Anointed and Ordained: Leviticus 8

The move from the donor to the receipt process leads to the priests, the trustees or stewards. Moses, and Aaron and his sons, need legitimization, with ordination rites, anointing oils, and sacrifices of all types, before they in turn could preside at the sacrifices.

In our culture of meritocracy, we focus on education, qualifications, and competence for many social roles. Here, priesthood is hereditary, and the rites of legitimating seem pretty crude. But if you’ve been following the types of sacrifice, you may begin to recognize that just as we expect people to learn before they teach, these folks expected leaders to sacrifice before they presided at sacrifices.

This year in our community, we anticipate seeking my successor. We begin with naming who we are, what we’ve got, what we do with it. We sum up the staff team that we need to help the volunteers and participants. Within that we will name a position for a particular kind of role, for a peculiar kind of person. While I chant ‘union jobs for union members’, the denomination chants ‘only qualified ministry personnel may apply’, and you say – what?

The lavish devotion of a series of carcasses, with most being entirely burnt or dumped beyond the pale in the ash heap, signals the weight of the rite. Only later in the rite, with some grain ‘wave offerings’, is some of the sacrifice kept and eaten by the priests. A particular favourite is the smearing of blood on the hands, ear, and toe of each priest. Traditions assert that this is symbolic of hearing, acting, and pilgrimage on a journey.

Before you dismiss this as primitive crude anthropological esoterica, visit our ordination, or ordinations in other denominations, or graduations or calls to the bar ceremonies, or notice the robes and dresses worn in worship this month by choirs and clergy at our new church. Think ‘Godfather’ in a subculture of patronage, and marks and signals of a ‘made’ guy. What ‘sets us apart’, or as the root of the Hebrew word suggests, ‘fills us up’ for a role?

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

2 Take Aaron and his sons with him, the vestments, the anointing-oil, the bull of sin-offering, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread;

3 and assemble the whole congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

4 And Moses did as the LORD commanded him. When the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting,

5 Moses said to the congregation, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded to be done.’

6 Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward, and washed them with water.

7 He put the tunic on him, fastened the sash around him, clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him. He then put the decorated band of the ephod around him, tying the ephod to him with it.

8 He placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim.

9 And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden ornament, the holy crown, as the LORD commanded Moses.

10 Then Moses took the anointing-oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them.

11 He sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the basin and its base, to consecrate them.

12 He poured some of the anointing-oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him, to consecrate him.

13 And Moses brought forward Aaron’s sons, and clothed them with tunics, and fastened ashes around them, and tied head-dresses on them, as the LORD commanded Moses.

14 He led forward the bull of sin-offering; and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the bull of sin-offering,

15 and it was slaughtered. Moses took the blood and with his finger put some on each of the horns of the altar, purifying the altar; then he poured out the blood at the base of the altar. Thus he consecrated it, to make atonement for it.

16 Moses took all the fat that was around the entrails, and the appendage of the liver, and the two kidneys with their fat, and turned them into smoke on the altar.

17 But the bull itself, its skin and flesh and its dung, he burned with fire outside the camp, as the LORD commanded Moses.

18 Then he brought forward the ram of burnt-offering. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram,

19 and it was slaughtered. Moses dashed the blood against all sides of the altar.

20 The ram was cut into its parts, and Moses turned into smoke the head and the parts and the suet.

21 And after the entrails and the legs were washed with water, Moses turned into smoke the whole ram on the altar; it was a burnt-offering for a pleasing odour, an offering by fire to the LORD, as the LORD commanded Moses.

22 Then he brought forward the second ram, the ram of ordination. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram,

23 and it was slaughtered. Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.

24 After Aaron’s sons were brought forward, Moses put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet; and Moses dashed the rest of the blood against all sides of the altar.

25 He took the fat—the broad tail, all the fat that was around the entrails, the appendage of the liver, and the two kidneys with their fat—and the right thigh.

26 From the basket of unleavened bread that was before the LORD, he took one cake of unleavened bread, one cake of bread with oil, and one wafer, and placed them on the fat and on the right thigh.

27 He placed all these on the palms of Aaron and on the palms of his sons, and raised them as an elevation-offering before the LORD.

28 Then Moses took them from their hands and turned them into smoke on the altar with the burnt-offering. This was an ordination-offering for a pleasing odour, an offering by fire to the LORD.

29 Moses took the breast and raised it as an elevation-offering before the LORD; it was Moses’ portion of the ram of ordination, as the LORD commanded Moses.

30 Then Moses took some of the anointing-oil and some of the blood that was on the altar and sprinkled them on Aaron and his vestments, and also on his sons and their vestments. Thus he consecrated Aaron and his vestments, and also his sons and their vestments.

31 And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, ‘Boil the flesh at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and eat it there with the bread that is in the basket of ordination-offerings, as I was commanded, “Aaron and his sons shall eat it”;

32 and what remains of the flesh and the bread you shall burn with fire.

33 You shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the day when your period of ordination is 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 You shall remain at the entrance of the tent of meeting day and night for seven days, keeping the LORD’s charge so that you do not die; for so I am commanded.’

36 Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD commanded through Moses.