Book of Exodus Chapter Twenty-Nine Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
This chapter reflects God's ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests. And notice these important elements for any ordination: Sacrifice, holiness and purity—characteristics of the Holy Spirit in the life of the one to be ordained. Verses 1-3: "Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them to minister as priests to Me: take one young bull and two rams without blemish, 2 and unleavened bread and unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil; you shall make them of fine wheat flour. 3 You shall put them in one basket, and present them in the basket along with the bull and the two rams." Aaron and his sons were not pure, and all of us have been in a state of living death in God's sight. What must be done?—Unblemished animals were offered so these men could live another day and minister before God as priests. Life is given for life, and Christ, the reality behind all these sacrifices, died for you and me.
Verse 4: "Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting and wash them with water." This is not unlike baptism, in which we are taken under the water, a place where we cannot breathe and live, and then are lifted out of the place of death into new life. It's a picture of dying and then living anew. Paul described it in Romans 6:4 & context: "We were buried with Him through baptism into death...so we also should walk in newness of life."
These men were washed, symbolizing repentance, and then dressed in new clothing, as in Verses 5-6: "You shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the tunic and the robe of the ephod and the ephod and the breastpiece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod; 6 and you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban." All this is a visual parable of the Christ, who is seen in Isaiah 59:16-17, "His own arm brought salvation...He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head..." That very Messianic Scripture continues, "A Redeemer will come in Zion...to those who turn from transgression in Jacob..." (Isaiah 59:20). Israel is like a setting for fine jewelry, designed to contain the precious stone, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Verse 7, "Then you shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him." Sacrifices within this Tabernacle in the desert included oil, bread and clean animals. Plants and animals died in exchange for the life of sinners in need of forgiveness, speaking of the One who died for you and me. The oil refers to God's gift of the Holy Spirit, seen in Zechariah 4:2-6 and Acts 2, given to those who believe in the Lord.
Verses 8-9 speak of certain outer garments and we are to understand they symbolize much more: "You shall bring his sons and put tunics on them. 9 You shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and bind caps on them, and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute. So you shall ordain Aaron and his sons." Notice that all the words in this chapter and the ones surrounding it are spoken to Moses. His brother, Aaron, and his sons could not ordain themselves, anymore than anyone can be ordained by pushing a button on a computer keyboard. Ordination, as presented here, is from God, in this instance through Moses. As revealed in what we call the "Gospels," ordination is from God through "Apostolic Succession." The Lord chose the apostles, who then ordained others, and so it continued through the centuries, but always as directed by the Lord Himself. These men in Exodus, by the way, did not dress themselves in priestly garments; Moses dressed them as led by God.
Only those who are forgiven can serve. In Verses 10-14, Moses was told, "Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. 11 You shall slaughter the bull before the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 12 You shall take some of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger; and you shall pour out all the blood at the base of the altar. 13 You shall take all the fat that covers the entrails and the lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, and offer them up in smoke on the altar. 14 But the flesh of the bull and its hide and its refuse, you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering." Aaron and his sons were sinners like the rest of us. "Ordination" is being declared something we previously were not. A substitute was necessary in the sight of God and for all to understand what was occurring. Notice they did not kill the bull—they laid hands on it, identifying with its death. Moses killed the animals and our sins killed Jesus Christ. Vital organs of the bull were burned, signifying the utter giving of its life. The rest was destroyed "outside the camp" as a "sin offering." And all that is consistent with Hebrews 13:11-13, as "those beasts...are burned outside the camp...Jesus suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach." We are sinners, and Jesus, our High Priest, gave His life so we who trust in Him through faith, might be forgiven.
Israel was a family of shepherds that became a nation, under the encouragement, the protection of God, and herds of dairy animals were the basis of their economy. The giving of first the bull and now the ram of Verses 15-18 were financial sacrifices—something of great value atoned for their sins: "You shall also take the one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram; 16 and you shall slaughter the ram and shall take its blood and sprinkle it around on the altar. 17 Then you shall cut the ram into its pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head. 18 You shall offer up in smoke the whole ram on the altar; it is a burnt offering to the Lord: it is a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord." Much like the bull, Aaron and his sons did not actually offer the animal; instead God through Moses acted on their behalf. Hebrews 9:22 reveals, "without the shedding of blood there is no remission (of sin)," and verse 28 continues, "Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many." The death of Jesus Christ on our behalf and our trust in Him is the legal ground of God's acceptance of those who would serve Him.
Verses 19-20 speak of a second ram: "Then you shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram. 20 You shall slaughter the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the lobes of his sons’ right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet, and sprinkle the rest of the blood around on the altar." What they heard, what they did and where they walked required an atoning sacrifice, and note that ALL the many sacrifices in Israel were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The rams signified that Aaron and his sons were clean in the sight of God and could minister before Him.
We would not sprinkle blood on new garments, but it was necessary for these priests-to-be, as in Verse 21: "Then you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments and on his sons and on his sons’ garments with him; so he and his garments shall be consecrated, as well as his sons and his sons’ garments with him." Anyone who purports to work for or on behalf of the Lord must have a legal ground to do so, and that legitimacy is obtained through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Verses 22-24: "You shall also take the fat from the ram and the fat tail, and the fat that covers the entrails and the lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them and the right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination), 23 and one cake of bread and one cake of bread mixed with oil and one wafer from the basket of unleavened bread which is set before the Lord; 24 and you shall put all these in the hands of Aaron and in the hands of his sons, and shall wave them as a wave offering before the Lord." Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to those who follow Him (Acts 1:8), imaged by the "oil" presented in the Tabernacle of Israel. Jesus is the "bread of life" (John 6:48), and the "bread mixed with oil" in this Exodus chapter is a parable of the salvation offered in Jesus and the Holy Spirit given through Him.
Aaron and his sons would not make these offerings directly, but through Moses, as in Verses 25-26: "You shall take them from their hands, and offer them up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering for a soothing aroma before the Lord; it is an offering by fire to the Lord. 26 Then you shall take the breast of Aaron’s ram of ordination, and wave it as a wave offering before the Lord; and it shall be your portion." In much the same manner, we do not become right with God on our own, but through the work of Jesus Christ, as symbolized by Moses' actions in this chapter. Moses waved the objects in the air, not for God to see, but for us, who need to know that the Lord sees what we do. The Lord further told Moses in Verses 27-28: "You shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering which was waved and which was offered from the ram of ordination, from the one which was for Aaron and from the one which was for his sons. 28 It shall be for Aaron and his sons as their portion forever from the sons of Israel, for it is a heave offering; and it shall be a heave offering from the sons of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, even their heave offering to the Lord." "Consecrate" literally means "to associate with the sacred," observing our inability to save or ordain ourselves and that God made a way for those who look to the Lord.
Anyone who ministers on behalf of the Lord does not do it out of their own strength or righteousness—it is because we have faith in Jesus Christ who died for our sins. We have literally "put on Christ" in God's sight (Galatians 3:27), and are therefore able to be in His Presence in service to others. Verses 29-30 reflect, "The holy garments of Aaron shall be for his sons after him, that in them they may be anointed and ordained. 30 For seven days the one of his sons who is priest in his stead shall put them on when he enters the tent of meeting to minister in the holy place." Those garments remained in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple for centuries as Aaron's successors ministered before the Lord.
During the time of the Early Church, outsiders accused the faithful of cannibalism because of the way communion was described. Jesus "took bread...saying, 'This is My body' (and) 'He took the cup after supper...saying, ...'This is...My blood which is shed for you'" (Luke 22:18-19). These verses in Exodus relate to His impending crucifixion as in Verses 31-33: "You shall take the ram of ordination and boil its flesh in a holy place. 32 Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket, at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 33 Thus they shall eat those things by which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration; but a layman shall not eat them, because they are holy." All of the sacrifices and the bread show us the Lord Jesus Christ and His acceptance of those who will serve Him. Communion is a picture of taking the Lord into the center of our being through faith in Him.
We are shown the importance of accepting God's call to service. God intensely loves the creatures of this world, whether human or not, and yet here He allows the deaths of His creatures, demonstrating the horror of our sins and His concern for us. Verses 34-35: "If any of the flesh of ordination or any of the bread remains until morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire; it shall not be eaten, because it is holy. 35 Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you; you shall ordain them through seven days." The "old" offerings of yesterday, animal or grain, were unacceptable because God intends that everything about us will be new. Verses 36-37: "Each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to consecrate it. 37 For seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it; then the altar shall be most holy, and whatever touches the altar shall be holy." We and all we touch is to be holy to the Lord. Because of God's Son, we become acceptable in His sight.
These sacrifices continued for seven days, in which the purest, most beautiful animals and the finest bread were offered by Moses for Aaron and his sons. Verses 38-41: "Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one year old lambs each day, continuously. 39 The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; 40 and there shall be one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering with one lamb." Ordination is not a career choice. The Lord gave His precious life for us, and we, in turn, give our lives to Him. These acts were to continue through the centuries, as in Verses 41-46: "The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it the same grain offering and the same drink offering as in the morning, for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord. 42 It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. 45 I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. 46 They shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God." The style of ordination differs in various cultures but the idea is the same: Death is the seal that authenticates salvation and ordination, and that death occurred when Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, died for you and me. The animals and bread are parables of the One who was to come.
The Levites of these verses were utterly unqualified for the offices they held. We are all sinners and only the death of a Substitute enables us to live and serve in God's sight. "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all...the sacrifices (in Exodus) can never take away sins... (but Jesus)... by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:10-14). The deaths of all the sacrificial animals, prefiguring the death of Jesus Christ reveal our sin and our need for salvation. Every time we eat something, precious lives are lost so we can live another day, and our problem is more than physical—it's spiritual—we need the Lord.
Lord, I am a sinner and need You if I am to be right in God's sight. I confess my sin and place my trust in You. Whether outwardly ordained or not, I will follow You all of my days. In Jesus Name. Amen.