THE STANDARD OF HOLINESS REQUIRED FOR PRIESTS SPECIFIED PARTICIPATION RULES AND ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICES
David Guzik: All the ceremonies and rituals of the Old Covenant pointed towards a perfect fulfillment by Jesus the Messiah under the New Covenant (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 8:4-5; 10:1). Therefore, the idea that a priest could not serve in a ceremonially defiled (unclean) condition was important. Fellowship with God had to be done on the basis of being declared clean and righteous by God.
Peter Pett: So people and priests together are to keep Yahweh’s commandments and do them. His holy Name must be honoured by their lives, and by their behaviour, and by their obedience so that His holiness is recognised and acknowledged. That is why He has made them holy, setting them apart as His people and delivering them and giving them His instruction (torah – Law). That is why He requires them to be holy. For they are His covenant people whom He has brought out of Egypt so that He could be their God. He is Yahweh. (There is no other).
I. (:1-16) WHO MAY EAT THE SACRIFICIAL FOOD?
(:1) Address to Moses
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,”
Allen Ross: The final section of this unit warns against priests’ eating the bread or sacrificial meat while they were defiled by ceremonial uncleanness. The passage details the standard types of uncleanness: skin diseases, contact with corpses, bodily emissions, unclean animals, and the like. The priests were human; they had times of uncleanness like everyone else. And if uncleanness barred common worshipers from the sanctuary, it certainly barred priests as well.
Violation of this ruling carried the penalty of being cut off from God’s presence. Priests had to be separated from the sanctuary because they were disqualified from the priesthood; but they very likely also died.
Beginning with 22:10 the text rules on who may eat of the holy food in the sanctuary (“food” or “bread” means the sacrifices as in 3:11, 16; 21:6). Leviticus 22:10 prohibits anyone outside the priestly family, any guest of the priests, and any hired hands from eating. But 22:11 allows those whom the priest might have acquired as slaves or those born in his house to eat. It then adds that if a daughter married an outsider she could not eat, unless through widowhood or divorce she returned to the father’s house (22:12–13). If people ate the holy food by mistake, they had to bring the reparation offering (22:14–15).
This section began with the general instruction that the priests had to treat the sacred offerings with respect so that they did not profane the holy name (22:2). The sanctity of the divine name then was the motivation for their obedience. The name of the LORD is the LORD himself—all that he is known to be through his attributes. When the priests were set apart to serve the LORD God in all the aspects of the life of the community, they were essentially called to preserve the faith in all its purity and holiness.
A. (:2-9) Unclean Priests — Priests Must Avoid Profaning God’s Holy Name by Unclean Eating
1. (:2) General Principle
“Tell Aaron and his sons to be careful with the holy gifts of the sons of Israel, which they dedicate to Me, so as not to profane My holy name; I am the LORD.”
Kenneth Mathews: Holy service (22:1–9). Verses 2–9 repeatedly implore the priests to be ceremonially “clean” in carrying out their duties. Again, the passage speaks of the priests’ relationship to “the holy things” of worship (v. 3). The priests were the recipients of portions of the offerings, their income for serving at the house of God. Since the offerings were dedicated to God, the offerings were the Lord’s to share with his appointed ministers. They, however, had to maintain the proper relationship to the food offerings by keeping themselves ritually and morally pure.
R. K. Harrison: The Aaronites are reminded in this section that they, too, can become defiled ceremonially, just like any other member of the congregation. Purity is mandatory for those officiating at the sacrifices, so if they become defiled in any way they must keep away from (2) the sacrificial offerings of the people, lest the name of God be made unholy. Any priest who undertakes sanctuary duties while unclean in any way has polluted the sacred area, and will be cut off (3) as a punishment. Uncleanness can result from a number of situations, ranging from discharges to contact with unclean creeping species. Where such a condition exists, it lasts until the evening, and the priest has to wash his body completely before he can regain his ritual purity. He must be scrupulous in observing food laws (8), lest by transgressing in such matters he dies or profanes God’s sacred name. The holiness of the priest must be marked by a high degree of ceremonial and moral rectitude, as an example to the congregation.
Gordon Wenham: The previous paragraph dealt with permanent physical impediments to priestly office. These nonfunctioning priests were still allowed to eat priestly food. But this paragraph sets out under what circumstances priests may neither officiate at the sacrifices nor eat priestly food. Whenever they are unclean, whether through skin disease (cf. chs. 13–14), discharges (ch. 15), or contact with dead men or animals (11:39), they may not eat priestly food on pain of being cut off, because it is holy (vv. 2–3). The holy and the unclean must be kept apart.
2. (:3-8) Specific Examples of Addressing Uncleanness
“Say to them, ‘If any man among all your descendants throughout your generations approaches the holy gifts which the sons of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from before Me. I am the LORD. 4 No man, of the descendants of Aaron, who is a leper or who has a discharge, may eat of the holy gifts until he is clean. And if one touches anything made unclean by a corpse or if a man has a seminal emission, 5 or if a man touches any teeming things, by which he is made unclean, or any man by whom he is made unclean, whatever his uncleanness; 6 a person who touches any such shall be unclean until evening, and shall not eat of the holy gifts, unless he has bathed his body in water. 7 But when the sun sets, he shall be clean, and afterward he shall eat of the holy gifts, for it is his food. 8 He shall not eat an animal which dies or is torn by beasts, becoming unclean by it; I am the LORD.’”
Mark Rooker: Verses 4–8 delineate the ways the priest may become unclean and the process of being restored.
David Guzik: In verse 3 it is commanded that no one can come near the holy things while ritually impure. Here are some specific things that could make a person ritually impure until evening.
• It could be by disease or evidence of illness (a leper or has a discharge).
• It could be something connected with death (unclean by a corpse).
• It could be a normal function that made one temporarily unclean (an emission of semen).
• It could be by contact with something unclean (whoever touches any creeping thing).
3. (:9) Summary Exhortation
“They shall therefore keep My charge, so that they may not bear sin because of it, and die thereby because they profane it; I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”
Kenneth Mathews: Only after undergoing the proper rituals of purification could the priests participate in the partaking of the offerings. Failure to render their holy service, however, came with the sternest penalty. The priests had to obey the Lord in the handling of holy things or they faced the penalty of death: “[The priests] shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it” (v. 9a).
B. (:10-16) Unqualified Guests — Only the Priests and Their Families May Eat the Sacrificial Food
1. (:10) No Non Family Members May Partake
“No layman, however, is to eat the holy gift;
a sojourner with the priest or a hired man shall not eat of the holy gift.”
Mark Rooker: This section [vv. 10-12] deals with the question of who may eat of the food offerings dedicated to the priests (Lev 6–7). No one outside the priest’s family could partake of the offerings made to the Lord, except for an acquired slave or a slave born in the priest’s household (22:10–11). Otherwise, those outside a priest’s family were prohibited from eating.
David Guzik: The command against giving the priest’s portion to a visitor in the priest’s home went somewhat against the strong custom of hospitality in that culture, which normally insisted on giving guests the very best the home had to offer.
Constable: Another list of seven laws guarded the offerings. No non-priest (“layman”) could eat part of the sacrifices the priests ate, except those who had become members of a priest’s household. This ruling principle appears at the beginning and at the end of the list (vv. 10, 13b), with a brief statement following, regarding restitution for accidentally eating an offering (“he shall add to it a fifth of it”; vv. 14-16). All of these regulations guarded the holiness of the LORD, by treating the people and things most closely associated with Him as special.
2. (:11) Exceptions = Slaves and Those Born in His House
“But if a priest buys a slave as his property with his money,
that one may eat of it,
and those who are born in his house may eat of his food.”
David Guzik: The issue of slavery will be dealt with in greater detail in chapter 25. Yet, Adam Clarke’s comments are helpful: “We see that it was lawful, under the Mosaic economy, to have slaves under certain restrictions; but these were taken from among the heathen, and instructed in the true religion; hence we find, as in the above case, that they were reckoned as a part of the priest’s own family, and treated as such. They certainly have privileges which did not extend either to sojourners or to hired servants.”
3. (:12-13) Special Rules for a Priest’s Daughter
“And if a priest’s daughter is married to a layman, she shall not eat of the offering of the gifts. 13 But if a priest’s daughter becomes a widow or divorced, and has no child and returns to her father’s house as in her youth, she shall eat of her father’s food; but no layman shall eat of it.”
Mark Rooker: [vv. 13-16] — A daughter of a priest who was widowed or divorced and childless could return to the home of her father and be qualified to partake of the sacred meals (22:13). The daughter would have the legal status she had before marriage, living under her father’s roof and dependent on her father for her livelihood (22:13). The daughter’s change of status indicated that the holiness of a priest extended throughout his household.
4. (:14) Restitution for Unintentional Unauthorized Eating
“But if a man eats a holy gift unintentionally, then he shall add to it a fifth of it and shall give the holy gift to the priest.”
Gordon Wenham: Sometimes an outsider might unwittingly eat the holy things, and in effect rob the priest. In this case he had to replace it and add 20 percent (v. 14).
5. (:15-16) Summary Principles
“And they shall not profane the holy gifts of the sons of Israel which they offer to the LORD, 16 and so cause them to bear punishment for guilt by eating their holy gifts; for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”
II. (:17-25) WHAT MAKES A SACRIFICE DEFECTIVE?
(:17-18a) Address to Moses
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
‘Speak to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel, and say to them,’”
Jacob Milgrom: There are three recipients of Moses’ speech: Aaron, his sons, and the new component—Israel. The significance is clear: both the priesthood and the laity are held responsible for detecting sacrificial blemishes by the offerer, when the animal is chosen, and by the priest, when the animal enters the sanctuary grounds.
Allen Ross: In order to be accepted by the holy LORD God, worshipers had to demonstrate their reverence for the LORD by bringing animals without defect, by paying attention to the laws of age and humaneness in sacrificing animals, and by ensuring that the thank offering was entirely consumed on the day it was offered.
A. (:18b-20) The Burnt Offering
“Any man of the house of Israel or of the aliens in Israel who presents his offering, whether it is any of their votive or any of their freewill offerings, which they present to the LORD for a burnt offering– 19 for you to be accepted– it must be a male without defect from the cattle, the sheep, or the goats. 20 Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it will not be accepted for you.”
Perry Yoder: At the very beginning of Leviticus, the Israelites were told that their offerings must be tamim, whole or intact (1:3). However, this word is usually translated with a negative—without defect or without blemish (NRSV, NJPS). The problem seems to be how to describe a pure or whole animal. It is easier to describe the imperfect than to indicate the perfect.
David Guzik: Unfortunately, this law was abused in the days of Jesus, where priests sometimes disqualified an animal for an insignificant reason. Then, the corrupt priest might require the purchase of an approved sacrificial animal at a dishonest high price (Matthew 21:12-13).
B. (:21-25) The Peace Offerings
“And when a man offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a special vow, or for a freewill offering, of the herd or of the flock, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. 22 Those that are blind or fractured or maimed or having a running sore or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the LORD, nor make of them an offering by fire on the altar to the LORD. 23 In respect to an ox or a lamb which has an overgrown or stunted member, you may present it for a freewill offering, but for a vow it shall not be accepted. 24 Also anything with its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut, you shall not offer to the LORD, or sacrifice in your land, 25 nor shall you accept any such from the hand of a foreigner for offering as the food of your God; for their corruption is in them, they have a defect, they shall not be accepted for you.”
R. K. Harrison: The priests are instructed to ensure that all offerings are unblemished, and the catalogue of physical disabilities which disqualified the descendants of Aaron from sanctuary service is applied to sacrificial animals (22, 24). The only exception is that of animals which apparently exhibit genetic damage (23), and even these can be sacrificed only as freewill offerings. Castrated or similarly mutilated animals, whether of native or imported stock, were prohibited for sacrifice, since they were less than perfect physically and thus would not reflect divine holiness adequately (25). No animals younger than eight days are to be offered in sacrifice (cf. Exod. 22:30), nor is a cow or a ewe to be killed with her young on the same day, whether for sacrificial purposes, as in some pagan cults, or for ordinary food consumption.
Richard Hess: vs. 23 — In the center of this section lies an exception to the general prohibition. Freewill offerings (nedābâ, GK 5607) allow animals to be offered even though “deformed” or “stunted.” The word for “deformed” (śrʿ, GK 8594) occurs only three times in the Bible (21:18 and Isa 28:20, where it describes a bed that is too short to “stretch” out on). Thus a likely understanding of the phrase here may be “too long or too short”—in other words, animals that have a part longer or shorter than the norm. Such a defect does not achieve the ideal sense of balance required for sacrifices involving the perfect fulfillment of a vow, but neither does it call into question the wholeness of the animal as the other “defects” do. Hence these animals can be used for sacrifices that are freewill offerings, free expressions of gratitude for God’s goodness.
III. (:26-30) WHEN AND HOW SHALL YOU OFFER APPROPRIATE SACRIFICES?
(:26) Address to Moses
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,”
A. (:27) Proper Timing
“When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be accepted as a sacrifice of an offering by fire to the LORD.”
B. (:28) Prohibition – Don’t Kill the Animal and its Young on the Same Day
“But, whether it is an ox or a sheep,
you shall not kill both it and its young in one day.”
Peter Pett: A mother and its young should not be slain in sacrifice on the same day. This may have been due to certain pagan practises, or may simply be on the basis of what is seemly. We can compare how a bird and its eggs should not both be taken on the same day (Deuteronomy 22:6-7). Having taken the eggs the bird should be allowed to go free. His people were not to be greedy or callous or thoughtless. So must they not kill a cow/ewe and its young on the same day.
C. (:29) Purpose of Sacrifice of Thanksgiving = Acceptance
“And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD,
you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted.”
D. (:30) Prohibition – No Leftovers
“It shall be eaten on the same day, you shall leave none of it until morning:
I am the LORD.”
(:31-33) CONCLUDING EXHORTATION TO OBEDIENCE
A. (:31) Positive Command – Keep God’s Commandments
“So you shall keep My commandments, and do them: I am the LORD.”
B. (:32-33) Negative Command – Don’t Profane God’s Holy Name
“And you shall not profane My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel: I am the LORD who sanctifies you, 33 who brought you out from the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD.”
Robert Vasholz: Disobedience in Leviticus is tantamount to a confusion of God’s holy character. Disobedience brings reproach on the name by which He identified Himself and by which He identifies Himself to His people. To bring significance to His name, He sets aside a people by redeeming them from bondage and giving them His laws. The wording above, who brings you out of Egypt, demonstrates that the redemption out of Egypt is still in process. Israel has not yet reattached final deliverance until the nation rests in Canaan. It is this redemptive motif, like the motif for the Ten Commandments, which undergirds the reason for keeping these statutes.
Mark Rooker: The final section of Leviticus 22 functions as the conclusion for the entire section regarding the priests (21:1–22:30). The warning against profaning God’s name is repeated from Lev 19:12; 20:3; 21:6; 22:2. The foundation and motivation for obedience is the deliverance from Egypt, the formative saving event in the Old Testament.
Roy Gane: A concluding exhortation (22:31–33) contains elements that parallel ingredients of exhortations in chapters 18–21:
• summary command to keep the Lord’s regulations
• reminder that “I am the LORD” (in each verse)
• warning against profaning God’s holy name
• warning that the Lord must be treated as holy among the Israelites
• reminder that it is the Lord who makes Israel holy
• reminder that the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt to be their God
David Guzik: Therefore you shall keep My commandments, and perform them: Here God gave Israel – especially the priests – four reasons to keep His commandments and to honor His name.
• Because of who God is (I am the LORD).
• Because of what He is (My holy name).
• Because of what He is doing (I am the LORD who sanctifies you).
• Because of what He has done (who brought you out of the land of Egypt).