Numbers 8:12
And the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bullocks: and you shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, to the LORD, to make an atonement for the Levites.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Numbers 8:12-15. Lay their hands — To signify that they were offered by them and for them. Set the Levites before Aaron and his sons — Give the Levites to them, or to their service. Unto the Lord — For to him they were first properly offered, and by him given to the priests in order to his service. The Levites shall go in — Into the court, where they were to wait upon the priests at the altar of burnt-offering; and, at present, into the tabernacle, to take it down and set it up.8:5-26 Here we have directions for the solemn ordination of the Levites. All Israel must know that they took not this honour to themselves, but were called of God to it; nor was it enough that they were distinguished from others. All who are employed for God, must be dedicated to him, according to the employment. Christians must be baptized, ministers must be ordained; we must first give ourselves unto the Lord, and then our services. The Levites must be cleansed. They must be clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Moses must sprinkle the water of purifying upon them. This signifies the application of the blood of Christ to our souls by faith, that we may be fit to serve the living God. God declares his acceptance of them. All who expect to share in the privileges of the tabernacle, must resolve to do the service of the tabernacle. As, on the one hand, none of God's creatures are his necessary servants, he needs not the service of any of them; so none are merely honorary servants, to do nothing. All whom God owns, he employs; angels themselves have their services.Offer ... offering - Compare the margin Aaron pointed to the Levites, and then waved his hands, indicating (compare Leviticus 7:30 note) that the offering was dedicated to God, and, again, by grant from Him, withdrawn for the use of the priests.11-13. And Aaron shall offer the Levites—Hebrew, "as a wave offering"; and it has been thought probable that the high priest, in bringing the Levites one by one to the altar, directed them to make some simple movements of their persons, analogous to what was done at the presentation of the wave offerings before the Lord. Thus were they first devoted as an offering to God, and by Him surrendered to the priests to be employed in His service. The consecration ceremonial was repeated in the case of every Levite who was taken (as was done at a later period) to assist the priests in the tabernacle and temple. (See on [66]2Ch 29:34). Upon the heads of the bullocks; to signify, that they were offered by them and for them. See Exodus 29:15,19 Le 1:4 3:2 4:4. And the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bullocks,.... Or "on the head" (s); on the head of everyone of them, as Aben Ezra, thereby, as it were, transferring their sins to them, for these were to make atonement for them, as the latter part of the verse shows; and this was a figure of the imputation of sin to Christ, and taught that doctrine, and led the faith of the offerers to the sin bearing and sin atoning Saviour:

and thou shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the Lord; that is, shall order to be offered; for not Moses, but Aaron, offered these offerings, as Aben Ezra observes, of which this is a proof, that Aaron is said to make the atonement for them, Numbers 8:21, for which purpose these sacrifices were offered, particularly the first; and the latter by way of thanksgiving for atonement made by the former: so it follows:

to make an atonement for the Levites; who could not be admitted to service until their sins were expiated; as no man is worthy to be employed in the work of God, but such for whom reconciliation for their sins is made by the blood and sacrifice of Christ, by which they are purged from dead works to serve the living God.

(s) "super caput", Tigurine version. Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius.

And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the LORD, to make an atonement for the Levites.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. For the sin-offering and burnt-offering see on Numbers 4:11.Verse 12. - Shall lay their hands upon the beads of the bullocks. In token that they constituted these victims the ritual representatives and embodiments, the one of their sin, to be consumed and done away as by fire, the other of their life and strength, to be wholly offered unto God and accepted as by fire. Consecration of the Levites for their service in the sanctuary. - The choice of the Levites for service in the sanctuary, in the place of the first-born of the people generally, has been already noticed in Numbers 3:5., and the duties binding upon them in Numbers 4:4. But before entering upon their duties they were to be consecrated to the work, and then formally handed over to the priests. This consecration is commanded in Numbers 8:7., and is not called קדּשׁ, like the consecration of the priests (Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 8:11), but טהר to cleanse. It consisted in sprinkling them with sin-water, shaving off the whole of the hair from their bodies, and washing their clothes, accompanied by a sacrificial ceremony, by which they were presented symbolically to the Lord as a sacrifice for His service. The first part of this ceremony had reference to outward purification, and represented cleansing from the defilement of sin; hence the performance of it is called התחטּא (to cleanse from sin) in Numbers 8:21. "Sprinkle sin-water upon them." The words are addressed to Moses, who had to officiate at the inauguration of the Levites, as he had already done at that of the priests. "Water of sin" is water having reference to sin, designed to remove it, just as the sacrifice offered for the expiation of sin is called חטּאת (sin) in Leviticus 4:14, etc.; whilst the "water of uncleanness" in Numbers 19:9, Numbers 19:13, signifies water by which uncleanness was removed or wiped away. The nature of this purifying water is not explained, and cannot be determined with any certainty. We find directions for preparing sprinkling water in a peculiar manner, for the purpose of cleansing persons who were cured of leprosy, in Leviticus 14:5., 50ff.; and also for cleansing both persons and houses that had been defiled by a corpse, in Numbers 19:9. Neither of these, however, was applicable to the cleansing of the Levites, as they were both of them composed of significant ingredients, which stood in the closest relation to the special cleansing to be effected by them, and had evidently no adaptation to the purification of the Levites. At the same time, the expression "sin-water" precludes our understanding it to mean simply clean water. So that nothing remains but to regard it as referring to the water in the laver of the sanctuary, which was provided for the purpose of cleansing the priests for the performance of their duties (Exodus 30:18.), and might therefore be regarded by virtue of this as cleansing from sin, and be called "sin-water" in consequence. "And they shall cause the razor to pass over their whole body," i.e., shave off all the hair upon their body, "and wash their clothes, and so cleanse themselves." תּער העביר is to be distinguished from גּלּח. The latter signifies to make balk or shave the hair entirely off, which was required of the leper when he was cleansed (Leviticus 14:8-9); the former signifies merely cutting the hair, which was part of the regular mode of adorning the body. The Levites also were not required to bathe their bodies, as lepers were (Leviticus 13:8-9), and also the priests at their consecration (Leviticus 8:6), because they were not affected with any special uncleanness, and their duties did not require them to touch the most holy instruments of worship. The washing of the clothes, on the other hand, was a thing generally required as a preparation for acts of worship (Genesis 35:2; Exodus 19:10), and was omitted in the case of the consecration of the priests, simply because they received a holy official dress. הטּהרוּ for הטּהרוּ, as in 2 Chronicles 30:18.
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