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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 21

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-24

Leviticus 21:4. A chief man. In some versions the Hebrew word baal is rendered king, lord, and husband; and the LXX read, he shall not “lightly” defile himself.

Leviticus 21:7. He shall not take a wife that is profane. A minister of the gospel, ought especially, to marry a woman that is a help-meet in the Lord, not foolish and vain in her conversation, nor given to levity. When a minister marries a weak or an aged woman for the sake of her property, he renders himself truly contemptible; but a wife that is able to edify others would be to him a crown of glory.

Leviticus 21:9. She shall be burned with fire. The moral law allows of no illicit intercourse; and if a priest’s daughter were found guilty, the crime was much greater, because of her descent, and the educational advantages she enjoyed. The civil law of the Hebrews awarded therefore to her the severest punishment. Maimonides cites a rabbi who saw a priest’s daughter burned for fornication. It is the best wisdom of a nation to send prostitutes to asylums, or houses of industry.


The highpriest of the Lord, the healer of an afflicted nation, the mediator between God and his country, must not disqualify himself for the service of the sanctuary by the incidents and natural impurities of life. His ministry was for the life and health of the nation, consequently the death of relatives was not to obstruct his more essential duties. Thus our great Highpriest, the Lord Jesus, is daily before the throne, presenting to God the oblation of his death, for the cleansing of his people. Nor were the sons of Aaron, essential helps to the Sire, allowed to defile themselves with the dead, except for their nearest relations. Let this teach christian ministers to be fully employed for God. Their entrance into secular concerns is in fact a declaration, that the gospel is only a secondary concern; and good men will henceforth grieve at their conduct, and view them but in a secondary light.

Prostitution in a priest’s daughter is here sentenced to the severest punishment the legislature could inflict. The crime was equally heinous in one of his sons; and we may presume, would incur the same penalty of death, though longer delayed. 1 Samuel 2:0. How serious, how holy and upright, should those be whose fathers are wholly employed for God. Faults in them are very much noticed by the people, and they shall be severely punished of the Lord.

It has often been remarked, that the priesthood of Aaron was a figure of the priesthood of Christ, and consequently purity of marriage must be required of him and his sons, the better to presignify the chaste union subsisting between the Lord and the church. Hence, while all christians see in these precepts the purity to which they are called, ministers in particular must see the care and caution required to marry in the Lord; or otherwise, to abide single, and be wholly married to their work. The ministry is not to be degraded by an Egyptian marriage for secular considerations. The help- meet for a public servant of Christ must be a woman of piety, of irreproachable morals, and ready with cheerful looks and an open soul to welcome the saints into her house. She must be a woman devoted to practical godliness, able to visit the sick and comfort the afflicted; and so qualified to manage her house, that her husband being the less encumbered with domestic cares, may the more freely devote life to his studies, to his flock, and the sanctuary of God.

The priests were further required to be free from blemishes and defects of body, as well as of life and conduct. Defects of this nature precluded them from assisting at the altar, because they could not shadow forth the glory of Christ, who was without spot and blameless. In the christian ministry we have no such restrictions, though external perfection of body is certainly desirable. When the Spartans in the Persian war scrupled to elect Agesilaus to the command of the army, they at length resolved that it was better for their captain to be lame of a foot, than for their army to be deficient of a good commander. A good workman therefore should not be rejected for his natural infirmities. But if bodily defects were insuperable barriers to the priesthood, how much more so are moral defects, to the high and holy ministry of the gospel. A man spiritually deaf and blind, one whose heart is unregenerate, and whose tempers are unsubdued; a man habituated to intemperance, inclined to covetousness, or captivated by the desires of the flesh, can never so adorn the sanctuary of God as to shed forth on all around a savour of the knowledge of Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 21". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/leviticus-21.html. 1835.
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