Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 22

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary



This chapter instructs the priests to treat the people’s offerings with the reverence becoming the holy things, (1-16,) and it defines perfect sacrificial animals, (17-28,) closing with a reiteration of some former precepts relating to sacrifices, (29-33.) As Israel was being schooled in holiness, on account of its calling to be a holy nation, it was especially incumbent on the priests to prove themselves the sanctified servants of the Lord, first for the sake of the holy Jehovah, and secondly for the sake of a faultless example unto the people.

Verses 1-16

HOLINESS IN THE PRIESTS, Leviticus 21:1 to Leviticus 22:16.

Jehovah, having given general statutes to conserve the purity of Israel, now proceeds to legislate for the priests, whose character and conduct are so intimately connected with his declarative glory. The mass of men must very largely obtain their conception of the moral character of God from the moral character of those who minister at his altars and are supposed to be in his favour. A pure religion cannot be promulgated by an impure priesthood. Hence these words were ever ringing in the ears of the sons of Aaron: “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” Since a man’s family is in a sense a part of his personality, especially among the Hebrews, (Joshua 7:24, note,) and reflects his character, the requirement of holiness extends to his wife and children, in which particular the offices of deacon and elder or bishop in the New Testament are strikingly similar to the Levitical priesthood. See 1 Timothy 3:0.

Verse 2


2. Separate themselves They were to abstain from treating the holy things, or offerings of the people, as things unconsecrated and common. By appropriating what was sacred to Jehovah, without the warrant of an express command, like that requiring them to eat the most holy things, (Leviticus 2:3, note,) they would profane his holy name, or degrade his majesty, and tarnish his purity in the eyes of the people.

Verse 3

3. That soul shall be cut off The wilful approach to the altar to discharge the functions of the priest’s office, while conscious of ceremonial impurity, evinced such irreverence and disobedience as to call down either the severe punishment of death, by some sudden stroke, or exclusion from the sacred office, as some understand, from my presence. The latter opinion is strengthened by 2 Chronicles 26:21, while the former is strongly confirmed by Leviticus 22:9.

Verse 4

4. A leper Leprosy was a ceremonial defilement which excluded even the laymen from the camp; much more would it disqualify a priest for the tabernacle. See chaps. 13 and 14, notes.

A running issue This was probably limited to the gonorrhea. See Leviticus 15:2, note.

Unclean by the dead See Leviticus 21:1, note.

Seed goeth from him See Leviticus 15:16, note.

Verse 5

5. Any creeping thing See Leviticus 11:29-47, notes.

Verse 7

7. When the sun is down The divine mercy is seen in the narrow period during which the priest is disqualified from eating the holy and the most holy things. Since these were his prescribed food, a long uncleanness would be a long fasting.

Verse 8

8. Dieth of itself This is prohibited on ceremonial grounds, because the blood is in the veins, and on sanitary grounds, because the blood corrupts and poisons the flesh.

Verse 9

9. Lest they bear sin That is, the punishment of sin. See Leviticus 10:17; Numbers 9:13, notes, in the Levitical law, the boundary between ceremonial and moral impurity is very narrow. Acts 21:25.

Verse 10

10. No stranger The non-Levite Hebrew is included in this term. See Numbers 1:51, note.

A sojourner of the priest This excludes the foreigner temporarily residing with the priest and his hired servant of another nation.

Verse 11

11. If the priest buy any soul That is, person. A mild form of servitude was allowed as a mitigation of the usages of war in those times. Otherwise the Hebrews would have slain all their captives taken in war.

They shall eat of his meat Since these constitute a permanent part of his family, they are permitted to eat the sacred things, but not the most holy. This partially relieves the difficulty of Colenso respecting the capacity of the priests to eat all the sacrifices assigned to them. See chap. vi, concluding notes.

Verse 12

12. Married unto a stranger As above, the stranger is a non-Levite. The daughter of the priest, in this case, passes from a priestly into a common family, where she remains if she has children, even though a widow or divorced. If the family is broken up, and she is left childless, it becomes the duty of her father to support her as if she had remained a virgin. Since the daughter of a priest was not an heiress of landed estates, her marriage with a non-Levite is not prohibited by Numbers 36:8, which applies only to heiresses.

Verses 14-16

14-16. Unwittingly See Leviticus 4:2, note.

The fifth part To inspire caution in dealing with holy things, the innocent offender was liable to a fine, the amount of which was to be estimated by the priest, who was to value the thing eaten and then add a fifth.

Not profane The priests are required not to allow improper persons to eat the holy things, and thus cause the people to bear the iniquity of trespass. It may be that the priests are intended instead of the people, for the Hebrew is ambiguous. See Leviticus 10:17; Numbers 9:13, notes.

Verse 18

ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICES, Leviticus 22:17-28.

18. Strangers in Israel For their religious privileges, see Leviticus 1:2, note. For their civil rights, see chap. 23, note.

Vows There are exigencies in the history of every man when he is impelled to make religious resolutions. For the character of the sacrifices prescribed for the release from the vow, and also for the freewill offerings, see Leviticus 7:11; Leviticus 7:16, notes.

Burnt offering See chapters 1 and Leviticus 6:9, notes.

Verse 19

19. At your own will The better translation is, for your acceptance, or, as the R.V., “that ye may be accepted.” See Leviticus 1:3, note, and Leviticus 23:11, in the original.

Without blemish See Leviticus 1:3, note, also Leviticus 22:22-24; Leviticus 22:27.

Verse 21

21. Peace offerings See chaps. 3 and Leviticus 7:11-21, notes.

Sheep Properly, small cattle, sheep and goats. See Leviticus 1:10.

It shall be perfect to be accepted God can demand nothing less without degrading his own majesty and fostering the selfishness of the worshipper. Hence this law is found among all nations that sacrifice victims to their gods. Herodotus records that the Egyptian priests carefully examined the animals brought for sacrifice. It was a law of Solon that none but select victims were to be sacrificed. These were distinguished by a mark. See Virgil’s Georgics, 3. 157, and 4:550, and AEneid, 4:57. The spiritual lesson is of great importance. See Matthew 5:48; Romans 12:1, notes; Hebrews 10:22.

Verse 22

22. Having a wen Ulcerous, having an abscess or issue.

Verse 23

23. A freewill offering Since this is a gift, and not a debt, an animal having a member too many or too few may be used. This is the significance of superfluous. See Leviticus 21:18, note.

Verse 24

24. Bruised, crushed, broken, or cut Here are four ways of castrating animals. Such victims are plainly prohibited for sacrifice, since they are not perfect. Neither shall ye make ( such) in your land This is evidently the meaning of this passage, instead of that given in the Authorized Version. The R.V. has “neither shall ye do thus in your land.” Josephus ( Ant. Leviticus 4:8, § 40) says, “It is not lawful to geld either men or any other animals.” He regards such as of “a monstrous nature.”

Verse 27

27. From the eighth day… accepted Both men and animals were unclean till the eighth day, when the child must be sealed to the Lord by circumcision, and the clean animal might be offered on the altar. The age limit was necessary, since in most sacrifices a portion was to be eaten. In many civilized states the killing for the market of a calf less than four weeks old is prohibited.

Verse 28

28. In one day This prohibition regards both the natural affection of the brute and the tender sentiments of man’s better nature. It is akin to that command which forbids “to seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” The principle has higher applications.

Verse 29


29. A sacrifice of thanksgiving See Leviticus 7:12-15, notes.

At your own will For your own acceptance. See Leviticus 22:19, note.

Verse 30

30. On the same day it shall be eaten Murphy wisely remarks: “Thanksgiving and parsimony do not go well together. To reserve any part of the thank-offering when there may be hungry mouths ready to partake of it would savour more of parsimony than of praise.”

I am the Lord The bountiful Giver ordains a thank-offering, to be conducted in harmony with his character. “Freely ye have received, freely give.”

Verse 31

31. Keep my commandments We keep the commandment of God by obeying it, his word by believing it, and his promise by appropriating it. These various commands of the Levitical ritual constituted the probation of the Israelites.

Verse 32

32. I will be hallowed “Reverence is the very basis of lofty character, and is the guarantee of the purity of society. When our worship falls, our conduct will go down along with it. The loftier the prayer, the tenderer will be the common speech of the day. If the children of God do not hallow him, the enemy never will. God, so to say, depends upon the loyalty of his own people for his position (reputation) in the world.” Joseph Parker. I will be regarded in your hearts, and treated in your worship, as infinitely glorious and perfectly holy. A threefold motive is applied. First, the sovereignty of Jehovah, the author of the covenant and the God of salvation. Secondly, which hallow you The calling of Israel from polytheism to monotheism, the giving of God’s holy law on Sinai, and the revelation of his own holy character as a model, were strong incentives to obedience and purity. In addition to these motives there follows a third.

Verse 33

33. That brought you out of… Egypt The interposition of Jehovah as the emancipator of Israel from the burdens and bonds of Pharaoh was a weighty reason for holiness of life. Moral obligations are impressively seen when the relations out of which they spring are exhibited to the mind. The deliverance of the justified soul from the guilt of sin affords a strong motive for “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Israel was not commanded to be holy till the yoke of Egypt was broken.


(1.) Since this chapter contains the last directions respecting sacrifices found in this book, it is appropriate to append some general remarks, showing first the difference between Hebrew and pagan sacrifices, and secondly, the significance of the Hebrew sacrifices. 1.) There is no mention of any thing preceding the slaying of the animal, except that it be of a proper age and without blemish. It was not brought decked with garlands, nor sprinkled with barley-cakes and salt, nor was wine poured upon its horns, nor was a lock of hair taken from its forehead to be cast into the fire on the altar. 2.) Nothing is said about inspecting the entrails for ascertaining the future, which was a principal object in all heathen sacrifices. 3.) All the altar-ritual is dignified, impressive, and worthy of its divine origin; indicating the sinfulness of man, the holiness of God, and the necessity of an atonement to bring man into harmony with his Maker, and to raise him to that spiritual excellence and happiness for which he was created. These sacrifices and oblations were admirably adapted to enlighten the minds of the Jews and to prepare them to appreciate “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.” In respect to all that relates to the expiation of sin, the words of Jerome are not too strong, “Almost every syllable in this book breathes a spiritual sacrament.” The best comment on the Levitical sacrifices is the epistle to the Hebrews 4:0.) The scriptural conception of the effect of sacrifices upon the object of worship is totally different from that of any pagan cultus. The Homeric gods smell the savour of the burning hecatombs, and are pleased and placated. True that at a later date Jehovah declares that he has no pleasure in burnt offerings, (Psalms 51:16,) but that was because of the insincerity and wickedness of the offerers. Says Epiphanius: “The people sacrificed, not because God would be pleased with the act, but because such an inveterate habit of sacrificing had been acquired in Egypt, and Jehovah, by temporary indulgence, would allure them away from idolatrous worship.” Chrysostom gives the following statement of the origin of Hebrew sacrifices: “God, in his care for the salvation of men, allowed such forms to be used in his own worship as had been employed in the worship of idols; those only which were of a positively sinful character being excluded. It was intended by this to lead men by a gradual progress to a purer and less carnal form of worship.” Says Theophylact: “God allowed them to sacrifice to himself, lest, if they were forbidden to do so, they should sacrifice to idols.” Thus also Justin Martyr and Tertullian. For strictures on Baehr, see Numbers 15:0, concluding note. 5.) Much objection has been made to the similarity of the Levitical ritual to that of the Egyptians, as if it was derogatory to Jehovah to employ any thing used by them. “It is altogether a natural supposition that a man like Moses, learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and whose task it was to digest a religious system for a people who, like the Israelites, had lived for centuries in Egypt, would adopt spontaneously a form of language by which those whom he wished to instruct could be reached most readily and effectively. Nor is it at all strange that he should not only use the same form of language in general, but should, besides, when trying to express, as he must often have had occasion to do, the same ideas, have had recourse to the same symbols as were employed by the Egyptians. There is nothing, necessarily, any more objectionable in this than there is in printing the Scriptures by the use of the same press and types as are employed in printing the vilest books.” Bib. Sacra.


1 . ) THE VICARIOUS THEORY. The Mosaic sacrifices typify Christ’s death, and have exclusive reference to God. They were not designed merely to express the feelings of the worshippers, but to affect the mind of Jehovah, being vicarious punishments, and intended to accomplish the same purposes that real punishments have in view. Outram.

2 . ) THEORY OF RESTORED FELLOWSHIP. The blood of the offered animal is its life, which is offered on the altar in the place of the life of the worshipper, not as an expiation for sin, but as a surrender of selfishness, the principle of sin, thus removing sin and restoring fellowship with God. Bahr. “One (way set before the Jews) was the way of sacrifice, by which expiation and atonement were to be made; and which was to be a type and sign of the slaying and offering up of the carnal will, the carnal nature, to God.” Archdeacon Hare.

3 . ) FEDERAL THEORY. Sacrifices are not expiations but federal rites, or festive observances, shared in at once by Jehovah and by men in token of friendship, either such as had never been broken or such as had been restored. Dr. Sykes.

4 . ) GIFT THEORY. It becomes those who, like men, have received many and great benefits from their Creator, to present him some of his own gifts in return, as an expression of gratitude and acknowledgment of dependence. Thus pious men endeavour to recommend themselves to the offended Deity. Portall and Taylor.

5 . ) UNITARIAN THEORY. Sacrifices owe their efficacy to the purity of the feeling which they represent, and not to any element of expiation. The faith required was not a faith in God, nor in any future Redeemer, but simply faith in himself his distinct recognition of his own inward rectitude. F.D. Maurice.

6 . ) THE EVANGELICAL THEORY extends the vicarious theory of Outram, and makes the sacrifice satisfactory to the justice of God as a moral Governor, and to all moral intelligences, and influential with man; thus removing all barriers God-ward and man-ward which were obstructing reconciliation.

(3.) In explanation of the variety of sacrifices, we quote from Jukes: “The fact is, that our perceptions do not grasp realities, but forms. If, therefore, what is seen is to be described, we must have many representations even of the same object; and this not only because it may be viewed on different sides, but because the amount of what is seen, even on the same side, will depend on the light and capacity of the beholder. He who made us knew this and provided for it. Hence in type and figure we have view after view of Him who was to come, not only because his offices and perfections were many, but also because we were weak and needed such a revelation. Thus in the single relation of offering, Christ is seen as burnt offering, peace offering, and sin offering, each but a different view of the same offering. In the self-same act of dying on the cross, our Lord was at the same moment a sweet-savour offering, willingly offering to God a perfect obedience, and also a sin offering, penally bearing the judgment due to sin, and as such made a curse for us.”

(4.) In the nature and order of the three great feasts we have emblems of the three stages of salvation. The feast of unleavened bread prefigures the forgiveness of sins through “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” The feast of weeks, the end of the grain harvest, fifty days after the Passover, symbolizes Christ as the source of spiritual life through the Pentecostal gift in consequence of the atonement. The feast of tabernacles is typical of the repose, the gladness, the gratitude, and the enjoyment of souls still dwelling on earth, entirely sanctified and filled with the Spirit, but it more especially foreshadows the realization of all spiritual blessings in heavenly places after the harvest of the earth has been completed.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Leviticus 22". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/leviticus-22.html. 1874-1909.
Ads FreeProfile