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Aaron’s Priesthood Inaugurated
On the eighth day Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel. 2He said to Aaron, “Take a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the Lord. 3And say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering; a calf and a lamb, yearlings without blemish, for a burnt offering; 4and an ox and a ram for an offering of well-being to sacrifice before the Lord; and a grain offering mixed with oil. For today the Lord will appear to you.’ ” 5They brought what Moses commanded to the front of the tent of meeting; and the whole congregation drew near and stood before the Lord. 6And Moses said, “This is the thing that the Lord commanded you to do, so that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.” 7Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and sacrifice your sin offering and your burnt offering, and make atonement for yourself and for the people; and sacrifice the offering of the people, and make atonement for them; as the Lord has commanded.”
8 Aaron drew near to the altar, and slaughtered the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. 9The sons of Aaron presented the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar; and the rest of the blood he poured out at the base of the altar. 10But the fat, the kidneys, and the appendage of the liver from the sin offering he turned into smoke on the altar, as the Lord commanded Moses; 11and the flesh and the skin he burned with fire outside the camp.
12 Then he slaughtered the burnt offering. Aaron’s sons brought him the blood, and he dashed it against all sides of the altar. 13And they brought him the burnt offering piece by piece, and the head, which he turned into smoke on the altar. 14He washed the entrails and the legs and, with the burnt offering, turned them into smoke on the altar.
15 Next he presented the people’s offering. He took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people, and slaughtered it, and presented it as a sin offering like the first one. 16He presented the burnt offering, and sacrificed it according to regulation. 17He presented the grain offering, and, taking a handful of it, he turned it into smoke on the altar, in addition to the burnt offering of the morning.
18 He slaughtered the ox and the ram as a sacrifice of well-being for the people. Aaron’s sons brought him the blood, which he dashed against all sides of the altar, 19and the fat of the ox and of the ram—the broad tail, the fat that covers the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat on them, and the appendage of the liver. 20They first laid the fat on the breasts, and the fat was turned into smoke on the altar; 21and the breasts and the right thigh Aaron raised as an elevation offering before the Lord, as Moses had commanded.
22 Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them; and he came down after sacrificing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the offering of well-being. 23Moses and Aaron entered the tent of meeting, and then came out and blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24Fire came out from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
1. And it came to pass on the eighth day We have here related how Aaron and his sons, after the time of their consecration was fulfilled, began to execute their office. It was necessary that He should be his brother’s disciple, in order to follow the pattern laid down by God. And we must bear in mind that Moses, who was not appointed priest by a solemn rite, sanctified the others, in order that the authority and the efficacy of the outward sign should rest in God alone. This, therefore, is contained in the earlier portion of the chapter, how, after Aaron had been initiated in the priest’s office for seven days, He commenced the work entrusted to him by God’s command: the second part shews how the sacrifices were approved by a divine miracle, in ratification of the priesthood which God had instituted. But, first of all, He enumerates the ordinary kinds of sacrifice, viz., for sin, the burnt-offering; and for thanksgiving, the sacrifice with the meat-offering (minha) and the sprinkling: that in every respect Aaron might be accounted the lawful priest of God.
6. And Moses said, This is the thing which the Lord commanded He seems, indeed, to address himself to the whole people, to whom also the promise belonged; but in the word “do ye,” 413413 “That ye should do.” — A. V. He specially speaks to the sons of Aaron; and he promises what, at the end of the chapter, he will state to have been fulfilled, that the glory of God should be manifested in approbation of the priesthood, in order that they may set about their duties more cheerfully. For this was no common aid to their faith and assurance, that their office should be thus, as it were, sealed by God.
7. And Moses said unto Aaron, Go unto the altar Here is repeated what was stated elsewhere, that the priest, as being himself a sinner, must first make entreaty for himself, before he propitiates God towards others. Hence the Apostle justly infers that the legal priesthood was weak and merely typical. (Hebrews 5:1.) For none can be a true peace-maker, except he, who, in reliance on his perfect innocence, presents himself before God to obtain pardon for others, and, being pure from every blemish, requires no expiation for himself. All else to the end of the chapter I pass over, because Moses only records how Aaron sacrificed according to God’s command and the legal ritual.
22. And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people This was a kind of application of the sacrifice, in order that the people might know that God was reconciled to them through the priest as their mediator and surety. The form of benediction 414414 See ante on Numbers 6:22-27, vol. 2, p. 245 et seq. has been already expoundled; at present let this one point suffice, that, when by the lifting up of their hands the priests testified of God’s paternal favor to the people, their commission was ratified and efficacious. Of this the sacred history presents to us a memorable instance, where it records, that
“the priests and Levites blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling-place, even unto heaven.” (2 Chronicles 30:27.)
The fulfilment of this type was at length manifested in Christ, who is not only the source and cause of blessing, but publishes it by the Gospel with effectual results; for He came to “preach peace to them which were afar off, and to them that were nigh,” (Ephesians 2:17;) and although He does not appear or speak in a visible form, yet we know what He says, viz., that
“whatsoever His disciples shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever they shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18.)
23. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle This is a repetition of the same statement, except that what had been said of Aaron only is now also ascribed to Moses, i.e., that he blessed the people, but for a different reason, for although he was God’s prophet, yet Aaron, in right of his office, was the only mediator. What follows, “the glory of the Lord appeared,” may be read separately, viz., that the majesty of God was manifested in some conspicuous sign; or else it is connected with the concluding verse, where it is said, that “there came a fire out from before the Lord, etc.” If we prefer the latter, the account of the consuming of the sacrifice was added expositively, as if it were said that God appeared when He sent forth the fire to consume the sacrifice. By this auspice, or rather miracle, God manifested that He was the Author of the legal priesthood, so that it should be held in reverence for ever. The same thing sometimes occurred afterwards, when in troubled circumstances, it had need of extraordinary confirmation: thus fire consumed the sacrifice of Manoah, (Judges 13:20;) or, when God’s service and pure religion required to be vindicated in opposition to superstitious counterfeits; thus the sacrifice of Elijah was utterly consumed and reduced to ashes without the application of fire. (1 Kings 18:38.) Or, lastly, when God would shew that He delighted in Mount Sion, which He had chosen for His resting-place and home: for which reason, the first sacrifice of Solomon was consumed by fire from heaven. (2 Chronicles 7:1.)
Lest posterity should doubt of this matter, as if it were not thoroughly certain, Moses says that the whole people was stirred up by the sight to praise God, “and fell on their faces.”