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"Separation of the Priests"
Leviticus 21

Wednesday AM Bible Study
December 6, 2006

Theme: This chapter typifies the holiness of our High Priest Jesus through the picture of the personal holiness required of the priesthood.

The next two chapters (chapters 21-22) deal with the holiness of the priests who served in the priesthood. The next chapter deals with how the priests were to be holy in the manner in which they handled the offerings; but here, the focus is on the personal holiness of the priests themselves as they served in the tabernacle of God.

There is a sense in which this chapter has a contemporary application. It illustrates the qualifications of a man who would serve as a leader in the church. An elder is charged with providing oversight to the church that Jesus purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28); and so, he must meet strict spiritual qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). And it also illustrates the holiness that is demanded of all believers; since all believers in Christ are called to be “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 1:9-10). But this chapter only suggests these principles as illustrations—not as types.

Properly speaking, this chapter gives us a type of the perfections of Jesus Christ Himself, who is our perfect and sinless High Priest in the heavenlies (Hebrews 7:22-28). We see Him pictured for us in the commands given to the priesthood . . .


These commands were given to Moses to be given directly to the priests—the sons of Aaron. They were not to mourn as other people. They could mourn over the death of a near relative (specifically, mother, father, son, daughter, brother, or unmarried sister). But he was not to display mourning over the death of any other. Death was brought about by sin; and so, the priest was not to encounter it in a common way. He was not to “defile” himself in the sense that he violated his service to God through his mourning. And he was not to mourn according to the patterns of the pagan peoples that were driven out of the land. The reason given is because he is a “chief man among his people” (v. 4); and as such, offers “the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God” (v. 6). This pictures our Lord Jesus Christ who was the victor over death. He defeated death (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). He placed His devotion to the Father above all other earthly loves and commitments; and demands that we do the same (Matthew 8:21-22).


The priests were to be strict in who they married. They were not to marry a harlot, or a defiled woman (presumably someone who was not a virgin), or a divorced woman. Jesus, likewise, gave Himself in order to join Himself eternally to a pure bride (Ephesians 5:25-32). And as His followers, He calls us to be careful not to be unequally yoked to an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).


The conduct of the priest's children reflected on his ministry. Therefore, the children were to be holy and were not permitted to give themselves over to sin. Again, this pictures Jesus; who calls all who follow Him to personal holiness (Titus 2:11-14).


The High Priest particularly bore the anointing oil on himself and had to be very careful never to violate that anointing—even for personal concerns (see Aaron in Leviticus 10). Jesus, likewise, devoted Himself to our salvation so much that He laid aside His own life for us.


The priesthood was a special calling; and therefore, the approach to the most holy place was not permitted to just anyone. Physical imperfections prohibited a priest from ministering before the veil of the temple. They were permitted to eat of the offerings; but were not permitted to approach the most holy place. This pictures Jesus, in whom there was no imperfection of any kind. He was a High Priest, “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

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