THE CONSECRATION OF THE PRIESTS. From the description of the priestly attire, the Divine Law-giver passed to the form of priestly consecration, whereof investiture in the "holy garments" was a part. The ceremony of consecration was to consist of four things:—
3. Chrism or Anointing with oil; and
In the directions given, we have, first, the preparation of the offerings (Exodus 29:1-3); secondly, directions for the ablutions (Exodus 29:4); thirdly, directions for the investiture of Aaron (Exodus 29:5, Exodus 29:6), of his sons (Exodus 29:8, Exodus 29:9); fourthly, directions for the anointing (Exodus 29:7); and fifthly, directions as to the mode in which the sacrifices should be offered and disposed of (Exodus 29:10-34). A command is then given that the ceremonies should be repeated every day for a week (Exodus 29:35); and another, that the altar should receive consecration at the same time as the priests (Exodus 29:36, Exodus 29:37). Additional light is thrown on most of these matters by the account contained in Leviticus (Leviticus 8:1-36.), of the manner in which Moses carried oat the directions here given to him.
This is the thing that thou shalt do to them—i.e; "This is the ceremonial that thou shalt use on the occasion." There is a tacit reference to Exodus 28:41, which had announced that the priests were to be consecrated. Take one young bullock. The offerings were to be provided beforehand, so as to be in readiness when the investiture and anointing were over. Hence they are mentioned first. Rams without blemish. Literally "perfect." On the offence to God of offering him blemished offerings, see Malachi 1:6-14.
Unleavened bread was regarded as purer than leavened, since fermentation is a sort of corruption. See the comment on Exodus 12:15. Cakes tempered with oil. Literally, "mixed with oil," i.e; having oil as one of their ingredients, in contrast with the wafers, which had oil poured over them.
Thou shalt bring them in the basket. Rather, "Thou shalt offer them." A preliminary offering of the animals and of the "meat-offerings," in the lump seems to be intended. This, apparently, preceded the ablution.
Unto the door of the tabernacle. The great laver was to be placed between the entrance to the tabernacle and the altar of burnt-offering (Exodus 30:18). It was to this probably that Aaron and his sons were to be brought. Its main purpose was to be a lustral vessel, placed ready for the various ablutions which the law required (Exodus 30:19-21). Thou …. shalt wash them with water. Ablutions were an important part of the ceremonial of almost all ancient religions. In Egypt, the priests were compelled to wash themselves from head to foot in cold water twice every day, and twice every night (Herod. 2.37). In the religion of Zoroaster frequent washing with water was prescribed for many kinds of impurity. The Greeks were particularly addicted to ceremonies of which ablution formed a part; and it is to Rome that we are indebted both for the word and for the idea of "lustration." It is a true instinct which has taught men the analogy between physical and moral purity, and led them to typify the removal of spiritual, by the cleansing from physical, defilement. The religion given at Sinai set a stamp of approval in many points on what may be called "the religion of nature;" and among them on this. Ablutions were required of the priests, not only at consecration, but every time that they entered the tabernacle, or sacrificed on the altar of burnt-offering (Exodus 30:20). Washing was a main feature in the cleansing of leprosy (Le 13:54, 58) and of the leper. (Le Exodus 14:8). It was also employed for the purification of many minor defilements (Le 11:25; Exodus 15:5; Exodus 17:15, etc.). At what date it first came into use in the admission of proselytes is uncertain. Whether the washing of consecration extended to the whole body, or was limited to the hands and feet, is also a point on which critics have disagreed, but one of no great importance. (See John 13:9, John 13:10.)
Exodus 29:5, Exodus 29:6
The Investiture of Aaron.
Thou shalt take the garments. The directions, as here given, are incomplete, and not quite in the right order. In the LXX. they are still more incomplete. For the full process of investiture, we mast look to Le Exodus 8:7-9. There we find that the process included nine acts.—
1. The putting on of the linen tunic.
2. The girding with the under-girdle.
3. The putting on of the robe of the ephod.
4. The putting on of the ephod.
5. The girding with the curious girdle of the ephod.
6. The putting on of the breast-plate.
7. The putting into the breast-plate of the Urim and Thummim.
8. The putting on of the mitre.
9. The affixing to the mitre of the golden plate.
The second and seventh are omitted here; and the order of the fifth and sixth is inverted.
The holy crown. The plate of gold with its blue ribbon, or lace, formed a species of diadem, such as in the East seems to have been always regarded as the special emblem of royalty. An ornament of the kind seems to have been introduced into Egypt by Khuenaten or Amenophis IV. It marked the royal character of the high priest, who, as the main type of Christ in the Mosaic law, was bound to be "Prophet, Priest, and King." (Compare Le Exodus 8:9.)
The Chrism or Anointing.
The anointing oil had been mentioned previously in Exodus 25:6, when "spices" had been required from the congregation to form a portion of it. Its composition is given in Exodus 30:23-25; a passage from which we gather that it was exceedingly rich and costly. And pour it upon his head. Compare Psalms 133:2. While ablution is a rite common to many religions, the religious use of unction is peculiar to the Mosaic and the Christian. In the Mosaic it was applied to initiate into their office the prophet, the priest, and the king. In Christianity it was originally a rite by which sick persons were miraculously cured (James 5:14, James 5:15), from which use it was afterwards extended by ecclesiastical authority to other important ceremonies. The typical meaning under Christianity is clear; the oil represents the Holy Spirit, and the anointing the outpouring of that Spirit on those who are the objects of it. Christ himself obtained his title of Christ (or Messiah), because he was "anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power" (Acts 10:38). Under Mosaism this idea was, at most, latent. Unction was understood to mark
Exodus 29:8, Exodus 29:9
The Investiture of Aaron's sons.
Thou shalt bring his sons. See Exodus 29:4. They were to be brought to the door of the tabernacle. Put coats upon them. The investiture of the high priest consisted of nine acts (see the comment on Exodus 29:5); that of the ordinary priests of three only.
1. The putting on of the linen tunics.
2. The girding with the girdles.
3. The putting on of the cap.
They do not seem to have been anointed, as Aaron was, by having the holy oil poured upon their heads, but only by having some of it sprinkled upon their garments (Exodus 29:21; Le Exodus 8:30).
The bonnets. Rather "caps." There is no article. Thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons. Literally, "Thou shalt fill the hand of Aaron and the hand of his sons." Installation in an office was usually effected among the Eastern nations by putting into the hand of the official the insignia which marked his functions. In this particular case certain portions of the offerings were used as the insignia. See Exodus 29:24.
The Consecration Offerings.
Thou shalt cause a bullock to be brought. Rather, "the bullock,"—i.e; "the bullock mentioned in Exodus 29:1, which was to be made ready before the ceremonies commenced.'' Aaron and his sons were to put their hands upon the head of the bullock, in order to identify themselves with it, and transfer to it the guilt of their own sins and imperfections, since it was to be a "sin-offering" (Exodus 29:14; compare Le Exodus 4:4).
Thou shalt take of the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar. The virtue of the altar was regarded as residing especially in its horns. Here expiation was obtained by the blood—"which is the life "—of the victim being first smeared upon the four horns, and then the remainder poured out at the altar's base. Such was the usual practice with "sin-offerings" (Le Exodus 4:7) whereof this was to be the first example.
Thou shalt take all the fat, etc. Among all nations who have offered sacrifices, it has been very usual to select certain parts of the victim only for burning upon the altar, and to dispose otherwise of the remainder. The Greeks commonly burnt on the altar the thighs and the fat only. The Romans burnt certain parts of the intestines only, and called them prosecta, prosiciae, or ablegmina. In Egypt, according to Herodotus, the greater part of the body was burnt; but the head, the neck, the shoulders, and the lower part of the legs, as well as the paunch, were reserved and not burnt (Herod. 2.40). The fat was generally regarded as the best part of the offering, and most acceptable to the gods. This was probably on account of its burning with a bright flame and helping to consume the rest of the offering. The caul that is above the liver. Probably the membrane which covers the upper part of the liver, sometimes called "the small omentum." (reticulum jecoris, Vulg.)
The flesh … shalt thou burn with fire without the camp. Such was the rule with sin-offerings generally (Le Exodus 4:11, Exodus 4:12). The curse of sin which was on them, made them unfit for food and even unworthy of burial within the camp. On the symbolism of the burial, see Hebrews 13:11-13. His dung. That which the bowels contained at the time of death.
One ram. Literally "the one ram"—i.e; "one of the two rams mentioned in Exodus 29:1. Put their hands. Here, again, the object was to identify themselves with the victim, and make it their representative; though now, as the ram was to be a burnt offering, self-sacrifice, rather than expiation, was the leading thought.
Thou shalt take his blood and sprinkle it. Rather, "and cast it." The blood was to be thrown from a basin, not sprinkled with the hand or with hyssop. Rabbinical tradition says that it was so cast at two of the corners, and thus moistened all the four sides. This was regarded as casting it "on the altar round about."
Thou shalt cut the ram in pieces. Literally, "into its pieces," which Kalisch supposes to mean "into its natural limbs." Egyptian sculptures show us animals thus cut up, and offered at sacrificial feasts to ancestors. Wash its inwards—i.e; its "intestines"—probably the stomach and bowels only. Its legs. The lower joints of the leg, with the foot, to which it was likely that dust might attach. Put them unto his pieces—i.e; "replace them after washing with the other pieces," or joints, into which the animal had been cut.
Thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar. This became the general law of the burnt-offering (Le Exodus 1:9, Exodus 1:13, Exodus 1:17). It indicated that self-sacrifice was wholly acceptable to God; whereas in sin-offerings there was a taint of evil which rendered all but certain parts of the victim unacceptable (Exodus 29:14). A sweet savour. This is not to be understood in the coarse sense in which heathen writers used similar expressions, meaning by them (as it would seem) that the gods were really pleased with the odour of sacrifices. No candid mind can ascribe to the Hebrews such anthropomorphism. Evidently no more is meant than that the offering would be pleasing to God. See Genesis 8:21; Le Genesis 1:9, Genesis 1:13, Genesis 1:17, etc.
The other ram. Compare Exodus 29:15; and see also Exodus 29:1 and Exodus 29:3, where two rams had been mentioned. This second ram is called, "the ram of consecration" in Exodus 29:22, and again in Le Exodus 8:22. It was "by far the most peculiar part of the whole ceremony" (S. Clark). It must be viewed as a "peace-offering" (Le Exodus 3:1-17), but one of a peculiar character. The application of the blood to the persons of the priests was altogether unique, and most significant. It was the crowning act of consecration, and implied the complete dedication of their life and of all their powers to the service of the Almighty.
The victim having been offered and accepted, its blood had a sanctifying power. Placed upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron and his sons, it sanctified that organ, which was to be ever open to the Divine voice; placed upon the thumb of their right hand, it sanctified their ministerial actions; placed upon the great toe of their right foot, it sanctified their whole walk in life, their "going out," and their "coming in." The consecrated life of the victim which they had offered "was given back to them, in order that it might be devoted to the service of the Lord."
Thou shalt take of the blood … and of the anointing oil. Apparently, this is the only unction that the ordinary priests were to receive. (Compare Le Exodus 8:30.) The mixture of the blood with the oil is unusual, and presents some difficulties; but perhaps it is best to view it as symbolising the intimate union which exists between justification and sanctification—the atoning blood, and the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. And sprinkle it. The verb is different from that used in Exodus 29:16, and is rightly rendered, "sprinkle." He shall be hallowed and his garments. As the garments shared in the sprinkling, they shared also, so far as was possible, in the consecration. It was hence especially that they became "holy garments.''
The rump. Rather, "the tail." Oriental sheep have very commonly a broad fat tail, which weighs from six to twenty pounds, and is sometimes laid upon a little cart with two wheels, which the sheep drags after it. There is no doubt that a "tail" of this kind is here meant. The caul. Rather, "the membrane." See the comment on Exodus 29:13. The right shoulder. Or "leg," according to some. The difference is not important.
One cake of oiled bread—i.e; one of the "unleavened cakes tempered with oil," mentioned in Exodus 29:2. Out of the basket of the unleavened bread. See Exodus 29:3.
Thou shalt put all in the hands, or "on the hands." The offerings were to be laid first, on the hands of Aaron, and then on those of his sons, which were to support them; while Moses, putting his hands under theirs, made a waving motion with them towards the four corners of the heavens, to indicate that the gifts were offered to the omnipresent God. This process was that "filling of the hand," by which the actual installation in office took place. Moses, by the act, transferred the priestly functions, which he had hitherto exercised, to his brother and his brother's descendants. He made them by his muscular energy perform their first priestly act.
Thou shalt receive them at their hands and burn them. Moses was still to continue the priestly acts, and to complete the peace-offering by burning the selected parts (Exodus 29:22) on the brazen altar. (See Le Exodus 3:3-5.)
Thou shalt take the breast. Henceforth Aaron and his sons were to have the breast of all wave-offerings (Le 7:31-34); but on this occasion, as Moses officiated, the breast was to be his.
Exodus 29:27, Exodus 29:28
A short digression is here made, from this particular offering, to all future offerings for consecration. For the future both the breast and the right shoulder are to belong to the priests. The shoulder, moreover, is to be "heaved," and only the breast "waved; …. heaving" being a single lifting up of the offering towards heaven, while" waving" was a repeated movement in a horizontal direction. Wave and heave offerings are always connected with the portions of the priests, or with things dedicated to God's service. (See Exodus 25:2; Exodus 35:22, Exodus 35:24; Exodus 38:24, Exodus 38:29; Le 7:30-34; Numbers 18:11, Numbers 18:19, Numbers 18:24, etc.)
Exodus 29:29, Exodus 29:30
Here we have a second digression, also concerning future consecrations. The holy garments made for Aaron were to be preserved after his death, and used at the consecration of each successive high priest, who was to be anointed and consecrated in them, and to wear them for seven days from the time that he entered upon his office. Eleazar's investment in them is mentioned (Numbers 20:28); but not that of any later high priest.
The ram of consecration—i.e; the part of the ram that was left and had not been burnt (Exodus 29:25). Seethe his flesh in the holy place. This was understood to mean boiling at the door of the tabernacle (Le Exodus 8:31). A sacrificial meal followed on every peace-offering, in which the offerers participated. (See above, Exodus 18:12.)
The bread that is in the basket—i.e; the loaf, cake, and wafer which still remained in the basket after one of each had been subtracted (see Exodus 29:23, and compare Exodus 29:2, Exodus 29:3).
They shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made. An atoning force pervaded all sacrifice. Sin-offerings were wholly expiatory; burnt-offerings and peace-offerings partially so (Le Exodus 1:4). A stranger shall not eat thereof. "A stranger" in this place does not mean a foreigner, but anyone who is not a priest.
Thou shalt burn the remainder with fire. Compare above, Exodus 12:10.
The repetition of the ceremonial, and the consecration of the altar.
Seven days shalt thou consecrate them. The repetition of the ceremony seven times on seven separate days seems to be intended. Thus was an ideal completeness given to it. Compare the seven days' compassing around of Jericho (Joshua 6:3, Joshua 6:4,), the seven washings in Jordan by Naaman (2 Kings 5:14), the seven ascents to the top of Carmel by the servant of Elijah (1 Kings 18:43, 1 Kings 18:44), etc.
Thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it. Rather, "thou shelf purify the altar by making an atonement for it." The sin-offering for the altar was the same bullock which served for Aaron and his sons. Its virtue was applied to the altar by smearing the blood upon its horns and pouring the remainder at its base (Exodus 29:12). See Le Exodus 8:15 :—"And Moses took the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about with his finger, and purified the altar, and poured the blood at the bottom of the altar, and sanctified it." And thou shalt anoint it. In his execution of these directions, Moses separated the anointing of the altar from the cleansing, placing it even before the anointing of Aaron. He anointed it by sprinkling the holy oil upon it seven times (Le Exodus 8:11).
Seven days shalt thou make an atonement. All the ceremonial was to be repeated seven times, not only the atonement for the altar (Le 8:33). An altar most holy. Literally, "holiness of holinesses," as in Exodus 40:10. Whatever toucheth the altar shall be holy. Rather, "must be holy." Nothing that is not holy must touch it (Kalisch).
The Consecration of the first High Priest.
Aaron may be viewed as either
I. AS A TYPE OF CHRIST, he typifies especially Christ's priestly character.
II. AS A PATTERN TO MINISTERS, Aaron is
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The rites of consecration for the priesthood.
The next portion of the Divine directions relates to the formal investiture of Aaron and his sons with the priests' office. This was to be made the occasion of a solemn and imposing ceremonial. "The rites of consecration proclaimed the necessity of holiness—a holiness not their own, but imputed to them by the grace of God; and following upon this, and flowing from the same source, a plentiful endowment of gifts for their sacred office, with the manifest seal of heaven's fellowship and approval" (Fairbairn). We may view the inaugurative ceremonies as having reference—
I. TO THE PRIESTHOOD, IN THE SIMPLEST IDEA OF IT (Exodus 29:4-10). Aaron and his sons were to be—
1. Washed with water—symbol of purification from all uncleanness (Exodus 29:4).
2. Clothed with the holy garments—which robing was the real installation. Aaron was to be first robed (Exodus 29:6, Exodus 29:7), afterwards his sons (Exodus 29:8, Exodus 29:9).
3. Anointed—symbol of the abundant communication of Divine influences (Exodus 29:7). The anointing took place immediately after investiture. See exposition. Nothing could be simpler than these introductory ceremonies, which yet, in connection with the symbolism of the dress, meant a great deal. They "filled the hand" of the priest with his office (Exodus 29:9), declared the need of holiness in the discharge of his duties, and conveyed to him the gifts of heavenly grace necessary fir their right performance. So Christ "glorified not himself to be made an high priest" (Hebrews 5:5), but was formally installed in his office by the Father; was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26); and is endued above measure with the Spirit (John 3:34).
II. TO THE PRIESTHOOD, AS HELD BY SINFUL MEN (Exodus 29:10-15). The direct installation to the priesthood is followed by ceremonies having reference to the personal sinfulness of the holders of the office. The tact could not be overlooked that the law was making men priests that had infirmity (Hebrews 7:28). Themselves sinful, Aaron and his sons were not as yet fit to transact with God as mediators for others. The true High Priest, having no sin, laboured under no disqualification of this kind (Hebrews 7:27); but it was different with priests "taken from among men" (Hebrews 5:1). They needed to have sacrifices offered for themselves. "This, therefore, was what was next provided; and through an entire series of sacrifices and offerings they were conducted as from the depths of guilt and condemnation to what indicated their possession of a state "of blessed peace and most friendly intercourse with God" (Fairbairn). The sacrifices were three—a sin-offering (Exodus 29:10-15); a burnt-offering (Exodus 29:15-19); and a peace-offering (Exodus 29:19-22); and these sacrifices, with the accompanying ceremonies, were to be repeated on seven successive days (Exodus 29:35). The altar, as defiled by the sin of those officiating at it, was likewise to be cleansed by the blood of the sin-offering (Exodus 29:36, Exodus 29:37). This is the first appearance of the sin-offering in the law.
III. TO QUALIFICATIONS, DUTIES, AND EMOLUMENTS (Exodus 29:15-38). The sin-offering had especially to do with the removal of guilt. The second sacrifice—the burnt-offering—denoted the duty of unconditional and entire surrender to Jehovah. The third—"the ram of consecration" (Exodus 29:22)—was that by which the newly-made priests were wholly put into the functions and rights of their office.
1. The ram's blood was significantly applied to different members of the person (Exodus 29:20). It was put upon the tip of the right eat', upon the thumb of the right hand, and upon the great toe of the right foot, of Aaron and of his sons. This denoted, of course, entire dedication of the person to God's service, in hearing, in acting, and in the daily walk. It beautifully symbolises, not only the perfect consecration of him whose meat it was to do his Father's will (John 4:34), but the completeness of devotion which ought to characterise each of his disciples, who also are priests to God.
2. The priests were sprinkled with the ram's blood and oil mingled (Exodus 29:21). This symbolised the new life of God, in which the priest was "henceforth to move and have his being, in conjunction with the Spirit, on whose softening, penetrating, invigorating influence all powers and movements of that Divine life depend" (Fairbairn).
3. The portions of the sacrifice which belonged to God, with a loaf, cake, and wafer, of the meat offering—symbolic of fruitfulness in good works—were next to be placed on the priests' hands, and waved before the Lord (Exodus 29:24). This signified,