Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And 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,3. The Consecration of the Priests. 29:1–36
The direction here given for the actual consecration of the priests is not carried out till Lev. 8–10. This raises two questions: First, why does not the execution of the precept, as of all the preceding ones, follow in Exodus, where it might be regarded as simply omitted in Exo 39? Secondly, why nevertheless are the calling and investment of the priests, which have been heretofore considered, described in Exodus? As to the first question, we see from Exo 40 that even the sanctuary had to be erected and arranged, and consecrated by the first-fruits of the offerings, not by Aaron, but by Moses, the royal prophet himself, just as he had also called and invested, or prepared, the priests. For the tabernacle was designed in a universal sense for Jehovah as presiding over all three forms of revelation, the prophetic, the ritual or Levitical, and the princely or royal, i.e., Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers; but the initiative belonged to the prophetic office. This relation would have been wholly altered if the actual consecration of the priests had preceded the erection of the tabernacle. Thus is answered also the second question, why the actual consecration of the priests is prescribed so early? The answer lies in the fact that the priesthood has a more universal significance than the merely ritual one. In relation to the prophetic office the priesthood has to represent symbolically religious ideas in itself, in its clothing, and in its functions; in relation to the ritual worship, however, it has not only to symbolize the ethical ideas of sacrifice, but also to conduct the educational training of the people of Israel—in the Middle Ages of the Old Testament—by means of the sacrificial service and the administration of the laws of purification; but in relation to the politico-theocratic side of the theocracy, the high-priest carries on his breast, for times of exigency, the oracular Urim and Thummim, which make good the temporary failure of the prophetic word and the royal government; and the Levites as bearers of the ark of the covenant have to attend to the banners of the host of the Lord. But since nevertheless the sacrificial worship is the chief vocation of the priests, the actual consecration of the priests serves to introduce the sacrificial system as developed in Leviticus.—Keil finds it most suitable to his purpose not to explain the consecration of the priests till Lev. 8. On this point, however, Knobel has yielded to the requirements of the text.
The preparation of the offerings which Aaron and his sons are to bring, Exo 29:1–3. The three fundamental forms of offering, already involved in the Paschal rites, are here indicated by the animals specified in the command: (1) The bullock is appointed for a sin-offering, the great sin-offering such as the guilty priest has to bring according to Lev. 4; in this sin-offering the more specific sin-offering, the trespass-offering and the sin-offering of a lower grade, are implicitly included. The first ram is then made the centre of all the offerings. (2) The burnt-offering has likewise its ramifications, viz., in the morning and evening sacrifices, in daily offerings, in offerings for the Sabbath and feast-days, according to Num. 28. The other ram is designed for an offering of abundance or heave-offering of the priests from the peace-offerings of the children of Israel, i.e., it is the peace- or thank-offering of the priest, who has no property or means of earning it, and whose hands must therefore be filled by the congregation with a heave-offering or sacred tribute which is regarded as a surplus from the peace-offerings of the people. (3) The peace-offering also is subdivided into three parts: the thank-offering, the vow, and the free-will offering (Lev. 7). A basket holds the three principal forms of the meal-offering or bloodless offering, as originally connected with the burnt-offering. The principal material of the three kinds of baked articles is wheat flour, prepared in three ways, but always unleavened. The bread and the cake are mixed with oil; but the wafer or flat cake is to be smeared with oil (on the preparation of them vid. Lev. 2:4 sqq.). The meal-offering is subdivided still further into the meal-offering in the narrow sense, the drink-offering, and the offering of baken flour and of roasted fruits, and is to be as scrupulously supplemented with salt, oil, and frankincense, as it is to be kept free from honey and leaven, the last being excepted in case of the feast of harvest; on which point more hereafter.
The washing and the investment. Moses has to bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tent, i.e., into the court, and there administer to them a symbolic ablution. It is an interpolated notion of Keil’s, that Moses had them wash themselves; and he also misconceives the symbolic nature of the initiatory act, when he says: “without doubt the whole body, not only the hands and feet.” Were they to bathe themselves, or at any rate exhibit themselves naked, in the presence of the assembled congregation in the court? The washing is the symbolic expression of purification from the stains and defilement incurred in real life, whilst the sacrifices removed not only the daily weaknesses, but also the guilt of life down to its foundation in the sinful nature; vid. John 13:10. In the description of the investment every article is specially mentioned, and its import emphasized.
The unction. As the clothes symbolize the burden and the dignity of office, so the anointing with oil, profusely poured out on the high-priest’s head, symbolizes the promises of official grace, of endowment with the Spirit of God. The anointing of Aaron’s sons is not here treated of, as Keil assumes. Nor in Lev. 8:10, where yet further on reference is made to a sprinkling of the sons of Aaron with the blood of the ram of consecration and with anointing oil, in connection with the sprinkling of their father, Exo 29:30. It is also a strange notion of Keil’s (II. p. 337) that the vessels of the sanctuary were by the sprinkling made media and vessels of the blessings of grace and salvation.
Still harsher seems Keil’s explanation of the notion of sanctifying. Even of the altar of burnt-offering, he says: “To sanctify means not merely to set apart to sacred uses, but to endow or fill with powers from God’s sanctifying Spirit.” Here is not only all distinction between the O. and N. Testaments obliterated, but also all distinction between the altar and the priest, to say nothing of the distinction between the different altars.
The investiture of Aaron and his sons as priests, Exo 29:8 and 9. The characteristic garment of the common priest is the white wrought coat, and with it the girdle of the coat, of embroidered work ornamented with the four colors of the sanctuary, and the white cap of the priest. In the girdle is exhibited the likeness of the common priest to the high-priest; in the white coat and the conical cap1 is exhibited the likeness of the high-priest to the common priest. The dress in which, according to Lev. 16:4, the high-priest is to enter the Holy of holies is even inferior to that of the common priest. And though Aaron is distinguished by having the high-priestly unction, yet at the sacrifice by which lie is purified and consecrated he must be associated with his sons. Also his hands must be filled together with those of his sons. [“Fill the hands of”—the literal translation of the Hebrew phrase rendered in A. V. “consecrate,” e. g., 28:41]. For the poor priest has nothing of his own; the congregation must provide for him, and, first of all, even the sacrificial gifts which he needs to offer. Thus then the hands of him and his sons are filled, they being declared to be the owners of the objects of sacrifice. And so Aaron does not make himself a priest. Moses, the servant of God, commissioned by Jehovah, must consecrate him to the office. The prophet stands as high priest over against the candidate for the priesthood; the future high-priest stands over against the prophetical Levite almost in the attitude of a layman.
The bullock for the sin-offering, Exo 29:10–14. Not every sacrifice is a confession of mortal guilt; but every sacrifice is a confession of such a culpability of the life as makes it unable, in real spirituality, to satisfy the righteousness of God; for which reason the symbolic representation of satisfaction by means of sacrifice is introduced,—sacrifice as a confession of guilt, as a longing after willingness to surrender one’s self to the divine judgment, as a prayer for pardon, and as a vow. But as soon as the congregation of God is organized as symbolically holy, sacrifices assume a threefold purpose. (1) As national offerings, they assume the form of the discharge of a legal obligation, the expiation of a violated national law; and in this sense they may also be said to work justification. (2) As Mosaic offerings, they become a symbolic expression of moral offences against the law, and of the need of expiatory surrender. (3) As the continuation and symbolic expression of the Abrahamic faith, they become a typical adumbration of the absolute realization of the sacrificial idea in the future kingdom of the Messiah. vid. Comm. on Genesis, pp. 256, 470.
In the act of laying his hand on the victim the offerer confesses as his own the debt of guilt which the animal pays for him as his symbolic substitute. The loss of the animal, the animal’s innocence, its dying pain, form in their union an emphatic expression of his condition; the animal symbolically takes the place of his life. In all cases he lays symbolically his guilt and his deficiencies upon the animal—even in the case of the peace-offering. The hand in this connection is the symbolic and mystical conductor of the soul’s life; as in other cases, of its spiritual fulness, so here, of its defects and need of expiation.
The killing of the animal is done by Moses before the Lord, i. e., before the door of the tabernacle. But even the sin-offering is not the symbol of a death-sentence, but the expiation of a guilt which would have led to death if it had not been atoned for before the gracious Jehovah. For a known mortal sin (Num. 15:30) is not expiated by offerings, but is punished with death; it makes the sinner a hherem. The system of sacrificial expiation in general is instituted only for sins committed in weakness (Lev. 4:2, 27). Hence the sin-offering is composed of different elements. First, the offering of blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no expiation (Heb. 9:22); it designates the deathly earnestness, the death-defying courage, by means of which all the disorders of the religious and moral nature are rectified. A part of the blood of the sin-offering is put on the horns of the altar, thus perfecting the sinner’s refuge: the greater part of it is poured out at the base of the altar; i. e., submission to the judgment of God constitutes expiation. It is an incorrect representation of Keil’s that, “whereas, according to the general rule for the sin-offerings whose flesh was burned outside of the camp, the blood was brought into the holy place itself (Lev. 6:23 ), it is here only put on the altar of burnt-offering, in order to give this sin-offering the character of a consecratory offering.” This is contradicted by Lev. 4:7, 18, 25, 30. The blood was always poured out at the foot of the altar of burnt-offering, while only a little of it comes into the holy place, especially upon the horns of the altar of incense, vid. Lev. 4:7 sqq. The difference, therefore, can be only that here the blood of sprinkling was put upon the horns of the altar of burnt-offering, and it is to be remarked that nothing has yet been said of the altar of incense.—And the fat. The bloom of life, even in the case of the tragically guilty,—that which is deposited on his entrails, his physical nature, on his liver or on his nobler affections, on his reins, which through their effects might symbolize the conscience (Ps. 16:7),—this falls to Jehovah as His part; that it has ministered to Him in His actual government of men, is expressed by their being offered to Him in fire on the altar. Thus one feature of the burnt-offering belongs also to the sin-offering. The fat of the offering, or the bloom of life, all falls to Jehovah as His part (Lev. 4:31, 35). But the sin-offering has also one feature that belongs to the hherem: the flesh, skin, and dung of the sin-offering are burnt outside before the camp; they are given back to the old earth of the old man as a symbol of the sinner’s outward mode of life.—It is a burnt-offering, Exo 29:15–18. The first ram denotes the offering up to Jehovah of the whole conduct of life, not through death, but in life itself (Rom. 12:1). Here the blood is sprinkled round about on the altar: this expresses one’s complete, voluntary surrender, and readiness to die while yet living. The whole ram (after the removal of the skin and the unclean parts) is cut in pieces and burnt upon the altar together with the inwards and thighs; it all goes up in the fire of that gracious sovereignty which saves while it judges; and surely such an offering of life is a sweet savor, a fire-offering to Jehovah. The other ram, designed as an offering of consecration, or as Aaron’s peace-offering, or as a welfare offering (Exo 29:19–28), is likewise offered in accordance with its design. The blood, or the readiness for death, is first of all put upon the ear-lap of Aaron and his sons: obedience, as spiritual hearing, is the first duty, especially of the priests. Next, the hand, as symbolizing human activity, is specially consecrated by being sprinkled with blood; finally, the great toe of the right foot, as symbolizing the walk of life in general. After this the blood, which in this case also is sprinkled around the altar, in order to express the most complete surrender, is taken again in part from the altar, and together with some of the anointing oil is sprinkled upon Aaron and his clothes, and on his sons and their clothes. Devotion to God and to a spiritual life is to consecrate, first of all, the priests’ character, but also their official life. Next follows the burnt-offering as a factor in the consecratory offering of the priests. Together with the fat already specified, the ram’s tail also and the kidneys themselves are devoted to the fire; i.e., the vigor of life, comfort, and conscientiousness are consecrated to God, being united with a part of the meal-offering, closely related as it is to the peace-offering, viz., with three different articles from the basket. These sacrificial gifts, however, are not at once burnt up. It must be made evident that they are offerings of the priests; hence they are laid upon their hands. But, together with their hands, they are waved, i.e., moved to and fro. What does that mean? It costs labor, a struggle, a shaking loose, before the priests are ready voluntarily to give back their emoluments, their fulness, to Jehovah; as history teaches. All the more then what is really offered is a sweet savor before the Lord, a fire-offering to Him. But now Moses himself gets his part of the priestly offering, the breast of the ram. History also amply proves that this part of the fulness of the sacerdotal revenue that is given back to the prophet and prince, to the spiritual and political life in the theocracy, must be waved, must be shaken loose. The thigh, however, falls to Aaron and his sons; in this connection the waving is less prominent than the heaving, or is altogether given up. As nothing is said of the disposition of other parts of the ram, it is probable that the neck and head were joined with the breast for Moses, and that all the rest of the body went with the thigh. In this sense the heave-offerings were to revert to Jehovah; they are taken away from the peace-offerings and heave-offerings of the children of Israel, and He gives them to His priests. vid. also Exo 29:32.
The prerogatives of the priests, Exo 29:29–35 (vid. also Exo 29:28.) In the foregoing verse the reversion of the greater part of the consecratory offering to the priest is designated as also belonging to the sacerdotal prerogatives. It is the central item in his revenue, the particulars of which are specified afterwards. In what now follows the hereditary prerogatives of the priests are first named. The sacerdotal dignity of Aaron passes over, with its symbol, the sacred garments, to his sons, according to the right of primogeniture of course, and gives them a right to the anointing and to the filling of the hands. The rite of consecration is to last seven days. During this time Aaron and his sons live on the offering of consecration in the court; their food is exclusively sacred food belonging to priests and to festivals; hence what is left over is burnt. Furthermore one bullock a day is slaughtered as a sinoffering.
4. The Sanctification of the Altar. Exo 29:36–46
The consecration of the priests is accompanied by that of the altar. When Moses brings the sin-offering for the priests, he at the same time makes atonement for the altar, which, although holy in itself, was built by sinful men, and in a symbolic sense is to be cleansed from defilement. (vid. Keil on Lev. 8:15) [who explains the ceremonial uncleanness of the altar as caused by the sinfulness of the officiating priests]. But as yet there can be no reference to this source of impurity; for in that case how could the priests ever make atonement for the altar? It was to be consecrated by two acts: negatively, by the atonement, positively, by the anointment. The anointment of the altar can signify only that it is to be dedicated exclusively to the spiritual life, to the spiritual object of the altar service. At the same time the altar is declared to be designed for permanent use. Two yearling lambs are offered each day, one in the morning, the other at evening, i.e., in their tender youth the people of God are to dedicate themselves to Jehovah, not only for the life of the day, but also for that of the night. The meal-offering, like the sacrifice, is the same for the morning as for the evening. The tenth part (of an ephah), or the issaron (an omer), as a measure of grain or flour is variously reckoned (vid. Knobel, p. 295): probably, according to Knobel, somewhat more than a Dresden measure, or 2¼ Dresden pounds.2 The oil with which the flour is mingled is to be obtained by pounding. “In the case of no other offering is beaten oil prescribed” (Knobel). The hin, as a liquid measure, is the sixth part of a bath, and contains 12 logs, reckoned by Thenius (Studien und Kritiken, 1846) as equivalent to 3 Dresden cans [such a can containing about 71 cubic inches, or about 1 English quart]. The wheat symbolizes vital force, or even fat; the wine always symbolizes joy. This burnt-offering is the whole-offering, signifying that the life all goes up in self-surrender to Jehovah; hence also this will be responded to by a complete self-communication of Jehovah, a revelation of His glory, this itself having been in fact the cause of Israel’s self-surrender or holiness (Exo 29:43, 44). The text plainly distinguishes a higher kind of sanctification from the symbolic one of the law, which proceeds from man. That higher sanctification is to proceed from Jehovah Himself. The place of the offering is to be sanctified by the glory of Jehovah; in particular, the tent, the altar, the high-priest and his sons. The aim of this institution points on into the N. T. and the Apocalypse: Jehovah desires to dwell in the midst of Israel and to be the God of His people.
1[This can refer only to the material of the cap, not its form. At least, the head-gear of the high-priest is always called by a different name (מִצְנֶפֶת) from that of the common priest (מִגְכָּעָה). The former is commonly (also by Lange) called a turban, and therefore can hardly be conceived as conical.—TR.]
2[According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Art. Weights and Measures, probably a little less than two quarts. But Josephus makes it about twice as much.—TR.].