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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 21

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-6

Regulations for Deaths

There are things an ordinary Israelite can do, but a priest cannot. Here it is about defilement by touching a dead person. Only in the case of close family members may the priest touch them, to lay them out for example. The high priest may not even touch his father or mother when they have died (Leviticus 21:11).

We are both ordinary members of God’s people and priests. As ordinary members we spend every day in the world. As priests we serve in the sanctuary in the presence of God. In our priestly service we must not allow things that do have a place in our lives as people of God.

We can be so busy with our hobby or other forms of pastime that this occupies our thinking on Sunday morning. Then we will not be able to perform priestly service. There can also be all kinds of worries that absorb us so much that we are also hindered in our priestly service.

(Pagan) custom of mourning is forbidden for priests. We may be sad, but not in the way of the world, which is without hope with respect to those who are asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The natural feelings should not determine our priestly service. It is about bringing the food of God, what is due to Him.

The place of every aspect of life is determined by God, whether it is joy or mourning. The Lord Jesus did not allow Himself to be guided by natural feelings in His service on earth. When His mother wants to interfere in His service, He reprimands her with the seemingly harsh words: “Woman, what does that have to do with us?” (John 2:4). Yet He loves her and thinks of her in His most painful moments. When He hangs on the cross, He gives His mother over to the care of His disciple John with the words “behold, your mother” (John 19:27).

Our first responsibility is the service to God, only then that to our relatives and others (Mark 3:31-Habakkuk :). Our service to God certainly includes caring for our relatives and certainly for our parents (Matthew 15:4-Joshua :). To neglect that concern with a reference to our service to God is hypocrisy. But when it comes to the claim relatives want to make on our service to God, we must reject it.

Verses 7-9

The Wife and a Daughter of a Priest

Affection is good, but God wants us as priests to be careful about it. Those to whom sin clings cannot be persons to whom we connect. The holiness of God remains the norm in all things. That makes the fornication of a daughter of a priest so serious. How did she get there? Her sin has consequences for her father’s priestly service. In it we see the seriousness of her sin, that she must be burned with fire. A person who has come to know God’s holiness in such close proximity and then dares to act in this way, is given up to the judgment of the burning.

For the priest it is a great dishonor that his daughter has acted like this. He will wonder what his failure has been in it. When children of believers who perform a certain service among the believers go to serve the world, this is a stain on the service of the parents. In such cases it is not possible to perform certain functions in the church (1 Timothy 3:4-Deuteronomy :). On the other hand, children of believing, God-fearing parents also bear a great personal responsibility and will be judged all the more severe. This severe judgment we see in “be burned with fire”.

Verses 10-15

Holiness of the High Priest

The holiness standards for the high priest are even stricter. The standards of holiness for the high priest correspond to those for the Nazarite (Numbers 6:1-Judges :). There is talk of a special devotion to God. The high priest is here called “the highest among his brothers”. This is especially true of the Lord Jesus. He is called “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29) and “the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). These ‘brethren’ are the believers (Hebrews 2:11).

The high priest’s wife must be a virgin. This points us to the bride of the Lord Jesus, who is also presented as such (2 Corinthians 11:2). A virgin has had no sexual intercourse with anyone else and is there entirely for the bridegroom. Thus the Lord Jesus sees His bride, the church.

Verses 16-24

Exceptions for Priestly Service

There are a few exceptions to exercising the priesthood:

1. Daughters – only sons may be priests. The female speaks of the position, the male of the power in which the position is realized. Knowing that you are a priest is one thing, being a priest in practice is another. Only an orthodox confession (‘daughter’) doesn't make someone a priest (‘son’).

2. If someone is too young – priests must have reached a certain age. In order to be able to practice priestly service, a certain degree of spiritual growth or maturity is needed.

3. If someone has a certain physical disability. A priest can be a son, can have reached a certain age and yet be unfit to be a priest. Someone with a defect may eat of the holy things (Leviticus 21:22). He is not unclean. Yet he is not allowed to do a priestly service.

The defect he has does not have to be his own fault. Blindness can, spiritually-applied, result from wrong education. Others are given strongly one-sided spiritual education, which makes them malformed, causing the appropriateness in understanding the truth to become unbalanced.

What is not possible in Israel in the literal sense – to help someone get rid of his deformity – is possible in the spiritual application in the church: the Lord Jesus can bring about change in a state of deformity if we entrust ourselves to Him.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Leviticus 21". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/leviticus-21.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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