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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Leviticus 22

Leviticus 22:1-16

1. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

1. Loquutus est insuper Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

2. Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow unto me: I am the LORD.

2. Loquere ad Aharon, et filios ejus ut separent sese a sanctificationibus filiorum Israel et ne polluant nomen sanctitatis mese in his quae ipsi sanctificant mihi: ego Jehova.

3. Say unto them, Whosoever he be of all your seed among your generations, that goeth unto the holy things, which the children of Israel hallow unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD.

3. Dic illis, in generationibus vestris omnis vir qui accesserit ex omni semine vestro ad sanctificationes quae sanctificaverint filii Israel Jehovae, et immunditia sua fuerit super ipsum, excidetur anima ipsius a facie mea: ego Jehova.

4. What man soever of the seed of Aaron is a leper, or hath a running issue; he shall not eat of the holy things, until he be clean. And whoso toucheth any thing that is unclean by the dead, or a man whose seed goeth from him;

4. Quicunque e semine Aharon fuerit leprosus, vel seminifluus, de sanctificationibus non comedet donec mundet se: et qui tedgerit immundum super morticinio, ant virex quo egreditur effusio seminis,

5. Or whosoever toucheth any creeping thing, whereby he may be made unclean, or a man of whom he may take uncleanness, whatsoever uncleanness he hath;

5. Ant vir qui tetigerit quodcunque reptile per quod immundus erit, ant hominem propter quem immundus erit, secundum omnem immunditiam eius:

6. The soul which hath touched any such shall be unclean until even, and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water.

6. Anima inquam quae tetigerit illum, immunda erit usque ad vesperam: et non comedet de sanctificationibus nisi laverit carnem suam aqua.

7. And when the sun is down, he shall be clean, and shall afterward eat of the holy things; because it is his food.

7. Quum autem occubuerit sol, turn erit mundus, et postea comedet de sanctificationibus: quia cibus ejus est.

8. That which dieth of itself, or is torn with beasts, he shall not eat to defile himself therewith: I am the LORD.

8. Cadaver et rapture non comedet, et polluat se in eo: ego Jehova.

9. They shall therefore keep mine ordinance, lest they bear sin for it, and die therefore, if they profane it: I the LORD do sanctify them.

9. Et custodiant custodiam meam, et ne portent peccatum propter illud, et moriantur propter illud, quum polluerint illam: ego Jehova sanctificans eos.

10. There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing.

10. Omnis autem alienigena non comedet sanctificationem: inquilinus sacerdotis, et mercenarius non comedet sanctificationem.

11. But if the priest buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his house: they shall eat of his meat.

11. Quod si sacerdos emerit hominem emptione argenti sui: ipsc comedet ex ea, et vernaculus ejus: illi comedent de cibo ejus.

12. If the priest’s daughter also be married unto a stranger, she may not eat of an offering of the holy things.

12. Filia autem sacerdotis quum fuerit viro alieno: ipsa de oblatione sanctificationum non comedet.

13. But if the priest’s daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is returned unto her father’s house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her father’s meat: but there shall no stranger eat thereof.

13. Filia vero sacerdotis quum fuerit vidua, ant repudiata, et semen non erit el, et reversa fuerit ad domran parris sui, sicut in pueritia sua, de eibo patris eomedet: onmis autem alienigena non comedet ex co.

14. And if a man eat of the holy thing unwittingly, then he shall put the fifth part thereof unto it, and shall give it unto the priest with the holy thing.

14. Quod si aliquis comederit sanctificationem per imprudentiam, addet quintam partem ejus, et dabit sacerdoti eum sanctificatione.

15. And they shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, which they offer unto the LORD;

15. Et non contaminabunt sanctificationes filiorum Israel, quas obtulerint Jehovae.

16. Or suffer them to bear the iniquity of trespass, when they eat their holy things: for I the LORD do sanctify them.

16. Neque portare facient cos iniquitatem delicti, dum comederint sanctificationes eorum: ego enim Jehova sanctificans eos.


1. And the Lord spake unto Moses. Moses here treats of the accidents whereby pollution is contracted, although a man may be by nature pure and sound. If any labored under natural defects, Moses prohibited them from exercising the sacerdotal office; now, if any extrinsic pollution may have affected a priest, he commands him to abstain from his duties until he shall have been purified. He had already commanded that any unclean person should be separated from the people lest their contagion should infect others; it may therefore seem superfluous to prescribe to the priests what had been universally enjoined. But since men placed in any position of honor are apt to abuse God’s favor as a pretext for sin, lest the sacerdotal dignity might be used as a covering for the indulgence or excuse of scandals, it was necessary to enact an express law, that the priests should not plead their privilege to eat in their uncleanness of the sacrifices which none but the clean might offer. And that their sacrilege might be the more detestable, he denounces death against any who should intrude their pollutions into the sacrifices; for it was necessary to arouse by the fear of punishment, and as it were to drive by violence to their duty those who would not have been otherwise restrained by any religious feeling from making God’s service contemptible. He then enumerates the particular kinds of pollution of which we have before spoken. Whence it appears, that the priests were brought into discipline by this law, lest they should think themselves more free than the rest of the people, thus might indulge themselves in security; and this is afterwards more clearly expressed where God admonishes them to “keep his ordinance,”  194 (Le 22:9:) i.e., diligently to observe whatever He commanded; and the greater dignity He had honored them with, that the greater should be their study to persevere in the exercises of piety; for he shews them that so far from their sacerdotal rights conducing to the alleviation of their sin, they were more strongly bound by them to keep the Law.

10 There shall no stranger. It was also necessary to add this, that the majesty of sacred things might not be impaired; for if it had been promiscuously permitted to all to eat of the sacred bread and the other oblations, the people would have straightway inferred that they differed not from ordinary food. And unless the avarice of the priests had been thus anticipated,  195 an unworthy trade would have prevailed; for banquets would have been see up for sale, and the priest’s house would have been a kind of provision-market. The prohibition, therefore, that the meats offered in sacrifice should be eaten by strangers, was not made so much with reference to them as to the priests, who would have else driven a profitable trade with the offerings, or, by gratifying their guests, would not have hesitated to bring disrepute on the whole service of God. The Law consequently prohibits that either a sojourner, or a hired servant, should eat of them; and only gives this permission to their slaves, and those who were incorporated into their families. Moreover, He counts the priests’ daughters who had married into another tribe as aliens. The sum has this tendency, that whatsoever depends on the service of God should obtain its due reverence; nor could this be the case, if what was offered in the temple were not distinguished from common food. Inasmuch as they were human beings, they were allowed to subsist in the ordinary manner; yet was this distinction necessary, which might savor of the sanctity of Christ. This was the cleanness of the priests as regarded food.

14. And if a man eat of the holy thing unwittingly. A question may here arise, why God would have satisfaction made to the priests, if any one should have eaten of the offerings; for they deserved punishment rather than reward, if they had suffered sacred things to be brought into contempt by their promiscuous use. But the error of those is here dealt with, who had not reserved for the priests their lawful share. A portion, as we shall see, was assigned by God, which they were to set aside before they tasted any part of the victim; those, therefore, who had sinned by inadvertency, are commanded by Him to expiate their fault, to restore so much to the priest, and to add a fifth part. And this was done with the object of which we have spoken, lest, if the things offered to God were exposed to common use, religion should be brought into contempt. What follows afterwards, “and they shall not profane the holy things,” I interpret as addressed to the priests themselves; for this sentence is connected with the previous one, in which the injunctions were directed to the priests alone; and this is further confirmed by the next verse, which declares that the whole people would be accomplices in the sin of the priests if they should have polluted the sacred oblations. For thus I take the words, “that they should not suffer the people to bear the iniquity,” or the punishment of the transgression, if the unclean should have touched things offered to God. For as the priest is the mediator of reconciliation to propitiate God towards men, so his impiety is a common iniquity, which brings guilt upon all. The translation which some give, “that they should not lade themselves,”  196 is further from the sense, and altogether wrested. Finally, God again declares that in proportion to the greatness of the honor which He had put upon them, would be the heaviness and inexcusableness of the crime, if they acted unworthily of their calling.



Lat., “Custodiant custodiam meam.” Ainsworth, “Keep my charge."


Ils eussent ttenu foire et marche des viandes, qui leurs fussent demeurees de residu, ce qui n’eust pas este sans grand opprobre:” they would have kept fair and market of the meats which remained over to them, which could not have taken place without much scandal. — Fr.


As in margin of A. V.

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