Leviticus 21:8
You shall sanctify him therefore; for he offers the bread of your God: he shall be holy to you: for I the LORD, which sanctify you, am holy.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Thou shalt sanctify him therefore.—This is addressed to the Jewish community. They are to take care that the priest does not contract such illegal marriages, and to sanctify him only who acts in obedience to these statutes. The Jewish priest is thus placed under the supervision of the people. His sacred office, and his duly performing the priestly functions. are their concern. If he refused to conform to the law of sanctity, the people, according to the administrators of the Law during the second Temple, were to compel him to do so by the penalty of administering to him the prescribed number of stripes.

He shall be holy unto thee.—On the other hand, when he acts in accordance with his sacred office, the people must reverence his holy person. Hence the administrators of the Law during the second Temple enacted that the priest is to take precedence on public occasions. Thus, when the people assemble, he opens the meeting by invoking God’s blessing. At the reading of the Law of God in the synagogue, he is called up first to the rostrum to read the first portion, and at table he recites the benedictions over the repast. This honour the Jews assign to the priests to this day.

Leviticus 21:8. Thou — O Moses, and whosoever shall succeed in thy place, to whom it belongs to see my laws observed, shalt take care that the priest be holy, and do not defile himself by any of these forbidden marriages.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.The people of Israel are now addressed. They are commanded to regard the priests, who perform for them the service of the altar, as holy in respect of their office. 7-9. They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane—Private individuals might form several connections, which were forbidden as inexpedient or improper in priests. The respectability of their office, and the honor of religion, required unblemished sanctity in their families as well as themselves, and departures from it in their case were visited with severer punishment than in that of others. Thou, O Moses, and whosoever shall succeed in thy place, to whom it belongs to see those and other of my laws observed, shall take care that the priest be holy, and do not defile himself by any of these forbidden marriages, though he would do it.

He shall be holy unto thee; either

1. In thy esteem, and therefore shall not give thee cause to think meanly and irreverently of him by his defiling or debasing of himself with irregular mixtures. Or,

2. To thy use or service, in whose name he is to act with God, and therefore shall preserve himself in a state of holiness and acceptation with God. For I the Lord am holy, and therefore my ministers must be such also. Thou shalt sanctify him therefore,.... In thought and word, as Aben Ezra, by thinking and speaking well of him; should esteem and reckon him a holy person, being in a sacred office, and honour him as such; and do all that can be done to preserve him from unholiness and impurity, and particularly from marrying with improper and unsuitable persons, such as would bring a scandal on him and his sacred office: this seems to be spoken to Moses, and so to the civil magistrate in succession, who were not to suffer such marriages to take place in the priesthood; and were not only to persuade from it, but to exercise their authority, and oblige them to put away such wives, and if they refused, to use severity; so Jarchi,""thou shalt sanctify him", whether he will or not; if he will not put her away, beat him and chastise him until he does put "her away",''see Ezra 2:62,

for he offereth the bread of the Lord; meaning not the shewbread he set in order before the Lord every week, but the various gift and sacrifices which were offered to God by him, and were acceptable to him as his food; and therefore he ought to be holy that drew nigh to God, and was employed in such service, see Leviticus 21:6,

he shall be holy unto thee; in thy account and estimation, and for thy service to offer holy sacrifices, and therefore should be careful of his holiness to preserve it:

for I the Lord, which sanctify you, am holy; in his nature, works, and ways, and who had separated them from all other people to be a holy people to him, and therefore they that ministered in holy things for them should be holy likewise.

Thou shalt {e} sanctify him therefore; for he offereth the {f} bread of thy God: he shall be holy unto thee: for I the LORD, which sanctify you, am holy.

(e) You shall count them holy and reverence them.

(f) The showbread.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. This v. has all the air of an insertion. It interrupts the transition from the character of the priest’s wife to that of his daughter; and ‘thou’ is harsh. Who is addressed? It may be an insertion (so Oxf. Hex.) by the compiler from an older code to enforce the sanctity of the priesthood.

the bread of thy God] See on Leviticus 21:6.The priest was not to defile himself on account of a soul, i.e., a dead person (nephesh, as in Leviticus 19:28), among his countrymen, unless it were of his kindred, who stood near to him (i.e., in the closest relation to him), formed part of the same family with him (cf. Leviticus 21:3), such as his mother, father, son, daughter, brother, or a sister who was still living with him as a virgin and was not betrothed to a husband (cf. Ezekiel 44:25). As every corpse not only defiled the persons who touched it, but also the tent or dwelling in which the person had died (Numbers 19:11, Numbers 19:14); in the case of death among members of the family or household, defilement was not to be avoided on the part of the priest as the head of the family. It was therefore allowable for him to defile himself on account of such persons as these, and even to take part in their burial. The words of Leviticus 21:4 are obscure: "He shall not defile himself בּעמּיו בּעל, i.e., as lord (pater-familias) among his countrymen, to desecrate himself;" and the early translators have wandered in uncertainty among different renderings. In all probability בּעל denotes the master of the house or husband. But, for all that, the explanation given by Knobel and others, "as a husband he shall not defile himself on the death of his wife, his mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, by taking part in their burial," is decidedly to be rejected. For, apart from the unwarrantable introduction of the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, there is sufficient to prevent our thinking of defilement on the death of a wife, in the fact that the wife is included in the "kin that is near unto him" in Leviticus 21:2, though not in the way that many Rabbins suppose, who maintain that שׁאר signifies wife, but implicite, the wife not being expressly mentioned, because man and wife form one flesh (Genesis 2:24), and the wife stands nearer to the husband than father and mother, son and daughter, or brother and sister. Nothing is proved by appealing to the statement made by Plutarch, that the priests of the Romans were not allowed to defile themselves by touching the corpses of their wives; inasmuch as there is no trace of this custom to be found among the Israelites, and the Rabbins, for this very reason, suppose the death of an illegitimate wife to be intended. The correct interpretation of the words can only be arrived at by considering the relation of the fourth verse to what precedes and follows. As Leviticus 21:1-3 stand in a very close relation to Leviticus 21:5 and Leviticus 21:6, - the defilement on account of a dead person being more particularly explained in the latter, or rather, strictly speaking, greater force being given to the prohibition, - it is natural to regard Leviticus 21:4 as standing in a similar relation to Leviticus 21:7, and to understand it as a general prohibition, which is still more clearly expounded in Leviticus 21:7 and Leviticus 21:9. The priest was not to defile himself as a husband and the head of a household, either by marrying a wife of immoral or ambiguous reputation, or by training his children carelessly, so as to desecrate himself, i.e., profane the holiness of his rank and office by either one or the other (cf. Leviticus 21:9 and Leviticus 21:15). - In Leviticus 21:5 desecration is forbidden in the event of a death occurring. He was not to shave a bald place upon his head. According to the Chethib יקרחה is to be pointed with ה- attached, and the Keri יקרחוּ is a grammatical alteration to suit the plural suffix in בּראשׁם, which is obviously to be rejected on account of the parallel יגלּחוּ לא זקנם וּפאת. In both of the clauses there is a constructio ad sensum, the prohibition which is addressed to individuals being applicable to the whole: upon their head shall no one shave a bald place, namely, in front above the forehead, "between the eyes" (Deuteronomy 14:1). We may infer from the context that reference is made to a customary mode of mourning for the dead; and this is placed beyond all doubt by Deuteronomy 14:1, where it is forbidden to all the Israelites "for the dead." According to Herodotus, 2, 36, the priests in Egypt were shaven, whereas in other places they wore their hair long. In other nations it was customary for those who were more immediately concerned to shave their heads as a sign of mourning; but the Egyptians let their hair grow both upon their head and chin when any of their relations were dead, whereas they shaved at other times. The two other outward signs of mourning mentioned, namely, cutting off the edge of the beard and making incisions in the body, have already been forbidden in Leviticus 19:27-28, and the latter is repeated in Deuteronomy 14:1. The reason for the prohibition is given in Leviticus 21:6 - "they shall be holy unto their God," and therefore not disfigure their head and body by signs of passionate grief, and so profane the name of their God when they offer the firings of Jehovah; that is to say, when they serve and approach the God who has manifested Himself to His people as the Holy One. On the epithet applied to the sacrifices, "the food of God," see at Leviticus 3:11 and Leviticus 3:16.
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