Matthew Henry Complete Commentary
on the Whole Bible
Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel;
2 And he said unto Aaron, Take thee a young calf for a sin
offering, and a ram for a burnt offering, without blemish, and
offer them before the LORD.
3 And unto the children of Israel thou shalt speak, saying,
Take ye a kid of the goats for a sin offering; and a calf and a
lamb, both of the first year, without blemish, for a burnt
4 Also a bullock and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice
before the LORD; and a meat offering mingled with oil: for to day
the LORD will appear unto you.
5 And they brought that which Moses commanded before the
tabernacle of the congregation: and all the congregation drew
near and stood before the LORD.
6 And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commanded
that ye should do: and the glory of the LORD shall appear unto
7 And Moses said unto Aaron, Go unto the altar, and offer thy
sin offering, and thy burnt offering, and make an atonement for
thyself, and for the people: and offer the offering of the
people, and make an atonement for them; as the LORD commanded.
Orders are here given for another solemnity upon the eighth day; for
the newly-ordained priests were set to work immediately after the days
of their consecration were finished, to let them know that they were
not ordained to be idle: He that desires the office of a bishop
desires a good work, which must be looked at with desire, more than
the honour and benefit. The priests had not so much as one day's
respite from service allowed them, that they might divert themselves,
and receive the compliments of their friends upon their elevation, but
were busily employed the very next day; for their consecration was the
filling of their hands. God's spiritual priests have constant
work cut out for them, which the duty of every day requires; and those
that would give up their account with joy must redeem time; see
1. Moses raises their expectation of a glorious appearance of God to
them this day
"To day the Lord will appear to you that are the priests." And
when all the congregation are gathered together, and stand before
the Lord, he tells them
The glory of the Lord shall appear to you. Though they had
reason enough to believe God's acceptance of all that they had done
according to his appointment, upon the general assurance we have that
he is the rewarder of those that diligently seek him (even if he
had not given them any sensible token of it), yet that if possible they
and theirs might be effectually obliged to the service and worship of
God, and might never turn aside to idols, the glory of God appeared to
them, and visibly owned what they had done. We are not now to expect
such appearances; we Christians walk more by faith, and less by sight,
than they did. But we may be sure that God draws nigh to those who draw
nigh to him, and that the offerings of faith are really acceptable to
him, though, the sacrifices being spiritual, the tokens of the
acceptance are, as it is fit they should be, spiritual likewise. To
those who are duly consecrated to God he will undoubtedly manifest
2. He puts both priests and people upon preparing to receive this
favour which God designed them. Aaron and his sons, and the
elders of Israel, are all summoned to attend,
Note, God will manifest himself in the solemn assemblies of his people
and ministers; and those that would have the benefit and comfort of
God's appearances must in them give their attendance.
(1.) Aaron is ordered to prepare his offerings: A young calf for a
The Jewish writers suggest that a calf was appointed for a
sin-offering to remind him of his sin in making the golden calf, by
which he had rendered himself for ever unworthy of the honour of the
priesthood, and which he had reason to reflect upon with sorrow and
shame in all the atonements he made.
(2.) Aaron must direct the people to get theirs ready. Hitherto Moses
had told the people what they must do; but now Aaron, as high priest
over the house of God, must be their teacher, in things pertaining
to God: Unto the children of Israel thou shalt speak,Leviticus 9:3.
Now that he was to speak from them to God in the sacrifices (the
language of which he that appointed them very well understood) he must
speak from God to them in the laws about the sacrifices. Thus Moses
would engage the people's respect and obedience to him, as one that was
set over them in the Lord, to admonish them.
(3.) Aaron must offer his own first, and then the people's,
Aaron must now go to the altar, Moses having shown him the way
to it; and there,
[1.] He must make an atonement for himself; for the high priest,
being compassed with infirmity, ought, as for the people, so also
for himself, to offer for sins
and for himself first; for how can we expect to be accepted in our
prayers for others, if we ourselves be not reconciled to God? Nor is
any service pleasing to God till the guilt of sin be removed by our
interest in the great propitiation. Those that have the care of the
souls of others are also hereby taught to look to their own in the
first place; this charity must begin at home, though it must not end
there. It is the charge to Timothy, to take care to save himself first,
and then those that heard him,
1 Timothy 4:16.
The high priest made atonement for himself, as one that was joined with
sinners; but we have a high priest that was separated from sinners, and
needed no atonement. When Messiah the prince was cut off as a
sacrifice, it was not for himself; for he knew no sin.
[2.] He must make an atonement for the people, by offering their
sacrifices. Now that he was made a high priest he must lay to heart
the concerns of the people, and this as their great concern, their
reconciliation to God, and the putting away of sin which had separated
between them and God. He must make atonement as the Lord
commanded. See here the wonderful condescension of the mercy of
God, that he not only allows an atonement to be made, but commands it;
not only admits, but requires us to be reconciled to him. No room
therefore is left to doubt but that the atonement which is commanded
will be accepted.
8 Aaron therefore went unto the altar, and slew the calf of the
sin offering, which was for himself.
9 And the sons of Aaron brought the blood unto him: and he
dipped his finger in the blood, and put it upon the horns of
the altar, and poured out the blood at the bottom of the altar:
10 But the fat, and the kidneys, and the caul above the liver
of the sin offering, he burnt upon the altar; as the LORD
11 And the flesh and the hide he burnt with fire without the
12 And he slew the burnt offering; and Aaron's sons presented
unto him the blood, which he sprinkled round about upon the
13 And they presented the burnt offering unto him, with the
pieces thereof, and the head: and he burnt them upon the altar.
14 And he did wash the inwards and the legs, and burnt them
upon the burnt offering on the altar.
15 And he brought the people's offering, and took the goat,
which was the sin offering for the people, and slew it, and
offered it for sin, as the first.
16 And he brought the burnt offering, and offered it according
to the manner.
17 And he brought the meat offering, and took an handful
thereof, and burnt it upon the altar, beside the burnt
sacrifice of the morning.
18 He slew also the bullock and the ram for a sacrifice of
peace offerings, which was for the people: and Aaron's sons
presented unto him the blood, which he sprinkled upon the altar
19 And the fat of the bullock and of the ram, the rump, and
that which covereth the inwards, and the kidneys, and the caul
above the liver:
20 And they put the fat upon the breasts, and he burnt the fat
upon the altar:
21 And the breasts and the right shoulder Aaron waved for a
wave offering before the LORD; as Moses commanded.
22 And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed
them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the
burnt offering, and peace offerings.
These being the first offerings that ever were offered by the levitical
priesthood, according to the newly-enacted law of sacrifices, the
manner of offering them is particularly related, that it might appear
how exactly they agreed with the institution.
1. Aaron with his own hands slew the offering
and did the work of the inferior priests; for, great as he was, he must
not think any service below him which he could do for the honour of
God: and, as Moses had shown him how to do this work decently and
dexterously, so he showed his sons, that they might do likewise; for
this is the best way of teaching, and thus parents should instruct
their children by example. Therefore as Moses before, so Aaron now
offered some of each of the several sorts of sacrifices that were
appointed, whose rites differed, that they might be thoroughly
furnished for every good work.
2. He offered these besides the burnt-sacrifice of the morning,
which was every day offered first,
Note, Our accustomed devotions morning and evening, alone and in our
families, must not be omitted upon any pretence whatsoever, no, not
when extraordinary services are to be performed; whatever is added,
these must not be diminished.
3. It is not clear whether, when it is said that he burnt such and such
parts of the sacrifices upon the altar
the meaning is that he burnt them immediately with ordinary fire, as
formerly, or that he laid them upon the altar ready to be burnt with
the fire from heaven which they expected
or whether, as bishop Patrick thinks, he burnt the offerings for
himself with ordinary fire, but when they were burnt out he laid the
people's sacrifices upon the altar, which were kindled and consumed by
the fire of the Lord. I would rather conjecture, because it is said of
all these sacrifices that he burnt them (except the
burnt-offering for the people, of which it is said that he offered it
according to the manner,Leviticus 9:16,
which seems to be equivalent), that he did not kindle the fire to burn
them, but that then the fire from the Lord fastened upon them, put out
the fire that he had kindled (as we know a greater fire puts out a
less), and suddenly consumed the remainder, which the fire he had
kindled would have consumed slowly.
4. When Aaron had done all that on his part was to be done about the
sacrifices he lifted up his hand towards the people, and blessed
This was one part of the priest's work, in which he was a type of
Christ, who came into the world to bless us, and when he was parted
from his disciples, at his ascension, lifted up his hands and
blessed them, and in them his whole church, of which they were the
elders and representatives, as the great high priest of our profession.
Aaron lifted up his hands in blessing them, to intimate whence
he desired and expected the blessing to come, even from heaven, which
is God's throne. Aaron could but crave a blessing, it is God's
prerogative to command it. Aaron, when he had blessed, came down;
Christ, when he blessed, went up.
23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the
congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory
of the LORD appeared unto all the people.
24 And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed
upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all
the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.
We are not told what Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle to do,
Some of the Jewish writers say, "They went in to pray for the
appearance of the divine glory;" most probably they went in that Moses
might instruct Aaron how to do the service that was to be done
there--burn incense, light the lamps, set the show-bread, &c., that he
might instruct his sons in it. But, when they came out, they both
joined in blessing the people, who stood expecting the promised
appearance of the divine glory; and it was now (when Moses and Aaron
concurred in praying) that they had what they waited for. Note, God's
manifestations of himself, of his glory and grace, are commonly given
in answer to prayer. When Christ was praying the heavens were
The glory of God appeared, not while the sacrifices were in offering,
but when the priests prayed (as
2 Chronicles 5:13),
when they praised God, which intimates that the prayers and praises of
God's spiritual priests are more pleasing to God than all
burnt-offerings and sacrifices.
When the solemnity was finished, the blessing pronounced, and the
congregation ready to be dismissed, in the close of the day, then God
testified his acceptance, which gave them such satisfaction as was well
worth waiting for.
I. The glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people,Leviticus 9:23.
What the appearance of it was we are not told; no doubt it was such as
carried its own evidence along with it. The glory which filled the
now showed itself at the door of the tabernacle to those who attended
there, as a prince shows himself to the expecting crowd, to gratify
them. God hereby testified of their gifts, and showed them that he was
worthy for whom they should do all this. Note, Those that diligently
attend upon God in the way he has appointed shall have such a sight of
his glory as shall be abundantly to their satisfaction. Those that
dwell in God's house with an eye of faith may behold the beauty of
II. There came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed the
Here the learned bishop Patrick has a very probable conjecture, that
Moses and Aaron staid in the tabernacle till it was time to offer the
evening sacrifice, which Aaron did, but it is not mentioned, because it
was done of course, and it was this which the fire that came out
from the Lord consumed. Whether this fire came from heaven, or out
of the most holy place, or from that visible appearance of the glory of
God which all the people saw, it was a manifest token of God's
acceptance of their service, as, afterwards, of Solomon's sacrifice,
2 Chronicles 7:1,
1 Kings 18:38.
1. This fire did consume (or, as the word is, eat up) the
present sacrifice. And two ways this was a testimony of
(1.) It signified the turning away of God's wrath from them. God's
wrath is a consuming fire; this fire might justly have fastened upon
the people, and consumed them for their sins; but its fastening upon
the sacrifice, and consuming that, signified God's acceptance of that
as an atonement for the sinner.
(2.) It signified God's entering into covenant and communion with them:
they ate their part of the sacrifice, and the fire of the Lord ate up
his part; and thus he did, as it were, sup with them, and they with
2. This fire did, as it were, take possession of the altar. The fire
was thus kindled in God's house, which was to continue as long as the
house stood, as we read before,
This also was a figure of good things to come. The Spirit descended
upon the apostles in fire
so ratifying their commission, as this spoken of here did the priests'.
And the descent of this holy fire into our souls to kindle in them
pious and devout affections towards God, and such a holy zeal as burns
up the flesh and the lusts of it, is a certain token of God's gracious
acceptance of our persons and performances. That redounds to God's
glory which is the work of his own grace in us. Hereby we know that
we dwell in God, and God in us, because he hath thus given us of his
Spirit,1 John 4:13.
(1.) All their sacrifices and incense must be offered with this fire.
Note, Nothing goes to God but what comes from him. We must have grace,
that holy fire, from the God of grace, else we cannot serve him
(2.) The priests must keep it burning with a constant supply of fuel,
and the fuel must be wood, the cleanest of fuel. Thus those to whom God
has given grace must take heed of quenching the Spirit.
III. We are here told how the people were affected with this discovery
of God's glory and grace; they received it,
1. With the highest joy: They shouted; so stirring up themselves
and one another to a holy triumph, in the assurance now given them that
they had God nigh unto them, which is spoken of the grandeur of their
2. With the lowest reverence: They fell on their faces, humbly
adoring the majesty of that God who vouchsafed thus to manifest himself
to them. That is a sinful fear of God which drives us from him; a
gracious fear makes us bow before him. Very good impressions were made
upon their minds for the present, but they soon wore off, as those
commonly do which are made by that which is only sensible; while the
influences of faith are durable.