Leviticus 21

Rules for Priests

1 The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘A priest must not make himself ceremonially unclean for any of his people who die,
2 except for a close relative, such as his mother or father, his son or daughter, his brother,
3 or an unmarried sister who is dependent on him since she has no husband—for her he may make himself unclean.
4 He must not make himself unclean for people related to him by marriage,[a] and so defile himself.
5 “ ‘Priests must not shave their heads or shave off the edges of their beards or cut their bodies.
6 They must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the food offerings to the LORD, the food of their God, they are to be holy.
7 “ ‘They must not marry women defiled by prostitution or divorced from their husbands, because priests are holy to their God.
8 Regard them as holy, because they offer up the food of your God. Consider them holy, because I the LORD am holy—I who make you holy.
9 “ ‘If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire.
10 “ ‘The high priest, the one among his brothers who has had the anointing oil poured on his head and who has been ordained to wear the priestly garments, must not let his hair become unkempt[b] or tear his clothes.
11 He must not enter a place where there is a dead body. He must not make himself unclean, even for his father or mother,
12 nor leave the sanctuary of his God or desecrate it, because he has been dedicated by the anointing oil of his God. I am the LORD.
13 “ ‘The woman he marries must be a virgin.
14 He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people,
15 so that he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the LORD, who makes him holy.’ ”
16 The LORD said to Moses,
17 “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God.
18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed;
19 no man with a crippled foot or hand,
20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles.
21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the LORD. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God.
22 He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food;
23 yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.’ ”
24 So Moses told this to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites.

Leviticus 21 Commentary

Chapter 21

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.

Cross References 41

  • 1. S Exodus 28:1; S Leviticus 1:5
  • 2. S Leviticus 5:3; S Leviticus 13:3
  • 3. ver 11; Numbers 5:2; Numbers 6:6; Numbers 19:11; Numbers 31:19; Ezekiel 44:25
  • 4. ver 11
  • 5. Numbers 6:6
  • 6. S Leviticus 13:40; Jeremiah 7:29; Jeremiah 16:6
  • 7. Ezekiel 5:1; Ezekiel 44:20
  • 8. S Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1
  • 9. ver 8; Ezra 8:28
  • 10. Leviticus 18:21
  • 11. S Leviticus 3:11
  • 12. ver 17,22; Leviticus 22:25
  • 13. S Exodus 19:22; S Leviticus 10:3
  • 14. ver 13,14
  • 15. Ezekiel 44:22
  • 16. ver 6
  • 17. Leviticus 3:11
  • 18. S Exodus 31:13
  • 19. S Genesis 38:24; S Leviticus 19:29
  • 20. S Exodus 29:7
  • 21. S Lev 8:7-9,13; S Leviticus 16:4; Leviticus 16:32
  • 22. S Leviticus 10:6
  • 23. Numbers 5:2; Numbers 6:6; Numbers 9:6; Numbers 19:11,13,14; Numbers 31:19
  • 24. Leviticus 19:28
  • 25. ver 2
  • 26. S Exodus 25:8
  • 27. S Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:6-7; Leviticus 10:7
  • 28. Ezekiel 44:22
  • 29. ver 18,21,23
  • 30. S ver 6
  • 31. Leviticus 22:19-25
  • 32. S Leviticus 19:14
  • 33. 2 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 9:3; 2 Samuel 19:26
  • 34. Leviticus 22:24; Deuteronomy 23:1; Isaiah 56:3
  • 35. S ver 17
  • 36. S Leviticus 3:11
  • 37. Leviticus 22:19
  • 38. 1 Corinthians 9:13
  • 39. S ver 17
  • 40. S Exodus 25:8
  • 41. Leviticus 20:8

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Or "unclean as a leader among his people"
  • [b]. Or "not uncover his head"

Chapter Summary


This chapter respects the priests, the sons of Aaron, and forbids their mourning for the dead, unless in some cases, Le 21:1-6; or their marriage with an whore or a divorced woman, Le 21:7,8; and the daughters of any of them to commit fornication, which is made punishable with death, Le 21:9; and it contains particular laws for the high priest to observe, who was not to mourn for any, even for his parents, Le 21:10,11; nor to go out of the sanctuary, Le 21:12; nor to marry any woman but a virgin, Le 21:13-15; and it also directs, that none of the priests having any blemish in them should be employed in divine service, though they might eat of the holy things, Le 21:16-24.

Leviticus 21 Commentaries

Scripture quoted by permission.  Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.  NIV®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.  All rights reserved worldwide.