Jehovah having drawn near to his people by taking up his residence among them, now invites them to draw near unto him by the appointed sacrifices. But these must be offered in the manner which he has prescribed. This comprises a ritual so minute and elaborate that it requires for its proper performance the institution of a professional order. As sacrifices had existed before the promulgation of the Law so had priests, such as Melchizedek and Jethro, existed without the sanction of positive enactments. Now, however, for the first time, the priestly office is brought under the strict ordinance of law as a distinct order in the Hebrew commonwealth.
This chapter is a record of the investment and anointing of Aaron and his sons, and the anointing of the tabernacle, (1-13,) and the consecration of the priest, (14-36,) including the sin offering, (14-17,) the whole burnt offering, (18-21,) and the ram of consecration, (22-36.)
"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, and the anointing oil, and a bullock for the sin offering, and two rams, and a basket of unleavened bread; And gather thou all the congregation together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Moses did as the LORD commanded him; and the assembly was gathered together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Moses said unto the congregation, This is the thing which the LORD commanded to be done. And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water. And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith. And he put the breastplate upon him: also he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim. And he put the mitre upon his head; also upon the mitre, even upon his forefront, did he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as the LORD commanded Moses. And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them. And he sprinkled thereof upon the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all his vessels, both the laver and his foot, to sanctify them. And he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head, and anointed him, to sanctify him. And Moses brought Aaron’s sons, and put coats upon them, and girded them with girdles, and put bonnets upon them; as the LORD commanded Moses." — Leviticus 8:1-13 KJV.
THE INVESTMENT AND UNCTION, 1-36.
2. Aaron and his sons — They had been previously designated to this office, and their official garments had been appointed, (Exodus 28,) and the anointing oil had been compounded, (Exodus 30:23,) and the consecratory service had been minutely described. Exodus 29. Sin offering — So encompassed are the best men with infirmities, and so liable to sins of ignorance (Hebrews 9:7) and inadvertence, that they need the efficacy of a perpetual expiatory sacrifice to keep them in a state of acceptance before a holy God. 1 John 1:7. Hence Aaron and his sons are treated as presumptive sinners for whom atonement must be made before their induction into the priestly office. Christ commissions only pardoned and regenerate men to preach his glorious Gospel, though they may be called, as were Aaron and his sons, before they are sprinkled with the blood of atonement. Two rams — One was for a burnt offering and the other was the ram of consecration, the flesh of which was treated as a peace offering. Verses 29-32. Unleavened bread — This was for a meat or bread offering. Thus, with the exception of the trespass offering, all the great sacrifices were combined in a prescribed order in this consecratory service. The order of the offerings is important as a key to their significance. See The Order of the Sacrifices.
3. Gather… all the congregation — The elders representing the people gathered in front of the tabernacle; behind them stood the congregation occupying all the heights around. No ordination of a minister should be in the presence of ministers only, but before the laity, who are deeply interested in the character and qualifications of those who stand before them as God’s representatives.
6. Washed them with water — Physical purity is desirable in itself. Cleanliness is next to godliness. But this washing of the outer man symbolizes the purgation of the inner man from all filthiness of the spirit, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Nearly all pagan nations employ water as an indication of a moral cleansing, either borrowing the practice from the Hebrews or because the symbolism is naturally suggested to the mind. The Egyptian priests bathed in cold water twice each day and twice each night. Exodus 2:5. The supposition that this washing of the priests in the wilderness was by the immersion of the entire person is too violent to be entertained. Nevertheless the Hebrew word כָּבַר here used is the same as that found in 2 Kings 5:10, “Go wash in Jordan.” For its bearing on the meaning of βάπτω see Methodist Quarterly, January, 1874, and January, 1875, p. 67.
8. The breastplate — The חֹ֑שֶׁן (choshen) was an ornamental bag or four-cornered gorget, with twelve precious stones set in gold, arranged in four rows. The Seventy call it λογειον, or λογιον, the speaking place, and in the Vulgate it is styled rationale, in reference to its use as an oracle. As the term breastplate is descriptive of armour it is an unfortunate translation. Within this bag were deposited the Urim and the Thummim. It is evident from this verse that these things which Moses put into the חֹ֑שֶׁן at the consecration of Aaron are different from the precious stones previously set by the jeweller. Exodus 28:15-21. “The sculptures of Thebes and Beni-Hassan afford testimony to the skill of the Egyptian goldsmiths; and numerous gold and silver vases, inlaid work and jewelry, represented in common use, show the great advancement they had already made, at a remote period, in this branch. The engraving of gold, the mode of casting it, and inlaying it with stones, were evidently known at the same time; numerous specimens of this kind of work have been found in Egypt.” — Wilkinson. The Urim and Thummim — lights and perfections; in the Seventy δηλωσῖ και αληθεια, manifestation and truth; in the Vulgate, doctrina et veritas — are, in their nature and manner of use, the greatest puzzle to be found in the whole range of Jewish antiquities. Opinions are various: 1.) Some physical effect indicated the divine will; or, 2.) Their presence excited a prophetic gift in the high priest; or, 3.) They were a contrivance for casting lots.
9. The mitre — This was a turban, since its Hebrew name is from a verb signifying to wind about. This was a very splendid head-covering, worn only by pontiffs and kings, (Ezekiel 21:26,) as an emblem of dignity, styled in Ecclus. 45:12, “an ornament of honour, a costly work, the desire of the eyes.” The holy crown — It was called holy because it had the tetragrammaton — the four-lettered Hebrew word for Jehovah — inscribed upon it. Exodus 28:36. It was of fine linen, with a fillet of blue lace, symbolizing heaven, and over it a golden diadem, “on which,” says Josephus, “blossomed a golden calyx like the flower of the henbane.” The engraved golden plate was a gold band, two fingers broad, tied behind with blue lace embroidered with flowers. It bore the inscription, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.
10. Anointed… sanctified — The first verb is the act of setting apart, the second expresses the state of objects thus set apart or consecrated to a religious use. The anointing of the Holy Ghost introduces the soul into that marvellous light, full assurance, and perfect love, which constitute evangelical perfection. 1 John 2:27; 2 Corinthians 3:8-18. 11. Seven times — This number indicates perfection. See Leviticus 4:6, note. The perfect consecration of Aaron is alluded to in Hebrews 7:28, in connection with our High Priest, “who is consecrated (τετελειωμενον, perfected) forever.” In the Seventy the term “consecration” is translated τελειωσις, making perfect. Verse 33. Hence Jesus is spoken of as fully prepared for his priestly office when he is said to have been made perfect through sufferings. Hebrews 2:10; 5:8, 9. In his personal relation to the moral law he was always perfect.
12. He poured… the… oil — This expresses a copious unction. See Psalm 133:2. The same Hebrew word is used in Isaiah 44:3, to indicate the copious effusion of the Spirit in the latter days. Aaron’s sons were only sprinkled with oil and blood, (ver. 30,) but in Leviticus 7:35, they are spoken of as anointed. The fact that Aaron alone was arrayed in his robes of office, and anointed before the blood was shed, beautifully typifies Christ in his peerless excellency and dignity anointed by the Holy Spirit before he accomplished his atoning work. Before the anointing of the sons of Aaron (verse 30) all the acts recorded in verses 13-29 were performed — the blood is shed, the breast waved before Jehovah, and the fat is consumed on the altar, its sweet odour ascending as a type of the ascension of Jesus, who was slain as a victim, and who ascended as a priest to appear in the holy place for us.
13. Bonnets — This word is still used by the Scotch to signify a cap for the head of a man. Hence Walter Scott sings, “And plaids and bonnets waving high.” But its general modern use is restricted to the head covering of a female. The Hebrew means hill shaped, suggesting the conical form of this linen cap. According to Josephus it was a helmet of linen, one wreath being plaited and folded over another, and a thin cap, suited to its shape, put over all to prevent its unfolding.