Leviticus 22

Notes (NET Translation)

1 The Lord spoke to Moses:

2 “Tell Aaron and his sons that they must deal respectfully with the holy offerings of the Israelites, which they consecrate to me, so that they do not profane my holy name. I am the Lord.

3 Say to them, ‘Throughout your generations, if any man from all your descendants approaches the holy offerings which the Israelites consecrate to the Lord while he is impure, that person must be cut off from before me. I am the Lord.

A priest, like a regular citizen, becomes unclean during the course of daily routine. Whenever he becomes unclean, he cannot contact anything that is holy. The holy must never be defiled. The holy things here are specifically the elevated offerings that have not gone to the altar (7:28-34). Perhaps there was a tendency not to consider them as holy since they had not been on the altar and thus to treat them more casually. Defilement of the holy carries the severe cut-off penalty (cf. 7:20-21). Never again could such an offender serve at the altar.1

4 No man from the descendants of Aaron who is diseased or has a discharge may eat the holy offerings until he becomes clean. The one who touches anything made unclean by contact with a dead person, or a man who has a seminal emission, 5 or a man who touches a swarming thing by which he becomes unclean, or touches a person by which he becomes unclean, whatever that person’s impurity – 6 the person who touches any of these will be unclean until evening and must not eat from the holy offerings unless he has bathed his body in water.

7 When the sun goes down he will be clean, and afterward he may eat from the holy offerings, because they are his food.

8 He must not eat an animal that has died of natural causes or an animal torn by beasts and thus become unclean by it. I am the Lord.

Cf. Ex. 22:31; Lev. 17:15; Deut. 14:21; Ezek. 44:31.

9 They must keep my charge so that they do not incur sin on account of it and therefore die because they profane it. I am the Lord who sanctifies them.

10 “‘No lay person may eat anything holy. Neither a priest’s lodger nor a hired laborer may eat anything holy, 11 but if a priest buys a person with his own money, that person may eat the holy offerings, and those born in the priest’s own house may eat his food.

12 If a priest’s daughter marries a lay person, she may not eat the holy contribution offerings, 13 but if a priest’s daughter is a widow or divorced, and she has no children so that she returns to live in her father’s house as in her youth, she may eat from her father’s food, but no lay person may eat it.

According to biblical law, a widow or a divorcee without children was compelled to rely on her father or her brothers for support. A widow did not inherit her husband’s estate; his sons or, if he had no sons, his daughters fell heir to it. Similarly, a childless, divorced woman had no claim on her husband’s estate. (In later Judaism, the settlement contained in the ketubbah, “writ of marriage,” protected women in such circumstances.) This verse ordains, therefore, that the daughter of a priest who had been married to a nonpriest could regain her privileges within her original, priestly family.2

14 “‘If a man eats a holy offering by mistake, he must add one fifth to it and give the holy offering to the priest.

It is unclear whether the man in this verse is a priest or a layman.

15 They must not profane the holy offerings which the Israelites contribute to the Lord, 16 and so cause them to incur a penalty for guilt when they eat their holy offerings, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them.'”

These verses appear to serve as a warning to priests who might be tempted to give the holy offerings to non-priests.

17 The Lord spoke to Moses:

18 “Speak to Aaron, his sons, and all the Israelites and tell them, ‘When any man from the house of Israel or from the foreigners in Israel presents his offering for any of the votive or freewill offerings which they present to the Lord as a burnt offering, 19 if it is to be acceptable for your benefit it must be a flawless male from the cattle, sheep, or goats.

Note that a foreigner in Israel had the opportunity to worship Yahweh.

20 You must not present anything that has a flaw, because it will not be acceptable for your benefit.

21 If a man presents a peace offering sacrifice to the Lord for a special votive offering or for a freewill offering from the herd or the flock, it must be flawless to be acceptable; it must have no flaw.

22 “‘You must not present to the Lord something blind, or with a broken bone, or mutilated, or with a running sore, or with a festering eruption, or with a feverish rash. You must not give any of these as a gift on the altar to the Lord.

23 As for an ox or a sheep with a limb too long or stunted, you may present it as a freewill offering, but it will not be acceptable for a votive offering.

Less stringent restrictions for the freewill offering may be due to it being an entirely voluntary offering.

24 You must not present to the Lord something with testicles that are bruised, crushed, torn, or cut off; you must not do this in your land.

25 Even from a foreigner you must not present the food of your God from such animals as these, for they are ruined and flawed; they will not be acceptable for your benefit.'”

26 The Lord spoke to Moses:

27 “When an ox, lamb, or goat is born, it must be under the care of its mother seven days, but from the eighth day onward it will be acceptable as an offering gift to the Lord.

28 You must not slaughter an ox or a sheep and its young on the same day.

Traditionally, this prohibition has been explained as expressing compassion for living creatures. It has been understood to apply only to female animals, “mothers,” and their male offspring (Heb. beno, [literally] “its son”). Practically speaking, male animals account for the majority of sacrifices. This interpretation is cited by Rashi, Maimonides, and others.3

This is not a particularly satisfying rationale since presumably the mother and son could still be sacrificed on successive days.

29 When you sacrifice a thanksgiving offering to the Lord, you must sacrifice it so that it is acceptable for your benefit.

30 On that very day it must be eaten; you must not leave any part of it over until morning. I am the Lord.

31 “You must be sure to do my commandments. I am the Lord.

32 You must not profane my holy name, and I will be sanctified in the midst of the Israelites. I am the Lord who sanctifies you, 33 the one who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord.”

YHWH is sanctified when Israel performs his commandments (v. 31), not that he thereby increases his own sanctity. Rather, it does so relatively. Israel increasingly regards him with sanctity and is more scrupulous in preventing the desecration of his name. The result is that YHWH’s sanctity is more visible, giving the appearance of his increased sanctity.4

Bibliography

Hartley, John E. Leviticus. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1992.

Levine, Baruch A. Leviticus. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 17-22. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

Rooker, Mark, and Dennis R. Cole. Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Holman Reference, 2000.

Wenham, Gordon J. The Book of Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979.


  1. Hartley 1998, p. 355 
  2. Levine 1989, p. 150 
  3. Levine 1989, p. 152 
  4. Milgrom 2008, p. 1888 
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