“So Aaron and his sons did all things which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses” (Leviticus 8:36).
Three special ceremonies were instituted by God to convey essential elements of His plan to redeem the world: the consecration of the priesthood (Leviticus 8), the eighth-day ceremony following the consecration of the priesthood (Leviticus 9), and the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). Many similarities existed between them. For example, each service provided a sin offering, a burnt offering, and sprinkled blood on the brazen altar. The inclusion of a sin offering indicates all three chapters relate to the Gospel Age in some way.
The key to understanding why three ceremonies were prescribed is seen in their differences. Each describes a different aspect of the sin offering. Leviticus 8 portrays how the sin offering affected Jesus and the church, that it required their entire devotion. Leviticus 9 highlights the future effect of the sin offering on the world of mankind. This is described in the last verse of chapter 9 when fire from heaven consumes the sacrifices and the people fall on their faces and worship God. Finally, Leviticus 16 focuses on the important aspect of how the sin offerings satisfy God’s justice.
Consecration of the Priesthood — Leviticus 8
With the institution of the tabernacle, a priesthood was required before any offerings could be provided. The instructions for this ceremony, found in Exodus 29, state this service would “hallow” or “sanctify” the individuals who would serve in this special role. Aaron and his sons were chosen to initiate this honored position.
One of the unique features was the role of Moses. It was Moses who provided the sacrificial animals, the priestly clothing, and unleavened bread. Moses washed Aaron and his sons and dressed them in their appropriate garments. He proceeded to anoint all the furniture and then anoint Aaron and his sons.
Once this was accomplished, Moses brought the sin offering bullock to the priests and they laid their hands on its head. Moses then slew it and placed some of its blood on the horns of the brazen altar to “[purify[ the altar” (Leviticus 8:15). He poured the remaining blood at the base of the altar. He then brought the ram of burnt offering to Aaron and his sons, who laid their hands on its head. Moses proceeded to offer the burnt offering in the prescribed manner (see verses 20, 21). He next brought the
“ram of consecration,” with Aaron and his sons again laying their hands on it. These details point to Moses as the central figure in the consecration of the tabernacle and the priesthood. His extensive role was unique, not found in any other tabernacle ceremony.
God’s Role in Atonement
In this vital ceremony, Moses was the provider and overseer who, undoubtedly, represents God Himself. Salvation from sin and death, though now legally atoned for, is still a gift. Justice condemned our race because of sin. But God’s wisdom, guided by love, charted a course for the ultimate education and blessing of our race. By understanding man=s fallen
condition and God=s ultimate purpose, we gain a wonderful perspective of His grand character. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
The Apostle Paul shares the sentiments of Jesus, as he recognized God’s role in providing his sacrificial humanity. “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast
thou prepared me=” (Hebrews 10:5). Though the physical sacrifice was offered by our Lord, his perfect human body was prepared by God, aptly pictured by Moses providing the sin offering in Leviticus 8.
In His wisdom, God understood a priesthood would be necessary to help reconcile the world to Himself. This chapter details the anointing of the high priest with holy anointing oil. The oil aptly represents the holy Spirit. The under priests were not directly anointed but included under the anointing of Aaron. The church follows a similar pattern. “Having
foreordained us unto adoption [literally, placement] as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:5,6 ASV). As members of the priesthood, the church is ordained by God “according to the good pleasure of His will.”
Paul continues, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom ye also trusted, after that, ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:10,13,14). Gathering all things under Christ is the work of the anointed priesthood. Those who have been called to this work should treasure the prospect of helping the world in a way that no human institution could ever hope to do.
Another unique feature of Leviticus 8 is the sacrifice of only one sin offering animal, a bullock. In both Leviticus 9 and 16, two animals comprised the sin offering, a bullock and a goat. This suggests that when God formed His plan of salvation, His intent was that those who would comprise the offering would be united and considered by God as a single sacrifice. However, the sin offering would actually be in two parts, illustrated by the bullock and goat of Leviticus 9 and 16. But in the establishment of the priesthood, there is the oneness of purpose emphasized.
After the sin offering was slain, the blood was placed on the horns of the brazen altar and poured at its base and Moses “sanctified it” (Leviticus 8:15). This pictures God=s objective that the merit of Jesus, by the sin offering of Jesus and the church, will provide a means for the acceptable offerings of the world. The path to God will be sanctified.
“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” (Exodus 29:21). It was Moses who did all of this. It indicates that
the sacrifices of the Gospel Age are holy, being covered by the blood and directed by God’s holy Spirit. The value of the Gospel Age offerings cannot be minimized. When we offer ourselves in service to God it should be with this understanding that, because of the blood, our offering can be holy and acceptable to God even though it adds nothing to Jesus’ merit.
Leviticus 8 also made exclusive use of the ram of consecration. “And he presented the other ram, the ram of consecration: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram. And he slew it; and Moses took of the blood thereof, and put it upon the tip of Aaron’s right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right
foot. And he brought Aaron’s sons; and Moses put of the blood upon the tip of their right ear, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot: and Moses sprinkled the blood upon the altar round about” (Leviticus 8:22-24 ASV).
The role of Moses in the application of blood on the right ear, thumb, and toe of the priests describes God=s involvement in our consecrated walk. He expects our full devotion, shown by the blood applied to the ear, thumb,
and toe. But there was another application of blood from the ram of consecration. “And Moses took of the anointing oil, and of the blood
[from the ram of consecration] which was upon the altar, and sprinkled it upon Aaron, upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon his sons’ garments with him, and sanctified Aaron, his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him” (Leviticus 8:30 ASV).
Mixing oil with blood from the ram of consecration describes God’s intervention as we endeavor to live a consecrated lifestyle. In establishing this high standard of consecration, God does not leave us without divine assistance. Through His spirit, He directs and overrules our affairs, knowing our need for help and guidance. Living a consecrated lifestyle is
not natural to the fallen flesh. Only with God’s Spirit as a guide can it be maintained (see Philippians 4:13).
At the opening of this ceremony of consecration, Moses first washed Aaron and his sons and then dressed them. Aaron was dressed in the robes of glory and beauty even before offering any sacrifice (Leviticus 8:6-9). This sequence suggests another aspect of our walk.
“In the type, Aaron was arrayed in the ‘glorious garments’ before he had offered a single sacrifice either for himself or for the people …
We believe that God intended here to show forth that Aaron at this time received these garments merely as the earnest of his inheritance. Really, these ‘glorious garments,’ as yet, were Aaron’s only by possession, though not by ownership! … So too, at the time of our begettal we receive the earnest of our inheritance, but the full inheritance awaits us only after we have faithfully carried out our covenant of sacrifice, even unto death (Ephesians 1:13,14).”1
(1) Anton Frey, Notes on the Tabernacle, page 497.
We rejoice to know that, if faithful to God, our full inheritance will allow us to assist a race that has been mired in sin, death, and corruption. To have the ability of a divine being and the wisdom to guide mankind toward God is a joy that should fill the heart of every saint. Our inheritance is not a quest for power, but an opportunity to bless and uplift our human family. As we see the world struggle for happiness and frustrated by their repeated failures, to know we can have a part in bringing them lasting happiness is one of the great prospects that lie ahead for a priesthood still being formed by God.
The consecration of the priesthood ceremony covered seven days. This coincides with the seven stages of the Gospel Age and confirms that the church shares in the sin offering. The events of this ceremony emphasize that the sin offering is linked to the consecration of every member of Christ. With the addition of the ram of consecration and the usage of its blood, there is an emphasis on how the sin offering of Jesus and the church affects them personally.
Exodus 29:36,37 provides the details for what was to occur during the seven days of this ceremony. On each of the days a bullock for a sin offering was to be offered. These verses place an emphasis on cleansing the altar. “Seven days thou shalt make an atonement for the [brazen] altar, and sanctify it; and it shall be an altar most holy: whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy” (Exodus 29:37). Verse 43 then summarizes the purpose of establishing the tabernacle arrangement. “And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory” (Exodus 29:43). These seven days then, as a picture of the Gospel Age, were to prepare the way for Israel to meet with God and witness the revealing of His glory.
The 8th Day Following the Consecration of the Priesthood — Leviticus 9
Since this ceremony follows immediately after the consecration of the priesthood in chapter 8, a sequential order in the antitype is indicated. The 8th day generally represents a new beginning. Jesus was raised to life on the 8th day. The ending of this ceremony then likely corresponds to a new beginning for mankind and may even be indicative of the resurrection. Chapters 8 and 9, taken together, represent the two ages of salvation, the Gospel Age followed by the Millennium.
Two Sin Offerings
In Leviticus 9, Moses is no longer the primary character. Aaron assumed all the duties of the high priest. Rather than only one animal for a sin offering, as in chapter 8, Aaron was instructed to offer one bullock and one goat.
While chapter 8 pointed to a unity between Jesus and the church by offering only one sin offering, two animals now illustrate the reality that the church has a separate part in the sin offering, which is intended for the world’s benefit, as the goat was “for the people” (Leviticus 9:7,15) This aligns with the symbolism of Leviticus 16, which also has two animals for a sin offering. Also, like chapter 16, Aaron provides the sin offering bullock, while the goat is provided by the people. This shows how Jesus offered himself in sacrifice while the church was taken from fallen humanity. This feature is omitted in chapter 8.
When Aaron offered the bullock for a sin offering, he represented Jesus offering his own perfect humanity. His offering of the goat illustrated Jesus’ role in dealing with the sacrifice of the church. Bro. Russell suggests the following. “The sacrifice of the goat, representing the sacrifice of the body of Christ, is a part of the atonement work, though the merit rests entirely upon the first sacrifice — of the bullock. From this we see how the Lord is accepting ‘us’ as sacrificers, because we are Christ=s and not on our own account” (R3507). How grateful each should be when realizing that any sacrifice we make is made fully acceptable because of our Lord’s merit. Being offered by Aaron also describes Jesus’ involvement in our daily lives, as he shepherds us through our narrow-way experiences (see John 10:11-16).
The Peace Offering
Another distinction from Leviticus 8 and 16 was the peace offering. Chapter 9 details two animals, a bullock and a ram, while in chapter 8 the ram of consecration was considered the peace offering. There was no peace offering in chapter 16. The peace offering in chapter 9 is specifically mentioned as the people’s offering (Leviticus 9:18). Being designated the
people’s offering, and connected to the ceremony of chapter 9, emphasizes the reason for our consecrations. The royal priesthood will bring the peace long sought for by the world. It will be achieved when mankind’s relationship with God is restored through the sacrifices of the Gospel Age. Describing the eventual subjection of everything under God, the Apostle Paul says, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29). Our sacrificial lives are for the benefit of the dead race of man. We should never lose sight of this. Remembering this will help us maintain a vital consecrated lifestyle.
The major distinction of chapter 9 is mentioned early in the chapter and occurred at the end. “And they brought that which Moses commanded before the tabernacle of the congregation: and all the congregation drew
near and stood before the LORD. And Moses said, ‘This is the thing which the LORD commanded that ye should do: and the glory of the LORD shall appear unto you’” (Leviticus 9:5,6). These words reveal that the purpose of consecrating the priesthood will be so God’s glory can appear to the people. This happened at the conclusion of the ceremony in a series of
The First Blessing — Leviticus 9:22
Unlike chapters 8 and 16, chapter 9 concludes with Aaron first blessing the people while still at the brazen altar. “And Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people, and blessed them; and he came down from offering the sin offering, and the burnt-offering, and the peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and came out, and blessed the
people: and the glory of Jehovah appeared unto all the people. And there came forth fire from before Jehovah, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and the fat: and when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:22-24 ASV).
Although not specifically mentioned, it seems likely Aaron wore his sacrificial robes as he stood at the brazen altar and blessed the people. Since Aaron is still wearing sacrificial robes this may describe the positive influence of the saints while still in the flesh. The same principle is stated by Jesus when he said, “Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). The saints have a beneficial effect on those around them. The Apostle Paul encouraged this good influence when he admonished the brethren to “follow peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14). The desire to be a blessing becomes a theme of life and is here indicated by Aaron=s blessing while still wearing sacrificial robes.
The Second Blessing — Leviticus 9:23
After Aaron “came down” (Leviticus 9:22) from the altar he and Moses went into the tabernacle. The inclusion of Moses may be an indication that an agreement between God (pictured by Moses) and the antitypical priesthood (on behalf of the world) was about to take place and may describe the New Covenant being inaugurated. As they emerged from the tabernacle, Aaron was likely wearing the glorious garments of the high priest and, together with Moses, they blessed the people a second time. “And the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:23, 24). This is the only time Moses appears in this chapter. However, it is significant and describes how kingdom blessings will be provided by God and be a cooperative effort with the antitypical priesthood.
The sacrifices of the age will then be complete, and the benefits of some 2,000 years of sacrifice will begin to flow. “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, “In thee shall all nations be blessed” (Galatians 3:8).
How God’s glory will be specifically manifested is yet unclear. But the phrase, “the glory of the Lord” is used by Isaiah in connection with the leveling of society. “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 40:4,5). What a precious promise is held out to the world and should be especially meaningful to the oppressed and downtrodden.
When the people saw the fire come down from heaven and consume the sacrificial offerings, they fell on their faces and worshipped God. There will come a time when the sacrifices of the previous age will be understood and appreciated by mankind. As the dead begin to return there will be few skeptics to doubt the promises of God or question His integrity. But, the words of Isaiah will be fulfilled. “The LORD hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10). Every consecrated heart should long for the time this world will fall on their faces in love and appreciation for our wonderful God and His plan of salvation.
Day of Atonement — Leviticus 16
This meaningful chapter deals with the satisfaction of God’s justice. This is not the focus of either chapter 8 or 9. There are three major distinctions seen in chapter 16: the burning of incense in the Holy, the sprinkling of blood on the Mercy Seat, and the inclusion of a scapegoat.
Incense in the Holy
Although incense was kept continually burning in the Holy (Exodus 30:7,8), it had special significance on the Day of Atonement. The high priest was not allowed to enter the Most Holy with the blood unless he first placed
burning coals from the brazen altar on the incense altar and then added incense. The smoke ascended into Most Holy and covered the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:13). The high priest was then allowed to enter with the blood.
Leviticus 8 and 9 did not require this, because no blood was taken into the Most Holy. The prerequisite of incense describes how Jesus= living sacrifice was viewed by God and preceded the application of his merit. It is reflected in the words of God on the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 17:5). It was his sacrificial life and subsequent death that provided the merit that was applied for sin. And so, incense came before the application of blood.
Application of Blood
In no other service did the high priest enter the Most Holy with blood. This is the key action of the chapter. The blood of the bullock was to make atonement for Aaron and his house (Leviticus 16:6). Because Jesus was sinless, he required no sin offering. By providing a bullock for the sins of Aaron and his house, in this scene, Aaron antitypically includes the
church, which does require an atoning sacrifice.
“And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times” (Leviticus 16:14). The sprinkling of blood in the shape of a cross seven times may suggest the seven stages of the Gospel Age, a fitting reference since this atoning blood justified the body members of the priesthood.
The goat for a sin offering was treated in like manner as the bullock and was “for the people” (Leviticus 16:15). This does not mean our Lord=s sacrifice atoned solely for the church. The goat=s association with the bullock reveals that the church=s offering is added to the sacrifice of Jesus. This is what the Apostle Paul indicated in Colossians 1:24, “I am now rejoicing in the sufferings on your account, and I am filling up the remainder of the afflictions of the anointed one, in my flesh, on behalf of his body which is the congregation” (Diaglott). The church does not provide any legal merit but brings a wealth of experience with affliction and sacrifice. This is the value the church brings to Christ. Individuals who were sinful by nature, and yet faithfully served God, will have a profound effect on the world. Realizing there is a little flock who went through the same experience with sin will create a spiritual bond and reveal the sensitivity of God in knowing the world will need this added compassionate touch.
“And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:21, 22). The scapegoat (Hebrew, “goat of departure”) was unique to the Day of Atonement.
There were two goats brought by the people — the Lord’s goat, sacrificed as a sin offering, and the scapegoat. Since the Lord’s goat represents the church, it is reasonable that the scapegoat should picture the Great Company. The meaning of the scapegoat has long been debated.
Bro. Russell suggests that the sins being confessed on this class are the willful sins of others committed against knowledge. Because the Great Company will fall short of the faithfulness required of the church class they will endure more severe treatment, intended to help wash their robes (Revelation 7:13,14, R4015). Bearing a certain degree of punishment for the sins of others is not without precedent. Israel at the First Advent received severe punishment for their treatment and rejection of Jesus. In His mercy, God allowed their punishment to also pay the penalty for past generations (see Matthew 23:34-36). Rather than being an unfair burden on the last generation of age, it is actually an act of kindness. In the case of the Great Company, it will accomplish the cleansing of an otherwise faithful class.
The complexity of the tabernacle arrangement can be overwhelming. But that should not cause any to shy away from its study. The Lord took great care to create the types and antitypes for our admonition (1 Corinthians 10:11). Through them, glimpses of the divine mind are revealed. By comparing the various tabernacle ceremonies, the order and harmony of God’s plan is evident. His divine attributes are manifested as He directs the course of human history to its eventual restitution and blessing. It
paints a picture of universal peace, but a peace that will come through sacrifice and devotion. Our hope for this glorious future is strengthened when studying these ancient rituals.