“A priest is not to marry a woman who is a prostitute, who has been profaned or who has been divorced; because he is holy for his God. Rather, you are to set him apart as holy, because he offers the bread of your God; he is to be holy for you, because I, YHVH, who makes you holy, am holy. The daughter of a priest who profanes herself by prostitution profanes her father; she is to be put to death by fire.”-Leviticus 21:7-9
The next prohibition for Levite priests we run into is that a priest is not to marry a woman who is a prostitute.
Now the English here is misleading.
This commandment as rendered in the original Hebrew is actually a lot more strict.
The original Hebrew is as follows:
Literally, this means one who is “degraded by harlotry”.
This commandment is not just saying to a priest “don’t marry a prostitute”.
It’s saying “don’t marry any woman WHO HAS EVEN COMMITTED ONE SINGULAR ACT OF PROSTITUTION“!
Yes, the Scriptures make this distinction and the Rabbis wrote about this.
There is a huge difference in status between a woman who may have once or twice committed an act of prostitution (like Tamar with Judah) and one who regularly practiced prostitution (like Rahab the harlot).
The ruling here is that a woman who even once or twice committed an act of harlotry was considered NOT of exemplary and pure enough character to be eligible to marry a Levite priest.
I hope you’re catching the difference.
There are a couple of interesting takeaways here.
First, we can see how the priests were held to a higher standard.
However, it wasn’t like a woman who was a prostitute could never marry anybody.
Rahab the Harlot eventually married and was placed among one of the people in the genealogy of Messiah.
The other takeaway is that God seems to be laying down the principle that to commit a certain type of sin or evil act once or twice does not necessarily identify you as being in union with that particular kind of evil.
In other words, a distinction is being made between one who REGULARLY AND GUILT-FREE practices some sort of evil behavior and one who might haved lapsed a few times in the past.
However, there is a fine line between the two.
For example, it may not be a long way from occasionally getting drunk and turning into somebody who earns the label “drunkard”.
If a certain evil behavior you practice reaches the point where it becomes regular behavior, then you have already come into union with that evil and you become IDENTIFIED with that sin.
Making this distinction between one who regularly commits some sort of sin and one who only occasionally does may come across as a bunch of nonsensical double-talk.
The Apostle Paul gives us some interesting food for thought on these matters.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites.“-1 Corinthians 6:9
When we apply this principle from Leviticus to this quote, we can see that Paul is NOT saying if you commit one isolated act of idolatry, you are now an “idolator”.
Or if you have gotten drunk a couple of times, you are now a “drunkard”.
Or if you have committed one act of fornication, you are now a “fornicator”.
No, what he’s saying is if your behavior has reached the point where you have so thoroughly given yourself over to these things that it becomes a way of life for you, that’s when you earn the label “drunkard”, “fornicator”, “adulterer” etcetera.
It’s when you are so comfortable with a particular evil behavior that God will judge you as having come into union with that particular sin.
He now sees you and that sin as joined together.
And when that happens, your name, character, and reputation has become ECHAD or one with that sin.
However, whether one has earned the label of “drunkard”, “fornicator”, “adulterer”, or “swindler” and so on is God’s call, not ours.
Nevertheless, it should be fairly obvious if one is qualified to belong to a certain group or not.