Sanctity of the Priesthood. 1* The LORD said to Moses: Speak to the priests, Aaron’s sons, and tell them: None of you shall make himself unclean for any dead person among his kindred,a 2except for his nearest relatives, his mother or father, his son or daughter, his brotherb 3or his unmarried sister, who is of his own family while she remains single; for these he may make himself unclean. 4But as a husband among his kindred* he shall not make himself unclean and thus profane himself.
5The priests shall not make bald the crown of their head, nor shave the edges of their beard, nor lacerate their body.c 6They shall be holy to their God, and shall not profane their God’s name, since they offer the oblations of the LORD, the food of their God; so they must be holy.
7* A priest shall not marry a woman debased by prostitution, nor a woman who has been divorced by her husband; for the priest is holy to his God.d 8Honor him as holy for he offers the foode of your God; he shall be holy to you, because I, the LORD, am holy who make you holy.
9If a priest’s daughter debases herself by prostitution, she thereby debases her father; she shall be burned with fire.f
10The most exalted of the priests, upon whose head the anointing oil has been poured and who has been ordained to wear the special vestments, shall not dishevel his hair or rend his garments, 11nor shall he go near any dead person.g Not even for his father or mother may he thus become unclean; 12nor shall he leave the sanctuary and profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him.h I am the LORD.
13He shall marry only a woman who is a virgin. 14He shall not marry a widow or a woman who has been divorced or one who has been debased by prostitution, but only a virgin, taken from his kindred, he shall marry,i 15so that he not profane his offspring among his kindred. I, the LORD, make him holy.
Priestly Blemishes.* 16The LORD said to Moses: 17Say to Aaron: None of your descendants, throughout their generations, who has any blemish shall come forward to offer the food of his God. 18Anyone who has any of the following blemishes may not come forward:j he who is blind, or lame, or who has a split lip, or a limb too long, 19or a broken leg or arm, 20or who is a hunchback or dwarf or has a growth in the eye, or who is afflicted with sores, scabs, or crushed testicles. 21No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any such blemish may draw near to offer the oblations of the LORD; on account of his blemish he may not draw near to offer the food of his God. 22He may, however, eat the food of his God: of the most sacred as well as sacred offerings.k 23Only, he may not enter through the veil nor draw near to the altar on account of his blemish; he shall not profane my sacred precincts, for it is I, the LORD, who make them holy.
* [21:1–12] While off duty the regular priests are not to become corpse-contaminated except for the close relatives listed in vv. 2–3. While on duty they presumably could not become impure at all. The high priest is restricted from all corpse contamination, on or off duty (vv. 11–12). Lay Israelites are not restricted from corpse contamination, except when in contact with what is holy (cf. Dt 26:14). See note on Lv 11:39–40. Israelites who undertake a nazirite vow enter into a sanctified state and cannot contact corpses (Nm 6:6–12). Cf. Ez 44:25–27.
* [21:4] Husband among his kindred: this probably refers to relatives by marriage and may even include his wife.
* [21:7] The ideal seems to be that a priest marry a virgin. This is explicitly stated for the high priest (cf. vv. 13–14; so also Ez 44:22, except there priests may marry widows of priests). The high priest has the added limitation that his wife must come from his kindred, i.e., the priestly family (cf. Ez 44:22).
* [21:16–23] Though priests with certain bodily imperfections cannot serve at the altar (vv. 18–20), they are not impure, since they may still eat of the offerings, which are holy, and do so within the sanctuary precincts since it is there the most holy offerings are to be eaten (v. 22).