New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Lev 22:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
The language of the next verses is used elsewhere about the peace offerings, so perhaps they were particularly in view. Voluntary devotion to God doesn't mean we can ignore His principles.

Lev 22:2 Tell Aaron and his sons to separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, which they make holy to Me, and that they don’t profane My holy name. I am Yahweh-
The summary idea is as in GNB "You must not bring disgrace on my holy name, so treat with respect the sacred offerings that the people of Israel dedicate to me". Eating the offerings was one of the many antecedents of the memorial meeting. Once the offerer had dedicated himself to making it, he was condemned if he didn't then do it, and yet also condemned if he ate it unclean (Lev. 7:18,20). So a man had to either cleanse himself, or be condemned. There was no get out, no third road. The man who ate the holy things in a state of uncleanness had to die; his eating would load him with the condemnation of his sins (Lev. 22:3,16 AV mg.). This is surely the source for our possibility of “eating... condemnation" to ourselves by partaking of the breaking of bread in an unworthy manner. And so it is with us as we face the emblems. We must do it, or we deny our covenant relationship. And yet if we do it in our uncleanness, we also deny that relationship. And thus the breaking of bread brings us up before the cross and throne of the Lord Jesus- even now. It brings us to a realistic self-examination. If we cannot examine ourselves and know that Christ is really in us, then we are reprobate; we "have failed" (2 Cor. 13:5 G.N.B.). Self-examination is therefore one of those barriers across our path in life which makes us turn to the Kingdom or to the flesh. If we can't examine ourselves and see that Christ is in us and that we have therefore that great salvation in Him; we've failed.

Lev 22:3 Tell them, ‘If anyone of all your descendants throughout your generations approaches the holy things, which the children of Israel make holy to Yahweh, having his uncleanness on him, that soul shall be cut off from before Me. I am Yahweh-
It was not allowed for unclean offerers to eat peace offerings (Lev. 7:20), nor could Levites or priests approach to the sacrifices whilst unclean (Lev. 22:3). But there is no statement that the offerer had to be clean, indeed Dt. 12:22 says that in some circumstances, some sacrifices could be eaten by the offerer whilst unclean. We see here God's willingness to by all means accept the offerer of sacrifice.

Lev 22:4 Whoever of the seed of Aaron is a leper or has an issue shall not eat of the holy things, until he is clean. Whoever touches anything that is unclean by the dead, or a man whose seed goes from him-
As noted on Lev. 13:1 and throughout Lev. 13,14, I suggest that the leprosy in view is a specific stroke of Divine judgment, from which the person could be cleansed by repentance. It doesn't refer to leprosy as we now understand it, i.e. Hansen's disease. Whilst a priest was under Divine judgment, he couldn't eat in fellowship with God.

Lev 22:5 or whoever touches any creeping thing, whereby he may be made unclean; or a man from whom he may take uncleanness, whatever uncleanness he has-
The "whoever" continues to apply to the Levites; see on :3. Leviticus is specifically commandment to the Levites. 

Lev 22:6 the person that touches any such shall be unclean until the evening, and shall not eat of the holy things, until he bathe his body in water-
As we as the new priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5) read of these requirements not to eat the holy things whilst unclean, we may wonder how we as sinners can ever eat the bread and drink the wine as required to remember Christ’s death. But the fact is, we have been washed and sanctified for service by baptism into the Name of Christ (1 Cor. 6:11 alludes here). This is a status we are continually in- for this is the wonder of the concept of our being “in Christ”.

Lev 22:7 When the sun is down, he shall be clean; and afterward he shall eat of the holy things, because it is his food-
The food which the Levites ate is also called God's food (see on Lev. 21:17); their eating of it for themselves was effectively God eating the sacrifices of the people. So in eating it, they were to manifest God, and therefore not be in a state of uncleanness. 

Lev 22:8 That which dies of itself, or is torn by animals, he shall not eat, defiling himself by it. I am Yahweh-
Ex. 22:31 says they were to throw such food to the dogs and not eat it. Perhaps "dogs" meant Gentiles. This command wasn’t only for hygienic reasons. God wished to encourage His people to have a healthy work ethic, not taking short cuts, but eating animals they had raised themselves for that purpose. We live in a society where laziness and trying to live for free has become almost an art form. We cannot ultimately get around the curse, that we shall eat only as a result of the sweat of our own labour. We have to accept our humanity and our fallen condition, looking for the lifting of the curse in God’s future Kingdom.

Lev 22:9 They shall therefore follow My requirements, lest they bear sin for it, and die therein, if they profane it. I am Yahweh who sanctifies them-
They were to be holy or sanctified, because Yahweh counted them as holy / sanctified. We are to live out in practice what we have been made in status by our gracious Father. The very fact He counts us as in Christ, as the spotless bride of His Son, must be both felt and lived up to by us. The way He counts us like this is a wonderful motivation to rise up to it all.

Lev 22:10 No foreigner shall eat of the holy thing: a foreigner living with the priests, or a hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing-
The Law has a lot to say about welcoming foreigners and being hospitable to them. We as the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16) should likewise be open rather than closed to the people of the world around us, even though we are in another sense separated from them and unto the things of our God. The priests who ate the meat sacrificed by the Israelites were representing God by doing so. The food which the Levites ate is also called God's food (see on Lev. 21:17); their eating of it for themselves was effectively God eating the sacrifices of the people. So in eating it, they were to manifest God and therefore a foreigner was not appropriate for this. This was not racism; for foreign slaves and their children could eat of it (:11), the idea therefore seems to be a Gentile traveller who had been given temporary hospitality by a Levite.

Lev 22:11 But if a priest buys a slave, purchased by his money, he shall eat of it; and such as are born in his house, they shall eat of his bread-
Gentiles who had been bought for a price by a priest to be his servants were treated as Israelites. This looked forward to Christ, the final Priest, buying us with His own blood that we might be His servants, and thereby we are fully part of His family and the people of God (1 Cor. 7:23).

Lev 22:12 If a priest’s daughter is married to an outsider, she shall not eat of the heave offering of the holy things-
The girl who married a Gentile couldn’t eat of the holy things; and neither could a Gentile who was passing through, it is stated, in this same passage (Lev. 22:11). The point was: if you marry a Gentile, then you are a Gentile, and you forego your spiritual privileges which you have as an Israelite.

Lev 22:13 But if a priest’s daughter is a widow, or divorced, and has no child, and has returned to her father’s house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father’s bread-
Divorce was clearly possible under the Mosaic system. If a man's wife committed adultery he could have her killed; or he could put her through the trial of jealousy of Num. 5, with the result that she would become barren; or he could divorce her (Dt. 22:19; 24:1 RV; Lev. 21:14; 22:13). Within a Law that was holy, just and good (Rom. 7:12), unsurpassed in it's righteousness (Dt. 4:8; and let us not overlook these estimations), there were these different levels of response possible. But there was a higher level: he could simply forgive her. This was what God did with His fickle Israel, time and again (Hos. 3:1-3). And so the Israelite faced with an unfaithful wife could respond on at least four levels. This view would explain how divorce seems outlawed in passages like Dt. 22:19,29, and yet there are other parts of the OT which seem to imply that it was permitted. It should be noted that there were some concessions to weakness under the Law which the Lord was not so willing to make to His followers (e.g., outside the marriage context, Dt. 20:5-8 cp. Lk. 9:59-62; 14:18,19). He ever held before us the Biblical ideal of marriage.

But no stranger shall eat any of it-
But if the stranger had been bought by the Priest, he or she was no longer a stranger (:11). Paul has this passage in mind when he rejoices that those baptized into Christ are no longer strangers and foreigners but members of God’s family and fellow citizens with “the saints”, a term which he may well have understood in this context as referring to the community of Israel (Eph. 2:19).


Lev 22:14 If a man eats something holy unwittingly, then he shall add the fifth part of its value to it, and shall give the holy thing to the priest-
We note that the legislation about the cities of refuge likewise reflected God's special concern about unintentional sin. He recognizes that there are different kinds of sin. And in this we see His sensitivity, for the other legal codes at the time saw everything in black and white terms of obedience or disobedience to legal statutes. The word for "unwittingly" or "unintentionally" is s.w. 'deceived' (Job 12:16). It could be that God also recognizes that some are deceived into sin, and therefore treats those who lead into sin more severely than those who are led into sin. Likewise the New Testament condemns false teachers, but seems to be more acceptive of the falsely taught, the misguided. 

Lev 22:15 The priests shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, which they offer to Yahweh-
The summary idea is as in :2 GNB "You must not bring disgrace on my holy name, so treat with respect the sacred offerings".

Lev 22:16 and so cause them to bear the iniquity that brings guilt, when they eat their holy things; for I am Yahweh who sanctifies them’-
The man who ate the holy things in a state of uncleanness had to die; his eating would load him with the condemnation of his sins (Lev. 22:3,16 AV mg.). This is surely the source for our possibility of “eating... condemnation" to ourselves by partaking of the breaking of bread in an unworthy manner. See on :3.

Lev 22:17 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
The idea of the following section is that the offerings now described had to be as the offerers, whose 'without blemish' status has just been described. Perhaps this was to develop the reflection that the offerer was to be as the offering. Because the offering represented the offerer; and this is made explicit in the New Testament invitation to be living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1).

Lev 22:18 Speak to Aaron, and to his sons, and to all the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘Whoever is of the house of Israel, or of the foreigners in Israel, who offers his offering, whether it be any of their vows, or any of their freewill offerings, which they offer to Yahweh for a burnt offering-
The Hebrew word here for "freewill" carries the idea of spontaneity. This is the clear implication of its usage in places like Ex. 35:27; 36:3; Jud. 5:2,9; 1 Chron. 29:5,9; 2 Chron. 35:8; Ps. 54:6. There is a strong sense of immediate emotion attached to the word (Hos. 14:4). And there was a major emphasis in the law of Moses upon freewill offerings (Lev. 7:16; 22:18,21,23; 23:38; Num. 15:3; 29:39; Dt. 12:6,17; 16:10; 23:23). The other legal codes of the nations around Israel were all about rituals; whereas Yahweh's law encouraged spontaneous giving as part of the way of Yahweh. For He is not a God of rituals, but of relationship. The way of the Spirit is the same today; spontaneous, emotional, personal response to God's grace, responding to Him on our own initiative and in our own way, in addition to obeying His specific requirements.        

Lev 22:19 that you may be accepted, you shall offer a male without blemish, of the bulls, of the sheep, or of the goats-
No animal actually is without blemish. God recognizes that we will not attain perfection in this life, but we are to do our best towards it; and His love imputes righteousness to us, counting us as unblemished because of our status in Christ. For only Christ was the sacrifice totally without moral blemish (1 Pet. 1:19). So this looked ahead to the unblemished character of the Lord Jesus. The offering of sacrifices "without blemish" uses a word which is used about Abraham and Noah being "without blemish" (AV "perfect") before God (Gen. 6:9; 17:1). Although the word is used about the sacrifices, it is really more appropriate to persons- "you shall be perfect with Yahweh your God" (Dt. 18:13), "serve Him in sincerity (s.w. "without blemish")" (Josh. 24:14). The idea, therefore, was that the offerer was invited to see the animal as representative of himself. Our lives too are to be as "living sacrifices" (Rom. 12:1). And yet in practical terms, no animal is without blemish. They were to give the best they could, and God would count it as without blemish; as He does with us. David frequently uses the term in the Psalms about himself and the "upright", even though he was far from unblemished in moral terms.

Lev 22:20 But whatever has a blemish, that you shall not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you-
The idea of being not accepted may mean that the fire of God would not appear and consume it. "Acceptable" translates the same Hebrew word used for "at your own will" (:19,29; Lev. 1:3; 19:5). The sense is that offering a blemished animal would as it were cancel out the commendable freewill desire to offer to God. Our desire to serve God on our initiative doesn't mean that we can ignore the need to give Him the best. 

Lev 22:21 Whoever offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to Yahweh to accomplish a vow, or for a freewill offering, of the herd or of the flock, it shall be perfect to be accepted: no blemish shall be therein-
This repeats the principle discussed on :20; that a desire to serve God on our own initiative does not mean we can ignore His principles. They are not somehow subsumed beneath the value of our freewill; His will is to be honoured more than ours. And yet "perfect to be accepted" would have struck the thoughtful Israelite as a principle which left them for ever unacceptable- for no offerer nor offering was "perfect". And so again the whole structure was set up to elicit a desire for the perfect One, the Lord Jesus.

Lev 22:22 Blind, injured, maimed, having a wart, festering, or having a running sore, you shall not offer these to Yahweh, nor make an offering by fire of them on the altar to Yahweh-
But this is precisely what the priests at the time of the restoration are condemned for doing in Mal. 1:8. The excuse of the priests would have been that it was the people who offered these defective animals. But they were judged as responsible, as their acceptance of them encouraged the masses in their disrespect. Thus they failed to speak out against the low spiritual standards of their flock, but instead went along with them. So the masses got the spiritual leadership they wanted, even if they despised them (Mal. 1:8,9). For this reason, both society and priesthood were equally to be condemned. They offered blemished sacrifices, when it had been prophesied / commanded in the Ezekiel prophecies of the restored temple that Israel were not to do this (Ez. 43:23). Those prophecies were command more than prediction, and only conditional upon Israel's obedience- which was not forthcoming. So much prophetic potential was wasted, as it is in human life today. See on Mal. 1:7,10; 2:14; 3:8.


Lev 22:23 A bull or a lamb that has any deformity or is lacking in his parts, that you may offer for a freewill offering; but for a vow it shall not be accepted-
For a freewill offering, God would accept a deformed animal (Lev. 22:23), even though this was against His preferred principle of absolute perfection in offerings. There was no atonement without the shedding of blood; and yet for the very poor, God would accept a non-blood sacrifice. This all reflected the zeal of God to accept fallen men.

Lev 22:24 That which has its testicles bruised, crushed, broken, or cut, you shall not offer to Yahweh; neither shall you do thus in your land-
Animals weren’t to be castrated. We see in this not only a reflection of the huge value God places upon life in general, but also His sensitivity to animals. Verses 27 and 28 may reflect the same. Animals are usually castrated if they have defects so that they don't produce more deformed animals. But if Israel were obedient to the covenant, their animals would be healthy and not deformed, so obedience to this command would have been easier. If we follow the Spirit, then we are led into an upward spiral of spiritual life and an atmosphere whereby obedience leads to obedience.

Lev 22:25 Neither shall you offer any of these as the food of your God from the hand of a foreigner; because their corruption is in them. There is a blemish in them. They shall not be accepted for you’-
Paul saw the sacrifices of Israel as having some relevance to the Christian communion meal. He comments: "Are those who eat the victims not in communion with the altar?" (1 Cor. 10:18); and the altar is clearly the Lord Jesus (Heb. 13:10). Eating of the communion meal was and is, therefore, fundamentally a statement of our fellowship with the altar, the Lord Jesus, rather than with others who are eating of Him. The bread and wine which we consume thus become antitypical of the Old Testament sacrifices; and they were repeatedly described as "Yahweh's food", laid upon the altar as "the table of Yahweh" (Lev. 21:6,8; 22:25; Num. 28:2; Ez. 44:7,16; Mal. 1:7,12). And it has been commented: "Current translations are inaccurate; lehem panim is the 'personal bread' of Yahweh, just as sulhan panim (Num. 4:7) is the 'personal table' of Yahweh". This deeply personal relationship between Yahweh and the offerer is continued in the breaking of bread; and again, the focus is upon the worshipper's relationship with Yahweh rather than a warning against fellowshipping the errors of fellow worshippers through this action. What is criticized in later Israel is the tendency to worship Yahweh through these offerings at the same time as offering sacrifice to other gods.

The idea of eating the bread of God, the sacrifice which represents His son, and thereby having fellowship with Him, should send our minds forward to John 6. "The bread of God is He which comes down from heaven", i.e. our Lord Jesus (Jn. 6:33). Not for nothing do some Rabbis speak of 'eating Messiah' as an expression of the fellowship they hope to have with Him at His coming. The sacrificial animals are spoken of as "the bread of your God" (Lev. 21:6,8,21; 22:25; Ez. 44:7 etc.), pointing forward to Christ. In addition to alluding to the manna, Christ must have been consciously making this connection when He spoke about himself as the bread of God. The only time "the bread of God" could be eaten by the Israelite was at the peace offering. When in this context Christ invites us to eat the bread of God, to eat His flesh and drink His blood (Jn. 6:51,52), He is looking back to the peace offering. But this is also an evident prophecy of the breaking of bread service. Many of the Jews just could not cope with what Christ was offering them when He said this. They turned back, physically and intellectually. They just could not grapple with the idea that Christ was that peace offering sacrifice, and He was inviting them to sit down with God, as it were, and in fellowship with the Almighty, partake of the sacrificed body of His Son. But this is just what Christ is inviting each of us to do in the memorial meeting, to sit down in fellowship with Him, and eat of His bread. God really is here with us at the memorial meeting. He is intensely watching us. He is intensely with us, He really is going to save us, if only we can have the faith to believe how much He loves us, how much He wants us to share His fellowship and know His presence.

Lev 22:26 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
We must remember that these commands are given to the Levites- we are reading Leviticus. They were not to consider that the low standards of others were not their concern. 

Lev 22:27 When a bull, or a sheep, or a goat, is born, then it shall remain seven days with its mother; and from the eighth day and thenceforth it shall be accepted for the offering of an offering made by fire to Yahweh-
Animals often died after birth, and it was only by the eighth day that it was apparent whether or not it was deformed. This was to remind them that they were to offer the best to God, and not to offer that which cost them nothing (2 Sam. 24:24).

Lev 22:28 Whether it is a cow or ewe, you shall not kill it and its young both in one day-
The Mosaic law sought to inculcate a culture of kindness and extreme sensitivity to all, even animals. Read like this, the law about not boiling a kid in its mother's milk is similar to the prohibitions of killing on the same a cow and a calf, or a ewe and her lamb. It is likely that this was also related to a paganic fertility ritual, performed at harvest time ; and God didn't want His people to even remotely be associated with that. For He alone was the source of all fertility.

The peoples' behaviour in 1 Sam. 14:32 is portrayed as breaking every principle of the commands about eating blood in Lev. 17:10-14. They ate blood, and also killed calves and mothers on the same day (disobeying Lev. 22:28). All because they were more obedient to their oath to Saul not to eat anything until sundown, rather than to God's covenant. For all this, they were to have God against them and be cut off from God's people. The essence of this has been seen so many times in church history. An insistence upon petty legalism leads people to commit major sin. They are more obedient to the party line and the barked orders of their leadership, than to God. And the legalistic demands of their elders lead them to make utter shipwreck of their faith, breaking the most elemental principles of their covenant with God. Once sundown came and they were free from the oath to Saul, the people were totally disobedient to the covenant.

Lev 22:29 When you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Yahweh, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted-
The Levite was not to just assume that an unacceptable peace offering was not his concern. He was not to just do his job as if it were a secular day job of mere religion. His passion was to be that others might be accepted by God; and as a nation of priests (1 Pet. 2:5) we should have the same spirit.

Lev 22:30 It shall be eaten on the same day; you shall leave none of it until the morning. I am Yahweh-
The law of the peace offerings was designed so as to encourage the person who decided to make such a freewill offering to execute immediately- they were to eat it the same day they offered it, and the sacrifice would be totally unacceptable if it was killed but left for some days (Lev. 19:5-7). If we have an impulse to respond to the Lord, we should respond to it immediately. This isn’t mere impetuosity. It’s a spirit of always having an immediacy of response, which empowers us to overcome the procrastination which holds us back so much. Lev. 7 warns against various ways of using the peace offering for the benefit of the offerer. One such idea may have been to kill meat and eat it over three days, and then claim this was a peace offering- when actually it involved eating meat which the offerer wanted to eat anyway. So the warning is against using voluntary offerings [in whatever way] as a front for doing our own thing, offering what cost us very little, and only appearing to others to have a great religious devotion. Lev. 19:7 warns that "If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination". We note that "the third day" was not to be taken as 72 hours, and this affects our understanding of the chronology of the Lord's death and resurrection. If we think our freewill devotions to be God can be done as we wish without regard for His principles, then what we do is obnoxious to Him. The Hebrew word translated “abomination” is often used about idol worship; we will not be worshipping Him, but the idols of our own image and standing in the eyes of people.

Lev 22:31 Therefore you shall keep My commandments, and do them. I am Yahweh-
The word so often used for keeping / "diligently observing" Yahweh's commandments is from the word meaning a thorn hedge; the idea originally was to hedge in. Taking this too literally led Judaism to all their endless fences around the law, i.e. forbidding this or that because it might lead to doing that or this, which in turn would then lead to breaking an actual commandment. And those various fences become elevated to the level of commandments. But this is not the idea. We are indeed to hedge ourselves in ("take heed to yourself", Dt. 11:16; 12:13,19,30,32 s.w.), so that we may keep / hedge ourselves in to keep the commandments of God (Lev. 18:4,5,26,30; 19:19,37; 20:8,22; 22:9,31; 25:18; 26:3; Num. 28:2;   Dt. 7:11,12; 8:1,11 [s.w. "beware"]; 10:13; 11:1,8,22,32; 12:1; 13:4,18; ; 15:5,9 ["beware"];  17:19; 19:9; 23:9 ["keep yourself"]; 24:8; 26:16-18; 27:1; 28:1,9,13; 29:9; 30:10,16; 31:12; 32:46). And without falling into the legalism of Judaism, self discipline does require a degree of fencing ourselves in to the one way. Thus the man struggling with alcoholism avoids the supermarket where alcohol is pushed in front of the eyes of the shoppers; the married woman struggling with attraction to another man makes little laws for herself about avoiding his company. And if we do this, then the Lord will "keep" us, will hedge us in to keeping His way (s.w. Num. 6:24).

Lev 22:32 You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be made holy among the children of Israel. I am Yahweh Who makes you holy-
They as us were to live out in practice the status which God had given them. He had made them holy and acceptable in His sight, and they were therefore to live in a holy manner. Because we bear the Lord’s Name by baptism into it, we are Christ to this world. Likewise, those in covenant relationship in the Old Testament bore Yahweh’s Name, and were therefore in all ways to act appropriately lest their behaviour “profane My holy name”.

Lev 22:33 Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. I am Yahweh-
The language echoes that of God to Abraham: "I am Yahweh who brought you out of Ur" (Gen. 15:7). They were being asked to act as Abraham's seed, and respond as He did to the Divine initiative in separating them from the world- by following His commandments. Whenever God speaks about His Name, it is in the context of His emphasizing His huge commitment to Israel as His people, often in the face of their weakness (Ex. 12:12; 15:26; 20:2; Ez. 20:5,6). The very meaning of God's Name is of itself encouraging- although it is somewhat masked in English translations. God 'is' not just in the sense that He exists, but in that He 'is' there with and for us. The verb behind 'YHWH' was "originally causative", i.e. God not only 'is' but He causes things to happen. We aren't to understand Him as passive, just a stone cold Name... but rather passionately active and causative in our sometimes apparently static and repetitive lives.