Leviticus 9 – More on the Consecration of Priests
A. Introduction: God calls Aaron to minister.
1. (1) Moses calls to Aaron and his sons.
It came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.
a. It came to pass on the eighth day: The whole ceremony of consecration lasted more than a week. It was not a quick and easy process. The call to the priesthood came on the eighth day, the day of new beginnings. After seven days of patient fellowship with the LORD in His tabernacle, God was ready to do a new work in and through the priests.
b. Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel: This ceremony involved not only those who would be consecrated (Aaron and his sons). It also included the one who stood in God’s place for the consecration process (Moses) and those whom the priests would serve (the elders of Israel, representing the people as a whole).
i. The elders: “In most cultures around the world age is still associated with authority and wisdom. The Hebrew term actually means ‘the beards’ or ‘the bearded ones.’” (Peter-Contesse)
2. (2) Offerings for Aaron.
And he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a young bull as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the LORD.
a. Take for yourself a young bull as a sin offering: As part of the consecration ceremony, Aaron and his sons lived for an entire week at the tabernacle of meeting. Yet they still had sin to atone for during that week. The consecration ceremony did not make Aaron perfect. During the seven days of just sitting in the tabernacle he added more sin to his account that had to be cleared.
i. Through the repetition of sacrifice, God also wanted to show that as useful as the animal sacrifices were, they were not complete and could not make an end of sins. Only the perfect sacrifice of the Messiah to come could do that.
ii. Some suggest (such as Trapp and Clarke) that there was a specific reason for this particular offering of a young bull – to answer for the sin with the golden calf that Aaron permitted (Exodus 32). “And this is supposed by the Jews to have been intended to make an atonement for his sin in the matter of the golden calf. This is very probable, as no formal atonement for that transgression had yet been made.” (Clarke)
b. And a ram as a burnt offering: Even though Aaron just spent the prior week in special dedication to the LORD, there was still more to give. Though this was an important experience of dedication, the idea of consecration had to be ongoing in the life of Aaron and all of God’s priests.
B. Aaron begins the priestly ministry.
1. (3-6) In a context of atonement and obedience, God will show His glory.
And to the children of Israel you shall speak, saying, ‘Take a kid of the goats as a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering, also a bull and a ram as peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil; for today the LORD will appear to you.’” So they brought what Moses commanded before the tabernacle of meeting. And all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD. Then Moses said, “This is the thing which the LORD commanded you to do, and the glory of the LORD will appear to you.”
a. Take a kid of the goats as a sin offering: In one sense, this was the same kind of thing Aaron and his sons did in the previous week. They made several sacrifices a day, and now God commanded them to offer five more sacrifices (a kid of the goats, a calf and a lamb, and a bull and a ram). While all this repeated what had been done the previous days, on this eighth day something different would happen: today the LORD will appear to you.
b. This is the thing which the LORD commanded you to do, and the glory of the LORD will appear to you: Everything Aaron did in the previous week prepared him for this moment. This was the end goal of the week of separation and consecration to the LORD – the display of God’s glory.
i. “The Hebrew word for glory (kabod) is from the root kbd, which denotes ‘heaviness’ or ‘weightiness’ and hence the extended meaning of ‘significance, superior value, distinction, splendor.’” (Rooker)
2. (7) Aaron will begin to minister for the people.
And Moses said to Aaron, “Go to the altar, offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, and make atonement for yourself and for the people. Offer the offering of the people, and make atonement for them, as the LORD commanded.”
a. Offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, and make atonement for yourself and for the people: Aaron had to first deal with his own sin, and only then he could truly function as a priest, ready to serve others.
b. Make atonement for them, as the LORD commanded: Aaron’s priesthood existed for the glory of God and for the benefit of the people – not for his own personal benefit. The office of high priest was one of great authority, but of even greater responsibility.
3. (8-14) Aaron offers sacrifice for his own sin, along with a burnt offering.
Aaron therefore went to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. Then the sons of Aaron brought the blood to him. And he dipped his finger in the blood, put it on the horns of the altar, and poured the blood at the base of the altar. But the fat, the kidneys, and the fatty lobe from the liver of the sin offering he burned on the altar, as the LORD had commanded Moses. The flesh and the hide he burned with fire outside the camp. And he killed the burnt offering; and Aaron’s sons presented to him the blood, which he sprinkled all around on the altar. Then they presented the burnt offering to him, with its pieces and head, and he burned them on the altar. And he washed the entrails and the legs, and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.
a. Aaron therefore went to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself: This was a display of honesty and humility before the people. Aaron, before offering a sacrifice of atonement for the people, publicly offered one for himself, identifying himself with the people. This sacrifice told the nation, “I am a sinner who needs atonement also.”
i. “Aaron’s first act was bringing the sin offering and the burnt offering for himself. He could not be the instrument of mediation between the people and God for worship save as he was brought into right relationship with God.” (Morgan)
b. He dipped his finger in the blood, put it on the horns of the altar: This was the beginning of Aaron’s service as a consecrated priest. He slaughtered the sacrifice, and with his sons carried out the commanded details of the sacrificial ritual.
4. (15-21) Aaron offers the sacrifice on behalf of the people.
Then he brought the people’s offering, and took the goat, which was the sin offering for the people, and killed it and offered it for sin, like the first one. And he brought the burnt offering and offered it according to the prescribed manner. Then he brought the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt sacrifice of the morning. He also killed the bull and the ram as sacrifices of peace offerings, which were for the people. And Aaron’s sons presented to him the blood, which he sprinkled all around on the altar, and the fat from the bull and the ram; the fatty tail, what covers the entrails and the kidneys, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver; and they put the fat on the breasts. Then he burned the fat on the altar; but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved as a wave offering before the LORD, as Moses had commanded.
a. Then he brought the people’s offering: Again, the idea is emphasized. Aaron, like every priest among God’s people, must receive God’s atoning sacrifice first. It was only then that he could properly bring the people’s offering.
b. The sin offering…. the burnt offering…. the grain offering…. peace offerings…. wave offering: Aaron and his sons carried out the variety of offerings previously commanded in chapters 1 through 7. These were all done on behalf of Israel as a whole, as the people’s offering. This was the beginning (or the training) for their priestly work for the people.
i. The atonement through the sacrifice of the calf in verses 8-14 was for the sake of Aaron and the priests, but not for their sake alone. It was to make them fit to be priests for the people’s offering. It was so they could serve the people of Israel, not merely “be holy” for their own sake.
ii. We can assume the carrying out of these different sacrifices was a kind of training for their work, and it was all done under the watchful eye of Moses.
5. (22-24) God blesses Israel with a display of His glory.
Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
a. Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them: Aaron’s heart was turned towards the people. He longed to bless them, and so he lifted his hand toward the people[and] blessed them. His washing, sanctification, justification, consecration, waiting with and for the LORD, his identification with the people, and humility each made him desire a blessing for the people – more than a blessing for himself.
i. “In the Chaldee Version of the Pentateuch the words of the blessing are thus reported: ‘May the Word of Jehovah accept your sacrifice with favour, and remit and pardon your sins.’” (Morgan)
ii. “It may also be of significance that blessing follows the sacrifices made on behalf of the people. This illustrates the New Testament truth that every spiritual blessing comes to the Christian as a result of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross.” (Rooker)
b. Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting: After the sacrificial system had been instituted, Aaron now – perhaps for the first time – entered the tabernacle, as was now Aaron’s right as a consecrated priest. Moses instructed him how to offer the incense, prepare the lamps, lay out the showbread, and so forth. They came out and once again blessed the people.
i. “The servants of God, whether prophets or priests, have no power to bless men save as they receive it in direct communion with God. Before we can go out and bless the people, we must go in to the Place of Meeting with God…. we are perpetually in danger of allowing our very eagerness to serve men, to interfere with our communion with God…. Forgetfulness of this is the secret of much futility in Christian work, of much fussiness, of much feverishness.” (Morgan)
c. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people: We don’t know exactly what this looked like. Some think it was an extraordinary bright shining from the pillar of cloud (as in Exodus 16:10 and perhaps Numbers 14:10). It could also have been a strong and perhaps overwhelming sense of the presence of God, denoting the “weight” or “heaviness” of God’s being.
d. And fire came out from before the LORD: God proved His presence by sending the fire. The priests were there, the offering was there, the tabernacle was there, and the nation was there, but it was all incomplete without the fire from God.
i. We don’t know what form this fire appeared in. Many suppose that it was a bolt of lightning from the sky, igniting the altar of God (Job 1:6 uses this word “fire” to refer to lightning). The Jewish historian Josephus said that the fire actually came from the sacrifices on the altar itself, as if they ignited spontaneously (cited in Clarke).
ii. Whatever the exact manner of its appearing, it was essential that this fire should come in a manner that was not from man, or the product of trickery. The fire was not secretly given to Moses and Aaron in the tabernacle; it was publicly evident to the entire people of Israel. This was, beyond any doubt, God’s fire and not from man.
iii. The Bible gives us six examples of where God showed acceptance of a sacrifice with fire from heaven:
· Aaron (Leviticus 9:24).
· Gideon (Judges 6:21).
· Manoah (Judges 13:19-23).
· David (1 Chronicles 21:26).
· Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:1).
· Elijah (1 Kings 18:38).
iv. Fire was often associated with God’s presence and work. Deuteronomy 4:24 tells us, the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. John the Baptist promised Jesus would come with a baptism of the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). The Holy Spirit manifested His presence on the day of Pentecost by tongues of fire (Acts 2:3). Jesus said: I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! (Luke 12:49)
e. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces: When God revealed His glory and sent fire to the altar, it was a remarkable thing to see. The Israelites could not help shouting and falling in reverence and fear before God. This was, in one sense the goal of their worship: to encounter God in a way that honors Him, in obedience to Him.
i. Fell on their faces: “It involved bowing in such a way that the face actually touched the ground. In the Old Testament this gesture was an indication of the most profound and deepest respect before a superior.” (Peter-Contesse)
ii. “The manifestation of the presence of God had specific relevance to this important day in Israel’s history when the sacrificial system officially began; the manifestation of God’s presence at the commencement of sacrificial offerings is a reminder that the goal of worship is to encounter God.” (Rooker)
iii. It is also helpful to note the progression of the sacrifices made: The sin offering, then the burnt offering, then the grain offering, then the peace offerings, then the wave offering. “Carefully observe this order. Sin put away, life and work devoted, communion made possible; then the priestly blessing, speaking of acceptance, followed by a second blessing, which declared the divine satisfaction as it was accompanied by the manifestation of glory, and so finally the full worship of the people.” (Morgan)