Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 24

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-23



I now discuss chapter 24 of Leviticus, and the special themes of that chapter are: (1) The Holy Light, or The Lamp of God, Leviticus 24:1-4; (2) The Bread of Presence, more commonly called the shewbread, Leviticus 24:5-9; (3) The Death of the Blasphemer, Leviticus 24:10-23; (4) The Penalties for Murder – killing a beast, domestic animal, maiming a man; (5) The Great Law Principle; Breach for Breach, Eye for Eye, Tooth for Tooth, and Christ’s comment on it. THE LAMP OF GOD

1. The first question is: What scripture enables us to understand the seven-branched, golden lampstand, what are its material and form, position, immediate purpose, light supply, caretakers, and symbolism?

Ans. – Exodus 25:23-40, tells us of the form, material and position of both the lampstand and the table of the shewbread, according to a divine pattern given to Moses for both of them. Then Leviticus 24:1-9, tells us how the oil of the lamp and the bread for the table were prepared, and gives direction for their renewal. Exodus 37:10-24, tells us how they were constructed, according to the previous directions of the Almighty. Exodus 26:35; Exodus 40:24, explain their relative position in the Holy Place – the lamp on the south side, and the table on the north side, with the golden altar of incense between. Then Numbers 8:1-3, tells how this lamp was first lighted. Then Exodus 27:20-21, tells that they must burn all night long, from evening to morning, and Exodus 30:7, prescribes that they must be trimmed and filled with oil every morning by the high priest. Numbers 4:4-15, tells us how the lamp must be borne on marches, carried by Kohathites. In 1 Samuel 3:3, this lampstand is called the Lamp of God. The lampstand in Solomon’s Temple had ten lamps instead of seven (1 Kings 7:49-50) and was carried as spoil into Babylon and kept by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 52:19). The lampstand in the Temple restored by Herod, that is the Jewish Temple, was like the one in the tabernacle, having seven lamps and not ten. That was in the time of Christ and it was carried as spoil to Rome by Titus after the destruction of Jerusalem, and a pillar of a part of the arch still stands, on which is carved a vivid representation of the bearing of that lampstand to Rome. The symbolism of the lampstand may be learned from the following scriptures: Zechariah 4:1-14; Revelation 1:12-13; Revelation 1:20; Revelation 2:5; Revelation 11:3-4. Now, that answers the first question, viz.: What are the scriptures that enable us to understand this lampstand? Now, if you will master this answer with great care, it will save you a great deal of trouble and investigation, both scriptural and historical.

2. What observations may be made on these passages of Scripture?

Ans. –

(1) The people themselves must furnish and prepare the olive oil and the minister must serve in keeping the lamps in order. The object of that is to show that there is always something for each one to do, even in a case of a matter of God’s grace.

(2) The second observation is that the candelabrum, or chandelier, represented originally the united congregation of all Israel giving forth light from God, and illuminating the whole outer court containing the altar of sacrifice and the laver, with its brightness. In other words, that light brought out clear visions of the sacrifice of expiation and the washings that followed. The prayer that the incense represented and the shewbread with its significance, that will be explained directly,

and inasmuch as it also shone upon that great woven, triple colored veil that hid the most holy place, it indicated that the true source of light was from within the most holy place.

(3) The third observation is, that according to Zechariah, the olive oil represented the grace of the Holy Spirit that keeps the light, which Israel casts forth, always alive. In the vision he saw this lampstand and the question came up in his mind, "Whence comes the supply of oil that keeps these lights shining?" and then he saw on either side of it an olive tree, and from the olive tree went a pipe that mysteriously conducted the oil from the olive tree into the bowls of the lamps, and in connection with that it is said, "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, is anything accomplished."

(4) The fourth observation is in the New Testament. According to Revelation, each lampstand represented a particular church of Jesus Christ, and each light of the seven represented a particular member of the church. When John saw that vision of the seven of those golden candlesticks, each one of them with seven lights, he saw forty-nine lights grouped on seven lampstands, and Jesus explained to him that the seven lampstands of seven lights are to represent the seven churches in Asia. All of the churches represented the light that shines upon the world. That is the object of the book of Revelation and that is the key passage in the book; that this whole world shall one day be illumined by the light that passes out from the churches of Jesus Christ. Those who have read my book on Revelation will never forget the promises and the glorious perpetuity of the church and when the power comes that sustains the church, of which Jesus said, "Ye are the light of the world; let your light so shine before men, that, seeing your good works, they may be constrained to glorify God." Now as Aaron continued every day to trim and resupply the oil in those lamps so in that picture of symbolism there is a picture of Jesus Christ in the dress of a high priest, moving among the churches, keeping the lamps trimmed and burning, and the Holy Spirit supplying the means of light. Jesus speaks of it immediately, and he says, "Hear ye what the Spirit saith to the churches."

(5) The last observation is the important lesson on the grouping of the lights on one lampstand versus individualism. See Christ’s words: "No man when he lighteth a lamp putteth it under a bushel, or under the bed, but he puts it on a lamp stand." The lesson is, when God commanded the light to shine out on the darkness of the world, he made it our duty when we make a profession of religion, to put our light with the other lights, group them. In other words, its great teaching is on the obligation of the converted man to become a member of the church and not try to run the life of a free lance, as many of them try to do. Group the lights! Now there is a law of physics that what one thousand men can’t do working one at a time, twenty men can do by uniting their forces. So if all the lights were scattered over the wide world, there never would be a light much more than a glowworm, but if they are gathered together, they can be seen. If you were to divide the sun into its atoms and distribute them over space, you might produce a kind of a milky way, but never such a great light as when all these atoms are gathered into one great orb. The teaching is, group your lights.

3. What was the material of the bread?

Ans. – Fine flour baked into a loaf without leaven.

4. What was the number of the loaves of the shewbread?

Ans. – Twelve loaves, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. And these twelve loaves were put upon that table; the shewbread on the table stands in two rows, six there and six there, just to your right as you enter the holy place.

5. What accompanied it?

Ans. – On each was a little golden cup or spoon holding frankincense representing prayer. The order for the building, the constructing, or fashioning rather, of these little golden spoons or bowls, you find in the scripture from Exodus that I gave you.

6. How often were these loaves of bread to be removed?

Ans. – They stayed there just a week, but every sabbath the high priest removed them.

7. What disposition was made of this material of bread and these bowls of frankincense when they were removed once a week?

Ans. – The priests were allowed to eat the bread which had been before God a week; nobody else was allowed to eat it. They could only eat it after it had been replaced by fresh bread. They kept the frankincense as a memorial and it was then burned and went up before God.

8. What is the meaning of that bread?

Ans. – It means continual consecration of united Israel to the service of God. The continual putting in of a fresh supply when the bread was not fit to remain shows that it was to be continual; that under the consecration to divine service we stand continually in the presence of God, hence the name of the bread, "the bread of the presence," or "bread of the face" literally. And the meaning of frankincense is ("frankincense," call it incense if you want to call it that) that it always represents prayer. In other words, that there can be no consecration unless there is prayer, no continued consecration without continued prayer.

9. What is the meaning of the grouping of the loaves? Why wouldn’t one loaf serve? Why twelve?

Ans. – It represents the united consecration of the whole people versus individualism, or going off at a tangent.

10. What was the symbolism of this bread of the presence? What did it indicate or foreshadow?

Ans. – Christ in his entire consecration of obedience to God through which we obtain our redemption, so that he could say, "I am the bread of life; I am the bread that comes down from heaven."

11. What historic incident in connection with the showbread is cited by our Lord?

Ans. – The incident concerning David when he fled from Saul; hungry, starving, he came to where the high priest was and where the tables were, and being hungry he ate of the shewbread which was for the priest to eat, that is, he ate the bread when it had been removed and fresh bread substituted. In other words David got into that supply of removed bread and he ate it. And the Lord said "Thou shalt have mercy," or, in other words, that there were exceptions to the letter of the law, just as the sabbath law, "Thou shalt do no work." The Lord said, "The priests work on the sabbath day and there is no objection." The command of God is that nobody but a priest can eat the shewbread, but if you can violate the sabbath law by taking the sheep out of the ditch, you can execute mercy to a starving man by allowing him to eat of the shewbread.

12. State the history of the blasphemer, his sin, punishment, and what the punishment.

Ans. – We come to one or two items of history in this book of Leviticus. For example, the death of Aaron’s sons when they offered strange fire and here the death of this blasphemer. The case here is this: An Israelite among them was the son of a Jewess who had married an Egyptian. This halfbreed got into a fight with one of the full-breeds and as he did not have so much religion as the full-breed, he cursed the name, the holy name of Jehovah, while he was fighting. That was blasphemy. He was instantly arrested and his case brought before God; and God said that every man that was a witness to this transgression must come and lay his hands on his head and then the witnesses stoned him to death.

13. Etymologically, to what kind of offense is blasphemy limited?

Ans. – According to its etymology, it must be an offense of the speech. Look up the meaning of that word blasphemy, and you will see that it must be an offense of speech. It must be something said; it must be something evil against God. Now, literally, that is blasphemy.

14. What wider meaning does it bear?

Ans. – As Dr. Greenleaf, in his "Testimony of the Evangelists," shows, blasphemy, as thousands of other words, took on a broader application than Just that definition. In other words, one could blaspheme in thought if he thought evil against God; if he painted, carved or indicated in an irreverent way; had an evil thought without saying a word. All this is in the development of the word and becomes, quite naturally, a part of its meaning.

15. What was the penalty for murder? Maiming? Killing a beast?

Ans. – These three offenses are mentioned in this connection. Having shown that the blasphemer must suffer capital punishment by stoning, then in that connection it is stated that if a man kills his neighbor, he should suffer death, and then adds: "If you maim your neighbour; if you put out his eye, he may put out your eye; if you cut off his nose, he may cut off your nose; if you break his leg, he may break your leg." If he maimed him, whatever the maiming that he did to him was to be done to the offender. That is the law of the state showing what must be done to the offender. And the third offense was the killing of a beast, not for food, not for sacrifice but if one went out and tried to bridle a horse and he jerked his head away and he got mad and got a gun and killed the horse, that is what it means. The penalty in this case was, he must make good. He must put another horse of equal value in the place of one that he killed.

16. How is the system of Mosaic penalties expressed in a legal phrase and Christ’s comment on it?

Ans. – The legal phrase, "A breach for a breach, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," that is, whatever injury you inflict that should be inflicted on you. What was Christ’s comment on that, and did he in the New Testament revoke that law? Let me quote it to you and see. It commences: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, A breach for a breach, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but I say unto you, Resist not evil, and if one smite you on the right cheek, turn the left cheek and let him smite you there, and if one compel you to go a mile, go two." Christ says just before that he came not to destroy the law but to fulfil it, and this injunction about the eye for eye and the tooth for the tooth expressed the most equal justice possible, but it was prescribed by the state, and here were the Jews applying it individually. Now Christ, speaking to them individually, finds that they had taken the administration of justice into their own hands, and that rather than do that, they had better turn the other cheek. Dr. Broadus in his comment on the Sermon on the Mount, brings out very clearly those Hebrew laws that seems to express impossibility. He shows what they rather mean in such cases.

17. What is the meaning of the phrase, "must bear his iniquity"?

Ans. – This referred to that blasphemy, a violation of the law of God. "Now he must bear his iniquity," – what is the meaning of this? Always throughout both Old Testament and New Testament that means he must pay the penalty of the offense, and so in its application to Christ, when it is used in Isaiah 53: "He bore the iniquity of man," that means the payment of the penalty, or as Peter expresses it in his letter, "He bore our sins on the cross," that is, he paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. Now don’t forget the meaning of that word "bear." Trace it through both Testaments, and see that it means, "pay the penalty."

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Leviticus 24". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/leviticus-24.html.
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