Leviticus – AARON and the Priesthood

Introduction to Leviticus – AARON and the Priesthood


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Introduction to Leviticus– AARON and the Priesthood

The Purpose of the Book of Leviticus was a handbook for the Levites outlining their priestly duties in worship, and a guidebook of holy living for the Hebrews.

It was written by Moses and the dates of events were 1445 – 1444 B.C.

It was set at the foot of Mount Sinai, and God is teaching the Israelites how to live as holy people.

Leviticus 19:2 “You must be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”

Made in God’s image, we were created to have a close relationship with Him; and when fellowship is broken, we are incomplete and need restoration. Communion with the living God is the essence of worship. It is vital, touching the very core of our lives. Perhaps this is why a whole book of the Bible is dedicated to worship.

Tonight we will be looking at the Aaronic Priesthood and how in our Christian lives today this is in fact in play, without us even doing any of the things mentioned hereafter.

The Aaronic Priesthood

In the beginning every individual man was his own priest and offered his own sacrifices, as did Adam, Cain, Abel, Noah, Abram, and others. In the book of Exodus we find the head of the family officiating on the behalf of all who were in his house. Exodus12:3

A further step of progression designated one tribe the ? as separated from the twelve tribes for holy service, and from this one man was chosen to be priest. His name was Aaron.

He was assisted by his sons because of the magnitude of his ministry. The Aaronic priesthood continued until the death of Christ in the days of Caiaphas, the High Priest. Then it ended, for Christ passed within the veil as the Great High Priest and took upon Himself the ministry of intercession for the whole Church of God. The progress summarized is therefore:

A Priest for himself / A priest for a family / A priest for a nation / A priest for the Church.

Tonight we are going to consider the priest for a nation. For reference to the inauguration of this priesthood is in Ex. 28 and 29. Please remember that these things “were written for our learning”, and so we will gather a few precious thoughts concerning our Great High Priest, and a few practical lessons for ourselves.

The first verse introduces a man who was


Ex. 28:1

“And take thou unto thee Aaron, thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto Me in the priest’s Office.

To receive a Divine call is a matter of first importance. Christ Himself had nothing of a selfish nature; neither did He choose for Himself His mission of life. The Apostle makes this very clear in

Heb v. 1-6, 10

“For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins : Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are our of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.”
If such a calling became necessary for the priesthood of the old order and if Christ was called of God, how much more should not those who are engaged in the work of the ministry assure themselves that they are there because of a Divine Call.?

Many men are in the ministry today not because of election by a synod, nor because of ordination by the laying on of hands by the presbytery {who did this acting for God as did Moses}, but because they were conscious that the Lord had already called and ordained them. The human sphere must always stand second to God.

Alas so many look upon the work of the ministry as a profession with the result that they are doing nothing which is really vital, and surely the vital part of God’s work is seeing men won for Christ through a real evangelism, and also establishing men in their “most holy faith”, through the unfolding of the Word of God, and the encouraging of God’s people to a deeper life of sanctification.

There is still a broader sense in which to observe this call, by leaving the high priest for a moment and remembering that we are all of us called to be priests unto God.

Paul says:

Ephes 4:1-2

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called……,

and again:

2Thes 2 13-15

“….God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel….
We are all, therefore, called.

That calling is followed by


Exodus 29:4

“ And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water “.

This washing relates to the priesthood. Therefore this washing does not refer to salvation.

An unsaved man could never be called to the ministry. It is good always to remember that the washing which brings cleansing from sin is in the Blood, not in the water, water being a type of the Word of God

John 15:3

“Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you “


Ps 119:9.

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.
Anyone called to God’s service should become immersed into the Word of God for his own sanctification as well as for his spiritual equipment to instruct others. Christ Himself, Who became the Great High Priest, was the Word Incarnated.

We are not told how the washing was done, except that it was public, in the presence of the whole congregation. Ministers of God who take a public stand for God’s Word and Theological Colleges, too, that would use the Bible as their only text book, would find God’s Word would wash away any doubts and criticisms, divesting us of all self opinion and leaving us standing as good fundamentalists.

The next two verses tell us how they were


Exodus 29: 5-6

“and thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat. And the robe….

The garments were actually part of Aaron’s consecration, as stated

“….that they may make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto Me in the priest’s office.”

Bearing in mind these three truths of “Calling”, “Cleansing”, and “Clothing” we will look again at Him Who is our Great High Priest as the time when He commenced His early ministry.

John the Baptist announced Him as the One Who was called of God, saying:

John 1:29

“Behold the Lamb of God”

Matt 3:13

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him”
Although baptism is a symbolic act of death, yet for the moment we can see a beautiful picture of the public washing of Him Who was about to take up His public ministry.

matt 3:16
“And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightaway out of the water ; and, lo, the heavens were open unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alightning upon Him.

John, writing of this incident himself, said

John 1:33

“And I knew Him not : but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizes with the Holy Spirit”

Surely this is the immediate clothing that makes for consecration. It is the clothing of the mantle of the Holy Spirit, the final equipment for powerful service.

Thus was the order for Old Testament service, and thus the order for New Testament ministry. Have things changed today??? With deep conviction we say “No”.


Ex 29: 9

“…….. And thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons”

The whole detail of the ordinance of this consecration is found in verses 10 to 36.

The outstanding peculiarity of this ceremony is that which relates to the application of the blood.

“Thou shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle blood upon the altar round about.”

There comes to one’s mind how Peter smote off the ear of Malchus, the High Priest’s servant, in a spirit of revenge. Why that part of the anatomy we do not know.

Also of how Adoni-Bezek cut off the thumbs and great toes of seventy kings he had subdued, and then how he himself suffered the same fate. Judges I 6:7. by way of reference

The reasons for committing such a cruel act appears to be one of the moral disposition. It has been stated: “Thumbs were cut off to incapacitate the hand from using the bow; great toes to render the gait uncertain.

In the act of consecration by anointing these particular members with blood we have a picture which is the reverse.

Instead of being incapacitated by amputation, these priests were to have each member quickened by consecration.

The ear was anointed so that it might be sensitive to the law of God, and that it might hear the confessions of the people’s sins for God and not for gossip.

The thumb was anointed that it might handle the offerings of the people for God and not for gold.

The great toe was anointed that it might walk in the ways of God, and that it might minister in service for God and not for gain.

The apostle writing to the Hebrews tells them that priests must be :


Heb 5:2

“Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way”.

This statement lends itself to much meditation.

Such a characteristic was truly Christ’s, as stated in the previous chapter.

Heb 4 :15

“For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

How often do we read in the gospel story. “And He was moved with compassion”.

We, too, shall do little for men unless we have a sympathetic and compassionate heart, and know how to bear each other’s burdens, to weep with those who weep, and to rejoice with those that rejoice.

Finally the priests were :


Their commission is to be found throughout the book of Leviticus. They had to obey all the instructions of the Lord God and to become, through their sacrifices, intercessors between God and man. Christ to-day is fulfilling His Priestly functions on our behalf, and as His children we stand alongside Him, interceding with Him.


I want to end this study with the following.

While the Aaronic priesthood was God-ordained and sufficient for the time then being, it was by no means perfect because it was functioned by men who knew sin and therefore, were subject to death.

This means that it was a priesthood that was ever changing, with all that was resultant. And God knew this. He had planned a more perfect priesthood which could only come into being in the fullness of His time. Cause God works to schedule.

We know the perfect Priest is Jesus, and although His Priestly ministry was not commenced until after His death when He ascended, God gave a very vivid picture of the nature of this priesthood nearly two thousand years before it was established and just over four hundred years before the Aaronic order was instituted. This priesthood is called the Melchizedek Priesthood.

This is the Priesthood that did not originate through a blood line as the Aaronic order required. This is the Priesthood that encompasses the most Holy attributes of a kingdom. This is the Priesthood that cut through the divide of pure genetics and made us neither Jew nor Greek nor Gentile. The Aaronic priesthood was inadequate. It was sufficient for the day and for Israel. But not for the human race as a whole.

I leave you with the thought that looking at the Aaronic priesthood one must reason that the law demanded not character but son ship. A man was to inherit his priestly rights from his father and hand them over to his son. So it was ever changing so far as character, conduct, ability etc were concerned. One priest might be willing, but not the next, one might be kind and loving, another irritable, one devoted, the other half hearted. Such was the Aaronic priesthood.

But we have an unchanging High Priest today of whom it is written in

Psalm 110:.4

“Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”.