Chapter 29

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To sanctify Aaron and his sons (or to set them apart) to serve YHWH as priests, an unblemished young bull and two unblemished rams were to be slaughtered. For the installation, Moses also needed to have unleavened baked items made from fine wheat flour, with olive oil being used for certain designated items. In a (“reed” [LXX]) basked, he was to bring the baked items and also to lead the bull and the two rams to the completed “tent of meeting,” “tent of the testimony” (LXX), or tabernacle. To the entrance of the tent or tabernacle, he was to conduct Aaron and his sons. After washing Aaron and his sons with water (or possibly meaning directing them to do so), Moses was to clothe Aaron in the priestly attire that had been made for him and to anoint him, pouring the anointing oil on his head. It does not seem likely that the oil would have been poured on the turban and so it first must have been removed before the act of anointing. (29:1-7; Leviticus 8:2-9, 12; see the Notes section.)

After Aaron’s sons had been dressed in their priestly attire, they and their father were to place their hands upon the head of the young bull that had been led to the tent of meeting. This indicated that they acknowledged the sacrifice as being for them and needing to be made because they were sinners. At the entrance of the tent of meeting, Moses was to slaughter the bull “before the face of YHWH” or in his presence. He was to take part of the bull’s blood and, with his finger, apply it to the four horns of the altar. The rest of the blood Moses was to pour out at the base of the altar. Since the “horn” is a symbol of power, the application of blood to the horns of the altar could signify that the atoning power of the sacrifices had its basis in the blood. The pouring out of the blood at the base of the altar could indicate that blood constituted the foundation of the sacrificial arrangement. Moreover, the use of the blood in this manner would have served to cleanse it from the defilement that was brought upon it by the sins of Aaron and his sons. Like all the other people of the tribes of Israel, they were still sinners, and sin causes defilement. (29:8-12; Leviticus 8:13-15; compare Haggai 2:12-14; Hebrews 9:22, 23.)

Fat was considered to be the choicest or the best part of the slaughtered bull. Therefore, all of it was designated to be offered to YHWH. As a sin offering for Aaron and his sons, the entire carcass of the bull was to be burned outside the camp, with nothing but the fat consumed on the altar. (29:13, 14; Leviticus 8:16, 17)

One of the rams was to be offered as a holocaust or a whole burnt offering. Aaron and his sons were to place their hands on the ram’s head, indicating that the offering was for them with reference to their installation to serve as priests. Although the holocaust was not a sin offering, the sacrifice did not exclude the aspect of sin, as evident from the divinely required manner in which the ram’s blood was to be used. Likely with hyssop, Moses was to splash blood against the four sides of the altar, thereby cleansing it from any defilement associated with sin. Accordingly, when Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram, they may also have been acknowledging their own sinful state. After the ram was slaughtered, cut into sections for placement on the altar, and its entrails and legs were washed, it thus was properly prepared to be offered as a holocaust to YHWH. (29:15-18; Leviticus 8:18-21)

As in the case of the first ram, Aaron and his sons were to be place their hands on the head of the second ram. A portion of the blood of this second ram was to be applied to Aaron’s right ear, right thumb, and the big toe of his right foot. This was also to be done to each one of his four sons. Blood was the means used for cleansing from defilement or sin and for sanctifying or setting apart as holy what was thus cleansed. (Compare Leviticus 16:18, 19; Hebrews 9:22.) Therefore, the application of the blood on the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe must have constituted a cleansing from sin and a sanctifying of all the faculties of Aaron and his sons so that they might acceptably serve as priests. With cleansed ears, they were to be attentive and obedient to God’s commands. Their cleansed hands were to be ready for faithfully carrying out their priestly duties and doing God’s will. In their walk or their conduct, they needed to be exemplary as persons directing their “feet” in a way that honored YHWH. (29:19, 20; Leviticus 8:22-24)

Moses again was to splash blood against all four sides of the altar, cleansing it from any defilement. He also was to take some of the blood that was on the altar and some of the anointing oil and to sprinkle this (likely with hyssop) on Aaron and his attire and on his sons and their attire, thus sanctifying them and their garments or setting them and their garments apart as holy and not tainted with sin. Seemingly, to indicate that Aaron and his sons were being empowered or authorized to serve as priests, Moses was to “fill their hands” literally. He was to place on the open palms of Aaron and his sons the fatty parts and the right thigh (shoulder [LXX]) of the ram along with baked items that had previously been put in a basket. It appears that Aaron and his sons moved their arms back and forth as if presenting an offering before YHWH. Viewed from this standpoint, the offering was a wave offering. The Septuagint, however, does not convey this thought. It indicates that these items were set apart as a separate offering. Numerous modern translations have opted for another meaning of the Hebrew verb nuph — “lift up” instead of “wave.” “Put all these [items] in the hands of Aaron and his sons to be lifted up as a special offering to the LORD.” (NLT) “Then they [Aaron and his sons] will lift it all up to show that it is dedicated to me.” (CEV) “All these things you shall put into the hands of Aaron and his sons, so that they may raise them as an elevated offering before the LORD.” (NAB) “Place all these on the palms of Aaron and his sons, and offer them as an elevation offering before the LORD.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) Thereafter Moses was to take all the items from the hands of Aaron and his sons and place them on the altar, to be consumed in addition to the rest of the sections of the ram that had been placed on the altar as a whole burnt offering. (29:21-25; Leviticus 8:25-28, 30; see the Notes section.)

The breast of the ram was to be the designated portion for Moses. Regarding the breast, the Hebrew verb nuph is used, suggesting that Moses may have waved it back and forth before YHWH as if presenting it as a wave offering. According to another meaning of nuph, however, this was an “elevation offering.” (29:26; Leviticus 8:29)

In the future, the breast and the thigh (shoulder [LXX]) of the ram was to be the priestly share from the offerings of well-being or the communion sacrifices that the “sons [or people] of Israel” would present. The special garments Aaron would wear were to be passed to his “sons” or descendants who would succeed him and be anointed as high priests while clothed with these garments. These future high priests were to wear the special attire in which they were anointed for seven days while performing their services in the “tent of meeting,” the tabernacle, or the “holy place.” (29:27-30)

The narration of the Exodus account returns to the then-present, setting forth divine directives with which Aaron and his sons were required to comply regarding their appointment to the priesthood. At the entrance of the “tent of meeting,” they were to eat meat from the ram (meat boiled in a holy place or a place free from any defilement) and bread that previously had been placed in a basket. They were to eat the items that had been used to make atonement for them, with which items their hands had been filled to indicate their having been empowered or authorized to serve as priests, and by means of which items they had been sanctified or set apart as holy to serve YHWH as his priests. Any of the meat or bread that remained until the morning was to be burned and not eaten because it had been sanctified. (29:31-34; Leviticus 8:31, 32)

The installation procedure for Aaron and his sons was to take seven days. On each one of these days, Moses was commanded to offer a bull as a sin offering to make atonement, apparently for Aaron and his sons. A sin offering was also required to make atonement for the altar, cleansing it from any defilement. This altar would be anointed, or designated for its purpose, and sanctified (or set apart) for sacred use as the furnishing on which acceptable sacrifices could be offered. Seven days were to be allotted to make atonement for the altar and to sanctify it or to make it holy. As a most holy (literally, “holy of holies”) altar, it communicated holiness to whatever touched it. Each day two one-year-old lambs were to be offered on the altar, one in the morning and the other one in the evening. Along with the first lamb, the other items to be offered were a tenth measure of flour, probably a tenth of an ephah (2 dry quarts; 2.2 liters), mixed with a fourth of a hin (possibly about 1 quart [c. 1 liter]) of oil from beaten olives, and a fourth of a hin of wine as a libation. The arrangement for offering the second lamb in the evening was to be the same. From the time the priesthood began to function, two year-old lambs were to be offered every day. (29:35-41)

At the entrance of the “tent of meeting,” YHWH would reveal his directives and judgments to his people. His glory, or his presence with his people, would sanctify the “tent of meeting” or make it holy. Besides sanctifying the “tent of meeting” and the “altar” for their sacred functions, YHWH also purposed to sanctify Aaron and his sons to serve him as priests. In a representative way, YHWH would reside among the “sons [or people] of Israel.” In view of what he would do, the people of Israel would know YHWH as their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt so that he would be the One to dwell among them. According to the Septuagint, God’s purpose was for him to be the God of the Israelites and for them to call upon him, praying to him and looking to him for help and guidance. (29:42-46)

Notes

In verse 4, the Septuagint uses the expression “tent of the testimony” or “tent of witness.” It was at the tabernacle where the two tablets containing the “Ten Words” or “Ten Commandments” were stored in the ark of the covenant. The tablets served as a testimony respecting the commands the Israelites were obligated to observe, and this testimony would have been a witness against them if they failed to live up to these commands. Moreover, the “tent” with the ark of the covenant functioned as a witness that YHWH was dwelling representatively with his people.

In verse 6, the reference to the “holy crown” or “holy diadem” appear to be to the gold plate with the engraved inscription, “Holy to YHWH.” The Septuagint supports this, for it reads, “the [thin] plate, the sanctified” one. Josephus, however, referred to the diadem as an addition to the headdress. “Above [it] there was another, with swathes of blue embroidered, and round it was a golden crown polished, of three rows, one above another; out of which arose a cup of gold.” He wrote that this “cup” resembled a certain herb which he then described in greater detail for those who had never seen the herb. (Antiquities, III, vii, 6)

As at the present time, fat-tailed sheep must have been common in northern Africa, including Egypt. Their tails may weigh ten pounds (c. 4.5 kilograms) or more. In verse 22, the Septuagint, however, does not mention the fat of the ram’s tail as one of the fatty pieces to be offered.