Priest Ordination (Leviticus 8-10)

Part two of an overview of Leviticus. Chapters 8-10 deals with the rules and processes for Priest Ordination.

Leviticus Chapter 8:
*Exodus ch. 29 has the initial instructions for this ceremony.

Moses is to gather Aaron and his son with their priestly garments, the anointing oil, the bull, two rams, and the basket of matzah (unleavened bread) filled with loaves, thin cakes, and wafers in front of the Tabernacle. Moses calls the Israelites before the Tabernacle. Aaron and his sons washed up and put on their sacred garments (tunics, sashes, headgear). Aaron put on his ritual vest, and chest piece with the urim and tumim in the pouch, and his turban with the medallion. Moses anointed the Tabernacle and everything in it. He sprinkled anointed oil seven times on the altar and its utensils. Then he anointed Aaron and his son’s heads with the oil.

They brought out the bull for the sin offering and put their hands on its head, and slaughtered it in front of the Tabernacle. Some of the blood went on the four horns of the altar, and the rest was poured out at the base. Then the fat from around the organs was burned on the altar and the unclean parts were burned outside the camp.

One of the rams was sacrificed as a burnt offering. Its blood was splashed on all sides of the altar, the head and fat were burned on the altar, and then the rest (organs and legs) were washed and burned on the altar.

The last ram was the ordination offering Aaron and his sons laid their hands on it, then it was slaughtered. Some of its blood was fingered dipped and placed on the right ear lobe, right thumb, and right big toe of Aaron and his sons. The rest of the blood was splashed on all sides of the altar. Moses took the fat, the right thigh, and one of each type of unleavened bread in the basket and gave them to Aaron and his sons to wave before the Tabernacle. Then they were burned on the altar, and Moses received the breast as his portion to eat. Moses took some of the blood from the altar, mixed it with anointing oil, and splashed it on Aaron and his son’s clothes to make their clothes holy. Aaron and his sons boiled the rest of the meat (including the breast and thigh) at the Tabernacle entrance and ate it along with the rest of the bread from the basket. Leftover meat or bread was to be burned up. No one else can eat this food except Aaron and his sons. At that point, Aaron and his sons had to stay at the entrance of the Tabernacle for seven days straight until the consecration was over. Each day they are to sacrifice a bull as a sin offering and purify the altar with anointed oil.

Leviticus Chapter 9:
On the eighth day after the ordination, Moses told the priest to get a male calf for the sin offering and a ram for the burnt offering. Then the people of Israel are to each bring a male goat for a sin offering, a calf and a lamb (each one year old) for burnt offerings, and a bull and a ram (each one year old) for peace offerings. In addition, they must bring grain offerings of flour mixed with olive oil. All of this is because God will appear before the community.

Moses told Aaron to offer his sin and burnt offerings as atonement for himself. Then he is to sacrifice the people’s offerings as atonement for them. Aaron did these things by sacrificing his calf as a sin offering, dripping blood on the horns, and pouring the rest on the side of the altar, burning the fat on the altar, and burning the rest outside the camp. His ram was sacrificed as a burnt offering with blood splashed on the side of the altar, and the whole animal, fat and all, were burned on the altar.

Aaron followed the procedures for sacrificing the people’s sin burnt, and grain offerings. This was done in addition to the morning burnt offering (which was one lamb, flour and olive oil, and wine). Aaron sacrificed the bull and ram peace offerings, splattering their blood on the sides of the altar, and burning the fat on the altar. Then he waved his portion (breast and right thigh) before God. Aaron raised his hands toward the people and blessed them as he came down from sacrificing on the altar. Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle and came out to bless the people again. The fiery glory of God came over the Tabernacle and consumed the fat and the burnt offerings on the altar and the people shouted and fell to the ground.

Leviticus Chapter 10:
Afterward, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu burned the wrong kind of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. This violated God’s instructions on burning incense. God’s presence then blazed forth and killed them. God reminded them that no one can break his rules in his presence, because his holiness requires obedience. Moses had Mishael and Elzaphan, Aaron’s cousins, take the bodies out of the camp. Moshe told Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, not to tear their clothes and bind their hair in mourning, otherwise, they may die in God’s presence. Rather, they are to let the community mourn, and together everyone will remember to keep reverence for God’s presence. Aaron and his other sons were not allowed to leave the entrance of the Tabernacle, because they still have anointed oil on them.

God also warns Aaron and his sons not to drink alcohol while serving in the Tabernacle, otherwise, they will die. God also reminds them to distinguish between clean and unclean and to teach the Israelites God’s decrees. Moses has Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, eat what was left of the grain offering (no leaven), next to the altar. They are required to eat this in a holy place since it is their portion as priests and this rule is for all the priests. In addition, they are to eat the breast and thighs that were waved, this can be eaten in any place that is ceremonially clean. The breast and right thigh are always to be lifted up and eaten by the priest and their whole families, it is their permanent right.

Moses couldn’t find the goat for the sin offering and found out it was burned upon the altar but not eaten, and he scolded Eleazar and Ithamar for not eating their portion of it. Since its blood was not put on the inner curtain of the Tabernacle they were supposed to eat it. Aaron pointed out that his sons presented the sin and burnt offerings properly. He further expresses that because of the tragic loss of his other sons, he is not in a proper state to eat the sin offering and does not wish to further anger God. Moses excepts this argument. 

Comment: In Lev 10:9 God says not to drink alcohol while they are serving him. It’s possible this is the reason Nadab and Abihu prepared the incense wrong. Either way burning the wrong incense is an issue because the smoke from the incense must be thick to cover the light from God’s presence. If a person looks directly into it they will die. This is why Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is the only day in the year anyone can go into the Most Holy Place, and only the high priest goes in there. When the high priest goes to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifices before the Ark for atonement, he brings the incense burner and the smoke covers God’s presence like a veil, thus protecting him from death. At the end of the chapter, Aaron and his remaining sons didn’t eat the sin offering because they were in mourning. I suspect Aaron felt guilty for his son’s failure.

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