"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it. And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place. And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out." — Leviticus 6:8-13 KJV.
ORDINANCES APPERTAINING TO THE PRIESTS, 8-30.
We now come to what might be appropriately styled the priest’s rubric of sacrifice, or altar-book, in which his duties are minutely specified, in order that the ritual might be performed with the uniformity and decency becoming the majesty and holiness of Jehovah. In the best Hebrew Bibles chapter vi begins here.
9. The law of the burnt offering — The rules for offering this sacrifice were laid down for the priests and for individual worshippers in chapter 1. But the following rules are for the guidance of the priests in the national morning and evening sacrifice. At about sunrise incense was burnt upon the golden altar, before any other sacrifice, beautifully teaching that prayer and praise should be the first employment of our waking moments. One lamb was then offered as a whole burnt offering, and another at the close of the day. These were burned with a slow fire, so that the sweet-smelling savour was going up continually in the morn, atoning for the sins of the night; at the evening, for those of the day. A bread offering and a drink offering immediately followed each of these sacrifices. The drink offering, (Numbers 28:5-7,) which consisted of strong wine, was not to be drank by the priest, for this was prohibited, (Leviticus 10:9;) but it was to be freely poured out around the altar as a libation, symbolizing the overflowing joy of a soul conscious of forgiveness and fully consecrated to God. The whole service, of which the burnt offering was the principal part, was a daily expression of the nation’s entire devotion to Jehovah. Because of the burning upon the altar — Here we have a mistranslation in the Authorized Version leading the reader to suppose that the etymology of olah is attempted by the sacred writer. The only difficulty is in the word rendered burning, used only here, signifying hearth, according to Furst. The whole burnt offering shall be upon the hearth upon the altar all night.
10. Linen breeches — Or drawers. These and the rest of the sacerdotal apparel are described in Exodus 28:39-43. To symbolize holiness, the robe was to be composed of only one material. Mixed materials, as wool and flax, were forbidden to the common people. Revelation 19:19. Garments wholly of wool would not have suited the climate; and moreover, from their animal origin, were not regarded as pure. Linen robes are emblematical of purity. Revelation 19:14. From immemorial antiquity Egypt was the great centre of the linen manufacture in the world. The verecundia of the Hebrew ritual in this and other places was a protest against some of the shameless forms of nature-worship prevalent among the idolatrous nations, and especially in some Egyptian rites according to the father of history (Herodotus, 2:60) and the pictures still visible on the monuments. Over the drawers was worn the cethoneth, or close-fitting cassock, also of fine linen, white, but with a diamond or chess-board pattern on it. This came nearly to the feet, and was woven without seam.
11. Put on other garments — This change was required because the priest was to go forth from the consecrated enclosure of the tabernacle and to come in contact with things unsanctified. The ashes must be deposited in a clean place, because they were regarded as a part of the holy offering. See note on Leviticus 4:12.
13. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar — This altar-fire was of a supernatural origin, (Leviticus 9:24,) as the fire of love to God in a fallen soul is not spontaneously ignited, but is a spark dropped from above. The fire on the altar, as the symbol of Jehovah’s holiness and the instrument of his purifying or destroying power, was the only fire permitted to be used in the tabernacle. That obtained elsewhere for sacred purposes was called “strange.” Leviticus 10:1. According to the Gemera the sacred fire was divided into three parts, one for burning victims, one for incense, and one for the supply of the other portions. “According to the Jewish legends, this sacred fire was kept up without interruption till the Babylonian captivity, and, according to 2 Macc. 1:19, till a period later. The Talmud and many rabbins reckon it as one of the five things which were wanting in the second temple — the fire, the ark, the urim and thummim, the anointing oil, and the spirit of holiness.” — Kurtz. The injunction to keep the fire always burning enforces the duty of undying zeal in the service of Christ through the Holy Spirit ever abiding within as a refiner’s fire. The wood laid on the fire every morning typifies the means of grace daily used, the Holy Scriptures, prayer and praise.