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(1) And the Lord spake unto Moses.—In this chapter the laws regulating the conduct of the priests in their holy ministrations are continued. As the last chapter concluded with the permission to disqualified priests to eat of the sacrifices, this chapter opens with conditions under which even the legally qualified priests must not partake of the offerings.
(2) Separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel.—As parts of the sacrifices offered by the Israelites belonged to the priests, they are here warned that (see Leviticus 7:20-3.7.21) they are not to consider themselves absolutely entitled to them under all circumstances, and that there are times when they must abstain from them.
In those things which they hallow unto me.—That is, in their treatment of the sacrifices which the children of Israel have consecrated and offered to the Lord.
(3) Whosoever he be of all your seed, among your generations.—Better, throughout your generations, every man. So the Authorised version properly renders the expression here translated “among your generations” in Leviticus 23:14; Leviticus 23:21. (See Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 21:17.)
That goeth unto the holy things.—That is, who approaches the sacrifices to eat them, as is stated in Leviticus 22:4; Leviticus 22:6; Leviticus 22:12.
Having his uncleanness upon him.—Not having first submitted to the prescribed lustrations (see Leviticus 7:20), the defilement which he contracted rests upon him.
That soul shall be cut off from my presence.—This phrase, with the expression “from my presence,” does not occur again in the Pentateuch when the Lord threatens with the penalty of excision. In Leviticus, where, besides the passage before us, the penalty is enacted six times, the formula is always, “that soul shall be cut off from his people” (Leviticus 7:20-3.7.21; Leviticus 7:25; Leviticus 7:27; Leviticus 19:8; Leviticus 23:29). Its exceptional form here may therefore have reference to the peculiar circumstances. If the priest ventures to approach the altar presumptuously to partake in a defiled state of the holy sacrifices, God himself will banish him from His presence as He did Nadab and Abihu.
(4) Is a leper.—The different forms of uncleanness are now specified. (For the leper, see Leviticus 13:3.)
Or hath a running issue.—See Leviticus 15:2.
Whoso toucheth any thing that is unclean by the dead.—That is, if he touches any person or anything that had been defiled through contact with a corpse. (See Numbers 19:11-4.19.14.)
Whose seed goeth from him.—This is the same case mentioned in Leviticus 15:16. The two passages ought therefore to be uniform in the translation.
(5) Or whosoever toucheth any creeping thing.—See Leviticus 11:24-3.11.44.
Or a man of whom he may take uncleanness.—Better, or a man who is unclean to him, that is, who is a leper (see Leviticus 13:45), or has an issue (see Leviticus 15:5, &c.), and who imparts defilement by contact.
(6) The soul which hath touched.—Better, the man who hath, that is, the priest for whom these laws are here enacted. Hence the ancient Chaldee version renders it “the man a priest.”
Shall be unclean until even.—When the day ends and another begins (see Leviticus 11:24-3.11.32), and when he had to immerse his body in water.
(7) And shall afterward eat . . . because it is his food.—As the sacrifices which were the perquisites of the officiating priests were the only things he had to live upon, the priest who had contracted defilement had virtually to go without food till sundown, when he purified himself by the prescribed lustrations.
That which dieth of itself.—That is, clean animals or birds which have not been properly slaughtered, but have met with an accident. These have already been forbidden to every ordinary Israelite. (See Leviticus 17:15.) In the case of a priest eating the proscribed meat the consequences would be more serious, inasmuch as he would be debarred from his sacerdotal duties.
Keep my ordinance.—That is, one laid down in the preceding verse with reference to animals which died a natural death, &c.
And die therefore, if they profane it.—The death here threatened for the transgression of the ordinance is one not to be inflicted by an earthly tribunal, but, as it was explained during the second Temple, “by the hand of heaven.” Hence the Chaldee version of Jonathan renders it, “lest they be killed for it by a flaming fire” like Nadab and Abihu.
(10) There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing.—By “stranger” here is meant a non-Aaronite who was a stranger to the priestly family, though he was an Israelite, or even a Levite. The holy things are the peace offerings. (See Leviticus 7:30.)
A sojourner of the priest.—This, during the second Temple, was a Hebrew servant whose ear had been pierced, and who thus became his master’s property till the year of jubile. (See Exodus 21:6.)
Or an hired servant.—That is, a Hebrew servant who is hired for several years, and who goes out free after six years. (See Exodus 21:2.) Neither of them was the property of the priest, though his labour and services belonged to him. As these Hebrew servants could not be bought with money like a heathen slave, they were treated like strangers, or non-Aaronites, and hence were not permitted to partake of the holy food.
(11) But if the priest buy any soul.—The case, however, was different with heathen slaves whom the priest purchased. These were admitted into the Jewish community by the rite of circumcision, they were allowed to partake of the paschal lamb, and of every privilege of the Israelites. Hence they became incorporated in the priestly family, and were allowed to eat of the holy things. During the second Temple this privilege was extended to that kind of domestic whom the priest did not actually acquire by his own purchase-money, but whom the wife brought with her as part of her dowry, as well as to those whom the slaves of the priestly family purchased.
Born in his house.—That is, the house-born servant or the child of the slave. (See Genesis 17:12-1.17.13.) Even when the priest himself could not eat of the holy things by reason of his having contracted some legal defilement, his wife, children, and slaves were permitted to partake of the sacrificial repast.
(12) If the priest’s daughter also be married.—Better, And if the priest’s daughter be married, By marrying a Hebrew of non-Aaronic descent, and thus leaving her paternal home, the daughter of the priest ceased to be part of the family circle, and lost her right to partake of the holy things. Her bread came from her husband, and she could therefore no longer partake of the priest’s bread. During the second Temple the term “stranger” in this verse was also interpreted to include a man who ought to be a stranger to her, and hence it was enacted that if the priest’s daughter had gone astray with a stranger (see Leviticus 21:7; Leviticus 21:9), she is for ever forbidden to eat of the holy food.
(13) Be a widow, or divorced, and have no child.—An exception, however, to this rule is, when the priest’s married daughter loses her husband either by death or by divorce, and has no children; under such circumstances she may resume her family ties under her paternal roof. Having lost her bread supplier, she may eat again her father’s bread. She could, however, only eat of the heave-offerings, but not of the wave-breast and heave-shoulder.
Returned unto her father’s house, as in her youth.—As an inference from these words, two canons were enacted during the second Temple. (1) If thus left a widow without children, her departed husband has a surviving brother, who, according to the law, must marry his sister-in-law (see Leviticus 18:16), and she is reserved for him, she cannot partake of the holy things, though she has temporarily “returned unto her father’s house.” Hence the Chaldee version renders this clause, “returned to her father’s house, and is not reserved for her husband’s brother.” And (2) if she is with child at the death of her husband, and on her return home, she must not eat of the holy things. If the child dies she then is permitted to be incorporated again in her father’s family.
(14) Eat of the holy thing unwittingly.—Or, through ignorance, as it is rendered in the Authorised version in all the other five passages where this expression occurs in this book. (See Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27; Leviticus 5:15; Leviticus 5:18.) That is, when he ate of the things he was ignorant that they were holy.
He shall put the fifth part thereof unto it.—To make the people more careful, the offender though ignorant of the offence at the time when he committed it, had to pay the fifth part of the value of the holy property which he had eaten, in addition to the principal. For the way in which this was estimated see Leviticus 5:16.
And shall give it unto the priest with the holy thing.—Better, And shall give back the holy thing to the priest. “Holy thing” denotes here the equivalent of the holy thing which he has eaten. This he has to return to the priest with the fifth part. As eating holy things through ignorance was not so great an offence as withholding them altogether, or not delivering them up, restitution with a small fine was deemed a sufficient caution, whilst the case of ignorantly keeping them back was more serious, and hence the offender had also to bring a trespass offering. (See Leviticus 5:14-3.5.17.)
(15) And they shall not profane.—That is, the priests are not to desecrate the holy gifts of the Israelites by carelessly exposing them, and by not treating them with that sacred regard which is due to their being the bread of God.
(16) Or suffer them to bear the iniquity of trespass.—Better, Moreover, they shall not cause them to bear the iniquity. That is, not only are the priests themselves prohibited to treat with profanity the sacred gifts, but they are to realise that it is incumbent upon them to guard these sacrifices so carefully as not to cause the Israelites to contract sin by transgressing the laws by eating holy things which are put in their way through culpable negligence.
(17) And the Lord spake unto Moses.—The laws about the physical features and ceremonial purity of the priests, who are to be devoted to the services of the altar, are now followed by kindred precepts about the animals which are to be offered upon the altar.
(18) And unto all the children of Israel.—As the following laws presented the condition of the animals which the Israelites are to offer, they are addressed to the laity as well as to the priests.
Whatsoever he be.—Better, what man soever there be, as it is translated in the Authorised version Leviticus 17:3 (and see Note on Leviticus 17:8).
Offer his oblation.—Better, offer his offering, as the Authorised version translates it in Leviticus 3:7; Leviticus 3:14; Leviticus 7:12; Leviticus 17:4, &c. It is difficult to divine why the translators gave here a different rendering of a fixed sacrificial formula which it is important to reproduce uniformly in a translation.
For all his vows, and for all his freewill offerings.—Better, for any manner of vow, or for any manner of freewill offering. That is, if an Israelite by race, or one who was originally a stranger but has joined the Jewish community, brings a sacrifice, be it in consequence of a vow which he has made, or be it a freewill offering. Both these kinds of sacrifices were entirely voluntary, and the difference between them is described in Leviticus 7:16.
(19) Ye shall offer at your own will a male.—Better, that it may be accepted for you it shall be a male; or, ye shall offer for your acceptance a male. repeating the word offer; or, for your acceptance it must be a male, as the Authorised version renders the same phrase in Leviticus 22:20-3.22.21; Leviticus 22:27 (see Leviticus 1:3).
(20) But whatsoever hath a blemish.—Better. whatsoever hath, &c, without the “but,” which is not in the original, and is not wanted. The general rule is here repeated as an introduction to the cases which are immediately to be specified. It will be seen that only quadrupeds are given and that fowls are not alluded to, because when people brought birds the Law did not require any distinction to be made between male and female, and during the second Temple no blemish disqualified a bird except the entire absence of a limb.
(21) A sacrifice of peace offerings.—(See Leviticus 3:1.)
To accomplish a vow.—In fulfilment of a vow made in time of impending danger (Genesis 28:20-1.28.22; Jonah 1:16, &c.).
Freewill offering.—Generally brought in acknowledgment of mercies received.
(22) Blind.—Whether totally blind or only of one eye. This blemish also disqualified the priest for the service at the altar (see Leviticus 21:18).
Or broken.—Better, broken-limbed (see Exodus 22:9), extending to the head, ribs, &c.
Or maimed.—This was regarded in the time of the second Temple to describe a blemish in the eyebrow. Hence the Chaldee version translates it “one whose eye-brows are fallen off.” It would thus correspond to the defect which unfitted the priest for ministering at the altar.
Or having a wen.—According to the Jewish canonists this denotes a disease of the eyes. Hence the Chaldee version translates it “one whose eyes are smitten with a mixture of white and black,” thus corresponding to the blemish which unfits the priest mentioned in Leviticus 21:19.
Or scurvy or scabbed.—These are exactly the same two defects specified with regard to the priests (see Leviticus 21:20).
Ye shall not offer these unto the Lord.—Though he must not offer animals with such blemishes, and though the man who vowed them for the sanctuary was beaten with stripes, yet the animals thus sanctified were no more his, he had to redeem them according to valuation, and with the money purchase another oblation.
(23) Either a bullock or a lamb.—Better, And bullock and one of the flock.
That hath any thing superfluous.—That is one member of the animal being more elongated or contracted than the other, being out of proportion. The same blemish also unfitted the priest for performing sacerdotal functions (see Leviticus 21:18).
Or lacking in his parts.—This, according to the authorities during the second Temple, denotes contracted hoofs, or undivided hoofs, making them resemble those of an ass or horse.
That mayest thou offer for a freewill offering.—Better, that thou mayest make a freewill offering. As Leviticus 22:18-3.22.20 most emphatically declare that an animal with any blemish whatsoever must not be offered “for any manner of freewill offering,” it is hardly conceivable that the lawgiver would contradict this enactment within the space of three verses, and say “that the animals with those serious organic defects enumerated in the verse before us, thou mayest offer for a freewill offering.” Hence, during the second Temple, the passage before us was interpreted to mean that the animals in question were only allowed to be consecrated for the maintenance and repair of the sanctuary, but not to be offered as a sacrifice on the altar. They were sold, or the offerer paid the value himself, and the money was applied to these sacred purposes. The opinion that a freewill offering was of less importance than a vow, and that therefore the lawgiver allows animals with the two kinds of defects here described to be offered for a freewill offering but not for a vow, is contrary to the regulations laid down in Leviticus 22:18-3.22.20, and is against the practice during the second Temple (see Leviticus 7:16). It is far more probable that the text is disarranged, and that it originally was, “that thou mayest not offer for a freewill offering, and for a vow it shall not be accepted.”
(24) That which is bruised, or crushed, or broken, or cut.—These four terms express the four ways which the ancients used to emasculate animals.
Neither shall ye make any offering thereof in your land.—Better, and this shall ye not do in your land; that is, not only are animals thus mutilated prohibited as offerings for the altar, but this practice of gelding is altogether forbidden to the Israelites with regard to any animal whatsoever throughout the country. This law is binding upon the orthodox Jews to this day, and the question has recently been discussed by some of their spiritual guides, since it seriously affects those of their community who are engaged in farming land.
(25) Neither from a stranger’s hand shall ye offer.—That is, the prohibition to sacrifice these animals is not restricted to beasts castrated in the land, but extends to all such as have been so treated out of the land, and are imported and sold to the Israelites by the hands of foreigners.
Because their corruption is in them.—That is, their mutilation is in them, though not effected by an Israelite nor in the land. The circumstance that such an animal is purchased from the hand of a foreigner does not alter the case.
They shall not be accepted for you.—That is, if the Israelites bring such mutilated sacrifices, thinking that, because they have been procured from a stranger’s hand, they do not transgress the law laid down in the preceding verse, they will not be accepted by God, who regards them as blemished and illegal. Jewish canonists, however, regard this verse as regulating the sacrifices offered by Gentiles, and maintain that the same law about defective animals is here laid down in their case. But the manifest contrast between the expression, when the deed is done “in your land,” at the end of the preceding verse, and the words “from the hand of a foreigner,” at the beginning of this verse; and more especially the declaration in the clause before us, “they shall not be acceptable for you,” i.e., the Israelites, show beyond doubt that the Israelites themselves are here spoken of as the offerers.
(26) And the Lord spake unto Moses.—Though beginning with a separate formula, and thus indicating that it is a distinct communication, the regulations here laid down about the age of the sacrificial animals are necessarily connected with the preceding statutes, and exhibit a logical sequence.
(27) When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat—The three sacrificial quadrupeds. (See Leviticus 22:19 and Leviticus 17:3-3.17.6.)
Is brought forth.—From this expression it was enacted during the second Temple that the animal fit for a sacrifice had to be born naturally. One brought into the world by artificial aid was disqualified for the altar.
It shall be seven days under the dam.—Under seven days the animal is extremely weak, and unfit for human food, and hence must not be offered as the food of God, as sacrifices are called. (See Leviticus 22:25.) For the same reason children could not be circumcised before the eighth day from their birth. (See Exodus 22:29.) Because the text here says that the newly born animal is to be with the dam seven days, it was enacted that if the mother died before the seven days (in which case it could not be with the dam seven days), it was for ever disqualified for a sacrifice.
(28) Not kill it and her young both in one day.—According to the ancient canons, this prohibition to slaughter the dam and its youngling the same day was not only designed to remind the Israelites of the sacred relations which exist between parent and offspring, but was especially intended to keep up feelings of humanity. Hence the ancient Chaldee version begins this injunction with the words, “My people the children of Israel, as our Father is merciful in heaven, so be ye merciful on earth.”
(29) Offer it at your own will.—Better, offer it for your acceptance. (See Leviticus 22:19.) That is, offer it in such a manner that it should be accepted. (For this kind of offering, see Leviticus 7:15-3.7.16.)
(30) On the same day it shall be eaten.—This shows that the sacrifice here spoken of belonged to the first class of peace offerings, the flesh of which had to be eaten up on the same day. (See Leviticus 7:15.)
(31) Therefore shall ye keep my commandments.—Better, and ye shall keep my commandments. The law about the priests and sacrifices now concludes with an appeal to both the priests and the people to faithfully observe these commandments.
Neither shall ye profane my holy name.—Better, and ye shall not profane. The rendering of the conjunctives, both in the former verse and in this, by “therefore” and “neither,” as is done in the Authorised version, is not only unnecessary, but mars the simple and dignified style of the original. For the manner in which God’s name is profaned when His commandments are violated, see Leviticus 18:21.
(33) That brought you out.—By this signal act of redemption from bondage, and by choosing them as His peculiar people, God has a special claim upon His redeemed people that they should keep His commandments. (See Leviticus 11:45.)
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Leviticus 22". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent