The Consecration of the Priests. B. C. 1491.
1And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them, to minister unto me in the priest's office: Take one young bullock, and two rams without blemish, 2And unleavened bread, and cakes unleavened tempered with oil, and wafers unleavened anointed with oil: of wheaten flour shalt thou make them. 3And thou shalt put them into one basket, and bring them in the basket, with the bullock and the two rams. 4And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water. 5 And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod: 6 And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre. 7 Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him. 8 And thou shalt bring his sons, and put coats upon them. 9 And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest's office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons. 10 And thou shalt cause a bullock to be brought before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the bullock. 11And thou shalt kill the bullock before the LORD, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 12And thou shalt take of the blood of the bullock, and put it upon the horns of the altar with thy finger, and pour all the blood beside the bottom of the altar. 13And thou shalt take all the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul that is above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and burn them upon the altar. 14But the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it is a sin offering. 15 Thou shalt also take one ram and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. 16 And thou shalt slay the ram, and thou shalt take his blood, and sprinkle it round about upon the altar. 17 And thou shalt cut the ram in pieces, and wash the inwards of him, and his legs, and put them unto his pieces, and unto his head. 18 And thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar: it is a burnt offering unto the LORD: it is a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 19 And thou shalt take the other ram and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. 20 Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about. 21And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons' garments with him. 22Also thou shalt take of the ram the fat and the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and the right shoulder for it is a ram of consecration: 23And one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer out of the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the LORD: 24And thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons and shalt wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. 25 And thou shalt receive them of their hands, and burn them upon the altar for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour before the LORD: it is an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 26 And thou shalt take the breast of the ram of Aaron's consecration, and wave it for a wave offering before the LORD: and it shall be thy part. 27 And thou shalt sanctify the breast of the wave offering, and the shoulder of the heave offering, which is waved, and which is heaved up, of the ram of the consecration, even of that which is for Aaron, and of that which is for his sons: 28 And it shall be Aaron's and his sons' by a statute for ever from the children of Israel: for it is an heave offering: and it shall be an heave offering from the children of Israel of the sacrifice of their peace offerings, even their heave offering unto the LORD. 29 And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons' after him, to be anointed therein, and to be consecrated in them. 30 And that son that is priest in his stead shall put them on seven days, when he cometh into the tabernacle of the congregation to minister in the holy place. 31And thou shalt take the ram of the consecration, and seethe his flesh in the holy place. 32And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram, and the bread that is in the basket, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 33And they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them: but a stranger shall not eat thereof, because they are holy. 34And if ought of the flesh of the consecrations, or of the bread, remain unto the morning, then thou shalt burn the remainder with fire: it shall not be eaten, because it is holy. 35 And thus shalt thou do unto Aaron, and to his sons, according to all things which I have commanded thee: seven days shalt thou consecrate them. 36 And thou shalt offer every day a bullock for a sin offering for atonement: and thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it, and thou shalt anoint it, to sanctify it. 37 Seven days thou shalt make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it and it shall be an altar most holy: whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy.
Here is, I. The law concerning the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priest's office, which was to be done with a great deal of ceremony and solemnity, that they themselves might be duly affected with the greatness of the work to which they were called, and that the people also might learn to magnify the office and none might dare to invade it.
1. The ceremonies wherewith it was to be done were very fully and particularly appointed, because nothing of this kind had been done before, and because it was to be a statute for ever that the high priest should be thus inaugurated. Now,
(1.) The work to be done was the consecrating of the persons whom God had chosen to be priests, by which they devoted and gave up themselves to the service of God and God declared his acceptance of them and the people were made to know that they glorified not themselves to be made priests, but were called of God, Hebrews 5:4,5. They were thus distinguished from common men, sequestered from common services, and set apart for God and an immediate attendance on him. Note, All that are to be employed for God are to be sanctified to him. The person must first be accepted, and then the performance. The Hebrew phrase for consecrating is filling the hand (Exodus 29:9): Thou shalt fill the hand of Aaron and his sons, and the ram of consecration is the ram of fillings, Exodus 29:22,26. The consecrating of them was the perfecting of them Christ is said to be perfect or consecrated for evermore, Hebrews 7:28. Probably the phrase here is borrowed from the putting of the sacrifice into their hand, to be waved before the Lord, Exodus 29:24. But it intimates, [1.] That ministers have their hands full they have no time to trifle, so great, so copious, so constant is their work. [2.] That they must have their hands filled. Of necessity they must have something to offer, and they cannot find it in themselves, it must be given them from above. They cannot fill the people's hearts unless God fill their hands to him therefore they must go, and receive from his fulness.
(2.) The person to do it was Moses, by God's appointment. Though he was ordained for men, yet the people were not to consecrate him Moses the servant of the Lord, and his agent herein, must do it. By God's special appointment he now did the priest's work, and therefore that which was the priest's part of the sacrifice was here ordered to be his, Exodus 29:26.
(3.) The place was at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, Exodus 29:4. God was pleased to dwell in the tabernacle, the people attending in the courts, so that the door between the court and the tabernacle was the fittest place for those to be consecrated in who were to mediate between God and man, and to stand between both, and lay their hands (as it were) upon both. They were consecrated at the door, for they were to be door-keepers.
(4.) It was done with many ceremonies.
[1.] They were to be washed (Exodus 29:4), signifying that those must be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord, Isaiah 52:11. Those that would perfect holiness must cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, 2 Corinthians 7:1; Isaiah 1:16-18. They were now washed all over but afterwards, when they went in to minister, they washed only their hands and feet (Exodus 30:19) for he that is washed needs no more, John 13:10.
[2.] They were to be clothed with the holy garments (Exodus 29:5,6,8,9), to signify that it was not sufficient for them to put away the pollutions of sin, but they must put on the graces of the Spirit, be clothed with righteousness, Psalms 132:9. They must be girded, as men prepared and strengthened for their work and they must be robed and crowned, as men that counted their work and office their true honour.
[3.] The high priest was to be anointed with the holy anointing oil (Exodus 29:7), that the church might be filled and delighted with the sweet savour of his administrations (for ointment and perfume rejoice the heart), and in token of the pouring out of the Spirit upon him, to qualify him for his work. Brotherly love is compared to this oil with which Aaron was anointed, Psalms 133:2. The inferior priests are said to be anointed (Exodus 30:30), not on their heads, as the high priest (Leviticus 21:10), the oil was only mingled with the blood that was sprinkled upon their garments.
[4.] Sacrifices were to be offered for them. The covenant of priesthood, as all other covenants, must be made by sacrifice.
First, There must be a sin-offering, to make atonement for them, Exodus 29:10-14. The law made those priests that had infirmity, and therefore they must first offer for their own sin, before they could make atonement for the people, Hebrews 7:27,28. They were to put their hand on the head of their sacrifice (Exodus 29:10), confessing that they deserved to die for their own sin, and desiring that the killing of the beast might expiate their guilt, and be accepted as a vicarious satisfaction. It was used as other sin-offerings were only, whereas the flesh of other sin-offerings was eaten by the priests (Leviticus 10:18), in token of the priest's taking away the sin of the people, this was appointed to be all burnt without the camp (Exodus 29:14), to signify the imperfection of the legal dispensation (as the learned bishop Patrick notes) for the sins of the priests themselves could not be taken away by those sacrifices, but they must expect a better high priest and a better sacrifice.
Secondly, There must be a burnt-offering, a ram wholly burnt, to the honour of God, in token of the dedication of themselves wholly to God and to his service, as living sacrifices, kindled with the fire and ascending in the flame of holy love, Exodus 29:15-18. The sin-offering must first be offered and then the burnt-offering for, till guilt be removed, no acceptable service can be performed, Isaiah 6:7.
Thirdly, There must be a peace-offering it is called the ram of consecration, because there was more in this peculiar to the occasion than in the other two. In the burnt-offering God had the glory of their priesthood, in this they had the comfort of it and, in token of a mutual covenant between God and them, 1. The blood of the sacrifice was divided between God and them (Exodus 29:20,21) part of the blood was sprinkled upon the altar round about, and part put upon them, upon their bodies (Exodus 29:20), and upon their garments, Exodus 29:21. Thus the benefit of the expiation made by the sacrifice was applied and assured to them, and their whole selves from head to foot sanctified to the service of God. The blood was put upon the extreme parts of the body, to signify that it was all, as it were, enclosed and taken in for God, the tip of the ear and the great toe not excepted. We reckon that the blood and oil sprinkled upon garments spot and stain them yet the holy oil, and the blood of the sacrifice, sprinkled upon their garments, must be looked upon as the greatest adorning imaginable to them, for they signified the blood of Christ, and the graces of the Spirit, which constitute and complete the beauty of holiness, and recommend us to God we read of robes made white with the blood of the Lamb. 2. The flesh of the sacrifice, with the meat-offering annexed to it, was likewise divided between God and them, that (to speak with reverence) God and they might feast together, in token of friendship and fellowship. (1.) Part of it was to be first waved before the Lord, and then burnt upon the altar part of the flesh (Exodus 29:22), part of the bread, for bread and flesh must go together (Exodus 29:23) these were first put into the hands of Aaron to be waved to and fro, in token of their being offered to God (who, though unseen, yet compasses us round on every side), and then they were to be burnt upon the altar (Exodus 29:24,25), for the altar was to devour God's part of the sacrifice. Thus God admitted Aaron and his sons to be his servants, and wait at his table, taking the mat of his altar from their hands. Here, in a parenthesis, as it were, comes in the law concerning the priests' part of the peace-offerings afterwards, the breast and shoulder, which were now divided Moses had the breast, and the shoulder was burnt on the altar with God's part, Exodus 29:26-28. (2.) The other part, both of the flesh of the ram and of the bread, Aaron and his sons were to eat at the door of the tabernacle (Exodus 29:31-33), to signify that he called them not only servants but friends, John 15:15. He supped with them, and they with him. Their eating of the things wherewith the atonement was made signified their receiving the atonement, as the expression is (Romans 5:11), their thankful acceptance of the benefit of it, and their joyful communion with God thereupon, which was the true intent and meaning of a feast upon a sacrifice. If any of it was left, it must be burnt, that it might not be in any danger of putrefying, and to show that it was an extraordinary peace-offering.
2. The time that was to be spent in this consecration: Seven days shalt thou consecrate them, Exodus 29:35. Though all the ceremonies were performed on the first day, yet, (1.) They were not to look upon their consecration as completed till the seven days' end, which put a solemnity upon their admission, and a distance between this and their former state, and obliged them to enter upon their work with a pause, giving them time to consider the weight and seriousness of it. This was to be observed in after-ages, Exodus 29:30. He that was to succeed Aaron in the high-priesthood must put on the holy garments seven days together, in token of a deliberate and gradual advance into his office, and that one sabbath might pass over him in his consecration. (2.) Every day of the seven, in this first consecration, a bullock was to be offered for a sin-offering (Exodus 29:36), which was to intimate to them, [1.] That it was of very great concern to them to get their sins pardoned, and that though atonement was made, and they had the comfort of it, yet they must still keep up a penitent sense of sin and often repeat the confession of it. [2.] That those sacrifices which were thus offered day by day to make atonement could not make the comers thereunto perfect, for then they would have ceased to be offered, as the apostle argues, Hebrews 10:1,2. They must therefore expect the bringing in of a better hope.
3. This consecration of the priests was a shadow of good things to come. (1.) Our Lord Jesus is the great high-priest of our profession, called of God to be so, consecrated for evermore, anointed with the Spirit above his fellows (whence he is called Messiah, the Christ), clothed with the holy garments, even with glory and beauty, sanctified by his own blood, not that of bullocks and rams (Hebrews 9:12), made perfect, or consecrated, through sufferings, Hebrews 2:10. Thus in him this was a perpetual statute, Exodus 29:9. (2.) All believers are spiritual priests, to offer spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5), washed in the blood of Christ, and so made to our God priests, Revelation 1:5,6. They also are clothed with the beauty of holiness, and have received the anointing, 1 John 2:27. Their hands are filled with work, to which they must continually attend and it is through Christ, the great sacrifice, that they are dedicated to this service. His blood sprinkled upon the conscience purges it from dead works, that they may, as priests, serve the living God. The Spirit of God (as Ainsworth notes) is called the finger of God (Luke 21:20, compared with Matthew 12:28), and by him the merit of Christ is effectually applied to our souls, as here Moses with his finger was to put the blood upon Aaron. It is likewise intimated that gospel ministers are to be solemnly set apart to the work of the ministry with great deliberation and seriousness both in the ordainers and in the ordained, as those that are to be employed in a great work and entrusted with a great charge.
II. The consecration of the altar, which seems to have been coincident with that of the priests, and the sin-offerings which were offered every day for seven days together had reference to the altar as well as the priests, Exodus 29:36,37. An atonement was made for the altar. Though that was not a subject capable of sin, nor, having never yet been used, could it be said to be polluted with the sins of the people, yet, since the fall, there can be no sanctification to God but there must first be an atonement for sin, which renders us both unworthy and unfit to be employed for God. The altar was also sanctified, not only set apart itself to a sacred use, but made so holy as to sanctify the gifts that were offered upon it, Matthew 23:19. Christ is our altar for our sakes he sanctified himself, that we and our performances might be sanctified and recommended to God, John 17:19.