‘Be Holy Because I Am Holy’
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Leviticus chapters 17 to 22
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible, except for the words in brackets (…).
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
This chapter contains instructions that follow from chapters 1 to 7 and chapter 16. In particular, it tells us about the part that ordinary people have in the *sacrifices. The chapter also tells us that the *Israelites could not eat blood because of their religion.
Verses 1-2 These verses remind us that these are God’s rules. Moses did not make them up. The rest of the chapter gives three important rules that the *Israelites had to obey:
(1) When the *Israelites killed animals for meat, they had to offer them to God as *peace offerings (verses 3-9).
(2) The *Israelites could not eat the blood of animals (verses 10-12).
(3) The *Israelites might hunt animals. Or they might find animals that were already dead. There were special rules about the meat of those animals (verses 13-16)
Verses 3-9 When people killed animals, they had to offer them to the *LORD. So whenever the people killed *bulls, cows, sheep or goats, they had to take them to the *meeting tent. There, they *sacrificed those animals as *peace offerings (see chapter 3).
When the people offered the animal to the *LORD, then he would receive his part, Leviticus 3:1-17. The priest would also receive his part, Leviticus 7:11-18. The man who killed the animal could then eat the rest of it with his family and friends. But if someone did not obey this rule, that person was ‘blood guilty’. That was similar in those days to murder. The *LORD would *cut off that person. ‘*Cut off’ means that the *LORD would punish that person. And the *LORD would separate that person from his family or nation, perhaps by death.
This rule only lasted while the *Israelites were in the desert. When they entered Canaan, they did not still go to the *meeting tent to kill all their animals (Deuteronomy 12:21). Instead, they only offered special *sacrifices there.
So God taught the *Israelites that he provided even their daily meals. He gave them life. And as they offered their meat to him, he shared it with them. As they ate it, they had *fellowship with him. The *Jews still remember this lesson. They pray at each meal. They thank God for the food that he has provided for them.
Note verse 7. This rule means that people must not offer *sacrifices to bad spirits, such as images of goats. They thought that these false gods lived outside their camps. Exodus 32:1-6 reminds us that people easily persuaded the *Israelites to have false gods. Perhaps the *Israelites were giving *sacrifices to the bad spirits because they were afraid of the bad spirits. Perhaps they thought that they could protect themselves by their *sacrifices. But God teaches that we must not do this. We must not give to devils or to bad spirits the honour that God alone deserves.
Verses 10-12 These verses tell us that God did not want the *Israelites to eat blood. The blood is precious to God, because it represents (stands for) the life of the animal. And the blood of a *sacrifice represents the life of the person who offered it. All life belongs to God, because he made it.
*Jews still obey this rule. Meat with no blood in it is called ‘kosher meat’.
For Christians, the blood of Jesus, who is their *sacrifice, is very important. His blood, that is, his death, gives them life. And they must receive it into their own lives (John 6:53).
The first Christians did not believe that it was right to eat blood. They also made some other rules about food – see Acts 15:29. Paul discussed some similar matters in 1 Corinthians 10:18-33. He said that it was a matter of conscience. A Christian should not eat any food if he considers it wrong to eat that food. But also, a Christian must not do anything that offends another Christian’s conscience. Christians must always be careful not to cause problems for other people. They must care about people whose belief and trust in God may be weaker than theirs.
Verses 13-16 The *Israelites could not offer animals that they hunted as *sacrifices. They could eat them, but only after they had drained away the blood.
An animal may have died, or another animal may have killed it. If an *Israelite ate such an animal, he would be *unclean. He could not join in public *worship that day. And he had to bathe and to wash his clothes first.
These rules again emphasise the importance of the blood.
1. Read Isaiah 13:21 and Isaiah 34:14. These verses remind us that ‘images of goats’ were ‘outside the camp’. They were false gods.
2. Study these verses, which tell us about the blood of Jesus. Here are some of the things that it gives to Christians.
· Romans 5:9, Ephesians 1:7. His blood means that God can forgive us.
· Hebrews 10:22. His blood allows us to come into the place where God is.
· Revelation 12:11. His blood helps us to defeat evil things.
· Revelation 7:15. His blood means that we can always live with God.
Verses 1-2 These laws are important, because the *LORD gave them. Moses did not make them up.
God says, ‘I am the *LORD your God.’ He is the *Israelites’ God. They have a relationship with him. So that is a special reason why they must obey his rules.
Verse 3 This verse seems to show that people in Egypt did have sex with their close relatives. People in *Canaan did this too. And God was angry with them because of this. We can see the results in verses 24-30. Clearly, God is saying that these rules are for people from every nation, not just the *Israelites. People’s conscience should tell them that such behaviour is wrong – see Romans 1:18-27.
Verse 5 God gave these rules for a good reason. A wrong desire for sex can ruin people’s lives. So God showed people that wrong desires did not have to control their lives. Instead, they should obey God’s law. And then God’s law, which is good and perfect, will rule their lives. They will live by God’s law.
Verse 6 In this verse, to have sex with’ is ‘to uncover the nakedness of’ in the *Hebrew language. ‘Nakedness’ really means ‘the sex parts’ of a man or a woman in the *Hebrew language. It is a polite way to refer to sex!
These words also appear in several other verses in this chapter.
Verses 7-16 These verses include a list of people in a man’s family. The man must not have sex with any of them. We call this *sin ‘incest’. There are several reasons why God gave this law:
(1) A child born as a result of incest may not be perfect. So these laws are partly for reasons of health.
(2) The father’s shame in verses 7 and 8 tells us that the marriage relationship is very important. This is another reason to avoid incest.
(3) God wanted his people to understand who their close relatives were. They had a duty to respect and to look after their close relatives. This list showed that they were not just responsible for their parents or their children. There were many other people to whom they owed duties as close relatives. God gave these rules so that people would have a good life – see verse 5.
(4) People should not do whatever wrong things they desire to do. They should not do things just because they feel strong emotions. They must learn to do the things that God wants them to do. People do feel very powerful emotions about sex. And those emotions often cause people to do wrong things. God has given rules so that people can learn to obey him.
Here is the list:
· Mother, verse 7.
· Father’s wife (not the man’s mother), verse 8
· Sister, verse 9
· Granddaughter, verse 10.
· Stepsister, verse 11. A stepsister is the daughter of your father but not of your mother.
· Aunt on your father’s side, verse 12. ‘Father’s side’ means ‘his part of the family’.
· Aunt on your mother’s side, verse 13. That is, the ‘mother’s part of the family’.
· Aunt who is the wife of your father’s brother, verse 14
· Daughter-in-law (your son’s wife), verse 15.
· Sister-in-law (your brother’s wife), verse 16.
This list shows the relatives that a man must not have sex with. But also, a woman must not have sex with similar male relatives.
Verses 17-18 These verses are more about marriage than incest. It is wrong to marry more than one person in the same family, verse 17. Or (it is wrong to marry) your wife’s sister while your wife is still alive. The two women would compete for their husband’s love, as Rachel and Leah did (Genesis 30:1).
However, these laws did permit a man to have more than one wife. The *Old Testament describes the problems that such marriages cause (for example, 1 Samuel 1:6-7). But we must look in the *New Testament to see that God prefers a man to have just one wife (1 Timothy 3:2). In the *Old Testament, God allowed some things because people were not willing to obey him (Mark 10:5).
Verse 19 The monthly *period is when women lose blood. Remember, *unclean in Leviticus means this. You cannot go to the house of God. Read Leviticus 15:24.
Verse 20 Exodus 20:14 tells us that this is wrong. It is one of the Ten Commands that God gave to his people. We call this *sin ‘adultery’. Read Leviticus 20:10.
Here, ‘neighbour’ does not only mean a person who lives near you. It can even mean someone from another country. See Luke 10:29-37. So people even have some responsibilities towards people whom they do not know.
Verse 21 Many nations burnt their children for their gods. They thought that their gods wanted them to do this.
Verse 22 We call this *sin ‘homosexuality’. Many ancient religions used homosexuality as part of what they did. Romans 1:27 shows us that God does not allow women to do such things with other women.
Verse 23 We call this *sin ‘buggery’. Again, many ancient religions used buggery. God did not allow his people to do it, Exodus 22:19 and Leviticus 20:15-16.
Verses 24-30 The people in *Canaan allowed their feelings about sex to rule their lives. They were carrying on the *sins that this chapter describes. God was patient with them for a very long time (Genesis 15:16). He gave them an opportunity to change their behaviour. But they did not change. In the end, God has to punish *sin.
God uses an unusual word picture here. He compares the land in *Canaan to a sick person. That person may feel ill for some time. But suddenly, the sick person vomits (in other words, his stomach forces out its contents). So the person’s body tries to remove whatever is causing the illness.
When God sent the *Israelites into *Canaan, he would use them to punish the inhabitants of *Canaan. So the people in *Canaan would suddenly have to leave *Canaan, or they would die. It was as if the land was trying to remove the cause of its problems.
But afterwards, the *Israelites had to be careful. They must not imitate the wrong behaviour of the inhabitants of *Canaan. If they did, the same thing would happen to them.
1. When people do not obey God’s rules about sex, they can help bad illnesses to spread, for example AIDS. Pray for people who have this illness. God cares very much about them!
2. Prepare a list of the people who are alive in your own family. Use that list so that you can pray for them. And ask God to show you whether you can do anything to help those people.
Verse 2 ‘Be holy, because I am holy’. This is the most important thing that the Book of Leviticus teaches. Jesus also teaches this in Matthew 5:48. God’s people cannot do whatever things they themselves want to do. They must do the things that God wants them to do. They must be separate because they are God’s people. They belong to him. So they cannot behave as other people behave.
Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us to love God. But Leviticus does not tell us to love God. That is because Leviticus tells us to obey God. Jesus said this: ‘If you love me, you will obey me’, John 14:15. So they are both the same thing. We show our love for God when we obey his laws.
Verse 3 Some *Jewish experts think that the Ten *Commandments are in this chapter. ‘*Commandment’ is a special word for God’s ‘laws’. The Ten *Commandments are in Exodus 20:1-17. In Leviticus chapter 19 they appear in these verses:
· *Commandments 1 and 2 are in verse 4.
· *Commandment 3 is in verse 12.
· *Commandments 4 and 5 are in verse 3.
· *Commandment 6 is in verse 16.
· *Commandment 7 is in verse 29.
· *Commandments 8 and 9 are in verses 11 to 16.
· *Commandment 10 is in verse 18.
Verse 3 contains a brief explanation of the *Commandments. It says that we have a relationship both with other people, and with God. So we cannot do whatever things we desire. Our duties, both to God and to other people, are more important than our own desires. We should respect our parents’ authority; by that means, we will learn to respect God’s authority too.
On the *Sabbath, everyone must rest. That includes employees, servants and slaves. Even the animals on the farms would rest then (Deuteronomy 5:14). It is a holy day each week, for the *Lord. The *Gospels change the *Sabbath Day (Saturday) to Sunday for Christians, Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1 and Revelation 1:10.
Verse 4 The *Hebrew word for ‘images of false gods’ is similar to the *Hebrew word for God. But it does not mean the same. It means ‘something that is empty’, as in Isaiah 44:10.
Verses 5-8 The rules for the *peace offering are in Leviticus chapter 3 and 7:15-18. People brought this type of *offering when they wanted to have *fellowship with God and with other people. They did not have to make these *sacrifices. But if they did, they had to obey the rules. And the rules said that they had to eat the meat immediately. Otherwise, they had to share it with other people. They could not dry it or use salt to store it for a future occasion. They had to eat it that day, or the next day. God would ‘*cut off’ the person who did not obey these rules. This probably means that that person will die.
Verses 9-10 God wants his people to care about poor people. He told them that they must leave part of the harvest for poor people to gather. This part is called the ‘*gleanings’. You can read more about this in Ruth chapter 2. Poor people still had to work to gather this food.
Christians must also care about poor people, Galatians 2:10. And God still wants people who can work for their food to do that, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12.
Verse 11 God’s people should not steal. They should not try to get things by any unfair method. They should not say things that are false. They should not cheat people.
Verse 12 ‘In my name’ means that God would agree. So the person is asking God to agree with something false. People would think that God is a bad god. And that is what is means to make God’s name *unclean.
Verse 13 There is a similar law in Deuteronomy 24:14. There the neighbour becomes a servant. As in Matthew 20:8, employers had to pay wages the same day. Ephesians 6:9 and Colossians 4:1 tell us that Christians too must act fairly towards servants.
Verse 14 We must not try to get an advantage because of someone else’s weakness. We must not be cruel to someone who cannot defend himself. Instead, God wants us to help people who have problems. We must support them because God cares about those people too, James 1:27.
Verse 15 God is a fair judge. Even the greatest person cannot persuade him to do something that is not proper. When God’s people act as judges, they make their judgements on his behalf. So they must be fair to everyone, whether that person is rich or poor.
Verse 16 God’s people have a duty to protect other people. They must protect those people from dangers. And also, God’s people should not gossip. They should be careful not to hurt people, either by their actions or by their words.
Verses 17-18 Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19 tell us that God will punish people. We must not do it.
Leviticus 19:18 contains the rule that Jesus considered the second most important of all God’s laws. See the verses in Something to do number 3, at the end of this chapter.
Verse 19 God wanted his people to be different from the people in other nations. And he wanted his people to be separate from them. So he told the *Israelites not to marry people from other nations (Deuteronomy 7:3).
God emphasised these instructions by the rules in this verse. He did not want the *Israelites to mix different kinds of animals, plants or even materials together. People in other nations did these things. For example, they mated horses and *donkeys to produce a strong animal called the mule. But God’s people, the *Israelites, would live in a different manner from other people. They should live by God’s law.
Verses 20-22 The slave girl was engaged to marry another man. Usually, if a man had sex with an engaged woman, they were guilty of *adultery (Deuteronomy 22:23-27). The punishments were the same as if she were already married to another man. But there is a different rule here, because the woman was a slave. She was not yet free to marry the man to whom she was engaged.
There would still be a punishment. Someone would whip a person who was guilty of this *sin. But they would not die, because God accepts the man’s *guilt offering in such circumstances. The section called ‘the 5 *sacrifices’ near the beginning of this commentary explains ‘*guilt offering’.
Verses 23-25 God’s people must learn to control their own desires. A greedy person would want to eat the first fruits that his tree produces. But a person does not do that if he obeys God. Instead, that person waits until the right time. God does not want him to eat the fruit for the first three years. And he must give the fruit in the 4th year to God. It is holy.
Until recently, it was good advice not to eat the first three years’ fruit. Fruit trees are weaker if people allow the fruits to become ripe during the first few years. Now, with special roots, things are different. But perhaps we should still offer the *first fruits to the *LORD! That is the lesson to learn here. God deserves the first and most important place in our lives. And we should give to him the best things that we have.
Verse 26 The animal’s blood was important. It represented (stood for) the animal’s life. People had to drain it away. It was an *atonement for the animal’s life. See my notes on chapter 17.
The things that were magic included these:
· Divination. This means that you use something to tell people about the future. For example, people might watch a snake’s movements. They thought that this was a sign. It would show them what would happen in the future.
· Witchcraft. Here, it means this. You tell people what would be the best time to do something. People might watch the sky to try to work this out.
These things are wicked because people use spirits to try to do them. So they pray to spirits instead of the real God. God does not even allow us to *worship or to pray to the holy angels (his special servants in heaven), Revelation 22:8-9. We certainly must never ask evil spirits for help!
Verses 27-28 People did these things when people died. Many ancient religions used these things as part of what they did. People would cut themselves to show how sad they were after a death. A *tattoo is a picture on the body that people cut into the skin. They are difficult to remove.
Verse 29 Parents have a duty to control their daughters’ behaviour. They must teach their children that sex is only for a husband and wife. Young men need to know this too!
Verse 30 The *Sabbath Day was the 7th day of the week. It is our Saturday. The house of the *LORD was originally the *meeting tent. Later, it was the *temple in Jerusalem. Solomon built that *temple about 500 years after Moses’ life.
Verse 31 People who do ‘magic of any kind’ here contact the spirits of dead people. Saul did this in 1 Samuel 28:8-25, but God did not want his people to do this. In fact, that was one reason for Saul’s death (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). Any special knowledge that these people may have comes from the devil. God’s people must pray to God alone. It is God whom they must ask for help.
Verse 32 An old person deserves special honour. People should respect that person’s age. We also respect old people because they may have learned much during their long lives. If we listen to them, perhaps we too will become wiser.
Many old people are weak and ill. But we should still respect them. We should respect them because God tells us to do it.
Verses 33-34 Sometimes foreigners would come to live in Israel. Perhaps they wanted to learn about God. Or perhaps they just wanted to live and to work there.
God’s people must not be cruel to those foreigners. The judges must deal fairly with foreigners, as well as *Israelites. And the *Israelites must show love to foreigners, even as they had to show love to their neighbours (verse 18). The *Israelites should always remember that they too were foreigners in Egypt.
The *Israelites are God’s special people. But God cares about the people from every nation. Christians believe that God sent Jesus to save people from every nation (John 3:16; Matthew 28:19). So Christians must be kind to foreigners too.
Verses 35-36 Traders must be fair and honest. They must not use measurements that are not correct in order to make more profits. Everything that God does is right and proper. So his people should only do things that are right and proper, too.
Verse 37 Moses did not make up these laws. They are God’s laws. They teach his people how they must behave. And they show that God’s standards are perfect.
1. Read the Ten *Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17.
2. Read Ephesians 4:28. Of which verse in Leviticus chapter 19 does it remind you?
3. Read these verses. They tell us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves:
· Matthew 19:19
· Mark 12:31
· Luke 10:27
Leviticus 19:18 also tells us to do that.
Verse 2 *Molech was a false god. Leviticus 18:21 mentions him, but here there are more details. The ‘people in your country’ must kill people who give their children to *Molech. ‘Give their children’ means that they *sacrifice the children to *Molech. Bible students are not sure who ‘the people in your country’ are. There are two possibilities:
· A group of leaders of the people.
· The ordinary people.
Even foreigners who live in *Israel must obey the rules. God told the *Israelites to kill people who had done wrong things in this way. This was the proper punishment for this very wicked *sin.
Verse 3 The *Hebrew words for ‘I will be against’ mean this. ‘I will turn my faces against’. (Also in verses 5, 6 and so on.) This may remind us that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is so, although he is one God. Or it may mean that every part of God is against this. God would separate or ‘*cut off’ that person. The people who serve *Molech are not part of God’s people any longer. But most important is the *Hebrew word that we have translated ‘children’. The *Hebrew word is tserah. It really means ‘seed’.
· God made his promises to Abraham and to his tserah, Genesis 12:7, 15:18 and 24:7. These promises are not only for Abraham.
· The tserah does not only mean Abraham’s children. It means children who share the same God with Abraham. It includes us, if we believe God.
· Thus when an *Israelite gives his tserah to *Molech, he spoils God’s plans. God will not allow this to happen. So the punishment is death.
Verse 4 God will be against that man, even if the people in the country do not kill him.
Verse 5 ‘Have sex with *Molech’ means this. They love *Molech and they do not love God.
Verse 6 People still try to speak to people who are dead. They use *mediums and *spiritists. *Mediums and *spiritists say that they can contact dead people. Christians do not believe that they can. Here, God says that we must not even try to do it. Again, the punishment is similar.
This *sin was one of the reasons for King Saul’s death. See 1 Samuel chapter 28 and 1 Chronicles 10:13.
Verses 7-8 These two verses contain the main message of Leviticus. ‘Be holy, because I (the *LORD) am holy.’ The word holy appears about 60 times in Leviticus. Only in Psalms and Isaiah does it appear so often. If we are God’s people, we must be like him! We may often fail. But we must always try again to do what God wants us to do.
Verse 9 In this verse, *curse does not mean ‘to use bad language’. It means that someone says, ‘I want bad things to happen to you.’ People often used magic in their *curses. Luke 6:28 says that Christians must not *curse people. They must bless people. They must ask that good things will happen to other people.
Verses 10-16 This repeats Leviticus 18:6-23. But here, there are the punishments also. These punishments should help to persuade people that they should be holy. If a person does these wicked things, then God is against that person. That person deserves a death that brings shame. And God would punish that person if the *Israelites did not do it.
People should know that shame and death are the results of wicked behaviour.
The *Hebrew words for ‘they are responsible for their own deaths’ means this. ‘Their blood is on them.’ It is a special way that the *Jews spoke. Usually, the *Jews killed people with stones as a legal punishment. They threw stones at criminals until they were dead. But in verse 14, they burnt the criminals.
God said that certain actions were bad. Therefore, God’s people must not do them. They had to be like God; in other words, they should be holy. Read verses 7 and 8 again.
Verses 17-21 A *half sister is the daughter of your father or mother but not of your other parent. In other words, you have just one parent in common with a *half sister. This section tells people whom they may not marry. God gave this list as people often married relatives (for example, cousins).
There is a further rule in Deuteronomy 25:5-6. It allows a man to marry and then to have sex with his dead brother’s wife. This was called a levirate marriage.
Verse 18 is not about the people whom someone may marry. It is about sex while the woman is *unclean. Leviticus 15:19-24 has more instructions about this.
Verses 22-26 God was taking his people to *Canaan. To do that, the people who lived there had to leave *Canaan. God would force them to leave that country because they were bad people. They did not obey God’s laws. So the land was like a sick person. It would throw them out. Our stomachs throw things out when we are sick. Another word for this is *vomit. It is a strong word.
Verse 27 Compare this verse with verse 6. Here, the *Israelites must punish anyone who helps other people to contact dead people.
1. Read Leviticus 24:16, Deuteronomy 13:6-10 and Numbers 15:32-36. Now make a list of punishments that God told the *Israelites to use. There are 2 more examples in this chapter.
2. Learn to say verses 7 and 8 from memory. Then you will not need to look at the words while you say them aloud.
3. Read Matthew 14:1-12. Of which verse in Leviticus chapter 20 does this story remind you?
4. Christians must be ‘separate’ from the people round them. Read 1 Peter 1:14-15, Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:19-21 and Colossians 3:8.
5. King Manasseh gave his children to *Molech. And he did many other things that are very wicked, too. But after that, he asked God to forgive him. Read about his life in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20.
Rules for ordinary priests – Leviticus 21:1-9
The priests were the male *descendants of Aaron. It was their duty to serve the *Israelites as they (the priests) worked for God. To do that properly, they had to be holy.
So the priests must not do the things that the other *Israelites could do. The priests had important responsibilities. So they must not be continuously sad because of people who had died. If they were always *unclean because of funerals, they could never do God’s work.
God told the priests that they should not usually make themselves *unclean after someone’s death. But if one of a priest’s closest relatives died, then the priest could bury the body. And the priest could show his sad feelings then. But at other times, God’s work was more important.
These verses also contain rules about priests’ marriages, their families, and their proper behaviour.
Verses 1-4 A priest would become *unclean if he touched a dead person, Numbers 19:11-13. So God did not allow the priests to do that. God made an exception for very close relatives. If the priest were *unclean, he would not be able to serve God in God’s house.
Verses 5-6 These were things that people from other religions did. Their priests did these things when somebody died. This verse really repeats Leviticus 19:27-28. God did not want his people to do what priests from other religions did. If they cut themselves, they would not be able to serve God in his house. The cut would make them *unclean.
Verse 7 Again, God does not allow his priests to do what other priests did. They had sex with women as part of their religion. Bible students are not sure what the *Hebrew words in part of this verse mean. Our translation is therefore very simple.
Verses 8-9 The people must respect the priests and their families. The man in verse 9 is not the daughter’s husband. The daughters of priests could marry and they could have sex with their husbands. But this daughter probably did what some female priests of false gods did. They had sex with men because of the rules of their false religion. God does not allow this.
Rules for the chief priest – Leviticus 21:10-15
Verses 10-15 These are special rules for the chief priest. The *oil was from a fruit, probably a fruit called the olive. It is not the same as the *oil that we use as fuel. People poured it on him on the day when he became chief priest. The special clothes showed people that he was the chief priest, Leviticus 8:6-9 and Exodus 28:1 to 29:9.
Because the chief priest was closer to God than anyone else, he had to have a higher standard than them. He always had to be close to God. He always had to be ready to serve God. He always had to be holy. So he could not allow himself to become *unclean because of a dead body. This was so, even when a close relative died. The chief priest could not show people that he was sad. People usually made their hair untidy to show that they were sad. Also, they tore their clothes. The chief priest must do none of these things. He could not go to funerals. He must always serve God.
There were also higher standards for the chief priest’s marriage. The chief priest had to marry a woman ‘from his own people’. This probably means from the families of the priests. This was because his son would probably be the next chief priest.
Rules for priests who have something wrong with their bodies – Leviticus 21:16-23
Verses 16-24 Aaron’s *descendants were his sons, and their sons, and so on, for many centuries. They were the priests. These priests had to be men. But some of Aaron’s male *descendants could not perform all the duties of priests. This was because they had certain illnesses or other problems with their bodies.
Bible students are not sure what some of these problems were. For example, ‘very ugly’ in verse 18 may mean ‘cannot speak properly’. But it is clear that, to serve God, a priest must have good health.
These rules showed people that God’s priests should be perfect. Of course, these rules were about their bodies. But the lesson was about their lives. Really, it is *sin that spoils a person’s relationship with God. And it is *sin that spoils someone’s work for God.
The men with these problems still had a special relationship with God. Their illnesses and other problems were not *sin. So these men still ate the food that God gave to the priests. These men even ate the most holy food. But because of their problems, God did not allow them to do certain things that other priests did.
‘Come near to God’ means this: ‘Serve God in his house’. The food in verse 16 means the *offerings of meat and flour that the priests made. The curtain (verse 23) was inside the *meeting tent. The *altar was outside; the priests burned the *sacrifices there. Below are places where you can find the holy food and the most holy food (verse 22).
Most Holy Food
1. For Christians, Jesus is their chief priest. Read Hebrews 7:25-26. Of which verses in Leviticus chapter 21 does that passage remind you?
2. Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-6. Like the chief priest, Paul had to do unusual things because he was God’s servant. Compare these two things. (a) What Paul did. (b) What the chief priest had to do in Leviticus 21:10-15.
3. Compare the list in Leviticus 21:18-20 with the list in Leviticus 22:22-24.
Verses 2-3 A *descendant is a member of your family who lives many years (or centuries) after you. These are *descendants of Aaron, so they are priests or chief priests. ‘*Unclean’ means that they cannot go to the house of God.
While the priests are *unclean, they must not eat any food from the *offerings. If the priests ate that food then, they would bring shame to God’s holy name. This is a very serious matter. God would *cut off a priest who did that.
Verses 4-8 In these verses, ‘he’ means one of the priests. Verse 6 makes this clear. Only priests, or members of their family, could eat the holy *offerings.
These verses contain a list of several events that make a person *unclean. The list is here because an *unclean priest could not eat the *offerings.
The priest may be *unclean for a long time. This happens if he has some kinds of illnesses, for example a skin disease (chapter 13) or a *discharge (chapter 15). Or he may only be *unclean for a day. But while he is *unclean, he cannot eat the *offerings.
Verses 10-16 These verses tell us two things.
· The people who could eat some of the priest’s food. God considers that families are important. So the whole family (unless they are *unclean) eats the priest’s sacred food. That includes people who live permanently in his house. So even the priest’s slave may eat the *offerings. But visitors and temporary workers must not eat these things.
· What to do if someone ate the holy food by accident. This should not happen. The priests should teach the people about these rules. But if someone makes a mistake, that person must make a payment to the priest. That person must pay for the food that he should not have eaten. And he must add an extra fifth (20%) to his payment.
Verses 18-25 God is perfect. So, animals that people offer to him must also be perfect. God deserves the best gifts that we can give. And we should want to give him the best things that we have.
The passage mentions both *whole offerings (verses 18-20) and *peace offerings (verses 21-23). The animals for both types of *offerings had to be perfect.
Verse 24 says that a male animal’s sex parts must be perfect. Sometimes farmers remove these parts from an animal, perhaps to control its behaviour. But God would not accept those animals.
Verses 26-28 The rules about young animals are part of a duty to care about the things that God has created. There are also such rules about birds and trees, Deuteronomy 20:19-20 and Deuteronomy 22:6-7.
Verses 29-30 This rule is about *peace offerings that a person gives to say ‘thank-you’ to God. People must not store the meat. They can share it with family and friends, but everyone must eat it immediately. There are similar rules in 7:15-18 and 19:3-8.
Verses 31-33 The *LORD explains why the *Israelites must obey these rules. They are a holy nation. He brought the *Israelites out of Egypt. He made them free. He separated them so that they would be his people.
So God has made Israel holy. And the *Israelites must not do anything that would bring shame to God’s name. If an *unclean priest ate the holy *offerings, that would bring shame to God’s name. If people gave bad gifts to God, that would bring shame to God’s name. If people chose animals as *offerings in a cruel manner, that would bring shame to God’s name.
Such behaviour would give the wrong impression that God is not holy and perfect. That is why it brings shame to God’s name. And the *Israelites are God’s people. So they must always bring honour to God’s name. By their actions, they must show that God is holy and perfect.
1. The priests had to be *clean. Read these verses. They tell us that Christians must be like the priests. Ephesians 5:27; Philippians 2:15; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19; 2 Peter 3:14.
2. Compare the rules about priests and animals in Leviticus chapter 22.
adultery ~ the *sin when a man has sex with someone else’s wife; or a woman has sex with someone else’s husband.
altar ~ a special table where the priests burned *incense, grain and animals.
atonement ~ another word for what happens when God forgives us. After God forgives us, we are ‘at one’ with him. In other words, we are united as friends (or have friendly relations) with him.
bull ~ the male animal of the same kind as a cow.
Canaan ~ the old name for the countries afterwards called *Israel and *Judah.
clean ~ suitable for God or for God’s people. A clean person could go to God’s house to *worship him.
commandment ~ another word for a command or a law. The ‘Ten Commandments’ is a name for God’s laws in Exodus chapter 20.
curse ~ an evil statement that bad things should happen to someone. Or, to make such a statement. People often used magic in their curses.
cut off ~ to give someone a punishment that separates that person from his family or nation. That punishment may be death. But it may be to force that person to live abroad.
daughter-in-law ~ your son’s wife.
descendant ~ members of your family who live after you live.
discharge ~ a liquid that comes out of the body.
donkey ~ an animal that is like a small horse.
fat ~ part of an animal’s body that is not red meat, nor skin, nor bone. Fat is an oily substance.
fellowship ~ a special type of friendship between God and his people. Or, the special type of friendship that God’s people have with each other.
first fruits ~ the first fruits or grains that you pick each year.
gleanings ~ a part of the harvest that people left for poorer people to gather.
Gospels ~ the books that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote.
grapes ~ fruits that people use to make wine.
guilt offering ~ an *offering by someone who is responsible for certain wrong acts. See the explanation in the note called ‘The 5 *sacrifices’ in the first part of this commentary.
half sister ~ the daughter of only one (and not both) of your parents.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke.
holiness ~ the quality of somebody who is *holy, or very, very good.
holy ~ very, very good; only God is really holy. Or, a description of something that belongs to God.
incense ~ a material that gives a good smell when people burn it.
Israel ~ the name of the country where the *Jews went to live, especially the northern part of that country.
Israelites ~ the *LORD’s people whom Moses led out of Egypt. Afterwards, they lived in the countries called *Judah and *Israel.
Jewish ~ a word that describes *Jews and what they do.
Jews ~ another word for the *Israelites.
Judah ~ the name of the southern part of the country where the *Jews went to live.
lamb ~ a young sheep.
LORD ~ a special name for God. In the *Hebrew Bible it translates YHWH. YHWH probably means ‘he is always alive’. So the word LORD (which means ‘master’) is not a proper translation.
medium ~ a person who says they can contact dead people.
meeting tent ~ the special tent where God met with Moses. The priests could enter it to *worship; they burnt *sacrifices on the *altar in front of it.
Molech ~ the name of a false god.
New Testament ~ the last 27 books in the Bible.
offering ~ gift.
oil ~ a type of oil that comes from an oily fruit called the olive. People used this oil in their food and they burnt it in lamps.
Old Testament ~ the first 39 books in the Bible.
Passover ~ the special day when the *Israelites remembered that God led them out of Egypt.
peace ~ absence of war. Or, the calm and content attitude that one receives because of a right relationship with God and with other people.
peace offering ~ a gift to thank God. This *offering is about *fellowship with God and his people. See the explanation in the note called ‘The 5 *sacrifices’ in the first part of this commentary.
period ~ when women lose blood once a month.
Sabbath (Day), Sabbath (Year) ~ the 7th day of the week; or the 7th year during a period of 7 years. The 7th day was a special day for rest and *worship. People did not work on that day.
sacrifice ~ something that people burned on an *altar for God; or to burn on an *altar for God. People also gave sacrifices to false gods.
semen ~ the liquid that comes out of a man during sex.
sin ~ to do wrong things; not to obey God’s rules. Or, the things we do when we sin. Evil thoughts, words and deeds are all sin, whether we do them on purpose or not.
sin offering ~ an *offering by a person who is guilty of particular types of *sin. See the explanation in the note called ‘The 5 *sacrifices’ in the first part of this commentary.
spiritist ~ a person who says they can contact dead people.
tattoo ~ a picture on your body under the skin; or, to put a tattoo on your body.
temple ~ God’s house in Jerusalem.
unclean ~ unsuitable for God or for God’s people. When someone was unclean, that person was unable to *worship at God’s house.
vineyard ~ a garden or field where people produce *grapes.
vomit ~ when food returns to our mouths from our stomachs.
whole offering ~ an *offering that the priests burned completely on the *altar. See the explanation in the note called ‘The 5 *sacrifices’ in the first part of this commentary.
worship ~ to praise someone (usually God). You tell him that you believe him to be very, very great. Also, you love him and you will obey him.
The Interlinear NIV *Hebrew-English Old Testament/John R Kohlenberger III/Zondervan
The Holy Bible (English Version for the Deaf)/Baker Book House
Word Biblical Commentary on Leviticus/John E Hartley/Nelson
Leviticus/R K Harrison/Inter-Varsity Press
© 2010, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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