Leviticus 22 – More Specific Instructions for Priests
A. Things that might defile a priest.
1. (1-3) The need for ceremonial purity.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they do not profane My holy name by what they dedicate to Me: I am the LORD. Say to them: ‘Whoever of all your descendants throughout your generations, who goes near the holy things which the children of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has uncleanness upon him, that person shall be cut off from My presence: I am the LORD.
a. Who goes near the holy things which the children of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has uncleanness upon him, that person shall be cut off: Because the Old Covenant was a covenant of shadows and types, pointing to the glory of the New Covenant (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 8:4-5; 10:1), the idea that a priest could not minister in a ceremonially defiled (unclean) state was important. Israel needed to know that drawing close to God was to be pure.
2. (4-9) Examples of things that might defile a priest.
‘Whatever man of the descendants of Aaron, who is a leper or has a discharge, shall not eat the holy offerings until he is clean. And whoever touches anything made unclean by a corpse, or a man who has had an emission of semen, or whoever touches any creeping thing by which he would be made unclean, or any person by whom he would become unclean, whatever his uncleanness may be; the person who has touched any such thing shall be unclean until evening, and shall not eat the holy offerings unless he washes his body with water. And when the sun goes down he shall be clean; and afterward he may eat the holy offerings, because it is his food. Whatever dies naturally or is torn by beasts he shall not eat, to defile himself with it: I am the LORD. ‘They shall therefore keep My ordinance, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby, if they profane it: I the LORD sanctify them.
a. Shall not eat the holy offerings until he is clean: Violations of these examples would not ruin a man’s career as a priest. A violation would make the priest ceremonially unclean until evening. Once ceremonial cleanliness was restored, they could be restored to their priestly service as before.
b. And when the sun goes down he shall be clean. The Jews start their days at sundown, not sunrise or midnight. With this description, God indicates that one can start the new day clean and pure to the LORD. No matter how we might have failed the day before, we can begin each new day pure and close to the LORD. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).
i. In application, we can stop beating ourselves up for yesterday’s sin. We should confess it, repent of it, and then get on with the business of walking with the LORD today.
3. (10-16) Only the priest and his household could eat of the offerings.
‘No outsider shall eat the holy offering; one who dwells with the priest, or a hired servant, shall not eat the holy thing. But if the priest buys a person with his money, he may eat it; and one who is born in his house may eat his food. If the priest’s daughter is married to an outsider, she may not eat of the holy offerings. But if the priest’s daughter is a widow or divorced, and has no child, and has returned to her father’s house as in her youth, she may eat her father’s food; but no outsider shall eat it. ‘And if a man eats the holy offering unintentionally, then he shall restore a holy offering to the priest, and add one-fifth to it. They shall not profane the holy offerings of the children of Israel, which they offer to the LORD, or allow them to bear the guilt of trespass when they eat their holy offerings; for I the LORD sanctify them.’”
a. If the priest buys a person with his money, he may eat it: This means that a slave in the household of a priest could eat of the holy things if the slave was purchased or born in his household. A hired servant (a temporary worker) was not considered part of the priest’s household and therefore could not eat of the sacred offering.
i. Leviticus 22:11 shows that a slave was considered part of the priest’s household and entitled to eat of the offerings. This shows us there was a different attitude towards slavery in Israel than in American history; slaves were considered – and largely treated as – part of the family.
b. For I the LORD sanctify them: This shows why the offerings had to be regarded with special care. These offerings were specially sanctified by the LORD.
B. Examples of unacceptable sacrifices.
1. (17-30) Unacceptable sacrifices.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, and to all the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘Whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, who offers his sacrifice for any of his vows or for any of his freewill offerings, which they offer to the LORD as a burnt offering; you shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from the cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats. Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf. And whoever offers a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, to fulfill his vow, or a freewill offering from the cattle or the sheep, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. Those that are blind or broken or maimed, or have an ulcer or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them on the altar to the LORD. Either a bull or a lamb that has any limb too long or too short you may offer as a freewill offering, but for a vow it shall not be accepted. ‘You shall not offer to the LORD what is bruised or crushed, or torn or cut; nor shall you make any offering of them in your land. Nor from a foreigner’s hand shall you offer any of these as the bread of your God, because their corruption is in them, and defects are in them. They shall not be accepted on your behalf.’” And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “When a bull or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall be seven days with its mother; and from the eighth day and thereafter it shall be accepted as an offering made by fire to the LORD. Whether it is a cow or ewe, do not kill both her and her young on the same day. And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, offer it of your own free will. On the same day it shall be eaten; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the LORD.
a. Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer: Blemished or deformed animals were obviously unacceptable to the LORD, and the priests had a responsibility to make sure that the animals brought before them by the people were good enough to bring to the LORD. God didn’t want the cast-offs from the people; He had right to their best.
i. Unfortunately, this practice was abused in the days of Jesus, where priests would disqualify an animal for an insignificant reason, and them require them to purchase an approved sacrificial animal at an exorbitant price (Matthew 21:12-13).
ii. This also was a foreshadowing of Jesus, our perfect sacrifice. He was perfect in His nature as both God and man, perfect in His motive, perfect in His personality, perfect in His obedience, perfect in His sacrifice for sin on our behalf.
b. Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf: The prophet Malachi spoke out against those who brought God inferior animals: You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:7-8)
c. From the eighth day and thereafter it shall be accepted as an offering: Also prohibited was an offering of an animal less than eight days old, and to sacrifice an animal and its offspring at the same time.
2. (31-33) Summary.
“Therefore you shall keep My commandments, and perform them: I am the LORD. You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD.”
a. Therefore you shall keep My commandments, and perform them: God commanded Israel – and especially the priests – to keep His commandments and to honor His name because of who He 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), and what He has done (who brought you out of the land of Egypt).
b. I am the LORD: Surely, these four things are true of the believer in relation to God today – and are each valid and important reasons for obedience.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission