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The Ordination of the Priests


Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them, so that they may serve me as priests. Take one young bull and two rams without blemish, 2and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil. You shall make them of choice wheat flour. 3You shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, and bring the bull and the two rams. 4You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting, and wash them with water. 5Then you shall take the vestments, and put on Aaron the tunic and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastpiece, and gird him with the decorated band of the ephod; 6and you shall set the turban on his head, and put the holy diadem on the turban. 7You shall take the anointing oil, and pour it on his head and anoint him. 8Then you shall bring his sons, and put tunics on them, 9and you shall gird them with sashes and tie headdresses on them; and the priesthood shall be theirs by a perpetual ordinance. You shall then ordain Aaron and his sons.

10 You shall bring the bull in front of the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull, 11and you shall slaughter the bull before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, 12and shall take some of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and all the rest of the blood you shall pour out at the base of the altar. 13You shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the appendage of the liver, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and turn them into smoke on the altar. 14But the flesh of the bull, and its skin, and its dung, you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.

15 Then you shall take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, 16and you shall slaughter the ram, and shall take its blood and dash it against all sides of the altar. 17Then you shall cut the ram into its parts, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its parts and its head, 18and turn the whole ram into smoke on the altar; it is a burnt offering to the Lord; it is a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to the Lord.

19 You shall take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, 20and you shall slaughter the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the lobes of the right ears of his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet, and dash the rest of the blood against all sides of the altar. 21Then you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his vestments and on his sons and his sons’ vestments with him; then he and his vestments shall be holy, as well as his sons and his sons’ vestments.

22 You shall also take the fat of the ram, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, the appendage of the liver, the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and the right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination), 23and one loaf of bread, one cake of bread made with oil, and one wafer, out of the basket of unleavened bread that is before the Lord; 24and you shall place all these on the palms of Aaron and on the palms of his sons, and raise them as an elevation offering before the Lord. 25Then you shall take them from their hands, and turn them into smoke on the altar on top of the burnt offering of pleasing odor before the Lord; it is an offering by fire to the Lord.

26 You shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s ordination and raise it as an elevation offering before the Lord; and it shall be your portion. 27You shall consecrate the breast that was raised as an elevation offering and the thigh that was raised as an elevation offering from the ram of ordination, from that which belonged to Aaron and his sons. 28These things shall be a perpetual ordinance for Aaron and his sons from the Israelites, for this is an offering; and it shall be an offering by the Israelites from their sacrifice of offerings of well-being, their offering to the Lord.

29 The sacred vestments of Aaron shall be passed on to his sons after him; they shall be anointed in them and ordained in them. 30The son who is priest in his place shall wear them seven days, when he comes into the tent of meeting to minister in the holy place.

31 You shall take the ram of ordination, and boil its flesh in a holy place; 32and Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 33They themselves shall eat the food by which atonement is made, to ordain and consecrate them, but no one else shall eat of them, because they are holy. 34If any of the flesh for the ordination, or of the bread, remains until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire; it shall not be eaten, because it is holy.

35 Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, just as I have commanded you; through seven days you shall ordain them. 36Also every day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement. Also you shall offer a sin offering for the altar, when you make atonement for it, and shall anoint it, to consecrate it. 37Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar, and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy; whatever touches the altar shall become holy.

The Daily Offerings

38 Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old regularly each day. 39One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer in the evening; 40and with the first lamb one-tenth of a measure of choice flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering. 41And the other lamb you shall offer in the evening, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to the Lord. 42It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43I will meet with the Israelites there, and it shall be sanctified by my glory; 44I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate, to serve me as priests. 45I will dwell among the Israelites, and I will be their God. 46And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God.

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1. And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them. Since I shall again repeat and more fully explain these things as they are written in Leviticus 9, in the history of the consecration of the tabernacle, it will be sufficient to give nothing more than a brief summary of them here; nor is it my custom to invent mysteries out of vague speculations, 174174     Probably the Fr., “de speculations volantes,” suggests the right reading of the Lat. here, viz., alatis for aliis such as may rather gratify than instruct my readers. First, since the whole human race is corrupt and infected with many impurities, so that his uncleanness prevents every single individual from having access to God, Moses, before he consecrates the priests, washes them by the sprinkling of water, in order that they may be no longer deemed to be of ordinary rank. Hence we gather that true purity and innocence, which was but typical in the Law, is found in Christ alone. “For such an high priest became us,” says the Apostle, “who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” to present Himself before God for us. (Hebrews 7:26.) After they had been washed, God commands that they should be invested with the sacerdotal dress, according to their respective ranks: that the high priest should wear the ephod with the Urim and Thummim, and the mitre with the golden plate, on which shone forth “holiness to Jehovah;” and in the third place, He adds the anointing. This preparation was for the purpose of initiating them, before they performed the office of sacrificing; but it must be observed that, as to this first sacrifice, the duties which were afterwards transferred to Aaron were imposed upon Moses, as if he were the only priest; and, in point of fact, the temporal dignity which he afterwards resigned to his brother, was still in his own hands. What Moses introduces about the division of the victim, we shall more conveniently explain elsewhere, in treating of the offerings, which we have stated to be the third part of the legal worship.

16. And thou shalt slay the ram. Moses had previously been commanded to take the parts of the victim from the hands of Aaron, to propitiate God with them, in order that he and his posterity might be able hereafter to perform the same office; but here a peculiar ceremony is described, that he should smear the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the toe of the right foot, both of Aaron and his sons, with the blood of a ram; and then that he should sprinkle them and their garments with the blood which was deposited upon the altar. What we must first observe here is, that the priest must be sprinkled with blood, in order that he may conciliate the favor of God towards himself for the purpose of intercession. Thus the priesthood of Christ was dedicated with blood, so that it might be efficacious to reconcile God with us. The question now arises, why only the right ear and the right thumb and toe were sprinkled with blood, as if the priests were consecrated and devoted to God only in half of their persons? I reply, that in this one part the other was comprehended; since both the ears, and both the hands and feet have the same object, and their offices are so connected, that what is said of one ear applies to the other. Again, it is asked, why the ear, and foot, and hand, were smeared rather than the breast and the tongue? and I do not doubt but that by the ear obedience was designated, and by the hands and feet all the actions and the whole course of life; for there is scarcely anything more common in Scripture than these metonymies, by which the cleanness of the hands is taken for the integrity of the whole life, and the way, or course, or walk for the direction, or manner of living. It is therefore very appropriate that man’s life should be consecrated by blood; and, inasmuch as the foundation of welldoing is obedience, which is preferred to all sacrifices, Moses is commanded to begin with the ear. And we know that the “odor of a sweet smell” in the sacrifice of Christ was obedience, (Philippians 4:18;) on which account, David, in the spirit of prophecy, introduces himself, saying, “Mine ears hast thou bored.” 175175     A. V., “mine ears hast thou opened.” Margin, “Heb., digged.” See C.’s own Commentary, in loco, with Mr. Anderson’s note. Calvin Translation Society’s edition, vol. 2, p. 99. (Psalm 40:6.) If any should object that the tongue is of no less importance, because the priest is the messenger of the Lord of hosts, I answer that the office of teaching is not here referred to, but only that of intercession; wherefore in these three members Moses embraced whatever related to atonement. But we must remember that what is said of the consecration of Christ does not apply to His own person, but refers to the profit of the whole Church; for neither was He anointed for His own sake, nor had He need to borrow 176176     “La grace de reconcilier.” — Fr. grace from the blood; but He had regard to His members, and devoted Himself altogether to their salvation, as He himself testifies, “For their sake I sanctify myself.” (John 17:19.)

28. And it shall be Aaron’s. Lest the dignity of the sacred offerings, which are called the holiness of the Lord, should be impaired, strangers are prohibited from partaking of them; for, if it had been permitted that every one should touch them and eat of them, there would have been no distinction between them and ordinary food. Of the priests’ portion some parts were common to all their families; but the holy parts were excepted, to the intent that by this particular instance the reverence due to all might be inculcated. The reference to place has the same object, for it was not lawful to eat what was holy within the walls of their houses, in order that it might be distinguished from their common and ordinary food. For the same reason, whatever remained of it was to be burnt, lest, if the flesh became rank, or the bread moldy, their ill savor and filthy appearance might somewhat detract from the dignity of the holy things; for the infirmity of the ancient people had need of childish rudiments, which might still have a tendency to elevate the minds of the pious to things above. This was the object of all these things, that no corruption should creep in which might pollute or render contemptible the service of God.

36. And thou shalt offer every day a bullock. Since the ancient altar was no less a type of Christ than the priest was, it may naturally be asked, what its expiation could mean, as if there were anything impure or polluted in Christ. But we must remember, what I before adverted to, that no similitude is identical (with the reality); for then the substance and reality of the shadows could not be represented in their perfection. Yet this was an apt similitude, shewing that God could only be propitiated towards the human race by an expiation made with blood. On this account not only was the altar to be cleansed, but; also dedicated to its use, that reconciliation might proceed from it; and this is expressed by the word “sanctify,” especially when it is added, “it shall be the holiness of holinesses,” 151151     A.V., “And it shall be an altar most holy.” Ainsworth, in loco, says: “Heb. holinesse of holinesses; i.e., most holy, not only sanctified itself, but sanctifying the gifts that were offered to God upon it." that it may sanctify whatever is put upon it. Others read it in the masculine gender: “Whosoever shall touch it, shall be holy;” and understand it of the priest, who by right of his anointing might approach the altar; but; it rather dignifies the consecration of the altar by its consequence, viz., because it sanctifies the victims themselves. The sum is that the body of Christ, inasmuch as it was offered as a sacrifice, and consecrated with blood, was acceptable to God; so that its holiness washes away and blots out all our uncleanness. We shall speak of the anointing a little further on.

38. Now this is that which thou shalt offer. I have thought it well to give the first place among the sacrifices to that daily one which is called the continual sacrifice; for God would have two lambs offered to Him every morning and evening, that the people might perpetually exercise themselves in the recollection of the future reconciliation. But, although the sacrifices were constantly repeated under the Law, inasmuch as their offering had no efficacy in expiating sin, yet it must be observed that, as the priest entered once every year into the holy of holies with blood, so it was profitable that another kind of victim should be daily set before the people’s eyes, in order that they might reflect that they had constant need of being reconciled to God. Propitiation was, therefore, daily made with two lambs, that the Israelites, being reminded of their guilt and condemnation, from the beginning to the end of the day, might learn to fly to God’s mercy. The lamb chosen for this sacrifice was spotless and entire, for the mention of its age (one year) implies its perfection or entireness. It was offered with a cake made with oil, and a libation of wine; and doubtless the ancients were reminded by these symbols that it is not lawful to offer anything tasteless to God. True that God was not gratified by their sweet savor, neither did He desire to accustom the priests to delicacies that they might be epicures under color of religion; for the scent of wine cannot in itself be pleasing to God; but the object of these seasonings was that the people should not rest in the bare and empty figures, but should acknowledge that something better and more excellent underlay them. The savor of the wine and oil, then, was nothing else than the spiritual truth; that the people, for their part., might bring to the sacrifices faith and repentance. And assuredly the external ceremony without the reality would have been mere folly. Even heathen nations partially imitated this rite; whence those words of Horace, —

"Utque sacerdotis fugitivus, liba recuso:” 230230     Hor. Epis. 1 10:10.
"And like a runaway from priests, cakes I refuse:"

whereby he implies that cakes were universally offered to idols. But this was a mere blind mimicry, for they looked no higher, but thought that their gods took delight, like, human beings, in sweet and delicate foods; whilst, as I have above hinted, God’s intention was very different; for, by the, external savor, He desired to arouse His people, so that, being affected by a serious feeling of repentance, and by pure faith, they should seek for the remission of their sins, not in these lambs which they saw slain, but in the victim promised to them. They called it the “continual” sacrifice, because God commanded it to be offered continually through all generations; but it appears from Daniel that it was temporary, for it ceased at the coming of Christ; for so speaks the angel: Christ

"shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the continual sacrifice, and the oblation (minha) to cease.” 231231     A. V., “The sacrifice and the oblation to cease." (Daniel 9:27.)

It is clear that he speaks of this kind of sacrifice. Hence we assuredly gather that by this sacrifice the minds of the people were directed to Christ. But if this was its use and object with the ancients, the profit of it now returns upon us, that we may know that whatever was then shewn under the figure was fulfilled in Christ. God promises that this sacrifice would be to Him “a savor of rest.” 232232     See Numbers 28:2. Margin, A. V. “a savor of my rest." We may not, therefore, doubt but that He has been altogether propitiated to us by the sacrifices of His only-begotten Son, and has remitted our sins. But although Christ was once offered, that by that one offering He might consecrate us for ever to God, yet by this daily sacrifice under the Law, we learn that by the benefit of His death pardon is always ready for us, as Paul says 233233     The reference here is to 2 Corinthians 7:2, a misprint, I presume, for 6:2. that God continually reconciles Himself to the Church when He sets before it the sacrifice of Christ in the Gospel As to the word minha, 234234     מנחה, A. V., “meat offering.” In deriving this word from, נחה, C. follows S. M.; but later lexicographers observe that this verb means to go or lead, and not to offer; while they tell us that the root מנח has been preserved in Arabic, and signifies to give freely. W. although it is derived from, נחה nachah, which means to offer, still we must consider it to be peculiarly applied to this oblation, which was a kind of appendix to the daily sacrifice. There are some, too, who restrict it to the evening sacrifice alone, but, when it is used in connection with victims, it is also extended generally to other offerings.

42. At the door of the tabernacle 235235     “Conventionis:” of the convention. — Lat. of the congregation. This passage shews us in what sense the word מועד mogned, is used, when it is employed in connection with the tabernacle. Some translate it “testimony:” others, “church:” others, “assembly,” (conventum;) others, “appointment,” (constitutum;) but its etymology is sufficiently shewn in this passage; for, when Moses gives the reason of its appellation, he uses the word יגד yagnad, from whence it is derived. What, then, is the tabernacle of the convention? God Himself answers, that it is the place which He has chosen and appointed unto His people, that they may there mutually come to agreement with each other. Some conceive its root to be, עדה gnadah, which is to make protestation as by a solemn rite; but since this is opposed to grammar, I will take what is certain. The word יעד yagnad, in this construction, means to contract or agree with another, or at least to meet for the transaction of mutual business; no word, therefore, has appeared to me more nearly equivalent to it than convention; for the fact that God invited them to familiar colloquy, was of the greatest weight in preserving the modest reverence of the faithful towards the priests. In the next verse He repeats to them, addressing them in the third person, that whosoever shall desire to be reckoned among the Israelites, should not turn away or wander elsewhere; for a law is laid down for all the children of Israel, that they should seek God there. Another confirmation is subjoined, i.e., that this place ought to be sanctified, because God will there magnificently display His glory. In fine, from the whole passage, it appears that God’s design was to keep the people bound to Him by the tie of the Levitical priesthood; yet we must observe that it is God alone who sanctifies both the place and the offerings, as well as the men themselves. Wherefore frivolous is the boast of those who arrogate more than God has conferred upon them. If we believe the Pope, in him is the holiness of holiness; yet, since he does not produce God’s authority for this, but vaunts himself of titles invented without foundation, we may safely laugh at his stupid impudence. But from this and similar passages, our doctrine is taken that Christ ought not to be estimated humanly, but according to His heavenly and divine power. Hence, too, is refuted the boast of the Popish priests that they offer Christ; for we must always ask them, By what authority? since God claims for Himself alone this right of sanctifying those who exercise the lawful priesthood.

46. And they shall know that I am the Lord. In these words God signifies that He has not only been the deliverer of His people on one occasion, but with the object of presiding over their welfare, and of demonstrating practically that He dwells among them. He, moreover, appointed the sanctuary to be the symbol of His presence, and, as it were, its pledge; from whence He would have the rule of piety proceed, and be sought for by His worshippers.