Exodus 29

The Word Made Fresh

1“To set them apart for service as my priests, this is what you must do:

“Select a choice young bull and two rams, 2and using flour made from wheat, without yeast, bake bread, cakes smeared with oil and thin wafers. 3Put them all in a basket and bring them and the bull and rams 4along with Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the meeting tent and wash them with water. 5Dress Aaron in the gown and the robe, the apron and vest, and the decorated belt. 6Place the turban on his head with the sacred emblem attached to it. 7Pour the anointing oil over his head as a sign of my having chosen him. 8Then put the gowns on his sons, 9drape sashes on them and headbands, and the priesthood will permanently belong to them, and Aaron and his sons will be set apart to serve me.

10 “Then bring the bull to the front of the tent. Aaron and his sons will place their hands on the bull’s head 11and you will then slaughter the bull before me. 12Smear some of the blood on the horns of the altar with your finger. Pour the rest of it out at the base. 13Then take the fat from around the bowels, liver, and kidneys, and burn them on the altar. 14The meat, skin, and bowels must be burned outside the camp to represent the removal of your sins.

15“Next, bring one of the rams forward. Aaron and his sons will lay their hands on the ram’s head 16and you will then slaughter the ram. Take some of its blood and dash it against all four sides of the altar. 17Then butcher the ram and wash its bowels and legs and place them with the parts and its head. 18Burn the whole animal on the altar as an offering to the LORD and it will be a pleasing odor rising to me.

19“Bring the other ram, have Aaron and his sons place their hands on its head. 20Slaughter it. Then take some of the blood and dabble it on the right ear lobes and right thumbs and right big toes of Aaron and his sons. Splatter the rest of the blood against all four sides of the altar. 21Then wipe some of the blood from the altar and mix it with anointing oil. Sprinkle it on Aaron and his sons and on their clothing, and that will set them apart for my service.

22“Next, take the fat from this ram from the tail, the bowels, the liver and kidneys, and the right thigh. This is the ram symbolizing their being set apart for my service. 23Take from the basket a loaf of bread, a cake and a wafer 24and give them to Aaron and his sons to hold up high as an acknowledgement before me. 25Then take the loaves and cakes and wafers from them and burn them on the altar and it will rise to me as a pleasing odor.

26“Take the ram’s breast and hold it up before me, and then take it as your share. 27The breast and thigh that was raised before me as an offering will belong to Aaron and his sons. 28These rituals are to be performed from now on by Aaron and his sons. It will serve as an offering to me from the Israelite people.

29“The official clothes that Aaron wears as the head priest are to be passed on to his sons after him, and they will be anointed and set apart in them. 30The son who is the head priest after Aaron must wear them for seven days as he enters the holy place in the sanctuary tent.

31“Take the meat from the ram used in the consecration ceremony and cook it in a place set apart for sacred rituals. 32Aaron and his sons will eat that meat at the tent’s entrance along with the bread in the basket. 33They are the only ones permitted to eat the meat and bread that was used in the ceremony to set them apart as priests. No one else may eat it. 34If any of it remains until the morning, burn it. At that point it may no longer be eaten because it is holy.

35“Perform this ceremony for Aaron and his sons over seven days, just as I have explained. 36In addition to those sacrifices offer a bull each day as a sign that your sins have been removed. When you set the altar apart for holy use make an offering to purify it, 37and each day of the seven days make an offering to consecrate the altar, and then it will be completely set apart for me, and anything that touches it will be set apart.

38“Every day, sacrifice to me two lambs a year old; 39one in the morning and the other in the evening. 40For the morning sacrifice also offer by fire a couple of quarts of flour mixed with a quart of pressed olive oil and a quart of wine. 41For the evening sacrifice do the same. 42Follow this ritual from now on at the entrance to the sanctuary tent. That is where I will meet you and speak with you. 43My presence there with the Israelites will set them apart as my people. 44I will set apart the sanctuary and the altar and make them holy, and I will make Aaron and his sons holy as well, for they will serve as my priests. 45I will be the God of the Israelites. 46They will always remember that I am the LORD their God who rescued them from Egypt that I might live with them. I am the LORD their God.”

Commentary

1-9: Aaron and his sons are to be consecrated as priests in a special ceremony that sets them apart. They are to be brought to the entrance of the tent – that is where the altar is to be located – with a young bull, two rams and a basket of unleavened bread, cakes and wafers made of wheat mixed with oil. Aaron and his sons are to be bathed and dressed. Aaron is to be dressed first and anointed with oil. Then his sons are to be dressed. Aaron’s descendants are to serve as priests from then on.

10-14: Aaron and his sons are to bring the bull and lay their hands on its head while Moses slaughters it. He is to catch the blood in a basin, dip his finger in the blood and smear it on the horns of the altar, then pour the remainder at the foot of the altar. The bull is then to be butchered. The fat around the internal organs along with the liver and kidneys is to be burned on the altar, but the rest of the animal is to be burned outside the camp. This is to be understood as a sin offering: that is, an offering of atonement for the sin of Aaron and his sons, an act of purification.

15-18: One ram is to be taken and slaughtered as was the bull. The blood is to be dashed all around the sides of the altar. The ram is to be butchered and all of it washed, then the entire animal is to be burned on the altar. This is to be understood as a gift to please God. It is not that God needs such a gift; it is that they need to give such a gift.

19-21: The second ram is to be slaughtered as was the first, but then it is to be treated very differently. First, some of its blood is to be dabbed onto the right earlobe, thumb, and big toe of Aaron and each of his sons. This makes them participants in the sacrifice. The rest of the blood is to be dashed on the altar all around. Then a dish of oil is to be dabbed with blood taken from the altar and sprinkled on Aaron and his sons as a sign of holiness; that is, that they are set apart for holy duties.

22-25: But we’re not through with the second ram yet. The fat from the tail and entrails along with the liver and kidneys and the right thigh are to be removed. The right thigh is peculiar to the ordination of priests. These body parts along with a loaf of bread, a cake of bread, and an unleavened wafer from the basket on the table in the most holy place (that is, the bread of the presence) are placed in the priests’ hands and raised or elevated in a gesture of supplication, then placed on the altar and burned to ashes. It is understood to be a gift to God of the lives of the priests being ordained.

26-28: But we’re not done with the second ram yet! The breast is also to be raised to acknowledge that it is God’s, but here it is not clear who does the elevating, Aaron or Moses. We do learn, however, that the ram is from the flock of Aaron and his sons; it is their personal sacrifice, and it implies that all the animals used in their consecration and ordination are to be taken from their personal store. The breast of the second ram is not to be burned to ashes. It is to be their portion; that is, they may set it aside for themselves. This ordination ritual is to be a perpetual observance whenever a priest is set apart for a life of service. The priests are to be considered as an offering of the people to the LORD.

29-30: Aaron’s vestments are to be passed down to his sons; that is, to one of his descendants in each generation. Every priest who succeeds Aaron, that is the high priest, is to wear the vestments for seven days before beginning his duties in the holy place. This will remind him whose he is.

31-34: We haven’t finished with the second ram yet. The remainder of it is to be boiled inside the boundaries of the tabernacle, and Aaron and his sons are to eat it along with the bread. Any of it that remains overnight is to be burned to ashes on the altar.

35-37: This ritual is to be repeated for seven days; Aaron and his sons are not priests just on the Sabbath but are to be dedicated to the LORD’s service every day of the week. Each day a bull is to be sacrificed as a sin offering, and the altar itself is to be anointed every day to consecrate it. The altar is to be a holy thing, set apart exclusively for use in the worship of God. Such is its holiness that whoever touches it is also to be set apart for God; that is, no one may touch it but the priests.

38-46: During the seven days of the ceremonies to ordain Aaron and his sons, they are to offer a year-old lamb in the morning along with grain, oil, and wine, and the same in the evening. Every time a new generation of priests is ordained the same morning and evening ritual is to be performed. It is an offering of thanksgiving to the LORD from the people. God tells Moses that when Aaron and his sons are ordained, he will meet with them at the entrance of the tent of meeting and speak to them there. God in person will consecrate Aaron and his sons and will live in the midst of the Israelites as their God, and God’s purpose for bringing them out of Egypt will be fulfilled.

Takeaway

Perhaps you have recognized in the ordination ceremony an “order of worship” that is common in church rituals even today: We confess our sins, we make an offering to God, we dedicate our lives to God’s service in the week to come.