It has been awhile since we last met to study the book of Exodus. Remember that we are looking at God’s detailed instructions to Moses concerning the Law. Chapter 28 gave the plans for the making of the priests’ garments. There was quite an elaborate outfit for the High Priest and rather plain but dignified garments for the other priests on duty. I say priests on duty because as Aaron’s tribe grew there were more priests than were needed at any given time. Therefore, they served in rotation.
We come to chapter twenty-nine and the law concerning the consecration of the priests. The priests had to be consecrated and ordained to serve in the office of a priest. There would be an ordination service attended by all the congregation of Israel. For the service they would need one young bull and two rams without blemish. They would need unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers spread with oil — all made of fine wheat flour. These would be used as sacrifices and offerings at the ordination service.
Aaron and his sons had to come to the doorway of the tabernacle where Moses had to give them a bath, or at least he had to wash them with water. No doubt it was a symbolic cleansing. Then Moses had to dress them. Aaron was dressed in the High Priest’s garments and his sons in the priests uniform.
Next came what we could call the ordination service. The young bull was used as a sin offering according to verse fourteen. That sounds pretty much self-explanatory. You would think a sin offering would be offered up for the atonement of somebody’s sin. However, it appears that this sin offering was offered to purge the altar. It is true that things used in conjunction with the tabernacle and later the temple were sanctified or cleansed by the blood of an animal being sprinkled on them. Is that the purpose of the sacrificial bull here in chapter twenty nine? Evidently it is. Leviticus chapter eight gives a more detailed account of this same event — the ordination of Aaron and his sons. Here is how verses 14-15 read, “Then he brought the bull of the sin offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull of the sin offering. Next Moses slaughtered it and took the blood and with his finger put some of it around on the horns of the altar, and purified the altar. Then he poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar and consecrated it, to make atonement for it.” So the blood was applied to the horns of the altar to “purify” it, and the remainder of the blood was poured out at the base of the altar to consecrate “it” and to make atonement for “it.” This would then make the altar holy and set apart for holy use.
We are told here that the bull was brought forward where Aaron and his sons could lay their hands on the head of the bull. This was to signify that the sacrificial animal would bear the sins for whomever its blood was shed. The wages of sin is death. Therefore, blood had to be shed to make atonement for sins. Did the blood of the bull actually atone for anybody’s sins? No. It was simply a type (a foreshadowing) of the real thing that would be fulfilled in the sacrifice of God’s Son — the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The bull on which Aaron and his sons laid their hands was slaughtered where it stood. Does anyone know how they slaughtered the bull? I’d be interested to know. Because the blood of most animal sacrifices was used in ceremonial fashion, I suppose they most often drained the blood of the animal into a basin. It was actually the blood of the sin offering that was offered for atonement of sins.
Let me call your attention to the evening when Jesus shared the Last Supper with His disciples, He took the cup and said, “this is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” I’m suggesting that the blood of the bull was a type of the blood of Christ. It was representative of that blood which would one day be poured out at the cross of Calvary.
Verse thirteen describes how the fat from various parts of the bull was removed and offered up on the altar in smoke. Any of you who have done any grilling out know that fatty meats tend to generate a lot of smoke. Smoke from an offering was supposed to be an aroma pleasing to God. Remember when Noah and his family were able to leave the ark after the flood and Noah built an altar and offered up burnt offerings to God. Genesis 8:21 says, “And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man...”
Do you think God actually “smells” the smoke of animal sacrifices? That’s what you call metaphoric speech. A metaphor is a figure of speech that represents something meaningful to the one who understands the use of the metaphor. If I tell you that I’m suffering a world of heartache, what do I mean? Am I suffering from all the heartache of every person in the world? No. What I mean is that I’m really hurting a lot. And you know what I mean even though it isn’t exactly an accurate representation of the facts.
God is pleased “like” someone who smells a soothing aroma. It’s not the smell of the smoke but the attitude and condition of the heart of the worshipers that pleases God. When the heart is not right, the smoke of the sacrifice becomes most unpleasant to God. Listen to God’s word through His prophet Isaiah to a stubborn and obstinate people. This is Isaiah 1:10-15:
Hear the word of the Lord,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the instruction of our God,
You people of Gomorrah.
“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams,
And the fat of fed cattle.
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats.
“When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
“Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
“I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me.
I am weary of bearing them.
“So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you,
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
You can see from that passage that all the ceremony God had commanded His people to observe is worthless if the heart is not right with God. The ceremony was for the people more than it was for God’s benefit. The people were to find meaning and fulfillment in the ceremonial law. It was intended to speak to them of deeper spiritual truths. However, the Israelites came to see the ceremony as the end or as the main thing when in fact it was meant to point them to the truth and to the things that truly mattered.
Notice in verse fourteen what they were to do with the remainder of the carcass of the bull. They were to take it outside the camp and burn it with fire because it was a sin offering. There are a number of things we might infer or conclude from this action. The sin offering was taken outside the camp because sin must be removed and separated from that which is holy. It might also be inferred that the remainder of the bull after the blood had been removed was not fit for further use.
The key to understanding this action might lie in Hebrews 13:9-14. We’ll not try to do an exegesis of the passage but I will read it for you and you can study it later. It reads, “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied were not benefited. We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” Does that help you understand why they burned the carcass of the bull outside the camp rather than burning it on the altar? It might take more than just a quick reading; you might like to spend some time with those verses.
Verses fifteen through eighteen are instructions concerning the first of the two rams that had been brought for the ordination service. The first ram was offered up as a “burnt offering.” Verse eighteen identifies it as a “burnt offering.” A burnt offering was burnt in its entirety on the altar. Vine’s Expository Dictionary describes the “burnt offering” as, “the highest gift of God and betokened the complete, unreserved consecration of the offerer, in his entire being, to God.”
One commentary says that this ram was actually the animal offered up for the sins of Aaron and his sons. However, based on what Vine’s Expository Dictionary said I’m not sure I can agree that it served to atone for anybody’s sin. It seems to me that its purpose was one of consecration and that’s all. Certainly nothing else is stated either here or in the Leviticus account. The only question might be consecration of what or whom? Is it consecration of the altar or of the priests? The way verse 33 reads it almost sounds as though the second ram was offered in consecration of the priests not the first.
Moving on to verses nineteen through twenty-five we have the offering of the second ram. This second ram is called the “ram of ordination” in verse 22. Leviticus 8:22 also confirms that. The offering of this ram gets quite involved.
First, Moses was to take some of its blood and put it on the right ear lobes of Aaron and his sons, on their right thumbs and their right toes. This is thought to signify their complete consecration. Then Moses took the remainder of the blood of the ram and sprinkled it around the altar.
Verse 21 instructs Moses to take some of the blood that is on the altar and some anointing oil and sprinkle both on Aaron and his garments and likewise on Aaron’s sons and their garments. Thus they and their garments would be consecrated says verse twenty-one.
Next Moses was to take the fat from various parts of the ram plus the right thigh plus a cake (or loaf) of bread and another mixed with oil plus a wafer from the basket of unleavened bread that was set continually before the Lord (the shewbread). Aaron and his sons were to take all these elements in their hands and wave them and a wave offering before the Lord.
When it comes to wave offerings and heave offerings, I get just a bit confused. Wave offerings were waved before the Lord in a back and forth motion. Heave offerings were heaved in an up and down motion before the Lord. Much of the wave and heave offerings became food for the priests. As you will see in verse twenty-five, the elements waved before the Lord thus far were burnt on the altar and not consumed by the priests. However, the breast of the ram of ordination was waved as a wave offering before the Lord and it did become food for Aaron and his sons.
Verse 28 goes on to establish a perpetual law. Leviticus 7:34 words it so that it’s a little easier to understand I think. That verse reads, “For I have taken the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the contribution (heave offering) from the sons of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons as their due forever from the sons of Israel.” The priests would receive the breast and the right shoulder of every peace offering as part of their food supply. Keep in mind that the priestly tribe would grow in number and it would take a lot of food to feed them.
Verses twenty-nine and thirty are instructions concerning the “holy garments” of Aaron. The garments would be passed on to succeeding generations. Each time a new High Priest was ordained he would wear these vestments and the priest and the garments would be consecrated to the Lord as prescribed by the Law in this passage.
Verses thirty-one through thirty-four are specific instructions as to how the breast and the shoulder of the ordination ram would be cooked and eaten. It had to be boiled in a holy place. The priests had to eat the meat of the ram and the shewbread from the table of shewbread in the doorway of the tent of meeting.
Verses thirty-five through thirty-seven tell us that the ordination of Aaron and his sons would take place over a seven day period. Does that mean that they repeat everything they did on the first day on each of the remaining six days? Verse 36 clearly says that a bull was to be offered each day for the purification of the altar. The purpose says verse 37 was to consecrate the altar so that it would be holy and then whatever touches the altar would be holy. Was it made holy each day so they could then offer the two rams each day as part of the ordination of the priests? It doesn’t say that, but it doesn’t preclude that so I’m not sure at this point.
Verses thirty-eight and following command a continual offering to be offered each day throughout their generations. Each morning they were to offer a year-old lamb; and each evening they were to offer a year-old lamb. There was to be offered with each lamb a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil and a fourth of a hin of wine. All of this was to be offered up as a burnt offering morning and evening from then on. Thus were the Israelites to begin and end every day with the Lord. God promised to be present each time this offering was made. His presence would consecrate His people, the altar, the tent of meeting and the priests.
God continues to make it clear that He has chosen the Israelites to be His people in verses 45-46. He expects them to keep His Law of the Covenant. If they will keep His covenant, then God promises to dwell among them and be their God. They will have the peace and assurance that God chose them and delivered them from bondage in Egypt to become His special people.
Priest — The word for “priest” in Hebrew, Greek and Latin always denotes one who offers sacrifices. The reason I mention Latin is because that was what I will call the “official language” of the Catholic church for many years. And as you know they still have an office in their church which they call “priest.”
At first every man was his own priest, and presented his own sacrifices before God. Afterwards that office devolved on the head of the family, as in the cases of Noah (Gen. 8:20), Abraham (12:7; 13:4), Isaac (26:25), Jacob (31:54), and Job (Job 1:5).
The name first occurs as applied to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18). Under the Levitical arrangements the office of the priesthood was limited to the tribe of Levi, and to only one family of that tribe, the family of Aaron. Certain laws respecting the qualifications of priests are given in Lev. 21:16–23. There are ordinances also regarding the priests’ dress (Ex. 28:40–43) and the manner of their consecration to the office (29:1–37).
Their duties were manifold (Ex. 27:20, 21; 29:38–44; Lev. 6:12; 10:11; 24:8; Num. 10:1–10; Deut. 17:8–13; 33:10; Mal. 2:7). They represented the people before God, and offered the various sacrifices prescribed in the law.
In the time of David the priests were divided into twenty-four courses or classes (1 Chr. 24:7–18). This number was retained after the Captivity (Ezra 2:36–39; Neh. 7:39–42).
“The priests were not distributed over the country, but lived together in certain cities [forty-eight in number, of which six were cities of refuge, q.v.], which had been assigned to their use. From thence they went up by turns to minister in the temple at Jerusalem. Thus the religious instruction of the people in the country generally was left to the heads of families, until the establishment of synagogues, something which did not take place till the return from the Captivity, and which was the main source of the freedom from idolatry that became as marked a feature of the Jewish people thenceforward.
The whole priestly system of the Jews was typical. It was a shadow of which the body is Christ. The priests all prefigured the great Priest who offered “one sacrifice for sins” “once for all” (Heb. 10:10, 12). There is now no human priesthood. (See Epistle to the Hebrews throughout.) The term “priest” is indeed applied to believers (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6), but in these cases it implies no sacerdotal functions. All true believers are now “kings and priests unto God.” As priests they have free access into the holiest of all, and offer up the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, and the sacrifices of grateful service from day to day.”