Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And it came to pass on the eighth day, that Moses called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel;IX.
(1) And it came to pass on the eighth day.—That is, the day following the seven days of consecration. (See Leviticus 8:33) According to ancient tradition this was the first of the month Nisan, or March.
Moses called Aaron and his sons, and the elders.—That is, the same elders, the representatives of the people, who were called to attest the imposing ceremony of consecration (see Leviticus 8:3), are now also summoned to witness how the newly-installed priests entered upon the active duties of their ministrations. Like newly-born children who remain seven days in a state of uncleanness and enter into the covenant privileges of the congregation on the eighth day (see Leviticus 12:2-3), so the newly-created priests after a purging of seven days commenced their sacred duties and partook of their privileges on this symbolical day.
And he said unto Aaron, Take thee a young calf for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the LORD.(2) A young calf for a sin offering.—Literally, a calf, the son of a bull, which, according to the canonical law, was a calf of the second year, whilst a steer, the son of a bull, rendered in the Authorised Version by “young bullock,” was defined to be three years old, or in its third year. (See Leviticus 4:3.) Before they could mediate for the forgiveness of the people, Aaron and his sons had first to bring a sin offering for themselves, in expiation probably for the feeling of pride which they might have fostered at having been so highly distinguished and chosen to be the mediators of the people. This sin offering, however, showed him that, though a high priest, he was beset with the same infirmities, and stood in need of the same atonement, as the people whom he represented. As this is the only instance in which a calf is appointed for a sin offering, and as the offerer who is ordered to bring this exceptional sacrifice is Aaron, Jewish tradition will have it that it was designed to refer to the sin of the golden calf which he made for the people. (Exodus 32:4-6.) So old and universal is this interpretation, that it is expressed in the ancient Chaldee Version of the Pentateuch. This sense seems to derive support from Leviticus 9:7.
And unto the children of Israel thou shalt speak, saying, Take ye a kid of the goats for a sin offering; and a calf and a lamb, both of the first year, without blemish, for a burnt offering;(3) And unto the children of Israel thou shalt speak.—That is, Aaron, who was now constituted high priest, was to give the orders about the sacrifices It will be seen that the elders of the people whom Moses summoned in Leviticus 9:1 to witness in behalf of the people the first ministrations of the priests, are here called “the children of Israel,” thus showing that the representatives acted for the people. Hence the two terms are interchanged (see Leviticus 8:2), which accounts for the fact that the Greek Version (LXX.) renders it here by “elders.”
A kid of the goats . . . and a calf.—Better, a shaggy-haired he-goat. (See Leviticus 4:23, &c.)
Also a bullock and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD; and a meat offering mingled with oil: for to day the LORD will appear unto you.(4) Also a bullock and a ram.—The elders were thus to bring on behalf of the people, (1) a he-goat for a sin offering; (2) a yearling calf and a yearling sheep for a burnt offering; and (3) an ox and a ram for a peace offering.
A meat offering mingled with oil.—The oil was to be added, as, with the exception of the small portion offered to the Lord, the meat offering was the perquisite of the officiating priests who partook of it, together with their share of the victims, and the cakes had to be made palatable for the sacerdotal repast. (See Leviticus 2:1.)
For to-day the Lord will appear unto you.—That is, prepare and sanctify yourselves with these sacrifices, for the Lord is to manifest himself in an especial manner to signify his approval of the inauguration of Aaron and his family to the priesthood.
And they brought that which Moses commanded before the tabernacle of the congregation: and all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD.(5) And they brought.—That is, Aaron and his sons, according to the command of Moses, and the elders on behalf of the people, and according to the order of Aaron, who was directed by Moses so to do, brought the aforenamed sacrifices.
And all the congregation . . . —That is, the elders who represented the people, whom Moses summoned (see Leviticus 9:1), and as many of the people as could find room assembled before the sanctuary in the court-yard to witness the newly-installed priests officiating for the first time.
And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commanded that ye should do: and the glory of the LORD shall appear unto you.(6) And Moses said.—As the people now stood assembled in the court and around it, Moses explained to them the import of the ritual which they were about to witness in the presence of the Lord.
And Moses said unto Aaron, Go unto the altar, and offer thy sin offering, and thy burnt offering, and make an atonement for thyself, and for the people: and offer the offering of the people, and make an atonement for them; as the LORD commanded.(7) And Moses said unto Aaron.—Though he was now the duly-installed high priest, yet he did not approach the altar till he was solemnly called upon by Moses to do it, thereby showing the authorised representatives of the people that Aaron did not take this honour to himself, but that it was the call of God by Moses. Hence, the remark of the Apostle, “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron; so also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest, but he that said. unto him,” &c. (Hebrews 5:4-5.)
Make atonement for thyself and the people.—The fact that these sacrifices which the high priest is to bring are here described as designed to make atonement for himself and the people, goes far to confirm the ancient interpretation that reference is here made to the particular sin which Aaron and the people committed in common, and that it is the sin of the golden calf (see Leviticus 9:2), which is so emphatically described in the words “they made the calf which Aaron made” (Exodus 32:35). Hence, whilst their share of the sin is to be atoned by a special sacrifice (see Leviticus 9:15), they are yet to participate in the atoning virtue of Aaron’s sacrifice because they prevailed on him to make the calf (Exodus 32:1).
Aaron therefore went unto the altar, and slew the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself.(8) And slew the calf.—As the sacrificer Aaron, like every ordinary offerer, slaughtered the victim himself (see Leviticus 1:5) on the north side of the altar. (See Leviticus 1:11.)
And the sons of Aaron brought 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 bottom of the altar:(9) And the sons of Aaron brought the blood.—His sons, for whom the sacrifice was offered as well as for himself, and who assisted at the ritual, after catching the blood in a bowl (see Leviticus 1:5), brought it to Aaron, who stood at the altar waiting to receive it. Unlike the ordinary law of the sin offering for the high priest and for the people, the blood of which was taken into the tabernacle (see Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:16-18), Aaron on this occasion simply put some of it upon the four horns of the brazen altar as Moses had done in the sin offering of consecration (see Leviticus 8:15), for, though high priest, he had not as yet access to the holy place of the sanctuary till he had qualified himself by this sacrifice in the court-yard.
But the fat, and the kidneys, and the caul above the liver of the sin offering, he burnt upon the altar; as the LORD commanded Moses.(10) But the fat . . . he burnt upon the altar.—The fat portions of this sin offering Aaron was still to burn upon the altar as Moses had done before (see Leviticus 8:14; Leviticus 8:21; Leviticus 8:28), since the miraculous fire from God did not issue forth till the burnt offering of the people was offered. (See Leviticus 9:24)
And the flesh and the hide he burnt with fire without the camp.(11) And the flesh and the hide he burnt.—The flesh and the hide, which, were ordinarily the perquisite of the officiating priest (see Leviticus 6:26), were on this occasion to be burnt, because the priest was not permitted to partake of the sin offering which he offered for himself. (See Leviticus 4:35.)
And he slew the burnt offering; and Aaron's sons presented unto him the blood, which he sprinkled round about upon the altar.(12) And he slew the burnt offering.—As was the order of the sacrifices which Moses brought (see Leviticus 8:18-21), so here the sin offering is followed by the burnt offering. The ram (see Leviticus 9:2) which constituted this sacrifice Aaron slew at the north side of the altar (see Leviticus 1:11), and after the blood had been received into the bowl by his sons who assisted him, and had been handed to him, Aaron sprinkled it around the altar in the same manner as Moses had done before. (See Leviticus 8:19.)
And they presented the burnt offering unto him, with the pieces thereof, and the head: and he burnt them upon the altar.(13) With the pieces thereof.—Literally, according to its pieces, or piece by piece, that is, after it had been cut up into the pieces as ordered in Leviticus 1:6, and as the burnt-offering offered by Moses was cut up (see Leviticus 8:20), his sons handed the dismembered victim to him piece by piece. The process of cutting up is not mentioned, because it is implied in the fact that the ritual on this occasion was exactly the same as in the offerings made by Moses.
And he did wash the inwards and the legs, and burnt them upon the burnt offering on the altar.(14) And burnt them upon the burnt offering.—That is, no special fire is to be kindled for it, but this burnt offering is to be put upon the top of the burning sin offering. (See Leviticus 4:35.)
And he brought the people's offering, and took the goat, which was the sin offering for the people, and slew it, and offered it for sin, as the first.(15) And he brought the people’s offering.—Being reconciled to God by the atoning sacrifice which he offered for his own share in the sin, Aaron was now qualified to offer the sin offering of the people.
As the first.—The ritual in this sacrifice Aaron conducted in the same manner as in the foregoing one offered for himself. (See Leviticus 9:8.) He accordingly burnt the flesh without the camp, for which he was reproved by Moses.
And he brought the burnt offering, and offered it according to the manner.(16) And he brought the burnt offering.—That is, the yearling calf and the lamb (see Leviticus 9:3), which he offered according to the rites prescribed in Leviticus 1:3, &c. The same expression “manner,” in the sense of prescribed ritual, also occurs in Leviticus 5:10, where, like here, it is rendered in the Margin by “ordinance.”
And he brought the meat offering, and took an handful thereof, and burnt it upon the altar, beside the burnt sacrifice of the morning.(17) And he brought the meat offering.—This Aaron offered according to the rule in Leviticus 2:1-3.
Beside the burnt sacrifice of the morning.—That is, in addition to the lamb which was daily offered as a burnt sacrifice, and was accompanied by a meat offering (Exodus 29:30; Exodus 29:40). Accordingly Aaron began his priestly functions by first offering the daily morning sacrifice which took precedence of all other sacrifices, and which was never superseded by the extra offerings: then followed the other sacrifices here described.
He slew also the bullock and the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings, which was for the people: and Aaron's sons presented unto him the blood, which he sprinkled upon the altar round about,(18-21) He slew also the bullock.—Better, and he slew, &c. With this peace offering, which was carried out according to the rules prescribed in Leviticus 3:1, &c, concluded the sacrificial ceremony of the installation of the priesthood and the sanctification of the people.
And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings.(22) And Aaron lifted up his hand.—Having now completed the rites of the various sacrifices, and whilst still standing on the elevation leading to the altar, Aaron with uplifted hands solemnly pronounces upon the assembled people the priestly benediction prescribed in Numbers 6:24-26. As the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bless the people in His name (Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 21:5), the descendants of Aaron to this day pronounce this benediction upon the congregation in the synagogue at certain periods of the year. In accordance with the remark in the passage before us, they are obliged to turn their faces to the people. In lifting up their hands above their shoulders, stretching them forward towards the worshippers, each priest joins his hands together by the thumbs and the two forefingers, separating the other two fingers so as to produce a triple division. (See Numbers 6:24, &c.)
And came down from offering.—That is, from the elevated standing-place by the side of the altar, which was ascended by a gently sloping dam of earth, since no steps were allowed (see Exodus 20:3), and which during the second Temple was three cubits high.
And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people.(23) Went into the tabernacle of the congregation.—Better, went into the tent of meeting. The sacrifices being ended, there still remained the burning of the incense on the golden altar which stood in the tabernacle. Hence Aaron, conducted by Moses, left the court where the altar of burnt offering stood, and where the sacrifices had been offered, and went into the holy place where the altar of incense stood to perform this last act of the ritual. (See Exodus 30:7, &c.) Having already delivered to Aaron the charge of all the things connected with the sacrifices in the court, Moses now also committed to him the care of the things within the sanctuary, showing him, at the same time, how to offer the incense, how to arrange the shewbread on the table, how to light and trim the lamps of the candlestick, &c., all of which were in the sanctuary. There can, however, hardly be any doubt that whilst there they prayed, as tradition informs us, for the promised manifestation of the Divine presence.
And came out, and blessed the people.—According to an ancient tradition embodied in the Chaldee Version of the Pentateuch, the blessing which Moses and Aaron unitedly bestowed upon the people on coming out of the sanctuary, was as follows :—“May the word of the Lord accept your sacrifice with favour, and remit and pardon your sins.”
And the glory of the Lord appeared.—To show his gracious acceptance of the institution of the priesthood, and of the whole service connected therewith, God manifested himself in the more luminous appearance of the cloudy pillar. This glorious appearance which, in a lesser degree, always filled the tabernacle, was now visible in greater effulgence to all the people who witnessed the installation. (Comp. Exodus 16:10; Exodus 40:34; 1Kings 8:10-12.)
And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.(24) And there came a fire.—As a further indication of His acceptance of all the forementioned rites, the Lord sent forth from the luminous cloud flashes of fire, which, on this occasion, suddenly consumed in the sight of the people the victims that ordinarily continued smouldering on the altar all the day and all the night. In this manner God afterwards testified His acceptance of the sacrifice of Gideon (Judges 6:20-21), of Elijah, (1Kings 18:28), and of the sacrifices of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple (2Chronicles 7:1-2). Tradition assures us that the sacred fire which thus issued forth from the immediate presence of God continued to be nourished on the altar with the fuel especially provided by the congregation, and constituted the perpetual fire. (See Leviticus 6:13.)
They shouted, and fell on their faces.—On seeing these visible tokens of the Divine acceptance of the services, the people expressed their thankfulness in the same manner as they showed it on a similar occasion. Thus we are told—“When all the sons of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord shone upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever” (2Chronicles 27:3).