20. "And you shall command [tetzaveh] the descendants of Israel, and let them bring to you pure, crushed olive oil for the luminary, to cause the lamp to ascend perpetually.
The priesthood, in the words of Cohen Gershon Ferency, has been unemployed for 2,000 years. But today priests are again being trained. Clothes like those prescribed for Aharon and his sons have been made again, so we are at this same stage in Israel’s history again. The message of these two verses is therefore of utmost importance for us. This is the key to YHWH dwelling at our very core. We who realize we are part of Israel have a job: to bring this oil. This is neither tithe nor t’rumah (25:6), but a totally separate offering, yet who would not want to be a part of such a momentous undertaking? The new Temple will need literal olive oil, to be sure, and it must be furnished by the people, not the priests. Even before there is a Temple, we need to bring the energy in this command to life, for it helps us understand who we are and how things work. It is important to YHWH that this oil come from olives, even if modern “lamp oil” may burn more brightly and produce less smoke. If we substitute something else, we will never see the gentle flame that olive oil produces and know what the light looked like in the Temple. The lesson is that Israel’s light is to come from the fruit of a specific tree—the tree of life (the Torah, which gives us wisdom and understanding). Besides its many virtues nutritionally and as a way to rejuvenate one’s skin, olive oil has many Temple uses beyond lighting the lamp. Things are cooked with it, especially the bread that is the picture of community; we need to be able to feed one another. Olive oil mixes well with spices, so it is used for the fragrant anointing oil. But it cannot be obtained by hand; a fresh olive is rock-hard (not to mention bitter). Olive oil only comes forth when pressured. In ancient times it was done through a series of weights placed on a mesh bag that would let the oil run out into a receptacle. In some cases, a giant screw was used to press it even further. Israel (both Yehudah in Yirmeyahu 11:16 and Efrayim in Hoshea 14:16) is likened to an olive tree. For our fruit to be useful usually requires us to be under great pressure; we have proven relatively useless when the screws are not being tightened, releasing our potential to flow forth. At such times we can more clearly see what is most important, and we get our priorities straight. Superfluous things get thrown away, and we can focus on what is really necessary. Knowing that pressure has a purpose, we can therefore relax when we experience it. It is there so our light will shine better. But pure oil only comes from the first pressing. That is the heart of this verse. Only the finest “extra virgin” oil may be used for the menorah, for anointing, or for anything in the sanctuary. It burns most cleanly. The finest oil is that which is given willingly, the moment the slightest pressure is applied—“a word to the wise”, which would please any parent. Later pressings still provide plenty of oil, but the added pressure needed creates more friction, heating the oil and changing its chemical structure. It has more pulp, decreasing the clarity. The more we must be pushed to obey, the less valuable our submission is to Him, as when those who listened to the spies’ evil report changed their mind after the sentence was laid upon them. He would not accept obedience from them at that point; it was too late. Second-pressing oil may still benefit others, but He will only let it be used at the more profane, common level, such as feeding the general public with physical food, which will not bring about the Kingdom, but only some temporary improvement. The first oil is transparent, a picture of the heart with no hidden motives. From the central column of the menorah, all the other candles on it are lit. It is known as the "servant", because the rest depend on it and are lower than it. Y’shua is "firstborn among many brothers", who poured out his life fully. In Gath-sh'maney [which itself means "oil press"], Yeshua sweat great drops of blood because that, more than his physical suffering, was the real crushing, and pure oil flowed from him as he said, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” We are called to bring his work to completion. (Col. 1:24)
21. "In the Tent of the Appointment outside of the dividing-veil which is by the testimony, shall Aharon and his sons tend it from evening until morning before YHWH; [it is] a never-ending statute throughout their generations on behalf of the descendants of Israel.
Tend it: literally, "arrange it in order "; in 1 Shmu’el 17:8 the same word is used for the "ranks" in the army. Evening until morning: when this light is most needed--symbolizing that "He who guards Israel never slumbers nor sleeps". (Psalm 121) Since the lamps had to be taken out of the menorah and cleaned one by one, re-wicked, and re-filled with oil using the snuffers and other instruments mentioned in Numbers 4:10, they would not do this during the daytime hours when the Temple was open for the rest of Israel to come in, and all seven lamps needed to be burning. It was done at night. Never-ending: Therefore nothing can ever be construed as removing this standing order. This source of special blessing is not currently intact, but that does not mean it is no longer necessary. As long as there is an Israel, this light must be tended. And no matter how awe-inspiring the priests’ clothing is, they cannot do their job until we do ours.
1. "And you must bring near to yourself your brother Aharon, and his sons along with him, from among [all] the sons of Israel so that he may function as a priest to Me--Aharon, along with Nadav and Avihu, El'azar and Ithamar, the sons of Aharon.
Moshe must have been excited to have his own brother chosen to be high priest, but because he was such a humble man, he probably could foresee that some would later level against him the charge of nepotism, though YHWH himself had chosen him. This is, after all, a very willing family, all of whom have taken great risks on behalf of Israel—including Yokheved their mother and their sister Miryam when she went to Pharaoh’s daughter to offer her mother as Moshe’s nurse. Later YHWH would end the debate over whom He has chosen, settling the question once and for all. But why was he chosen? YHWH can change anyone’s heart, but He most often looks for someone who has proven faithful in smaller things to choose for larger responsibilities. (Luke 16:10) From this time forward the tribe of Levi will be held up as the standard for Israel, and Yeshua would lay a similar standard on his students. “Let the dead bury their dead” parallels the requirement that the high priest was not to bury even his closest relatives, so he would not defile himself and be unfit to do his job. In our day, when so much is being restored, we must also go beyond the minimum and uphold the highest standards. Aharon did not have to be convinced, as even Moshe did. (Compare 4:12ff) Aharon was already on his way before YHWH called to Moshe from the burning bush. So when the Tent of Appointent was ready and needed people to work in it, YHWH showed him special favor, not because he was Moshe’s brother, but because of his own actions. He has been doing YHWH’s will on behalf of Israel for a long time, but only now is he being recognized with an official position. And because of his faithfulness, his sons are honored as well. In Israel, being given such a high position does not mean he will be able to sit back, collect taxes, and burden the people; rather, the people will become his responsibility. There was no room for error in this serious, demanding, exacting job. He is therefore no longer among the people. He is not a rich politician pretending to be “with the little guy”. He is in a category all his own. He has a different set of rules. He will be able to do things on the Sabbath that no one else can. Moshe has no title, though he is essentially an acting king. Aharon is given a position in the public eye, but he is not elected by the people. He is working first and foremost for YHWH, though the people will certainly benefit from it. “Priest” means officiator, mediator, or administrator. And this is not a job offer. There is no interview, no dangling before him the dazzling clothes he could wear or all the meat he could eat. He is just informed that this is his position. One misstep and there will be no covering for the people. He has no choice, yet he had to perform the job perfectly, for there is no safety net. Having their names here in the Book of Life is a great honor, but with it comes an extremely high level of accountability. The people have been afraid to approach YHWH. Now Aharon and his sons are told they will do so. He is the one man who will be able to walk behind the veil, but nothing less than perfection will be accepted. But in YHWH’s eyes, he is the man for the job. The whole nation will look to him for answers about what YHWH wants and for an example of how to approach Him. YHWH gave him responsibility because he chose to be responsible. As YHWH regathers Israel, we, too, will be given responsibilities such as we have only heard about in stories from long ago. Like Aharon, we need to restore ancient things we have not seen before. Aharon means "light-bearer" . Nadav means "generous or willing"--a "cheerful giver"; Avihu, "he is my father". El'azar means "Elohim has helped". And Ithamar means "coast of date palms" or “island of palms”—possibly an ancient way to describe an oasis, for “coast/island" comes from a word meaning "desire, sigh, or wait longingly", as anyone traveling through the desert would do if he knew of an oasis somewhere ahead. The fullness of the connection is seen in Yeshayahu/Isaiah 42:4. "The coastlands [to which the lost tribes were scattered] shall wait expectantly for his [Messiah’s] instruction [torah]." Psalm 92:12 tells us the palm is a symbol of the righteous man. So this last son of Aharon symbolizes the repentance of the northern kingdom. (Compare Hoshea 14.)
2. "And you shall make holy garments for your brother Aharon, for authority and for splendor.
Authority and splendor: or, for weightiness and outstanding dignity, to identify him as set apart from anyone else so he will be approached in a way different from others, much as one would when seeing someone in a police or military uniform. Clothes do not make a man, but they do set a certain standard of expectation that he will perform in a way appropriate to his position. “Splendor” indicates ornamentation; these garments are styled to demand attention like an ambulance siren, a flashing red light, or a bright orange or optic green vest. They have gold thread woven right into them, so they shimmer. There are no other clothes like these. They are meant to be something we cannot take our eyes off of, for we are meant to watch what he is doing and do the same thing—not at his level, but all Israel is a “kingdom of priests”. (19:6) We have a service to carry out that parallels his. The thread of blue in our tzitziyoth (Num. 15:38ff; Deut. 22:12) is our priestly garment, reminiscent of his blue garment. Tzitzit comes from a word meaning to sparkle or shine; it, too, is to catch our attention and remind us of YHWH’s commands. In contrast, YHWH’s enemies will be clothed with shame. (Psalm 132:13ff) Aharon was willing to do the difficult things, and he is rewarded by being the best-dressed man in Israel!
3. "And you shall speak to all the wise-hearted whom I have filled with a spirit of [perceptive] skill, and they shall make the garments of Aharon to set him apart unto his service as a priest to Me.
Skill: or wisdom. Certainly they are wise because YHWH has made them that way. But we can also look at it from the other direction: They are filled with a spirit of wisdom because they are wise of heart. I.e., they have prepared within themselves a place for wisdom, so that when they receive this “transplant”, they are ready and will not reject it. This is more than knowledge or even understanding. Those are prerequisites; YHWH says that if we reject knowledge, He will not let us or our children be His priests. (Hoshea 4:6) But simply knowing that if we flip a switch a light will come on, or even understanding the science behind the engineering, does not actually make a light work. We have to apply our understanding. We have to dam a river, build a generator, run the wiring, and take the load up and down; only then will flipping the switch actually do something. To become a kingdom of priests, we must start with a literal knowledge of the Torah. But we must also understand the “why” of the commands, for the Hebrew word for understanding means “dividing”—distinguishing between one thing and another. But this is still only useless trivia until that understanding is applied and we actually use the knowledge. If we keep His commands, YHWH says the nations will recognize our wisdom and understanding (Deut. 4:5)—that we not only can tell them what is the right thing to do, but show them how it is done. Wearing tzitziyoth (Num. 15:38) does not fulfill the command; letting it remind you to obey all of His commands, and then actually obeying them is what fulfills it. Wisdom comes from experience and by seeking more if it. Proverbs 4 tells us that the way to find wisdom begins with letting our hearts retain the words of righteous parents and obey their commands. As we do, and as we let it shape our lives beyond the strict command to other situations as well, because we can see parallels based on the examples it gives.
4. "Now these are the garments which they shall make: a pouch, an efod, a robe, and a tunic of plaited weave, a turban, and a waist-sash; thus they shall make holy garments for your brother Aharon and for his sons, for his service to Me as priest.
While all priests have some special garments, most of those described here are worn only by the High Priest. The Torah does not allow anyone, even the king, to usurp the place of the Aharonic priesthood, though it was temporarily suspended in its active form. Those from the whole community "gave up their rank" to Aharon, all contributing to build one outfit for him as all their work was unified. A particular person's job might have been nothing more than to sew stitches around one stone, which may have seemed insignificant, but if that one stone was not in place when he served before YHWH, he would not be properly dressed. Pouch: or pocket--used in Scripture only of this particular piece of clothing. Often translated "breastplate", it was made of cloth and held the stones bearing the names of the Israelites safely in place. Efod: an outer garment, somewhat like a work-apron worn over the same type of white linen garment all the priests wore,and fastened at the front to keep his other garments in place; its shoulder-straps attached like suspenders to the pouch in the center of his chest. The pouch was further held in place from below by straps to the sash.
5. "And they shall take the gold, and the blue, and the purple, and the crimson scarlet [yarn], and the bleached [linen],
6. "and they must make the efod of gold, blue and purple, crimson scarlet and bleached, fine-twisted [linen], the work of a skilled [artisan].
What he wears matches the inner tapestries of the Tabernacle, identifying him with it. He is all that most people will ever see of the inside of the tent. Skilled: or thoughtful, calculating.
7. "It will have two pieces, and will be joined together at both ends.
8. "And the ingeniously-imaginative waistband of the efod which is upon it, like its workmanship, shall be a part of it--gold, blue and purple, [spun] crimson scarlet, and bleached, fine-twisted [linen].
Ingeniously-imaginative: or, embroidered, but related to the word for “skilled” in v. 6. Waistband: a belt that would be tied.
9. "And you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel.
Onyx: Aramaic, "beryl"; LXX, "emerald". This is the same stone used for the tribe of Yosef, so in some way Yosef (possibly through his two sons, Efrayim and Menashe) is linked with the "shoulder" that bears the weight of the whole nation. His “added portion” was named Sh’khem, a different name for the shoulders. Anyone who falls under these twelve names is given a covering in YHWH’s eyes, just as the gates--the only entrances--to the New Yerushalayim bear these names (Rev. 21:12). YHWH's covenant with all other peoples has been broken (Zech. 11:10), so His only remaining covenant is with the whole house of Israel. Any Gentiles who come into covenant through Yeshua must become part of the Commonwealth of Israel (Eph. 2:12).
10. "Six of their names shall be on the one stone, and the six remaining names on the second stone, in the order in which they were born.
11. "With the [artistic] work of a craftsman, like the engravings of a signet, shall you engrave the two stones according to the names of the sons of Israel; you must fashion them as to be inset in a plaited-weave setting of gold.
An engraver must be patient, for one false move could destroy weeks’ worth of work. Like the engravings of a signet: possibly written in reverse (as on the front of an ambulance) so it would be readable when the high priest saw his reflection in the gold-plated walls of the sanctuary, and remind him of the whole nation he represented (see v. 12). The Aramaic version suggests distinct, protruding letters like those on coins. How would one do such detailed work with a chisel on precious stones? In ancient times, it is thought that the stone was eaten away by painting an acid taken from an animal source onto it in the desired patterns. On the stones made in modern times for the next sanctuary, the letters have been engraved by laser.
12. "And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder-pieces of the efod [as] stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel, and Aharon shall bear their names before the face of YHWH on his two shoulders as a reminder.
A reminder: also to YHWH of His covenant. He bears the responsibility for the whole nation on his shoulders. As we bear one another’s burdens, there is no room for a “chip” on our shoulder—a grudge against our own people. (Deut. 19:18) That is never the garment of the priesthood.
13. "And you shall make plaited weaveworks of gold,
These are rings by which to attach two chains together. (v. 14)
14. "and two end-chains of pure gold at the borders. You must fashion them of interwoven foliage, and fasten the interwoven chains onto the plaited weave.
15. "You must make a pouch of judgment, the work of a weaver; you must fashion it in the style of the efod: you shall make it gold, blue and purple, crimson scarlet and bleached, twisted [linen].
Pouch: LXX, "oracle". Many translate it “breastplate”, but it is more like a pocket onto which precious stones representing all the tribes of Israel are fastened. (v. 17ff) The whole community will be reunited by being like-minded and following the same rules--the Torah. The term khoshen is used in no other sense elsewhere in Scripture, but it is about judgment. Rashi wrote that the individual threads of each color were intertwined to make larger multi-colored threads before the weaving began, so this was a very intricate, complex item to make. And indeed, proper justice does not just consider the initial appearance, but deals with every thread contributing to the case to see what is actually joined together and how.
16. "It will be a square when doubled over, its length a handbreadth and its width a handbreadth.
Doubled over: thus forming the pouch (v. 15). Handbreadth: A picture is worth many words, and seeing how the Temple Institute has interpreted the Hebrew wording clarifies many things. But until recently, we have not had the actual garments to look at again; all we had were the words, and YHWH had a purpose in that. Even if someone saw the garment, there are many things he would miss if he did not know what the terms for the components were in Hebrew, for there are many deeper lessons to be learned and many connections to be made through how they are described in Hebrew. The word for “handbreadth” comes from a word for “winnowing”, for a hand with the fingers spread out looks like a winnowing fork (somewhat like a long-pronged rake). Our judgment must be like winnowing—tossing the facts to the wind (spirit in Hebrew) so that what is heavy (important or authoritative) remains with us, but what is useless and without profit is blown away. Is what we are about to say eternal? This also teaches us that judgment must be done with an open hand. It should include the right measure of mercy. Like a slap, it should sting or get someone’s attention, not like a closed fist which might injure instead. But an open hand is also symbolic of being generous; if one is not giving of himself, he is unable to bring proper judgment either. (Gibor) When not folded over, the vertical length of the pouch would be double that of the width. The one-span width is parallel to the earth, but the length runs from the earth to the heavens, where the judgment is “twice as powerful”, and when doubled over, the earthly end and the heavenly end are both upheld by the same golden chains—a picture of the judgment on earth being the same as the judgment in the heavens, which is the very purpose of this garment. Y’shua taught this very thing in Mat. 16:19 when he gave Kefa the authority over his followers to “bind” and “loosen”—terms used in ancient times for setting the standard of how to walk out the Torah commands that are in themselves not as specific as they could be, since they leave room for varying interpretation according to the need of the time or particular community. The grammar implies that what they bound on earth had to have already been bound in heaven.
17. "And on it you shall fill settings of stones: four rows of stones--a row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle [as] the first row;
These represent Reuven, Shim'on, and Levi (v. 21). Rashi says the settings should completely surround the stones, so that they are “nested” in the gold. The community of Israel should be a place we can completely sink into so that only what needs to be exposed can be.
18. "and the second row: emerald, sapphire, and diamond,
These represent Yehudah, Dan, and Nafthali.
19. "and the third row: opal, agate, and amethyst,
Opal: Aram., "jacinth"; LXX, "ligure". There is clearly variation in the identification of the precious stones, but the Temple Institute has settled on what appears to be the most accurate identification and has made these stones again already. These three represented Gad, Asher, and Yissachar.
20. "and the fourth row: chrysolyte, onyx, and beryl. They shall be inwoven with gold into their settings.
These represent Z'vulun, Yosef, and Binyamin. On Yosef’s stone, see note on verse 9. Efrayim and Menashe fall under Yosef in this case.
21. "And the stones shall be according to the names of the sons of Israel--twelve according to their names, the engraving of a signet. They shall be [each] man according to his name for the twelve tribes.
Aharon means "light-bearer"--the same as "Lucifer" in Latin, whose Hebrew name, Heylel, means "shining, boastful one". These bright gems are too similar to his covering in Eden to ignore; every one of the nine stones plus the gold mentioned in Yehezq’El (Ezekiel) 28:13, is included in these 12 stones worn on Aharon's chest! (The entire third row—corresponding with Gad, Asher, and Yissachar--is missing from the description of Heylel.) He had been called "the anointed kh'ruv that covers (atones)”. Atonement was the calling of the priestly line of Aharon, and also of the other kind of Anointed one (Messiah). The New Yerushalayim includes 12 precious stones as its foundations, as well (Rev. 21:19-20). Those substituted in Y’hezq’El are the same as those added in Revelation, so these three passages are meant to be seen as bearing one theme: the divesting and replacement of rebellious Heylel with Israel through its Messiah, just as Hadassah (Esther) replaced the disobedient queen Vashti. (Rabbi Ed Nydle)
22. "And you shall fashion upon the [breastplate] pouch twisted chains of interwoven foliage [made] of pure gold.
23. "And you shall fashion on the pouch two rings of gold, and you shall set the two rings at the extremities of the pouch.
24. "And you shall put the two interwoven cords of gold into the two rings on the extremities of the pouch,
25. "and you shall fasten the other ends of the two interwoven [chains] into the plaited weaveworks, and you shall put them on the shoulder pieces on the front of the efod.
These hold the pouch to the stones on the shoulders, which also have names on them. The burden of Israel is attached to the right ruling which is on his heart. If you will not bear your brother’s burdens, you have no right to make rulings. You cannot have authority in Israel if you do not bear the burdens of the house. Unlike any other kingdom, here servants are the ones with authority. Elsewhere, politicians are supposed to be “public servants”, but rarely act that way.
26. "Then you shall make two rings of gold, and you shall place them in the extremities of the pouch, on its edge which is on the inward side of the efod.
27. "And you shall make two rings of gold and put them on the two shoulder-pieces of the efod, from beneath on its face, corresponding to its other coupling above the ingeniously-imaginative band of the efod.
28. "And they shall fasten the pouch by its rings to the efod's rings with a twisted cord of blue, so it may be above the ingeniously-imaginative band of the efod, and so the pouch will not come loose from the efod.
Judgment is held firmly in place by being attached to the shoulders not just in front, where the heart is, but on the back as well, where the burden is actually borne. We must uphold right judgment not only by our intents, but also by our actual deeds. (Gibor)
29. "Thus Aharon shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the pouch of judgment [decision] over his heart when he goes into the Holy Place, as a memorial before the face of YHWH perpetually.
The Holy Place: not the Holy of Holies, but the room in front of it. The one time each year when he went into the room set deeper still, he did not wear his splendid garment, but dressed like any other priest. Here it refers to the times he went in to trim the lights and burn incense. Above him were tapestries, and to his right and left as he served, there were veils, but when he looked straight ahead (to the north or south side of the tent), he would see the boards overlaid with gold. They were polished so well that they would appear like a mirror, and he would see his reflection in it, not only so that he would be constantly examining himself, but also so that he would see the names written on his shoulders and breastplate, and remember why he was there. If he did something wrong, it affected all of his brothers. Especially in the absence of the high priest, what we do defines the rest of Israel; if we are not bearing one another’s burdens, we are not doing things the way Messiah wants. (Gal. 6:2) Upon his heart: his motivation must be to keep these twelve tribes unified.
30. "And you shall set the urim and thummim into the pouch of judgment, and they shall be upon Aharon's heart when he goes before the face of YHWH, and Aharon shall bear the legal ruling of the sons of Israel before the face of YHWH into perpetuity.
Urim means “lights or illuminations”; thummim means “perfections”, something finished or complete, innocent, or having integrity. They are plural, since we are all called to be the "light of the world". What they are physically remains somewhat obscure, so the question for us is, “What do they mean?” Why are they there? To bring light and make other things brighter. The first three urim in Scripture are heavenly bodies (which set and clarify YHWH’s calendar), the pillar of fire (Ex. 13:21, a symbol of YHWH’s presence), and the menorah (Ex. 25:37, the picture of Yeshua and us being the light of the world together). Thummim is spelled just like thammim (perfect, blameless, or without blemish). The first three times this term appears it describes Noakh (Gen. 6:9), Avraham (Gen. 17:1), and the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:5). What we offer to YHWH must be without defect as well. (Lev. 22:21)
31. "And you shall make the presenting [outer] garment of the efod completely of blue
Presenting outer garment: that which shows through under the pouch but over his white robe. Of blue, the same dye as used for the tzitzit-fringe, considered to be a reminder of the heavens, as representative of YHWH Himself.
32. "and its head-opening shall be in the middle, and it shall have an edging of woven work surrounding its opening, like the opening of a coat of mail, so it cannot be torn.
Like the opening of a coat of mail: circular and reinforced with a stiff hem that could not be torn. (Hirsch) The solid neck was woven right into the garment rather than added later, like Yeshua’s garment. (Yoch. 19:23) This is no coincidence. He was not to mourn over Israel’s lost sheep, but rather to take positive steps to bring them back. Lev. 21:10 stipulates that the high priest is never to tear his garment, for this is a symbol of mourning, which would not befit him. His job is so important that he can never take a break to mourn. However, at the time of Yeshua's accusation of blasphemy, the high priest disobeyed this command. (Matt. 26:65) Tractate Sanhedrin 56a of the Talmud describes in detail what took place on such an occasion (possibly even the same one).
33. "And on its hem you shall fashion pomegranates of blue and purple and crimson scarlet all around its hem. Bells of gold shall be between them all around as well:
34. "a bell of gold then a pomegranate, a bell of gold then a pomegranate, on the hem of the outer garment all around.
The pomegranate blossom has six petals, and a model of one was on the tip of King David's scepter. The six-pointed "star [lit., shield] of David" is a stylized reminder of this. The pomegranate has many seeds, recalling YHWH's promises to the seed of Avraham, and a reminder that his priestly duties are for the sake of all generations of Israel. A pomegranate, which has hundreds of seeds and looks like blood inside, is a symbol of fruitfulness—an inheritance and lots of children that survive, assuring one’s continuance. The Hebrew word for pomegranate comes from a root word meaning "lifted up” or growing upright, which is what pomegranates do, rather than hanging from the branches like other fruit. This is a picture of striving upward toward a special degree of holiness rather than simply taking the easy way. The intermittent bells may have been to draw attention to the pomegranates. In Y’hezq’El’s Temple, the holy garments are not permitted outside the inner court. The high priests up till that time may have been using their position for personal acclaim in other contexts, which he felt the need to curtail.
35. "And it shall be upon Aharon in order to officiate, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before YHWH and when he comes out, and he will not die.
Officiate: to wait on YHWH, making sure His every requirement is satisfied. In Hebrew “sound” and “voice” are the same term—the same word used when Adam and Hawwah heard the sound of YHWH in the Garden. (Gen. 3:18) This would remind him that he was in YHWH’s presence, and the ringing of the bells might remind him to keep working and not just pause to smell the incense that was not his, but YHWH’s. It would signal his arrival like a doorbell that one rings out of respect for the person he is visiting. Adam and Hawwah hid when they heard the sound, and they did die that day, spiritually, and the physical process began. The High Priest, adorned much like the serpent was (Y'hezq'el 28:13), may also have been tempted to think of himself as more than he really was, but the sound of the bells would remind him not to fall for the same lie Adam and Hawwah fell for. This way he would not incur this penalty for the whole community of Israel, for doing anything out of order could bring about his death (Num. 10:1-2) or the gradual dying out of his dynasty—pictured by the many seeds in the pomegranates, for one lives on through his seed.
36. "And you shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it [like] the engravings of a signet, ‘SET APART TO Y-H-W-H.'
Plate: literally, "shining", "blossoming", "sparkling", or "twinkling"--in other words, it got people's attention! It extended across Aharon's forehead from ear to ear. (Tractate Sabbath 63b) Since it was engraved like a signet ring, it may have been written backwards so he would see this reminder of his solemn calling every time he saw his reflection. It was not just the gold plate or even all of the clothing that were set apart to YHWH, but mainly Aharon himself. When he wore this clothing, it would remind him of the solemn responsibility that came with his position, as his sons would learn later; Aharon now assumed responsibility for any error he made in the order of the liturgy and ritual. Putting on a uniform can affect the way we act, and can put strict limits on what we are permitted to do. But one hopes it would also keep our standards elevated even when operating outside our special area of responsibility. In the Messianic kingdom, the whole city of Yerushalayim will take on such holiness that this same phrase will be written even on the cooking pots and the bells on the horses' bridles there. (Z'kharyah 14:20)
37. "And you shall fix it on a blue ribbon so it may be upon the turban; it shall be [placed] on the front of the turban.
38. "It shall be upon Aharon's forehead, so that Aharon may carry away the guilt in regard to the consecrated things which the descendants of Israel shall render as set apart with all their holy gifts. And it shall be on his forehead continually so they may be accepted [with favor] before [the face of] YHWH.
Israel will receive merit if he does his job rightly, and will therefore be accepted by YHWH. The headgear is to remind him not to let his own mind get in the way, but to follow the instructions precisely. What if our obedience might mean the release of just one of the lost sheep? What if it means one every day? Think of the ramifications when you look in the mirror. If I do the right thing, might someone else’s guilt be removed? This can be supported in Scripture by Avraham’s or Moshe’s arguing with YHWH that His people should be spared. Even Lot’s presence held off judgment for a long time. We are Hebrews as well,with the same blood and the same covenants. Even if on a small scale, if our obedience can set someone free, isn’t it worth doing things rightly? On the high priest’s forehead is this statement that he belongs to YHWH; the foremost reason he was there was to serve YHWH, not even Israel as such. Only in keeping that focus could he properly bear the burdens of the people. But he could not really be separated unto Him without being separated unto them as well. Proverbs 4 says wisdom is the “head thing”, and that she will place a crown of authority on the heads of those who seek her. Consecrated things: This tells us that the main sin he was dealing with here was misuse of things that are set apart. The articles the Israelites brought out of Egypt were unclean, having been put to idolatrous use by their donors, so they had to be rendered holy. All of us who have been called out from among the unholy nations to become a set-apart nation are likewise cleansed from unholy use.
39. And you shall weave the tunic of fine patterned, bleached [linen], and you shall make the turban of fine, bleached [linen], and you shall make the waist-sash of needlework.
Patterned: Hirsch, “of chequer-work". Of needlework: or "with skillfully-woven, mixed colors". White linen clothing is symbolic of a life of righteous acts.
40. "Now for Aharon's sons you shall make tunics, and you shall make waist-sashes for them, and headgear for them, for authority and for splendor.
The "headgear" for the other priests was worn in a different way than the high priest's turban. Since it is not directly commanded anywhere, some trace the reason for observant Jews wearing the kippah (yarmulke) to the analogy YHWH draws with the priesthood by calling all Israel “a kingdom of priests”. (19:6) The white linen tunics would not make them sweat (Y'hezq'el/Ezekiel 44:18), thereby symbolizing the inactivation of the flesh’s defilement and to symbolize the fact that Torah brings the remedy for the punishment that we would only eat by the sweat of our brow (Gen. 3:19). The priests do not derive their food from the sweat of their brow; they are the exception. Rather, they do only the work of service, not labor for recompense. Thus they can keep working and even double their work on the Sabbath, because it is not for themselves, but for the sake of the community.
41. "And you shall array your brother Aharon with them, and his sons along with him, and you shall anoint them, and ordain them, and set them part [visibly], then they shall minister as priests to Me.
You: that is, Moshe. The word for "ordain" (or "inaugurate") here means to "fill their hands", or "invest them with full powers" (Hirsch) In other words, they had to be appointed by Moshe to be valid. We, too, are given our agenda in the Torah. It also means “give them something to do”! They are not just a board of directors who are mere figureheads, doing nothing of actual value for the people over whom they officiate.
42. "And make linen breeches for them, to cover the naked flesh; they shall reach from the loins as far as the thighs.
Thus the ordinary priests wore four articles of clothing while ministering, while the high priest wore eight on most occasions. Breeches: literally "hiders". Naked flesh that is no longer illumined by the glory of Elohim from within is another reminder of the curse on Adam. Aside from his face (which was also mostly covered by his beard), his hands, and his bare feet, as little evidence of his flesh as possible was to be seen in the holiest place. The flesh can be put to use if it is properly shielded from direct effect on others. (These may have been the first people in history to wear trousers in addition to a long robe.) The Mishnah tells us that these garments, once soiled, were torn into strips and used to fuel the four great lights in the Court of Women each Sukkoth.
43. "They shall be upon Aharon and his sons when they enter the tent of [the] appointed time or when they approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place; thus they shall not incur guilt and die. [This] is a perpetual statute for him and his descendants after him."
Incur guilt: literally, pick up crookedness. Even what the priests wear has an eternal effect on the whole world. If they tried to express individuality in this context, they would ruin the picture of righteous unity. A perpetual statute: This is thus a standing order to have a priesthood whenever possible.
1. "Now this is what you must do to them in order to set them apart to mediate in the office of priests for Me: take one bull, a son of the herd, and two completely unimpaired rams,
You: Moshe, who learned many of these principles of priesthood from Yithro. Mediate: that is, stand between a higher and lower party, speaking to the people on YHWH’s behalf and bringing “payments” to YHWH from the people. In Galatians 3:19 we are told that the Torah was added through a mediator. Thus there is a special link between the Torah and the priests. But what was the Torah added to? The existing covenant between YHWH and Avraham’s descendants.(Gen. 15:18) The first part of this involved the Land of Israel. This was renewed over and over, with new aspects added each time (Gen. 17:2; 26:4-5; 28:13-22, etc.), but nothing ever diminished. The covenant with the priesthood (Mal. 2:4ff) was established to teach us, as His messengers, via a group of physical actions, to uphold the true heart of the covenant. They deal with the part of the covenant that we break, keeping us inside the fence for our own protection. The Torah must again go forth from Yerushalayim on the lips of the priests. Set them apart: from what? Not just from the rest of the world, but from the rest of Israel. Now that we are out from under those who abused us, we have to again learn to trust those YHWH has put in charge. He no longer allows anyone to come directly to Him; they have to come through this man and his sons. This is as important a position as there could be, so he is called to extreme trustworthiness. We need to recognize their special position; they must see themselves as not only responsible but authorized to carry out the role YHWH created for them, and recognize the importance of their task. But this applies to whatever calling YHWH has given us on any level for the sake of the Kingdom, no matter how small it appears. It is easier to take on a responsibility, especially if it is a difficult one, if we see ourselves as set apart to it by YHWH rather than seeing it as “something we have to do”. Israel as a whole is set apart from the rest of the nations. The agreement cannot work if we still see ourselves as Gentiles. But what are we separated unto? YHWH and the others who understand that they are Israel. We do not have to always be saying prayers and burning incense. Sweeping the floor can be a holy thing if done for the sake of other Israelites, which at present is our only way to walk out the Torah. If we learn well in this context, we will be ahead of the curve when the Kingdom comes in its fullness. If we do not learn to walk in YHWH’s patterns now, how can we imagine we will be at home in the Kingdom? Son of the herd: a special term used to designate "youthful maturity", specifically in its third year. (Hirsch)
2. "and unleavened bread, and unleavened loaves tempered with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil; you shall make them of fine wheat flour.
Tempered: or "thoroughly mingled". Here we have matzah cooked three different ways, and the Hebrew terms make it clear what they represent. They are made from the finest refined flour such as the rich would eat. It is made the best by many siftings, a picture of the trials that make us stronger and more pure. Bread is a picture of the single community of Israel (1 Cor. 10:17), and its term, lekhem, simply means ordinary food. It represents the average, mediocre Israelite who will put forth some effort to love his neighbors. The word for loaves is challoth, which means “pierced”—a picture of those who, like Y’shua, give greatly of themselves. They are the heroes who are inclined to service. The wafer is raqiq, which comes from a word meaning “to spit”, thus a picture of the scoffer with a bad attitude, who “can find a problem in every solution”. It is the job of these priests to make sure sin does not permeate any of these groups of people, but the Kingdom does, for any of us can fall into any of these categories depending on the day; all the bread is in one basket, and all of it must be cared for, even those who are hard to get along with.
3. "And you shall put them onto one wicker tray, and bring them near in the wicker tray, along with the bull and the two rams.
This all represents a huge expense. A bull was one’s most valuable possession. It could serve as a tractor, a vehicle to ride on, and even something one could eat for a long time during a famine. It is a picture of our security. The Hebrew word for “rams” means “strong ones”, and the native Hebrew speakers had the advantage of knowing both meanings of the word, so that seeing a ram would automatically bring the other meaning to mind and make it obvious what was being taught—offering our strength on behalf of YHWH and His people.
4. "And you shall take Aharon and his two sons to the entrance of the Tent of Appointment, and you shall wash them with water,
The priests themselves are the next “offering” on behalf of the people. Their bodies must be purified before holy garments go on them:
5. "Then you shall take the garments and clothe Aharon with the tunic, and the outer robe of the efod, and with the efod, and the [breast] pouch, and you shall bind it to him with the ingeniously-imaginative band of the efod.
Tunic: the basic white garment worn by all the priests, symbolizing righteous acts.
6. "And you shall put the turban on his head, and you shall put the holy crown of consecration on the turban.
Consecration: related to the word Nazir[ite], one who is set apart for a special purpose. It is the same as the "plate of pure gold" described in 28:36.
7. "Then you shall take the oil of anointing and pour it on his head; thus you shall anoint him.
Anoint: to designate separation from everything common by pouring or smearing oil upon him. The kings were also anointed, and Messiah means “anointed one”. (In the Torah, only priests are ever called “anointed ones”.) As Yeshua was only publicly recognized by YHWH after he had “fulfilled all righteousness” (Mat. 3:15ff) by putting himself under the proper authority, so Aharon cannot be anointed until he is fully clothed.
8. "Then you shall take his sons and clothe them with tunics,
9. "and you shall belt them with waist-sashes--[both] Aharon and his sons, and you shall bind on headgear for them, and it shall be a never-ending statute for them in the priestly office. Thus you shall consecrate Aharon and his sons.
Never-ending statute: they are always to be dressed like this when operating in this office. Moshe is told to dress them, for if they had dressed themselves in this clothing that was designed for authority and splendor, it would not have been as convincing in the eyes of the people, who need to recognize that these men’s covering came from YHWH. So they are endorsed by Moshe, as any authority in Israel must be (through the Torah he wrote). At least the leaders of Israel were witnesses so they could vouch for their authority to all under their jurisdiction.
10. " When you bring the bull near, in front of the tent of appointed time, Aharon and his sons will lay their hands on the head of the bull,
Lay their hands: "lean on" (Hirsch)—not just touch it, but transfer one’s weight to them as a sign of identification with the animal that represented them. The people gave the bull, but now it belonged to Aharon and his sons, so they were showing a trust in YHWH instead of other securities by offering up this entire bull of which they would not eat this time.
11. "then you must slaughter the bull in the presence of YHWH at the door of the Tent of Appointment.
12. "Then you shall take some of the bull's blood and apply it to the horns of the altar with your finger, then you shall pour out all the [rest of the] blood at the base of the altar.
Horns: on all four corners of the altar, to symbolize that it covered all four camps of Israel.
13. "And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the lobe that hangs over the liver, and the kidneys and the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar.
Liver: in Hebrew it means the "heavy" organ; the word also means “important”. Burn: or cause to (go up in) smoke. In Hebrew, fat is a positive term meaning that which is best or is robust and healthy. This is what produces the best aroma, which YHWH often said is satisfying to Him. The word for “lobe” means “what is more than enough” or “excellence”. Kidneys: from the word for “vessels”, that is, a tool or container which is not focused on for its own sake but used for a particular task. Kidneys are what separates what is wholesome from what is useless. Again, the various meanings of these words would trigger connections in the minds of Hebrew speakers.
14. "Then you shall burn the flesh of the bull, and its hide, and its excrement, with fire outside the camp; it is a sin [offering].
This is a lot of valuable meat, leather, and what would still be useful for kindling or fertilizer, all “going down the drain”. Many valuable things will be destroyed when we sin. We waste valuable time and valuable relationships. But the text has no word here for “offering”; it simply says “sin”, which means “missing the target” in any sense. Only the Torah establishes what the target is. (This is probably what 2 Cor. 5:21 means when it says Yeshua “became sin” for us—since “became a sin offering” would be stated the same way in Hebrew.) The smell of this burning would not be as pleasing, so it is burned away from where the people are and where YHWH dwells.
15. "And you shall take one ram, and Aharon and his sons shall rest their hands on the ram's head.
16. "And you shall slaughter it, and take its blood and toss it onto the altar, all around.
Toss: with a jerking motion. Thus it is done in what is called a “pitcher”.
17. "And you shall cut the ram into pieces, and wash its intestines and its legs, and place them on top of its pieces and on its head.
Cut into pieces: a picture of “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 3:16). Malachi 2 tells us that the lips of the priest are to preserve knowledge, and they would teach each one who came to make a slaughtering how to do so, and in later generations fathers would pass this down to their sons. It appears that they are preparing it to cook for dinner, yet they will have no direct benefit from this one; no one will eat of it. It is given completely to YHWH. But certain things are only profitable when given to YHWH. If we offer our strength or security to Him, He becomes the same to us, though it will probably look very different from the world’s model. You might not even have a bank account or insurance policy, but His covering is more real than any of these. He Himself is to be the priests’ inheritance. (Num. 18:20) He owns everything and can make more if He needs to, in order to provide what He knows we need. But if we say YHWH is our security, we cannot devote our best efforts to finding other forms of security and still be serving Him. Get your hands off it, because it is about to be burned up. If you want to be close to YHWH, these other “securities” will only hurt you. They never keep their promises anyway.(Gibor) On its head: Called the "crowned sacrifice"(again a picture of Yeshua), its entrails were wrapped around its head, as with the Passover lamb.
18. "And you shall burn all of the ram on the altar; it is an ascension to YHWH, a soothing aroma; it is a fire offering to YHWH.
In unpointed text (as the original was), the last phrase could also read, "It is a wife for YHWH", since our drawing near and ascending away from worldly things into holiness and His presence is what forms His “bride”, the unified entity He wants to “spend His time” with and bear fruit through.
19. "Then you shall take the second ram, and Aharon and his sons shall lay their hands on the ram's head.
20. "Then you shall slaughter the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the tip of Aharon's ear--on the tip of Aharon's right ear and the earlobe of his sons, and on the thumb of the right hand, and on the big toe of their right foot, then you shall toss the blood on the altar all around.
The life is in the blood, so by putting the blood both on themselves and on the altar, they are showing a connection between their lives and the place they will serve. Any of these body parts we could survive without, but having a thumb enables us to do things so much more efficiently, and having a big toe means we can stay balanced. Placing the blood of consecration on their ear lobes symbolized that they would hear and judge righteously; on their hands, it reminded them to be righteous in all their actions and imbue with holiness all that they hold. Putting it on their big toe would symbolize keeping their "walk"--a Hebrew idiom for a righteous lifestyle--in balance. This is not just any blood, but the blood of “strength” (the root meaning of the word for “ram” in Hebrew). It is therefore meant to strengthen our hearing, our works, and our walk. It was only put on the right side of the body, magnifying the inclination to do right, just as YHWH prioritized the and gave more weight to the clean animals, leaving more of them after Noakh’s flood. As long as they served from this motivation, a covering was made for the nation. But if the other side, the inclination to evil, is served willfully, with not even an attempt to do right, there is no forgiveness. The priest is a picture of complete selflessness, wearing uniforms that took the attention off self and served a larger purpose than his own needs.
21. "And you shall take some of the blood on the altar, and the oil of anointing, and spatter it on Aharon and his garments, and on his sons and his sons' garments along with him.
Both the men and their garments were thus rendered holy. But their new and splendid garments are being covered with many drops of blood! They are not nice and shiny anymore—a reminder that even they do not have the perfection that their clothes might suggest, and giving them a sense of how YHWH felt when His creation was marred and sullied. This is also to get them used to being covered with blood, for this will be part of their job from here on. Blood is where the life is, and dealing with people’s lives is very messy. It may be possible to stay clean when focusing only on a personal relationship with YHWH, but we cannot stay clean when responsible for making other people ready for the Kingdom as well. Leaders must prove their love by being there when the people are hurting, even though it means we will get rather dirty.
22. "Then take the fat from the ram, the fat-tail, and the fat that covers the innermost parts, the lobe that overhangs the liver, both kidneys and the fat that is over them, and the right foreleg, because it is a ram of inaugurations,
The right foreleg (from the word for both "abundance" and "running") is thus connected to inauguration of the priests--comparable to the Davidic king being told to sit at the Father's right hand at his coronation. The inauguration gives the people and priests a definite point to look back at to remember when their responsibility began, and gave them a ceremony and ritual to stimulate their senses so they would think about it. Each festival He gave also does the same. At Yom Teruah the emphasis is on hearing. At Yom Kippur we withdraw from our senses, and this speaks to us in a different way. At Sukkoth we have every sense stimulated. These are part of our “ordination” into being a “kingdom of priests”.
23. "along with one round loaf of bread, one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer from the basket of unleavened loaves which is before the face of YHWH.
24. "Then put them all in the hands of Aharon and the palms of his sons, and wave them as a wave offering before the face of YHWH.
The waving would get people’s attention on the things being waved so the deeper meaning of their names (see vv. 2-3) would come to mind. Now he is literally “filling their hands” (in particular, the palms). They are already being put to work doing the things they can expect to be doing every day. He is bringing them the strength and security they need to get the job done: the best things—not the steaks, as we would expect, but the organs, because of what they mean. He added the right foreleg and the fat tail, which is from a Hebrew word meaning to take an oath. Taken together, it is a picture of raising one’s right hand to swear. Taking these seemingly nasty things in their hands is saying that they promise to do their job rightly.
25. "Then take them from their hands, and make them go up in smoke as an ascending of a soothing aroma before YHWH; it is a fire-offering to YHWH.
26. "Then take the breast of the ram of Aharon's inauguration and swing it back and forth as a wave offering before the face of YHWH; it shall be your [assigned] ration.
27. "Then separate the breast of the wave offering, the foreleg of the contribution, which is being swung and which is being lifted off [respectively] from the ram of the inauguration, from the one for Aharon and the one for his sons.
28. "And it shall belong to Aharon and his sons as a prescribed portion from the descendants of Israel in perpetuity--that is, it shall be a contribution from the descendants of Israel from what is slaughtered for their peace offerings--their contribution to YHWH.
What was Moshe’s portion (v. 26) this time will go to Aharon and his sons after this, because he has no successor as such. They will end up eating more meat than anyone else, and in the second Temple times, when more people were having to make offerings, they had to have an intestinal specialist on the Temple premises because of this. But this was just a hazard of their job.
29. "And the holy garments which are Aharon's shall be his sons' after him, to be anointed therein and to have their hands filled therein.
Have their hands filled: an idiom for being assigned their particular tasks.
30. "That priest from among his sons who takes his place shall wear them for seven days when he comes into the Tent of Appointment to minister in the Holy Place.
Seven days: to let them get accustomed to their position, to let a full renewal take place in their own hearts. They would have to remain in the sanctuary precinct for the entire seven dayssince, per Y’hezq’El, could not wear these clothes elsewhere. Seven is the number of completeness, and is a picture of the seven years in which the earth will be purified at the inauguration of the Messianic Kingdom. The altar likewise undergoes a seven-day covering, anointing, and sanctification (v. 37). This ceremony was to take place every time there was a succession in high priesthood, for it was to be a big event that could not be missed, since it marked the time people confined to the cities of refuge could finally go free.
31. "Then take the ram of the inauguration and boil its meat in a set-apart place,
32. "and Aharon and his sons shall eat the ram's flesh and the bread that is in the basket [at] the opening to the Tent of Appointment.
Verse 23 identifies this bread as unleavened. This is a covenant meal, emphasizing an intimacy with YHWH. This is why it is important who we eat with.
33. "And they may eat those things by which atonement is made to consecrate them; a stranger may not eat, because they are holy.
Stranger: in this case, anyone other than Aharon and his descendants. Like the Passover lamb, there are restrictions on who may partake of it. Note YHWH’s many parallels to the Passover in this context. (See also vv. 17, 32, 34, and v. 46)
34. "And if any of the meat of consecration, or of the bread, is left over until morning, you must burn what is left with fire; it must not be eaten, because it is in a separate category.
This is reminiscent of the manna that was not to be left until morning, and of Y’shua's prayer for YHWH to "give us this day our daily bread". He is always there to continue providing for us tomorrow as He did today. But what is holy must not be allowed to spoil. Like the Passover lamb, what is set apart can only be consumed within a particular time frame; after that it is destroyed by fire so no one else will incur guilt (or disease) by eating of it. It cannot be seen as common food; if it is not eaten at this meal, it is not to be eaten at any other. The bread (v. 32) was all unleavened (v. 2). One must wonder whether this ceremony took place at the anniversary of Passover. The rescue from Egypt only got us started. Aharon carries on the Passover by continuing to provide a blood covering for the people.
35. "Thus shall you do for Aharon and his sons, according to all that I have commanded you; you shall fill their hand for seven days.
36. "That is, daily you shall prepare a bull as a sin offering in regard to the coverings, and as you make a covering you will cleanse it from [ritual] impurity. Then anoint it to set it apart.
37. "You shall make a covering seven days for the altar, and shall [thus] sanctify it, and the altar shall become most set apart. Everything that touches the altar must be consecrated.
The altar is prepared in the same way they are prepared for service. Everything that touches: This does not mean that if someone touched the altar he would become a priest. It means that only what is already set apart may be brought to the altar. Only the priests may touch it. No unclean meat may be brought onto it. Even the wood brought to the altar had to be perfect; each piece was inspected and judged worthy or not. (The rest was put to other uses for the priests.) No one is free to approach YHWH in a way of his own choosing; He has defined how He wants to be approached—including that we approach Him in His own name, not those of other deities.
38. "Now this is what you shall prepare on the altar: two lambs a year old, regularly, [every] day
Every day: for these seven days.
39. "--prepare the one lamb in the morning, and the second lamb you shall prepare between the evenings.
40. "And for the one lamb, a tenth [part of a measure] of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of pure pressed oil, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a libation offering.
A measure: probably a tenth of an eyfah, which is an omer, the measure that is counted from the first day of the week after Passover until Shavuoth—another hint that this was occurring at that time. Hin: a liquid measure holding about five quarts or five liters.
41. "Then you shall offer the second lamb between the evenings; you shall do the same for it as with the morning grain offering and its libation, as a soothing aroma, an offering [made by] fire to YHWH--
Between the evening [oblation]s: before the next day begins, as evening approaches.
42. "a regular ascending [offering] throughout your generations at the opening to the Tent of Appointment before the presence of YHWH, at which I will meet you to speak to you [deeply].
Throughout your generations: While Yeshua said that there would come a time when people would not worship YHWH in Yerushalayim (Yoch. 4), he did not say this was to be a permanent thing; it is a temporary punishment, but all the prophets allude to the restoration of the sanctuary.
43. "And indeed I will show up at My appointments with the descendants of Israel, and it will be rendered holy by My authority.
It: the tent. He may have demonstrated His authority (weightiness) through the pillar of cloud again.
44. "Thus I will set apart the Tent of Appointment and the altar, and I will separate out Aharon and his sons to serve as priests to Me,
45. "And I will dwell in the midst of the descendants of Israel, and I will serve as an Elohim to them;
Dwell: or "rest My presence". We need to make His temple--both our individual bodies and, more importantly, the community that we form as we become one “building”--a fitting place for His presence to rest.
46. "then they shall know that I am YHWH their Elohim, who brought them out from the land of Egypt, so that I might dwell among them. I am YHWH their Elohim."
I am YHWH: This does not just mean, “Do this because I said so”, but, “by doing this, learn to know Me.” Because He had done all of these things to the priests, the whole nation would be eligible to take hold of the covenant of the Land again, and to have Him dwell in our midst. These are not just boring, redundant activities, though many are repeated daily or yearly. By seeing who the priests are and what they do, the people could understand YHWH. The best we can do now, when we cannot see them being done, is study them. Participate in a slaughter if you can, so you can get into this context in your mind. When it is all back, we will have a fuller understanding. Aharon did not refuse this responsibility, saying, “I have played second fiddle to my younger brother long enough. I know I will die if I do this wrongly; I do not want that responsibility. I have done more than anyone else already; please find someone else.” He had a life, too, and this would take up all his time and commitment. He had no days off after this. But wisdom, experience, understanding, and trustworthiness are all useless where there is no willingness. This was the deciding factor in whether it would work, and Aharon was willing.
1. "And you shall make an altar--a place for burning incense; you shall make it of acacia wood."
Incense: Incense is symbolic of the prayers of the righteous. (Rev. 8:4; see note on verse 8 below) The powder itself smells sweet, but when it touches the embers, it releases much more of the smell so it can spread out everywhere. Indeed, often we do not pray as honestly as we ought until the heat is turned up. In the Second Temple, when a priest took his now once-in-a-lifetime turn at burning incense in the Holy Place, representatives of all Israel prayed outside at the same time. (Luke 1:8)
2. "It shall be a cubit in length and a cubit in breadth. It shall be a square two cubits in height, its horns [a part] of itself.
This altar is the only furnishing with no half-cubit measures-- no incompleteness in it. It has the same measurement in either direction on the sides parallel to the earth, but is twice as high as it is wide, showing us that it is an object concerned with ascension. (Gibor) The coals for this altar came from the brazen altar of judgment outside. The fire (motivation) for our prayers must come from a place where the flesh has already been offered. The primary root meaning of the term for prayer in Hebrew is to judge—and we start by judging ourselves (Mat. 7:5; 1 Cor. 11:31). Consider where your heart is before daring to ask YHWH for anything; you just might get it.
3. "Then you shall overlay it [with] pure gold--its roof, its walls on all sides, and its horns--then make a border-moulding of gold all around it.
This altar was only about ½ meter (or yard) by ½ meter by 1 meter high--the smallest piece of Tabernacle furniture, symbolizing the fact that we do not need grand, verbose prayers in order to reach YHWH. (Matt. 6:7) Yet it is made of gold; we cannot neglect its importance either. Everything in the Tabernacle (e.g., 25:11; 28:14, et al) that symbolizes our connection to YHWH or to one another is pure gold, and purity is a picture of selflessness.
4. "And you shall make two rings of gold for it, to go under its border-moulding, on its two flanks; do the same on the other two, and they will become housings for the poles, with which to carry it.
Carry it: There are designated places and times especially set aside for prayer, but though the altar of incense usually stayed in one place, it was portable--a reminder that we can pray anywhere. We should be in constant communication with YHWH.
5. "And make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold.
Despite our human corruptibility, the covering we receive from the Messiah, who was without sin, carries our prayers where they need to go.
6. "Then you must set it in front of the veil which is beside the ark of the testimony, in front of the atoning cover which is over the testimony--there where I meet you.
The golden altar sat directly in front of the ark where YHWH rests His presence (25:22). The only thing between it and the ark is the veil, which symbolizes (through the images woven into it) the kh’ruvim that block access to the Garden of Eden. (Gen. 3) But the smoke of the incense can get through the veil, and though YHWH may be invisible to us, our prayers can still get through to Him.
7. "And Aharon shall burn sweet incense on it morning by morning; when he dresses the lamps he shall burn incense on it.
Sweet: actually any sort of spicing or perfuming; LXX, "fine compounded incense". The particular compounding is detailed elsewhere, but Rabbinic writers say this mixing of spices represents the mingling of all the aspects of the whole community. Morning by morning: Aramaic, "every morning". Dresses the lamps: taking them down one by one and clearing away the darkened residue of the burning oil so that they can again shine brightly, leaving at least one flame lit at all times. It is renewed twice per day (v. 8), and we need to be also. The menorah (representing the Torah), which illuminates the bread (which represents the unity of Israel), cannot be lit apart from communication with YHWH (symbolized by the incense), for that is the main thing He wishes to restore. In Eden, it was direct, without all these intermediaries, and if we focus on the intermediaries apart from their goal, it is all mere religion. The main point is to put ourselves in a position to again hear from YHWH. Without this, there is no purpose in prayer or reading the Torah. Every time Aharon would serve in the sanctuary, he would smell this fragrance. The smell would come to be associated with these tasks. What they picture in itself offers up a fragrant aroma to YHWH. And when we make sure the relationships are right between us and that our deeds are rightly motivated, we, too, will bring Him this pleasure.
8. "And when Aharon causes the lights to ascend between the evenings, he must burn it, a perpetual incense before the face of YHWH throughout your generations.
9. "You must not offer up foreign incense on it along with an ascending offering or food offering, nor shall you pour out a libation on it.
Foreign incense: any but the specific mixture prescribed by YHWH. Aharon's own sons disobeyed this command within the very next generation. (Leviticus 10) Just as this altar would later be misused by Uzziyahu, prayer can be abused in many ways. When we ask to spend YHWH’s answers on our own pleasures, we are asking amiss. (Yaaqov/James 4:3) In that case, prayer is the wrong thing to do. It is also wrong to say, “I’ll pray about it” when confronted with a Scripture that shows clearly what YHWH wants us to do. That is just an excuse to avoid repentance when He has already given us His answer. He will not change His word for you! He gives us a time to spend on our pleasures—the feast of Sukkoth. (Deut. 14:26) The rest of the year, ask for Kingdom things. We need to pray for ourselves, of course, but in light of the needs and standards of the whole community of Israel. If we are not fully committed to what we are praying for, our prayer is profaned. Rabbi Hirsch says this also teaches that we may not formulate other sets of high ideals than those received from the Torah.
10. "And Aharon shall make atonement on its horns once a year from the blood of the sin offering that covers. Once a year he shall make a covering on it for [all] your generations; it is most holy to YHWH."
Atonement: literally, a covering. Once a year: on Yom Kippur. On the day we are to be busy about our souls, this altar has a different-than-usual use. It has a special significance, for Yom Kippur is the ultimate cleaning of the menorah. It is about getting each lamp in the community in perfect condition. As the fast helps us focus on repentance, so do the special prayers we offer on this day. They are to be an especially-sweet aroma to YHWH. It is a time to judge ourselves, and making excuses goes directly against this. Any prayer, but especially at this time, is a time to compare your attitude with the words that are coming out of your mouth: Are you willing to do what needs to be done in order to receive what you are asking for? YHWH has given us as much as He thinks we can handle; He knows that if He gave us wealth, it could ruin us or take our focus far off where it should be. Don’t ask until you are ready to be faithful with what He gives you. What have you done with what He has already given? We may need to stop collecting gifts and start using them, so we do not become a stagnant pond. He may have even already given us what we need, and we are not just using it. If it seems we are still missing some things we need, enter into stricter judgment, to find out why. Some things keep our prayers from being heard: giving consideration to wickedness (Psalm 66:16ff), disdaining YHWH’s counsel and rebuke and hating knowledge (Prov. 1:23ff), shutting our ears to the cries of the poor (Prov. 21:13), having hands full of blood—also an idiom for putting all our efforts toward our own lives (Yeshayahu 1:15ff), refusing to hear His instruction (Zkh. 7:11ff), or doubting that He will answer us (Yaaqov 1:6).