Exodus 29
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them, to minister unto me in the priest's office: Take one young bullock, and two rams without blemish,


(1) This is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them.—The consecration of the priests had been commanded in the preceding chapter (Exodus 28:41). The method of it is now laid down. It consists of five things :—(1) Ablution (Exodus 29:4); (2) Investiture (Exodus 29:5-9); (3) Chrism, or anointing (Exodus 29:7); (4) Sacrifice (Exodus 29:10-23); and (5) Filling the hand (Exodus 29:24). All of these were symbolical acts, typical of things spiritual—ablution, of the putting away of impurity; investiture, of being clothed with holiness; unction, of the giving of Divine grace, &c.; the entire consecration forming an acted parable, very suggestive and full of instruction to such as understood its meaning.

Take one young bullock.—The first thing to be done was to prepare the victims which would be needed, and to have them ready against the time when they would be required for sacrifice.

Without blemish.—Heb., perfect (See Note 1 on Exodus 12:5.)

And unleavened bread, and cakes unleavened tempered with oil, and wafers unleavened anointed with oil: of wheaten flour shalt thou make them.
(2) Unleavened bread.—Unleavened bread seems to have been required as purer than leavened, since fermentation was viewed as a species of corruption.

Cakes . . . tempered with oil.—Rather, cakes that have had oil poured over them. A tolerably thick cake is intended.

Wafers.—These were cakes, or biscuits, extremely thin and unsubstantial, as is implied by the etymology of the term used. Oil is commonly eaten with cakes of both kinds by the Orientals.

And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water.
(4) 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.

And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod:
(5) Thou shalt take the garmentsi.e., those described in the preceding chapter.

The coati.e., the linen tunic (Exodus 28:39). As the inner garment, this had to be put on first. Comp. Leviticus 8:7-9, where the investiture is more fully described, and is seen to have comprised nine acts:—(1) The putting on of the tunic; (2) The girding of the tunic with the under-girdle; (3) The putting on of the robe of the ephod; (4) The putting on of the ephod; (5) Girding with the curious girdle of the ephod; (6) The putting on of the breastplate; (7) The putting of the Urim and Thummim into the bag of the breastplate; (8) The putting on of the mitre; and (9) The attachment of the golden plate to the front of the mitre. These minute directions may well be regarded as justifying those given in our own Ordinal with respect to the vesting of bishops at the time of their consecration.

And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre.
(6) The holy crown.—The golden plate, inscribed with “Holiness to the Lord,” and attached to the mitre by a lace or riband, resembled the “diadems” worn in the East by monarchs, and regarded as the main emblem of their sovereignty. In Egypt, such a diadem is found first in the reign of Amenôphis IV. (Khuenaten), the ninth king of the eighteenth dynasty. The assignment of a crown to the high priest gave him that quasi-royal dignity which marked him as a type of our Lord in His threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King.

Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him.
(7) The anointing oili.e., the oil mentioned in Exodus 25:6, and recently glanced at in Exodus 28:41. On its composition see Exodus 30:23-25.

Pour it upon his head.—As the ablution typified cleansing from sin, so the anointing was emblematic of the outpouring of Divine grace upon the person anointed. The pouring of the oil on Aaron’s head was perhaps to indicate the freeness and abundance with which God gives His grace to His servants. (Comp. Psalm 133:2.)

Coats—i.e., tunics. (See Note 1 on Exodus 28:40.)

The bonnets.—Rather, caps. (See Note 3 on Exodus 28:40.)

The priest’s office shall be their’s for a perpetual statute.—That is, not only shall they individually be priests, but the office shall descend to their posterity, and so be theirs perpetually.

Thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons.—Heb., Thou shalt fill the hand of Aaron and the hand of his sons. Induction into an office was usually effected in the East by placing its insignia in the hand of the person appointed to it. Aaron and his sons were to be inducted by having a portion of the sacrifices placed in their hands (Exodus 29:24).

And thou shalt cause a bullock to be brought before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the bullock.
(10) Thou shalt cause a bullock to be brought.—Rather, the bullock: i.e., the bullock mentioned in Exodus 29:1, which was to be kept in readiness for the consecration sacrifice.

Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the bullock.—By this symbolical action, which was commanded in the case of every sin offering (Leviticus 4:4; Leviticus 4:15; Leviticus 4:24; Leviticus 4:29; Leviticus 4:33; Leviticus 16:21, &c.), the offerer identified himself with the animal, and transferred to it the guilt of his own sins and imperfections. The animal thereby became accursed, and its death paid the penalty due to the sins laid upon it, and set free those who had committed them. Similarly, Christ, our sin offering, was “made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

And thou shalt take of the blood of the bullock, and put it upon the horns of the altar with thy finger, and pour all the blood beside the bottom of the altar.
(12) Thou shalt take of the blood . . . and put it upon the horns of the altar.—It has been already noticed that the virtue of the altar was considered to reside especially in its horns; hence fugitives clung to them (1Kings 1:50; 1Kings 2:28). In all sin offerings it was required (1) That some of the victim’s blood should be smeared upon the altar’s horns; and (2) That the remainder should be poured at its base (Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18; Leviticus 4:30; Leviticus 4:34).

And thou shalt take all the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul that is above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and burn them upon the altar.
(13) Thou shalt take all the fat that covereth the inwards.—Whole burnt offerings were, comparatively speaking, of rare occurrence in the ancient world. Usually, parts only of the victims were consumed by fire upon the altar; the greater portion was either eaten by the priests and the worshippers, or burnt elsewhere than on the altar. Among the parts regarded as most fitting to be consumed on the altar, the fat always held a high place. This is to be accounted for either by its being considered a delicacy, or by the readiness with which it caught fire and kindled into a clear bright blaze.

The caul that is above the liveri.e., the membrane which covers the upper portion of the liver, sometimes called “the little omentum.”

But the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it is a sin offering.
(14) The flesh . . . shalt thou burn . . . with out the camp.—Comp. Leviticus 4:11-12; Leviticus 4:21; Hebrews 13:11-13. This was the general rule with sin offerings. The whole animal was reckoned too impure for any portion of it to be suitable for human food.

His dung.—That which the intestines contained at the time of death.

Thou shalt also take one ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram.
(15) One ram.—Heb., the one ram: i.e., one of the two rams already mentioned in Exodus 29:1.

Put their hands upon the head of the ram.

—Again identifying themselves with the animal, as in Exodus 29:10, but with a different purpose from their former one. Then they transferred their sins to the victim; now they claimed a part in the victim’s dedication to God, offering themselves with it, and becoming, themselves, “a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the Lord” (Exodus 29:18).

And thou shalt slay the ram, and thou shalt take his blood, and sprinkle it round about upon the altar.
(16) Thou shalt take his blood, and sprinkle it.—Rather, scatter it. The act of throwing the blood from a basin against the lower part of the altar is intended. The verb is a different one from that rightly translated “sprinkle” in Exodus 29:21. The LXX. render it by προσχεῖν, and the Vulg. by fundere.

Round about upon the altar.—Practically, this was done by casting it on two of the corners of the altar—the north-east and the south-west—thus moistening all the four sides (Middoth, 3:2).

And thou shalt cut the ram in pieces, and wash the inwards of him, and his legs, and put them unto his pieces, and unto his head.
(17) Thou shalt cut the ram in pieces.—This was the ordinary practice, not only among the Hebrews, but also among other nations, as the Egyptians (Herod. ii. 40), the Greeks, the Romans, and others. It was probably found to facilitate the burning of the animal, which was with difficulty consumed entire. The shoulder, thigh, head, ribs, rump, heart, and kidneys appear separate in the representations of sacrifices on Egyptian altars.

And thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar: it is a burnt offering unto the LORD: it is a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
(18) Thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar.—A burnt offering, as representing self- sacrifice, was entirely acceptable to God; the whole might be consumed upon the altar. It was otherwise with sin offerings, of which only certain parts could be thus offered. (Comp. above, Exodus 29:14; and see Leviticus 4:12; Leviticus 4:21, &c.)

A sweet savour.—Comp. Genesis 8:21 and Note ad loc. It was a general heathen notion that the gods were actually delighted with the odour of the sacrifices offered to them; but there are no just grounds for taxing the Hebrews with such coarse and materialistic ideas. The expression, as used in this place, in Genesis 8:21, and in Leviticus and Numbers repeatedly, is metaphorical. (Comp. Exodus 5:21.)

And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram.
(19) The other ram.—Comp. Exodus 29:1; Exodus 29:15. This ram is called in Leviticus (Exodus 8:22) “the ram of consecration.” It formed, as has been observed (Speaker’s Commentary, vol. i. pt. 2, p. 535), “by far the most peculiar part of the whole ceremony” Consecrated to God by the act of sacrifice, its blood was used, together with the holy oil, for the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29:20-21); while at the same time its most sacred parts were placed on their hands by Moses, that with them they might perform their first sacerdotal act, and so be inaugurated into their office (Exodus 29:22-24). This last was not only the crowning act of the ceremony, but also its most essential feature—the act which imparted to Aaron and his sons the priestly character.

Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.
(20) Take of his blood.—The blood was regarded as the life (Genesis 9:4). The life consecrated to God and accepted by Him was given back by Him to His ministers, that it might consecrate them wholly to His service, and so fit them for it. Placed upon the tip of the right ear, it reminded them that their ears were to be ever open and attentive to the whispers of the Divine voice; placed on the thumb of the right hand, it taught that they should take in hand nothing but what was sanctified; placed upon the great toe of the right foot, it was a warning that they were to walk thenceforth in the paths of holiness.

And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons' garments with him.
(21) Take of the blood . . . and of the anointing oil.—The twofold sprinkling, with blood and with oil, denoted the necessity of a twofold holiness—that of justification by the atoning blood of Christ, and that of sanctification by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The anointing which is here spoken of seems to have been the only anointing received by the sons of Aaron. (See Leviticus 8:30.)

Also thou shalt take of the ram the fat and the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and the right shoulder; for it is a ram of consecration:
(22) Thou shalt take of the ram the fat . . . —These were the portions commonly burnt upon the altar in the case of peace offerings. (See Leviticus 3:9-11.) By “the rump” is meant the broad fat tail which characterises Oriental sheep, and which is said to weigh from six to twenty pounds. (Fellows, Asia Minor, p. 10. Comp. Herod. iii. 113; Leo African. 9 p. 293A.)

The caul above the liver.—See Note 2 on Exodus 29:13.

And one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer out of the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the LORD:
(23) The basket . . . that is before the Lord.—Comp. Exodus 29:3. The objects mentioned formed the “meat offering,” which always accompanied a peace offering.

And thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons; and shalt wave them for a wave offering before the LORD.
(24) Thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons.—Rather, on the hands. Having placed the offerings on the hands of his brother and his brother’s sons, Moses was to put his own hands beneath theirs, and to make a waving motion towards the four quarters of the sky, thus presenting the offerings to the ubiquitous God. Aaron and his sons thus performed their first priestly act, as passive instruments in Moses’ hands, by his muscular energy. Their priestly character was by these means made complete. (On “wave offerings,” see Note upon Leviticus 7:30.)

And thou shalt receive them of their hands, and burn them upon the altar for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour before the LORD: it is an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
(25) Thou shalt receive them . . . and burn them.—On communicating his priestly functions to his brother and his brother’s sons, Moses was not immediately to lay them aside; but, as he had begun the consecration ceremony, so he was to complete it. (Comp. Exodus 29:31-37, and Leviticus 8:28-36.)

And thou shalt take the breast of the ram of Aaron's consecration, and wave it for a wave offering before the LORD: and it shall be thy part.
(26) Thou shalt take the breast.—It was the general law that in “wave offerings” the breast should be the officiating priest’s (Leviticus 7:29-31); hence, on this occasion, it was assigned to Moses.

And thou shalt sanctify the breast of the wave offering, and the shoulder of the heave offering, which is waved, and which is heaved up, of the ram of the consecration, even of that which is for Aaron, and of that which is for his sons:

(27, 28) The wave offering.—For the future, in every case of offerings made at a consecration, both the breast and the right shoulder (Leviticus 7:32) were to be given to the officiating priest, who was to “wave” the one and “heave” the other before the Lord. “Heaving” was a single movement, an uplifting of the thing heaved; “waving” was a repeated movement, a swaying of the thing waved backwards and forwards horizontally. Both were modes of presenting the thing to God.

(29) The holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons’ after him.—That Eleazar was consecrated in his father’s holy garments we learn from Numbers 20:28; but nothing is recorded as to the investiture of later high priests. Still, it is reasonable to suppose that the injunctions here given were carried out so long as the garments worn by Aaron held together.

To be anointed therein.—The anointing of each successive high priest is here commanded by implication. Jewish tradition affirms the practice to have been in conformity.

And thou shalt take the ram of the consecration, and seethe his flesh in the holy place.

(31-34) The writer having digressed in Exodus 29:27 from his main subject (the consecration of Aaron and his sons) to the consideration of certain permanent laws which arose out of the occasion, returns to his main subject at this point, and records the directions which he received with respect to the feast that followed, as a matter of course, on the consecration sacrifice. The parts of the victim neither consumed on the altar nor assigned to the officiating priest, were to be boiled at the door of the Tabernacle (Leviticus 8:31), and there consumed by Aaron and his sons, together with the loaf of unleavened bread, the oiled cake, and the wafer, which still remained in the “basket of consecrations” (Leviticus 8:31) mentioned in Exodus 29:3; Exodus 29:23. No “stranger”—i.e., no layman—was to join with them in the feast (Exodus 29:33); and, if they were unable to consume the whole, what remained was to be burnt. (Comp. the injunctions with respect to the paschal lamb, given in Exodus 12:10; Exodus 23:18.) Christian ritualism draws from these injunctions the propriety of an entire consumption of the elements on each occasion of the celebration of the Eucharist.

And thus shalt thou do unto Aaron, and to his sons, according to all things which I have commanded thee: seven days shalt thou consecrate them.

(35) Seven days shalt thou consecrate them.—The number seven possessed an ideal completeness, resting on the primeval facts of creation (Genesis 1, 2). It is the number almost exclusively used under the old covenant, when acts are to attain their result by repetition. (See Leviticus 4:6; Leviticus 4:17; Leviticus 8:11; Leviticus 14:7; Leviticus 16:14; Numbers 19:4; Joshua 6:4; 1Kings 18:43; 2Kings 5:10; Psalm 119:164; &c.) Here we are to understand a sevenfold repetition of the entire ceremonial of consecration. (See Leviticus 8:33-34.)

And thou shalt offer every day a bullock for a sin offering for atonement: and thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it, and thou shalt anoint it, to sanctify it.
(36) Thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it.—Rather, by making an atonement for it. The atonement was made by smearing the blood of the bullock upon the horns of the altar (Exodus 29:12, compared with Leviticus 8:15).

And thou shalt anoint it.—Comp. Leviticus 8:11, where we find that the altar was anointed by having the holy oil sprinkled upon it seven times. It is not quite clear at what period in the ceremonial this was done.

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) 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.

Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually.

(38-42) The consecration of the altar, which took place during the consecration of the priests, was to be followed immediately by the establishment of the daily sacrifice. Two lambs were to be offered every day, one in the morning, the other “between the evenings” (Exodus 29:39); partly in expiation of the daily sins of the nation, but mainly as a sign that the nation daily renewed its self-dedication to Jehovah, and offered itself afresh to be “a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice” to Him. Meat and drink offerings were to accompany the burnt sacrifice—signs of the gratitude due to God for His perpetual mercies, and acknowledgments of His protecting care and lovingkindness. At the same time incense was to be burnt upon the golden altar before the vail, as a figure of the perpetual prayer that it behoved the nation to send up to the Throne of Grace for a continuance of the Divine favour. (See Exodus 30:7-8.)

(38) Two lambs of the first year.—See Note on Exodus 12:5. The LXX. insert ἀμώμους, “without blemish;” but this general requirement (Leviticus 22:22; Leviticus 22:24-25), relaxed only in the case of free-will offerings (Leviticus 22:23), does not need to be perpetually repeated.

(39) At even.—Heb., between the two evenings. (On the meaning of the phrase, see Note 2 on Exodus 12:6.)

(40) A tenth deal.—Heb., a tenth. A tenth of what measure is not said, but we may presume an ephah to be intended. The tenth part of an ephah was an omer (Exodus 16:36). The omer is reckoned at rather less than half a gallon.

An hin.—The hin was, like the omer and the ephah, an Egyptian measure. It is estimated at about three-quarters of a gallon.

Beaten oil.—See Note 1 on Exodus 27:20.

(41) The meat offering . . . the drink offering.—A “handful” of each meat offering was thrown upon the altar and burnt (Leviticus 2:2); the remainder belonged to the priests (Leviticus 2:3). Scripture says nothing of the disposal of the drink offering. According to Josephus (Ant. Jud. iii. 9, § 4), it was poured out in libation upon the altar. According to others, a portion only was thus disposed of, while the rest was the priests’. The latter view seems the more probable.

(42) The tabernacle of the congregation.—Rather, the tent of meeting.

Where I will meet you.—This passage determines the meaning of the expression, “tent of meeting.” It was not the place where the congregation met together, for the congregation were forbidden to enter it, but the place where God met His people through their mediator and representative, the high priest, who could there commune with God and obtain replies from Him on all practical matters that were of national importance. (See Exodus 25:22 and Note ad loc.) The fact that all communication was to be through the high priest is indicated by the change of person: “Where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee.

And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory.
(43) The tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory.—See Exodus 40:34-35; and comp. Leviticus 9:24; 1Kings 8:10-11; 2Chronicles 5:13-14; 2Chronicles 7:2.

And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office.
(44) I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons.—Something beyond the formal consecration seems to be intended. God will continually sanctify the Levitical priesthood by the presence of His Holy Spirit with them, in their ministerial acts, and even in their daily walk, if they will seek to serve Him.

And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.
(45) I will dwell among the children of Israel.—It must not be supposed that the fulfilment of this promise was effected by the mere presence of the Shechinah within the Tabernacle. It pledged God to a perpetual supervision, care, and tender protection of His people, such as we find actually exercised in the history of the nation.

And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the LORD their God.
(46) They shall know . . . —i.e., My after care of them will prove me the same loving and all-powerful God whose help effected their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

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