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The Rites of Ordination


The L ord spoke to Moses, saying: 2Take Aaron and his sons with him, the vestments, the anointing oil, the bull of sin offering, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread; 3and assemble the whole congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 4And Moses did as the L ord commanded him. When the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting, 5Moses said to the congregation, “This is what the L ord has commanded to be done.”

6 Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward, and washed them with water. 7He put the tunic on him, fastened the sash around him, clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him. He then put the decorated band of the ephod around him, tying the ephod to him with it. 8He placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim. 9And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden ornament, the holy crown, as the L ord commanded Moses.

10 Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. 11He sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the basin and its base, to consecrate them. 12He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him, to consecrate him. 13And Moses brought forward Aaron’s sons, and clothed them with tunics, and fastened sashes around them, and tied headdresses on them, as the L ord commanded Moses.

14 He led forward the bull of sin offering; and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the bull of sin offering, 15and it was slaughtered. Moses took the blood and with his finger put some on each of the horns of the altar, purifying the altar; then he poured out the blood at the base of the altar. Thus he consecrated it, to make atonement for it. 16Moses took all the fat that was around the entrails, and the appendage of the liver, and the two kidneys with their fat, and turned them into smoke on the altar. 17But the bull itself, its skin and flesh and its dung, he burned with fire outside the camp, as the L ord commanded Moses.

18 Then he brought forward the ram of burnt offering. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram, 19and it was slaughtered. Moses dashed the blood against all sides of the altar. 20The ram was cut into its parts, and Moses turned into smoke the head and the parts and the suet. 21And after the entrails and the legs were washed with water, Moses turned into smoke the whole ram on the altar; it was a burnt offering for a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to the L ord, as the L ord commanded Moses.

22 Then he brought forward the second ram, the ram of ordination. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram, 23and it was slaughtered. Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 24After Aaron’s sons were brought forward, Moses put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet; and Moses dashed the rest of the blood against all sides of the altar. 25He took the fat—the broad tail, all the fat that was around the entrails, the appendage of the liver, and the two kidneys with their fat—and the right thigh. 26From the basket of unleavened bread that was before the L ord, he took one cake of unleavened bread, one cake of bread with oil, and one wafer, and placed them on the fat and on the right thigh. 27He placed all these on the palms of Aaron and on the palms of his sons, and raised them as an elevation offering before the L ord. 28Then Moses took them from their hands and turned them into smoke on the altar with the burnt offering. This was an ordination offering for a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to the L ord. 29Moses took the breast and raised it as an elevation offering before the L ord; it was Moses’ portion of the ram of ordination, as the L ord commanded Moses.

30 Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood that was on the altar and sprinkled them on Aaron and his vestments, and also on his sons and their vestments. Thus he consecrated Aaron and his vestments, and also his sons and their vestments.

31 And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the flesh at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and eat it there with the bread that is in the basket of ordination offerings, as I was commanded, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it’; 32and what remains of the flesh and the bread you shall burn with fire. 33You shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the day when your period of ordination is completed. For it will take seven days to ordain you; 34as has been done today, the L ord has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. 35You shall remain at the entrance of the tent of meeting day and night for seven days, keeping the L ord’s charge so that you do not die; for so I am commanded.” 36Aaron and his sons did all the things that the L ord commanded through Moses.

1. And the Lord spake. It is well known that in conjunction with the sacrifices there was an offering, which they call minha, but we shall elsewhere see that this was also used separately; for it was lawful without a victim to offer either plain meal, or cakes, or wafers seasoned with oil. Therefore, besides the sacrifice of consecration, of which Moses has already treated, this second offering is required from the priest, that he should present at his inauguration a cake fried in a pan, and cut in pieces. The reason of this appears to have been, that he might thence become the legitimate minister of all the people, and might duly offer in the name of others, when he had done what was right for himself. But a distinction is drawn between the demand upon the priest and that, upon the people, viz., that it should be “wholly burnt;” the reason for which, since it will be explained elsewhere, it will be now sufficient to advert to in a single word. The fact was that God was unwilling that the priests should indulge themselves in vain ostentation, which might have been easily the case, if the oblation had been preserved for their use, like the minha of the people which remained in their hands.

2. Take Aaron. He more clearly explains the mode of anointing and investing the priests, by appointing the place and the assistants; for he commands the congregation to be convoked at the sanctuary; and then that Aaron and his sons should be brought out before them to be inaugurated by God’s authority in their office; and that the whole people together may acknowledge that they are appointed and ordained by God. The execution of the command, which we find connected with it in the text of Moses, must be undoubtedly referred to another time; viz., when the solemn dedication of the tabernacle was made. I have therefore thought fit to transfer thither what is here related out of its place, that the history may proceed uninterruptedly; which will not a little facilitate its comprehension.

4. And Moses did as the Lord commanded him Although these things relate to the priesthood, the authority and nature of which I expounded under the Second Commandment, yet, inasmuch as they are historical, it is not without reason that I have thought fit to defer them till this place: for, if I had referred to them in connection with the Commandment, unpractised readers would not have easily taken notice of their time. This distinction, however, will be of great assistance to them, that after the doctrine which was properly contained in the Decalogue has been set forth, they will now see how faithfully Moses fulfilled whatever he was commanded, and will be able to compare his obedience with the injunction, as they have done in the whole of the making and dedication of the tabernacle. Besides, there is no question but that the narrative must be thus connected; for it may be readily inferred from many passages, that the priests were anointed on the same day that the tabernacle was consecrated. I will now hastily run through the words. Moses says that he brought near Aaron and his sons, i.e., to set them before God and the people; and then that he “washed them with water,” to make it manifest that they did not bring from their homes the purity which befitted the sanctity of their office, and, inasmuch as they were men, that they could not be clean before God, unless their impurity was washed off. A description of their apparel afterwards follows, which I pass over, lest I should weary my readers by twice repeating the same thing.

10. And Moses took the anointing oil I have stated why God commanded that the priest himself, as well as all the vessels, should be consecrated with oil, viz., because, without the influence of the Spirit, all the sacrifices would be unsavory. And it is by the operation of the same Spirit that Christ was made the peace-maker between God and men; because this dignity would not otherwise belong to flesh and human nature. Aaron was therefore anointed, together with his sons, before he was admitted to the priestly office; for it is afterwards added, that “the bullock for sin” 405405     “For the sin-offering.” — A. V. was brought, upon which Aaron laid his hands. Now, although even then he began to discharge his office, yet Moses still occupied the first place, and performed, as it were, the final act. Hence it was that he sprinkled the horns of the altar with the blood; poured the residue at its base for expiation; and burned the sacrifice upon the altar. Now, the imposition of hands in the sacrifices was not only a symbol of presentation, but also a testimony of guilt transferred to the victim. Since, however, this last statement may be obscure on account of its brevity, I will explain it a little more clearly. If any private person offered a victim, the imposition of hands signified that he cast the guilt of his sin upon the victim. Hence the name of piaculum; 406406     “Et voyla pourquoy les bestes ont porte le nom d’offense;” and behold wherefore the beasts bore the name of offence.Fr.Piaculum; sacrum piaculare, et quicquid ad piandum et purgandum pertinet. Metonymice, ipsa res, qum piaculi causa adhibetur; sic AEn. 6:153.
   Duc nigos pecudes: ea prima piacula sunto.” — Facciolati.
because it sustained the curse of God, and was substituted in the sinner’s stead, who disburdens himself upon it of whatever exposed him to the judgment of God. But, inasmuch as common hands were unworthy to consecrate a victim to God, the sacerdotal office interposed. This is the reason why Aaron and his sons put their hands on each of the sacrifices, in order that this kind of atonement (piaculi) might be the beginning of their consecration, which was completed in the second ram, with the blood of which Moses stained their right ears, the thumbs of their right hands, and the great toes of their right feet. A multitude of questions here arises: Why only one side of the priests was consecrated, as if their left side remained polluted? Why consecration was not also imparted to their eyes, and especially to their mouth, which was to be the organ of the Holy Spirit? But this warning must be always borne in mind, that we should be soberly wise in those points, the certain knowledge of which cannot be elicited from Scripture; for our curiosity is not only frivolous, but also perverse and injurious, when we desire to know more than God has revealed. The conjecture, however, is probable, that the whole body was consecrated in the right side. We have already seen elsewhere, 407407     See ante, vol. 2, p. 211. that by the hands and feet the whole life and actions of men are designated. In which view the cleanness of the heart and the purity of the hands comprehend all that is internal and external in man, as the root and the fruit. As to the feet, the metaphor of walking is notorious; and the feet are said to run to evil, and to be swift to shed blood, when the wicked and the despisers of God betake themselves to evil deeds. Besides, since this consecration was not to the office of teaching, but to that of intercession, the ear rather than the tongue is stained with blood; because the chief virtue, which obtains grace in the sacrifices, is obedience. To this the passage in Psalm 40:6, refers, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou bored:” 408408     A. V., “Mine ears hast thou opened.” Margin, “Heb., digged.” See C.’s translation and note. Cal. Soc. edit., vol. 2, p. 99. to which the words of Jeremiah correspond,

“Did I command anything respecting sacrifices, and not rather that your fathers should obey my voice?” 409409     This quotation is much abbreviated. C.’s exposition of the passage, (Cal. Soc. edit., vol. 1, p. 393,) and Mr. Owen’s note, are worthy of consultation.
(Jeremiah 7:22, 23.)

And hence Moses commenced the consecration at the ear, in order to devote the priest to God unto obedience. Paul shews how this was fulfilled in Christ, where he celebrates His obedience in the sacrifice of His death, in order to reconcile His Father to us. (Romans 5:19.) I have spoken elsewhere of the kind of wave-offering which they called tnupha. 410410     Heb., תנופה, thenuphah. See ante, vol. 2, p. 132, and note

31. And Moses said unto Aaron and his sons, Boil the flesh This is the universal rule, as we have seen elsewhere. 411411     See ante, vol. 2, p. 133. One thing only is special, that God kept them in the tabernacle seven days, that they might learn to subordinate all their domestic cares and worldly business to their sacred duties. It has been elsewhere said, also, 412412     Ibid., p.26. that perfection is denoted by the number seven, which this passage confirms, for by the seven days they were reminded that they were no longer their own masters for the rest of their life.

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