The Pursuit of Holiness (Leviticus) - Lesson 5

By Glen Pemberton

Lev 8-9, 21-22

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student will distinguish the difference between Israel's high priest, priests, and Levites.
  2. The student will discuss the role of ritual in ancient Israel,his/her own personal life, and in the life of the church.
  3. The student will discern that the call to priestly ministry demands holiness in his/her personal life.


  1. A Bible for each Student.
  2. A chalk board or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #5 ("Priests, Rituals, and Me?")


Moses carries out God's specific instructions for the ordination of priests (Exod 28-29) in Leviticus 8-9. Those who enter this text enter a strange and distant world of elaborate and somewhat mysterious rituals. Or do they? Rituals are, in fact,important for every culture and community. After a brief introduction to the "staff" positions of the tabernacle (Levites,Priests, and High Priest), this lesson focuses on the rituals described in Leviticus 8-9. While the rituals seem strange to us, two purposes of these actions are clear. First, these rituals functioned to ordain Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. Our world and church uses rituals (albeit different ones) in similar ways to that of ancient Israel. Second, these rituals served to consecrate (make holy) Aaron and his sons. This action establishes a key principle: Those who would minister to or on behalf of others must first be holy themselves. Leviticus 21-22reinforces this idea with special instructions for the holiness of the priests and high priest.This lesson, like many in the series, poses a special challenge for the teacher; some students may view instruction about priests and rituals to be totally irrelevant to modern Christian life. The challenge is to demonstrate to such students the surprising ways in which this material is directly relevant and needed for faithful Christian life.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class


  1. Welcome visitors and make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests and leading the class inprayer.

Learning Experiences

  1. Review and set the stage for today's study.
    1. Turn to Exodus 28. God's plans for the tabernacle (Exod25-31) included a working staff to maintain the tent and carry out various functions associated with God's presence among his people.
      1. Exodus 28-29 sets forth who is to be ordained to service as a priest. (WKSH ? Instruction for the Ordination of Priests)
        1. Read Exod 28:1-3. Q. Who are to serve theLord as priests? A. Aaron (as high priest) and his sons (as priests).
        2. This is somewhat puzzling in view of Exod 19:6(reread if necessary). Q. According to Exod 19:6,what is the task or role of the entire nation of Israel?A. Priests. A priestly kingdom.
        3. This seems contradictory. Q. Is the entire nation priests or only Aaron and his sons? A. Yes, to both.The term priest is a functional word.
          1. The nation of Israel is to be a priest to the rest of the world.
          2. Aaron and his sons are to be priests for the nation of Israel.
      2. Exodus 28-29 also presents detailed instructions for how to ordain Aaron and his sons to their roles of service. For example, Read Exod 28:40-43 and 29:31-35.
    2. We will return to these rather odd rituals of ordination in just a moment. For a few minutes, we need to pause to address a related issue (the identity and role of theLevites).
      1. This lesson focuses on the ordination of the high priest(Aaron) and the priests (Aaron's sons) as presented inLeviticus 8-9.
      2. Q. Can anyone name the other group or "staff position"associated with the tabernacle? A. The Levites.
      3. Who were the Levites?
        1. The Levites were one of the twelve tribes (or family groups) of Israel (Gen 35:22-26).
          1. This family distinguished itself in two ways:
            1. Read Exod 2:1f. Q. Who were both members of the family of Levi? A. Moses and Aaron.
            2. Thus, the high priest (Aaron) and priests(Aaron's sons) were members of the family of Levi (i.e., they were Levites) ?but not all Levites were priests. (WKSH ?Draw the following diagram on the board and explain the relationships.)
            3. Read Exod 32:25-29.
              1. Q. What did the Levites do at the crisis at Sinai? A. They rallied to the Lord and Moses and attacked those who were rebelling against the Lord.
              2. Q. What happens as a result of this action? What announcement doesMoses make? A. Because of their commitment, the Levites have been set apart (ordained) for the Lord's service.
          2. Consequently, the Levites were given to Aaron and his sons as special assistants in the Tabernacle.Read Num 3:5-9 (cf. Num 8:14-19 for a second rationale for taking the family of Levi.)
      4. Despite the title of the book of Leviticus (literally,"pertaining to the Levites), Leviticus only mentions theLevites (specifically) in one short text (25:32-34). Our understanding of the duties of the Levites comes from the book of Numbers.
        1. The Levites were responsible for guard duty at the tent.
        2. The Levites were responsible for the transportation of the holy tent and its furnishings(Num 4:1-33)LevitesPriestsHigh Priest
        3. The Levites were not permitted to perform the duties of Aaron (the high priest) or his sons (the priests), nor were they permitted to enter the holy places of the tabernacle.
    3. Now let's return to Leviticus 8-9.
  2. The instructions regarding the ordination of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood in Exod 28-29 are carried out by Moses in Lev 8-9. (WKSH ? Moses Carries Out the Instructions )
    1. Read Lev 8:1-13, 22-24, 31-36. This is a very different world than 21s t century America!
      1. We, for the most part, are not used to elaborate rituals and clothing in religious settings.
      2. We certainly are not familiar with the practice of blood rituals.
      3. These things, however, were a common part of all ancient Near Eastern religions. Such rituals would not have seemed odd to Israel, but packed with meaning and significance.
    2. Thankfully, despite our difference from this culture, the text does make two purposes of the various rituals fairly clear.
      1. These rituals functioned to ordain Aaron and his sons to their respective roles as priests. Read 8:22,28,33(WKSH ? The rituals ordained Aaron and his sons)
        1. Q. Can you think of any rituals in modernAmerica whereby we ordain people to certain roles or tasks? A. Most political offices include some type of ritual, e.g., oaths of office, speeches, and parades.Graduation ceremonies are also filled with rituals,e.g., the music (Pomp and Circumstance), the valedictorian address, the presentation of diplomas,the moving of the tassel, and tossing hats into the air.
        2. Q. Can you think of other events in which rituals play an important role? A. One good is example is the common wedding ceremony that includes such rituals as the wearing of white, exchange of rings, a unity candle, and other symbolic actions. (If time permits the teacher might discuss the meaning of each of these rituals.)
        3. Perhaps our world is really not that different fromIsrael. Rituals are important for us, just as they were for Israel. Only the culture and the specific rituals differ.
        4. Q. Why do we have such rituals? Why are they important? A. (Allow time for discussion.) At the very least, rituals make a public proclamation, confirm, or initiate a person's role or position.
        5. The priesthood of Aaron and his sons was new forIsrael. Thus, the solemn rituals of ordination were terrifically important to establish their position.
        6. In a few minutes, if time permits, we want to identify and discuss the important rituals we continue to practice in the church today.
      2. These rituals also functioned to consecrate Aaron and his sons. Read 8:12,30 WKSH
        1. Q. What does it mean to consecrate something or someone? A. Consecrate has the basic idea of "to make holy." In fact, the Hebrew term (qds)translated "consecrate" (NIV, NRSV, NASV) or"sanctify" (KJV) is derived from the Hebrew term(qds) that is translated "holy" (So the ERV translates verse 12 "he made Aaron holy").
        2. Q. What is the significance of consecrating Aaron and his sons? Why must they be consecrated before they take positions as priests? A. Before a priest can present offerings on behalf of other people, he must first be holy himself. WKSH
          1. This point is emphasized in the events of the eighth day of ordination.
            1. First, Aaron presents sacrifices on behalf of himself and his sons (Read Lev9:8,12).
            2. Then, and only then, Aaron presented sacrifices on behalf of others (Read Lev9:15-17)
          2. Later, Lev 21-22 spells out some especially rigorous guidelines for the priests.
            1. Read Lev 21:1-5.
              1. Q. To whom are these commands given? A. The priests (alone).
              2. Q. Why must they conform to a higher standard? A. Read Lev 21:6. They have a special role and come especially close to God's dwelling place in the tent ? therefore, they must be especially holy.
            2. Read Lev 21:10-11
              1. Q. To whom is this command given?A. The high priest (alone).
              2. Q. What is the command? How does it differ from that given to other priests?A. He cannot defile himself (by going close to a dead body) for even his near kin.
              3. Q. Why? A. Read Lev 21:12. He must not pollute God's tent. His special role demands special holiness.
              4. Ultimately, these special demands insured the safety of the priest (Lev22:9, if they pollute God's tent they will die) and the presence of God among his people (cf. Lev 21:12;16:32-34)
    3. When the rituals of ordination are complete, Aaron assumes his duties and God confirms Aaron's new role in a dramatic fashion. Read Lev 9:22-24.


(Discuss one or more of the following topics. Open space in the WKSH has been provided for the student to take some notes from the discussion.)

  1. Before Aaron or his sons could assume their responsibilities as priests they first had to be consecrated. Then, Aaron and his sons were held to an especially high standard of holiness.
    1. Q. What contemporary relevance does this order(consecration then service) have? A. A person (Aaron, his sons, any of us) or group (Israel or the church) cannot function effectively as God's priests to the world if we ourselves are not consecrated ? holy.
    2. Q. Does the especially high standard of holiness have any significance for us today? A. Yes! Read I Peter 2:9-10
      1. Q. What does Peter call all Christians? A. A royal priesthood and a holy nation!
      2. Notice, immediately after this proclamation Peter calls the royal priesthood to a high standard of conduct.Read I Peter 2:10-12 (or through verse 21 if time permits)
      3. Q. Because of our call to be priests, what does God expect or demand of us? A. (Allow time for discussion on the ideas in I Peter 2:10-21)
    3. (Optional) Q. Do you think that there are certain roles in the church of which God demands greater holiness? A.Responses will likely vary. Some will argue that there is a single standard. Others will point out such texts as I Timothy 3 (on Elders and Deacons) and Titus 1:5-9 (onElders) as evidence that roles of leadership in the Lord's church demand greater spiritual maturity. Generally speaking, the instructions regarding Elders (and deacons)are a good parallel to those of the priests. Those who leadGod's people must be sanctified and live in such a way to lead by example.
  2. What about rituals in the churches of Christ?
    1. Q. What rituals do we practice in the church? (A definition of ritual may be necessary: A ritual is any action that carries a symbolic meaning far beyond itself). A. (Allow time for discussion.) Possible responses may include the Lord's supper, baptism, the laying on of hands, and anointing the sick with oil. Briefly discuss the significance of each of these actions.
    2. Q. Why do you think God instructed us to keep certain rituals? A. (Allow time for discussion.) The proper performance of a ritual is meaningful for all those involved;it may remind, proclaim, confirm, encourage, and more ? all at the same moment in time.


Read Lev 10

Download Worksheets

Back to The Pursuit of Holiness (Leviticus)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.