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The Ceremony for Ordaining Priests

The Lord said to Moses:

Send for Aaron and his sons, as well as their priestly clothes, the oil for ordination, the bull for the sin offering, the two rams, and a basket of bread made without yeast. Then bring the whole community of Israel together at the entrance to the sacred tent.

Moses obeyed the Lord, and when everyone had come together, he said, “We are here to follow the Lord’s instructions.”

After Moses told Aaron and his sons to step forward, he had them wash themselves. He put the priestly shirt and robe on Aaron and wrapped the sash around his waist. Then he put the sacred vest on Aaron and fastened it with the finely woven belt. Next, he put on Aaron the sacred breastpiece that was used in learning what the Lord wanted his people to do. He placed the turban on Aaron’s head, and on the front of the turban was the narrow strip of thin gold as a sign of his dedication to the Lord.

10 Moses then dedicated the sacred tent and everything in it to the Lord by sprinkling them with some of the oil for ordination. 11 He sprinkled the bronze altar seven times, and he sprinkled its equipment, as well as the large bronze bowl and its base. 12 He also poured some of the oil on Aaron’s head to dedicate him to the Lord. 13 At last, Moses dressed Aaron’s sons in their shirts, then tied sashes around them and put special caps on them, just as the Lord had commanded.

14 Moses led out the bull that was to be sacrificed for sin, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on its head. 15 After it was killed, Moses dipped a finger in the blood and smeared some of it on each of the four corners of the bronze altar, before pouring out the rest at the foot of the altar. This purified the altar and made it a fit place for offering the sacrifice for sin. 16 Moses then took the fat on the bull’s insides, as well as the lower part of the liver and the two kidneys with their fat, and sent them up in smoke on the altar fire. 17 Finally, he took the skin and the flesh of the bull, together with the food still in its stomach, and burned them outside the camp, just as the Lord had commanded.

18 Moses led out the ram for the sacrifice to please the Lord.[a] After Aaron and his sons had laid their hands on its head, 19 Moses killed the ram and splattered its blood against the four sides of the altar. 20-21 Moses had the animal cut up, and he washed its insides and hind legs. Then he laid the head, the fat, and the rest of the ram on the altar and sent them up in smoke with a smell that pleased the Lord. All this was done just as the Lord had commanded.

22 Moses led out the ram for the ceremony of ordination. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on its head, 23 and it was killed. Moses smeared some of its blood on Aaron’s right earlobe, some on his right thumb, and some on the big toe of his right foot. 24 Moses did the same thing for Aaron’s sons, before splattering the rest of the blood against the four sides of the altar. 25 He took the animal’s fat tail, the fat on its insides, and the lower part of the liver and the two kidneys with their fat, and the right hind leg. 26 Then he took from a basket some of each of the three kinds of bread[b] that had been made without yeast and had been dedicated to the Lord.

27 Moses placed the bread on top of the meat and gave it all to Aaron and his sons, who lifted it up[c] to show that it was dedicated to the Lord. 28 After this, Moses placed it on the fires of the altar and sent it up in smoke with a smell that pleased the Lord. This was part of the ordination ceremony. 29 Moses lifted up [d] the choice ribs of the ram to show that they were dedicated to the Lord. This was the part that the Lord had said Moses could have.

30 Finally, Moses sprinkled the priestly clothes of Aaron and his sons with some of the oil for ordination and with some of the blood from the altar. So Aaron and his sons, together with their priestly clothes, were dedicated to the Lord.

31 Moses said to Aaron and his sons:

The Lord told me that you must boil this meat at the entrance to the sacred tent and eat it there with the bread. 32 Burn what is left over 33 and stay near the entrance to the sacred tent until the ordination ceremony ends seven days from now. 34 We have obeyed the Lord in everything that has been done today, so that your sins may be forgiven.[e] 35 The Lord has told me that you must stay near the entrance to the tent for seven days and nights, or else you will die.

36 Aaron and his sons obeyed everything that the Lord had told Moses they must do.

The First Sacrifices Offered by Aaron and His Sons

Eight days later Moses called together Aaron, his sons, and Israel’s leaders. Then he said to Aaron:

Find a young bull and a ram that have nothing wrong with them. Offer the bull to the Lord as a sacrifice for sin and the ram as a sacrifice to please him.[f]

Tell the people of Israel that they must offer sacrifices as well. They must offer a goat[g] as a sacrifice for sin, and a bull and a ram as a sacrifice to please the Lord. The bull and the ram must be a year old and have nothing wrong with them. Then the people must offer a bull and a ram as a sacrifice to ask the Lord’s blessing[h] and also a grain sacrifice[i] mixed with oil. Do this, because the Lord will appear to you today.

After the animals and the grain had been brought to the front of the sacred tent, and the people were standing there in the presence of the Lord, Moses said:

The Lord has ordered you to do this, so that he may appear to you in all of his glory. Aaron, step up to the altar and offer the sacrifice to please the Lord, then offer the sacrifices for the forgiveness of your sins and for the sins of the people, just as the Lord has commanded.

Aaron stepped up to the altar and killed the bull that was to be the sacrifice for his sins. His sons brought him the blood. He dipped a finger in it, smeared some on the four corners of the bronze altar, and poured out the rest at its foot. 10 But he sent up in smoke the fat, the kidneys, and the lower part of the liver, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 11 Then Aaron burned the skin and the flesh outside the camp.

12 After Aaron had killed the ram that was sacrificed to please the Lord, Aaron’s sons brought him the blood, and he splattered it against all four sides of the altar. 13 They brought him each piece of the animal, including the head, and he burned them all on the altar. 14 He washed the insides and the hind legs and also sent them up in smoke.

15 Next, Aaron sacrificed the goat for the sins of the people, as he had done with the sacrifice for his own sins. 16 And so, he burned this sacrifice on the altar in the proper way. 17 He also presented the grain sacrifice and burned a handful of the flour on the altar as part of the morning sacrifice.

18 At last, he killed the bull and the ram as a sacrifice to ask the Lord’s blessing on the people. Aaron’s sons brought him the blood, and he splattered it against the four sides of the altar. 19 His sons placed all the fat, as well as the kidneys and the lower part of the liver 20 on top of the choice ribs. 21 Then Aaron burned the fat on the altar and lifted up[j] the ribs and the right hind leg to show that these were dedicated to the Lord. This was done just as the Lord had instructed Moses.

22 Aaron held out his hand and gave the people his blessing, before coming down from the bronze altar where he had offered the sacrifices. 23 He and Moses went into the sacred tent, and when they came out, they gave the people their blessing. Then the Lord appeared to the people in all of his glory. 24 The Lord sent fiery flames that burned up everything on the altar, and when everyone saw this, they shouted and fell to their knees to worship the Lord.

Nadab and Abihu

10 Nadab and Abihu were two of Aaron’s sons, but they disobeyed the Lord by burning incense to him on a fire pan, when they were not supposed to.[k] Suddenly the Lord sent fiery flames and burned them to death. Then Moses told Aaron that this was exactly what the Lord had meant when he said:

“I demand respect
    from my priests,
and I will be praised
    by everyone!”

Aaron was speechless.

Moses sent for Mishael and Elzaphan, the two sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel. Then he told them, “Take these two dead relatives of yours outside the camp far from the entrance to the sacred tent.” So they dragged the dead men away by their clothes.

Then Moses told Aaron and his other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar:

Don’t show your sorrow by messing up your hair and tearing your priestly clothes, or the Lord will get angry. He will kill the three of you and punish everyone else. It’s all right for your relatives, the people of Israel, to mourn for those he destroyed by fire. But you are the Lord’s chosen priests, and you must not leave the sacred tent, or you will die.

Aaron and his two sons obeyed Moses.

The Lord said to Aaron:

When you or your sons enter the sacred tent, you must never drink beer or wine. If you do, you will die right there! This law will never change. 10 You must learn the difference between what is holy and what isn’t holy and between the clean and the unclean. 11 You must also teach the people of Israel everything that I commanded Moses to say to them.

12 Moses told Aaron and his two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar:

The grain sacrifice that was offered to give thanks to the Lord[l] is very holy. So make bread without yeast from the part that wasn’t sent up in smoke and eat it beside the altar. 13 The Lord has said that this belongs to you and your sons, and that it must be eaten in a holy place. 14-15 But the choice ribs and the hind leg that were lifted up[m] may be eaten by your entire family, as long as you do so in an acceptable place.[n] These parts are yours from the sacrifices that the people offer to ask the Lord’s blessing.[o] This is what the Lord has commanded, and it will never change.

16 When Moses asked around and learned that the ram for the sin sacrifice had already been burned on the altar, he became angry with Eleazar and Ithamar and said, 17 “Why didn’t you eat the meat from this sacrifice in an acceptable place? It is very holy, and the Lord has given you this sacrifice to remove Israel’s sin and guilt. 18 Whenever an animal’s blood isn’t brought into the sacred tent, I commanded you to eat its meat in an acceptable place, but you burned it instead.”

19 Their father Aaron replied, “Today two of my sons offered the sacrifice for sin and the sacrifice to please the Lord, and look what has happened to me! Would the Lord have approved if I had eaten the sacrifice for sin?”

20 Moses was satisfied with Aaron’s reply.

Footnotes

  1. 8.18 sacrifice to please the Lord: See the note at 1.1-3.
  2. 8.26 three kinds of bread: Made from the finest wheat flour; olive oil was mixed into part of the dough, and some of it was made into thin wafers brushed with oil (see Exodus 29.2,3).
  3. 8.27,29 lifted it up: See the note at 7.29,30.
  4. 8.27,29 lifted it up: See the note at 7.29,30.
  5. 8.34 forgiven: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 34.
  6. 9.2 sacrifice to please him: See the note at 1.1-3.
  7. 9.3 goat: See the note at 1.1-3.
  8. 9.4 to ask the Lord’s blessing: See the note at 3.1.
  9. 9.4 grain sacrifice: To give thanks to the Lord (see the note at 2.1).
  10. 9.21 lifted up: See the note at 7.29,30.
  11. 10.1 when they. . . to: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  12. 10.12 grain sacrifice. . . to give thanks to the Lord: See the note at 2.1.
  13. 10.14,15 lifted up: See the note at 7.29,30.
  14. 10.14,15 acceptable place: See 6.24-30.
  15. 10.14,15 to ask the Lord’s blessing: See the note at 3.1.