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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 21

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2514. B.C. 1490.

Directions to the priests, Leviticus 21:1-9 . To the high-priest, Leviticus 21:10-15 . None of these must have any blemish, Leviticus 21:16-24 .

Verse 1

Leviticus 21:1. Speak unto the priests The next laws concerned the behaviour and personal qualifications of the priests, and were intended to denote the dignity, and preserve the honour of the holy function. There shall none be defiled for the dead None of the priests shall touch the dead body, or assist at his funeral, or eat at the funeral feast. The reason of this law is evident, because by such pollution they were excluded from converse with men, to whom, by their function, they were to be serviceable upon all occasions, and from the handling of holy things. And God would hereby teach them, and in them all successive ministers, that they ought entirely to give themselves to the service of God. Yea, to renounce all expressions of natural affection, and all worldly employments, so far as they are impediments to the discharge of their holy services.

Verse 2

Leviticus 21:2. Near to him Under which general expression his wife seems to be comprehended, though she be not expressed. And hence it is noted as a peculiar case, that Ezekiel, who was a priest, was forbidden to mourn for his wife, Ezekiel 24:16, &c. These exceptions God made in condescension to human infirmity; because in such cases it was very hard to restrain the affections. But this allowance concerns only the inferior priests, not the high-priest.

Verse 3

Leviticus 21:3. His sister, a virgin, that hath no husband No husband to take care of her funeral; which was therefore a needful office of charity in her brother, though a priest. That is nigh to him That is, by nearness, not of relation, (for that might seem a needless addition,) but of habitation, one not yet cut off from the family. For if she was married she was now of another family, and under her husband’s care in those matters.

Verse 4

Leviticus 21:4. Being Or , seeing he is a chief man For such, not only the high-priest, but others also of the inferior priests were. He shall not defile himself For any other person whatsoever. To profane himself

Because such defilement for the dead did profane him, or make him as a common person, and consequently unfit to manage his sacred employment.

Verse 5

Leviticus 21:5. They shall not make baldness In funerals, as the heathen did. Though I allow them to defile themselves for some of the dead, yet in no case shall they use these superstitious rites, which also the people were forbidden to do; but the priests in a more peculiar manner, because they were by word and example to teach the people their duty.

Verse 6

Leviticus 21:6. Holy unto their God Devoted to God’s service, and always prepared for it, and therefore shall keep themselves from all defilements. The name of their God Which they especially bear. The bread of their God That is, the show-bread; or rather, all the other offerings besides burnt-offerings; which are called bread, because bread is commonly put for all food.

Verse 7

Leviticus 21:7. Profane Or defiled, or deflowered, though it were done secretly, or by force; because the priest must take care that all the members of his family be free not only from gross wickedness, but from all suspicions of evil.

Verse 8

Leviticus 21:8. Thou O Moses, and whosoever shall succeed in thy place, to whom it belongs to see my laws observed, shalt take care that the priest be holy, and do not defile himself by any of these forbidden marriages.

Verse 9

Leviticus 21:9. And the daughter And by analogy his son also, and his wife, because the reason of the law here added concerns all. And nothing is more common than to name one kind for the rest of the same nature, as also is done Leviticus 18:0. She profaneth her father Exposeth his person and office, and consequently religion, to contempt.

Verse 10

Leviticus 21:10. The garments Those holy garments which were peculiar to him. Shall not uncover his head This being then the posture of mourners, (Leviticus 10:6,) though afterward the custom was changed, and mourners covered their heads, 2 Samuel 15:30; Esther 6:12. Nor rend his clothes Another expression of mourning.

Verse 11

Leviticus 21:11. Go in Into the chamber or house where they lie. This, and divers other rites here prescribed, were from hence translated by the heathens into their use, whose priests were put under the same obligations.

Verse 12

Leviticus 21:12. Out of the sanctuary To attend the funeral of any person: for upon other occasions he might, and did commonly go out. Nor profane the sanctuary Either by the performance of a civility, or by entering into the sanctuary before the seven days allotted for his cleansing ( Num 19:11 ) were expired. The crown of the anointing oil Or, the crown, the golden plate, which is called the holy crown, (Exodus 29:6,) and the anointing oil of his God are upon him. So there is only an ellipsis of the conjunction and, which is frequent. And these two things, being most eminent, are put for the rest, as the sign is put for the thing signified, as if he had said, For he is God’s high-priest. But the word נזר , Nezer, which we render crown, more properly signifies separation, or consecration; and so the clause might here be rendered , The consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him.

Verse 13

Leviticus 21:13. In her virginity Or, a virgin, partly because, as he was a type of Christ, so his wife was a type of the church, which is compared to a virgin; and partly for greater caution and assurance that his wife was not a defiled or deflowered person. Most of these things are forbidden to all the priests; and here to the high-priest, to show that he also, and he especially, is obliged to the same cautions.

Verse 15

Leviticus 21:15. I the Lord sanctify him I have separated him from all other men for my immediate service, and therefore will not have that race corrupted.

Verse 17

Leviticus 21:17. Of thy seed Whether the high-priest, or the inferior ones. That hath In all successive ages, any defect or excess of parts, any notorious deformity or imperfection in his body. The reason hereof is partly typical, that he might more fully represent Christ, the great High-Priest, who was typified both by the priest and sacrifice, and therefore both were to be without blemish; partly moral, to teach all Christians, and especially ministers of holy things, what purity and perfection of heart and life they should labour after, and that notorious blemishes in the mind or conversation render a man unfit for the ministry of the gospel; and partly prudential, because such blemishes were apt to breed contempt of the person; and consequently of his function, and of the holy things wherein he ministered. For which reason, such persons as have notorious defects or deformities, are still unfit for the ministry, except where there are eminent gifts and graces, which vindicate a man from the contemptibleness of his bodily presence.

Verse 18

Leviticus 21:18. A flat nose Most restrain this word to the nose, and to some great deformity relating to it. But according to others it signifies, more generally, a person that wants some member or members, because the next word, to which it is opposed, signifies one that hath more members than he should.

Verse 21

Leviticus 21:21. A blemish Any notorious blemish whereby he is disfigured, though not here mentioned.

Verse 22

Leviticus 21:22. He shall eat Which a priest having any uncleanness might not do: whereby God would show the great difference between natural infirmities sent upon a man by God, and moral defilements which a man brought upon himself.

Verse 23

Leviticus 21:23. To the veil To the second veil, which was between the holy and the most holy place, to burn incense, to order the show-bread, and to dress the lamps, which were nigh unto that veil, though without. My altar The altar of burnt-offering, which was without the sanctuary. The sense is, he shall not execute the priest’s office, which was to be done in those two places.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 21". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/leviticus-21.html. 1857.
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