וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה אֱמֹר אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם לְנֶפֶשׁ לֹא־יִטַּמָּא בְּעַמָּיו 21:1
Levi. 21:1 And the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and you shall say to them: ’None shall defile himself for a death among his people,
The Lord tells Moses to speak to Aaron’s sons, not to Aaron. The implication in this is that God intends Moses to really address Aaron’s future generations, the priests.
Also consider this. The words “among his people,” “his kin,” and “from his own people” appear in five verses in this chapter, where “his” refers to Aaron or to future priests. We can readily understand what “his kin” means, that is, his blood relatives. But what does “his people” (or “his own people”) mean? I’m assuming “his people” refers to non-blood relatives, those related to him by marriage. I don’t believe it refers to his ancestors or all the children of Israel as it may in other contexts.
כִּי אִם־לִשְׁאֵרֹו הַקָּרֹב אֵלָיו לְאִמֹּו וּלְאָבִיו וְלִבְנֹו וּלְבִתֹּו וּלְאָחִיו 21:2
Levi. 21:2 except if for his kin that is near to him, for his mother or for his father or for his son or for his daughter or for his brother,
וְלַאֲחֹתֹו הַבְּתוּלָה הַקְּרֹובָה אֵלָיו אֲשֶׁר לֹא־הָיְתָה לְאִישׁ לָהּ יִטַּמָּא 21:3
Levi. 21:3 or for his sister who is a maiden, who is near to him, who has not been with a husband; for her he may defile himself.’” [Return to Numb. 6:7]
Notice that there is no mention of the priest’s wife. So a priest may not come near to the body of his dead wife nor mourn for her Apparently this is so because she is not a blood relative.
לֹא יִטַּמָּא בַּעַל בְּעַמָּיו לְהֵחַלֹּו 21:4
Levi. 21:4 “A leader among his people, he shall not become unclean to profane himself.”
לֹא־(יִקְרְחָה) [יִקְרְחוּ] קָרְחָה בְּרֹאשָׁם וּפְאַת זְקָנָם לֹא יְגַלֵּחוּ וּבִבְשָׂרָם לֹא יִשְׂרְטוּ שָׂרָטֶת 21:5
Levi. 21:5 “They shall not make their head totally bald, and the edge of their beard they shall not shave off, and they shall not make cuttings in their flesh.”
Two remarks about this verse: First, the Hebrew word inside the parentheses contains an erroneous feminine singular pronoun suffix. As it stands the phrase would read “She shall not make ... bald.” The corrected word in the brackets uses a masculine plural suffix.
Second, these three prohibitions relate to the activities of mourning, so this verse is connected back to v. 21:3. These activities must have been pagan mourning customs, and God prohibits their use by the priests. However, He has already told the people not to follow the customs of those of the land into which they will enter (Levi. 20:23). So these mourning practices are specifically called out here, presumably to make sure that the priests are keenly and permanently aware of them. In Levi. 10:6 Aaron is told not to bare his head in mourning for his two oldest sons. This verse generalizes and expands on those instructions for all priests.
קְדֹשִׁים יִהְיוּ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶם וְלֹא יְחַלְּלוּ שֵׁם אֱלֹהֵיהֶם כִּי אֶת־אִשֵּׁי יְהוָה לֶחֶם אֱלֹהֵיהֶם הֵם מַקְרִיבִם 21:6
Levi. 21:6 ‘They shall be holy for their God and not profane the name of their God, for the fire offerings of the Lord, the bread of their God, they will be offering, so they must be holy.’
אִשָּׁה זֹנָה וַחֲלָלָה לֹא יִקָּחוּ וְאִשָּׁה גְּרוּשָׁה מֵאִישָׁהּ לֹא יִקָּחוּ כִּי־קָדֹשׁ הוּא לֵאלֹהָיו 21:7
Levi. 21:7 ‘They shall not take a wife, a harlot and profaned, and they shall not take a wife divorced from her husband, for he is to be holy for his God.’
If you refer back to Gene. 2:24, you will find my discussion on the word for woman or wife. Here, as in v. 21:13 below and in 1Kings, the word is better understood as wife.
וְקִדַּשְׁתֹּו כִּי־אֶת־לֶחֶם אֱלֹהֶיךָ הוּא מַקְרִיב קָדֹשׁ יִהְיֶה־לָּךְ כִּי קָדֹושׁ אֲנִי יְהוָה מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם 21:8
Levi. 21:8 “And you shall sanctify him, for he will be offering the bread of your God. Holy shall it be to you, for I, the Lord Who sanctifies you, am holy.”
This verse contains four second-person pronouns, you, your, you, and you. The first you, the next your, and the next you are singular, but the final you is plural. Therefore, I presume the first three pronouns refer to Moses, and the fourth refers to the members of the congregation. From this verse, as well as others, we can know that the Lord sanctifies each of the children of Israel.
וּבַת אִישׁ כֹּהֵן כִּי תֵחֵל לִזְנֹות אֶת־אָבִיהָ הִיא מְחַלֶּלֶת בָּאֵשׁ תִּשָּׂרֵף 21:9
Levi. 21:9 “And when the daughter of any priest might profane herself by being a harlot, she would be profaning her father. She shall be burned in fire.”
וְהַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדֹול מֵאֶחָיו אֲשֶׁר־יוּצַק עַל־רֹאשֹׁו שֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה וּמִלֵּא אֶת־יָדֹו לִלְבֹּשׁ אֶת־הַבְּגָדִים 21:10
אֶת־רֹאשֹׁו לֹא יִפְרָע וּבְגָדָיו לֹא יִפְרֹם
Levi. 21:10 “And the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the oil of anointing shall be poured and who is empowered to wear the garments, shall not bare his head, and he shall not rend his clothes.”
וְעַל כָּל־נַפְשֹׁת מֵת לֹא יָבֹא לְאָבִיו וּלְאִמֹּו לֹא יִטַּמָּא 21:11
Levi. 21:11 “And he shall not come in upon any soul of one dead; he shall not defile himself for his father or his mother.”
וּמִן־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ לֹא יֵצֵא וְלֹא יְחַלֵּל אֵת מִקְדַּשׁ אֱלֹהָיו כִּי נֵזֶר שֶׁמֶן מִשְׁחַת אֱלֹהָיו עָלָיו אֲנִי יְהוָה 21:12
Levi. 21:12 “And he shall not go out from the sanctuary and he shall not defile the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the oil of anointing of his God is on him.”
“I am the Lord.”
וְהוּא אִשָּׁה בִבְתוּלֶיהָ יִקָּח 21:13
Levi. 21:13 “And he shall take a wife in her virginity.”
אַלְמָנָה וּגְרוּשָׁה וַחֲלָלָה זֹנָה אֶת־אֵלֶּה לֹא יִקָּח כִּי אִם־בְּתוּלָה מֵעַמָּיו יִקַּח אִשָּׁה 21:4
Levi. 21:14 “A widow or a divorcee or one defiled as a harlot, these he shall not take, for he may take only a virgin from his own people as a wife.”
וְלֹא־יְחַלֵּל זַרְעֹו בְּעַמָּיו כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה מְקַדְּשֹׁו 21:15
Levi. 21:15 “And he shall not defile his seed among his people, for I am the Lord Who sanctifies him.”
וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר 21:16
Levi. 21:16 And the Lord spoke to Moses saying,
דַּבֵּר אֶל־אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר אִישׁ מִזַּרְעֲךָ לְדֹרֹתָם אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בֹו מוּם לֹא יִקְרַב לְהַקְרִיב לֶחֶם אֱלֹהָיו 21:17
Levi. 21:17 “Speak to Aaron saying, ‘No one from your seed for their generations in whom there is a blemish shall approach to offer the bread of his God.’”
As Moses is now to be addressing only Aaron, I have to assume that the following verses are intended for him and for subsequent potential priests and high priests.
כִּי כָל־אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר־בֹּו מוּם לֹא יִקְרָב אִישׁ עִוֵּר אֹו פִסֵּחַ אֹו חָרֻם אֹו שָׂרוּעַ 21:18
Levi. 21:18 “For any man in whom there is a blemish shall not approach, a man blind or lame or maimed or with a limb too long,
אֹו אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִהְיֶה בֹו שֶׁבֶר רָגֶל אֹו שֶׁבֶר יָד 21:19
Levi. 21:19 or a man with whom there would be a broken foot or a broken hand,
אֹו־גִבֵּן אֹו־דַק אֹו תְּבַלֻּל בְּעֵינֹו אֹו גָרָב אֹו יַלֶּפֶת אֹו מְרֹוחַ אָשֶׁךְ 21:20
Levi. 21:20 or would be hunchbacked or a dwarf, or have a cataract in his eye, or have scurvy or a scab, or a crushed testicle.”
Please notice that these verses, 21:18 to 21:20, appear to define what God means by a blemish. They are all physical and more or less obvious. The same criteria would apply to animal blemishes, as we shall see in Levi. 22:22 to 22:24.
כָּל־אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר־בֹּו מוּם מִזֶּרַע אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן לֹא יִגַּשׁ לְהַקְרִיב אֶת־אִשֵּׁי יְהוָה מוּם בֹּו אֵת לֶחֶם 21:21
אֱלֹהָיו לֹא יִגַּשׁ לְהַקְרִיב
Levi. 21:21 “Any man from the seed of Aaron, the priest, in whom there is a blemish shall not come near to offer the fire offerings of the Lord, the bread of his God; a blemish is in him.”
לֶחֶם אֱלֹהָיו מִקָּדְשֵׁי הַקֳּדָשִׁים וּמִן־הַקֳּדָשִׁים יֹאכֵל 21:22
Levi. 21:22 “He may eat the bread of his God from the holiest of holy things and from the holy things.”
אַךְ אֶל־הַפָּרֹכֶת לֹא יָבֹא וְאֶל־הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לֹא יִגַּשׁ כִּי־מוּם בֹּו וְלֹא יְחַלֵּל אֶת־מִקְדָּשַׁי כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה 21:23
Levi. 21:23 “Only he may not go in to the veil and he may not come near to the altar, because a blemish is in him, so he will not defile My sanctuary, for I am the Lord Who sanctifies them.”
וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל־בָּנָיו וְאֶל־כָּל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל 21:24
Levi. 21:24 Thus Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the children of Israel.
Is this an example of Moses changing God’s instructions again? He was told by the Lord only to speak to the sons of Aaron (v. 21:1) and then to Aaron (v. 21:17). No where in this chapter was Moses told to speak to the children of Israel. So it appears that Moses took it upon himself to also inform the people of these priestly commandments. However, the possibility, although slim, exists that this verse is a summary of more than just this chapter. In that case, Moses would have done what God instructed him.
Torah Commandments in this Chapter
255. A priest shall not defile himself for a death except for an
immediate blood relative. V. 21:1 - 21:3
256. In mourning for an immediate blood relative, a priest shall
not make his head totally bald, or shave the edge of his
beard or make cuts in his flesh. V. 21:5
257. A priest shall not marry a harlot or a divorcee. V. 21:7
258. The daughter of a priest who becomes a harlot shall be
burned to death. V. 21:9
259. The high priest shall not bare his head or rend his
clothing in mourning. V. 21:10
260. The high priest shall not enter the house of one dead,
even for his father or mother. V. 21:11
261. The high priest shall not leave the sanctuary during his
mourning. V. 21:12
262. The high priest must marry a virgin. V. 21:12
263. The statutes pertaining to a priest or high priest with a blemish
shall be obeyed. V. 21:17 - 21:23
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