10:9 “Do not drink wine or strong drink, you and your sons with you, when you enter into the Meeting Tent, so that you do not die, which is a perpetual statute throughout your generations, 1 10:10 as well as 2 to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 3
1 tn Heb “a perpetual statute for your generations”; NAB “a perpetual ordinance”; NRSV “a statute forever”; NLT “a permanent law.” The Hebrew grammar here suggests that the last portion of v. 9 functions as both a conclusion to v. 9 and an introduction to vv. 10-11. It is a pivot clause, as it were. Thus, it was a “perpetual statute” to not drink alcoholic beverages when ministering in the tabernacle, but it was also a “perpetual statue” to distinguish between holy and profane and unclean and clean (v. 10) as well as to teach the children of Israel all such statutes (v. 11).
3 sn The two pairs of categories in this verse refer to: (1) the status of a person, place, thing, or time – “holy” (קֹדֶשׁ, qodesh) versus “common” (חֹל, khol); as opposed to (2) the condition of a person, place, or thing – “unclean” (טָמֵא, tame’) versus “clean” (טָהוֹר, tahor). Someone or something could gain “holy” status by being “consecrated” (i.e., made holy; e.g., the Hebrew Piel קִדֵּשׁ (qiddesh) in Lev 8:15, 30), and to treat someone or something that was holy as if it were “common” would be to “profane” that person or thing (the Hebrew Piel הִלֵּל [hillel], e.g., in Lev 19:29 and 22:15). Similarly, on another level, someone or something could be in a “clean” condition, but one could “defile” (the Hebrew Piel טִמֵּא [timme’], e.g., in Gen 34:5 and Num 6:9) that person or thing and thereby make it “unclean.” To “purify” (the Hebrew Piel טִהֵר [tiher], e.g., in Lev 16:19 and Num 8:6, 15) that unclean person or thing would be to make it “clean” once again. With regard to the animals (Lev 11), some were by nature “unclean,” so they could never be eaten, but others were by nature “clean” and, therefore, edible (Lev 11:2, 46-47). The meat of clean animals could become inedible by too long of a delay in eating it, in which case the Hebrew term פִּגּוּל (pigul) “foul, spoiled” is used to describe it (Lev 7:18; 19:7; cf. also Ezek 4:14 and Isa 65:4), not the term for “unclean” (טָהוֹר, tahor). Strictly speaking, therefore, unclean meat never becomes clean, and clean meat never becomes unclean.