Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Leviticus 21:20

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Crooked-backed - Hunch-backed or gibbous. A dwarf, דק dak, a person too short or too thin, so as to be either particularly observable, or ridiculous in his appearance.

A blemish in his eye - A protuberance on the eye, observable spots or suffusions.

Scurvy, or scabbed - A bad habit of body, evidenced by scorbutic or scrofulous affections.

Stones broken - Is ruptured; an infirmity which would render him incapable of fulfilling the duties of his office, which might be often very fatiguing. In the above list of blemishes we meet with some that might render the priest contemptible in the eyes of men, and be the means of leading them, not only to despise the man, but to despise the ministry itself; and we meet with others that would be a very great impediment in the discharge of his ministerial duties, and therefore any person thus blemished is by this law precluded from the ministry. The blemishes here enumerated have been considered by some in an allegorical point of view, as if only referring to the necessity of moral purity; but although holiness of heart and righteousness of life be essentially necessary in a minister of God, yet an absence of the defects mentioned above is, I fully believe, what God intends here, and for the reasons too which have been already advanced. It must however be granted, that there have been some eminent divines who have been deformed; and some with certain blemishes have been employed in the Christian ministry, and have been useful. The Mosaic rule, however, will admit of but few exceptions, when even examined according to the more extended interpretation of the Christian system. "The Hebrews say there are in all 120 blemishes which disable the priest - eight in the head, two in the neck, nine in the ears, five in the brows, seven in the eyelids, nineteen in the eyes, nine in the nose, nine in the mouth, three in the belly, three in the back, seven in the hands, sixteen in the secrets, eight in any part of the body, eight in the skin, and seven in the strength and in the breath." - Ainsworth. In ancient times, even among heathens, persons of the most respectable appearance were appointed to the priesthood; and the emperor, both among the ancient Greeks and Romans, was both king and priest. It is reported of Metellus, that, having lost an eye in endeavoring to save the Palladium from the flames, when the temple of Vesta was on fire, he was denied the priesthood, though he had rendered such an excellent piece of service to the public; yet the public opinion was that a priest who was defective in any member was to be avoided as ominous - See Dodd.

"At Elis, in Greece, the judges chose the finest looking man to carry the sacred vessels of the deity; he that was next to him in beauty and elegance led the ox; and the third in personal beauty, etc., carried the garlands, ribbons, wine, and the other matters used for the sacrifice." - Athen. Deipnisoph., l. xiii., c. 2.

Formerly the Church of England was very cautious in admitting to her ministry those who had gross personal defects; but now we find the hump-backed, the jolt-headed, bandy-legged, club-footed, one-eyed, etc., priests even of her high places. Why do our prelates ordain such?

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 16-24

He was not treated as an outcast, but enjoyed his privileges as a son of Aaron, except in regard to active duties.

Leviticus 21:20

A dwarf - One who is small and wasted, either short, as in the text, or slender, as in the margin. It is hardly likely that dwarfishness would be overlooked in this enumeration. So most critical authorities.

Scurry or scabbed - These words most probably include all affected with any skin disease.

Leviticus 21:22

See Leviticus 2:3 note; Leviticus 6:25 note.

Leviticus 21:23

Sanctuaries - The places especially holy, including the most holy place, the holy place, and the altar.

This law is of course to be regarded as one development of the great principle that all which is devoted to the service of God should be as perfect as possible of its kind.

Cross References