Leviticus 21:4 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
(4) But he shall not defile himself, being a chief man . . . —Better, A husband shall not defile himself among his people when he had profaned himself. As the seven exceptions to the general rule began with his wife, whose funeral rites the priestly husband is allowed to attend, the verse before us restricts this permission to his legally prescribed wife. If he contracted a marriage which profaned him, he could not attend to her funeral ceremonies. The last clause, which is here translated, “when he had profaned him,” literally denotes “to profane himself,” “with respect to his profanation”—i.e., with respect to a marriage by which he profaned himself. This is the interpretation which the administrators of the Law attached to the verse, and which is transmitted in the Chaldee version of Jonathan. It is not only in perfect harmony with the context, but does least violence to this manifestly disordered text. The translations exhibited in the Authorised version, both in the text and in the margin, as well as most of those suggested by modern commentators, leave the clause unexplained, since it manifestly means something else than defiling himself by contracting impurity through contact with the dead, as is evident from the fact that it is not added in the other instances where the priest is forbidden to defile himself by attending to the dead. (See Lev. 21:1-11.)
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Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
Charles John Ellicott (1819 - 1905) was a distinguished English Christian theologian, academic and churchman. He briefly served as Dean of Exeter, then Bishop of the united see of Gloucester and Bristol.
His works include:
- An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1897. (Editor)
- A New Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1878.