Leviticus 8-9

Good morning! The end of Exodus described the tabernacle and its “furniture” set up, but only passingly references the priests who begin their duties. What that might actually have looked liked is presented here in Leviticus 8-9. Today’s two chapters are largely enactments of instructions already given to Moses in Exodus for the inauguration of the priesthood and the first sacrifices. While there is much ritual to read through, we have heard most of this already. To give it a different feel, this time try to imagine these rituals from the perspective of priests who are going through them for the first time.

Ordination to the priesthood involved washing, robing, crowning, sacrifices, and eight days of purification. We’ve had several comments in past weeks about the bloodiness of the priestly vocation, and how difficult it might have been to keep clean the beautiful handcrafted vestments that priests wore. Here it seems like there is no desire to get these robes clean—sprinkling with blood is a sign of consecration to the priests’ work—and the blood would presumably remain so long as the work is done well. I’m very thankful we don’t have such grisly working conditions today (with the exception of butchers in stockyards), but what are the marks of work that we wear on our own clothes and bodies? How do stains and marks give witness to the work we’ve done well (or otherwise)?

Aaron’s service as priest officially begins in Leviticus 9. Moses gives Aaron the words to say (an ironic reversal of how they started at the beginning of Exodus). I’ve been trying to imagine Aaron doing these rituals for the first time. We don’t get a sense of what he was feeling, but it’s interesting to imagine his hands trembling, heart racing, and mind fully aware of the sacrificial center of the Hebrew universe he was inhabiting between the people and God. Was he as nervous as a medical student performing her first surgery?

However Aaron felt, spontaneous fire from the tabernacle and cloud consumes the burnt offering and fat, an indication of God’s approval. Happy reading!

Read Leviticus 8-9.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s reading is Leviticus 10-11. Thanks for reading!

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