Copyright © 2000 by Andrews University Press. Cited with permission.
THE ANOINTING OF AARON: A
STUDY OF LEVITICUS IN
ITS OT AND ANE CONTEXTl
Lev 8:122 forms an integral part of the ritual of ordination of Aaron and
his sons and the consecration of the Tabernacle and is shaped after the
commandment section found in Exod 29, dealing with the technical and
procedural aspects of the ordination and consecration ritual.3 This study first
1The present article is a revision of one originally published as 'La uncion de Aaron. Un
estudio de Lev en su centexto veterotestamentario y antiguo cercano-oriental,' Theologika
11/1 (1996): 64-83. (Theologika is a biennial theological journal of Universidad Peruana Union,
of Time, Space, and Actions in Leviticus 8," (D. Litt. diss. University of StelIenbosch, 1995). A
revised version of the dissertation has been published in 1998 by Edwin Mellen Press under the
title A Comparative Study of the Ritual of Ordination as Found in Leviticus 8 and Emar 369. The
financial assistance of the South African Center for Science Development toward this research
is hereby acknowledged. Furthermore, the author would like to thank the University of
Stellenbosch for awarding him the Stellenbosch 2000 bursary, which constituted a substantial
help in the financing of the doctoral studies.
2 This study will concentrate upon Lev 8:12, which describes the anointing of Aaron only.
Verse 30 of the same chapter includes a short note as to the anointing "with blood and oil" of Aaron
and his sons. In a recent article, D. Fleming suggested that the existence of two anointing rites in the
ordination ritual ( describing the anointing of Aaron and describing the anointing of him and
his sons) indicates the existence of two distinctive customs. However, it
could also be argued that the division indicates two different ritual states of the participants
3 Concerning the relationship between Exod 29 and Lev 8 one can find three main
viewpoints in the literature: (1) Lev 8 is the older document and therefore Exod 29 is dependent
on Lev 8. See B. A. Levine, "The Descriptive Ritual Texts of the Pentateuch," JAOS 85 (1965):
311-312; K. Elliger, Leviticus, HAT 4 (Tiibingen:J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1966), 107ff.;
and M. Noth, Das dritte Buch Mose: Leviticus, 4th ed., Am 6 (G6ttingen: Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht, 1978),56. (2) There exists an intricate interrelationship between Exod 29 and Lev 8
suggesting some kind of literary dependence, but-in line with modern communication
theory-there is no benefit in separating "earlier" and "later" sources. This mediating position
is held by H. Utzschneider, Das Heiligtum und das Gesetz: Studien zur Bedeutung der
sinaitischen Heiligtumstexte (Exod 25-40; Lev 8-9), OBO 77 (Fribourg: Universit:itsverlag,
1988), 37; and J. E. Hartley, who assume that both Exod 29 and Lev 8 were dependent on an
232 SEMINARY STUDIES 38 (AUTUMN 2000)
investigates the meaning of the anointing rite in its context of the ordination
ritual. Then follows an analysis of a new text from Emar4 describing an
ordination ritual of the high priestess of dIM (the god IM) with special regard
to the anointing rites encountered in this text. Finally, a comparative section
will deal with similarities and dissimilarities between the rites and the
relevance of this comparison in the broader context of Pentateuchal studies.
The Anointing of Aaron in Lev
One can detect a similarity regarding the involved actions (of
anointing) in the structures of Lev 8:10-11 and , although the objects
and persons involved are dissimilar. Three different consecutive actions
are encountered in Lev that could be understood in terms of a
staircase structure based upon content rather than literary structure.5 The
verbs include hqyv ("and he took"), Hwmyv ("and he anointed"), and wdqyv
("and he consecrated"). All these actions have Moses as their subject and
the Tent of Meeting and its utensils as their object. The first action
constitutes the moving of the object that effects the final action of
(namely the consecration), while the center action ("and he anointed")
describes the way and means the final action is achieved, i.e., anointing
results in consecration. Therefore it appears that Hql (take) would
function like Ntn1M) ("put") in the clothing act, initiating, the intended action.6
containing the ordination ritual (Leviticus,
WBC 4 [
109-110). (3) Exod 29 is the older document and thus Lev 8 is dependent upon Exod 29.
of this position include J. Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, AB
Doubleday, 1991); idem, "The Consecration of the Priests. A Literary Comparison of
Leviticus 8 and Exodus 29," in Ernten was man sat. Festschrift fur Klaus Koch zu seinem 65.
Geburtstag, ed. D. R. Daniels (Neukirchen-Vlyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1991),273-286; and
G. J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 131ff. The
contextual and comparative evidence (i.e., the usage of prescriptive and subsequently
descriptive texts in the ANE as found in the Samsu-Iluna B inscription; see Milgrom,
Leviticus, 553) adduced by Milgrom seems to favor this interpretation. Thus as the point of
departure for this study the dependence of Lev 8 on Exod 29 is assumed.
4 For the bibliography of the text and commentaries on the text see below.
5 See W.G.E. Watson, "A Note on Staircase Parallelism," VT 33/4 (1983): 510-512, on
staircase parallelism in prose literature. Cf. also A. Berlin, "Parallelism," ABD, 5: 155-162; and
W. G. E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry: A Guide to Its Techniques, 2d ed., JSOT.SS 26
verbs indicating successive action, see G. A. Klingbeil, "The Syntactic Structure of the Ritual
of Ordination (Lev 8)," Bib 77/4 (1996): 510-512.
6 This has also been suggested by H. Seebass, who has observed the fact that about three-
fourths of the occurrences appear in sacrificial descriptions (or prescriptions) and in the narrative
literature of the OT. He writes: "Vielmehr deutet der uberaus haufige Gebrauch des Verbs in
Vorbereitung cines weiteren, den eigentlich intendierten Akt darstellenden . . . auf einen Sinn,
THE ANOINTING OF AARON 233
It is interesting to note that Lev -12 (and also elsewhere)7 includes the
anointing of both objects and persons. Ritual space plays an important
role, since Moses appears to have taken a circular route when performing
the anointing rites. In Lev the text mentions twice Hbzmh "the altar,"
and it is feasible to argue that Moses actually sprinkled the anointing oil
first on the incense altar8 and the other objects in the first section of the
sanctuary and then went straight to the altar of burnt offering in the
courtyard.9 The sequential nature of this action is expressed by the usage
of the wayyiqtl forms that express succession of action.10 "The suggested
route stresses the differentiation between the profane and holy of the
geography of the Tent of Meeting."11
The repeated usage of the anointing oil on the objects of the sanctuary
and the priests and the usage of the same verbal form of Hwm ("anoint")
suggests similar ritual states of both "entities." As F. Gorman writes:
This anointing with the special anointing oil serves to pass objects and
persons into a similar ritual state. . . . The common anointing also serves
to emphasize that these are the primary "spaces" of Aaron's cultic
officiating as high priest. This is not to say that all of the anointed objects
are the private domain of the high priest; rather, it is to indicate the
primary places of his service and to mark the outer bounds of his service.12
der in erster Linie die Verantwortlichkeit des jeweiligen Subjekts fur die jeweilige Handlung
hervorheben will"( Hql, ThWAT; 4:589). As has been suggested by Klingbeil, "Ordination and
Ritual," 188, it would appear that 1nJ as the first verbal form of Lev 8:7-9 functions both as an
indicator for the beginning of the process of clothing and the point of departure for a series of
increasingly more concrete acts of dressing. This phenomenon can also be found in 1 Sam 17:38-39,
which-albeit not in a religious context-utilizes a sequence similar to the one found in Lev 8:7.
7 See D. H. Engelhard," Anoint, Anointing," ISBE, 1:129, and the references given there.
8 This interpretation is not solely based upon the double occurrence of Hbzmh "the altar,"
but also on the usage of the verbal action connected with the first reference to the altar. hzn ("to
sprinkle") seems to consecrate the altar (instead of purifying it as in other instances-see
Klingbeil, "Ordination and Ritual," 194, and also V. P. Hamilton, hzn, NIDOTTE, 3:69). T. C.
Vriezen has suggested that "the degree of sanctification is directly proportional to the distance
of the place in which the hizza-rite is performed from the ark" ("The term hizza: Lustration and
Oudttestamentische Studien, ed.
P .A.H. de Boer [
suggestion is correct, it would support the interpretation that the first altar mentioned in Lev
in connection with the sprinkling rite could have been the incense altar, since it was much
closer to the Holy of Holies and thus required sevenfold consecration with the anointing oil.
9 See here G. A. Klingbeil, "Ritual Space in the Ordination Ritual of Leviticus 8,"
Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 21/1 (1995): 72.
10 Klingbeil, "Ordination and Ritual," 90-108.
11 Klingbeil, "Ritual Space," 73.
12 F. H. Gorman Jr., The Ideology of Ritual Space, Time and Status in the Priestly Theology,
234 SEMINARY STUDIES 38 (AUTUMN 2000)
It would, therefore, appear that the term marks a connection between
ritual space or location and ritual function of the involved persons. It is
significant that the anointing of the Tabernacle and its objects precedes
the anointing of the High Priest. This might provide a clue for the
importance of ritual space in OT ritual.13
The final verbal form in Lev 8:11, Mwdql ("to consecrate them"),
provides an explanation of the two previous acts of sprinkling14 and
anointing (Hwm). The infinitive construct Mwdql would be in accordance
with the use of wdqyv in Lev that explained the previous ritual action
on the Tabernacle.15 After the objects are anointed, the ritual personnel
are to be ordained. Lev 8:12 displays a structure similar to that found in
8:11, but instead of sprinkling the anointing oil, Moses pours some on
Aaron's head.16 qcy occurs fifty-five times in OT17 and is used in the
JSOT.SS 91 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), 118-119.
13 Klingbeil, "Ordination and Ritual," 192.
14 The verbal root used is wdq which appears some twenty-four times in the OT (see A.
Even-Shoshan,A New Concordance of the Old Testament (
On the usage of the verb see the discussion in Klingbeil, "Ordination and Ritual," 193-194,
Hamilton, NIDOTTE, 3:69-70, and Vriezen, "hizza," 201-235.
15 Concerning the meaning of wdq in the OT, see J. A. Naude, wdq, NIDOTTE, 3:877-887,
and Klingbeil, "Ordination and Ritual," 192, and the references given there. It is interesting to note that
forty-five of the seventy-five occurrences of the Piel form of wdq can be found in the Pentateuch,
predominantly in the books of Exodus (twenty-two times) and Leviticus (fifteen
times). This is in agreement with the content of these books, i.e., the construction of the
sanctuary and initiation of "proper" sacrificial service. Cf. also P. P. Jenson, Graded Holiness: A
Key to the Priestly Conception of the World, JSOT .SS 106 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992).
16 Anointing was not only utilized in religious rituals, but also appears in secular and legal
contexts (although it is not always easy to differentiate between these categories). Concerning
the anointing with oil as an expression of joy, see G. A. Anderson, A Time to Mourn, A Time to
Dance: The Expression of
Grief and Joy in Israelite Religion (
University Press, 1991), 45-47. A. Viberg discusses the legal function of anointing in the OT context.
He suggests that the "priestly anointing served to consecrate priests to their cultic
service. The legal function of the act was therefore p~ of cultic law" (Symbols of Law: A
Analysis of Legal Symbolic Acts in the Old Testament, ConBOT
Almquist & Wiksell, 1992], 119). While one should not neglect the legal aspect of the anointing
procedure (as found in other OT contexts-specifically concerning the king's anointing), it
would appear that the close proximity of the priestly anointing and the anointing of the
Tabernacle would suggest rather the consecratory aspect of the rite. Perhaps it is possible to
combine both aspects, since by anointing both Aaron and the Tabernacle (and its objects) it was
publicly stated that they were to be considered as belonging to YHWH, which certainly has legal
undertones. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind the stated purpose of the
procedure as found in Lev 8:10-12, where the process of wdq is referred to several times and
thus underlines the importance of the consecratory aspect.
17 Even-Shoshan, Concordance, 487.
THE ANOINTING OF AARON 235
context of pouring fluids in everyday situations (as, for example, in 2 Kgs
4:4; Ezek 24:3, etc.),18 but occurs predominantly in cultic contexts.19 Five
times the verb appears together with Hwm, namely, in Exod 29:7; Lev 8:12;
1 Sam 10:1; 2 Kgs 9:3, 6. The first two references concern the ordination
of priests and are clearly cultic. 1 Sam 10:1 describes the anointing of Saul
by Samuel. It is significant to see a similar sequence of actions, namely,
Hql ("take"), qcy ("pour"), and Hwm ("anoint). The final Hwm contains an
interpretation of the act of pouring the oil upon Saul's head by Samuel.
2 Kings 9:3 utilizes the same sequence and occurs in the context of Jehu's
anointing by Elisha. While 2 Kgs 9:3 contains the prescriptive part of that
procedure, v. 6 describes the actual performance. From these examples it
would appear that the anointing of priests and kings was similar, the only
difference being the fact that the oil to be used for the priests was hHwmh
Nmw “anointing oil," whereas the references to the anointing of Saul and
Jehu mention only Nmw as the fluid agent.20 The combination hHwmh Nmw
"anointing oil" occurs sixteen times in the OT.21 The oil used forhHwmh
Nmw was a mixture of specific spices and olive oil (Exod 30:22-33).22 It was
used in rituals of consecration for priests (Exod 29:7, 21; Lev , 30), the
Tabernacle (Exod 40:9; Lev ) and possibly also kings.23 Special
consideration should be given to the fact that the anointing oil was to be
a mixture of specific strong-smelling spices, which should be interpreted
in the context of the importance of smells in the cultural environment of
18 Compare here also the discussion found in B. Johnson, qcy, ThWAT, 3:827.
19 Ibid., 3:827-828.
20 J. N. Oswalt, Hwm, NIDOTTE, 2: 1124, assumes that the oil utilized for both rituals of
anointing was to be the same, although he does not discuss the differing terminology
21 Namely in Exod 25:6; 29:7,21; 31:11; 35:8,15,28; 37:29; 39:38; 40:9; Lev 8:2,10,12,
30; ; and Num 4:16. Another similar phrase Nmw tHwm occurs either with the apposition
wdq (Exod 30:25 [two times] and 31) or without the apposition (Lev 10:7 and ).
22 See more specifically N. M. Sarna, Exodus, JBS Torah Commentary 2 (
Jewish Publication Society, 1991), 197-198. The following ingredients were used: liquid
myrrh (NRSV) [Sarna translates it as solidified myrrh], sweet-smelling cinnamon, aromatic
cane, and cassia. Cf. also Y. Feliks, "The Incense of the Tabernacle," in Pomegranates and
Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern Ritual, Law, and Literature in Honor
of Jacob Milgrom, ed. D. P. Wright, D.
N. Freedman, and A. Hurvitz (
Eisenbrauns, 1995), 125-149, concerning the nature of some of the ingredients involved.
nIt should be noted, however, that the anointing of King Solomon described in 1 Kgs 1:39
does not explicitly mention hHwmh Nmw, but rather lhxh-Nm Nmwh, "the oil from the Tent." It could
thus be possible that the procedure and material used for the anointing of kings was not exactly the same
procedure as the one used for the anointing of the priests and the sanctuary.
236 SEMINARY STUDIES 38 (AUTUMN 2000)
the ANE.24 This applies specifically to the composition of hHwmh Nmw,
which includes parts of cinnamon, myrrh, cane, and cassia and should be
expected to give off a pleasant smell.25 Furthermore, it should be kept in
mind that the OT forbids the use of the anointing oil for cosmetic or
other uses apart from the prescribed acts of ritual anointing.26 It appears
that by this prohibition YHWH reserves the special fragrance for himself.
By anointing "his" fragrance is transmitted to his dwelling and its inventory
(Exod. xxx 26-9) and to the priests, devoted to his service (Exod. xxx 30). So
YHWH's fragrance becomes attached to his house and his attendants. So they
are marked by his personality [emphasis supplied]. Their exclusive belonging
to YHWH is expressed for an organ of sense in a perceptible way.27
As has been noted above by Houtman, smell is an extension of one's
personality, and thus the priests and the sanctuary are marked by
YHWH's personality. That in turn gives them a special status in society.
The anointing of Aaron (and later in v. 30 that of his sons as well) marks
a crucial point inasmuch as it puts both the location and its objects and the
person(s) on a par.28 Taking the parallel anointing of the Tabernacle and its
objects and the High Priest into consideration, Milgrom29 has argued that this
practice resembles similar practices in "old portions of the Pentateuch" (such
as Gen 28:18; 31:13; and 35:14) and thus would suggest an early origin of the
practice of anointing the High Priest and not a later modeling of the ritual
after the practice of anointing a king.
24 See C. Houtman, who argues that smells/breath are often understood as the extensions
of the personality of the carrier. "The breath is an extension of the personality. . . . In the light
of the remarks made above about man and his emanations, it is plausible that for an Israelite
odors were not only either pleasant or unpleasant, but also carriers of either life or death" ("On
the Function of the Holy Incense [Exodus XXX 34-8] and the Sacred Anointing Oil [Exodus
XXX 22-33]," VT 42/4 : 460-461). Cf. also B. Gibbons, "The Intimate Sense of Smell,"
National Geographic 170 (1986): 324-362, concerning the importance of smells in human life.
25 The unique composition of the anointing oil-similar to the composition of the
incense also described in Exod
30--reflects a pattern (M. Haran,
corresponds to "sacral-ritualistic distinctiveness." '.
26 Exod 30:32-33 emphatically states that no unqualified person should have contact with
the oil, lest he should be "cut off from his people." This differentiation is also clearly indicated
by the use of verbal forms. Whereas the ritual anointing is always expressed by the root Hwm
cosmetic anointing is indicated by the root 110. Cf. Oswalt, NIDOTTE, 2:1124.
27 Houtman, "Function of Holy Incense," 465.
28 Cf. also Jenson, who maintains that "the holiness of the priests. . .was of the same
order as that of the holy areas of the Tabernacle (Graded Holiness, 119).
29 Milgrom, Leviticus, 554.
THE ANOINTING OF AARON 237
The Anointing of the NIN.DINGIR at Emar
Emar, or modern Tell Meskene (some 90 km east of
was excavated during five salvage campaigns between 1973 and 1976.30 The
city existed on this particular site between the fourteenth and twelfth
centuries B.C.E., after which it was destroyed.31 Among the numerous
tablets and fragments is a section of Emar 369 that contains the
description of the ritual of ordination of the NIN.DINGIR of dIM, of
which there are six tablet fragments representing four manuscripts.32
The relevant sections of the ritual texts are lines 3-4 and 20-21, which
read as follows:33
3. i-sa-ba-tu4 DUMU.MI a-i-me-e DUMU uruE-m|ar it-tar-ra-a i-na u4-mi
sa-a-su-ma I.DU10.GA is-tu E.GAL-li
4. u is-tu E dNIN .KUR i-laq-qu-mi a-n|a SAG .DU-si i-sak-kan-nu 1
UDU 1 dugqu-u-u 1 hi-zi-bu KAS.GESTIN
20. a-na pa-ni nu-ba-at-ti I.DU10.GA sa E dNIN.KUR u[ a-n]a
KA dIM luHAL i-[ na SAG.DU]
21. sa NIN.DINGIR i-tab-bu-uk u LU.MES sa qi-da-si is-t[u E dIM
E-ma a-na E a-bi-si u-se-e]r (?) -ra-bu-si
30 Cf. J .-C. Margueron, "Emar ," ABD, 2:488-490. See also idem, "Emar, Capital of
Astata in the Fourteenth Century B.C.E.," BA 58/3 (1995): 126-138; and J.-C. Margueron and M.
Sigrist, "Ernar ," OEANE, 2:236-239; and
The History, Religion,
and Culture of a
suggests that several references to Emar found in the
dating the city back to approximately 2400 B.C.E., must be understood in terms of the
rebuilding of the same city on a different site due to the meandering movements of the
was to abandon the city and rebuild it nearby." This would also explain why the excavations
suggested that Emar/Tell Meskene was a relatively newly established city ("Emar," ABD,
2:489). Cf. J .-C. Margueron, "La recherche sur Ie terrain," in Meskene-Emar: Dix ans de
ed. J.-C. Margueron (
12-13. See also H. Klengel's review of D. Arnaud's Recherches au pays d’Astarta: Emar VI; vols.
sumeriens et akkadiens, Planches. vol 3: Textes sumeriens et accadiens,
Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1985) in OLl 83 (1988): 646-651; and his summary
of the allusions to Ernar /Imar found in cuneiform literature of the second millennium B.C.E.
and the references given there. For more references to the history and archaeology of Emar
see Klingbeil, "Ordination and Ritual," 280-281.
32 See the important work of D. E. Fleming, The Installation of Baal's High Priestess at
Emar: A Window on Ancient Syrian Religion, HSS 42 (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1992), 9;
and Klingbeil, "Ordination and Ritual," 281-282, esp. n. 62.
33 D. Arnaud, Recherches au pays d'Astarta: Emar VI; vol 3: Textes summeriens et
238 SEMINARY STUDIES 38 (AUTUMN 2200)
3. The daughter of any son of Emar may be identified. On that same
day they will take fine oil from the palace
4. and from the temple of dNIN.KUR, and put (it) on her head. They
will offer before dIM 1 sheep, 1 qu’u-jar, (and) 1 hizzibu of wine
20. Just before the evening watch, they will take fine oil of the temple of
dNIN .KUR and of the palace, and at the gate of dIM the luHAL
21. will pour (it) on the NIN.DINGIR's [head], and when the men of the
qidasu leave the temple of dIM, they will [brin]g her [into the house of her
The two references to the anointing act occur during the actions
prescribed for the first and second days. After the initial identification of
the future high priestess by means of a lot (line 2), the chosen "daughter
of any son of Emar" is anointed with "fine oil" from the palace. The
introductory time reference to the second occurrence a-na pa-ni nu-ba-at-
ti, "just before the evening watch,"34 refers to the second day of the
ritual,35 which is one of the key days of the nine-day ceremony.36 It is
significant to note that on each of the important days of the ritual,
reference is made to the time before the beginning of the night, which
seems to introduce an important part of the ritual preparing for the
following day (cf. lines 20,40, and 62).
The origin of the oil is from the "palace" and from the "temple of
dNIN .KUR." The act of anointing is often found in both legal and ritual
contexts in Mesopotamian texts37 and possibly also in connection with the
34 Fleming, Installation, 51. M. Dietrich, "Das Einsetzungsritualder Entu von Emar
(Emar VI/3, 369)," UF 21 (1989): 80 translates "vor Anbruch der Nacht."
35 Line 7 reads "on the next day." Regarding the discussion of ritual time in the
ordination ritual of the NIN .DINGIR, see Klingbeil, "Ordination and :Ritual," 322-332.
36 The other important days include the second day (shaving ceremony), the third day
(enthronement ceremony), and the final or ninth day (procession from house of the father of the
NIN.DINGIR to the temple of dIM and ascension upon the bed). See also Klingbeil, "Ordination
and Ritual," 328. Dietrich, "Einsetzungsritual," 87-89, interprets the ritual as a seven-day ritUal
which is based upon the recurring phrase U4.7.KAM, "for seven days" (lines 46, 48, 51, 54, 57, and 83).
Fleming, Installation, 63, has speculated that "perhaps comparison with the week-long Israelite festival
or simply the magic of the number itself produces a disposition toward the seven-day length, but
various details of the text suggest the alternative scheme elaborated below [referring to the nine-
day duration of the festival]." The key to this problem is the usage of the prepositional phrase i-na
and the noun denoting "day." It appears that when a temporal phrase is introduced by i-na, it indicates
"time when" rather than "how long." However, the inclusion of a seven-day period into the larger
framework of the nine-day festival indeed underlines the importance of the seven-day unit in the
ritual practice of the ANE. Cf. also G. A. Klingbeil, "Ritual Time in Leviticus 8 with Special
Reference to the Seven-day Period in the Old Testament," ZAW 109/4 (1997): 500-513; and
Klingbeil, "Ordination and Ritual," 131-139.
37 CAD, S/1, 325-327.
THE ANOINTING OF AARON 239
anointing of high officials, although Thompson has recently argued
convincingly against this interpretation in Egyptian texts.38 The different
places of origin of the "fine oil" seem to indicate two different aspects of
the social dimension of the election of the high priestess, namely, the
public and religious dimensions.39 This interpretation is further supported
by the use of two different verbal forms, namely sakanu, "pour" and
tabaku, "pour ,"40 the common word used for pouring oil on the head.
Alternatively, the different terms in connection with the rites of anointing
could indicate differing grades of "separation," which is one of the main
motifs of the first days of the ordination rites of the NIN.DINGIR.41
It is interesting to note that there is one more anointing rite in the ritual:
line 35 mentions that on the third day the NIN.DINGIR anoints the top of
the sikkanu of the goddess Hebat. The text utilizes the same verbal root as
used for the description of the second-day anointing, namely, tabaku.42 The
parallel performance of anointing (first the NIN.DINGIR and then the
sikkanu of Hebat) possibly suggests that the later rite is an imitation of the
earlier one. The motivation behind the choice of the stele of Hebat for the
anointing rite concerns the role Hebat apparently played in the pantheon of
Emar--at least in the pantheon "visible" in the ordination ritual of the
NIN.DINGIR. The close proximity to dIM: would suggest that Hebat was his
38 See D. B. Redford,
University Press, 1992), 368; and P. Dion, "Institutional Model and Poetic Creation: The
First Song of the Servant of the Lord and Appointment Ceremonies," in Ascribe to the Lord..
Biblical and Other
Studies in Memory of Peter C. Craigie, JSOT .SS 67 (
Academic Press, 1988),334. However, S. E. Thompson, after discussing the five pieces of
evidence frequently cited in support of the
concept that officials were anointed in
(Florence Stele 1774, TT90; P. Rylands IX 8/15-18, reward scenes, and EA51:4-9), concludes
that only in EA 51 an Egyptian king undoubtedly anointed a vassal--which should possibly
be interpreted that the king was "engaging in a custom common among Asiatics, rather than
that he was introducing an Egyptian custom into Syria-Palestine" ("The Anointing of
39 The election first has to be ratified by the palace, while the second anointing indicates
the actual religious aspect of the rite.
40 W. von Soden, AHW, 1295-1296.
41 Fleming has suggested a third possibility: "When the priestess is selected anointing is
the rite that first marks her as dIM'S. Perhaps the second anointing, before she returns to her
father's house after the shaving day, renews this identification, since she is now effectively
on loan back to her father. It is possible that the shaving itself makes necessary the repetition,
if her anointed hair has been removed. Finally, the fact of two anointings further emphasizes
the separation of the shaving day as a ritual event unto itself" (Installation, 177).
42 There are other occasions involving the anointing of a stele with oil or blood, e.g.,
Emar 373.57-58; 373.32; and 375.14. Cf. Fleming, Installation, 78, esp. n. 36.
240 SEMINARY STUDIES 38 (AUTUMN 2000)
consort.43 By anointing dIM's divine consort, the human consort dedicated
herself to dIM for life. Furthermore, the immediate context of the third day
should be taken into consideration: before the NIN DINGIR can sit upon her
throne and be presented with the credentials of her office, both the human
(and the divine consort have to be brought into a similar ritual state.
Comparison and Contrast
The anointing rites found in Lev 8 and at Emar have both similar and
dissimilar features. Obviously they involve two different sexes, although
[the interchangeability of male and female ritual specialists in ANE rituals
has been shown before.44 While in the biblical account the necessary ritual
space is prepared and consecrated before the consecration of the human
participant, at Emar this order is reversed. Immediately after the election
rite, the future NIN.DINGIR is to be anointed-with oil from the
palace--indicating her special status and sanctioning her election. This is
followed by another anointing rite at the evening of the second day with
oil from the temple, which clearly carries religious connotations. Only on
the third day is the stele of the consort of dIM to be anointed.
Both M. Noth45 and R. de Vaux46 have argued that Israelite priests were
(not anointed until after the Exile.47 They based their arguments upon their
conception of the literary development of the Pentateuch, and more
specifically, on their dating of the "Priestly Source."' However, Emar 369
provides an early ANE instance of anointing a priest, while there are many
known examples in the Mesopotamian material of this period describing the
43 See here K. van der Toorn, "Hebat," DDD, 744-746.
44 Against the Interpretation see K. van der Toorn, "Theology, Priests, and worship in
presence of en-priests and en-priestesses, although he asserts that the priestesses were
predominantly employed in the Sacred Marriage rite (The Ancient Orient. An Introduction
to the Study of the Ancient Near East [
function of the office of the NIN.DINGIR at Emar see Fleming, Installation, 81-83, who
suggests that at Emar the priestess may not have been seen primarily as the wife of the god
she served, but as the head of the divine household.
45 M. Noth, The Laws in the Pentateuch and Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1967), 237-238.
46 R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (New York: McGraw Hill, 1961),
105 and 347.
47 This is also postulated in the review article on "Salbung" in the reference work Die Religion in
Geschichte und Gegenwart. Kutsch writes, for example, in relation to the ANE evidence: "Salbung
von Priestern bei der Amtseinsetzung ist weder fur Agypten noch fur Mesopotamien und das Hethiterreich
belegt." And regarding the OT: "Nach dem Exil wurde die Salbung auf den Hohenpriester ubenragen (Lev 21,
10; Exod 29,7; Lev 4, 3; 8, 12)" ("Salbung," RGG, 5:1330-1332).
THE ANOINTING OF AARON 241
use of anointing in legal or politicalcontexts.48 Fleming writes:
The biblical testimony to anointing Israelite priests should be re-evaluated.
Emar's NIN.DINGIR of dIM is a person delivered into service of a god
and the Israelite record of anointing priests may derive from this ancient legal
tradition applied to divine service, and may not be a late application of
defunct royal tradition [sic] to post-exilic high priests [emphasis
What is of even more importance, however, is the fact that the texts from
Emar are dated to the fourteenth/thirteenth century B.C.E., thus describing a
religious reality in
dating of the Pentateuch, it appears useful to utilize comparative material that
can help to establish historical patterns. The state of the dating of the
Pentateuch is in some degree of academic upheaval,50 since old paradigms (like,
for example, the JEDP sequence) are being abandoned and new models are
being proposed.51 The tendency to date texts late creates an interesting and
48 Cf. also Fleming, Installation, 178-179.
49 Ibid., 179.
50 Cf. also L. Schmidt, "Zur Entstehung des Pentateuchs: Ein kritischer
Literaturbericht," Verkundigung und Forschung 40, no. 1 (1995): 3-28. Schmidt reviews
predominantly German studies (with the exception of two English works) and concedes that
there indeed exists a "Pentateuchkrise" (4), regarding the different (often conflicting) models
of interpretation. A similar evaluation can be found in B. Seidel, "Entwicklungslinien der
neueren Pentateuchforschung im 20.Jahrhundert," ZAW 106 (1994): 476-485, although it
appears as if Seidel concentrates predominantly on continental critical scholarship.
Concerning the state of Pentateuchal research with special reference to the study of the Book
of Exodus see H. Utzschneider, "Die Renaissance der alnestamentlichen Literaturwissenschaft
und das Buch Exodus," ZAW 106 (1994): 197-223. Cf. also his earlier statement:
"Moglicherweise ist die 'Krise' der alten, den gesamten Penta-,bzv. Hexateuch ubergreifenden
Erklarungsmodelle, zu denen die 'Priesterschrift' gehort, tatsachlich zu schwerwiegend, wie
es den Anschein hat. Gerade dann aber darf im Getummel um die Gultigkeit der alten die
Moglichkeit der neuen Erklarungsmodelle das Eigengewicht der Texte nicht verloren gehen"
(Heiligtum und das Gesetz, 2-3).
51 R. Rendtorff remarks regarding the validity of the Wellhausen-paradigm: "The
Wellhausen paradigm no longer functions as a commonly accepted presupposition for Old
Testament exegesis" ("The Paradigm is Changing: Hopes and Fears," Biblical Interpretation
Sample Issue (1992): 12. Cf. also D. Garrett: "The very idea of a consensus among biblical
scholars on Genesis has become something of a joke. . . . With astonishing rapidity, previously
held 'assured results' and seemingly invulnerable positions are being not modified but abandoned
altogether. Widely practiced methods of analysis, indeed methods which are currently being
taught, are falling from favor as scholars on the leading edge of research pronounce them to
be presumptuous or even useless" (Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the
Pint Book of the
see J. Friedman, who maintains that the "documentary hypothesis has remained intact in its
essentials," although there has been developments concerning (1) improved understanding of
the historical circumstances and concerns. Of the authors, (2) improved understanding of the
editors and the editorial processes, and (3) shift in the dating of P ("Torah [Pentateuch],"
ABD, 5:618). On the methodological downfalls of the documentary hypothesis see R. N.
Whybray, The Making of the Pentateuch. A Methodological Study, JSOT .SS 53
242 SEMINARY STUDIES 38 (AUTUMN 2000)
surprising phenomenon: it suggests a vast spectrum of religious life, beliefs,
and thinking in the time before, during, and after the Exile.52 But besides this
tendency of "late dating” one also encounters the problematic inclination to
change and reorganize the accepted scholarly consensus (which seemed to have
been a mirage anyway), as can be seen in the dating and redating of the P
source.53 On methodological grounds, however, it is precarious to base far-
reaching conclusions on a theory whose foundations have been so severely
modified and altered.
Besides the methodological uncertainties, an overview of the relevant
works on Israelite priesthood and the history of Israelite religion shows
clearly that the actual biblical data has been abandoned in favor of models that
were believed to be infallible. 54 Since the argument against a preexilic and even
(Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Pt~, 1987),43-131.
52 It should be noted, however, that among historians this period is still fairly "misty"--at
least in terms of the history of
Material of Syria-Palestine during the Persian Period with Reference to the History of the Jews,"
M.A. Thesis (Stellenbosch, South Africa: University of Stellenbosch, 1992). Cf. also I. Eph'al,
who Comments that the history of Syria-Palestine in the Persian period "is extremely difficult to
reconstruct, primarily because of the paucity of our
information concerning the region" ("
Material Culture of the Land of the Bible in the Penian Period (WarminSter: Aris & Phillips, 1982),
xv. Cf. also the pertinent remarks of K. Kitchen, who writes: "To attribute all, or any, of this to
'priestly' circles living humbled in exile in Nebuchadrezzar's
after such usages in our data, involves belief in some kind of magical 'telepathy' across nearly 1000
miles and several centuries later! ...'P', it should be remembered, is strictly pure fiction-there is no
such document extant, other than in the scholarly imagination. ...Hence scholars need to revise
drastically the ragbag of inherited 19th century conceptions that 'P' contains and symbolizes. Specific
entities within 'it' need to be taken out, each examined on their merits in their proper ancient context,
and re-evaluated as necessary" ("The Tabernacle-A Bronze Age Artifact," Eretz Israel 24.
Avraham , Malamat Volume, ed. S. Ahituv and B.
A. Levine Gerusalem:
53 Milgrom ascribes to the priestly source an eighth century B.C.E. date (Leviticus, 3-8).
Milgrom is heavily indebted to A. Hurvitz, who worked on the terminological comparison
between what has been designated the priestly source and the book of Ezekiel (A Linguistic
of the Relationship between the Priestly Source and the Book of Ezekiel, CahRB 20 (
J. Gabalda, 1982). For more bibliographic data on Hurvitz' work see Klingbeil, "Ordination
and Ritual," 68 and the references given there. Cf. ilio M. Haran, who follows Kaufmann's
suggestion of the priority of P over D and dates the writing of P during the reign of r
54 See the survey of the different works concerning the history of priesthood in ancient
applied to the textual data without further investigation. The study of Lev 8 on its own terms is
actually a sore sight can be seen in the reviewed works. Cf. A. H. J. Gunneweg, Leviten und
Priester, FRLANT 89 (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1965); A. Cody, A History of Old
Testament Priesthood, AnBib 35 (Rome: Pontificial Biblical Institute, 1969); L. Sabourin,
Priesthood. A Comparative Study, SHR25 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973); W. O. McCready,
"Priests and Levites," ISBE, 3:965-970; M. D. Rehm, "Levites and Priests," ABD, 4:297-310;
J. Blenkinsopp, Sage, Priest, Prophet.. Religious and
THE ANOINTING OF AARON 243
Mosaic Sitz im Leben of the ordination ritual of Lev 8 has often utilized the
lack of comparative material from the ANE (regarding the anointing of
priests), the contrary argumentation should be permissible as well. Since the
ordination of the NIN.DINGIR with its anointing sub-rites provides a
backdrop to the ordination ritual of Aaron and his sons, the date of the Emar
ritual could help to establish a date for the emergence of specific ordination
rites, which, together with internal chronological data, could help to establish
the date of composition of a given biblical book.55 In the case of Leviticus
(which according to the classic Wellhausenian definition includes
predominantly strands of the Priestly source), a Mosaic date during the
fourteenth century B.C.E. is thus thinkable.56
and L. L. Grabbe, Priests, Prophets, Diviners. A Socio-Historical Study of Religious Specialists
55 0n the pitfalls and possibilities of the comparative method see M. Malul, 1he Comparative
Method in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Legal Studies, AOAT 227 (Neukirchen- Vlyn:
Neukirchener Verlag, 1990); W. W. Hallo, "Compare and Contrast: The Contextual Approach to
Biblical Literature," in The Bible in the Light of Cuneiform Literature Scripture in Context III,
W. W. Hallo, B. W. Jones, and G. L. Mattingly, ANETS 8 (
Edwin Mellen, 1990); S. Talmon, "The Comparative Method in Biblical Interpretation-Principles and
in Congress Volume:
III, Fictional Akkadian
Autobiography: A Generic and Comparative Study (
IN: Eisenbrauns, 1991),23-36; and most recently W. W. Hallo, "Introduction: Ancient Near Eastern Texts
and Their Relevance for Biblical Exegesis," in 1he Context of Scripture, vol. 1, Canonical Composition
from the Biblical World, ed. W. W. Hallo and K. L. Younger, Jr. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997), xxiii-xxviii.
Cf. also the extensive discussion and references to the relevant publications in Klingbeil, "Ordination
and Ritual," 265-277. The comparative method advocated in this study correlates itself closely with
Hallo's and Talmon's position. Comparative material should belong to the same historic (time) and
cultural stream. There should also be a close geographical connection. Once a contextual comparison
has been undertaken, the outcome must provide for either an assumption of mutual independence or
historical cultural interaction.
56 After this study had been submitted for publication in AUSS, D. E. Fleming
published a very convincing study reaching similar results ("The Biblical Tradition of Anointing
Priests," JBL 117/3 : 401-414). Fleming focuses both upon the biblical material and the
extra-biblical evidence, drawing
attention to the cuneiform material from
difference in settings between the Emar and the
context reflects an urban society,
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: email@example.com