If you’ve been following along in Leviticus, you have probably seen that Israel’s priests are some busy guys. It was starting to feel like there was no end to their responsibilities.
Well, that all changed in Leviticus 21. The priests finally learn some things they shouldn’t do.
Running the local morgue tops the list.
The list of things priests aren’t supposed to do is actually a pretty short one. There are some restrictions about handling dead bodies and shaving your beard and such. Most of these restrictions are things the rest of the people have to follow as well.
Where they get strict is in the area of marriage.
While most men would want to marry a virgin, priests are required to.
There are probably some practical reasons why this rule is in place. A virgin is way less likely to have a disease that would make the priest unclean and unable to perform his duties.
But is there something beyond the practical going on?
Is God saying that those who would want to be spiritual leaders among his people must submit their relationships to him? Is God saying that he has a say in who they marry?
Is this one of the costs of leadership?
“Defile” Isn’t Necessarily a Bad Word
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “defile?”
Imma guess it’s nothing good.
Reading Leviticus probably isn’t going to help bring up positive connotations any time soon. So why do I think it is not as bad as we might think it is?
Well, as a rule, priests aren’t supposed to handle corpses. There are some exceptions made for immediate family. For example, if a priest’s unmarried sister dies, he may act as her husband and care for the body. God’s exact words in that situation are:
“He may defile himself for her.”
What is an interesting phrase! God actually can foresee a situation where defilement would be justified. And not just justified, but appropriate.
The end of chapter 21 includes a list of physical features that would disqualify one of Aaron’s sons from being a priest. Here is the list:
- Mutilated face
- Limb too long
- Broken foot
- Broken hand
- Blemish in the eye
- Itching disease
And my favorite: crushed testicles.
My gut reaction was that God was not a fan of these types of people. That would make him pretty mean. But these are simply qualifications of a priest.
They don’t apply to everyone.
That doesn’t erase all my questions, but it is a bit more understandable that these things would only prevent you from offering a sacrifice. You may have crushed testicles, but you can still eat the food and do other priestly things.
And if you were a regular person, many of these wouldn’t matter at all with regards to your standing with God.
Underneath all this is the reminder that God is holy. He is holy, his offerings are holy, and therefore those who lead should be holy.