Do Short People Go to Heaven?

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. Thus, 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.

Leviticus 21:20 is the source of confusion. It reads that no “hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles” (ESV, emphasis added). 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.

short people heaven
Did God punish or curse dwarfs? See below

Animal and grain sacrifices were how Israelites expressed their faithfulness and devotion to God. Some sacrifices were voluntary, and others 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 who 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 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 considered deformities prevented priests 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, “or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.” All major English Bible translations render the relevant word “dwarf” or “dwarfed”:

Bible TranslationWord Used

What do Bible scholars teach about dwarfism in Leviticus 21:20?

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. Yet, such regulations had no ill effects on their relationship with God or other people. And it definitely didn’t answer the question of can short people go to heaven with a “no.”

Hebrew wordדַ֔ק
English transliterationḏaq,
English pronunciationdak
Literal definitionthin, small, fine
Also translated asgaunt (e.g. Gen 41:4, NASB)

Leviticus scholar Gordon Wenham writes, “No person who had a deformity, was disfigured, or had a rash could act as a priest. Physical wholeness corresponds to the holiness of his task.” He continues, “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.” [1]

dwarfs in ancient Israel
Were dwarfs social outcasts in Israel? See below

A Wrong Theory: God Punished or Cursed Short People

God’s restriction against dwarfs, 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.

The theory that people of below-average height are especially sinful or evil is unbiblical. 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 receive 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 (cf. Heb. 14:14-16).

How Do People of Any Height Go to Heaven?

People of any height, weight, eye color, or skin color can go to heaven when they die. The Bible teaches that anyone who 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. The great love he has for people motivated the Father to send his only son as a sacrifice of atonement (John 3:16).

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).

The height of Zacchaeus

The story of Zacchaeus, found in Luke 19:1-10, provides a compelling case study on the question of whether short people can go to heaven. Zacchaeus, a tax collector, was described as being short in stature. Despite his height and his unpopular profession, Zacchaeus was eager to see Jesus. He climbed a sycamore tree to get a better view.

The salvation of Zacchaeus

Jesus noticed Zacchaeus and invited himself to Zacchaeus’s home. This encounter led to Zacchaeus’s repentance and Jesus declaring that salvation had come to his house. The story of Zacchaeus highlights that physical attributes, such as height, are not barriers to salvation. Instead, it is a person’s heart and actions that matter. Zacchaeus’s story underscores that everyone, regardless of their physical appearance, can receive salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus.

[1] Leviticus by Gordon Wenham. WBC. p. 350-351.
[2] Mayo Clinic – Dwarfism
[3] Web MD – Dwarfism
[4] Wikipedia – Dwarfism

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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