Thus they shall eat those things by which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration, but a layman shall not eat them, because they are holy. Exodus 29:33
Layman – When did God establish a professional clergy? When did He sanctify some of His congregation to act as His representatives and emissaries while the rest of His children remained ordinary citizens of the Kingdom? If your answer began with this verse, where God consecrates Aaron and his sons as priests to minister to the Lord, then you won’t be shocked by this translation. But if you look a little more carefully at the Hebrew, you’ll find something quite unusual. There is no word here for “layman.”
The Hebrew text uses the word zur. It absolutely does not mean “layman.” It means foreigner or stranger. A zur is someone who does not belong to the house of Israel. The prohibition about the eating of the food offered in atonement for the priests is not for “laymen.” It’s for those who do not belong to the community of God’s children.
Do you realize how important this little translation change really is? The only way that zur can be proposed as “layman” is if we assume that there are two kinds of relationships between God and His people – one for the specialists called priests and another for the rest of us. This distinction is imposed on the text. It fosters the idea of a two-class system but it is not part of the Scripture in Exodus. Furthermore, if you read carefully you will find that the process God designs is not about elevating the priests. It’s about atoning for their sins.
Here’s another clue that helps us see how the translation has been arranged to provide an image of a “called” priesthood. Did you notice the word “ordination” in this verse? In our culture, ordination is definitely a word about priests, pastors and professional clergy. Ordinary believers don’t get ordained. Ordination is only for God’s “special” servants. But if you read the Hebrew, you wouldn’t find this word at all. Instead, you would find the phrase “to fill their hand and set them apart” (lemale et-yadam lekadesh otam). There’s not even a hint at some ordination ceremony. This is about consuming the offering so that God can deal with their sins. Do you remember the peace offering? The one who makes that offering eats some of the offering, God consumes some of the offering and the priest eats some of the offering. But here there is no priest. These men will become priests, ministering to God. So they eat some and God consumes the rest. This does not mean that they are now religious professionals. It means that they are now selected by God to be implements in worshipping Him. Translations that change “stranger” to “layman” and “consumption” to “ordination” replace Israel’s culture with our own. What a tragedy! If we allow this kind of translation, we propagate the idea that only some of God’s children are qualified to be His true disciples. But that’s simply impossible. Didn’t God say that He chose all of Israel to be a nation of priests? Didn’t Yeshua teach that we, every one of us, are called to full citizenship in the Kingdom? Didn’t He teach that there are no segregating barriers and classes in His Father’s house? Didn’t Paul tell us that our very bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit? If all of that is true, then where did this two-class system come from?
Topical Index: Clergy