Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 21

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-24

Shall we turn now to Leviticus, chapter twenty-one?

As we have often told you, a priest had a two-fold function. First he was to stand before God representing the people, bringing their offerings before the Lord, and there standing before God for the people. Then he would come out and he would stand before the people, for God. He was the people's representative to God; he was God's representative to the people. He was a go-between. Thus, the priest was a special kind of an individual.

Even as in the New Testament there were special rules for the bishops, lifestyles that they had to adopt in order to be a bishop in the church. Certain rules that applied to the bishop that didn't apply to all the others within the church, because his life was to be exemplary. As Paul said to Timothy, "Be thou an example unto the believer" ( 1 Timothy 4:12 ). It is never a very effective leader who said, "Now do as I say". The truly effective leader will say, "Now do as I do," setting the example. Thus, the priest as God's representative was to be a special kind of person.

So in chapter twenty-one, God gives some of the special aspects of the priests and of the priesthood.

Now they were not to defile themselves for the dead among the people ( Leviticus 21:1 ):

Now if a person died and you touched the dead body, you were considered unclean. Ceremonially you could not enter unto God until that day was over, until sundown. Then you'd have to take a bath and then you could come into the tabernacle. But for ceremonial purposes, approaching God purposes, you couldn't do it; you were unclean. Now the priest was never to touch a dead body of anyone except those of his own immediate family; that is, a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, or those of his immediate family, lest he would defile himself with a ceremonial uncleanness.

So that's what this is pertaining to in the first part in the twenty-first chapter, of those that he could touch.

his sister who was a virgin, that is near to him, who has no husband; But he will not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself. Neither should they make any baldness upon their heads, [That is in a taking of a vow. Many times people would shave their heads. A priest was not to take that kind of a vow. He wasn't to get the Hari Krishna look.] and neither shall they shave off the corner of their beards, nor make any cuttings in their flesh ( Leviticus 21:3-5 ).

In other words, his body was to be a rather unblemished kind of body. He wasn't to defile his body or to mark up his body, because really the priest was standing before God. Standing before God, God wanted the fellow to be whole and sound, and not weird looking and so these are the requirements.

They shall be holy [Or separated, the word holy is actually separated] unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the Lord are made by fire. Now they shall not take a wife who was a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman who has been put away from her husband: [He was not to marry a divorced woman.] He is to be set apart; for he offers bread to God: [because the Lord said] I the Lord, which sanctify you, am holy. Now the daughter of any priest, if she would defile herself then she was to be burned with fire. And when the high priest had the anointing oil poured on him, then he was not to defile himself for any dead body, he wasn't to touch any dead body as long as the anointing oil was upon him, not even of his father, or mother; [Again dealing with a wife] He was to take a virgin of the children of Israel as a wife ( Leviticus 21:6-14 ).

Now there were certain things physically that could disqualify a person from the priesthood, and God deals with the physical disqualifications.

If any man has any blemish, he shall not approach God, that is a priest can not be blind, or lame, or have a flat nose, or anything that is superfluous, [You couldn't have any weird growth on your body,] or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookbacked, or a dwarf, he that has a blemish in his eye, or scurvy, or scabbed, cannot really approach unto God. No man that has a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord ( Leviticus 21:17-21 ):

So the physical disqualifications for those who would approach God.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Leviticus 21". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/leviticus-21.html. 2014.
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