Neither shall he go in to any dead body
That is, into a tent or house where any dead body lies, as Jarchi and Aben Ezra interpret it, for whoever went into such a place was unclean seven days; and so long therefore an high priest, should he enter there, would be prevented doing the duty of his office, see ( Numbers 19:14 ) ; this was aped and followed by the Heathens in later times; so among the Romans, the "Flamen Dialis", or high priest of Jupiter, might not go into a place where a dead body was burnt or buried, nor touch any F8; and it was a custom with them, as Servius F9 tells us, to put a branch of cypress at the door of a house where a dead body was, that an high priest might not enter through ignorance, and be defiled: nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother;
by entering into the tent or house where they lay dead, or by touching them, or attending the funeral of them, or by concerning himself about it; and there was no need to mention his son or his daughter, his brother or his sister; for if he was not to defile himself for any of his parents, much less for any of those which are excepted in the case of a common priest, ( Leviticus 21:2 Leviticus 21:3 ) ; the Jews do indeed make one exception in the case of an high priest, and that is, that if he meets with a dead body in the way, he was obliged to defile himself for it and bury it F11; and so among the Romans, though it was a crime for an high priest to look upon a dead body, yet it was reckoned a greater, if, when he saw it, he left it unburied F12.
F8 Massurius Sabinus, apud A. Gell. Noct. Attic. l. 10. c. 15.
F9 In Virgil. Aeneid. l. 3. ver. 64. "atraque cupresso".
F11 Maimon. Hilchot Ebel, c. 3. sect. 8.
F12 Servius in Virgil. Aeneid. l. 6. ad ver. "praecipue pius Aeneas"