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Leviticus 21:1-9

Context
Rules for the Priests

21:1 The Lord said to Moses: “Say to the priests, the sons of Aaron – say to them, ‘For a dead person 1  no priest 2  is to defile himself among his people, 3  21:2 except for his close relative who is near to him: 4  his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, 21:3 and his virgin sister who is near to him, 5  who has no husband; he may defile himself for her. 21:4 He must not defile himself as a husband among his people so as to profane himself. 6  21:5 Priests 7  must not have a bald spot shaved on their head, they must not shave the corner of their beard, and they must not cut slashes in their body. 8 

21:6 “‘They must be holy to their God, and they must not profane 9  the name of their God, because they are the ones who present the Lord’s gifts, 10  the food of their God. Therefore they must be holy. 11  21:7 They must not take a wife defiled by prostitution, 12  nor are they to take a wife divorced from her husband, 13  for the priest 14  is holy to his God. 15  21:8 You must sanctify him because he presents the food of your God. He must be holy to you because I, the Lord who sanctifies you all, 16  am holy. 21:9 If a daughter of a priest profanes herself by engaging in prostitution, she is profaning her father. She must be burned to death. 17 

1 tn The Hebrew term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “soul, person, life”) can sometimes refer to a “dead person” (cf. Lev 19:28 above and the literature cited there).

2 tn Heb “no one,” but “priest” has been used in the translation to clarify that these restrictions are limited to the priests, not to the Israelites in general (note the introductory formula, “say to the priests, the sons of Aaron”).

3 tc The MT has “in his peoples,” but Smr, LXX, Syriac, Targum, and Tg. Ps.-J. have “in his people,” referring to the Israelites as a whole.

4 tn Heb “except for his flesh, the one near to him.”

5 tn Cf. v. 2a.

6 tn Heb “He shall not defile himself a husband in his peoples, to profane himself.” The meaning of the line is disputed, but it appears to prohibit a priest from burying any relative by marriage (as opposed to the blood relatives of vv. 2-3), including his wife (compare B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 142-43 with J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 343, 348).

7 tn Heb “they”; the referent (priests, see the beginning of v. 1) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

8 tn Heb “and in their body they shall not [cut] slash[es]” (cf. Lev 19:28). The context connects these sorts of mutilations with mourning rites (cf. Lev 19:27-28 above).

9 sn Regarding “profane,” see the note on Lev 10:10 above.

10 sn Regarding the Hebrew term for “gifts,” see the note on Lev 1:9 above (cf. also 3:11 and 16 in combination with the word for “food” that follows in the next phrase here).

11 tc Smr and all early versions have the plural adjective “holy” rather than the MT singular noun “holiness.”

12 tn Heb “A wife harlot and profaned they shall not take.” The structure of the verse (e.g., “wife” at the beginning of the two main clauses) suggests that “harlot and profaned” constitutes a hendiadys, meaning “a wife defiled by harlotry” (see the explanation in B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 143, as opposed to that in J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 343, 348; cf. v. 14 below). Cf. NASB “a woman who is profaned by harlotry.”

13 sn For a helpful discussion of divorce in general and as it relates to this passage see B. A. Levine, Leviticus (JPSTC), 143-44.

14 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the priest) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

15 tn The pronoun “he” in this clause refers to the priest, not the former husband of the divorced woman.

16 tn The three previous second person references in this verse are all singular, but this reference is plural. By adding “all” this grammatical distinction is preserved in the translation.

17 tn See the note on “burned to death” in 20:14.



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