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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 21

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 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:

There shall none be defiled for the dead, [ lªnepesh (H5315)] - for a soul. The obvious design of the regulations contained in this chapter was to keep inviolate the purity and dignity of the sacred office. Contact with a corpse, or even contiguity to the place where it lay, entailing ceremonial defilement (Numbers 19:14), all mourners were debarred from the tabernacle for a week; and as the exclusion of a priest during that period would have been attended with great inconvenience, the whole order were enjoined to abstain from all approaches to the dead, except at the funerals of relatives [ lish'eerow (H7607), for his flesh], to whom affection or necessity might call them to perform the last offices. Those exceptional cases, which are specified, were strictly confined to the members of their own family within the nearest degrees of kindred.

Verses 2-3

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,

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 4

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

But he shall not defile himself - `for any other,' as the sense may be fully expressed. The priest, in discharging his sacred functions, might well be regarded as a chief man among his people, and by these defilements might be said to profane himself (Dr. Patrick). [ ba`al (H1167)], the word rendered "chief man", signifies also 'a husband;' and the sense, according to Knobel and others, is, 'But he being a husband, shall not defile himself by the obsequies of a wife' (Ezekiel 44:25). But this view is inadmissible, the wife being included in "the kin that is near unto him" (Leviticus 21:2). The priests among the ancient Egyptians and other people were disqualified for their office for seven days by touching or looking on a dead body.

Verse 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.

They shall not make baldness ... nor ... cuttings in their flesh. The superstitious marks of sorrow, as well as the violent excesses in which the pagan indulged at the death of their friends, were forbidden by a general law to the Hebrew people (Leviticus 19:28). The Moabites and other ancient idolaters cut themselves, as is also done by the modern Hindus, and even by Armenian Christians, and those pilgrims who go to Jerusalem (Joseph Wolff). But the priests were to be laid under a special injunction, not only that they might exhibit examples of piety in the moderation of their grief, but also, by the restraint of their passions, be the better qualified to administer the consolations of religion to others, and show, by their faith in a blessed resurrection, the reasons for sorrowing not as those who have no hope.

Verse 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 7-9

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.

They shall not take a wife. Private individuals might form several connections, which were forbidden as inexpedient or improper in priests. The respectability of their office, and the honour of religion, required unblemished sanctity in their families as well as themselves; and departures from it in their case were visited with severer punishment than in that of others.

Verse 9. Burnt with fire - (see the note at Leviticus 20:14.)

Verses 10-15

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;

He that is the high priest. The indulgence in the excepted cases of family bereavement, mentioned above, which was granted to the common priests, was denied to him; because his absence from the sanctuary for the removal of any contracted defilement could not have been dispensed with, neither could he have acted as intercessor or the people, unless ceremonially clean. Moreover, the high dignity of his office demanded a corresponding superiority in personal holiness, and stringent rules were prescribed for the purpose of upholding the suitable dignity of his station and family.

Verse 13-14. He shall take a wife in her virginity. This limitation was confined to the high priest. 'Every Coptic priest at the present day is forbidden to marry again upon the demise of his wife (vide Gibbon, 2:, ch.

xv., p. 318, on the opinions of the early fathers respecting second nuptials; Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egypt.,' 2:, p. 62, note). The same rules are extended generally to the families of Christian ministers (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6).

Verse 15. Neither shall he profane his seed among his people - i:e., disgrace his house by a low marriage.

Verses 16-24

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

Any blemish. Since visible things exert a strong influence on the minds of men, any physical infirmity or malformation of body in the ministers of religion, which disturbs the associations or excites ridicule, tends to detract from the weight and authority of the sacred office. Priests labouring under any personal defect were not allowed to officiate in the public service: they might be employed in some inferior duties about the sanctuary, but could not perform any sacred office, (Maimonides, 'More Nevoch.,' ch. 45:) The holiness of the priests was external and relative, for inward impurities are not mentioned as disqualifying them for their office. In all these regulations for preserving the unsullied purity of the sacred character and office there was a typical reference to the priesthood of Christ (Hebrews 7:26).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Leviticus 21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/leviticus-21.html. 1871-8.
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