We have looked at the Tabernacle and its contents, and the clothes for the priests to wear; now we look at the priests themselves. As we saw in our last study, the Tribe of Levi was set apart to serve God with specific duties concerning the Tabernacle (later the Temple) but of the Levites only those descended from Aaron were to be priests – those who would represent the people to God, and God to the people.
(For Levi’s history see study on Exodus 6:13-27)
Now ask for volunteers to read the whole of chapter 29, perhaps starting at the end of Chapter 28.
The attention now turns to Aaron and his sons. Everything possible would be done to confirm that they were dedicated to the Lord and his service, and for this there would be much ceremonial, but more specifically, sacrifices must be offered for their sins.
But we need to remember that people can undergo many ceremonial rituals, but if their heart is not changed, it all becomes worthless (Leviticus 10:1-2).
1 ‘This is what you are to do to consecrate them, so that they may serve me as priests: take a young bull and two rams without defect. 2 And from the finest wheat flour make round loaves without yeast, thick loaves without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, and thin loaves without yeast and brushed with olive oil. 3 Put them in a basket and present them in it – along with the bull and the two rams.
Yeast is a fungus causing fermentation, silently and invisibly working its way through the dough until it all has been affected. It is often used in the Bible as a picture of sin and because of this the bread for the offering had to be uncontaminated.
Note that at the very start; even the items to be used in the offerings were to be presented to the Lord to ensure that they would be acceptable.
4 Then bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the tent of meeting and wash them with water.
Symbolically standing between the people in the outer courtyard and the entrance to the tent where the presence of God dwelt. From there they would be ready to enter the presence of God, clean and pure.
What is the connection between this preparation of the priests and our own baptism?
It is worth remembering that Moses is still up the mountain, receiving instructions from God. In Exodus 30:17 we will read about a bronze basin that will stand outside the entrance to the ‘Tent of Meeting’ – this would have been used for the consecration of Aaron and his sons.
5 Take the garments and dress Aaron with the tunic, the robe of the ephod, the ephod itself and the breastpiece. Fasten the ephod on him by its skilfully woven waistband. 6 Put the turban on his head and attach the sacred emblem to the turban. 7 Take the anointing oil and anoint him by pouring it on his head. 8 Bring his sons and dress them in tunics 9 and fasten caps on them. Then tie sashes on Aaron and his sons. The priesthood is theirs by a lasting ordinance.
‘Then you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.
The pouring of oil (v7) is the final ‘visual aid’ in the process of preparation and ordination. They have been washed, dressed, and anointed with oil; there is nothing more that can be done on a human level for their consecration. The attention now turns away from the men, to God.
10 ‘Bring the bull to the front of the tent of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head.
Preparations so far have been outward, now the sins of Aaron and his sons will be symbolically transferred to the sacrifice.
11 Slaughter it in the Lord’s presence at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 12 Take some of the bull’s blood and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour out the rest of it at the base of the altar.
Many of these instructions are for Moses to carry out before Aaron and his sons have been fully consecrated. (The actual events which took place later are described in detail in Leviticus chapters 8-11)
13 Then take all the fat on the internal organs, the covering of the liver, and both kidneys with the fat on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But burn the bull’s flesh and its hide and its intestines outside the camp. It is a sin offering.
Some of these offerings are specifically sacrifices for sin, others are simply offerings to God.
15 ‘Take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. 16 Slaughter it and take the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar. 17 Cut the ram into pieces and wash the internal organs and the legs, putting them with the head and the other pieces. 18 Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord, a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.
Some of the offerings are totally devoted to God and are burnt on the altar. Some will be given to the priests to eat, but only after they have been offered to God first (v22-26).
19 ‘Take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. 20 Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then splash blood against the sides of the altar. 21 And take some of the blood on the altar and some of the anointing oil and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. Then he and his sons and their garments will be consecrated.
The blood of the ram represented its life, and was a vital part of the whole sacrifice. Whatever it touched would be cleansed and made holy, acceptable to God. We can understand putting it on the altar, Aaron, his sons, and their clothes but:
To remind them to be always attentive to God’s instructions – also to avoid any talk that would defile them.
(Try picking something up without using your thumb!) To remind them that everything they do must be only for God’s glory – and not to defile themselves with what their hand reaches for.
Why big toes?
(Actually essential for balance) A reminder to always walk with God and be holy.
22 ‘Take from this ram the fat, the fat tail, the fat on the internal organs, the covering of the liver, both kidneys with the fat on them, and the right thigh. (This is the ram for the ordination.) 23 From the basket of bread made without yeast, which is before the Lord, take one round loaf, one thick loaf with olive oil mixed in, and one thin loaf. 24 Put all these in the hands of Aaron and his sons and wave them before the Lord as a wave offering. 25 Then take them from their hands and burn them on the altar along with the burnt offering for a pleasing aroma to the Lord, a food offering presented to the Lord.
The wave offering is usually used for food to be eaten by the priests. It is symbolically offered to God by waving it in the air. Here though, having offered it, it is also consumed by fire.
26 After you take the breast of the ram for Aaron’s ordination, wave it before the Lord as a wave offering, and it will be your share.
27 ‘Consecrate those parts of the ordination ram that belong to Aaron and his sons: the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. 28 This is always to be the regular share from the Israelites for Aaron and his sons. It is the contribution the Israelites are to make to the Lord from their fellowship offerings.
Parts of the sacrifices were always to be burnt up completely. Others were also to be presented or waved before the Lord, but then were to be eaten by the priests. This was to make provision for the priests as they would not be assigned land of their own to farm and would have to rely on offerings from the people.
29 ‘Aaron's sacred garments will belong to his descendants so that they can be anointed and ordained in them. 30 The son who succeeds him as priest and comes to the tent of meeting to minister in the Holy Place is to wear them seven days.
Aarons sons had priestly garments, but not on a level with Aaron’s. His was the High Priest’s uniform and would be passed down on his death.
31 ‘Take the ram for the ordination and cook the meat in a sacred place.
In Leviticus 8:31 we read that this was by the entrance to the Tabernacle so perhaps the full stop and new verse should not have been inserted here (The original scriptures had no punctuation, verses or chapters).
32 At the entrance to the tent of meeting, Aaron and his sons are to eat the meat of the ram and the bread that is in the basket. 33 They are to eat these offerings by which atonement was made for their ordination and consecration. But no one else may eat them, because they are sacred. 34 And if any of the meat of the ordination ram or any bread is left over till morning, burn it up. It must not be eaten, because it is sacred.
Although parts of the sacrifice were to be eaten as food for the priests, they must not treat it lightly, nor could it be given to others. It was consecrated, sacred and presented to God. In the same way in some churches today, unused communion wine and bread, once consecrated, has to be consumed by the priest – not thrown away.
35 ‘Do for Aaron and his sons everything I have commanded you, taking seven days to ordain them. 36 Sacrifice a bull each day as a sin offering to make atonement. Purify the altar by making atonement for it, and anoint it to consecrate it. 37 For seven days make atonement for the altar and consecrate it. Then the altar will be most holy, and whatever touches it will be holy.
Seven in the Bible is often used to signify completeness – here it simply emphasizes the holiness with which everything had to be regarded.
38 ‘This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old.
So God has given Moses instructions for the consecration of tabernacle, furnishings and priests. Now he turns to their use – The first basic offering is to be twice a day, morning and evening.
39 Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight. 40 With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah (probably about 1.6 kilograms – 3 ½ lb) of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin (probably about 1 litre – 1 ¾ pints) of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. 41 Sacrifice the other lamb at twilight with the same grain offering and its drink offering as in the morning – a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.
42 ‘For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you; 43 there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory.
This was not a sacrifice for sin – it was simply an offering to God and a reminder to the people of the holiness of the ‘tent of meeting’; in case meeting with God might become commonplace and casual.
Does that speak to us?
44 ‘So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests.45 Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.46 They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.
Not so much promises as statements of fact: note ‘I will’ and ‘I am’.
As Christians we too can share in these. Perhaps we could finish by reading
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.