In addition to going through the ordination process, Aaron has what the NRSV calls his “inauguration” here. What it really means is that for the first time they perform their roles as priests. They perform each of sacrifices that were just covered in chapters 1-7, as well as issuing a blessing. It doesn’t say what the blessing was, but I do know that later on (in Numbers) God gives a very specific blessing for Aaron to say. I’ll cover it more when I get there, but it’s the oldest portion of the Bible to have been found in writing… and it’s related to Star Trek. I’m not kidding. Just wait until I get there, sometime in May.
Things get pretty wild at the end of this chapter. Up until now, the assumption is that the priests are going to set the fire and burn things, but here God provides the flame. What exactly this looked like, how knows. Maybe it was a massive column of flame like the one I can cast in my dungeon crawl game. Maybe the sacrifice just started smoking and caught fire without a torch placed on it, very slowly and subtly. The story isn’t clear how we’re supposed to envision it. I think “pillar of flame” is closer to what the Bible is going for here, since everyone “shouted and fell on their faces.” (v 24)
I suppose that this appearance of flame is what the chapter is building up to. Moses is repeatedly told to prepare because God is going to make an appearance. All the sacrificial preparations and blessings are merely the lead-in to the theophany. Ritual is a way of preparing yourself to experience God. I think a lot of Protestants, tend to forget that because Jesus’ message so strongly placed people ahead of purity and ethics ahead of ritual; but just because ritual is always trumped by human need doesn’t mean that ritual is unimportant. I know from experience that the highly ritualized form of liturgy in the Eastern Orthodox tradition was an incredibly powerful experience.
The Japanese: kengen “manifestation” (v 4).
Yup, that’s right, just one!! The plus side of all this repetition is that it has really drilled all this new vocabulary into my skull. I now know all the names for different organs and body parts that you can light on fire.
This is the last chapter on sacrifices, at least for a while, which will be a nice change of pace. These portions weren’t boring, but nine chapters is enough for me.