Leviticus 21


‘The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘A priest must not make himself ceremonially unclean for any of his people who die, except for a close relative, such as his mother or father, his son or daughter, his brother, or an unmarried sister who is dependent on him since she has no husband for her he may make himself unclean. He must not make himself unclean for people related to him by marriage, and so defile himself. ‘Priests must not shave their heads or shave off the edges of their beards or cut their bodies. They must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the food offerings to the LORD, the food of their God, they are to be holy. ‘They must not marry women defiled by prostitution or divorced from their husbands, because priests are holy to their God. Regard them as holy, because they offer up the food of your God. Consider them holy, because I the LORD am holy—I who make you holy. ‘If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire.’ Leviticus 21:1-9

Laws Of The Priests

The following two chapters deal with laws concerning the priests. It was the priest’s responsibility to stand between God and His people, which meant they were to be holy; they were to be segregated from the world and the Israelites in order to serve God, His people and carry out their priestly duties within the tabernacle.

Except for the death of any relative, they were to keep themselves from contact with the dead. Notice also the priest’s wife was also to be holy, the priests weren’t allowed to marry a prostitute or someone who was divorced and if the daughter of a priest was found to be guilty of prostitution, she was to be burned to death.

‘The high priest, the one among his brothers who has had the anointing oil poured on his head and who has been ordained to wear the priestly garments, must not let his hair become unkempt or tear his clothes. He must not enter a place where there is a dead body. He must not make himself unclean, even for his father or mother, nor leave the sanctuary of his God or desecrate it, because he has been dedicated by the anointing oil of his God. I am the LORD. ‘The woman he marries must be a virgin. He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people, so that he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the LORD, who makes him holy.’ Leviticus 21:10-15

The laws concerning the high priests were a lot stricter than the ordinary persists. The high priest wasn’t allowed to cover his head or tear his clothes when he was morning.

The high priest symbolises the highest purity within Israel and so was only permitted to marry an Israelite’s daughter who was a virgin, that is someone who has never been married before, Luke 1:27 / Luke 1:34 / Matthew 1:23.

When God says the high priests weren’t allowed to leave the sanctuary, this doesn’t mean he could never leave the sanctuary, it means that he wasn’t permitted to leave the sanctuary when he was in mourning.

‘The LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the LORD. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.’ So, Moses told this to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites.’ Leviticus 21:16-24

Not only were the animals which were to be sacrificed to be without defect, Leviticus 1:3 / Leviticus 3:1, but the priests were also to be without any defect. This law was probably just for the high priests as the text mentions, coming ‘near to offer the food of his God’.

It’s clear that God only wanted the purest and the perfect to be representatives before Him, this is also seen in the priests who were unclean and weren’t permitted to touch anything which was holy, Leviticus 22:1-9.

It was God and God alone who was able to make His priests holy, it was God who set them apart to minister to the religious and spiritual needs of His people.

The priests had a great privilege, they were permitted to serve in the tabernacle and to partake of the holy things, however, with that increased privilege came increased responsibility.

The ordinary Israelite could touch his parent’s corpse at the funeral but the priest couldn’t, the ordinary Israelite could marry whomever he chose but the priest couldn’t. An immoral Israelite was punished, but a member of a priest’s family who committed an immoral act was burnt with fire.

There is a principle here, for every liberty, there is a corresponding responsibility, for every privilege, there is a corresponding duty. This has an application today when we realise that all believers are priests, 1 Peter 2:9.

We have the privilege of entering into the Holy Place, Hebrews 10:19-22, but with that great privilege comes great responsibility, it is the responsibility to be holy.

Go To Leviticus 22


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."