Of the uncleanness of the priests, by which they were prevented from ministering in holy things, 1-5. How they should be cleansed, 6, 7. The priest must not eat of any animal that had died of itself, or was torn by wild beasts, but must keep God's ordinances, 8, 9. No stranger, sojourner, nor hired servant shall eat of the holy things, 10. A servant bought with money may eat of them, 11. Who of the priest's family may not eat of them, 12, 13. Of improper persons who partake of the holy things unknowingly, 14-16. Freewill-offerings, and sacrifices in general, must be without blemish, 17-25. The age at which different animals were to be offered to God, 26, 27. No animal and its young shall be offered on the same day, 28. How the sacrifice of thanks-giving was to be offered, 29, 30. All God's testimonies to be observed, and the reason, 31-33.
2Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow unto me: I am the LORD.
2 Verse 2. Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves] The same subject is continued in this chapter as in the preceding, with this addition, that besides the perfection of the priests, it was indispensably necessary that the sacrifices also should be perfect. In the service of God, according to the law, neither an imperfect offering nor an imperfect offerer could be admitted. What need then of a mediator between a holy God and sinful men! And can we expect that any of our services, however sincere and well-intentioned, can be accepted, unless offered on that living Altar that sanctifies the gift?
3Say unto them, Whosoever he be of all your seed among your generations, that goeth unto the holy things, which the children of Israel hallow unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD.
4What man soever of the seed of Aaron is a leper, or hath a running issue; he shall not eat of the holy things, until he be clean. And whoso toucheth any thing that is unclean by the dead, or a man whose seed goeth from him;a
4 Verse 4. Is a leper, or hath a running issue] See the case of the leper treated at large in the notes on ; and for other uncleannesses, see the notes on .
10There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing.
10 Verse 10. There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing] For the meaning of the word stranger, see the note on "Ex 12:43". The Jews suppose that stranger here means one who has had his ear pierced, (see the note on "Ex 21:6",) and that sojourner means a servant who is to go free on the Sabbatical year. Neither of these was permitted to eat of the holy things, because they were not properly members of the priest's family, and might go out and defile themselves even with the abominations of the heathen; but the servant or slave that was bought with money, , might eat of these things, because he was the property of the master for ever.
We see that it was lawful, under the Mosaic economy, to have slaves under certain restrictions; but these were taken from among the heathen, and instructed in the true religion: hence we find, as in the above case, that they were reckoned as a part of the priest's own family, and treated as such. They certainly had privileges which did not extend either to sojourners or to hired servants; therefore their situation was incomparably better than the situation of the slaves under different European governments, of whose souls their pitiless possessors in general take no care, while they themselves venture to profess the Christian religion, and quote the Mosaic law in vindication of their system of slavery. How preposterous is such conduct! and how intolerable!
13But if the priest's daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is returned unto her father's house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her father's meat: but there shall no stranger eat thereof.
13 Verse 13. But if the priest's daughter be a widow-and is returned unto her father's house] A widow in Bengal not unfrequently returns to her father's house on the death of her husband: the union betwixt her and her own family is never so dissolved as among European nations. Thousands of widows in Bengal, whose husbands die before the consummation of marriage, never leave their parents.-WARD.
14 ¶ And if a man eat of the holy thing unwittingly, then he shall put the fifth part thereof unto it, and shall give it unto the priest with the holy thing.
14 Verse 14. Then he shall put the fifth part thereof unto it] The holy thing of which he has unknowingly eaten shall be fairly valued, and to this value he shall add one fifth more, and give the whole to the priest.
18Speak unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them, Whatsoever he be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, that will offer his oblation for all his vows, and for all his freewill offerings, which they will offer unto the LORD for a burnt offering;
21And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein.e
23Either a bullock or a lamb that hath any thing superfluous or lacking in his parts, that mayest thou offer for a freewill offering; but for a vow it shall not be accepted.f
23 Verse 23. That hath anything superfluous or lacking] The term sarua signifies any thing extended beyond the usual size, and the term kalut signifies any thing unusually contracted; and both mean any monstrosity, whether in redundance or defect. Such things, it seems, might be offered for a freewill-offering, because that was not prescribed by the law; God left it to a man's piety and gratitude to offer such additional gifts as he could: what the law required was indispensably necessary, because it pointed out the Gospel economy; but he that made a vow to offer such a sacrifice as the law had not required, could of course bring an imperfect offering. Some contend that the last clause of this verse should be thus read: If thou offer it either for a freewill-offering, or for a vow, it shall not be accepted. It was the opinion of the Jews, and it appears to be correct, that none of these imperfect animals were ever offered on the altar; but the person who made the freewill-offering of such things as he had, sold the animal, and gave its price for the support of the sanctuary.
27When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under the dam; and from the eighth day and thenceforth it shall be accepted for an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
27 Verse 27. When a bullock-is brought forth] This is a most unfortunate as well as absurd translation. The creature called an ox is a bull castrated; surely then a bullock was never yet brought forth! The original word shor signifies a bull, a bullock, or indeed any thing of the neat kind: here, even common sense required that it should be translated calf; and did I not hold myself sacredly bound to print the text of the common version with scrupulous exactness, I should translate the former clause of this verse thus, and so enter it into the text: When a CALF, or a LAMB, or a KID is brought forth, instead of, When a bullock, a sheep, or a goat is brought forth, the absurdity of which is glaring.
Seven days under the dam] In vindication of the propriety of this precept it may be justly asserted, that the flesh of very young animals is comparatively innutritive, and that animal food is not sufficiently nourishing and wholesome till the animal has arrived at a certain growth, or acquired the perfection of its nature. There is something brutish in eating the young of beast or fowl before the hair and hoofs are perfect in the one, and the feathers and claws in the other. Before this period their flesh is not good for food. .
28And whether it be cow or ewe, ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day.g
28 Verse 28. Ye shall not kill it and her young in one day] This precept was certainly intended to inculcate mercy and tenderness of heart; and so the Jews understood it. When it is necessary to take away the lives of innocent animals for the support of our own, we should do it in such a way as not to blunt our moral feelings; and deplore the necessity, while we feel an express gratitude to God for permission, to do it.
32Neither shall ye profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the LORD which hallow you,
32 Verse 32. Neither shall ye profane my holy name] God's name is profaned or rendered common when we treat his commands as we often do those of our fellows, when they do not appear to have self-interest to recommend them. He therefore profanes God's holy name who does not both implicitly believe and conscientiously obey all his words and all his precepts.
I will be hallowed among the children of Israel] The words children of Israel, beney Yishrael, which so frequently occur, should be translated either the descendants or posterity of Israel, or the people of Israel. The word children has a tendency to beget a false notion, especially in the minds of young people, and lead them to think that children, in the proper sense of the word, i. e., little ones, are meant.
33That brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD.
33 Verse 33. Brought you out of the land of Egypt] By such a series of miraculous interferences, to be your God-to save you from all idolatry, false and superstitious worship, teach you the right way, lead and support you in it, and preserve you to my eternal kingdom and glory. God, infinite in his own perfections, has no need of his creatures; but they need him; and, as a source of endless felicity, he opens himself to all his intelligent offspring.