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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 19

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 2

Ye shall be holy ... - These words express the keynote to the whole book of Leviticus, being addressed to the whole nation. There does not appear to be any systematic arrangement in the laws which follow. They were intended as guards to the sanctity of the elect people, enforcing common duties by immediate appeal to the highest authority. Compare Leviticus 18:24-30 note.

Verse 3

Compare Exodus 20:8, Exodus 20:12; Exodus 31:13-14. The two laws repeated here are the only laws in the Decalogue which assume a positive shape, all the others being introduced by the formula, “Thou shalt not.” These express two great central points, the first belonging to natural law and the second to positive law, in the maintenance of the well-being of the social body of which Yahweh was the acknowledged king.

Verse 5

Rather, ye shall offer it that you may be accepted.

Verses 9-10

See Deuteronomy 24:19-21. “Grape” signifies fallen fruit of any kind; and “vineyard” a fruit garden of any kind. Compare Deuteronomy 23:24.

The poor - is the poor Israelite - “the stranger” is properly the foreigner, who could possess no land of his own in the land of Israel.

Verses 11-13

Leviticus 19:11 forbids injuries perpetrated by craft; Leviticus 19:13, those perpetrated by violence or power, the conversion of might into right. In Leviticus 19:13 “defraud” should rather be, oppress.

Verse 14

The meaning appears to be, “Thou shalt not utter curses to the deaf because he cannot hear thee, neither shalt thou put a stumbling-block in the way of the blind because he cannot see thee (compare Deuteronomy 27:18), but thou shalt remember that though the weak and poor cannot resist, nor the deaf hear, nor the blind see, God is strong, and sees and hears all that thou doest.” Compare Job 29:15.

Verse 16

Stand against the blood of thy neighbor - Either, to put his life in danger by standing up as his accuser (compare Matthew 26:60); or, to stand by idly when thy neighbor’s life is in danger. Whichever interpretation we adopt, the clause prohibits that which might interfere with the course of justice.

Verse 17

Not suffer sin upon him - Rather, not hear sin on his account; that is, either by bearing secret ill-will Ephesians 4:26, or by encouraging him to sin in withholding due rebuke Romans 1:32.

Verse 19

Linen and woolen - The original word is found only here and in Deuteronomy 22:11, where it is rendered “of divers sorts.” It may denote such tissues as linsey woolsey.

Verse 20

Betrothed to an husband - Rather, who has been betrothed to a man. The reference appears to be to a bondwoman who has been betrothed to a fellow-servant by her master. Death was the punishment for unfaithfulness in a betrothed woman in other cases. Compare Deuteronomy 22:23-24.

She shall be scourged - Or, They shall be chastized (see the margin). The trespass-offering was especially due from the man as having not only sinned with the woman, but inflicted an injury on the rights of the master.

Verse 23

Fruit ... uncircumcised - i. e. unfit for presentation to Yahweh. In regard to its spiritual lesson, this law may be compared with the dedication of the first-born of beasts to Yahweh Exodus 13:12; Exodus 34:19. Its meaning in a moral point of view was plain, and tended to illustrate the spirit of the whole Law.

Verses 26-28

Certain pagan customs, several of them connected with magic, are here grouped together. The prohibition to eat anything with the blood may indeed refer to the eating of meat which had not been properly bled in slaughtering (Leviticus 7:26; Leviticus 17:10, etc.): but it is not improbable that there may be a special reference to some sort of magical or idolatrous rites. Compare Ezekiel 33:25.

Leviticus 19:26

Observe times - It is not clear whether the original word refers to the fancied distinction between lucky and unlucky days, to some mode of drawing omens from the clouds, or to the exercise of “the evil eye.”

Leviticus 19:27

Round the corners of your heads - This may allude to such a custom as that of the Arabs described by Herodotus. They used to show honor to their deity Orotal by cutting the hair away from the temples in a circular form. Compare the margin reference.

Mar the corners of thy beard - It has been conjectured that this also relates to a custom which existed among the Arabs, but we are not informed that it had any idolatrous or magical association. As the same, or very similar customs, are mentioned in Leviticus 21:5, and in Deuteronomy 14:1, as well as here, it would appear that they may have been signs of mourning.

Leviticus 19:28

Cuttings in your flesh for the dead - Compare the margin reference. Among the excitable races of the East this custom appears to have been very common.

Print any marks - Tattooing was probably practiced in ancient Egypt, as it is now by the lower classes of the modern Egyptians, and was connected with superstitious notions. Any voluntary disfigurement of the person was in itself an outrage upon God’s workmanship, and might well form the subject of a law.

Verse 31

The devotion of faith, which would manifest itself in obedience to the commandment to keep God’s Sabbaths and to reverence His sanctuary Leviticus 19:30, is the true preservative against the superstition which is forbidden in this verse. The people whose God was Yahweh were not to indulge those wayward feelings of their human nature which are gratified in magical arts and pretensions. Compare Isaiah 8:19.

Familiar spirits - literally, “bottles”. This application of the word is supposed to have been suggested by the tricks of ventriloquists, within whose bodies (as vessels or bottles) it was fancied that spirits used to speak. In other cases, the word is used for the familiar spirit which a man pretended to employ in order to consult, or to raise, the spirits of the dead. See 1 Samuel 28:7-8.

Wizard - A word equivalent to “a knowing man”, or, “a cunning man”.

Verse 32

The outward respect due to old age is here immediately connected with the fear of God. Compare the margin reference.

Verses 33-34

The stranger - The foreigner. See Leviticus 16:29 note; Exodus 23:9.

Verses 35-36

The ephah is here taken as the standard of dry measure, and the bin (see Exodus 29:40 note) as the standard of liquid measure. Of the two very different estimates of the capacities of these measures, the more probable is that the ephah did not hold quite four gallons and a half, and the hin not quite six pints. The log was a twelfth part of the hin Leviticus 14:10.

Leviticus 19:36

I am the Lord your God ... - A full stop should precede these words. They intraduce the formal conclusion to the whole string of precepts in this chapter, which are all enforced upon the ground of the election of the nation by Yahweh who had delivered them from the bondage of Egypt.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Leviticus 19". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/leviticus-19.html. 1870.
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