offerings and to the live goat on the Day of Atonement, never to the purification for sin offerings, although the latter were certainly in recognition of having sinned.
‘And he slew it; and Moses took the blood, and put it on 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.’
Aaron then slew the bull ox, and Moses would catch the blood in a basin. We may also assume that they skinned the bull ox and cut it in pieces. Moses then took the blood and with his finger applied it to the horns of the altar, thus purifying the altar, and poured the blood at the base of the altar, sanctifying it and making atonement for it. It would seem clear from the fact that the altar which has just been sanctified (Leviticus 8:11) needs to be sanctified again, that the bringing of the bull ox and the slaying of it has in some way affected the altar. It is becoming as one with the sacrifice and the offerers, and needs to be purified and atoned for so that it can offer the offerings. Thus the purifying of the altar and the making of atonement for it includes the purifying of those involved at this stage, and the making of atonement for them. Their sin is seen as being in some way transferred to the altar, which was then purified so that the sin was neutralised.
The altar was in a way seen as the gateway to God. In Ezekiel’s heavenly temple the only thing actually commanded to be built is the altar (Ezekiel 43:18). It was through that earthly altar (in the relatively diminutive second temple) that the heavenly temple could be accessed. The heavenly temple was God’s own dwellingplace, never intended to be built on earth. It descended from God and finally returned to God, and is depicted in Revelation as the place from where He dispenses His blessings and judgments, and from which will flow the rivers of living water (Ezekiel 47:1-12; compare Revelation 22:1-5; John 7:38).
‘And he took all the fat that was on the innards, and the covering of the liver, and the two kidneys, and their fat, and Moses burned it on the altar.’
All the fat and the innards, including the vital parts, were now burned on the altar. The procedure follows that of the purification for sin offering for the priest described in Leviticus 4:3-12. The fat is the choice part of the offering, and the vital parts represent the soul of the animal, its vital life. All are offered to God in homage and worship. They are not to be partaken of even by the priests.
‘But the bull ox, and its skin, and its flesh, and its dung, he burnt with fire outside the camp, as Yahweh commanded Moses.’
Then all that remains of the bull ox is taken outside the camp and burned in a clean place, just as Yahweh had commanded Moses. All that Moses did was precisely as commanded by Yahweh. This was because these remains were so holy that they could not be burned on the altar, and could not be allowed to remain in the camp. They were passed on to God in His own place in the wilderness, in ‘a clean place’, a place not contaminated by any aspect of His living and dying creation.
Thus was Aaron, along with his sons, purified with the type and shadow that pointed forwards to the coming of Jesus Christ Who, as the holiest of the holy, came as God’s purification for sin offering, an offering made once-for-all for them and for the whole world, an offering so holy that He had to be offered outside Jerusalem. Without His first offering for sin, and our response to it by spiritually laying our hands on Him, we could not even begin to approach God.
Purification is thus foundational and central to the whole ceremony. It is ever so. If we would serve God we too must be purified, and be kept continually pure, and this purification is only possible through His blood. He offered Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins so that He might make purification for sins (Hebrews 1:3), and when we are open to Him and come to Him the blood of Christ through the eternal Spirit will purge our consciences from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14), and from then on as we continue walking in His light, the blood of Jesus Christ His Son, will go on cleansing us from all sin (1 John 1:7). But if we refuse His light there is nothing left but darkness.
The Offering of The Whole Burnt Offering (Leviticus 8:18-21 ).
‘And he presented the ram of the whole burnt-offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram.’
Moses then took the ram of the whole burnt offering, and called on Aaron and his sons to solemnly identify themselves with it by laying their hands on it. Without active participation and genuine response the whole ceremony would have been meaningless.
‘And he killed it, and Moses sprinkled the blood on the altar round about. And he cut the ram into its pieces, and Moses burnt the head, and the pieces, and the fat. And he washed the innards and the legs with water; and Moses burnt the whole ram on the altar: it was a whole burnt-offering for a pleasing odour, it was an offering made by fire to Yahweh; as Yahweh commanded Moses.’
The procedure for the whole burnt offering as described in chapter 1 was now carried through. Aaron slit the ram’s throat, and Moses then caught the blood in a basin and sprinkled it on all four sides of the altar. Atonement was to be made for the altar each time an offering was made, atonement which applied to all connected with the offering. The Aaron cut the ram in pieces and Moses burnt all on the altar, the pieces, the head, and the fat. And the innards and legs were washed and they too were burnt on the altar. The whole ram was burned on the altar. It was a whole burnt offering for a pleasing odour. It was an offering made by fire to Yahweh.
So were Aaron and his sons atoned for, and lifted up in dedication to God, in what was a shadow and type of the offering up of Jesus Christ as the perfectly obedient One, the One Whose dedication was total and complete. And so were they accepted for His sake. And we too, if we would serve Him must also be offered up in His dedicatory and atoning offering that we might be totally acceptable to God in His righteousness. We must be united with Him Who said, ‘Lo I come --- to do your will, O God’ (Hebrews 10:9). First we come to Him in humility and repentance as our purification for sin offering, and then we come to Him for reconciliation and atonement, that we may fully dedicate ourselves in Him and offer Him as our tribute to God, and offer ourselves in Him (we have nothing else that is worthy to be offered. It is all of grace).
The Offering of the Ram of Consecration Along With A Grain Offering As A Pleasing Odour (Leviticus 8:22-29 ).
In view of the fact that they all partake of this sacrifice (Leviticus 8:31) it would appear to be a Peace Sacrifice. It represents Christ Who was made our Peace and our Wellbeing. By partaking of Him we find peace with God and are made spiritually whole.
‘And he presented the other ram, the ram of consecration (of ‘filling up’), and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram.’
The other ram to be offered is now brought forward. It is called the ram of consecration. The word for consecration is used only of this ceremony. It comes from a root meaning ‘to fill up’. Compare Exodus 29:9, ‘to fill the hand’, which also indicated consecration to the priesthood. In texts from Mari of about the eighteenth century BC a similar word is used of conquerors being ‘filled’ with the booty of the conquered. Thus the thought here is of what Aaron and his sons receive by this consecration.
Through the offering of this ram they are being given a permanent privilege which will last through many generations, to be living representatives of God. And along with that goes the tithes and offerings of the people, participation in a portion of many offerings and sacrifices, and in cities in which to dwell, and in rights to teach the Law. Their hands are being filled to overflowing, as symbolised by the offerings placed in their hands (Leviticus 8:27), but all so that they may be available to be the servants of God. Their hands are being filled with blessings and with great responsibilities. The ‘filling of the hand’ has in the first place the parts of the ram of consecration, the fat and the shoulder, and the unleavened bread, in mind (Leviticus 8:27). But these were symbols of what would in future be theirs.
And it is through our Ram of Consecration Himself that, having been purified and dedicated through Him as our purification for sin offering and our whole burnt offering, we can be raised to serve as His heavenly priests, ministering on earth with sacrifices of praise (Hebrews 13:15) and thanksgiving, offering ourselves up constantly as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1) and being a pleasing odour to Him and to others through our witness and testimony (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).
‘And he slew it, and Moses took of its blood, and put it on the tip of Aaron's right ear, and upon 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 on the tip of their right ear, and on the thumb of their right hand, and on the great toe of their right foot, and Moses sprinkled the blood on the altar round about.’
Aaron then slew the offering and Moses caught the blood in a basin and his first act was then to put some of the blood on the tip of Aaron’s right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot. It was put on each extremity. As with the application of the blood to the horns and base of the altar (the extremities of the altar) in the case of the purification for sin offering this was for purification. The Priest had to be pure in ear and hand and foot. He had to have an ear to hear the voice of God, a hand to do the will of God and a foot to go in the way of God. Thus was he to be totally dedicated to the service of God.
So the dedication signified by the whole burnt offering was now sealed in depth by this individual application. The same ceremony applied to his sons. They too were dedicated in full in the same way. And then the same blood was applied to the sides of the altar for atonement. All that the Priest and his sons had done in the past was now atoned for. They came into office made at one with God, and with their sins forgiven. Their ears were purified, their hands clean, their feet dedicated. They were, as it were, made whole, and in their wholeness they were bound to His service for ever with every faculty that they possessed.
So when a person comes to Christ for forgiveness is he set apart to God, and his ear, hand and foot are marked with the blood of Christ as from then on dedicated to the service of Christ. We are no longer our own, we are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). From then on we are here only to hear His voice, to do His will and to walk in His way (John 10:27-29). Anything less falls short of true Christian conversion (although in our case too the initial process may take ‘seven days’, that is, a divinely perfect period).
‘And he took the fat, and the fat tail, and all the fat that was on the inwards, and the covering of the liver, and the two kidneys, and their fat, and the right thigh, and out of the basket of unleavened bread, which was before Yahweh, he took one unleavened cake, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer, and placed them on the fat, and on the right thigh, and he put the whole on the hands of Aaron, and on the hands of his sons, and waved them for a wave-offering before Yahweh.’
The fat and vital parts of the ram of consecration, and the right thigh, together with some of the grain offering, was then placed on the hands of Aaron and his sons so that they could wave them before Yahweh as a wave-offering, possibly by moving them from side to side. This indicated that they were offering them to God and that they came to God on their behalf.
It was also the first time that they had carried out this action which in future they would perform countless times. It was an initiatory act.
As His priests we also must offer the fat on the altar. All that is best, all that is surplus to our necessity should be offered and ‘burned up’ in the service of God as an offering to Him, that He might receive it to do with as He will, thereby laying up for ourselves treasure in Heaven where it can never fail (Matthew 5:19-21).
‘And Moses took them from off their hands, and burnt them on the altar on the burnt-offering. They were a consecration for a pleasing odour. It was an offering made by fire to Yahweh.’
Moses then took what they had waved before Yahweh and burnt them on the altar of burnt offering. The fat and vital parts were that which was always offered to Yahweh, as representing both the choicest portions and as representing the vitality of the animal; the thigh was that which was usually set apart for the priest. Here therefore it was a voluntary gift to Yahweh by the priests and an indication that they recognised that all that they in future received would have come from God; and the grain offering was the memorial portion offered from every grain offering. They all came up to Yahweh as a pleasing odour, and as an offering made by fire. They were received with pleasure as something fully purified and belonging to God.
Thus what they had to offer up to Him included what was their right, as a token that what they would afterwards receive came from His hand. We have in this a reminder that all that we have comes from God, and that we too should offer it back to Him so that He may use it as He will. Such an offering, genuinely made, is a pleasing odour to Him.
‘And Moses took the breast, and waved it for a wave-offering before Yahweh. It was Moses' portion of the ram of consecration, as Yahweh commanded Moses.’
Moses then took the breast, and that he waved before Yahweh. Again it was being offered to Yahweh as belonging to Him to be utilised as He proposed. Perhaps in this case God’s purpose was that it should be set aside for Moses as the officiant, for we are not told that it was burned on the altar.
The Anointing And Sanctifying Of Aaron And His Sons (Leviticus 8:30-36 ).
‘And Moses took of the anointing oil, and of the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, and on his sons, and on his sons' garments with him, and sanctified Aaron, his garments, and his sons, and his sons' garments with him.’
Compare Exodus 29:21 where the blood is mentioned first. They are of equal value. Aaron having been anointed, and the various offerings having been made, Moses now took the anointing oil, together with some blood from off the altar, and sprinkled it (nazah, as in Leviticus 8:11) on Aaron, and on his clothing, and on his sons, and on their clothing thereby ‘sanctifying’ (‘making holy and separate to God’ as the Sanctuary had been made holy and separate to God) both them and their clothing, as was necessary if they were to continually enter the Holy Place.
This anointing and sprinkling of blood would seem to be intended to make Aaron and his sons one with the Holy Place and the holy things, including the altar and laver ( Leviticus 8:11 - also nazah). They now participated in their dedication and were made a part with them of the things of the Sanctuary. Like the Sanctuary they were now Yahweh’s own. We can understand something of the awe with which the priesthood was regarded when we recognise that they, as it were, bore something of the holiness of the Sanctuary with them wherever they went. They ‘carried the Sanctuary with them’. But it placed on them a great responsibility.
We note the constant introduction of the blood. Whereas the oil alone was sprinkled on the furniture, when sprinkled on Aaron and his sons it had to be conjoined with sacrificial blood. Whatever Aaron and his sons were to be they were first of all sinners. The blood must be introduced at every point. There must always be atonement. Only then could they be accepted for other things.
There may also be a connection in this sprinkling (nazah) with the sprinkling (zaraq) of the blood on the people at the making of the original covenant (Exodus 24:8), so that this may be seen as giving them their unique position as covenant upholders, while others have connected it with the blood applied (nathan) to the doorposts at the Exodus (Exodus 12:7), a sign of their security from all evil under the protection of God. But both use different verbs. Nazah is rather used later for the sprinkling of purification of those with skin diseases. Compare also Leviticus 4:6. It has to do with purification (although it can also simply mean ‘splashed’ (Leviticus 6:27)).
It should be a thing of great wonder to us that we too have been sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 13:12) and by the anointing of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27; 1 John 2:0 Corinthians 1:27) so that as we walk on earth we may carry around something of the sanctity of Heaven. We have thereby been made citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20), and in Him belong to Heaven (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 5:19 compare 1 John 4:4-6), and we should therefore carry Heaven with us wherever we go. Our responsibility too is great lest our behaviour be a denial of the very sanctity of Heaven.
‘And Moses said to Aaron and to 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 what remains of the flesh and of the bread shall you burn with fire. And you shall not go out from the door of the tent of meeting seven days, until the days of your consecration be fulfilled, for he shall consecrate you seven days.” ’
Aaron and his sons were now commanded to remain at the door of the tent of meeting for seven days. That is, they were not to leave the precincts of the Sanctuary. There they were to boil the flesh of the ram of consecration and eat of it in the presence of Yahweh, and also of the bread in the basket of consecration. After which all that remained uneaten must be burned with fire. They were holy to God, and may eat of God’s provision. And they must not leave the Sanctuary precinct for seven days. It was the period of their consecration.
We can compare this eating before God with the incident on Mount Sinai where Moses, Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel ate in the presence of God (Exodus 24:9-11). That was preparatory to the giving of the Law. Now that the Law is being carried into action the same opportunity is given to Aaron and his sons. This eating before God would confirm to the people the unique status that the priests now enjoyed.
This waiting for seven days in the presence of God was an indication and reminder that with all the ceremonies that they had been through their final sanctification came from God. It was by waiting as it were in His presence for a period of divine perfection that their cleansing and ‘holiness’ would be made complete. Moses could conduct the initiating ceremonies, but only God could sanctify as they waited in His presence. There was nothing automatic about it. It was His work, as at creation. It was as though a new creation was taking place. Every seven day period was a reminder of the fact that God was the God of creation.
And during this seven days the consecration ceremony would be to some extent repeated (Exodus 29:35-37). Certainly the sin offering would be offered daily (Exodus 29:36-37). And if they were to continue feasting before Yahweh a daily peace sacrifice would be required, paralleling the ram of consecration. It may be this latter that is in mind in Exodus 29:35. But the details are not given. The final result would be that the altar would become most holy so that whoever touched it became holy (Exodus 29:37). It would not be directly approachable or usable by the ordinary Israelite. They would have to come through the priest. So was ‘sanctified’ what would in future be man’s means of access to God for atonement and purification, and those through whom that way would be open. The solemnity of the ceremony emphasised the solemnity of the result.
How much more solemn then was that offering by which an altar was provided for us on which died the Saviour of the world, so that through Him we might have continual atonement and access into the presence of God (Hebrews 13:10-12). And we too, once we are converted and become His through the sacrifice of the cross, should set aside special times that we might through His word and through prayer become more full sanctified as we wait in His presence. First we need to be weaned from the atmosphere of the world, and then we need to be weaned from ourselves and our own selfish living. As they did, we too must recognise that we carry a solemn responsibility towards those who are outside the Sanctuary. It will not lightly be fulfilled.
‘As has been done this day, so Yahweh has commanded to do, to make atonement for you.’
Indeed all that had been done and would be done that day had been in order to make atonement for them so that they might become His priests, to make them ‘at one’ with God. The making of them holy could not be accomplished in a moment, or even in a swift ceremony. It was necessary that they recognise the barrier that sin made between man and God. And once atonement was made the remainder of their sanctification would lay in the hands of God. And it was all at the command of Yahweh. We should in fact pause to consider just how much it was so. God said it and it was done (Leviticus 8:4-5; Leviticus 8:9; Leviticus 8:13; Leviticus 8:17; Leviticus 8:21; Leviticus 8:29). All this was done in accordance with God’s direct command to Moses.
‘And at the door of the tent of meeting shall you abide day and night seven days, and keep the charge of Yahweh, that you die not: for so I am commanded.’
So, the initial solemn celebration now being over as far as men were concerned, they could return to their homes, but Aaron and his sons were commanded to remain within the Sanctuary precincts for seven days. They were to be there for a taking part in further ritual ceremonies. including the atoning for and sanctifying of the altar each day. They were charged by Yahweh to remain there, and to keep His charge, lest they die. They were no longer free agents. If they did not do as He said they would die (which in those days was the natural end for anyone who refused to obey his overlord). They had voluntarily put themselves under His aegis, and now they must obey totally. It is a solemn thing to become a servant of the living God, and that is what they had done.
‘And Aaron and his sons did all the things which Yahweh commanded by Moses.’
And at this juncture Aaron and his sons obeyed God. They did all that God had commanded. If only they had continued in such obedience what blessing would have been theirs.