Bible Commentaries
Exodus 29

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary


III. Israel at Sinai ( XIX. XL.) .

The division Num 19– 40 presents difficulties due to its very importance, see introduction to Ex. (last paragraph). But Num 25– 31, 35– 40 readily fall apart from the rest, as containing P’ s account of the Tabernacle ( see on Exodus 25:1), the introduction to which is found in Exodus 19:1-2 a and Exodus 24:15 b Exodus 24:18 a, Exodus 34:29-35 being a link section. All critics confess that in the remainder many details must remain doubtful. The Oxf. Hex. is for the most part followed here. It does not differ very widely from Baentsch, who has made a special study of this part. Gressmann’ s drastic reconstruction is highly suggestive in particulars, but as a whole is over-bold. The noteworthy fact is that both J and E preserve important traditions. In each there is an older stratum preserving these elements of the national memory of the religious and political confederation of the tribes: an awful appearance of God upon Sinai-Horeb (Exodus 19 JE, Exodus 20:18-21 E), and the giving of a sacred code, the (Ten) Covenant Words, inscribed upon stone tablets ( Exodus 31:18 b E, Exodus 34:28 J) and sealed by a solemn sacrificial feast ( Exodus 24:5 E, Exodus 24:11 J). Now these passages concur in presenting a favourable view of Israel at this period: he is the son gratefully responding to the compassionate love of his Father ( cf. Exodus 4:22 *), or the lowly bride returning the affection of her Husband. And this agrees with the view of the period taken by all the pre-exilic prophets who refer to it (see Hosea 2:15; Hosea 11:1; Hosea 11:3 f., Hosea 12:9; Hosea 12:13, Amos 2:9-11; Amos 3:1 f., Jeremiah 2:1-3; Jeremiah 2:34). Even Ezekiel’ s severe view rather points to the ancestral heathenism of the tribes (Egyptian, Exodus 23:3, but Canaanite or Amorite-Hittite, Exodus 16:3) than to any apostasy just at this epoch. Only Hosea 9:11, if it refers to the incident Numbers 25:1-5 JE, implies such a lapse. On these grounds it is probable that Numbers 32 JE (the Golden Calf and its destruction E, and the vengeance of the Levites J), together with not a little expansion elsewhere, belongs to a later stage in the moulding of the tradition. The order of incidents is hard to follow, because the editor who united J and E, in his care to preserve as much as possible of both, took the story of the tablets in J as a re-giving and rewriting of them with a renewal of the broken covenant. Much of Numbers 33 containing the colloquies with the Divine Leader belongs to this stage. All this, of course, involves a considerable disturbance of the Bible order and representation in Ex., which, but for one section, is substantially followed by D. But the essence of the great religious facts is irrefragably secure: Israel did, by whatever stages short or long, emerge from a condition little removed from contemporary heathenism, and learned to worship one gracious and holy God (p. 84). Differences concern only the manner and form of events, and their times. Later historians have so accustomed us to having at least the main events fitted neatly into their centuries B.C. or A.D. that we find it hard to think that serious writers could be centuries out in their reckoning. But just as prophets saw future events near and distant in a foreshortened perspective, so it may be that the Bible historians— called “ the former prophets” (pp. 38, 244) by the Jews— saw their instances of the nation’ s glory and shame as more closely crowded together than they actually were. The main thing is that they actually saw them, and that, too, in the mirror of eternity.” Throughout the whole we see the material, as it were, in a plastic state. As older conceptions were outgrown new touches could modify the details, though, fortunately for our chances of recognising the earlier levels of inspiration, traces of the old were not always obliterated. Sometimes we must suppose that these modifications had already been made during the period of oral tradition.

Verses 1-46

Exodus 29. P ( Exodus 29:21; Exodus 29:38-42 later). Consecration of the Priesthood ( cf. Leviticus 8).— The ritual of consecration is described at length. For the various sacrifices, see the appropriate sections of Leviticus 1-7*, which belong to an older stratum of P, and are presupposed throughout.

(i.) The materials for the sacrificial ceremonial include a bullock and two rams, bread of unleavened cakes, perforated cakes (perforations are still made in the Passover cakes), and large thin wafers, all unleavened, and to be brought in a basket ( Exodus 29:1-3).

(ii.) All the priests to be consecrated must be bathed ( Exodus 29:4): the defiling distractions of the world must be cleansed away,

( iii.) The investiture of the High Priest with the vestments of Exodus 29:28 follows: holy persons must have holy habits. Moses is to put upon Aaron the undertunic, the long robe, the ephod (whether skirt or waistcoat), and the pouch, fastening this to him with the band of the ephod, placing the turban on his head, and putting the holy diadem (a fresh word, meaning the blue band that held the golden plate in place) upon the turban ( Exodus 29:5-7).

(iv.) The anointing comes next, the oil ( Exodus 30:22-33 *) being poured upon the head, and none but Aaron receiving unction. Already in Zechariah 4:6 and its context oil is a symbol of the Spirit.

(v.) The investiture of the ordinary priests with their tunics, sashes, and caps is now described ( Exodus 29:8-9 a) ; but the words “ Aaron and his sons” after “ girdles” ( i.e. sashes) should be omitted, with LXX, as a gloss.

(vi.) Next, Moses is to “ consecrate” or rather “ install Aaron and his sons.” The Heb. ( Exodus 29:9 b) is “ fill the hands” ( cf. Exodus 32:29 J, Leviticus 8*, Numbers 3:3 *, 1 Chronicles 29:5 *), i.e. either with the first sacrifices (in which case this section becomes merged in the next), or with some sacred object or implement ( cf. the delivery of chalice and paten in the Roman and of the Bible in the Anglican Ordinal),

( vii.) The bullock is then ( Exodus 29:10-14) to be offered as the sin-offering (since the priest must lead the way in penitence), Aaron and his son marking it as their sacrifice by laying their hands upon its head. For the details see Leviticus 4:4-12, except that the offerers are treated as laymen ( cf. Leviticus 4:25) in that the blood is put on the altar of burnt-offering though the flesh is not eaten, there being no priests yet qualified to eat it; so flesh, skin, and offal are all burnt outside the camp.

(viii.) One ram is then to be treated as a burnt-offering, the blood being, not “ sprinkled upon,” but “ thrown against” the sides of the altar out of a basin ( Exodus 29:15-18, cf. Leviticus 1*). The life of the priest is to be one of entire devotion.

(ix.) The second ram is called in Exodus 29:22 “ a ram of installation,” and is to be offered as a peace-offering ( Exodus 29:19-34, cf. Leviticus 3*), i.e. to become a sacrament of Divine fellowship and human joy through the partaking of the offerers ( Exodus 29:32 f.). Ear, hand, and foot are to be touched with the sacrificial blood, that the priest may worthily hear God’ s commands, handle the sacred gifts, and tread the holy courts ( Exodus 29:20). The direction in Exodus 29:21 to “ sprinkle” blood and oil on all the priests and their garments, placed earlier in LXX, is a late gloss: observe (against M‘ Neile) that it is “ the anointing oil” (not common oil as in Leviticus 14:15-18 in the case of the leper) which is specified here, and which is reserved for the High Priest in the earlier strata of P. The ceremony of “ waving” ( Exodus 29:22-26) certain parts of the offerings was a characteristic part of priestly ceremonial, signifying that they were, as swung towards the altar, offered to God, and, as swung back, received again from Him as consecrated gifts for reverent consumption. Here the parts are burned ( Exodus 29:25) because the priests are not yet fully installed. (The two regulations, about the “ wave breast” and “ heave” or “ contribution-thigh” being priestly dues ( Exodus 29:27), and about the handing on of the High Priest’ s robes to his successor ( Exodus 29:29), occupy a parenthesis.) The flesh is next to be boiled and eaten by the priests, with the bread in the basket, at a sacrificial meal on the spot ( Exodus 29:31 f.). Nowhere else is the peace-offering said to effect “ atonement” ( Exodus 29:33 a, i.e. reconciliation, at-onement, not expiation). No “ stranger” ( Exodus 29:33 b), i.e. layman (different words in Exodus 2:22, Exodus 12:48) might partake,

(x.) The whole series of ceremonies is to be repeated on seven successive days ( Exodus 29:35).

(xi.) The same provision is made in regard to the offering of “ a (not “ the” ) bullock of sin-offering,” in order to “ purge from sin” (regarded as capable of clinging to a material object) “ the altar” for seven days ( Exodus 29:36 f.). Observe that the holiness of the altar is such ( Exodus 29:37 b) as to infect any unqualified person or thing touching it, so that he or it should be mysteriously at the disposal of the Deity ( cf. Ezekiel 46:20 b).

A disconnected paragraph ( Exodus 29:38-42) about the daily burnt-offering has been introduced here from Numbers 28:3-8 *. The last section ( Exodus 29:43-46) serves as conclusion to Exodus 29:25-29. It falls into two parts. In the first Yahweh promises to meet “ there” ( i.e. at the altar, Exodus 29:37) with Israel— tent, altar, and priests being hallowed by His glorious presence. In the second, which recalls the style of H, and may have been the conclusion of an earlier and simpler account, He promises to “ dwell among” them. So the directions for sanctuary and priesthood close with the profound promise of realised fellowship between God and His people. Still, in any community of worshippers, religious revival will depend on the effective realisation of this promise (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 29". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.