And Aaron and his sons you shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall wash them with water.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door . . . —The place of the laver, not yet mentioned, but designed in God’s counsels, was between the brazen altar and the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:18), and consequently near the door of the latter. Rabbinical tradition says that it was not placed exactly opposite the door, but a little towards the south side of the court.
And shalt wash them.—This is the first mention in Scripture of a religious ablution. Water is so natural a symbol of purity, and ablution so apt a representative of the purging from sin, that we can feel surprise neither at the widespread use of the symbolism in religions of very different characters, nor at its adoption into the system at this time imposed by Divine Providence upon the Hebrews. As it was to maintain its place even in the Divinely-appointed ceremonial of Christianity, it must have been à fortiori suitable for the earlier and less spiritual dispensation. The widespread employment of it in other religions—e.g., in Egypt (Herod. ii. 37); in Persia (Zendavesta, 8 p. 271. Spiegel’s translation); in Greece (Döllinger, Jew and Gentile, vol. i., p. 220); in Italy (Dict. of Greek and Rom. Antiq., p. 719), and elsewhere—was no argument against its adoption into the Mosaic ceremonial, since the Divine legislation of Sinai was not intended to annul or supersede natural religion, but only to improve and expand it.Exodus 29:4. Unto the door of the tabernacle — God was pleased to dwell in the tabernacle, the people attending in the courts, so that the door between the court and the tabernacle was the fittest place for them to be consecrated in who were to mediate between God and man, to stand between both, and, as it were, lay their hands on both. Thou shalt wash them with water — To signify that they must be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord, Psalm 50:16; Isaiah 52:11. Ablution was an ancient rite in all acts of worship, as a proper emblem of sanctifying grace, and internal purity, without which external oblations and services are of little signification before God. As this was the first thing that was done for hallowing the priests, (Leviticus 8.,) it is probable their whole bodies were now washed, in token of the necessity of their being washed from all their sins by pardon and regeneration, and thoroughly renewed in heart and life, that they might begin their services aright: but afterward they were appointed to wash only their hands and their feet before they entered the tabernacle, (Exodus 30:19, &c.,) to remind them of those daily imperfections from which even such as are regenerated and created anew have need to be cleansed by a daily application of pardoning mercy, through the blood of atonement. Thus the Lord Jesus, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.”Leviticus 8:3.
wash them with water. And … take the garments—The manner in which these parts of the ceremonial were performed is minutely described, and in discovering their symbolical import, which indeed, is sufficiently plain and obvious, we have inspired authority to guide us. It signified the necessity and importance of moral purity or holiness (Isa 52:11; Joh 13:10; 2Co 7:1; 1Pe 3:21). In like manner, the investiture with the holy garments signified their being clothed with righteousness (Re 19:8) and equipped as men active and well-prepared for the service of God; the anointing the high priest with oil denoted that he was to be filled with the influences of the Spirit, for the edification and delight of the church (Le 10:7; Ps 45:7; Isa 61:1; 1Jo 2:27), and as he was officially a type of Christ (Heb 7:26; Joh 3:34; also Mt 3:16; 11:29).Exodus 30:18. This signified the universal pollution of all men, and the absolute need they have of washing, especially when they are to draw nigh to God. And this outward washing was only typical of their spiritual washing by the blood and Spirit of Christ in order to their acceptance with God.
and shalt wash them with water; out of the laver after mentioned, which stood between the door of the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar: the Targum of Jonathan says, this washing was performed in forty seahs of living or spring water, which was sufficient for the immersion of the whole body, which it is highly probable was the case; and so Jarchi interprets it of the dipping of the whole body, and which seems to have been necessary, upon their entrance on their office, to denote their complete purity and holiness, though afterwards, when they entered on service, they only washed their hands and feet, see Exodus 30:18 to which our Lord seems to allude, John 13:10 this washing shows what purity and holiness were necessary to the priests of the Lord, and that they ought to be clean that bear the vessels of his house, or minister in his sanctuary, and which were in Christ in their full perfection; and such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, and undefiled, and so could offer himself without spot, and was a fit person to take away sin by sacrifice, and to be an advocate for his people: this may also point at his baptism, which he submitted to before he entered on his office in a public manner, and which was performed by immersion; and in this way ought all his priests, his saints, to be washed, as well as with the washing of regeneration, and with the blood of Christ; and which is necessary to their officiating as priests, or drawing nigh to God, and requisite to their communion with God and Christ.And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. Washing of Aaron and his ‘sons’ (i.e. the common priests, as distinguished from the high priest); cf. Leviticus 8:6. This washing extended to the entire person; and was different from the subsequent ordinary washings of the hands and feet before the daily ministrations (Exodus 30:19 f.).Verse 4. - The Ablution. Verse 4. - Unto the door of the tabernacle. The great laver was to be placed between the entrance to the tabernacle and the altar of burnt-offering (Exodus 30:18). It was to this probably that Aaron and his sons were to be brought. Its main purpose was to be a lustral vessel, placed ready for the various ablutions which the law required (ib, 19-21). Thou .... shalt wash them with water. Ablutions were an important part of the ceremonial of almost all ancient religions. In Egypt, the priests were compelled to wash themselves from head to foot in cold water twice every day, and twice every night (Herod. 2:37). In the religion of Zoroaster frequent washing with water was prescribed for many kinds of impurity (Zendavesta, 8. p. 271, et seq.). The Greeks were particularly addicted to ceremonies of which ablution formed a part; and it is to Rome that we are indebted both for the word and for the idea of "lustration." It is a true instinct which has taught men the analogy between physical and moral purity, and led them to typify the removal of spiritual, by the cleansing from physical, defilement. The religion given at Sinai set a stamp of approval in many points on what may be called "the religion of nature;" and among them on this. Ablutions were required of the priests, not only at consecration, but every time that they entered the tabernacle, or sacrificed on the altar of burnt-offering (Exodus 30:20). Washing was a main feature in the cleansing of leprosy (Leviticus 13:54, 58) and of the leper. (Leviticus 14:8). It was also employed for the purification of many minor defilements (Leviticus 11:25; Leviticus 15:5; Leviticus 17:15, etc.). At what date it first came into use in the admission of proselytes is uncertain. Whether the washing of consecration extended to the whole body, or was limited to the hands and feet, is also a point on which critics have disagreed, but one of no great importance. (See John 13:9, 10.) Leviticus 7:37), and so to sanctify them that they should be priests of Jehovah. For although the holiness of their office was reflected in their dress, it was necessary, on account of the sinfulness of their nature, that they should be sanctified through a special consecration for the administration of their office; and this consecration is prescribed in ch. 29 and carried out in Leviticus 8.
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