CONSECRATION TO SERVICE = ELABORATE RITUAL OF PREPARATION, PURIFICATION, ANOINTING, SANCTIFICATION AND DEDICATION
Allen Ross: With the laws of the sacrifices in place, the next section of Leviticus focuses on who has the right to offer sacrifices in the holy place and in what way such people were qualified to do so. . .
If coming into the presence of the LORD calls for sanctification, then going into his presence on behalf of others requires a special sanctity and a distinct calling. It is as the LORD said, “I will be sanctified in them who come near me, / and before all the people I will be glorified” (Lev. 10:3). And so the Book of Leviticus focuses a good deal on the requirements of spiritual leaders who draw near to God on behalf of others: the mediating high priest and the ministering priests.
Leviticus 8 concerns the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. It makes a very useful study on the subject of ordination to the leadership service of the LORD. For ancient Israel this was a momentous occasion, because here the consecration of the Levitical priests began the sacrificial worship in the sanctuary.
The central theme of this chapter is consecration to service. Contributing to the development of this major theme are several theological motifs relevant to the qualifications for ministry: purification (washing with water), preparation (vesting with clothing), consecration (anointing with oil), sanctification (applying the blood), dedication (filling the hands), and inauguration (eating the meal). Each of these opens up a significant amount of biblical material for further study. And beyond this the passage has significance for the New Testament emphasis on the eternal high priesthood of Jesus the Messiah. . .
I use the word consecrated to express the basic homiletical idea because today it includes the ideas of called, prepared, sanctified, and dedicated. Of course, the exposition of the chapter will detail how this consecration includes being cleansed from sin, equipped for ministry, anointed by the Spirit, sanctified through the blood, and set apart to the full service of the ministry. All this ritual captured the majesty and mystery of the event. . .
R. K. Harrison: Now a major section of Leviticus deals with the consecration of the priests to their important mediatorial office, narrating the way in which the instructions of Exodus 29 were carried out.
Richard Hess: The anointing of the priest anticipates the high priestly work of Christ in the NT, which is done forever in a heavenly sanctuary (Heb 7:23–25; 9:11–12). It illuminates the high priestly role of Christians, whose sacrifices include prayer and praise to God (Eph 3:14–21; 1Pe 2:9), as well as offering their own bodies (Ro 12:1–2).
Mark Rooker: Structurally Leviticus 8–10 divides into sixteen sections based on the occurrence of the repeated phrase “Moses did as the LORD commanded him” (8:4, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 29, 34, 36; 9:6, 7, 10, 21; 10:7, 13, 15). This repeated refrain suggests that Moses typifies Jesus Christ, who as the leader of the people lived an entire life of perfect obedience. The writer to the Hebrews explicitly makes this connection (Heb 3:1–6).
Richard Hess: The Levitical performance naturally divides into several sections: the public presentation of the priests and the items (vv.2–4), the priestly robing and anointing (vv.5–13), the purification offering (vv.14–17), the burnt offering (vv.18–21), the ordination offering (vv.22–29), the consecration (vv.30–35), and the conclusion (v.36).
I. (:1-9) PREPARATIONS FOR THE ORDINATION CEREMONY
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,”
Robert Coleman: The background of this material is to be found in Exodus 28; 29, where the procedure for clothing and anointing the priests is given, followed by the sacrifice to be made at the time of their consecration.
A. (:2-5) Assembling the Participants and Materials for Ceremony of Consecration
1. (:2a) The Candidates = Aaron and His Sons – Divinely Appointed
“Take Aaron and his sons with him,”
Constable: Until now, Israel followed the custom common in the ancient Near East that the father of a family functioned as the priest for his family (Cf. Job 1:5). The Levites as a tribe now assumed this role for the families of Israel, under the leadership of Aaron and his sons. The nation as a whole had forfeited the privilege of being a “kingdom of priests” at Mt. Sinai, when they worshipped the golden calf. Now this privilege became the portion of the faithful tribe of Levi. The main function of the priests in Israel was to guard and protect the holiness of God.
2. (:2b) The Clothes – Unique Identity
“and the garments”
3. (:2c) The Anointing Oil – Power for Ministry
“and the anointing oil”
4. (:2d) The Choice Offerings – Cost of Sanctification
“and the bull of the sin offering,
and the two rams
and the basket of unleavened bread;”
5. (:3) The Congregation – Receptive Flock
“and assemble all the congregation
at the doorway of the tent of meeting.”
Allen Ross: Because these men had spiritual authority over the people, it was imperative that the congregation witness their consecration as priests in order to be convinced that they were made priests by God. This is the point of all ordination services: it is God who calls people and consecrates them to his ministry. Both the one entering ministry and the congregation must acknowledge this from the outset if ministry is to function correctly.
6. (:4-5) The Command Carried Out Faithfully – Priority of Obedience
“So Moses did just as the LORD commanded him. When the congregation was assembled at the doorway of the tent of meeting, 5 Moses said to the congregation, ‘This is the thing which the LORD has commanded to do.’”
Pattern of divine command and covenant obedience repeated throughout chaps 8 and 9.
Jamieson: It was manifestly expedient for the Israelitish people to be satisfied that Aaron’s appointment to the high dignity of the priesthood was not a personal intrusion, nor a family arrangement between him and Moses; and nothing, therefore, could be a more profound conviction of the divine origin and authority of the priestly institution, than to summon a general assembly of the people, and in their presence perform the solemn ceremonies of inauguration, which had been prescribed by divine authority.
B. (:6) Washing Aaron and His Sons
“Then Moses had Aaron and his sons come near, and washed them with water.”
Allen Ross: Active and ongoing sanctification is an essential part of being set apart for ministry; and the first step in sanctification is removing defilement and sin.
Constable: Physical washing (v. 6) was symbolic of spiritual cleansing. The reference to being “washed … with water” may imply a baptismal washing of full immersion.
John Schultz: The metamorphosis from naked man to priest in full pontifical is described in detail. It is as if we see it happening before our eyes. We can see a reference to the resurrection in this ritual. Jesus became High Priest on the day of his resurrection. From the nakedness of the cross, He was clothed with glory and honor.
C. (:7-9) Adorning Aaron with High Priestly Vestments
“And he put the tunic on him and girded him with the sash, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him; and he girded him with the artistic band of the ephod, with which he tied it to him. 8 He then placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim. 9 He also placed the turban on his head, and on the turban, at its front, he placed the golden plate, the holy crown, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.”
Constable: God specified certain garments for Aaron that distinguished him from everyone else. A uniform draws attention to a person’s office or function, and at the same time, plays down his or her individual personality.
Noordtzij: It may be noted in passing here that the three sections of the sanctuary were reflected in the high priestly attire: the robe [v. 7] corresponded to the courtyard, the ephod [v. 7] to the Holy Place, and the breast-piece [v. 8] to the Most Holy Place.”
John Schultz: Since Christ is our great High Priest, the symbols in the ephod may be applied to Him. White linen speaks of His absolute righteousness. Scarlet (the color of blood) symbolizes His atoning work on the cross; purple, His royalty; gold, His divinity. Blue, the color of the sky, signifies Christ’s origin with God the Father in heaven.
Allen Ross: these distinctive (“holy”) garments gave the priest dignity and honor by virtue of their being reminders of the glory and honor of the LORD. Wearing these clothes impressed upon the priests the awesome task that they had and reminded the people of the high office they held.
Kenneth Mathews: The dress of the priestly family conveyed important meaning and attracted the respect of the people for what the vestments signified. All priests wore a “coat” (v. 7) made of fine linen, but Aaron’s coat possessed distinctive embroidery (Exodus 28:4, 39; 39:27). Some vestments were worn exclusively by the high priest, Aaron. These included five special items.
First, a “robe” (v. 7) made of blue cloth possessed an opening at the top so that the priest slipped the garment over his head. Around the bottom hem of the robe were alternating decorative pomegranates made of blue, purple, and scarlet yarns and small golden bells (Exodus 28:31–34). Not only did the priest attract attention visually, but his physical activities also created accompanying sounds of tinkling bells. The bells had the practical purpose of preserving the high priest’s life when he ministered in the restricted area known as the Most Holy Place on the sacred Day of Atonement. At his entrance and exit the bells assured the people that he had fulfilled his duty and had not been struck dead before the Lord (Exodus 28:35). The high priest had an embroidered “sash” (v. 7) of blue, purple, and scarlet yarns that tied the coat at the waist (Exodus 28:39; 39:29). The colors of the garments matched the colored threads of the tabernacle’s curtains and veil (Exodus 26:1, 31).
Second, the “ephod” (v. 7) was a sleeveless garment, made also of fine twisted linen and woven of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet yarns (Exodus 28:6–35). The gold thread gave a brilliant luster to Aaron’s appearance. A waistband made as part of the ephod was of the same material (Exodus 28:8; 39:5).
Third, attached to the ephod at the shoulders by a blue cord looped through golden rings was a breastpiece (v. 8) made of the same colored yarns as the ephod. On the front of the breastpiece were twelve gemstones in four rows of three, each stone engraved with the name of a tribe (Exodus 28:29). It was made in a perfect square of about nine inches and folded over to double its thickness. Consequently, the breastpiece formed a pouch in which was placed the fourth distinctive feature of Aaron’s apparel. The pouch of the breastpiece contained two sacred dice, the Urim and Thummim. These two stones were instrumental in discerning the will of God (Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21), and thus the breastpiece was called “the breastpiece of judgment” (Exodus 28:29, 30).
A fourth garment unique to Aaron was his headwear. It was a linen turban (v. 9) on which at the forehead was tied a “plate” of pure gold by a blue cord (Exodus 28:36; 39:30). The plate possessed the engraving “Holy to the Lord,” which meant that Aaron continually mediated in behalf of Israel whenever he came before the Lord, bearing “any guilt” and securing acceptance for God’s people (Exodus 28:36–38).
R. K. Harrison: Elaborate though these vestments were, particularly in view of their wilderness milieu origin, their own function was to remind the Israelites that a powerful, holy and just God was indeed present with them in so far as the wearer of the garments was held to be linked to him. . .
The worship of the God of Sinai was a very serious matter, since he was the only true and living God who could deal swiftly and surely with offenders, as even some members of the priestly line were soon to discover. The prescribed forms of the Hebrew rituals and the attire of the priests served the important purpose of maintaining the distinctiveness of worship among the covenant people, and guarded against the possibility of innovations being introduced from pagan sources. Unfortunately even these precautions were circumvented at later periods in Hebrew history.
II. (:10-13) CEREMONY OF CONSECRATION
A. (:10) Consecrating the Tabernacle and its Contents
“Moses then took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them.”
Kenneth Mathews: The significance of the anointing oil was its symbolic association with the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 16:13; Isaiah 61:1). Priests, kings, and prophets received the Spirit, and in many cases they were simply known as “the anointed.” The oil represented the power of the Spirit that enabled the priests to carry out their duties. The Spirit’s presence distinguished the priests from regular members of the congregation. The same significance is attached to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual Christian and the Christian church as a whole today. John’s first letter tells us that Christians “have been anointed by the Holy One” as their distinguishing mark (1 John 2:20; cf. 2:27).
B. (:11) Consecrating the Altar and its Utensils
“And he sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times and anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, to consecrate them.”
C. (:12) Consecrating Aaron
“Then he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him,
to consecrate him.”
John Schultz: After the priests were dressed, the anointing took place. First the tabernacle was anointed. The heaviest stress in this ritual is on the burnt offering altar. The same oil that is used for this ceremony is poured out upon the head of Aaron. In this anointing ceremony God, the Holy Spirit, places His hand upon the house and the priest. This means that the Spirit of God fills this house and the priest, which accentuates the unity between the two. It is this anointing that sanctifies; that is the Holy Spirit sets people aside for God. This sanctification or setting apart is at the same time a cleansing.
D. (:13) Clothing Aaron’s Sons
“Next Moses had Aaron’s sons come near and clothed them with tunics, and girded them with sashes, and bound caps on them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.”
R. K. Harrison: Whereas the high priest wore a turban, the lesser priests had a simple cap, probably made from a folded cloth and having ties by which it could be held in place on the head. This small item served a very important practical purpose in protecting the priest’s head from the heat of the sun as he officiated outdoors, sometimes for hours at a time.
III. (:14-23) KEY ANIMAL SACRIFICES AS ORDINATION OFFERINGS
A. (:14-17) The Bull of the Sin Offering
“Then he brought the bull of the sin offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull of the sin offering. 15 Next Moses slaughtered it and took the blood and with his finger put some of it around on the horns of the altar, and purified the altar. Then he poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar and consecrated it, to make atonement for it. 16 He also took all the fat that was on the entrails and the lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys and their fat; and Moses offered it up in smoke on the altar. 17 But the bull and its hide and its flesh and its refuse, he burned in the fire outside the camp, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.”
Richard Hess: 9 Elements for the Offerings (not all present for each instance)
2) Laying on of hands
4) Manipulation of blood
5) Arrangement of pieces and burning of meat
6) Presentation of fat on altar / Presentation of bread and wave
7) Burning on altar
8) Wave (Elevation offering)
9) Remaining materials burnt outside / by divine command
Perry Yoder: As has already been noted, “sin offering” (ḥaṭṭaʾt) is a misnomer; it should be designated a “cleansing offering,” since this is not an offering for sin but an offering for purification: Moses slaughtered the bull and took some of the blood, and with his finger he put it on all the horns of the altar to purify [sterilize] the altar (8:15). The remaining blood he pours out at the base. This action makes the altar holy so that expiation can be made upon it.
B. (:18-21) The Ram of the Burnt Offering
“Then he presented the ram of the burnt offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 19 And Moses slaughtered it and sprinkled the blood around on the altar. 20 When he had cut the ram into its pieces, Moses offered up the head and the pieces and the suet in smoke. 21 After he had washed the entrails and the legs with water, Moses offered up the whole ram in smoke on the altar. It was a burnt offering for a soothing aroma; it was an offering by fire to the LORD, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.”
C. (:22-23) The Ram of Ordination
“Then he presented the second ram, the ram of ordination; and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 23 And Moses slaughtered it and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot.”
Mark Rooker: The word for ordination literally means “to fill” and is an abbreviated form of the expression “to fill the hands” (see 8:33). “To fill the hand” is limited to the appointment of priests and those involved in carrying out the sacrificial ritual in the Old Testament. It meant to consecrate someone to divine service (Exod 28:41; 29; 32:29; Judg 17:5, 12; 1 Kgs 13:33; Ezek 43:26) and required the recipient to be pure (2 Chr 29:31).
John Schultz: The next sacrifice was the ram for the ordination. The extraordinary feature of this sacrifice was in what happened to the blood of the animal. Some of its blood was put on the right earlobe of Aaron and his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot. The symbolism is clear. The earlobe stands for hearing and obeying the voice of God. All misery in this world began when man paid attention to the devil’s insinuation: “Did God really say …?” This fundamental act of disobedience had to be atoned for before fellowship with God could be renewed. Priesthood would have been impossible without obedience.
The thumb symbolized man’s acting, and it played an important part in the process that led from the attitude of disobedience to the sinful act. It would have been difficult for Eve to pick the fruit without using her thumb. It was the act of picking the fruit that made sin irrevocable. This act was atoned for in the application of the blood to the thumb. The thumb with the hand to which it is attached was given back to God who created both and who, consequently, had a right to both.
The big toe governs man’s walk, and man must walk in God’s way. If the thumb stands for man’s acts, the big toe stands for his habits. Man does not commit sin as a series of unrelated acts; he walks in the path of iniquity, and that makes him act sinfully.
Kenneth Mathews: The symbolic significance of these acts pertained to the roles of the priests and the altar as the functionaries and the place for atonement. The physical extremities of the ear, hand, and foot were smeared with blood so as to represent their complete cleansing. There was also a connection between the body part and the priests’ distinctive role as mediators. The ear indicated the confessions of the people that the priests heard, the hand was involved in the handling and the preparations of the holy offerings, and the foot signified the holy environs in which they served. The central place for their activities was the brazen altar that received the blood for cleansing.
IV. (:24-32) COMPLETION OF THE CEREMONY WITH ADDITIONAL OFFERINGS
A. (:24-29) Dedication for Service
1. (:24) Distribution of the Blood
“He also had Aaron’s sons come near; and Moses put some of the blood on the lobe of their right ear, and on the thumb of their right hand, and on the big toe of their right foot. Moses then sprinkled the rest of the blood around on the altar.”
2. (:25-27) Wave Offering
“And he took the fat, and the fat tail, and all the fat that was on the entrails, and the lobe of the liver and the two kidneys and their fat and the right thigh. 26 And from the basket of unleavened bread that was before the LORD, he took one unleavened cake and one cake of bread mixed with oil and one wafer, and placed them on the portions of fat and on the right thigh. 27 He then put all these on the hands of Aaron and on the hands of his sons, and presented them as a wave offering before the LORD.”
3. (:28) Ordination Offering
“Then Moses took them from their hands and offered them up in smoke on the altar with the burnt offering. They were an ordination offering for a soothing aroma; it was an offering by fire to the LORD.”
4. (:29) Wave Offering
“Moses also took the breast and presented it for a wave offering before the LORD; it was Moses’ portion of the ram of ordination, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.”
B. (:30) Final Anointing for Consecration
“So Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, on his sons, and on the garments of his sons with him; and he consecrated Aaron, his garments, and his sons, and the garments of his sons with him.”
Wiersbe: Aaron had already had the holy oil poured upon him (Lev. 8:12), but now both he and his sons were sprinkled with both the oil and the blood of the sacrifices, taken from the altar. This meant that both they and their garments were “sanctified,” set apart by God for His exclusive use. Neither the priests nor what they wore could be used for any “common” purposes. They belonged wholly to God.
C. (:31-32) Celebration of Ordination Meal
1. (:31) Directions for Eating the Flesh and Bread
“Then Moses said to Aaron and to his sons, ‘Boil the flesh at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and eat it there together with the bread which is in the basket of the ordination offering, just as I commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it.’”
Kenneth Mathews: The last phase of the ordination service was the ordination meal eaten by Aaron and his sons. The meal consisted of cooked meat and baked goods from the ordination offerings. Cooking the meat at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting meant the people could witness the consumption of the meal. The priests’ participation in the eating of the sacred offerings symbolized their fellowship with the Lord by virtue of partaking in the holy sacrifices offered up to him. What they did not consume was burned up that same day so that the food would not spoil and to show that no one else was qualified to eat the ordination meal.
2. (:32) Directions for Burning the Leftovers
“And the remainder of the flesh and of the bread
you shall burn in the fire.”
V. (:33-35) SEVEN DAY CEREMONY COMPLETED
A. (:33) Confinement in the Tent of Meeting for 7 Days
“And you shall not go outside the doorway of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the day that the period of your ordination is fulfilled; for he will ordain you through seven days.”
Jacob Milgrom: Theirs is a seven-day passage. It is inconceivable that after the first day they merely wait out the week at the tabernacle door. Each day’s rites will remove them farther from their former profane state and advance them to the ranks of the sacred, until they emerge as full-fledged priests.
Roy Gane: Completion of the priests’ “rite of passage” required completion of a seven-day period (8:33–35). This element of time—seven days, as in the initial process of creation by God (Gen. 1) and as in other ritual transitions, including purification from severe ritual impurities (e.g., Lev. 12; 14–15; Num. 19)—was essential to elevation of status.8 During the week, a purification offering was to be performed each day to purify the outer altar (Ex. 29:35–37). Because the priests were in a transitional/liminal and therefore vulnerable state, they were not to leave the sacred precincts (Lev. 8:33–35).
B. (:34) Consecration Required Divine Atonement
“The LORD has commanded to do as has been done this day,
to make atonement on your behalf.”
Constable: Note that it was God who consecrated the priests. This was His work (“The LORD has commanded to do as has been done this day [i.e., the priests’ ordination, and] to make atonement on your behalf,” v. 34). The “congregation” witnessed the consecration, but they did not initiate it. The priests were responsible to “wash,” but God cleansed them. Confession of sin is our responsibility, but God provides the cleansing (1 John 1:9).
C. (:35) Command of the Lord Established Boundary Between Sacred and Profane
“At the doorway of the tent of meeting, moreover, you shall remain day and night for seven days, and keep the charge of the LORD, that you may not die, for so I have been commanded.”
R. Laird Harris: The whole OT ritual is given without any prescribed prayers except the Aaronic benediction of Numbers 6:24-26. It would seem that in those days also God wished his people to pray spontaneously form the heart.
(:36) POSTLUDE – COMPLETE OBEDIENCE TO DIVINE PRESCRIPTION
“Thus Aaron and his sons did all the things which the LORD had commanded through Moses.”