Lessons from the Levitical Priesthood

Discovery for Teachers

Lessons from the Levitical Priesthood


Leviticus 8:1 through 10:20

“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” (Leviticus 9:23).


Aaron had been chosen by God to be the high priest for Israel, to make offerings unto the Lord for the people, and his sons were to succeed him. Prior to the time of Moses, the heads of families offered sacrifices. Now the nation had been organized, the Tabernacle had been set up specifically as a place for sacrifices and worship, a ritual had been prescribed, and a ceremonial rank of officers were appointed to particular roles.

In these three chapters, we find that the consecration of Aaron and his sons was accomplished by a sin offering followed by a burnt offering. This was a ritual prescribed by God to prepare them for the office they were about to fill. The consecration service lasted seven days, the sacrifices being repeated each day. During this time, those being consecrated were not allowed to leave the sanctuary.

Nadab and Abihu, the two oldest sons of Aaron, were men with a great heritage. Not only were they the sons of Israel’s high priest, but they were also the nephews of Israel’s leader, and the heads of Israel’s princely elders. They had been with Moses and Aaron on the mount of God, they had seen the glorious visions at Mount Sinai, and now they had been consecrated to the Levitical priesthood. All of this made their trespass, documented in chapter 10, all the more inexcusable and worthy of judgment.


  1. What critical phrase is repeated in chapter 8, verses 4, 9, and 13? What do you suppose would have been the outcome if Moses had not operated in such a matter?

    These verses tell us that Moses did, “as the Lord commanded him.” The answer to the second part of this question can only be speculative. However, it is sure, that Moses would have drawn the displeasure of God if he had not obeyed. The sacredness of this ritual would have been destroyed. This was an extraordinary and significant time, because the high priest, once anointed and sanctified to this task, would stand between God and the sins of the people until the time of Christ. It was critical that every detail was followed through exactly as God had commanded in order for the nation to obtain God’s blessing, forgiveness, and favor.
  2. Why was it important for the people to observe the consecration of the priests? (Leviticus 8:2-3)

    Since this was a new ritual for the Children of Israel, God commanded Moses to gather all the people together to observe this most-sacred event. What they witnessed in the sacrifices performed by Moses and Aaron, were significant because soon they, too, would be bringing their own sacrifices to the high priest to be offered for their own sins just as they had observed being done here. Thus, it was important that they knew that this entire ritual, from start to finish, was not only commanded by God but honored by God. In the offering of sacrifices, they were witnessing the door through which they must pass to find God’s blessing.
  3. In Leviticus 8:2, God commanded Moses to bring three animals to this ceremony. What were they? What was the specific use for each?

    A bullock (young bull) and two rams. The bullock was for the sin offering, one ram was for the burnt offering, and the other ram was for the consecration (ordination) of Aaron and his sons.
  4. What was the significance of each sacrifice?

    The sin offering typified the sanctifying or cleansing of Aaron and his sons for the priesthood; they were unclean in God’s eyes, and not worthy of the office, but God had deemed that by the shedding of innocent blood, their cleansing would be complete, their guilt slain as was the animal. They were then worthy to fill the office.

    The burnt offering typified a complete offering of a person to the Lord, for the entire animal was consumed by fire. (In other sacrifices, the animals were only partially consumed.) There are many aspects of this ceremony that could be discussed with your class. The oil of anointing signified the anointing and power of God resting upon Aaron to fill the office of high priest, which God himself had selected Aaron to fill. God wants us to have this anointing upon our lives, not to be a high priest, but to have His power to fulfill the calling He has placed upon us individually. The high priest was to stand in the presence of God, holy, set apart, consecrated to the Lord’s work, to make atonement for the sins of the people.

    The ram of consecration was presented as a wave offering (Leviticus 8:29). This was a free-will offering, one of thanksgiving to God for His blessing of calling them into His service. Note that this offering was a sweet savor (scent) to the Lord, as there was obedience, willingness, and thanksgiving behind it.
  5. Why do you suppose God wanted animals without blemish for the sacrifices? (Leviticus 9:2)

    If there was a blemish in the sacrifices, it would not be accepted of the Lord, and therefore the offering would do no good for the bearer. The bringing of blemished animals indicated an indifferent attitude to what God required. An offering that was innocent and perfect (no blemishes) was necessary to make atonement. This blood would then be a substitute for the transgressions of the people. If there were blemishes on the animal, it was not a perfect sacrifice, and its blood was not sufficient in God’s sight to atone for man’s sin. All of this pointed forward to our Perfect Sacrifice, the Lamb of God, who had no sin, yet became sin for us that we might be made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
  6. What promise is found in Leviticus 9:4-6? What application might we make regarding our approach to God today?

    God promised Moses that His presence and glory would visit His people if they would follow through with the rites of the ceremony exactly as God prescribed. In answering the second question, your class should recognize that God will visit us with His presence, too, when we come in obedience to His requirements.
  7. In Leviticus 9:22-24, something special took place, just as God had said. As God does not change, what can we learn from this, if we need something from God in our own lives?

    The glory of the Lord appeared before all the people, and fire came out from before the Lord (commentators indicate flame came from the sky or from the Holy Place, where the Presence of God dwelt) and consumed the sacrifice. This show of God’s power caused all the people to shout and fall on their faces. Note that it was exactly as God promised, if all was performed as He commanded. Discuss with your class the importance of doing whatever God asks in order that we might receive the blessings and answers to prayer He has for us. God will honor His promises to us if we follow through on every detail. This fire was a sign that God had indeed ordained the ceremonies that had taken place, and His approval was upon all who would be obedient to them. When our lives please the Lord, we can expect His glory to fill our lives.
  8. Why were two sons of Aaron (Nadab and Abihu) slain by the Lord? (Leviticus 10:1-2)

    Nadab and Abihu were presumptuous, not taking the commandments of the Lord seriously, as though they were exempt from what God had commanded. The text says that they offered “strange fire” unto the Lord; instead of taking the fire that was put into their censers from the brazen altar, they offered a common fire, and were content to do so without a scruple. God had miraculously ignited the fire upon the brazen altar, and it was to be kept continuously burning by the officiating priest, as the Lord commanded (Leviticus 6:12-13). The incense that was offered up with that fire was acceptable only if it was consumed, and the scent arose from the coals of the fire God himself had kindled. The sons of Aaron knew this, yet they disregarded things holy and sacred.
  9. The offense and death of Nadab and Abihu was a tragic event in the midst of a special and celebratory time for Israel. What can we learn from it?

    The point should be brought out that there are consequences for disregarding and disobeying God’s commandments. We may not suffer instant physical death, as Nadab and Abihu did, but we will suffer eternal death unless we repent of our disobedience.

    What God deems sacred is, indeed, sacred. The incense Nadab and Abihu offered was not acceptable because it was offered with a strange fire. God’s work will go forward by His inspiration — by the fire of Heaven. There is no other fire we can obtain that will produce the results God requires in a life. When God’s fire consumes a life, the “sweet savor” arises before Him; no coals other than the coals of God’s fire will accomplish it. Discuss with your students the importance of keeping holy the things God has deemed holy,and off limits the things God has deemed off limits. Further, discuss what can be lost by taking the Gospel too casually, and what can be gained if we are careful to obey.


There are many lessons to learn about the importance of complete obedience to God. What He has said, He means. What He has promised, He will do. God’s Word is sure, and the best way for us to inherit all of His blessings is to pay attention to the details of our own lives. If we live with sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, we will be right in line for the Lord to reveal His glory to us too.