Consecration Ceremony – Command and Implementation


A Change in Plan?

The directive regarding the ceremony to consecrate the Tabernacle is presented at length in Shemot 29, with certain details added in Shemot 40:9-16.1  However, the execution of the command is first described in Vayikra 8-9. Despite significant overlap between the description of the command and its implementation, there are nonetheless quite a few discrepancies between the two. These relate to the order of several of the actions to be performed, inclusion or omission of certain aspects of the ceremony and related laws, the grouping of the priests, and minor differences in terminology.  How should the various discrepancies be understood?  Were certain changes made to the ceremony when it was implemented?  If so, what caused these changes? If not, why does the description of the ceremony veer from the command?

The Discrepancies

Many of the differences between the accounts are categorized below.  For a table comparing the verses of Shemot 29 and Vayikra 8, press the following button.


Additions or Omissions – There are several commands or rites which are found in only one chapter or the other:

  • Unique to Vayikra 8 – Certain aspects of the ceremony are mentioned only in Vayikra:
    • Assembling the nation to the Tent of Meeting to witness the event (v. 3)
    • Placing the Urim and Tumim in the Choshen (v. 8)
    • Sprinkling the altar with oil seven times (v. 10)
    • The prohibition on Aharon and his sons to leave the Tent of Meeting throughout the week-long ceremony (v. 31)
  • Unique to Vayikra 9 – In Shemot 29 there is no indication whatsoever that there will be an eighth day of the ceremony.  The eighth day is first mentioned only in Vayikra 9.
  • Unique to Shemot 29
    • A second cow? Shemot 29:36 speaks of a "פַר חַטָּאת" being used to purify the altar for seven days.  It is unclear if this refers to a second, distinct, cow,2 or to the one previously mentioned (the directive being repeated here only to stress that this sacrifice needs to be brought on all seven days).  If the former reading is correct and the original command was to take two cows, this is another aspect omitted in the fulfillment in Vayikra 8 which speaks of only one cow.
    • Laws for future generations – Shemot 29:27-30 includes several laws which are mandated for future generations rather than for the Milluim ceremony itself, including those relating to the portions to be allotted to the priests and the priestly garb. All of these are omitted from Vayikra 8.
  • Missing from Shemot 29 – The command to anoint the Tabernacle and its vessels is omitted from Shemot 29, though it does appear in Shemot 40. The implementation is described in Vayikra 8.

Changes in Order – The order of several parts of the ceremony are switched in the two accounts.

  • List of objects to be brought – In the command, the sacrifices are mentioned first, followed by the priests, clothing, and anointing oil. In the fulfillment, in contrast, the sacrifices are moved to the end of the list.3
  • Clothing Aharon – Shemot 40 mentions dressing Aharon only after anointing the Mishkan (v. 13), while Vayikra 8 presents Moshe as clothing him beforehand (v. 7-9).
  • Choshen and Efod – While Shemot 29:5 speaks of donning the Choshen before the EfodVayikra 8:7-8 lists them in the opposite order.
  • Sprinkling of blood and oil – In Shemot 29, Aharon and sons are to be sprinkled with a mixture of anointing oil and blood from the Milluim offering before the offering is burnt (v. 21).  In Vayikra 8, they are sprinkled only afterwards (v. 30).

Grouping of Aharon and sons – In two instances, regarding donning the belt (אבנט), and the sprinkling of blood on the priests' ears, hands, and feet, Shemot 29 (see verses 9 and 20) groups Aharon together with his sons, while in the implementation the rites done for each are separated (see Vayikra 8:7,13, and 23-24).

Terminology – In several instances there are slight changes in terminology between the two units.  It is unclear how significant these are:

  • Sacrifice names – Each of the sacrifices brought in Shemot 29 is initially referred to only by the name of the animal being brought.  Only after its sacrificial procedure is discussed does the Torah state: "חַטָּאת הוּא", "עֹלָה הוּא", etc. In Vayikra 8, in contrast, already from the outset, the animals are referred to as "פַּר הַחַטָּאת" or "אֵיל הָעֹלָה".  Uniquely, the Chattat is consistently referred to in this manner, rarely being called merely "פר".
  • The loaves – While Shemot 29:2 specifies the various loaves to accompany the Milluim, Vayikra mentions only a more general "basket of matzot".
  • Pouring – Shemot 29:12 employs the verb "תִּשְׁפֹּךְ", while the parallel verse in Vayikra 8:15 says "יָצַק".