And the Lord said unto Moses
According to some Jewish writers this was said on the day the tabernacle was set up; no doubt it was delivered at the same time the above laws were given; and as care was taken for the purity and holiness of the Israelites in general, it was necessary that the priests that were concerned in a more especial manner in the service and worship of God should be holy also, and have some instructions given them to take care and keep themselves from all defilements; and particularly the Jewish writers observe, that this paragraph or section concerning the priests follows upon, and is in connection with the law concerning such as have familiar spirits, and wizards, to teach men, that in matters of doubt and difficulty they should not have recourse to such persons, but to the priests of the Lord: speak unto the priests, the sons of Aaron;
the priests, whether elder or younger, whether fit for service, and whether having blemishes, or not; for there are some things which concern them, and these are sons, male children of Aaron, as the Targum of Jonathan, and not daughters, as Jarchi and others observe; for they were not obliged to regard the laws and rules here given: and say unto them, there shall none be defiled for the dead among his
by entering into a tent or house where a dead body lay, by touching it, or by hearing it, or attending it to the grave, or by any expressions of mourning for it, see ( Numbers 19:11 Numbers 19:14 Numbers 19:16 ) ; that is, for any person in common that were of his people, that were not nearly related to him, as in the cases after excepted; so it was a custom with the Romans, as we are told F14, that such as were polluted by funerals might not sacrifice, which shows that priests were not allowed to attend funerals, which perhaps might be taken from hence; and so Porphyry says F15, that sacred persons and inspectors of holy things should abstain from funerals or graves, and from every filthy and mournful sight.
F14 Servius in Virgil. Aeneid. l. xi. ver. 3.
F15 De Abstinentia, l. 2. c. 50.