Leviticus 8

Notes (NET Translation)

Chapters 8-10 narrate the fulfillment of the instructions Moses received in Ex. 29 for the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests [1]. The intervening chapters describe the construction of the Tabernacle and the sacrifical procedures.

1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses:

Until the ordination ceremony was complete, Moses acted as priest/officiant.

2 “Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, the anointing oil, the sin offering bull, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread, 3 and assemble the whole congregation at the entrance of the Meeting Tent.”

That the ordination was done in public meant the whole congregation could acknowledge that God had chosen Aaron and his descendants to serve as priests. Yet it should be noted that the word eda (“congregation”) could refer to: (1) the entire nation, including women and children; (2) the adult males; or (3) the tribal leaders [2].

The designation petah ohel moed, “at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting,” should not be taken literally. The actual place of assembly of the people was in the outer section of the courtyard, not directly in front of the Tent. According to accepted procedures, it was forbidden for any except priests to advance beyond the altar of burnt offerings, which stood in the courtyard about halfway between the outer gate and the entrance to the Tent proper. There were gradations of sanctity, as one moved from the interior of the Tent toward the outer gate of the Tabernacle complex. The outer section of the courtyard was reserved for activities preparatory to sacrifice and for the assembly of the people, which undoubtedly overflowed beyond the outer gate. [3]

4 So Moses did just as the Lord commanded him, and the congregation assembled at the entrance of the Meeting Tent.

Throughout chapters 8 and 9 we are told that Moses and the Israelites did just as God commanded. Israelite modes of worship are attributed to divine commands, not custom or convention.

5 Then Moses said to the congregation: “This is what the Lord has commanded to be done.”

6 So Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water.

The Hebrew uses the same language as is used in the bringing forward of an offering [4]. Aaron and his sons will be sanctified for service at the altar. Normally, the priests had to wash themselves whenever they went on duty in the tabernacle [5]. The Hebrew points to full immersion in water occurring in this case [6].

7 Then he put the tunic on Aaron, wrapped the sash around him, and clothed him with the robe. Next he put the ephod on him and placed on him the decorated band of the ephod, and fastened the ephod closely to him with the band.

8 He then set the breastpiece on him and put the Urim and Thummim into the breastpiece.

9 Finally, he set the turban on his head and attached the gold plate, the holy diadem, to the front of the turban just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

10 Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, and so consecrated them.

In this verse the term tabernacle (hammiskan) refers to the inner curtains of the Tent, not the entire Tabernacle complex [7].

11 Next he sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times and so anointed the altar, all its vessels, and the wash basin and its stand to consecrate them.

12 He then poured some of the anointing oil on the head of Aaron and anointed him to consecrate him.

Aaron became like a sacred vessel, such as the tabernacle and the altar. The annointing of Aaron’s sons is not mentioned in Ex. 29:7-9; Lev. 6:13(20); 8:12 but is mentioned in Ex. 28:41; 30:30; 40:15; Lev. 7:36; 10:7; Num. 3:3.

13 Moses also brought forward Aaron’s sons, clothed them with tunics, wrapped sashes around them, and wrapped headbands on them just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

14 Then he brought near the sin offering bull and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the sin offering bull, 15 and he slaughtered it. Moses then took the blood and put it all around on the horns of the altar with his finger and decontaminated the altar, and he poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar and so consecrated it to make atonement on it.

This is the same kind of animal as was to be offered when the high priest sinned inadvertently according to Lev. 4:3-12.

16 Then he took all the fat on the entrails, the protruding lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys and their fat, and Moses offered it all up in smoke on the altar, 17 but the rest of the bull – its hide, its flesh, and its dung – he completely burned up outside the camp just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

18 Then he presented the burnt offering ram and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram, 19 and he slaughtered it. Moses then splashed the blood against the altar’s sides.

The burnt offering is described in chapter 1.

20 Then he cut the ram into parts, and Moses offered the head, the parts, and the suet up in smoke, 21 but the entrails and the legs he washed with water, and Moses offered the whole ram up in smoke on the altar – it was a burnt offering for a soothing aroma, a gift to the Lord, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

22 Then he presented the second ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram 23 and he slaughtered it. Moses then took some of its blood and put it on Aaron’s right earlobe, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot.

The dabbing with sacrifical blood is a rite of purification.

By covering Aaron’s extremities with blood, Moses consecrates him totally to Yahweh. His ear is dedicated to receive Yahweh’s instructions while his hands and feet are committed to carrying them out. The right side is chosen as the side of honor. Furthermore, Noth comments that “the application of the blood was intended to make a specially close connection between the priests and the altar against which the rest of the blood was thrown, and so with God”. [8]

24 Next he brought Aaron’s sons forward, and Moses put some of the blood on their right earlobes, on their right thumbs, and on the big toes of their right feet, and Moses splashed the rest of the blood against the altar’s sides.

25 Then he took the fat (the fatty tail, all the fat on the entrails, the protruding lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys and their fat) and the right thigh, 26 and from the basket of unleavened bread that was before the Lord he took one unleavened loaf, one loaf of bread mixed with olive oil, and one wafer, and placed them on the fat parts and on the right thigh.

27 He then put all of them on the palms of Aaron and his sons, who waved them as a wave offering before the Lord.

In the well-being offering of 7:32-34 the breast and thigh were given to the priests. In the ordination offering God receives the right thigh while Moses receives the breast. “Perhaps this distribution of the priestly perquisites represents the idea that the ordination of Aaron is carried out jointly by God and Moses” [9].

28 Moses then took them from their palms and offered them up in smoke on the altar on top of the burnt offering – they were an ordination offering for a soothing aroma; it was a gift to the Lord.

29 Finally, Moses took the breast and waved it as a wave offering before the Lord from the ram of ordination. It was Moses’ share just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

30 Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar and sprinkled it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons’ garments with him. So he consecrated Aaron, his garments, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.

This rite raises several questions. Why does this sprinkling come at the end of the ritual whereas the instructions in Exod 29:21 locate the sprinkling as part of the earlier rite with the blood? Noordtzij suggests that the order in Exodus is logical, while that in Leviticus is historical. Another problem with this ritual is that this is the second sprinkling of Aaron with blood. But there is no requirement that there be only a single sprinkling of the high priest in the ordination ceremony. This second rite may have been a final, climactic gesture, emphasizing the bond between the priests who serve at the altar and God. Another question is whether the oil and blood were mixed together or sprinkled in succession. The latter view appears to be more likely given the separation of these two elements throughout the ritual description. [10]

31 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the meat at the entrance of the Meeting Tent, and there you are to eat it and the bread which is in the ordination offering basket, just as I have commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons are to eat it,’ 32 but the remainder of the meat and the bread you must burn with fire.

33 And you must not go out from the entrance of the Meeting Tent for seven days, until the day when your days of ordination are completed, because you must be ordained over a seven-day period.

Here again, the designation “entrance of the Tent” has to be understood in context. The priests were not inside the Tent but, rather, near its entrance, in the inner section of the Tabernacle courtyard. They were not to leave this sanctified area for seven days in order to avoid contact with anything or anyone impure. [11]

Ex. 29:35-37 suggests that the rites described in this chapter were performed each day over the seven-day period.

34 What has been done on this day the Lord has commanded to be done to make atonement for you.

35 You must reside at the entrance of the Meeting Tent day and night for seven days and keep the charge of the Lord so that you will not die, for this is what I have been commanded.”

The warning about death if God’s commands are not obeyed foreshadows the deaths of Nadab and Abihu in ch. 10.

36 So Aaron and his sons did all the things the Lord had commanded through Moses.

The obedience of Aaron and his sons indicates that the ordination was efficacious.


[1] Milgrom 1991, p. 545ff.

[2] Milgrom 1991, p. 498

[3] Levine 1989, p. 49

[4] Hartley 1992, p. 111

[5] Ex. 30:17ff.; Lev. 16:4

[6] Milgrom 1991, p. 501

[7] Milgrom 1991, p. 516

[8] Hartley 1998, p. 113-114

[9] Wenham 1979, loc. 1876-1877

[10] Hartley 1998, p. 114

[11] Levine 1989, p. 54


Hartley, John E. Leviticus. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1992.

Levine, Baruch A. Leviticus. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 1-16. New York: Doubleday, 1991.

Rooker, Mark, and Dennis R. Cole. Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Holman Reference, 2000.

Wenham, Gordon J. The Book of Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979.


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