Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Moses is commanded to consecrate Aaron and his sons, Lev 8:1-3. Moses convenes the congregation; washes, clothes, and anoints Aaron, Lev 8:4-12. He also clothes Aaron's sons, Lev 8:13. Offers a bullock for them as a sin-offering, Lev 8:14-17. And a ram for a burnt-offering, Lev 8:18-21. And another ram for a consecration-offering, Lev 8:22-24. The fat, with cakes of unleavened bread, and the right shoulder of the ram, he offers as a wave-offering, and afterwards burns, Lev 8:25-28. The breast, which was the part of Moses, he also waves, Lev 8:29. And sprinkles oil and blood upon Aaron and his sons, Lev 8:30. The flesh of the consecration ram is to be boiled and eaten at the door of the tabernacle, Lev 8:31, Lev 8:32. Moses commands Aaron and his sons to abide seven days at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, which they do accordingly, Lev 8:33-36.
Take Aaron and his sons - The whole subject of this chapter has been anticipated in the notes, Exo 28:1 (note), etc., and Exo 29:1 (note), etc., in which all the sacrifices, rites, and ceremonies have been explained in considerable detail; and to those notes the reader is referred. It is only necessary to observe that Aaron and his sons were not anointed until now. Before, the thing was commanded; now, first performed.
He put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim - The Urim and Thummim are here supposed to be something different from the breastplate itself. See Clarke's note on Exo 28:15, See Clarke's note on Exo 28:16, See Clarke's note on Exo 28:30.
And he put the mitre - See Clarke's note on Exo 28:36.
The bullock for the sin-offering - This was offered each day during the seven days of consecration. See Exo 29:36.
Put it upon the tip of Aaron's right ear, etc. - See this significant ceremony explained in the note on Exo 29:20 (note). Calmet remarks that the consecration of the high priest among the Romans bore a considerable resemblance to the consecration of the Jewish high priest. "The Roman priest, clothed with a garment of silk, his head covered with a crown of gold adorned with sacred ribbons, was conducted into a subterranean place, over which there was a floor of planks pierced through with many holes. On this floor they sacrificed a bullock, whose blood was freely poured out on the planks or floor, which running through the holes fell upon the priest, who stood under to receive this sacred aspersion, and who, in order to be completely covered with the blood, took care to present the whole of his body, his clothes, face, eyes, nose, lips, and even his tongue, to receive the drops of blood falling through the pierced floor above. Being completely covered with this sanguineous shower, he ascended from his subterranean place, and was acknowledged and adored by the people as Pontifex Maximus, or supreme high priest." These rites, which bear a striking allusion to those used in the consecration of Aaron, and from which they were probably borrowed, and disguised by the introduction of their own superstitions, are particularly described by Aurelius Prudentius, in his poem entitled Romani Martyris Supplicium, from which I shall select those verses, the subject of which is given above, as the passage is curious, and the work not common.
"Summus sacerdos nempe sub terram scrobe
Acta in profundum consecrandus mergitur,
Mire infulatus, festa vittis tempora
Nectens, corona tum repexus aurea,
Cinctu Gabino sericam fultus togam.
Tabulis superne strata texunt pulpita,
Rimosa rari pegmatis compagibus,
Scindunt subinde vel terebrant aream,
Crebroque lignum perforant acumine,
Pateat minutis ut frequens hiatibus -
Hic ut statuta est immolanda bellua,
Pectus sacrata dividunt venabulo,
Eructat amplum volnus undam sanguinis - etc.
Tum per frequentes mille rimarum vias
Illapsus imber, tabidum rorem pluit,
Defossus intus quem sacerdos excipit,
Guttas ad omnes turpe subjectans caput,
Et veste et omni putrefactus corpore:
Quin os supinat, obvias offert genas
Supponit aures, labra, nares objicit,
Oculos et ipsos perluit liquoribus,
Nec jam palato parcit, et linguam rigat,
Donec cruorem totus atrum combibat -
Procedit inde pontifex vlsu horridus - etc.
Omnes salutant atque adorant eminus,
Vilis quod illum sanguls, et bos mortuus
Foedis latentem sub cavernis laverint."
Of these lines the reader will not be displeased to find the following poetical version: -
"For when, with sacred pomp and solemn state,
Their great high priest the Romans consecrate,
His silken vest in Gabine cincture bound,
A festal fillet twines his temples round:
And, while aloft the gorgeous mitre shines,
His awful brow a golden crown confines.
In a deep dyke, for mystic ritual made,
He stands, surrounded with terrific shade.
High o'er his holy head a stage they place,
Adorn with paintings, and with statues grace;
Then with keen piercers perforate the floor,
Till thronging apertures admit no more.
Thither the victim ox is now convey'd,
To glut the vengeance of the thirsty blade.
The sacred spear his sturdy throat divides,
Down, instant streaming, gush the gory tides,
Through countless crevices the gaping wood
Distils corrupted dew and smoking blood;
Drop after drop, in swift succession shed,
Falls on the holy pontiff's mitred head;
While, to imbibe the sanctifying power,
His outspread garments drink the crimson shower;
Then on his back in reeking streams he lies,
And laves in livid blood his lips and eyes;
Bares every limb, exposes every pore,
To catch the virtue of the streaming gore;
With open mouth expects the falling flood,
Moistens his palate and his tongue with blood;
Extends his ears to meet the sanguine rain,
Nor lets a single drop descend in vain.
Then from the gloomy cave comes forth to light,
Bathed in black blood, and horrible to sight! -
By the vile torrent, and the victim slain,
In the dark cavern cleansed from mortal stain,
Their priest, enveloped in atoning gore,
With trembling awe surrounding throngs adore."
Prudentius was born about the middle of the fourth century, and was no doubt intimately acquainted with the circumstances he describes.
And waved them for a wave-offering - See the nature of this and the heave-offering in the note on Exo 29:27 (note).
And Moses took - the blood - and sprinkled it upon Aaron, etc. - Thus we find that the high priest himself must be sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice; and our blessed Lord, of whom Aaron was a type, was sprinkled with his own blood.
1. In his agony in the garden.
2. In his being crowned with thorns.
3. In the piercing of his hands and his feet. And,
4. In his side being pierced with the spear. All these were so many acts of atonement performed by the high priest.
For seven days shall he consecrate you - This number was the number of perfection among the Hebrews; and the seven days' consecration implied a perfect and full consecration to the sacerdotal office. See Clarke's note on Exo 29:30.
So Aaron and his sons did - This chapter shows the exact fulfillment of the commands delivered to Moses, Exodus 29; and consequently the complete preparation of Aaron and his sons to fill the awfully important office of priests and mediators between God and Israel, to offer sacrifices and make atonement for the sins of the people. "Thus," says Mr. Ainsworth, "the covenant of the priesthood was confirmed unto the tribe of Levi in Aaron and his sons, which covenant was life and peace, Mal 2:5. But these are made priests without an oath; also, there were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death; and they served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, offering gifts and sacrifices which could not make him who did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience; for they were carnal ordinances imposed upon them till the time of reformation, that is, until the time of Christ, who was made a priest of God with an oath, and made surety of a better covenant established on better promises. And because he continueth for ever, he hath a priesthood which passeth not from one to another, and is a minister of the true tabernacle, which God pitched and not man. Not by the blood of bulls and of goats, but by his own blood, he entered once into the holy place, having found everlasting redemption for us; and is therefore able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God through him, as he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Taken in reference to his priesthood and sacrifice, all these rites and ceremonies are significant and edifying, but taken out of his relation, they would be as absurd and nugatory as the consecration of the Roman Pontifex Maximus, mentioned above by Prudentius.