“The high priest—the one whose head has been anointed with the anointing oil and who is ordained to dress in the priestly clothing—must not dishevel his hair or tear his clothing. He must not go near any dead bodies and cannot make himself UNCLEAN even for his father or mother.” –Leviticus 21:10-11
From verse 10 of Leviticus 21, the content shifts from dealing with the common priests to the High Priest.
Note that the High Priest is defined as “the one whose head has been anointed with the anointing oil”.
If you recall our studies way back when we were in Leviticus chapter 8, during the priestly consecration it was ONLY the High Priest who was anointed with oil, NOT the normal priests.
The first issue the Lord brings up is what to do when a death occurs in the High Priest’s family.
Right off the bat, we see an immediate difference between the High Priest and the common priests.
The High Priest is prohibited from touching the body, EVEN OF HIS PARENTS.
Actually, it’s even stricter than that.
The High Priest can’t even be in the same room as a dead body!
Hence, he can’t even attend the funeral of his parents.
What’s the reason for this?
Well, consider this.
The High Priest is the only person ever allowed to go inside the Holy of Holies.
This is a huge clue as to why the rules governing death are so strict when applied to the High Priest.
If the High Priest comes into contact with death, it would be impossible for him to be restored to a sufficient level of CLEANNESS that He wouldn’t in some way defile the Lord’s ONLY HOLY dwelling place on earth.
Another major restriction placed on the High Priest is that he could only take a virgin for a wife and she had to come from the priestly family.
No regular priest would ever marry a girl who wasn’t a virgin anyway but they could marry girls from within any Levite family.
On the other hand, the High Priest’s wife had to come from certain family lines within the Levites, which was one of the higher classes of ordinary priests.
What’s the takeaway here?
Why is the Lord so strict on the High Priest to the point where He prohibits His most important servant from even attending the funeral of his parents?
Is God being cruel and unfair?
Let’s see if we can somehow take a positive slant to all of this.
First, we can see the profound gap that separates man from God.
Second, we learn the uncompromising truth that to approach God, one quite literally has to be perfect and HOLY and that the Lord has to protect His Holiness at all costs.
Third, I wouldn’t say it’s so much about the Lord being cruel and unfair, but more of the loving but firm measures the Lord has to take in order to fellowship with fallen man whom He loves.