The reality of heaven leads many people to wonder about who enters it when they die and on what basis. The Bible teaches that if people confess and repent of sin, and put their trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, they go to heaven when they die. But what about physical attributes like being below-average height? Is it a factor when it comes to going to heaven?
Short people can go to heaven when they die. Height isn’t a factor in any person’s eternal destination. The idea that they can’t is based on a misunderstanding of an Old Testament passage that mentions dwarfism. The passage that mentions people of short stature isn’t about who gets into heaven and who doesn’t.
What does the Bible teach about dwarfism? What does it have to do with worshipping God? Did God punish or curse short people? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Dwarfism among the Israelites and their worship of God
Dwarfs are mentioned in Leviticus 21:20. The context of Leviticus 21 concerns rules and regulations for priests in ancient Israel. In the scene, God gives Moses instructions about proper worship, which he communicates to the Israelites. God called Israelite priests to a special way of life because they were the members of the community who handled people’s sacrificial offerings to God.
Animal and grain sacrifices are how Israelites expressed their faithfulness and devotion to God. Some sacrifices were voluntary; other sacrifices were mandatory. All sacrifices were, in part, word pictures. As word pictures, every sacrifice symbolized truth about God (especially his holiness), people (especially their sinfulness), and the relationship between them. The mandatory sacrifices had important, and sometimes detailed regulations.
Israelite worship had to be holy because God is holy (Lev. 21:8). The Israelites couldn’t approach God to give thanks, confess their sins, or communicate anything else, in a flippant or cavalier manner. The priests stewarded the peoples’ sacrifices and were the ones that actually killed the animal or performed whatever action was required for each sacrifice. God instructed priests to undertake this responsibility with the utmost seriousness.
Perfect animals and “perfect” people. The animals that were sacrificed in mandatory offerings, and the priests who performed the ritual, couldn’t have physical abnormalities. The physical characteristics of the animal and the priest were visible expressions of God’s purity. Characteristics that were considered deformities eliminated a priest from performing certain tasks, though their restriction wasn’t a punishment (more below).
Leviticus 21:18-20 offers a list of physical deformities that disqualify a priest from certain functions. The verse in question is Leviticus 21:20.
“For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.”Leviticus 21:18-20 (ESV, emphasis added)
Translation: All major English Bible translations render the relevant word “dwarf” or “dwarfed”:
|Bible Translation||Word Translation|
Pronunciation: The Hebrew word translated “dwarf” is pronounced “dak”:
|Literal definition||thin, small, fine|
|Also translated as||gaunt (e.g. Gen 41:4, NASB)|
What do Bible scholars teach about this verse? Scholars and experts on ancient Israel are in general agreement that dwarfs, and people with the other physical characteristics mentioned in Leviticus 21:18-20, were restricted from certain aspects of the priesthood, but such regulations had no ill-effects on their relationship with God or other people.
“No person who had a deformity, was disfigured, or had a rash could act as priest. Physical wholeness corresponds to the holiness of his task. While such a person could not function as a priest, he maintained the prerogatives of a priest in regard to support and living quarters. Neither he nor his family was placed under financial hardship because of his physical handicap.” 
Did God punish or curse short people?
God’s restriction against dwarfs, or people with a skin rash or any of the other physical issues mentioned in Leviticus 21:18-20, is not a curse or a punishment. The regulations were to maintain symbolism pertaining to God’s holiness.
People of below-average height aren’t especially sinful or evil. The Bible teaches that all people, no matter their height, are sinners and fall short of God’s glory: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, ESV, emphasis added). Short people, tall people, and average-height people sin the same and are saved the same (more below).
Were short people excluded from the priesthood and its benefits? No. A dwarf could serve as a priest and received all the benefits of the position, like a place to live. Dwarfs in Israel, including priests, were neither social outcasts nor did they experience any unique hardships because of their physical stature. Short people have never been restricted from God’s blessings, including going to heaven when they die.
Did the dwarfs in Israel know and love God? Yes. God loves all people, no matter their height or any other physical ailment mentioned in Leviticus 21:18-20. Asking if God’s love is different for short people than it is for others, is the same as wondering if God loves people with skin rashes less than he does others.
Are short people restricted from serving God today?
Short people aren’t restricted from any ministry function today. Whatever restrictions people had in the Old Testament because of physical abnormalities have been lifted because Jesus Christ fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17). The New Testament book of Hebrews teaches that Christ is the one and only perfect high priest for all believers, and his sacrifice and ongoing intercession for people is without blemish.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”Hebrews 14:14-16 (ESV)
How do people of any height go to heaven?
People of any height can go to heaven when they die, just like people of any weight, or eye color, or skin color can. The Bible teaches that anyone that responds to the gospel of Jesus Christ can be saved and go to heaven when they die.
What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? The word “gospel” means “good news.” The “good news” of Jesus Christ is that God sent him into the world to die for sinners. What motivated the Father to send his only son as a sacrifice of atonement is the great love he has for people (John 3:16).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16 (ESV)
How can people respond to the gospel? People are invited to respond to the gospel by confessing and repenting of sin and believing in faith that Christ died for them and rose from the dead three days later (Rom. 6:23, 10:9-10).
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 6:23 (ESV)
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)
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