8:5 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 8:6 “Take the Levites from among the Israelites and purify 1 them. 8:7 And do this 2 to them to purify them: Sprinkle water of purification 3 on them; then have them shave 4 all their body 5 and wash 6 their clothes, and so purify themselves. 7 8:8 Then they are to take a young bull with its grain offering of fine flour mixed with olive oil; and you are to take a second young bull for a purification offering. 8 8:9 You are to bring the Levites before the tent of meeting and assemble the entire community of the Israelites. 8:10 Then you are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on the Levites; 9 8:11 and Aaron is to offer 10 the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, that they may do the work 11 of the Lord. 8:12 When 12 the Levites lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, offer 13 the one for a purification offering and the other for a whole burnt offering to the Lord, 14 to make atonement for the Levites. 8:13 You are to have the Levites stand before Aaron 15 and his sons, and then offer them as a wave offering to the Lord. 8:14 And so 16 you are to separate the Levites from among the Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.
8:15 “After this, the Levites will go in 17 to do the work 18 of the tent of meeting. So you must cleanse them 19 and offer them like a wave offering. 20 8:16 For they are entirely given 21 to me from among the Israelites. I have taken them for myself instead of 22 all who open the womb, the firstborn sons of all the Israelites. 8:17 For all the firstborn males among the Israelites are mine, both humans and animals; when I destroyed 23 all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I set them apart for myself. 8:18 So I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn sons among the Israelites. 8:19 I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the Israelites, to do the work for the Israelites in the tent of meeting, and to make atonement for the Israelites, so there will be no plague among the Israelites when the Israelites come near the sanctuary.” 24
8:20 So Moses and Aaron and the entire community of the Israelites did this with the Levites. According to all that the Lord commanded Moses concerning the Levites, this is what the Israelites did with them. 8:21 The Levites purified themselves 25 and washed their clothing; then Aaron presented them like a wave offering before the Lord, and Aaron made atonement for them to purify them. 8:22 After this, the Levites went in to do their work in the tent of meeting before Aaron and before his sons. As the Lord had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did.
1 tn The verb טָהַר (tahar) means that Moses was “to purify” or “to make ceremonially clean” the Levites so that they could enter the sanctuary and do the work prescribed for them. Whatever is “unclean” is not permitted in the sanctuary at all.
2 tn Or, more literally, “and thus you shall do.” The verb is the imperfect tense of instruction or legislation. Here it introduces the procedures to be followed.
3 tn The genitive in this expression indicates the purpose of the water – it is for their purification. The expression is literally “the waters of sin.” The word “purification” is the same as for the “sin/purification offering” – חַטָּאת (khatta’at). This water seems to have been taken from the main laver and is contrasted with the complete washing of the priests in Lev 8:6.
4 tn The verb is the Hiphil perfect with a vav (ו) of sequence. This verb, and those to follow, has the force of a jussive since it comes after the imperative. Here the instruction is for them to remove the hair from their bodies (“flesh”). There is no indication that this was repeated (as the Egyptian priests did every few days). It seems to have been for this special occasion only. A similar requirement was for the leper (Lev 14:7-9).
5 tn Heb “flesh.”
7 tn The verb is a reflexive (or possibly passive) in this verse, indicating the summary of the process. The ritual steps that have been prescribed will lead to this conclusion. The verb could be treated as a final imperfect (being a perfect with vav [ו] consecutive), and so translated “that they may….” The major difference here is that the ritual made the Levites “clean,” whereas the ritual for the priests made them “holy” or “sanctified” (Lev 8:12).
8 sn The first sacrifice was for the purification of the Levites. The second animal, which Moses was to take, would be used for the purification of the tabernacle from all pollution.
9 sn The consecration ceremony was to be done in full view of the assembled people. In all probability the laying on of the hands was done through representatives of the tribes, and not all the people. This ritual of the imposition of hands showed that the people were taking part in the consecration, and that the Levites represented them in the service of the
10 tn The Hebrew text actually has “wave the Levites as a wave offering.” The wave offering was part of the ritual of the peace offering and indicated the priest’s portion being presented to God in a lifted, waving motion for all to see. The Levites were going to be in the sanctuary to serve the
11 tn The construction emphasizes the spiritual service of the Levites, using the infinitive construct of עָבַד (’avad) followed by its cognate accusative.
12 tn The clause begins with a vav (ו) on the noun “the Levites,” indicating a disjunctive clause. Here it is clearly a subordinate clause prior to the instruction for Moses, and so translated as a circumstantial clause of time.
13 tn The imperative is from the verb “to do; to make,” but in the sentence it clearly means to sacrifice the animals.
14 sn The “purification offering” cleansed the tabernacle from impurity, and the burnt offering atoned by nullifying and removing the effects of sin in the Levites.
15 tc The Greek text adds the
16 tn The vav (ו) consecutive on the perfect tense not only carries the nuance of instruction forward to this clause, but also marks this clause out as a summary of what has taken place, i.e., by doing all this ritual Moses will have separated the Levites from the people for God’s own possession.
17 tn The imperfect tense could also be given the nuance of the imperfect of permission: “the Levites may go in.”
18 tn Heb “to serve.”
19 tn The two verbs in the rest of this verse are perfect tenses with vav (ו) consecutive constructions, making them equal to the imperfect. Some commentators try to get around the difficulty of repetition by making these future perfects, “and you will have cleansed,” as opposed to a summary statement, “for thus you will cleanse….”
20 tc The Greek text adds “before the
21 tn As before, the emphasis is obtained by repeating the passive participle: “given, given to me.”
22 tn Or “as substitutes” for all the firstborn of the Israelites.
23 tn The idiomatic “on the day of” precedes the infinitive construct of נָכָה (nakhah) to form the temporal clause: “in the day of my striking…” becomes “when I struck.”
24 sn The firstborn were those that were essentially redeemed from death in Egypt when the blood was put on the doors. So in the very real sense they belonged to God (Exod 13:2,12). The firstborn was one who stood in special relationship to the father, being the successive offspring. Here, the Levites would stand in for the firstborn in that special role and special relationship. God also made it clear that the nation of Israel was his firstborn son (Exod 4:22-23), and so they stood in that relationship before all the nations. The tribe of Reuben was to have been the firstborn tribe, but in view of the presumptuous attempt to take over the leadership through pagan methods (Gen 35:22; 49:3-4), was passed over. The tribes of Levi and Simeon were also put down for their ancestors’ activities, but sanctuary service was still given to Levi.
25 tn The verb is the Hitpael of חָטָּא (khatta’). In this stem the meaning of the root “to sin” is likely to be connected to the noun “sin/purification” offering in a denominative sense, although some would take it as a privative usage, “to remove sin.” The idea is clear enough: They performed all the ritual in order to purify themselves ceremonially.