Holy Unto the Lord

31 And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the flesh at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and there eat it and the bread that is in the basket of ordination offerings, as I commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it.’ 32 And what remains of the flesh and the bread you shall burn up with fire. 33 And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you. 34 As has been done today, the Lord has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. 35 At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the Lord has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.” 36 And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the Lord commanded by Moses. – Leviticus 8:31-36 ESV

This elaborate ordination ceremony was to last an entire week, a seven-day period in which Moses, Aaron, and his sons repeated each phase of the sacrificial process down to the last detail, including the ordination meal. The priestly candidates were to take a portion of the meat from the third sacrifice, “the ram of ordination” (Leviticus 8:22), and prepare a meal for themselves.

“And you shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering that is waved and the thigh of the priests’ portion that is contributed from the ram of ordination, from what was Aaron’s and his sons’. It shall be for Aaron and his sons as a perpetual due from the people of Israel, for it is a contribution. It shall be a contribution from the people of Israel from their peace offerings, their contribution to the Lord.” – Exodus 29:27-28 ESV

They were instructed to boil the thigh of the ram at the doorway to “the tent of meeting.” This name is used throughout the books of Exodus and Leviticus to refer to two different locations. One was a temporary tent that Moses set up on the outskirts of the camp before the Tabernacle was built.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. – Exodus 33:7-9 ESV

But once the Tabernacle had been constructed, it became the official “tent of meeting.” Since all the details concerning the sacrifices found in Leviticus chapter 8 could only have taken place at the Tabernacle, the mention of “the entrance of the tent of meeting” (Leviticus 8:31 ESV) refers to the gateway into the Tabernacle grounds. This is where Aaron and his sons were to eat the ordination meal, and this location would allow the people of Israel to witness this ceremonial feast of fellowship with Yahweh. The Lord was graciously allowing His priests to partake of the offerings that had been dedicated to Him by the people of Israel. Witnessing the priests consume this ritual meal would further confirm for the Israelites the unique nature and status of the priestly role. These men had been set apart by God and were allowed to share in the sacred offerings, symbolizing their one-of-a-kind relationship with the Almighty. Even Moses was not allowed to take part in this phase of the ordination ceremony.

And when Aaron and his sons had consumed all that they could eat, they were to burn what was left on the bronze altar. Nothing was to be left over or allowed to spoil, and no remnants could be consumed by anyone other than the priests themselves.

And Moses emphasizes that this final phase of the ordination ceremony was to be repeated for seven straight days, along with all the purification rituals and sacrifices. Each new day required that Moses, Aaron, and his sons reenacted every part of the ceremony, down to the last detail. And during that entire week-long timespan, Aaron and his sons were not allowed to leave the Tabernacle grounds.

And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you. – Leviticus 8:33 ESV

To the Hebrews, the number seven represented completion or perfection. In the creation narrative found in Genesis, God completed His work in six days and then rested on the seventh day. In a sense, God finalized His plan of creation and then stepped back to enjoy it. All was just as He had intended it to be. In having Aaron and his sons repeated the ordination process for seven straight days, God was emphasizing the completeness of their transition from ordinary men to priests who would act as servants in His earthly dwelling place. This meant that seven bulls and 14 rams would be sacrificed before Aaron and his sons were deemed ready to go about their priestly duties. An abundance of blood would be spilled and the fire of the altar would billow with fire and smoke as the sacrifices were transformed into a pleasing aroma to the Lord. It would only be on the last day that God would deem His servants ready for the new role as priests.

Had they cut any corners or failed to follow one of God’s commands, not only would they have violated the terms of their ordination, but they would have experienced judgment in the form of death. The priesthood was serious business and was not to be taken lightly. At no point in the seven-day-long ceremony were Aaron and his sons allowed to leave the premises of the Tabernacle. It became their dwelling place. And since all that was within the Tabernacle had been sprinkled with blood and made holy to the Lord, it was in this holy environment that they were to remain until God deemed them ready to serve.

The seriousness of this occasion is highlighted by the devastating details found in Leviticus chapter 10. Seemingly, just days after the week-long ordination ceremony came to an end, the newly ordained sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, discovered just how deadly any violation of God’s commands could be.

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they disobeyed the Lord by burning before him the wrong kind of fire, different than he had commanded. So fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord.

Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord meant when he said,

‘I will display my holiness
    through those who come near me.
I will display my glory
    before all the people.’”

And Aaron was silent. – Leviticus 10:1-3 NLT

These two men decided to play fast and loose with God’s commands and lost their lives because of it. Had their father or Moses taken liberties with any of the ordination rituals, they would have suffered a similar fate. God had warned them, “At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the Lord has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded” (Leviticus 8:35 ESV). And chapter eight ends with the statement: “Aaron and his sons did all the things that the Lord commanded by Moses” (Leviticus 8:36 ESV). They were obedient and, as a result, they were confirmed as priests. For seven straight days, they followed each step in God’s plan and faithfully adhered to the elaborate ordination rituals.

And as chapter nine will reveal, on the eighth day, they were required to offer one final set of sacrifices to the Lord. This would bring the entire ordination ceremony to a close and prepare the way for the Lord’s presence. Moses told Aaron that when he had finished offering up the final sacrifice, he was to announce to the people of Israel, “today the Lord will appear to you” (Leviticus 9:4 ESV) That was the whole point of the entire process. The Tabernacle was to be God’s dwelling place, but He could not and would not take up residence among His people until the Tabernacle, His priests, and His people were properly prepared for His divine presence.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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