The Word Made Fresh
1The LORD said to Moses, 2“Bring Aaron and his sons with their official garments, the anointing oil, the bull for a sin offering, two rams and the basket with the unleavened bread 3to the entrance of the meeting tent and summon all the people to gather there.” 4Moses put out the word and everyone gathered at the entrance to the meeting tent.
5Moses announced, “This is what the LORD ordered us to do.” 6He washed Aaron and his sons with water. 7He put the gown on Aaron, then tied the sash around him, then dressed him with the robe and the apron. Then he tied the apron to him with the decorated band. 8He put the vest on him that held the Urim and the Thummim. 9Finally, he placed the turban on Aaron’s head with the golden tiara attached as the LORD had commanded.
10Then Moses took the oil and sprinkled it on the sanctuary and everything in it. 11Some of the oil he sprinkled seven times on the altar and all its tools and furnishings to set them apart for the LORD. 12Then some of the anointing oil was poured over Aaron’s head to set him apart for sacred duties. 13Then Aaron’s sons came forward and Moses dressed them in gowns, sashes and headbands as the LORD had commanded.
14Then Moses brought the bull forward for the sin offering. Aaron and his sons each placed their hands on the bull’s head. 15The bull was slaughtered, and Moses gathered the blood. He used the blood to mark each of the altar’s horns with his finger, then poured the rest out at the base of the altar. In that way the altar was set apart for sacred use. 16Then Moses took all the fat from the inside the bull’s carcass, along with the kidneys and the lobe of the liver and burned them on the altar. 17The rest of the bull – skin, meat, and entrails – was burned outside the camp as the LORD had instructed him.
18Then Moses had the ram brought forward to burn as an offering. Aaron and his sons placed their hands on its head 19and Moses slaughtered it and dashed its blood against the four sides of the altar. 20The lamb was butchered and Moses burned the head, the inner organs and the fat on the altar. 21Then he washed the innards and the legs and placed all of it on the altar as a pleasing smell to the LORD, all in accordance with the LORD’s instructions.
22Then the second ram was brought forward for Aaron and his sons’ ordination into the priesthood. They placed their hands on its head 23and Moses slaughtered it. He marked Aaron’s right ear, right thumb and right big toe with some of the blood. 24Then Aaron’s sons were brought forward and Moses marked them as well, then threw the rest of the blood against all four sides of the altar. 25He gathered the fat from the tail, the innards, the lobe of the liver with its fat, the kidneys with their fat, and the right thigh. 26He took one cake of the unleavened bread that was brought to the LORD, one cake of bread with oil, and one wafer, and placed them on the fat and the thigh. 27He placed these in Aaron’s hands and his sons’ hands, and then raised them high to acknowledge the LORD. 28Then Moses placed them on the altar and burned them into smoke as an ordination offering by fire, with a sweet smell for the LORD. 29Then Moses took the breast and raised it before the LORD as his portion of the ram, in keeping with the LORD’s instructions.
30Finally, Moses sprinkled some of the oil and blood on the altar and sprinkled it on Aaron and his sons, and on their sacred robes. 31Moses gave them these further instructions: “Boil the meat at the sanctuary entrance and eat it there with the bread of ordination. That is what the LORD has instructed. 32Whatever remains of the meat and bread you will burn. 33For seven days you must remain at the entrance to the meeting tent to complete your ordination. 34Everything we did today was according to the LORD’s orders. 35Stay here at the entrance seven days and nights in obedience to the LORD, or you will die. That is what the LORD commanded.”
36Aaron and his sons did everything just as the LORD commanded them through Moses.
1-5: The time has come to ordain Aaron and his sons as priests. The ritual that was explained in Exodus 29 is closely followed.
6-9: First, Moses washes Aaron and his sons, and then he clothes Aaron with the tunic, sash, robe, ephod, breastpiece, turban, and crown.
10-13: He anoints the tabernacle and everything in it with oil, and then anoints Aaron. Then he brings Aaron’s sons forward and dresses them.
14-17: A sin offering is made for them by Moses, following the prescribed procedure.
18-21: Then a burnt offering, a ram, is brought forward. Aaron and his sons place their hands on its head, and it is sacrificed according to God’s instructions.
22-29: The second ram is the offering of ordination. The blood of the ordination ram is placed on Aaron’s right ear, right thumb, and right big toe, then the sons get the same treatment (see Exodus 29:19-21). Aaron and his sons are then given a thigh from the sacrifices, and a grain cake, which they raise on high. The grain and meat are burned on the altar (see Exodus 29:22-25). The breast is given to Moses.
30: Aaron and his sons are consecrated with the anointing oil and the blood of the sacrifice.
31-36: Moses gives the remainder of the meat and bread to Aaron and his sons and tells them to eat it inside the enclosure. They cannot leave the tabernacle, he says, for 7 days, and the sacrifices are to be repeated each day.
The ritual for ordination into the priesthood was elaborate and specific and lifelong. In most Jewish and Christian denominations today, it still is a lifelong designation (although it can be forfeited because of sinful character). The slaughtering of animals has been replaced by other rituals, usually involving the “laying on of hands” by a bishop or other high religious official, and I know of no religious groups today that grant ordination by virtue of the candidate’s ancestry.
The significance of ordination in old Israel was that it involved putting a certain person between the people and God because nearness to the Almighty was a frightening thing. For Christians that onus is removed by Jesus’ death on the cross.