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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Leviticus Chapter 8


lev 8:0

Induction of Aaron and His Sonsinto the Priestly Office - Leviticus 8-10

To the law of sacrifice there is appended first of all an account of the fulfilment of the divine command to sanctify Aaron and his sons as priests, which Moses had received upon the mount along with the laws concerning the erection of the sanctuary of the tabernacle (Ex 28 and 29). This command could not properly be carried out till after the appointment and regulation of the institution of sacrifice, because most of the laws of sacrifice had some bearing upon this act. The sanctification of the persons, whom God had called to be His priests, consisted in a solemn consecration of these persons to their office by investiture, anointing, and sacrifice (ch. 8), - their solemn entrance upon their office by sacrifices for themselves and the people (ch. 9), - the sanctification of their priesthood by the judgment of God upon the eldest sons of Aaron, when about to offer strange, fire-and certain instructions, occasioned by this occurrence, concerning the conduct of the priests in the performance of their service (ch. 10).

Leviticus 8:1

lev 8:1

Consecration of the Priests and the Sanctuary (cf. Ex 29:1-37). - The consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests was carried out by Moses according to the instructions in Ex 29:1-36; Exo 40:12-15; and the anointing of the tabernacle, with the altar and its furniture, as prescribed in Exo 29:37; Exo 30:26-29, and Exo 40:9-11, was connected with it (Lev 8:10, Lev 8:11).

Lev 8:1-4

Lev 8:1-5 contain an account of the preparations for this holy act, the performance of which was enjoined upon Moses by Jehovah after the publication of the laws of sacrifice (Lev 8:1). Moses brought the persons to be consecrated, the official costume that had been made for them (Ex 28), the anointing oil (Exo 30:23.), and the requisite sacrificial offerings (Exo 29:1-3), to the door of the tabernacle (i.e., into the court, near the altar of burnt-offering), and then gathered "the whole congregation" - that is to say, the nation in the persons of its elders-there also (see my Archeologie ii. p. 221). The definite article before the objects enumerated in Lev 8:2 may be explained on the ground that they had all been previously and more minutely described. The "basket of the unleavened" contained, according to Exo 29:2-3, (1) unleavened bread, which is called חלּה in Lev 8:26, i.e., round flat bread-cakes, and לחם כּכּר (loaf of bread) in Exo 29:23, and was baked for the purpose of the consecration (see at Lev 8:31, Lev 8:32); (2) unleavened oil-cakes; and (3) unleavened flat cakes covered with oil (see at Lev 2:4 and Lev 7:12).

Lev 8:5

When the congregation was assembled, Moses said, "This is the word which Jehovah commanded you to do." His meaning was, the substance or essential part of the instructions in Exo 28:1 and 29:1-37, which he had published to the assembled congregation before the commencement of the act of consecration, and which are not repeated here as being already known from those chapters. The congregation had been summoned to perform this act, because Aaron and his sons were to be consecrated as priests for them, as standing mediators between them and the Lord.

Leviticus 8:6

lev 8:6

After this the act of consecration commenced. It consisted of two parts: first, the consecration of the persons themselves to the office of the priesthood, by washing, clothing, and anointing (Lev 8:6-13); and secondly, the sacrificial rites, by which the persons appointed to the priestly office were inducted into the functions and prerogatives of priests (vv. 16-36).

Lev 8:6-13

The washing, clothing, and anointing. - Lev 8:6. "Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water;" i.e., directed them to wash themselves, no doubt all over, and not merely their hands and feet. This cleansing from bodily uncleanness was a symbol of the putting away of the filth of sin; the washing of the body, therefore, was a symbol of spiritual cleansing, without which no one could draw near to God, and least of all those who were to perform the duties of reconciliation.

Lev 8:7-9

Then followed the clothing of Aaron. Moses put upon him the body-coat (Exo 28:39) and girdle (Exo 28:39 and Exo 39:22), then clothes him with the mel (Exo 28:31-35) and ephod (Exo 28:6-14), and the choshen with the Urim and Thummim (Ex 28:15-30), and put the cap (Exo 28:39) upon his head, with the golden diadem over his forehead (Exo 28:36-38). This investiture, regarded as the putting on of an important official dress, was a symbol of his endowment with the character required for the discharge of the duties of his office, the official costume being the outward sign of installation in the office which he was to fill.

Lev 8:10-13

According to the directions in Exo 30:26-30 (cf. Lev Exo 40:9-11), the anointing was performed first of all upon "the tabernacle and everything in it," i.e., the ark of the covenant, the altar of incense, the candlestick, and table of shew-bread, and their furniture; and then upon the altar of burnt-offering and its furniture, and upon the laver and its pedestal; and after this, upon Aaron himself, by the pouring of the holy oil upon his head. This was followed by the robing and anointing of Aaron's sons, the former only of which is recorded in Lev 8:13 (according to Exo 28:40), the anointing not being expressly mentioned, although it had not only been commanded, in Exo 28:41 and Exo 40:15, but the performance of it is taken for granted in Lev 7:36; Lev 10:7, and Num 3:3. According to the Jewish tradition, the anointing of Aaron (the high priest) was different from that of the sons of Aaron (the ordinary priests), the oil being poured upon the head of the former, whilst it was merely smeared with the finger upon the forehead in the case of the latter (cf. Relandi Antiqq. ss. ii. 1, 5, and 7, and Selden, de succ. in pontif. ii. 2). There appears to be some foundation for this, as a distinction is assumed between the anointing of the high priest and that of the ordinary priests, not only in the expression, "he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head" (Lev 8:12, cf. Exo 29:7; Psa 133:2), which is applied to Aaron only, but also in Lev 21:10, Lev 21:12; although the further statement of the later Talmudists and Rabbins, that Aaron was also marked upon the forehead with the sign of a Hebrew כ (the initial letter of כהן), has no support in the law (vid., Selden, ii. 9; Vitringa, observv. ss. ii. c. 15, 9). - On the mode in which the tabernacle and its furniture were anointed, all that is stated is, that the altar of burnt-offering was anointed by being sprinkled seven times with the anointing oil; from which we may safely conclude, that the other portions and vessels of the sanctuary were anointed in the same way, but that the sprinkling was not performed more than once in their case. The reason why the altar was sprinkled seven times with the holy anointing oil, is to be sought for in its signification as the place of worship. The anointing, both of the sacred things and also of the priests, is called קדּשׁ "to sanctify," in Lev 8:10-12, as well as in Exo 40:9-11 and Exo 40:13; and in Exo 40:10 the following stipulation is added with regard to the altar of burnt-offering: "and it shall be most holy," - a stipulation which is not extended to the dwelling and its furniture, although those portions of the sanctuary were most holy also, that the altar of burnt-offering, which was the holiest object in the court by virtue of its appointment as the place of expiation, might be specially guarded from being touched by unholy hands (see at Exo 40:16). To impress upon it this highest grade of holiness, it was sprinkled even times with anointing oil; and in the number seven, the covenant number, the seal of the holiness of the covenant of reconciliation, to which it was to be subservient, was impressed upon it. To sanctify is not merely to separate to holy purposes, but to endow or fill with the powers of the sanctifying Spirit of God. Oil was a fitting symbol of the Spirit, or spiritual principle of life, by virtue of its power to sustain and fortify the vital energy; and the anointing oil, which was prepared according to divine instructions, was therefore a symbol of the Spirit of God, as the principle of spiritual life which proceeds from God and fills the natural being of the creature with the powers of divine life. The anointing with oil, therefore, was a symbol of endowment with the Spirit of God (Sa1 10:1, Sa1 10:6; Sa1 16:13-14; Isa 61:1) for the duties of the office to which a person was consecrated. The holy vessels also were not only consecrated, through the anointing, for the holy purposes to which they were to be devoted (Knobel), but were also furnished in a symbolical sense with powers of the divine Spirit, which were to pass from them to the people who came to the sanctuary. The anointing was not only to sanctify the priests as organs and mediators of the Spirit of God, but the vessels of the sanctuary also, as channels and vessels of the blessings of grace and salvation, which God as the Holy One would bestow upon His people, through the service of His priests, and in the holy vessels appointed by Him. On these grounds the consecration of the holy things was associated with the consecration of the priests. The notion that even vessels, and in fact inanimate things in general, can be endowed with divine and spiritual powers, was very widely spread in antiquity. We meet with it in the anointing of memorial stones (Gen 28:17; Gen 35:14), and it occurs again in the instructions concerning the expiation of the sanctuary on the annual day of atonement (ch. 16). It contains more truth than some modern views of the universe, which refuse to admit that any influence is exerted by the divine Spirit except upon animated beings, and thus leave a hopeless abyss between spirit and matter. According to Exo 29:9, the clothing and anointing of Aaron and his sons were to be "a priesthood to them for a perpetual statute," i.e., to secure the priesthood to them for all ages; for the same thought is expressed thus in Exo 40:15 : "their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations." When the Talmudists refer these words to the sons of Aaron or the ordinary priests, to the exclusion of Aaron or the high priest, this is opposed to the distinct context, according to which the sons of Aaron were to be anointed like their father Aaron. The utter want of foundation for the rabbinical assumption, that the anointing of the sons of Aaron, performed by Moses, availed not only for themselves, but for their successors also, and therefore for the priests of every age, is also the more indisputable, because the Talmudists themselves infer from Lev 6:15 (cf. Exo 29:29), where the installation of Aaron's successor in his office is expressly designated an anointing, the necessity for every successor of Aaron in the high-priesthood to be anointed. The meaning of the words in question is no doubt the following: the anointing of Aaron and his sons was to stand as a perpetual statute for the priesthood, and to guarantee it to the sons of Aaron for all time; it being assumed as self-evident, according to Lev 6:15, that as every fresh generation entered upon office, the anointing would be repeated or renewed.

Leviticus 8:14

lev 8:14

The sacrificial ceremony with which the consecration was concluded, consisted of a threefold sacrifice, the materials for which were not supplied by the persons about to be installed, but were no doubt provided by Moses at the expense of the congregation, for which the priesthood was instituted. Moses officiated as the mediator of the covenant, through whose service Aaron and his sons were to be consecrated as priests of Jehovah, and performed every part of the sacrificial rite-the slaughtering, sprinkling of the blood, and burning of the altar gifts, - just as the priests afterwards did at the public daily and festal sacrifices, the persons to be consecrated simply laying their hands upon the sacrificial animals, to set them apart as their representatives.

Lev 8:14-17

The first sacrifice was a sin-offering, for which a young ox was taken (Exo 29:1), as in the case of the sin-offerings for the high priest and the whole congregation (Lev 4:3, Lev 4:14): the highest kind of sacrificial animal, which corresponded to the position to be occupied by the priests in the Israelitish kingdom of God, as the ἐκλογή of the covenant nation. Moses put some of the blood with his finger upon the horns of the altar of burnt-offering, and poured the rest at the foot of the altar. The far portions (see Lev 3:3-4) he burned upon the altar; but the flesh of the ox, as well as the hide and dung, he burned outside the camp. According to the general rule of the sin-offerings, whose flesh was burnt outside the camp, the blood was brought into the sanctuary itself (Lev 6:23); but here it was only put upon the altar of burnt-offering to make this sin-offering a consecration-sacrifice. Moses was to take the blood to "purify (יחטּא) and sanctify the altar, to expiate it." As the altar had been sanctified immediately before by the anointing with holy oil (Lev 8:11), the object of the cleansing or sanctification of it through the blood of the sacrifice cannot have been to purify it a second time from uncleanness, that still adhered to it, or was inherent in it; but just as the purification or expiation of the vessels or worship generally applied only to the sins of the nation, by which these vessels had been defiled (Lev 16:16, Lev 16:19), so here the purification of the altar with the blood of the sin-offering, upon which the priests had laid their hands, had reference simply to pollutions, with which the priests defiled the altar when officiating at it, through the uncleanness of their sinful nature. As the priests could not be installed in the functions of the priesthood, notwithstanding the holiness communicated to them through the anointing, without a sin-offering to awaken the consciousness in both themselves and the nation that the sinfulness which lay at the root of human nature was not removed by the anointing, but only covered in the presence of the holy God, and that sin still clung to man, and polluted all his doings and designs; so that altar, upon which they were henceforth to offer sacrifices, still required to be purified through the blood of the bullock, that had been slaughtered as a sin-offering for the expiation of their sins, to sanctify it for the service of the priests, i.e., to cover up the sins by which they would defile it when performing their service. For this sanctification the blood of the sin-offering, that had been slaughtered for them, was taken, to indicate the fellowship which was henceforth to exist between them and the altar, and to impress upon them the fact, that the blood, by which they were purified, was also to serve as the means of purifying the altar from the sins attaching to their service. Although none of the blood of this sin-offering was carried into the holy place, because only the anointed priests were to be thereby inducted into the fellowship of the altar, the flesh of the animal could only be burnt outside the camp, because the sacrifice served to purify the priesthood (see Lev 4:11-12). For the rest, the remarks made on Lev 4:4 are also applicable to the symbolical meaning of this sacrifice.

Lev 8:18-21

The sin-offering, through which the priests and the altar had been expiated, and every disturbance of the fellowship existing between the holy God and His servants at the altar, in consequence of the sin of those who were to be consecrated, had been taken away, was followed by a burnt-offering, consisting of a ram, which was offered according to the ordinary ritual of the burnt-offering (Lev 1:3-9), and served to set forth the priests, who had appointed it as their substitute through the laying on of hands, as a living, holy, and well-pleasing sacrifice to the Lord, and to sanctify them to the Lord with all the faculties of both body and soul.

Lev 8:22-30

This was followed by the presentation of a peace-offering, which also consisted of a ram, called "the ram of the filling," or "of the fill-offering," from the peculiar ceremony performed with the flesh, by which this sacrifice became a consecration-offering, inducting the persons consecrated into the possession and enjoyment of the privileges of the priesthood. A ram was offered as a peace-offering, by the nation as a whole (Lev 9:4, Lev 9:18), the tribe-princes (Num 7:17.), and a Nazarite (Num 6:14, Num 6:17), who also occupied a higher position in the congregation (Amo 2:11-12); but it was never brought by a private Israelite for a peace-offering. The offering described here differed from the rest of the peace-offerings, first of all, in the ceremony performed with the blood (Lev 8:23 and Lev 8:24, cf. Exo 29:20-21). Before sprinkling the blood upon the altar, Moses put some of it upon the tip of the right ear, upon the right thumb, and upon the great toe of the right foot of Aaron and his sons. Thus he touched the extreme points, which represented the whole, of the ear, hand, and foot on the right, or more important and principal side: the ear, because the priest was always to hearken to the word and commandment of God; the hand, because he was to discharge the priestly functions properly; and the foot, because he was to walk correctly in the sanctuary. Through this manipulation the three organs employed in the priestly service were placed, by means of their tips, en rapport with the sacrificial blood; whilst through the subsequent sprinkling of the blood upon the altar they were introduced symbolically within the sphere of the divine grace, by virtue of the sacrificial blood, which represented the soul as the principle of life, and covered it in the presence of the holiness of God, to be sanctified by that grace to the rendering of willing and righteous service to the Lord. The sanctification was at length completed by Moses' taking some of the anointing oil and some of the blood upon the altar, and sprinkling Aaron and his sons, and also their clothes; that is to say, by his sprinkling the persons themselves, as bearers of the priesthood, and their clothes, as the insignia of the priesthood, with a mixture of holy anointing oil and sacrificial blood taken from the altar (Lev 8:30). The blood taken from the altar shadowed forth the soul as united with God through the medium of the atonement, and filled with powers of grace. The holy anointing oil was a symbol of the Spirit of God. Consequently, through this sprinkling the priests were endowed, both soul and spirit, with the higher powers of the divine life. The sprinkling, however, was performed, not upon the persons alone, but also upon their official dress. For it had reference to the priests, not in their personal or individual relation to the Lord, but in their official position, and with regard to their official work in the congregation of the Lord.

(Note: In the instructions in Exo 29:21 this ceremony is connected with the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar; but here, on the contrary, it is mentioned after the burning of the flesh. Whether because it was not performed till after this, or because it is merely recorded here in a supplementary form, it is difficult to decide. The latter is the more probable, because the blood upon the altar would soon run off; so that if Moses wanted to take any of it off, it could not be long delayed.)

In addition to this, the following appointment is contained in Exo 29:29, Exo 29:30 : "The holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons' after him," i.e., pass to his successors in the high-priesthood, "to anoint them therein and fill their hands therein. Seven days shall the priest of his sons in his stead put them on (ילבּשׁם with the suffix - ם as in Gen 19:19), who shall go into the tabernacle to serve in the sanctuary." Accordingly, at Aaron's death his successor Eleazar was dressed in his robes (Num 20:26-28). It by no means follows from this, that a formal priestly consecration was repeated solely in the case of the high priest as the head of the priesthood, and that with the common priests the first anointing by Moses sufficed for all time. We have already observed at p. 545 that this is not involved in Exo 40:15; and the fact that it is only the official costume of the high priest which is expressly said to have passed to his successor, may be explained on the simple ground, that as his dress was only worn when he was discharging certain special functions before Jehovah, it would not be worn out so soon as the dress of the ordinary priests, which was worn in the daily service, and therefore would hardly last long enough to be handed down from father to son.

(Note: It no more follows from the omission of express instructions concerning the repetition of the ceremony in the case of every priest who had to be consecrated, that the future priests were not invested, anointed, and in all respects formally consecrated, than the fact that the anointing is not mentioned in Lev 8:13 proves that the priests were not anointed at all.)

The ceremony performed with the flesh of this sacrifice was also peculiarly significant (Lev 8:25-29). Moses took the fat portions, which were separated from the flesh in the case of the ordinary peace-offerings and burned upon the altar, and the right leg, which was usually assigned to the officiating priest, and then laid by the pieces of flesh (or upon them) another cake of each of the three kinds of pastry, which fell to the portion of the priest in other cases, as a heave-offering for Jehovah, and put all this into the hands of Aaron and his sons, and waved it as a wave-offering for Jehovah, after which he took it from their hands and burned it upon the altar, "as a filling (מלּאים) for a savour of satisfaction, as a firing for Jehovah." These last words, which are attached to the preceding without a conjunction, and, as the הם and הוּא show, form independent clauses (lit., "filling are they...a firing is it for Jehovah"), contain the reason for this unusual proceeding, so that Luther's explanation is quite correct, "for it is a fill-offering," etc. The ceremony of handing the portions mentioned to Aaron and his sons denoted the filling of their hands with the sacrificial gifts, which they were afterwards to offer to the Lord in the case of the peace-offerings, viz., the fat portions as a firing upon the altar, the right leg along with the bread-cake as a wave-offering, which the Lord then relinquished to them as His own servants. The filling of their hands with these sacrificial gifts, from which the offering received the name of fill-offering, signified on the one hand the communication of the right belonging to the priest to offer the fat portions to the Lord upon the altar, and on the other hand the enfeoffment of the priests with gifts, which they were to receive in future for their service. This symbolical signification of the act in question serves to explain the circumstance, that both the fat portions, which were to be burned upon the altar, and also the right leg with the bread-cakes which formed the priests' share of the peace-offerings, were merely placed in the priests's hands in this instance, and presented symbolically to the Lord by waving, and then burned by Moses upon the altar. For Aaron and his sons were not only to be enfeoffed with what they were to burn unto the Lord, but also with what they would receive for their service. And as even the latter was a prerogative bestowed upon them by the Lord, it was right that at their consecration they should offer it symbolically to the Lord by waving, and actually by burning upon the altar. But as the right leg was devoted to another purpose in this case, Moses received the breast-piece, which was presented to the Lord by waving (Lev 8:29), and which afterwards fell to the lot of the priests, as his portion for the sacrificial meal, which formed the conclusion of this dedicatory offering, as it did of all the peace-offerings. In Exo 29:27-28, we also find the command, that the wave-breast of the ram of the fill-offering, and the heave-leg which had been lifted off, should afterwards belong to Aaron and his sons on the part of the children of Israel, as a perpetual statute, i.e., as a law for all time; and the following reason is assigned: "for it is a heave-offering (terumah, a lifting off), and shall be a heave-offering on the part of the children of Israel of their peace-offerings, their heave-offering for Jehovah," i.e., which they were to give to the Lord from their peace-offerings for the good of His servants. The application of the word terumah to both kinds of offering, the wave-breast and the heave-shoulder, may be explained on the simple ground, that the gift to be waved had to be lifted off from the sacrificial animal before the waving could be performed.

Lev 8:31-32

For the sacrificial meal, the priests were to boil the flesh in front of the door of the tabernacle, or, according to Exo 29:31, "at the holy place," i.e., in the court, and eat it with the bread in the fill-offering basket; and no stranger (i.e., layman or non-priest) was to take part in the meal, because the flesh and bread were holy (Exo 29:33), that is to say, had served to make atonement for the priests, to fill their hands and sanctify them. Atoning virtue is attributed to this sacrifice in the same sense as to the burnt-offering in Lev 1:4. Whatever was left of the flesh and bread until the following day, that is to say, was not eaten on the day of sacrifice, was to be burned with fire, for the reason explained at Lev 7:17. The exclusion of laymen from participating in this sacrificial meal is to be accounted for in the same way as the prohibition of unleavened bread, which was offered and eaten in the case of the ordinary peace-offerings along with the unleavened sacrificial cakes (see at Lev 7:13). The meal brought the consecration of the priests to a close, as Aaron and his sons were thereby received into that special, priestly covenant with the Lord, the blessings and privileges of which were to be enjoyed by the consecrated priests alone. At this meal the priests were not allowed to eat leavened bread, any more than the nation generally at the feast of Passover (Exo 12:8.).

Leviticus 8:33

lev 8:33

(cf. Exo 29:35-37). The consecration was to last seven days, during which time the persons to be consecrated were not to go away from the door of the tabernacle, but to remain there day and night, and watch the watch of the Lord that they might not die. "For the Lord will fill your hand seven days. As they have done on this (the first) day, so has Jehovah commanded to do to make atonement for you" (Lev 8:34). That is to say, the rite of consecration which has been performed upon you to-day, Jehovah has commanded to be performed or repeated for seven days. These words clearly imply that the whole ceremony, in all its details, was to be repeated for seven days; and in Exo 29:36-37, besides the filling of the hand which was to be continued seven days, and which presupposes the daily repetition of the consecration-offering, the preparation of the sin-offering for reconciliation and the expiation or purification and anointing of the altar are expressly commanded for each of the seven days. This repetition of the act of consecration is to be regarded as intensifying the consecration itself; and the limitation of it to seven days is to be accounted for from the signification and holiness of the number seven as the sign of the completion of the works of God. The commandment not to leave the court of the tabernacle during the whole seven days, is of course not to be understood literally (as it is by some of the Rabbins), as meaning that the persons to be consecrated were not even to go away from the spot for the necessities of nature (cf. Lund. jd. Heiligth. p. 448); but when taken in connection with the clause which follows, "and keep the charge of the Lord," it can only be understood as signifying that during these days they were not to leave the sanctuary to attend to any earthly avocation whatever, but uninterruptedly to observe the charge of the Lord, i.e., the consecration commanded by the Lord. משׁמרת שׁמר, lit., to watch the watch of a person or thing, i.e., to attend to them, to do whatever was required for noticing or attending to them (cf. Gen 26:5, and Hengstenberg, Christology).

Next: Leviticus Chapter 9