Leviticus 21 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Leviticus 21
Pulpit Commentary
And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them, There shall none be defiled for the dead among his people:
Verses 1-6. - The first paragraph refers to ceremonial uncleanness derived to the priest from his family relations. The priest may not take part in any funeral rites, the effect of which was legal defilement, except in the case of the death of his father, mother, son, daughter, brother, and unmarried sister. These are all that appear to be mentioned. But what, then, are we to understand regarding his wife? Was the priest allowed to lake part in mourning ceremonies for her or not? It is thought by some that her case is met by verse 4, But he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself. The literal translation of this verse is. He shall not be defiled, a lord (haul) among his people. The word baal, or lord, is commonly used in the sense of husband. The clause, therefore, may be understood to forbid the priest to mourn for his wife, being rendered, He shall not defile himself as an husband (i.e., for his wife) among his people. This, however, is something of a forced rendering. The words arc better understood to mean, He shall not defile himself as a master of a house among his people; that is, he may not lake part in the funeral rites of slaves or other members of the household, which ordinarily brought defilement on the master of a house. Then is the priest forbidden to mourn for his wife? This we can hardly believe, when he might mourn for father and mother, son and daughter, brother and sister. Nor is it necessary to take this view. For the case of the wife is covered by the words. For his kin, that is near unto him.... he may be defiled. The wife, being so closely attached to the husband, is not specifically named, because that was not necessary, but is included under the expression, his kin, that is near unto him, just as daughter, grandmother, niece, and wife's sister, are covered by the phrase, "near of kin," without being specifically named in chapter Leviticus 18 (see note on chapter Leviticus 16:18). Even when mourning is permitted, the priest is to use no excessive forms of it, still less any that have been used by idolaters. They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard (see Leviticus 19:27), nor make any cuttings in their flesh (see Leviticus 19:28). And the reason why they are to avoid ceremonial uncleanness in some cases, and to act with sobriety and gravity in all, is that they are dedicated to God, to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire, the bread of their God; that is, the sacrifices which are consumed by the fire of the altar symbolizing the action of God (see note on Leviticus 3:11).
But for his kin, that is near unto him, that is, for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother,
And for his sister a virgin, that is nigh unto him, which hath had no husband; for her may he be defiled.
But he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself.
They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.
They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy.
They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God.
Verses 7-9. - Moral uncleanness or defilement passes to the husband and father kern an immoral wife or daughter, and therefore the priest is to be specially careful in the selection of his wife; and his daughter, if she leads a licentious life, is to be stoned to death, and then burnt with fire, because she profaneth her father (cf. 1 Samuel 2:17). In a similar spirit, St. Paul gives directions as to the families of those to whom the ministry of the Spirit is assigned (1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 1:6). Keil would unite verse 4 in sense with verses 7-9, and argues that he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself, refers to the kind of marriage which the priest is to make, but the interposition of verses 5 and 6 forbid this explanation of verse 4.
Thou shalt sanctify him therefore; for he offereth the bread of thy God: he shall be holy unto thee: for I the LORD, which sanctify you, am holy.
And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.
And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes;
Verses 10-15. - The high priest, upon whose head the anointing off was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, symbolizing in his person the Holy One in a more special manner than the other priests, has to aim so much the more at symbolical holiness. He may not, therefore. incur legal uncleanness by taking part in the funeral rites, even of his father or mother, not being permitted to absent himself from the sanctuary, which he would have to do if he had thus ceremonially defiled himself. Nor is it enough that he should abstain from taking an immoral or a divorced wife; he may only wed a virgin and of his own people, whereas the other priests might marry widows and the daughters of strangers dwelling among the Israelites. In the ordinances for priests given in Ezekiel 44, the ordinary priests, as well as the high priest, are forbidden to marry widows, unless they be the widows of priests (Ezekiel 44:22).
Neither shall he go in to any dead body, nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother;
Neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the crown of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the LORD.
And he shall take a wife in her virginity.
A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.
Neither shall he profane his seed among his people: for I the LORD do sanctify him.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Verses 16-24. - Perfection of the body being typical of perfection of the mind and of the whole man, and symbolical perfection being required of the priest of God, none may be admitted to the priesthood with bodily defects, or excrescences, or grievous blemishes. The translation dwarf, in verse 20, is better than the marginal rendering "too slender," or withered. Being the descendants of Aaron, these priests, blemished as they were, were to be supported as the other priests were supported. He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy; that is, the priests' portions of the meat offerings (Leviticus 2:3, 10; Leviticus 6:17), of the sin offerings (Leviticus 6:29), of the trespass offerings (Leviticus 7:1), of the shewbread (Leviticus 24:9), which were most holy, and of the heave offerings, wave offerings, firstfruit offerings, firstlings, and things devoted (Numbers 11:11-19), which were holy. They were also apparently employed in the less formal and conspicuous duties of the priests, such as examining lepers, and any other functions which did not bring them nigh unto the altar. But they were not to profane God's sanctuaries, by which is meant the holy of holies, the holy place, and the court in which the altar stood. To none of these is the blemished priest to be admitted for the purpose of officiating, though he might enter the court and probably the holy place for other purposes, and might eat the offerings of the priests in the accustomed place.

Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.
For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous,
Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded,
Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken;
No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.
He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy.
Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them.
And Moses told it unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel.
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