Bible Commentary: Leviticus 8

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Bible Commentary

Leviticus 8

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Aaronic Priesthood Consecrated 

The incredible mercy of God is demonstrated in the appointment of Aaron as Israel's ecclesiastical leader. Aaron, after all, had presided over Israel's idolatry with the golden calf. Yet, now forgiven, God gives him another chance—this time to serve as God's own high priest, with Aaron's sons serving as priests under him. Indeed, the priesthood was to be perpetuated through his family from then on.

This also serves as a reminder that when God forgives, He forgives us completely. In Psalm 103:12, King David proclaims that God removes our transgressions "as far as the east is from the west." Isaiah 43:25 and Jeremiah 31:34 tell us that He remembers our sins no more. In Isaiah 1:18 God says that our sins, formerly as scarlet, "shall be white as snow." God's mercy and forgiveness toward Aaron are proof that God is equally merciful toward us, both forgiving and forgetting our sins. This is possible because, although God has perfect memory of the past, while we continue in the process of repentance and overcoming He looks on the new person within that He is forming and shaping as distinct from the sinful nature we battle (see Romans 7:17). Our old sinful self will one day be eliminated at our transformation to immortal incorruption (see 1 Corinthians 15) and only the sinless new self will remain. But thankfully, we don't have to wait until then to be considered forgiven and reckoned as sinless. When we repent, God forgives us totally right then and there.

Leviticus 8 records the consecration, or setting apart, of Aaron and His sons for their important responsibility. The entire nation came out to witness the important event. As God's prophet and chief servant on earth, Moses was the only one qualified to ordain Aaron and his sons to their offices. Aaron, as the high priest, was anointed through the pouring out of oil upon his head (Leviticus 8:12)—symbolic of a special dispensation of God's Holy Spirit (compare Acts 10:38). In ancient Israel, the high priests and kings were anointed. Interestingly, both offices looked forward to the coming of an "Anointed One"—which is the meaning of Mashiach (or Messiah) in Hebrew and Christos (or Christ) in Greek. And indeed, Jesus Christ now fills both of these positions, king and high priest.

Though Aaron's sons were not anointed in the same manner he was, they were, along with him, sprinkled with anointing oil and blood (Leviticus 8:30; compare Leviticus 10:7). Furthermore, Aaron and his sons were all specially consecrated by the blood of a ram being applied to the right ear, right thumb and right big toe of each of them. Some have speculated that this anointing of their extremities, top to bottom, represented a total covering by the sacrificial blood. Or perhaps it meant something else. The ear often represents hearing—so perhaps their willingness to listen to and heed God's instructions was being sanctified. After all, the phrase "this is what the Lord commanded," or similar words, is stated 10 times in this chapter (verses 4, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 29, 34, 35, 36). The right thumb is the part of the right hand that allows it to function—and the right hand is often symbolic in the Bible of a person's actions. The priest's actions had to be holy. And as for the big toe, it enables balance in walking and standing—which are often representative in Scripture of walking with God, i.e., leading a godly life, and remaining steadfast in the faith respectively. These are important qualities for God's priests—qualities we must exemplify too, as we are now God's chosen holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9).

We should also take note of the washing of Aaron and his sons. The Keil & Delitzsch Commentarystates regarding Leviticus 8:6 that Moses "directed them to wash themselves, no doubt all over, and not merely their hands and feet. This cleansing from bodily uncleanness was a symbol of the putting away of the filth of sin; the washing of the body, therefore, was a symbol of spiritual cleansing, without which no one could draw near to God, and least of all those who were to perform the duties of reconciliation" (Vol. 1, p. 544). Many of the washing rituals of the Old Testament foreshadowed the baptism of the New Testament, and that would seem to be true in this case. Again, the New Testament Church is a holy priesthood, each individual being cleansed symbolically through washing in water when baptized—although it is actually the grace of God through "the blood of Jesus Christ" that "cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).