Structure and Numerology in Exodus 29
September 2, 2020

Exodus 29 lays out the instructions for the ordination rite for Aaron and his sons. Leviticus 8 describes the actual event of the ordination, and is organized by the eight-fold repetition of the clause, “as Yahweh commanded Moses” (Leviticus 8:4, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 29, 36), which effectively divides the chapter into seven sections. The numerology is significant: As a “seven,” the ordination rite alludes back to Genesis 1; as an “eight,” the rite of ordination links to circumcision and the eighth-day theme of new creation. Through the ordination, Aaron and his sons become new men.

That structure is lacking in Exodus 29. The chapter is part of a section of Exodus structured by seven uses of the clause, “Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying.” Thus, it is part of a large-scale creation text. But Exodus 29 is itself part of the “first day” section (Exodus 25:1—30:11). This section is arguably subdivided into seven sections, of which Exodus 29 is the sixth, a subterranean hint that Aaron is a new priestly Adam.

Those hints may be supported by a (possible) seven-section organization of the chapter (taken from James Jordan);

1) Materials for ordination, 29:1-3

2) Washing, invest, anoint Aaron; wash and invest sons, 29:4-9

3) Purification and ascension offerings, 29:10-18

4) Ram of ordination, 29:19-28

5) Garments, 29:29-30

6) Food in the sanctuary, 29:31-34

7) Seven days, 29:35-37

These seven sections match, roughly, the seven days of creation. On Day 1, Yahweh creates a formless void that He will shape into the cosmos; He is gathering the “raw materials,” as Moses does for the ordination. By being washed and invested, Aaron and his sons are made into a firmament boundary between Yahweh and Israel. The altar, representing the earth, is purified by the purification offering, so as to become a means of ascent; there is perhaps a link to the third-day separation of earth from the sea. On Day 4, Yahweh creates heavenly light, and in the fourth stage of the ordination rite, Aaron and his sons are consecrated and anointed (29:21) to make them lights in the firmament of the tabernacle. Garments are often connected to Day 5; garments form a “swarm” of glory around the wearer. By giving Aaron and his sons food in His tent, Yahweh treats them like new Adams and Eves, admitted to the garden to share the fruit of life. Finally, the seventh section indicates that the ordination rite lasts seven days, a Sabbatical reference.

That leaves out the final verses of the chapter (vv. 38-46), which have to do with the continuous daily ascension offerings. The final section thus might be taken as an “eighth,” after-the-Sabbath instructions for priests who have be created through the seven days of the seven-fold rite.

This differs slightly from the layout of the corresponding chapter in Leviticus 8, which is explicitly subdivided:

1) Gather materialsYahweh’s command

2) Wash and cloth Aaron Yahweh’s command

3) Anoint Aaron and cloth sonsYahweh’s command

4) PurificationYahweh’s command

5) AscensionYahweh’s command

6) Ram of filling and blood and heave offering Yahweh’s command

7) Anoint sons/meal Yahweh’s command

There are other numerological clues imbedded in the passage, again with slight differences between Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8. In a couple of instances, Leviticus 8 follows an “Exodus 29 + 1” pattern.

Exodus 29 lists seven items of Aaron’s clothing (tunic, robe, ephod, breastpiece, band, turban, crown, vv. 5-6); Leviticus includes a “sash” that goes with the tunic, making eight items of clothing, and also refers explicitly to the Urim and Thummim (Leviticus 8:7-9). If there is a difference of emphasis, it is that Exodus 29 present Aaron as a priest clothed in creation, while Leviticus 8 presents him as a priest clothed in new creation. Leviticus 8 sees Exodus 29, and raises him.

“Aaron is used 17x in Exodus 29, and 17 is the gematria of kabod, “glory.” Aaron is clothed in garments of kabod and beauty, and becomes himself a manifestation of the kabod of Yahweh. (Leviticus 8 uses “Aaron” only 15x.) “Anoint” is another key term. As a modifier of “oil,” it is used twice in Exodus 29 (vv. 7, 21); as a verb, it is used four time (vv. 2, 7, 29, 36). Thus, Exodus 29 uses the word anoint six times, perhaps linking the anointing to the theme of Aaron as a new man, a new Adam. In Leviticus 8, the root is used seven times, four times as a modifier (vv. 2, 10, 12, 13) and three times as a verb (vv. 10, 11, 12). Again, Leviticus shows an “Exodus 29 + 1” pattern. It will be interesting to see whether or not Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8 are related in analogous ways at other points. Stay tuned.

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