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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Leviticus 26

Verse 1

Idols - literally, “things of nought.” Hebrew אלילים 'ĕlı̂ylı̂m. There appears to have been a play on the similarity in sound of this word to אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym (God). Compare 1 Corinthians 8:4.

Standing image - Either an upright statue, or a pillar, such as an obelisk or a Celtic menhir, set up for an idolatrous purpose (compare Exodus 34:13 note). The public worship of Yahweh required, first, the exclusion of all visible symbols of deity as well as of all idolatrous objects, and next Leviticus 26:2, the keeping holy the times and the place appointed by the Law for His formal service. The word “sabbaths” must here include the whole of the set times. See Leviticus 23:3 note.

Verses 3-45

As “the book of the covenant” Exodus 20:22-33 concludes with promises and warnings Exodus 23:20-33, so does this collection of laws contained in the Book of Leviticus. But the former passage relates to the conquest of the land of promise, this one to the subsequent history of the nation. The longer similar passage in Deuteronomy Deut. 27–30 is marked by broader and deeper promises and denunciations having immediate reference not only to outward consequences, but to the spiritual death incurred by transgressing the divine will.

Leviticus 26:4

Rain in due season - The periodical rains, on which the fertility of the holy land so much depends, are here spoken of. There are two wet seasons, called in Scripture the former and the latter rain Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23; Hosea 6:3; James 5:7. The former or Autumn rain falls in heavy showers in November and December. In March the latter or Spring rain comes on, which is precarious in quantity and duration, and rarely lasts more than two days.

Leviticus 26:5

Compare the margin reference; Joel 2:19; Job 11:18.

Leviticus 26:8

Five of you shall chase - A proverbial mode of expression for superiority in warlike prowess Deuteronomy 32:30; Isaiah 30:17.

Leviticus 26:9

Establish my covenant - All material blessings were to be regarded in the light of seals of the “everlasting covenant.” Compare Genesis 17:4-8; Nehemiah 9:23.

Leviticus 26:10

Bring forth the old because of the new - Rather, clear away the old before the new; that is, in order to make room for the latter. Compare the margin reference.

Leviticus 26:16

The first warning for disobedience is disease. “Terror” (literally trembling) is rendered trouble in Psalms 78:33; Isaiah 65:23. It seems here to denote that terrible affliction, an anxious temperament, the mental state ever at war with Faith and Hope. This might well be placed at the head of the visitations on a backslider who had broken the covenant with his God. Compare Deuteronomy 32:25; Jeremiah 15:8; Proverbs 28:1; Job 24:17; Psalms 23:4.

Consumption, and the burning ague - Compare the margin reference. The first of the words in the original comes from a root signifying to waste away; the latter (better, fever), from one signifying to kindle a fire. Consumption is common in Egypt and some parts of Asia Minor, but it is more rare in Syria. Fevers of different kinds are the commonest of all diseases in Syria and all the neighboring countries. The opposite promise to the threat is given in Exodus 15:26; Exodus 23:25.

Leviticus 26:18

For all this - i. e. for all the afflictions in Leviticus 26:16-17.

Seven times - The sabbatical number is here proverbially used to remind the people of the covenant. Compare Genesis 4:15, Genesis 4:24; Psalms 119:164; Proverbs 24:16; Luke 17:4.

Leviticus 26:19, Leviticus 26:20

The second warning is utter sterility of the soil. Compare Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 28:18; Ezekiel 33:28; Ezekiel 36:34-35.

Leviticus 26:21, Leviticus 26:22

The third warning is the multiplication of destructive animals, etc. Compare Deuteronomy 32:24; Ezekiel 5:17; Ezekiel 14:15; Judges 5:6-7; Isaiah 33:8.

Leviticus 26:23-26

The fourth warning. Yahweh now places Himself as it were in a hostile position toward His people who “will not be reformed” (rather, brought unto God: Jeremiah 2:30). He will avenge the outraged cause of His covenant, by the sword, pestilence, famine, and captivity.

Leviticus 26:26

Omit “and.” “To break the staff of bread,” was a proverbial expression for cutting off the supply of bread, the staff of life (Psalms 105:16; Ezekiel 4:16; Ezekiel 5:16; Ezekiel 14:13; compare Isaiah 3:1). The supply was to be so reduced that one oven would suffice for baking the bread maple by ten women for ten families, and when made it was to be dealt out in sparing rations by weight. See 2 Kings 6:25; Jeremiah 14:18; Lamentations 4:9; Ezekiel 5:12; Hosea 4:10; Micah 6:14; Haggai 1:6.

Leviticus 26:27-33

The fifth warning. For Leviticus 26:29 see 2 Kings 6:28-29; Jeremiah 19:8-9; Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 4:10; Ezekiel 5:10, for Leviticus 26:30 see 2 Chronicles 34:3; Ezekiel 6:4; Jeremiah 14:19, for Leviticus 26:31 see 2 Kings 25:9; Psalms 74:6-7 : for Leviticus 26:32-33 see Deuteronomy 28:37; Psalms 44:11; Jeremiah 9:16; Jeremiah 18:16; Ezekiel 5:1-17; Jeremiah 4:7; Ezekiel 9:6; Ezekiel 12:15; Zechariah 7:14.

Leviticus 26:30

High places - There is no doubt that the word here denotes elevated spots dedicated to false worship (see Deuteronomy 12:2), and especially, it would seem, to that of Baal Numbers 22:41; Joshua 13:17. Such spots were, however, employed and approved for the worship of Yahweh, not only before the building of the temple, but afterward (Judges 6:25-26; Judges 13:16-23; 1 Samuel 7:10; 1 Samuel 16:5; 1 Kings 3:2; 1 Kings 18:30; 2 Kings 12:3; 1 Chronicles 21:26, etc.). The three altars built by Abraham at Shechem, between Bethel and Ai, and at Mamre, appear to have been on heights, and so was the temple.

The high places in the holy land may thus have been divided into those dedicated to the worship of Yahweh, and those which had been dedicated to idols. And it would seem as if there was a constant struggle going on. The high places polluted by idol worship were of course to be wholly condemned. They were probably resorted to only to gratify a degraded superstition. See Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:2-5. The others might have been innocently used for prayer and religious teaching. But the temptation appears to have been too great for the temper of the people. They offered sacrifice and burnt incense on them; and hence, thorough reformers of the national religion, such as Hezekiah and Josiah, removed the high places altogether 2 Kings 18:4; 2 Kings 23:5.

Your images - The original word is rendered in the margin of our Bible sun images (2 Chronicles 14:5; Isaiah 17:8; Ezekiel 6:4, etc.). Phoenician inscriptions prove that the word was commonly applied to images of Baal and Astarte, the god of the sun and the goddess of the moon. This exactly explains 2 Chronicles 34:4 following.

Idols - The Hebrew word here literally means things which could be rolled about, such as a block of wood or a lump of dirt. It was no doubt a name given in derision. Compare Isaiah 40:20; Isa 44:19; 2 Kings 1:2.

Leviticus 26:31

Sanctuaries - The holy places in the tabernacle and the temple (Psalms 68:35. Compare Psalms 74:7).

I will not smell the savor ... - See Leviticus 1:9.

Leviticus 26:35

More literally: All the days of its desolation shall it rest that time which it rested not in your Sabbaths while ye dwelt upon it. That is, the periods of rest of which the land had been deprived would be made up to it. Compare 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.

Leviticus 26:38

The land of your enemies shall eat you up - Compare Numbers 13:32; Ezekiel 36:13.

Leviticus 26:39

Iniquity - The meaning here is, in the punishment of their iniquity, and, in the next clause, in the punishment of the iniquity (as in Leviticus 26:41, Leviticus 26:43) of their fathers. In the next verse the same Hebrew word is properly represented by “iniquity.” Our translators have in several places put one of the English words in the text and the other in the margin (Genesis 4:13; Genesis 19:15; 2 Kings 7:9; Psalms 69:27, etc.). The language of Scripture does not make that trenchant division between sin and punishment which we are accustomed to do. Sin is its own punishment, having in itself, from its very commencement, the germ of death. “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” James 1:15; Romans 2:5; Romans 5:12.

Leviticus 26:40

trespass - The Hebrew word signifies an injury inflicted on the rights of a person, as distinguished from a sin or iniquity regarded as an outrage of the divine law. Every wrong act is of course both a sin and a trespass against God. In this place Yahweh takes the breach of the covenant as a personal trespass.

Leviticus 26:41

Uncircumcised hearts - The outward sign of the covenant might be preserved, but the answering grace in the heart would be wanting (Acts 7:51; Romans 2:28-29; Jeremiah 6:10; Jeremiah 9:26; compare Colossians 2:11).

Accept of the punishment of their iniquity - literally, enjoy their iniquity. The word here and in Leviticus 26:43 rendered “accept” in this phrase, is the same as is rendered “enjoy” in the expression “the land shall enjoy her sabbaths” Leviticus 26:34. The antithesis in Leviticus 26:43 is this: The land shall enjoy her sabbaths - and they shall enjoy the punishment of their iniquity. The meaning is, that the land being desolate shall have the blessing of rest, and they having repented shall have the blessing of chastisement. The feelings of a devout captive Israelite are beautifully expressed in Tobit 13:1-18.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Leviticus 26". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.