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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 8

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary




Consecration of the Aaronic Priest-hood

First Service Judicial Death of Nadab and Abihu. Chaps 8-10.

Jehovah having drawn near to his people by taking up his residence among them, now invites them to draw near unto him by the appointed sacrifices. But these must be offered in the manner which he has prescribed. This comprises a ritual so minute and elaborate that it requires for its proper performance the institution of a professional order. As sacrifices had existed before the promulgation of the Law so had priests, such as Melchizedek and Jethro, existed without the sanction of positive enactments. Now, however, for the first time, the priestly office is brought under the strict ordinance of law as a distinct order in the Hebrew commonwealth. Since the patriarchs were accustomed to perform sacerdotal functions, Aaron, the great grandson of Levi, would naturally be the priest of his tribe. The consecration of this entire tribe to sacred duties would point out Aaron as the head of the hierarchy, the high priest of the nation. The last public act of Aaron in permitting the abomination of the golden calf, only a few days before, followed so soon by his consecration to the high priesthood, strikingly exemplifies the truth declared to Moses: “The Lord,… merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,… forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Exodus 34:6-7. The choice, moreover, fell upon one who could “have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.” Hebrews 5:2. Fluent in speech, but, like many eloquent men, unstable, impulsive, and unfitted for the burden of administration for which his younger brother, of slow speech, was so admirably adapted, and on whom he leaned in times of fiery trial, Aaron was ever afterward earnest in his devotion to Jehovah and his people, and worthy of the high trust confided to him. This ordinance was altogether a most impressive scene. “In the background was seen Mount Sinai, silent and shrouded, as if it had never burned with fire or echoed along its gorges a solemn decalogue; around were the rich pastures of its slopes, stretching away far before their desert march. In the holy tabernacle, raised by the people’s liberality, was Aaron consecrated the first high priest, and clothed with the robes of beauty and glory in presence of all the people!” This chapter is a record of the investment and anointing of Aaron and his sons, and the anointing of the tabernacle, (1-13,) and the consecration of the priest, (14-36,) including the sin offering, (14-17,) the whole burnt offering, (18-21,) and the ram of consecration, (22-36.)


(1.) In the Pontificale or Ceremoniale Romanum nearly all the ritualism of this chapter is found prescribed for the consecration of a modern Romish priest or bishop. The superficial observer of such a pageant in a papal cathedral might pronounce the ceremonial eminently scriptural. It would be, if Christianity had an order of priests set apart to make atonement for the sins of the people. But the Gospel has but one Priest, who, having finished his sacrifice in the outer court of this world, has entered into the holy of holies above to continue and complete the work of his office. Since “by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are [being] sanctified,” there is no more priestly work to be done on the earth, unless we assent to the blasphemous dogma of the “holy sacrifice of the mass,” in which, by the touch of a possibly drunken or lecherous priest, the body and blood of Christ are created to be offered anew for the sins of those who partake thereof. An institution is not scriptural simply because it has scriptural forms if those forms be destitute of authority. Hence the mitre, the robe, the girdle, the ephod of the Aaronic priesthood, exhumed from the sepulchre of Judaism to disfigure the simplicity of the Gospel, are a stupendous anachronism in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, and an execrable imposition upon ignorance and weak-mindedness. To wear Aaron’s mitre is not to have Aaron’s succession, but to practice a worthless and an unmeaning ceremony; it is to bid men look for the living among the dead, for our High Priest is in the holy place, and God now seeketh not this mount nor that, but true Christians to worship him in spirit and in truth.

(2.) The Targum of Palestine has a valuable suggestion respecting the anointing of the tabernacle and its furniture, and the sanctification of the priestly vestments by sprinkling oil and blood, that they might be cleansed from any fraud or violence by which the contributor obtained their material, and from any unwillingness on the part of the giver, or improper motives prompting the gift. Jehovah cannot receive the wages of iniquity. Hence, even when no sin is known to inhere in the methods by which the gift was obtained, or in the motives, the holiness of God required their sanctification from all possible impurity of this kind before they could be acceptably used. Under the Gospel, our purest charities need and receive the blood of sprinkling before they can come up as a memorial before God. Luke 17:10.

(3.) The consecrated character imparted to the family of Aaron by this imposing and seven times repeated ceremonial did not need renewing. It was a perpetual inheritance, transmitted from father to son through all the following centuries. We do not read of its repetition in the case of any individual priest of Aaronic lineage. But where the line of succession was broken by Jeroboam’s intrusion of the lowest of the people into the sacred office, we find intimation of the use of a ritual of consecration which, from the idolatrous character of that king, was probably of Egyptian origin. 2 Chronicles 13:9.

(4.) Moses, who in the dedication of the tabernacle and the consecration of the order of priests had acted as a high priest, now divests himself of this office, provisionally assumed, and transfers it to his brother and his sons forever. Once only in the language of a later period (Psalms 99:6) is the term cohen, “priest,” applied to him, and even then it has reference to the extraordinary priestly functions discharged by him in the establishment of the Levitical ritual. The temporary priesthood of Moses was, like that of Melchizedek, απατωρ , αμητωρ , αγενεαλογητος , with no father nor mother nor genealogical record as the ground of his title. Hebrews 7:3.

(5.) According to the tradition of the Jews, the practice of anointing the high priest continued till the time of Josiah; then the holy anointing oil was hidden, and so lost. The succeeding high priests were consecrated only by investiture. See Leviticus 6:13, note.

(6.) “The selection and consecration of the high priest, the personal attributes and character required in the office, were all penetrated with a spiritual significance; as also were the places, instruments, robes, and offerings. As a natural and inevitable result, names, titles, figures, and symbolic phrases derived therefrom have been sown broadcast over the entire area of our religious literature. The most precious and significant names and official titles bestowed upon our blessed Lord came to us without modification from this source, as we learn from the epistle to the Hebrews.” Bibliotheca Sacra.

(7.) Sceptics who aver that the Aaronic priesthood is a distorted copy of the Egyptian should note the following contrasts: ( a) The Egyptian priests were a caste exempt from the civil law; the Hebrew priest, outside of his office, was a citizen in dress, and in all the duties of a layman he was subject to the same laws. ( b) The Egyptian priests were a landed aristocracy, owning a third of the real estate of Egypt; the Hebrew priests were the tenants of a few cities, and they could never become rich in lands. ( c) The Egyptian pontifex maximus was Pharaoh, the absolute monarch, and all the lower priests in some degree shared his authority; the Hebrew priests Samuel and Eli excepted were not allowed to exercise civil authority. ( d) The Egyptian priests had an elaborate esoteric or secret theology, taught only to the initiated; the Hebrew priests were required diligently to teach the whole law to the people, any one of whom might become as learned and skilled a teacher as themselves. Chap. Leviticus 10:11, note. ( e) The Egyptians had many gods and as many orders of priests, each having a high priest; the Hebrews were monotheistic, with one order and one high priest. ( f) The Egyptian priests were fed from the royal treasury; the Hebrew priests were dependent on the offerings of the people, which were precarious, and in times of religious decline, insufficient. ( g) Kine, the chief sacrifice offered by the Hebrew priest, was to the Egyptian priest an object of his idolatrous worship. Leviticus 9:2, note.

Verse 2


2. Aaron and his sons They had been previously designated to this office, and their official garments had been appointed, (Exodus 28:0,) and the anointing oil had been compounded, (Exodus 30:23,) and the consecratory service had been minutely described. Exodus 29:0.

Sin offering So encompassed are the best men with infirmities, and so liable to sins of ignorance (Hebrews 9:7, note) and inadvertence, that they need the efficacy of a perpetual expiatory sacrifice to keep them in a state of acceptance before a holy God. 1 John 1:7, note. Hence Aaron and his sons are treated as presumptive sinners for whom atonement must be made before their induction into the priestly office. Christ commissions only pardoned and regenerate men to preach his glorious Gospel, though they may be called, as were Aaron and his sons, before they are sprinkled with the blood of atonement.

Two rams One was for a burnt offering and the other was the ram of consecration, the flesh of which was treated as a peace offering. Leviticus 8:29-32.

Unleavened bread This was for a meat or bread offering. Thus, with the exception of the trespass offering, all the great sacrifices were combined in a prescribed order in this consecratory service. The order of the offerings is important as a key to their significance. See Introduction, (5.)

Verse 3

3. Gather… all the congregation The elders representing the people gathered in front of the tabernacle; behind them stood the congregation occupying all the heights around. No ordination of a minister should be in the presence of ministers only, but before the laity, who are deeply interested in the character and qualifications of those who stand before them as God’s representatives.

Verse 6

6. Washed them with water Physical purity is desirable in itself. Cleanliness is next to godliness. But this washing of the outer man symbolizes the purgation of the inner man from all filthiness of the spirit, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Nearly all pagan nations employ water as an indication of a moral cleansing, either borrowing the practice from the Hebrews or because the symbolism is naturally suggested to the mind. The Egyptian priests bathed in cold water twice each day and twice each night. Exodus 2:5, note. The supposition that this washing of the priests in the wilderness was by the immersion of the entire person is too violent to be entertained. Nevertheless the Hebrew word רחצ here used is the same as that found in 2 Kings 5:10, “Go wash in Jordan.” For its bearing on the meaning of βαπτω see Methodist Quarterly, January, 1874, and January, 1875, p. 67.

Verse 7

7. The coat This is the cethoneth, corresponding to the Greek χιτων , a closely-fitting garment in form and use like our shirt, by which term it should be translated. A person wearing this alone was described as naked.

1 Samuel 19:24; Isaiah 20:2; John 21:7.

The girdle The abhnet was an ornamental belt or sash, worn only by priests and state officers. Aaron’s was of fine twilled linen, tricoloured, blue, purple, and scarlet, embroidered with flowers of needlework. Exodus 39:29. It was tied in a knot, so that the ends hung down in front nearly to the feet, and were thrown over the left shoulder in time of sacrifice. The length, according to Maimonides, was thirty-two cubits, and it was wrapped several times round the body, just below the armpits; its breadth was three fingers.

The robe The me’il. This was a cloak worn over the cethoneth, and under the girdle, reaching down to the feet.

The ephod The term is transferred from the Hebrew. This sacred vestment was originally for the high priest, but it was afterwards worn by ordinary priests, (1 Samuel 22:18,) and deemed characteristic of the office. Hosea 3:4. It was divided below the armpits into two parts, one covering the front, to which the breastplate was attached, and the other the back, the two parts being united on the shoulders by clasps of gold or precious stones. It reached down to the middle of the thighs, and was worn over the robe. Much gold was used in making it. Exodus 39:2-21. To make a new style of ephod implied the introduction of a new system of worship.

The curious girdle of the ephod “Curious” is an adjective not found in the original. What is meant is, the band for the two parts of the ephod, which was of the same material and of one piece with it. Exodus 28:8.

Verse 8

8. The breastplate The choshen was an ornamental bag or four-cornered gorget, with twelve precious stones set in gold, arranged in four rows. The Seventy call it λογειον , or λογιον , the speaking place, and in the Vulgate it is styled rationale, in reference to its use as an oracle.

As the term breastplate is descriptive of armour it is an unfortunate translation. Within this bag were deposited the Urim and the Thummim. It is evident from this verse that these things which Moses put into the choshen at the consecration of Aaron are different from the precious stones previously set by the jeweller. Exodus 28:15-21. “The sculptures of Thebes and Beni-Hassan afford testimony to the skill of the Egyptian goldsmiths; and numerous gold and silver vases, inlaid work and jewelry, represented in common use, show the great advancement they had already made, at a remote period, in this branch. The engraving of gold, the mode of casting it, and inlaying it with stones, were evidently known at the same time; numerous specimens of this kind of work have been found in Egypt.” Wilkinson. The Urim and Thummim lights and perfections; in the Seventy δηλωσις και αληθεια , manifestation and truth; in the Vulgate, doctrina et veritas are, in their nature and manner of use, the greatest puzzle to be found in the whole range of Jewish antiquities. For a full discussion, see Exodus 28:30; Joshua 1:1, notes. Opinions are various: 1.) Some physical effect indicated the divine will; or, 2.) Their presence excited a prophetic gift in the high priest; or, 3.) They were a contrivance for casting lots.

Verse 9

9. The mitre This was a turban, since its Hebrew name is from a verb signifying to wind about. This was a very splendid head-covering, worn only by pontiffs and kings, (Ezekiel 21:26,) as an emblem of dignity, styled in Sir 45:12 , “an ornament of honour, a costly work, the desire of the eyes.”

The holy crown It was called holy because it had the tetragrammaton the four-lettered Hebrew word for Jehovah inscribed upon it. Exodus 28:36. It was of fine linen, with a fillet of blue lace, symbolizing heaven, and over it a golden diadem, “on which,”

says Josephus, “blossomed a golden calyx like the flower of the henbane.” The engraved golden plate was a gold band, two fingers broad, tied behind with blue lace embroidered with flowers. It bore the inscription, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.

Verse 10

10. Anointed… sanctified The first verb is the act of setting apart, the second expresses the state of objects thus set apart or consecrated to a religious use. The anointing of the Holy Ghost introduces the soul into that marvellous light, full assurance, and perfect love, which constitute evangelical perfection. 1 John 2:27; 2 Corinthians 3:8-18.

Verse 11

11. Seven times This number indicates perfection. See Leviticus 4:6, note. The perfect consecration of Aaron is alluded to in Hebrews 7:28, in connection with our High Priest, “who is consecrated ( τετελειωμενον , perfected) forever.” In the Seventy the term “consecration” is translated τελειωσις , making perfect. Leviticus 8:33. Hence Jesus is spoken of as fully prepared for his priestly office when he is said to have been made perfect through sufferings. Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:8-9. In his personal relation to the moral law he was always perfect.

Verse 12

12. He poured… the… oil This expresses a copious unction. See Psalms 133:2. The same Hebrew word is used in Isaiah 44:3, to indicate the copious effusion of the Spirit in the latter days. Aaron’s sons were only sprinkled with oil and blood, (Leviticus 8:30,) but in Leviticus 7:35, they are spoken of as anointed. The fact that Aaron alone was arrayed in his robes of office, and anointed before the blood was shed, beautifully typifies Christ in his peerless excellency and dignity anointed by the Holy Spirit before he accomplished his atoning work. Before the anointing of the sons of Aaron (Leviticus 8:30) all the acts recorded in Leviticus 8:13-29 were performed the blood is shed, the breast waved before Jehovah, and the fat is consumed on the altar, its sweet odour ascending as a type of the ascension of Jesus, who was slain as a victim, and who ascended as a priest to appear in the holy place for us.

Verse 13

13. Bonnets This word is still used by the Scotch to signify a cap for the head of a man. Hence Walter Scott sings, “And plaids and bonnets waving high.” But its general modern use is restricted to the head covering of a female. The Hebrew means hill shaped, suggesting the conical form of this linen cap. According to Josephus it was a helmet of linen, one wreath being plaited and folded over another, and a thin cap, suited to its shape, put over all to prevent its unfolding.

Verse 14

14. Sin offering See Leviticus 4:3, note, and concluding notes of chap. 4. Note the order of the sacrifices in this service of consecration; first, sin must be expiated, and, secondly, the surrender of self unto Jehovah must be set forth by the whole burnt offering; then the bread offering is presented, symbolizing joyful communion with the Lord through the fruits of holiness. See Introduction, (5.)

Hands upon the head See Leviticus 1:4, note.

Verse 15

15. Blood… horns Leviticus 4:7, note.

Purified the altar The altar, the work of the hands of sinful men, is viewed as sinful. In Leviticus 8:11 it is sanctified, and now it is expiated with blood. A holy life cannot be maintained on the earth without the blood of atonement being constantly sprinkled upon it. 1 John 1:7, note.

Sanctified The sanctification by oil is a setting apart, the blood sanctification is a thorough purgation of the very nature.

To make reconciliation upon it The Hebrew is capable of this construction. But precisely the same words in Leviticus 1:4, are rendered to make atonement for him. The personified altar needs an atonement as much as its imperfect minister.

Verse 18

18. Burnt offering Leviticus 1:3, note.

Laid their hands upon the head This act cannot here signify the transmission of sin to the victim, for this had already been done in the sin offering. Leviticus 8:14. It is rather a typical ascription of glory to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. Whether the Hebrew confessed his sins, consecrated self, or gave thanks, he laid his hand upon the head of the victim. Thus, both in prayers and praises to God the Father, the believer lays his hand upon Jesus, the great Sacrifice. He is the medium through whom all acceptable worship is offered. “He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father.” See Leviticus 1:4, note.

Verse 19

19. And Moses sprinkled the blood In this consecration Moses performs all the functions of the priesthood. The first high priest was ordained by Moses as “mediator.” “In the history of the Church of Christ priests have often corrupted it, and laymen have often purified it. It is a melancholy fact that the great introducers of errors have not generally been the laity they have had their share but the priests, or the ministry, so called, have introduced far more errors, and said more subtle things to defend them, in one century, than all the laity have said for eighteen. The ministry of the Gospel is so very prone to magnify itself that it needs the diluting presence of other and resistant elements to keep it in order.”

Verse 21

21. In the sweet savour offerings the Hebrew came to present an offering which, as a sweet feast to God, was consumed upon his altar. In the sin offerings (Leviticus 8:14) he came as a sinner, and his offering, as charged with sin, was cast out and burnt, not on the altar, but on the ground without the camp. Leviticus 8:17. In the one the offerer came as an accepted worshipper; in the other as a condemned sinner. Both parties may meet in Christ.

Verse 22

22. Consecration This literally signifies filling; as meeting all requirements. Leviticus 8:27-28; Numbers 3:3, note.

Verse 23

23. Blood… upon the tip of Aaron’s right ear The consecration was not only general, but specific. The ear must be dedicated that it may be open to the divine voice; the hand and foot, that they may be efficient in sacred services. Eminent saints have practised self consecration by the enumeration of all their faculties and capacities in detail. See the Life of Dr. Payson.

“Welcome, welcome, dear Redeemer,

Welcome to this heart of mine;

Lord, I make a full surrender;

Every power and thought be thine,

Thine entirely, through eternal ages thine.”

Verse 25

25. The fat The suet, Leviticus 3:3.

The rump The tail, Leviticus 3:9, note.

The two kidneys Leviticus 3:4, note. The burnt offering is evidently an object lesson inculcating the first great commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” etc. Hence the enumeration of all the parts: the head as an emblem of the thoughts; the legs, an emblem of the walk; the kidneys and the inwards, the constant and familiar symbol of the affections. The meaning of the fat may not be quite so obvious, but it doubtless represents the energy not of one limb or faculty, but the general health and vigour of the whole.

Verse 26

26. Oiled bread Here are all the elements of the mincha, meat offering, or meal offering, (R.V.,) except the frankincense. Leviticus 2:1.

Verses 27-29

27, 29. He put all upon Aaron’s hands By this symbolism the priestly office was handed over to the candidates. Numbers 3:3, note.

Wave offering Leviticus 7:30, note.

Moses’s part The ram of consecration is treated as a peace offering. As Moses is acting in the capacity of a priest, the priestly portion belongs to him. This was the right shoulder. Leviticus 7:33, note.

Verse 30

30. The anointing oil For its elements see Exodus 30:23-24. These spices beautifully typify the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, which impart no acerbity of disposition, no acid tempers, but only gentle qualities and benevolent affections.

And of the blood Since both oil and blood prefigure, the first the consecration and the second the purifying of the soul, their union typifies the blending of the office of the atoning Saviour, who hath redeemed us by his blood, with that of the Holy Spirit, who transforms and sanctifies by his cleansing power. Hence, since under the Gospel all believers are dignified as priests, we are exhorted to “draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience,” by the blood of the Lamb, “and our bodies washed with pure water,” the symbol of purification by the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 10:22; see Leviticus 14:5, note. Sacrifice for sin alone does not suffice; there must be an inward cleansing by the Spirit. To pardon sin is to leave the house swept and garnished but unoccupied; to fill with the Holy Ghost is to put in a keeper.

Upon Aaron, and upon his garments The person and the garments were sprinkled to prefigure both inward and outward purification, holiness of heart and of life. When the blood and the oil could be connected together, then Aaron and his sons could be anointed and sanctified together. Thus Jesus set himself apart as a bleeding sacrifice for the purchase of the holy unction for all believers, made priests unto God. This explains John 17:19.

Verses 31-32

31, 32. Boil the flesh… eat… burn In the peace offering the offerer and his friends were permitted to eat in a sacred banquet, and to burn with fire that which remained. Leviticus 7:15, note.

Verse 33

33. Seven days shall he consecrate you For the significance of the “seven” see Leviticus 4:6, note. The number was not in the Hebrew conception perfect till it had been repeated seven times. Men are not permitted to go forth into the priesthood at a step, without preparation and without thought. On each of the seven days the sin offering was made, (Exodus 29:36;) it is not said whether or not the other two offerings and the anointing were to be repeated. The rabbins assume anointing on each day. See Leviticus 8:11, note.

Verse 34

34. Atonement See Leviticus 1:4, note. The consecration or perfecting of Jesus for the office of high priest included suffering (Hebrews 2:10) but not expiation. Hebrews 7:26.

Verse 35

35. Abide at the door of the tabernacle The candidates were charged to remain within the sacred court during this probation. They could not enter the holy place or apartment of the priests because their consecration was not complete; they could not come in contact with unsanctified things without the enclosure, because their consecration was begun. “Here we have a fine type of Christ and his people feeding together upon the results of accomplished atonement. Aaron and his sons, having been anointed together on the ground of the shed blood, are here presented to our view as shut in within the precincts of the tabernacle seven days. A striking figure of the present position of Christ and his members during the entire period of this dispensation, shut in with God, and waiting for the manifestation of his glory.” See Leviticus 9:23.

The charge of the Lord This was the exact fulfilment of the commands found in Exodus 29:0.

That ye die not Obedience is the best preparation for service. The omission of any of the prescribed ceremonies, or the addition thereto of any human invention, would prove fatal. This strictness was designed to keep this important service free from any heathenish mixture. It was this verse that suggested to Charles Wesley that beautiful hymn now sung throughout Christendom,

“A charge to keep I have.”

For the peril attending the handling of sacred things see Numbers 4:18, note.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Leviticus 8". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/leviticus-8.html. 1874-1909.
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