Exodus 29:37
Seven days thou shalt make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it; and it shall be an altar most holy: whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy.
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(37) An altar most holy.—Heb., an altar, holiness of holinesses.

Whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy.—Rather, must be holy; nothing which is not holy must touch it. The future has the force of an imperative, as in the Ten Commandments.

29:1-37 Aaron and his sons were to be set apart for the priest's office, with ceremony and solemnity. Our Lord Jesus is the great High Priest of our profession, called of God to be so; anointed with the Spirit, whence he is called Messiah, the Christ; clothed with glory and beauty; sanctified by his own blood; made perfect, or consecrated through sufferings, Heb 2:10. All believers are spiritual priests, to offer spiritual sacrifices,A stranger - One of another family, i. e. in this case, one not of the family of Aaron. Ex 29:36, 37. Consecration of the Altar.

36. and thou shalt cleanse the altar—The phrase, "when thou hast made an atonement for it," should be, upon it; and the purport of the direction is, that during all the time they were engaged as above from day to day in offering the appointed sacrifices, the greatest care was to be taken to keep the altar properly cleansed—to remove the ashes, and sprinkle it with the prescribed unction that, at the conclusion of the whole ceremonial, the altar itself should be consecrated as much as the ministers who were to officiate at it (Mt 23:19). It was thenceforth associated with the services of religion.

It shall be an altar most holy, as appears from the following reason, because it was not only holy in itself, but by its touch communicated a legal holiness to other things.

Whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy: this may be understood either,

1. Of persons, as a caution that none should touch the altar but holy and consecrated persons. Or rather,

2. Of things, yet not of all things, for polluted things were not made holy by the touch of holy things, which is affirmed, Haggai 2:12; but of things belonging to the altar Of offerings, which by God’s appointment were to be offered, which were sanctified by being laid upon this altar, and therefore the altar was greater and more holy than the gift, as our blessed Saviour notes, Matthew 23:19.

Seven days thou shalt make atonement for the altar, and sanctify it,.... That it might be thoroughly fit to have sacrifices offered on it:

and it shall be an altar most holy; as Christ is, and is called the Most Holy, and said to be anointed, Daniel 9:24. He is holy in his person, nature, and offices, more holy than angels or men; as holy as the Lord God, the God of Israel, his Father, who is glorious in holiness, and none like to him for it:

whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy; that is, whatsoever gift or sacrifice, according to law, was offered on it, whatever appertained unto it, or were suitable for it; for as for other things, they were not made holy by a touch of it, Haggai 2:11. The Targum of Jonathan refers it to persons, paraphrasing the words, that such should be holy who were"of the sons of Aaron, but of the rest of the people it was not lawful for them to draw nigh, lest they should be burnt with flaming fire that comes out of the holy things;''but our Lord applies it to gifts and offerings of the altar, for to this case he seems to have respect, Matthew 23:19 for he is the altar that sanctifies not only the persons, but the services of his people, and their sacrifices of prayer and praise come up with acceptance to God from off this altar; though even the best duties and services of theirs need atonement and purification by the sacrifice and blood of Christ.

Seven days thou shalt make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it; and it shall be an altar most holy: whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy.
37. most holy] a technical term of the priestly phraseology, applied to many different things brought specially near to God, e.g. to the altar of burnt-offering, here and Exodus 40:10; to the altar of incense, Exodus 30:10; to the Tent of Meeting and vessels belonging to it, Exodus 30:26-29; to the meal-offering, Leviticus 2:3, &c. (see a complete list in Daniel in the Camb. Bible, p. 137; also in Di.’s note on Leviticus 21:22, where its distinction from holy is explained).

shall become holy] i.e. become sacred to Jehovah, implying that, if it be a thing (‘whatsoever’), it will be forfeited to the sanctuary (cf. Numbers 16:37-38, where the censers which had rashly been made ‘holy,’ are retained in the service of the sanctuary, and made into beaten plates for the altar; Deuteronomy 22:9, Leviticus 27:10, Joshua 6:19 a, compared with 19b), and, if it be a person (‘whosoever,’ the more prob. rendering), not already properly consecrated, and so able to touch sacred things with impunity, that he is given over to the Deity to be dealt with by Him as He pleases. So Exodus 30:29, Leviticus 6:18 b, Leviticus 6:27; cf. Ezekiel 46:20 b, where ‘sanctify’ is to be similarly explained. We have here, as in the passages quoted, a survival of primitive ideas of ‘holiness.’ Holiness, i.e. consecration to a deity, is a contagious quality: thus the altar or the incense is holy, and whatever touches it becomes holy. What is holy must further be kept from profane use, and not touched, without due precaution, or by unfit persons; a person touching it in heedlessness or curiosity becomes thereby ‘holy’ himself, and may be dealt with by he Deity as He pleases, even to the extent of having to pay for his imprudence with his life: cf. 2 Samuel 6:6 f.; Numbers 4:15; Numbers 4:20; Numbers 16:37 end, 38a [read as RVm.]. See Dr Gray’s luminous note, Numbers, pp. 209–211, with the passages cited by him from Frazer’s Golden Bough, e.g. i. 321 (ed. 2), ‘In New Zealand the dread of the sanctity of chiefs was at least as great as in Tonga. Their ghostly power, derived from an ancestral spirit or atua, diffused itself by contagion over everything they touched, and could strike dead all who rashly or unwittingly meddled with it’; Rel. Sem. pp. 142 f., 427 ff. (ed. 2, pp. 152 f., 446 ff.); DB. iv. 826 f.

Verse 37. - Seven days shalt thou make an atonement. All the ceremonial was to be repeated seven times, not only the atonement for the altar (Leviticus 8:33). An altar most holy. Literally, "holiness of holinesses," as in Exodus 40:10. Whatever toucheth the altar shall be holy. Rather, "must be holy." Nothing that is not holy must touch it (Kalisch).

CHAPTER 29:38-42 Exodus 29:37Consecration of Aaron and his Sons through the anointing of their persons and the offering of sacrifices, the directions for which form the subject of vv. 1-35. This can only be fully understood in connection with the sacrificial law contained in Leviticus 1-7. It will be more advisable therefore to defer the examination of this ceremony till we come to Leviticus 8, where the consecration itself is described. The same may also be said of the expiation and anointing of the altar, which are commanded in Exodus 29:36 and Exodus 29:37, and carried out in Leviticus 8:11.
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