Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Shall consecrate themselves.—Our version has here followed the Masoretic emendation of the text; the literal translation of the text itself is, shall fill its hand, referring to the altar. To “fill the hand” is a synonym for consecration, commonly applied to the priests, who were consecrated by placing in their hands the gifts they were to offer to God. Here it is better to keep to the text as it stands, “filling the hand of the altar” being a strong figurative expression to denote that it shall always be supplied with sacrificial gifts. Nothing is said throughout the passage of the consecration of the priests, the whole family of Aaron having been consecrated once for all by the ceremonies of Leviticus 8.Leviticus 8:27. The priests are already consecrated, but the memory of their consecration was thus kept up at the dedication of the altar.
consecrate themselves—literally, "fill their hands," namely, with offerings; referring to the mode of consecrating a priest (Ex 29:24, 35).They, the priests in course,
shall purge the altar: the same with what is said of the priests; they and the altar were thus consecrated and dedicated unto God, to be his in peculiar manner. Ezekiel 43:20;
and they shall consecrate themselves: the priests shall consecrate themselves, or devote themselves to the service of the altar; so Gospel ministers to the ministry of a crucified Christ: or they themselves should consecrate the altar by the above rites: or rather it may be literally rendered,
and they shall fill its hands, or "their own hands" (b); that is, either they shall fill the sides of the altar with sacrifices, as much as it could hold; or the hands of the priests with parts of the sacrifice, or with gifts, as a token of their being inaugurated into, and invested with, the priestly office: so Gospel ministers should have their hands full of, or be filled with, the gifts and graces of the Spirit, and with the knowledge of Christ, his person, offices, grace, righteousness, and sacrifice, that they may minister unto others.Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)26. The ceremonial of consecrating the altar lasts seven days. On to “purge” cf. Ezekiel 43:20.
consecrate themselves] consecrate it, i.e. the altar, lit. fill its hand (or, hands). The phrase is properly said of the priests, to install; here of the altar, to inaugurate it. Originally the expression had probably a literal meaning, to put the things to be offered into the hands of the priests (Leviticus 8:25 seq.), but later it came to be used generally in the sense of initiate, consecrate (Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:9; Exodus 29:29; Exodus 29:33; Exodus 29:35; Leviticus 7:37; Numbers 3:3; Jdg 17:5; Jdg 17:12), cf. Exodus 32:29. Wellh. Hist. p. 152, argues that the priest’s hand was originally “filled” with money (Judges 17). The phrase “fill the hand” of one appears also in the general meaning “to invest with office” in Assyrian; Fd. Del. Heb. Lang. p. 20, Prolegomena, p. 48.
In all the above passage it is the altar not the priests that is consecrated. The consecration of the altar appears to carry with it that of the whole sanctuary. The altar needs atonement not because it is a work of human hands, but because it belongs to the things of the world. The sin of the world has defiled all things, penetrating even to the precincts of that where Jehovah abides as he is in himself (Hebrews 9:23). The passage can scarcely be compared with Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8 because there the ceremonies refer to the consecration of the priests chiefly and little to the altar. Cf. Exodus 29:36; Leviticus 8:11; Leviticus 8:15; Leviticus 8:33. In these passages the altar is said to have been anointed with oil, a ceremony wanting in Ezek.; the sin-offering was a young bullock each day and the burnt—offering simply a ram each day.Verse 26. - They shall purge the altar. Smend thinks it strange that only the purification of the altar should be mentioned here, while that of the sanctuary is referred to later (Ezekiel 45:18), and finds in this an explanation (at least, perhaps) of the fact that in Exodus 29:36 only the consecration of the Mosaic altar - not of the Mosaic tabernacle - is reported. He conceives it likely that the author of Exodus 29:36 copied Ezekiel, but does not explain why Ezekiel may not have copied the author of Exodus 29:36. And they shall consecrate themselves; more correctly, they - i.e. the priests - shall consecrate it; literally, fill its hand. The phrase, מִלֵּאיָד, "to fill one's hand," sc. with gifts, occurs with reference to Jehovah (Exodus 32:29; 1 Chronicles 29:5; 2 Chronicles 29:31). It is also employed in the sense of filling the hand of another, as e.g. of a priest, with sacrificial gifts, when he is instituted into his sacred office (Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:9; Leviticus 21:10; comp, Leviticus 8:27). Here the hand to be filled is that of the altar, which is personified for the purpose (compare the use of the terms "bosom" and "lip" in connection with the altar). The meaning is that the altar, at its consecration, should have a plentiful supply of gifts, to symbolize that the offering of such gifts was the work for which it was set apart, and that it should never be without them.
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