Leviticus Chapter 21


Laws concerning the priests.

This chapter records the absolute necessity for the strictest separation of the priest from all possible defilement. Approaching God necessitated perfection of the entire man so far as it was possible to show by external symbols. God tenderly recognized the fact that a man with a “defect” was not to blame for whatever disqualified him from being a priest by allowing that Levite to eat of the holy bread – however he could not offer it to God as a priest (21:21-23). God has always required more of his leaders than he did of his people in general because of their visibility, example and sanctity to God. Even today we find that not just any man can be a pastor or deacon in the local church.

Study Questions

What are the qualifications of a pastor (“bishop”) according to I Tim. 3:1-7?

What about of a deacon according to I Tim. 3:8-13?

1 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:

2 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,

3 And for his sister a virgin, that is nigh unto him, which hath had no husband; for her may he be defiled.

The Priests had much stricter rules in place upon them because they worked in the Tabernacle and they must keep themselves pure as they are the ones that minister to the nation concerning its purity and one of the ways a priest could become unclean (unfit to serve in the Tabernacle) was to touch some dead body.

   The priest could only assist with the burial preparations for their own immediate family, they could not assist with a cousins or nephew’s burial at least not as far a touching the deceased went.

   That would have to be taken care of by their own closest kin because death is the result of Adam’s original sin and the priests served the Lord and the Tabernacle and the people of Israel to offer a covering for their sin until the ultimate lamb of God would die for the sins of the world.

   The priests had to remain ceremonially clean to aid others who needed to receive the atonement (covering) of their own sins.

4 But he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself.

5 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.

6 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.

The Levitical Priests were not allowed to shave their head, nor their beards but were expected to let them grow out naturally. Israel as a nation shall all one day become a nation of priests in the thousand-year earthly kingdom but that has not happened yet.

   They have only had one tribe (Levi) fill the role of priests but that will all change in the kingdom reign of Christ. We are not a holy nation, a royal priesthood, Israel is spoken of there in Exodus 19:5-6 and in Peter not the body of Christ. Peter was speaking to the lost sheep of Israel scattered abroad not us.

7 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.

8 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.

 There are no qualifications found here for a Pastor, Missionary, or Evangelist. Those are found in Paul’s (the Apostle of the Gentiles) Epistles.

   These are requirements for a Levitical Priest ministering under the Law of Moses. We minister under Grace today, not the Law.

9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

[Gen 38:24]

notice how children are a reflection upon their parents; in this instance the priest was not required to step down because of his daughter’s sin as long as he carried out the necessary punishment.

  If you say a person has to adhere to the requirements above concerning being a priest if he wants to be a Pastor today, then you will have to be consistent and burn your daughter at the stake if it is discovered that your daughter has had sex with a man outside of marriage.

   You can’t pick and choose and follow verses seven and eight and turn around a reject verse nine. What you have to do is what Paul commands us all to do today, and that is to rightly divide the word of truth between Law and Grace and follow your own program and not Israel’s. 2 Timothy 2:15.

10 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;

the high priest was not allowed to “rend” (rip and tear as a sign of grief) his clothing

Study Question

Which high priest violated this command at the trial of Jesus in Mat. 26:65?

11 Neither shall he go in to any dead body, nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother;

12 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.

13 And he shall take a wife in her virginity.

14 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.

15 Neither shall he profane his seed among his people: for I the LORD do sanctify him.

  The high priest had to stay in the Tabernacle until his job was done because the anointing oil was upon his which consecrated him for the service he was doing and not for any other.

   He could not go home until his work was finished not even for a funeral.

   If he or any of the priests took off their garments while they were still supposed to be working in the Tabernacle while the anointing oil was still emanating its fragrance, they would be killed by the LORD because their ministry was more important than any family connections because it concerned the mediation for the nation of Israel.

16 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

17 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.

18 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,

19 Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded,

20 Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken;

21 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.

God wanted the attention focused upon himself, not upon some “blemish” as he calls it upon the priest

22 He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy.

23 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.

24 And Moses told it unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel.

A priest is not to have a blemish of any kind if he is to offer the bread of his God. Numerous infirmities are mentioned that would disqualify a person from the priesthood and every believer ought to understand what happened in the days of Jesus Christ in relationship to these very verses.

   Ask yourself this question, “Why did Jesus go about all Israel healing every Jew of any infirmity in their flesh?” He healed them because it was promised to the nation of Israel that God would one day in Israel’s kingdom have Israel serve as priests to all the other nations.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

As these priests were types of Christ, so all ministers must be followers of him, that their example may teach others to imitate the Saviour. Without blemish, and separate from sinners, He executed his priestly office on earth. What manner of persons then should his ministers be! But all are, if Christians, spiritual priests; the minister especially is called to set a good example, that the people may follow it. Our bodily infirmities, blessed be God, cannot now shut us out from his service, from these privileges, or from his heavenly glory. Many a healthful, beautiful soul is lodged in a feeble, deformed body. And those who may not be suited for the work of the ministry, may serve God with comfort in other duties in his church.