Consecration of the Priests (29:1–46)
1–9 In this chapter God gives Moses instructions concerning the CONSECRATION of priests and the consecration of the altar of burnt offering. The actual carrying out of these instructions is recorded in Leviticus 8:1–36.
To consecrate (verse 1) means to make holy, to make fit, to dedicate or set apart for a special purpose. When someone or something is consecrated to God, it means that that person or object is fully turned over to God for His use. Thus anyone or anything that is to be committed to the Lord’s service must be consecrated. Unholy people and objects103 cannot be of service to a holy God.
Therefore, since everyone and everything in the world is “unholy,” having been tainted by the sin of Adam and Eve, God established the rituals of consecration found in this chapter to prepare for Himself people and objects fit for His service. The outward rituals, however, were always meant to signify an inward consecration as well. It is the inward consecration that is most important to the Lord (Matthew 23:25–28; Mark 7:20–23). After Christ came these outward rituals became obsolete, because now for Christians all consecration is inward, spiritual, and is carried out by the Holy Spirit Himself.
For the consecration of Aaron and his sons, God said that three animals were to be sacrificed: a bull and two rams without defect (verse 1). Only the best animals, those “without defect,” were to be offered to God (see Exodus 12:3–7 and comment). In addition to the animals, bread and cakes made without yeast were to be offered (see Exodus 12:14–20 and comment).
First Aaron and his sons were to be brought to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle) and washed with water (verse 4). This symbolized the removal of uncleanness resulting from sin (Hebrews 10:22). Then Aaron and his sons were to be clothed in the garments described in Chapter 28, following which Aaron was to be anointed with oil104 (verse 7). The anointing symbolized the bestowing of spiritual resources needed for priestly service. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who alone can empower us for service (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18).
10–14 The first of the three animal offerings was that of the bull; this was basically a sacrifice of atonement for sin—the sin of Aaron and his sons (see Exodus 25:17–22; 27:1–8 and comments). They were to lay their hands on the bull’s head, which symbolized the transfer of their sin onto the bull; the bull then, as a substitute, would take the “punishment” for their sin, and Aaron and his sons would be ceremonially cleared of their guilt and made holy (Leviticus 4:3–12; 16:11,20–22).
By placing some blood on the horns of the altar (see Exodus 27:2) and at its base (verse 12), the altar also would be “made holy.” The fatty portions of the animal were burned as a sacrifice on the altar—they were the most pleasing to God (Leviticus 3:16)—but the flesh, hide and offal(intestines) were burned outside the camp (verse 14); those parts were considered to “bear the sin” that earlier had been placed on the animal (Hebrews 13:11–13).
15–18 One of the two rams was next to be sacrificed. This was an offering symbolizing the priests’ total dedication to God, for here the entire animal was sacrificed—totally given up to God (Leviticus 1:10–13). The priests identified themselves with the ram by laying their hands on it. Such total dedication on the part of God’s servants is a pleasing aroma to Him (verse 18).
19–21 The third sacrifice, using the second ram, was a sacrifice of consecration. Here the blood of the animal was to be placed on the right ears of the priests and on their right hands and right feet (verse 20). Whatever the blood touched was made holy. The priests needed consecrated ears for hearing God’s voice; they needed consecrated hands for serving Him; they needed consecrated feet for walking in His will. The same is true for Christians: through faith, our ears, hands and feet have been consecrated by the blood of Jesus.
Then as a final step, blood mixed with the anointing oil was sprinkled all over Aaron and his sons; this symbolized once again their total consecration to the Lord.
22–26 This second ram (verses 19–21) was called the ram for the ordination105 (verse 22). The parts of this animal were treated differently: they were to be “waved” before the Lord as a wave offering106 (verse 24). This was an offering of thanksgiving, similar to the fellowship offerings (verse 28) described in Leviticus Chapter 3. In this particular case, part of the animal—the breast—was to be given to Moses as his share (verse 26).
27–28 After this initial consecration of Aaron and his sons had taken place, the breast and the thigh of all future fellowship offerings presented by the Israelites would be given to the priests and their families as their share (Leviticus 10:14).
29–34 In these verses some additional instructions are given concerning the passing on of priestly garments to future generations and also concerning the eating of the “ordination ram.” The ram was to be cooked and eaten in a sacred place (verse 31)—most likely in the tabernacle courtyard (Exodus 27:9).
35–37 Next, instructions were given concerning the consecration of the altar of burnt offering (Exodus 27:1–8), on which all these sacrifices were to be offered. The altar was to be made ceremonially holy by anointing it with the blood of a sacrificed bull; a bull was to be sacrificed daily for seven days, and then the altar would be consecrated. Not only would the altar itself be holy, but anyone or anything touching the altar would be made holy as well.
38–41 Finally, instructions were given to Moses concerning the regular offerings that were to be offered every day for generations to come (verse 42): two one-year-old lambs were to be offered, morning and evening, as burnt offerings (see Leviticus 1:1–17 and comment). Together with the lambs, a tenth of an ephah (two liters) of flour was to be offered as a grain offering (see Leviticus 2:1–16 and comment). In addition, a quarter of a hin (one liter) of oil and a liter of wine (the drink offering) were also to be offered. These daily offerings were to begin as soon as the priests and the altar had been consecrated.
Christians, of course, do not need to sacrifice lambs every day. Jesus, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), has offered Himself as a sacrifice once for all; it never needs to be repeated (Hebrews 7:27). However, Christians can learn something from the daily sacrifices of the Israelites. Each morning the priests had to remove the old ashes from the altar, light the fire, and then offer a lamb as a symbol of total dedication to God. Should we not be doing something similar each day in a spiritual sense—getting rid of old attitudes, lighting our spiritual fires (2 Timothy 1:6), and rededicating our lives to God? How easy it is to let our fire die down and our hearts grow cold! (Revelation 2:4; 3:15–16).
42–43 After all these instructions had been carried out, then God would be pleased to meet not only with Moses but also with the Israelites (verse 43). The whole tabernacle would then be consecrated by God’s glory (see Exodus 40:34–35).
44–46 In this way God would consecrate His priests and His tabernacle. “Then,” said God, “I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God” (verse 45). This was the purpose, the fulfillment of all these instructions God gave to Moses during those forty days and nights on Mount Sinai: that He might dwell in His tabernacle, His dwelling place. This is the ultimate significance of the tabernacle: it was to be God’s dwelling place among His people (Exodus 25:8). And this is why God brought the Israelites out of Egypt: so that [He] might dwell among them (verse 46). God wanted the Israelites to recognize once for all that He was indeed their covenant God (see Genesis 17:7–8; Exodus 6:6–8; 19:5–6 and comments).