Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentLEVITICUS 9
These two short chapters (Lev. 9 and Lev. 10) treated here, conclude the section on the consecration of the priesthood. After the events of Lev. 9, Moses will no longer be the sole mediator between God and the Jews, for that distinction will thenceforth rest upon Aaron, who in this chapter will offer all of the various types of sacrifices, except that of the trespass-offering, and will be ushered by Moses himself into the Holy Place, whence he emerges to bless the people and begin his service as High Priest. Lev. 10 deals with the tragic death of Nadab and Abihu, who were slain by the Lord for presumptuous sin, this horrifying event marring the otherwise festive occasion of the inauguration of Aaron. With the exception of the detailed instructions regarding the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement, these chapters conclude the Biblical instructions concerning sacrifices. Also, scattered here and there, there will continue to be citations regarding specific situations and sacrifices.
The institution of animal sacrifices as related to the sinful condition of humanity, and to human efforts to appease the wrath of God, did not occur at the time of the events in Leviticus. Sacrifice evidently began within the shadow of the gates of Eden and had been extensively known and practiced throughout the ancient world from times immemorial. However, in the practice of those nations which forgot God and walked in the light of their own foolish imaginations, the institution of sacrifice had degenerated by a total deviation from its intended purpose. "In the ancient world, sacrifice was usually regarded as something that the gods needed; in Israel it came to be seen as something MAN needed,"F1 as a means of showing his contrition for sin, and of establishing and maintaining his fellowship with the Creator.
The foolish notion that the record here was contrived and falsely added to the Sacred Books by priests AFTER the exile, or some other period AFTER the monarchy, is completely refuted by the inclusion here of the deaths of Aaron's two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu. Such an intrusion into the Sacred Record could not possibly have served any conceivable priestly purpose! It is a manifest certainty that the record goes back to an historical event, a tragic happening, "that brought home to the children of Israel the majesty of God, the awfulness of His worship, and His demand for unconditional obedience."F2
And it came to pass on the eighth day, that Moses called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel; and he said unto Aaron, Take thee a calf of the herd for a sin-offering, and a ram for a burnt-offering, without blemish, and offer them before Jehovah. And unto the children of Israel thou shalt speak, saying, Take ye a he-goat for a sin-offering; and a calf and a lamb, both a year old, without blemish, for a burnt-offering; and an ox and a ram for peace-offerings, to sacrifice before Jehovah; and a meal-offering mingled with oil: for to-day Jehovah appeareth unto you. And they brought that which Moses commanded before the tent of meeting: and all the congregation drew near and stood before Jehovah. And Moses said, This is the thing which Jehovah commanded that ye should do: and the glory of Jehovah shall appear unto you. And Moses said unto Aaron, Draw near unto the altar, and offer thy sin-offering, and thy burnt-offering, and make atonement for thyself, and for the people; and offer the oblation of the people, and make atonement for them; as Jehovah commanded.
And Moses called. the elders of the people ..
These are called all the congregation in Lev. 9:5, indicating that all the congregation of Israel ordinarily meant merely the assembly of its princes, tribal leaders, and elders. All of the quibbling about its being impossible for the whole 2,000,000 people of Israel to assemble before the tent of meeting disappears in the light of what was really meant by such assemblies of all the congregation.
On the eighth day
We believe that Clements is correct in identifying this with Exo. 40:27, where we learn that the tabernacle was erected `in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month.' The intervening seven days were occupied with the consecration of the Aaronic priests who were to care for the new sanctuary.F3 This identification ties Leviticus and Exodus together as a continuous narrative.
All of the instructions for these various sacrifices were already given in the previous chapters of Leviticus; and Aaron, in the principal part (with some minor variations), offered all of these sacrifices during this day of his ordination, with the sole exception of the trespass-offering, the omission of that one being due to the fact that no specific sin requiring it had been committed. "It is not the QUANTITY of these sacrifices, but the VARIETY of them"F4 which marks the narrative here. Not only did Aaron offer practically every kind of sacrifice, but he also offered practically all of the various animals usually utilized for sacrifices.
A young calf
(Leviticus 9:2). This is a variation. The usual sin-offering for the High Priest was a bull, not a young calf (Leviticus 4:3), the difference here being that, Aaron's full dignity had not yet devolved upon him.F5 That full dignity would fall upon Aaron after he was ushered into the Holy Place by Moses (Lev. 23).
So Aaron drew near unto the altar, and slew the calf of the sin-offering, which was for himself. And the sons of Aaron presented the blood unto him; and he dipped his finger in the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar, and poured out the blood at the base of the altar: but the fat, and the kidneys, and the caul from the liver of the sin-offering, he burnt upon the altar; as Jehovah commanded Moses. And the flesh and the skin he burnt with fire without the camp.
Aaron here followed the directions laid down in Lev. 1--7 regarding sin-offerings, observing the restrictions that priests could not eat the flesh of their own sin-offerings, hence the burning of the flesh and the skin without (outside) the camp. The skin also, in usual instances, would have belonged to the officiating priest.
Note that all four of Aaron's sons were assistants and witnesses of this solemn ordination of the high priest. Christ was also assisted by the four witnesses of the Christian Gospel -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- but even as was to be the case here, the four witnesses fall into groups of two each -- Matthew and John were apostles; Luke and Mark were not apostles.
And he slew the burnt-offering; and Aaron's sons delivered unto him the blood, and he sprinkled it upon the altar round about. And they delivered the burnt-offering unto him, piece by piece, and the head: and he burnt them upon the altar. And he washed the inwards and the legs, and burnt them upon the burnt-offering on the altar.
Some have supposed that the coming of the "fire from God" in Lev. 9:24 which "consumed the burnt-offering" contradicts the statements here that Aaron burnt these offerings upon the altar. The explanation is that the altar fire, which was not permitted to go out, was kept smoldering at all times. Thus, when Aaron "burned" these offerings, he merely placed them in a position where they would continue to be burned and eventually consumed. The fire of Lev. 9:24 instantly consumed the entire offerings.
And he presented the people's oblation, and took the goat of the sin-offering which was for the people, and slew it, and offered it for sin, as the first. And he presented the burnt-offering, and offered it according to the ordinance. And he presented the meal-offering, and filled his hand therefrom, and burnt it upon the altar, besides the burnt-offering of the morning.
The burnt-offering of the morning
is a reference to the morning and evening sacrifices which were offered daily, that offering, no doubt, having been rather thoroughly burned up in the time of the ceremony recorded here.
There is some peculiar terminology in Lev. 9:15, where, according to many scholars, a stricter rendition of the Hebrew gives us: "He sinned it, or made it to be sin!"F6 This strongly suggests the words of 2 Cor. 5:21, where it is declared that God made Christ "to be sin" upon our behalf. This also indicates the TYPICAL nature of all of those burnt sacrifices. They were representative of the eventual atonement for sin that would be provided in the death of Christ.
He slew also the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which was for the people: and Aaron's sons delivered unto him the blood, which he sprinkled upon the altar round about, and the fat of the ox and of the ram, the fat tail, and that which covereth [the inwards], and the kidneys, and the caul of the liver: and they put the fat upon the breasts, and he burnt the fat upon the altar: and the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave-offering before Jehovah; as Moses commanded.
All of the various sacrifices here recorded constituted somewhat of a summary of all the various oblations covered by the instructions in Lev. 1--7. The significance seems to be that Aaron presided over the offering of each of them, the sole exception being, noted above, the trespass-offering.
As Moses commanded
indicates that Aaron followed all of the divine instructions carefully.
And Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people, and blessed them; and he came down from offering the sin-offering, and the burnt-offering, and the peace-offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of Jehovah appeared unto all the people. And there came forth fire from before Jehovah, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and the fat: and when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces.
Aaron. blessed them ..
(Leviticus 9:22). Most commentators mention the famous Aaronic blessing of Num. 6:22ff in connection with this, and such a proposition seems reasonable enough, despite the fact of the blessing's not being given in detail just here. Certainly, the passage in the Book of Numbers does identify the blessing there as with Aaron:
"And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel: ye shall say to them,
Jehovah bless thee and keep thee:
Jehovah make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
Jehovah lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."
-- Num. 6:22-26
And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting
This was a very significant event. The tent of meeting here means the Holy of Holies, where were located the candlestick, the altar of sweet incense, the table of showbread, etc. It seems to be here (Leviticus 9:23) that Moses formally placed Aaron in charge of everything pertaining to the tabernacle, thus investing him with the full dignity as High Priest of Israel. There is no indication whatever of how long this entry into the Holy Place lasted. For Moses, it was his last time to enter, and for Aaron his first time to enter.
And Moses and Aaron. blessed the people ..
(Leviticus 9:23). This was in addition to the blessing already given by Aaron, and it emphasized the harmony between them.F7
The glory of Jehovah appeared unto all the people
This was surely something like the divine glory that appeared unto Israel in the ratification of the Covenant. It may have been something resembling the holy manifestations of God's presence as seen in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night which accompanied them in their wilderness journeys. No description of it is given in the Bible.
And there came forth fire from before Jehovah
The words from before Jehovah here seem to indicate that the fire emanated from the Holy of Holies which enshrined the presence of God, but this is not absolutely certain, since the Bible does not say.
Consumed the offering
that is, consumed instantly all of the offering that yet remained unburned upon the bronze altar of sacrifice. Keil appears to be correct in the observation that:
"The miracle recorded in this verse (Leviticus 9:24) did not consist in the fact that the sacrificial victims placed upon the altar were burned by fire which proceeded from Jehovah, but in the fact that the sacrifices, which were already on fire, were SUDDENLY consumed by it."F8
Goldberg compared the supernatural events here with those that attended special occasions in the life of Christ.F9 There was the voice from heaven at his baptism (Matt. 3). And, there were the six Calvary miracles that attended the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ (Matt. 27). It was necessary that all Israel should understand and appreciate the awesome authority and glory of the office of the High Priest, and this "answer by fire" served perfectly to impress this. The people shouted for joy, but they also fell upon their faces.
God's "answering by fire" (Leviticus 9:24) suggests other occasions when something similar occurred:
(1) When the birth of Samson was announced to Manoah and his wife (Judg. 13:15ff);
(2) when Solomon dedicated the temple (2 Chr. 7:1ff); and
(3) when Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:38ff).
As Wenham noted, "Each time, confronted with the awe-inspiring reality of God, the worshippers fell to the ground and praised God."F10
The fire on that altar, after this marvelous occasion, "was always kept alive until the reign of Manasseh, when it became extinguished."F11
Up to this point, that glorious day had been nothing but an unending succession of joyful and happy events for the children of Israel. However, as is often the case with fallen humanity, the greatest joy is followed by the most poignant sorrow and humiliation, and so it proved to be here.
Footnotes for Leviticus 9
1: Ronald E. Clements, Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, Leviticus (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972), p. 29.
2: Nathaniel Micklem, Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 2 (New York: Abingdon Press, 1953), p. 52.
3: Ronald E. Clements, op. cit., p. 27.
4: Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), p. 149.
5: F. Meyrick, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 2, Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 138.
6: Joseph A. Seiss, Gospel in Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, Reprint, 1981), p. 162.
7: F. Meyrick, op. cit., p. 138.
8: C. F. Keil, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 1, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 349.
9: Louis Goldberg, Bible Study Commentary on Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), p. 57.
10: Gordon J. Wenham, op. cit., p. 150.
11: F. Meyrick, op. cit., p. 138.