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Leviticus 21

Talks for Growing Christians

Laws About the Conduct and Qualifications of Priests

Leviticus 21

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Lesson Number 21

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. Under the Law, certain normal practices were restrictions for the priests.
  2. Under the Law, certain physical defects were restrictions for the priests.

Practical Application

  1. Don’t miss the spiritual pictures in the physical defects.

Questions

  1. What is the shift in focus of Leviticus 21-22?
  2. What was the law for the Israelites concerning a dead person? What was the law for priests?
  3. How were the laws even stricter for the high priest?
  4. What is important to remember about the guidelines on physical defects for the priests (verses 22-23)?
  5. What were the marriage restrictions for priests and the high priest?

Answers

  1. Up to this point in Leviticus, the laws have concerned the nation as a whole. Now in Leviticus 21-22 we have special laws, precepts, and requirements for the priests of Israel.
  2. Under the Law, when anyone touched the body of a dead person which would happen for any number of reasons, that person was unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:11-22). A priest who came in contact with a dead body in any way was defiled. The only exception was in the case of an immediate family member.
  3. The high priest was not even to show the normal signs of mourning for the dead such as uncovering his head and tearing his clothes. He was not to defile himself by contact with the dead – even when his father or mother died. He was not to participate in funerals but he was to remain in the tabernacle or Temple area where his duties were.
  4. These defects and impediments did not deprive the priest of his priestly position, but from priestly functions. The physical condition of the priests was to portray the perfection of God’s creation. That was true of the animal sacrifices as well. Physical wholeness of the priests symbolized spiritual holiness. They were to be without defect. And the High Priest portrayed Christ as our sinless High Priest (Hebrews 7:26).
  5. Priests could not marry prostitutes or divorced women. The high priest was to marry a virgin Israelite. There was to be no foreign blood in the Aaronic line of high priests.

Discuss/Consider

  1. Discuss the biblical principle “Rank has its privileges and responsibilities.”
  2. All of the restrictions for the priests have spiritual lessons for us today as Christians, because we are believer-priests according to 1 Peter 2:5. Discuss the spiritual pictures in this chapter’s regulations.

Challenge

  1. Physical defects and impediments did not affect the priest’s position, but only his function at the Tabernacle. These priests could be involved in other activities such as teaching Scripture in their villages. In the same way, by God’s grace, our shortcomings do not affect our sonship or priestly position or many of our activities as believers, but they do interfere with the full exercise of our priestly privileges and functions in the Church which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Key Verses

  • “He shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself.” Leviticus 21:4
  • “Nor shall he profane his posterity among his people, for I the Lord sanctify him.” Leviticus 21:15

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