Leviticus 21

Chapter 21

Regulations for Priests. 1 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘No one shall become unclean by touching a dead person[a] 2 except for a close relative, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, 3 or his unmarried sister, who is near to him, for she has no husband. For these he can become unclean. 4 But he is not to become unclean for people related by marriage, becoming unclean for them.

5 “ ‘Priests must not shave their heads bald nor trim their beards nor shall they cut their flesh.[b] 6 They shall be holy to their God, and they are not to profane the name of their God, for they present offerings made by fire to the Lord, the food of their God. Therefore, they will be holy. 7 They are not to marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled, nor are they to marry a woman who has been divorced by her husband, for he is holy to his God.[c] 8 You shall therefore consecrate him, for he offers the bread of your God. He will be holy to you, for I, the Lord, who sanctify you, am holy.

9 “ ‘If the daughter of any priest defiles herself by playing the whore, thus defiling her father, then she is to be burned with fire.

10 “ ‘The priest who is the most important from among his brothers, upon whose head was poured the oil of anointing, and who was consecrated to wear the garments, he is not to uncover his head or rend his garments 11 nor shall he make himself unclean by touching any dead body, even that of his own father or mother. 12 He shall not leave the sanctuary nor desecrate the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the oil of anointing of his God is on him. I am the Lord. 13 He shall marry a woman who is a virgin. 14 He shall not marry a widow or a divorced woman or a woman who has defiled herself by fornication. Rather, he is to marry a virgin from his own people 15 so that he not profane his posterity among his people. I am the Lord, who sanctifies him.’ ”

16 Priestly Defects. The Lord spoke to Moses saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron saying: ‘Any of your descendants who has a defect is not to draw near to offer the bread of his God. 18 No one who has a defect shall approach, whether he be blind or lame, disfigured or deformed, 19 or if he has a crippled foot or hand, 20 or if he be hunchbacked or dwarfed, or if he has an eye defect, or a scab or sore or damaged testicles. 21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has a defect shall draw near to present offerings made by fire to the Lord. He who has a blemish shall not come to offer the bread of his God 22 for the bread of his God is most holy. He can eat what is holy, 23 but he shall not enter inside the veil[d] or approach the altar because of his defect, lest he defile the sanctuary. I am the Lord, who makes them holy.’ ”

24 Moses said this to Aaron and to his sons and to all of the children of Israel.


  1. Leviticus 21:1 Any contact with a dead person, even entering the place where there was a dead body, rendered a priest unclean. Close relatives, as described in verses 2-3 were exempt from this prohibition, but restrictions for the high priest made even this forbidden (vv. 11-12).
  2. Leviticus 21:5 Cut their flesh: the pagan custom of defiling their body as a sign of mourning was not to be tolerated among the priests.
  3. Leviticus 21:7 Regulations concerning marriage partners were stricter for the high priest and required that he marry a virgin (vv. 13-14), whereas it was highly recommended for other priests.
  4. Leviticus 21:23 Inside the veil: physical imperfections prevented a priest from entering the sanctuary in order not to profane it.

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