Israel Holy to Jehovah: 13. Priestly Privilege and Responsibility

Leviticus 22:1‑16  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
This chapter continues, as in the preceding, the like strain of imperative sanctification in the priestly family to Jehovah. Here it is not indelible disqualifications, as in the last section, but passing defilements. But no defilement was to be treated as a light thing. Reverence was due to Him who is a consuming fire. His will and word ruled all, and especially such as drew near to Him.
1” And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Speak to Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name [in] what they hallow to me: I [am] Jehovah. 3 Say to them, Whosoever of all your seed among your generations that goeth unto the holy things which the children of Israel hallow to Jehovah, having his uncleanness upon him, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I [am] Jehovah. 4 Whatsoever man of the seed of Aaron [is] a leper, or hath a running of the reins, shall not eat of the holy things, until he be clean; and whosoever toucheth anything unclean of the dead, or a man whose seed passeth from him; 5 or whosoever toucheth any reptile whereby he may be made unclean, or a man from whom he may take uncleanness whatsoever uncleanness he hath; 6 the person that hath touched any such shall be unclean until even, and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water. 7 And when the sun is down, he shall be clean, and shall afterward eat of the holy things, because it [is] his food. 8 That which dieth of itself, or is torn, he shall not eat to defile himself with it: I [am] Jehovah. 9 They shall therefore keep mine ordinance lest they bear sin for it, and die therefore, if they profane it: I Jehovah sanctify them. 10 No stranger shall eat the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or a hired servant shall not eat the holy thing. 11 But if the priest buy a person with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his house; they shall at of his meat. 12 If the priest's daughter also belong to a strange man, she may not eat of an offering of the holy things. 13 But if the priest's daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is returned to her father's house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her father's meat; but no stranger shall eat of it. 14 And if a man eat the holy thing unwittingly, then he shall put the fifth thereof to it, and shall offer [it] to the priest with the holy thing. 15 And they shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, which they offer to Jehovah; 16 or suffer them to bear the iniquity of trespass when they eat their holy things; for I Jehovah sanctify them” (chap. 22:1-16).
The care with which Moses was charged by Jehovah, and the sons of Aaron through him, is most impressive (1, 2). Compromise in divine things is hateful to God. It is the boast of men, and especially in these days where liberalism is the popular idol, in opposition to the old idol of man's tradition and sacerdotalism, which theoretically is unbending but in practice accommodating enough for a tariff of sin. The priests of Jehovah were bound under the strictest obligation not to profane His holy name in the holy things of Israel.
There might be uncleanness from day to day known only to each priest himself. Conscience was thus tested, and the fear of God. He might easily hide his uncleanness from his fellows, and from the children of Israel; but he could only do so at the peril of being cut off from Jehovah's presence (3). His being of Aaron's seed gave him no sanctuary shelter; but the contrary, whether he suffered from leprosy, or an issue from the reins, or even from the touch of the dead, or of one under an unclean infirmity, or of a defiling reptile, or the like. The variety or the degree might differ; but Jehovah tolerates no uncleanness in those that draw nigh. He must at least be unclean till evening, and not eat of the holy things till he wash his flesh with water. After that he was free to eat of them; for the Holy One is merciful and gracious (4-8).
Jehovah is the living God. Death is sin's wages; not all indeed, for judgment remains as every Christian should know, Christ revealing the whole truth. Hence the touch of death defiled anyone; much more the priest. No Israelite was free to eat even what was torn of beasts of the field, but called to cast it to the dogs (Ex. 22:3131And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs. (Exodus 22:31)). “I [am] Jehovah” debarred the sons of Aaron beyond all. They were therefore to keep His ordinance, lest they should bear sin and die in their profanation. He sanctified them pre-eminently (9).
But the inverse was equally binding and expressed. No stranger was to eat the holy thing. He who separated Israel to Himself separated the priest by a closer severance. A sojourner of the priest even had no license, nor a hired servant however at home or valued. But one that belonged to the priest, bought or born in his house, was allowed that privilege: they might eat of his meat (10, 11).
Then we have modified cases distinctly provided for. Were the priest's daughter married to a strange man (i.e. outside the Aaronic family), she forfeited for the while her title to eat of an offering of the holy things. But if she became a widow, or divorced, without a child, back in her father's house as in her youth, she resumed her title, and might eat of her father's meat; she was no longer a forbidden stranger (12, 13).
Again (14), a man might eat the holy thing unwittingly, and in this case he was enjoined to add the fifth of it, and to give it to the priest with the holy thing, as a double tithe of trespass. There was no superstition or human exaggeration. The true God must of necessity be a jealous God; yet He weighed all considerately.
But as we began with the responsibility attached to the priests, so this section ends. They in particular were not to profane the holy things of the children of Israel which they offered to Jehovah, nor to lade themselves with the iniquity of trespass in eating their holy things, remembering that Jehovah it was that sanctified. Alas! it was just here they failed, not only as we have seen before their consecration was complete, but more and more till they became leaders, not only in profanation but in the grossest impurity (Sam. 2:12-22). And the prophetic word through a man of God came that the high priest's sons should both die in one day, and that Jehovah would raise up a faithful priest to do according to what was in His heart and in His mind, for whom He would build a sure house, Himself as King before His anointed forever. Messiah is the only full answer to both Priest and King.