Leviticus 21:23
Only he shall not go in to the veil, nor come near to the altar, because he has a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Only he shall not go in unto the vail.—That is, into the holy place which was before the vail.

Leviticus 21:23. To the veil — To the second veil, which was between the holy and the most holy place, to burn incense, to order the show-bread, and to dress the lamps, which were nigh unto that veil, though without. My altar — The altar of burnt-offering, which was without the sanctuary. The sense is, he shall not execute the priest’s office, which was to be done in those two places.21:1-24 Laws concerning the priests. - As these priests were types of Christ, so all ministers must be followers of him, that their example may teach others to imitate the Saviour. Without blemish, and separate from sinners, He executed his priestly office on earth. What manner of persons then should his ministers be! But all are, if Christians, spiritual priests; the minister especially is called to set a good example, that the people may follow it. Our bodily infirmities, blessed be God, cannot now shut us out from his service, from these privileges, or from his heavenly glory. Many a healthful, beautiful soul is lodged in a feeble, deformed body. And those who may not be suited for the work of the ministry, may serve God with comfort in other duties in his church.Sanctuaries - The places especially holy, including the most holy place, the holy place, and the altar.

This law is of course to be regarded as one development of the great principle that all which is devoted to the service of God should be as perfect as possible of its kind.

16-24. Whosoever he be … hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God—As visible things exert a strong influence on the minds of men, any physical infirmity or malformation of body in the ministers of religion, which disturbs the associations or excites ridicule, tends to detract from the weight and authority of the sacred office. Priests laboring under any personal defect were not allowed to officiate in the public service; they might be employed in some inferior duties about the sanctuary but could not perform any sacred office. In all these regulations for preserving the unsullied purity of the sacred character and office, there was a typical reference to the priesthood of Christ (Heb 7:26). In unto the veil i.e. to the second veil, which was between the holy and the most holy place, Exodus 26:13,36, to burn incense, to order the shew-bread, and to dress the lamps, which were nigh unto that veil, though without.

Nor come nigh unto the altar, i.e. the altar of burnt-offering, which was without the sanctuary. The sense is, He shall not execute the priest’s office, which was to be done in those two places. My sanctuary, Heb. my sanctuaries, in the plural number, as it is also Leviticus 26:31 Jeremiah 51:51 Ezekiel 28:18; for though the sanctuary was but one, yet there were divers parts, to wit, the court, the holy place, and the most holy, each of which was in a large sense a sanctuary, or a holy place set apart for God’s worship.

I the Lord do sanctify them, i.e. do set them apart for high and holy uses, to manifest my presence and grace, and to receive my worship and service in them. And therefore I will not have them polluted or disparaged by the admission of defiled or deformed priests to minister therein. Only he shall not go in unto the vail,.... So far as to the vail, which divided between the holy and the holy of holies; that is, he shall not go into the holy place which was before the vail; not to set the shewbread upon the table there, nor to light and him the lamps in the candlestick, nor to offer incense on the altar of incense, which stood in it: some render it "within the vail" (h), where only the high priest might enter once a year; but if he had any blemish on him he might not, nor might such an one be an high priest; Aben Ezra seems to have some respect to this in his note,"to the vail he shall not come, that he may be an high priest:"

nor come nigh unto the altar; as not to the altar of incense in the holy place, so neither to the altar of burnt offering in the court of the tabernacle, that is, so as to officiate there: but though they might not be employed in such sacred service, the Jews in later times have found business for them to employ them in, and that was worming the wood, or searching the wood for worms, which was used in the burning of the sacrifices; for we are told (i), that at the northeast corner (of the court of the women) was the wood room, where the priests that had blemishes wormed the wood; and whatsoever wood in which a worm was found, was rejected from being laid upon the altar: the reason why he might not go into either place before mentioned is repeated:

because he hath a blemish; either fixed or transient; one of those particularly expressed, or any other; for the Jews suppose there are others implied besides those expressed, which disqualified for service:

that he profane not my sanctuaries; if an high priest, the holy of holies, if a common priest, the holy place, and the court of the tabernacle:

for I the Lord do sanctify them; the vail, to which blemished priests might not go: and the altar, to which they might not come nigh: or rather, the sanctuaries or holy places, where they might not officiate, which God had separated and devoted for sacred uses, and were not to be defiled by any; though Ben Gersom observes, that this has no respect to the sanctuary, for if it had it would have been said, "I am the Lord, that sanctify it"; but since a plural word is used before, I see not but that with great propriety it is expressed, and with reference thereunto, "sanctify them"; which he would have understood of holy things, but what he means is not easy to say, unless the holy things such persons might eat of, Leviticus 21:22, which is fetched.

(h) "intra velum", V. L. (i) Misn. Middot, c. 2. sect. 5.

Only he shall not go in unto the {s} vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them.

(s) Into the sanctuary.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. my sanctuaries] The plural may have reference to the sacred building and its surroundings, as in Jeremiah 51:51.Directions for the sons (descendants) of Aaron who were afflicted with bodily imperfections. As the spiritual nature of a man is reflected in his bodily form, only a faultless condition of body could correspond to the holiness of the priest; just as the Greeks and Romans required, for the very same reason, that the priests should be ὁλόκληροι, integri corporis (Plato de legg. 6, 759; Seneca excerpt. controv. 4, 2; Plutarch quaest. Romans 73). Consequently none of the descendants of Aaron, "according to their generations," i.e., in all future generations (see Exodus 12:14), who had any blemish (mum, μῶμος, bodily fault) were to approach the vail, i.e., enter the holy place, or draw near to the altar (in the court) to offer the food of Jehovah, viz., the sacrifices. No blind man, or lame man, or charum, κολοβόριν (from κολοβός and ῥίν), naso mutilus (lxx), i.e., one who had sustained any mutilation, especially in the face, on the nose, ears, lips, or eyes, not merely one who had a flat or stunted nose; or שׂרוּע, lit., stretched out, i.e., one who had anything beyond what was normal, an ill-formed bodily member therefore; so that a man who had more than ten fingers and ten toes might be so regarded (2 Samuel 21:20).
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