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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Leviticus 19

Verse 1

1. And the Lord spake. This is the object of the exhortation: first, that they should not measure the service of God by their own conceits, but rather by His nature; and secondly, that they should begin by studying (281) to be holy. For nothing is harder than for men to divest themselves of their carnal affections to prepare for imitating God. Besides, they willingly lie slumbering in their own filthiness, and seek to cloak it by the outward appearance of religion. Here, then, they are recalled to the imitation of God, who, in adopting them, desired that they should bear His image, just as good and undegenerate children resemble their father. If any should pretend to equal God, his emulation would be madness; but although the most perfect come very far short even of the angels, yet the weakness of the very humblest does not prevent him from aspiring after the example of God. To this point did all the ceremonies tend, whereby God exercised His ancient people unto holiness, as we shall hereafter see. Although this declaration does not occur once only, yet because it is annexed in other places to special precepts in order to their confirmation, let it suffice at present to apprehend the general doctrine it contains.

(281) “Pour le servir deuement, ils commencent par ce bout, de se purifier de toutes souillures;” in order to serve Him duly, they should begin by purifying themselves from all uncleanness — Fr.

Verse 3

Since this passage unquestionably relates to the explanation of the Fifth Commandment, it confirms what I have before shown, that the honor which God-commands to be paid to parents, does not consist in reverence only, but also embraces obedience. For the reverence which He now prescribes will render children submissive and compliant. Now, then, we more clearly understand how parents are to be honored, when God exhorts their children to beware of offending them; for this is, in a word, the true manifestation of filial piety, calmly to bear the yoke of subjection, and to prove by acts a sincere desire to obey.

Verse 11

God here explains somewhat more clearly His mind and design, for He enumerates as thefts eases in which either deceit or violence is employed. The two words, which we have translated to deny, and to lie, signify also to deceive; as also to lie, or to frustrate hope. (98) There is no question, then, but that God would restrain His people from all craft, or deceit, that they may deal sincerely and honestly with each other; even as Paul wisely explains the meaning of the Holy Spirit, when he exhorts believers to

put away lying, and to speak every man truth with his neighbor; for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25.)

In the second passage, God commands men to demean themselves meekly and temperately with their neighbors, so as to abstain from all unjust oppression. The meaning which Jerome (99) and others after him, have given to the word עשק gnashak, to calumniate, is incorrect altogether; for it is everywhere used for to oppress, despoil, rob, or lay hands on the goods of another. It is clear, therefore, that as Moses had previously provided against frauds, he now prohibits the iniquity of extorting from our neighbor what we have no right to. Still, violence, or open rapine, is better expressed by the other word גזל gezal; and these (100) two words are, ill my opinion, as it were, genus and species. After he had forbidden, therefore, that they should in any way oppress their brethren and possess themselves of their goods, he at the same time adds, that they should not use violence in despoiling them unjustly. Finally, he points out one mode of unjust oppression, when a person, who has hired himself as a laborer, is defrauded of his wages, and not only if he be sent away without payment, his wages being denied him, but if payment be deferred to the morrow. For we know that hirelings generally live from hand to mouth, and therefore, if there be ever so little delay, they must go without food. Consequently, if a rich man keeps a poor and wretched individual, whose labor he has abused, in suspense, he deprives him as it were of life, in depriving him of his daily food. The sum is, that humanity is so to be cultivated that none should be oppressed, or suffer loss from default of payment.

(98) A. V. , “deal falsely, neither lie.” Ainsworth, “neither falsely deny, nor deal falsely.”

(99) A. V. , “Non facies calumniam proximo tuo, nec vi opprimes eum.” “The first of these terms signifies to oppress by fraud; the second to oppress by violence. Against both these offenses, John the Baptist warned the soldiers who came to him; Luke 3:14.” — Bush from Ainsworth.

(100) “Et a mon avis que le premier est comme genre, et le second comme espece;” and, in my opinion, that the first is, as it were, genus, and the second species. — Fr.

Verse 14

Since the Law comprehends under the word murder, all the wrongs whereby men are unjustly injured, that cruelty was especially to be condemned by which those wretched persons are afflicted, whose calamity ought rather to conciliate our compassion. For, if any particle of humanity exists in us, when we meet a blind man we shall be solicitous lest he should stumble or fall, and, if he goes astray, we shall stretch out our hands to him and try to bring him back into the way; we shall also spare the deaf, for to insult them is no less absurd or barbarous than to assail stones with reproaches. It is, therefore, gross brutality to increase the ills of those whom our natural sense impels us to relieve, and who are already troubled more than enough. Let us, then, learn from these words, that the weaker people are, the more secure ought they to be from all oppression or injury, and that, when we attack the defenseless, the crime of cruelty is greatly aggravated, whilst any insult against the calamitous is altogether intolerable to God.

Verse 16

16. Thou shalt not go up and down. The principle of the second clause is the same as that of the foregoing verse, for it is added to a general precept, whereby detraction is condemned: and much more ought we to be deterred from it, whilst we acknowledge that our tongue is thus armed cruelly to shed innocent blood. Some suppose that the word רכיל, racil, is metaphorically taken from merchants, because the tale-bearer or whisperer (169) is no less busy in hunting for false reports, which he may afterwards circulate, than the merchant is diligently bent on buying and selling. Others think that there is a change of the letter ג into כ; and that thus the word is derived from the feet; because calumniators are always wandering about to hunt for grounds of detraction; and therefore is always joined with a verb which signifies to walk. I do not think, however, that it is always used in the same sense; for when Ezekiel reproves the Israelites, because there were always men called רכיל, racil, among them, to shed blood, (170) I understand men of fraud, or fraudulent persons, who plot against the good to procure their destruction. ( Ezekiel 22:9.) Some also translate it spies. Meanwhile, I doubt not, but that Moses, in this passage, designates those vagabonds, who too eagerly run about hither and thither, and in their malignant inquisitiveness penetrate into everybody’s secrets, to bring quiet people into trouble. In short, we are taught that they are accounted false witnesses before God, whosoever by the virulence of their tongue bring their brethren into danger and inconvenience.

(169) “Delator aut susurro.” — Lat. “The original properly signifies a trader, a pedlar, and is here applied to one who travels up and down dealing in slanders and detractions, as a merchant does in wares, possessing himself of the secrets of individuals and families, and then blazing them abroad, usually with a false colouring as to motives and a distortion of facts.” — Bush. “Some explain רכיל as if רגיל, (the ג being changed into כ,) from רגל, to run about, to explore. ” — Fagius, from the Hebrew Commentators, in Poole’s Synopsis. “Non reperimus in S. Scriptura dictionem רכילות, quae non sit scripta lingua הליכה, i e. , ambulationis.” — Sal. Jarchi in loco. See C. on Jeremiah 9:4, Cal. Soc. edit., vol. 1, p. 464

(170) “In thee are men that carry tales ( margin, men of slanders) to shed blood.” — A. V.

Verse 17

17. Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor. Because many, under the pretext of conscientiousness, are not only rigid censors of others, but also burst out in the open proclamation of their defects, Moses seeks to prevent this preposterous zeal, shewing how they may best restrain it, not by encouraging sin through their connivance or silence, whilst they are still far from evil-speaking. For those who labor under this disease of carping and vituperating, are wont to object that sins are nourished by silence, unless all are eager in reproving them; and hence their ardor in exclaiming against them and deriding them. But Moses points out a more useful remedy, that they should bring back wanderers into the way by private rebukes, and not by publishing their offenses. For whosoever triumphs in the infamy of his brother, precipitates his ruin as far as in him lies; whereas a well-regulated zeal consults the welfare of one who is ruining himself. Therefore we are commanded to rebuke the wandering, and not to regard our brethren as enemies. A similar course is prescribed by Christ, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” ( Matthew 18:15.) In fine, an immoderate love of fault-finding will always be found to be arrogant and cruel. The word נשא, nasa, undoubtedly means to publish what was concealed, and thus by exposure to drive to despair those who would else have been corrigible.

Verse 17

17. Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor. Because many, under the pretext of conscientiousness, are not only rigid censors of others, but also burst out in the open proclamation of their defects, Moses seeks to prevent this preposterous zeal, shewing how they may best restrain it, not by encouraging sin through their connivance or silence, whilst they are still far from evil-speaking. For those who labor under this disease of carping and vituperating, are wont to object that sins are nourished by silence, unless all are eager in reproving them; and hence their ardor in exclaiming against them and deriding them. But Moses points out a more useful remedy, that they should bring back wanderers into the way by private rebukes, and not by publishing their offenses. For whosoever triumphs in the infamy of his brother, precipitates his ruin as far as in him lies; whereas a well-regulated zeal consults the welfare of one who is ruining himself. Therefore we are commanded to rebuke the wandering, and not to regard our brethren as enemies. A similar course is prescribed by Christ, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” ( Matthew 18:15.) In fine, an immoderate love of fault-finding will always be found to be arrogant and cruel. The word נשא, nasa, undoubtedly means to publish what was concealed, and thus by exposure to drive to despair those who would else have been corrigible.

Verse 18

18. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. What every man’s mind ought to be towards his neighbor, could not be better expressed in many pages that in this one sentence. We are all of us not only inclined to love ourselves more than we should, but all our powers hurry us away in this direction; nay, φιλαυτία (self-love) blinds us so much as to be the parent of all iniquities. Since, therefore, whilst we are too much given to love ourselves, we forget and neglect our brethren, God could only bring us back to charity by plucking from our hearts that vicious passion which is born with us and dwells deeply in us; nor, again, could this be done except by transferring elsewhere the love which exists within us. On this point no less has the dishonesty betrayed itself than the ignorance and folly of those (185) who would have the love of ourselves come first: “The rule (say they) is superior to the thing regulated by it; and according to God’s commandment, the charity which we should exercise towards others is formed upon the love of ourselves as its rule.” As if it were God’s purpose to stir up the fire which already burns too fiercely. Naturally, as I have said, we are blinded by our immoderate self-love; and God, in order to turn us away from this, has substituted our neighbors, whom we are to love no less than ourselves; nor will any one ever perform what Paul teaches us to be a part of charity, viz., that she “seeketh not her own,” ( 1 Corinthians 13:5,) until he shall have renounced himself.

Not only those with whom we have some connection are called our neighbors, but all without exception; for the whole human race forms one body, of which all are members, and consequently should be bound together by mutual ties; for we must bear in mind that even those who are most alienated from us, should be cherished and aided even as our own flesh; since we have (186) seen elsewhere that sojourners and strangers are placed in the same category (with our relations; (187)) and Christ sufficiently confirms this in the case of the Samaritan. (Luke 10:30.)

(185) “Les docteurs Papistes.” — Fr. See ante on Leviticus 19:18, p. 23.

(186) On Leviticus 19:33, ante p. 118.

(187) Added from Fr.

Verse 18

18. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. What every man’s mind ought to be towards his neighbor, could not be better expressed in many pages that in this one sentence. We are all of us not only inclined to love ourselves more than we should, but all our powers hurry us away in this direction; nay, φιλαυτία (self-love) blinds us so much as to be the parent of all iniquities. Since, therefore, whilst we are too much given to love ourselves, we forget and neglect our brethren, God could only bring us back to charity by plucking from our hearts that vicious passion which is born with us and dwells deeply in us; nor, again, could this be done except by transferring elsewhere the love which exists within us. On this point no less has the dishonesty betrayed itself than the ignorance and folly of those (185) who would have the love of ourselves come first: “The rule (say they) is superior to the thing regulated by it; and according to God’s commandment, the charity which we should exercise towards others is formed upon the love of ourselves as its rule.” As if it were God’s purpose to stir up the fire which already burns too fiercely. Naturally, as I have said, we are blinded by our immoderate self-love; and God, in order to turn us away from this, has substituted our neighbors, whom we are to love no less than ourselves; nor will any one ever perform what Paul teaches us to be a part of charity, viz., that she “seeketh not her own,” ( 1 Corinthians 13:5,) until he shall have renounced himself.

Not only those with whom we have some connection are called our neighbors, but all without exception; for the whole human race forms one body, of which all are members, and consequently should be bound together by mutual ties; for we must bear in mind that even those who are most alienated from us, should be cherished and aided even as our own flesh; since we have (186) seen elsewhere that sojourners and strangers are placed in the same category (with our relations; (187)) and Christ sufficiently confirms this in the case of the Samaritan. (Luke 10:30.)

(185) “Les docteurs Papistes.” — Fr. See ante on Leviticus 19:18, p. 23.

(186) On Leviticus 19:33, ante p. 118.

(187) Added from Fr.

Verse 20

Albeit in God’s sight there is no difference between bond and free, yet their condition is diverse as regards courts of justice; (70) nor do the same evil consequences ensue from adultery with a bond-maid, (as with a free woman.) (71) Notwithstanding, therefore, that the crime is worthy of death, still, in consideration of the people’s infirmity, the punishment is mitigated, so that, if a person shall have corrupted a betrothed bond-maid, both shall be scourged. (72) From hence we infer that, if a concubine, who had already cohabited with a man, were seduced, it was accounted a capital adultery. Lest it should be falsely held, from the lenity or indulgence of the law, that the offense was a trifling one, this error is at once anticipated by the addition of the expiation: for, if one already beaten with stripes still required reconciliation, it follows that the measure of the offense is not to be estimated by its penalty.

(70) “Quant aux jugemens terreins, et humains.” — Fr.

(71) Added from Fr.

(72) C. ’s Latin version and Commentary agree here with the margin of, A. V. rather than the text, “she shall be scourged;” margin, “there shall be a scourging.” Dathe ’ s translation is “vapulabunt ambo,” and his note, “sic Vulgatus recte, sequitur enim pluralis non moriantur. Cf. Michaelis in J. M. P. V., p. 50.”

Verse 23

23. And when ye shall come. There seems to me no question but that the circumcision of trees as well as of men appertains to the First Commandment, not only that the Jews might see a symbol of their own adoption in the very trees, but that they might learn that it was permitted to none but the children of God to feed on their fruit; and also that whatsoever the earth produces is in a manner profane, until it is purified. For surely by this ceremony was set forth what Paul teaches, that all things are “sanctified by the word of God, and prayer,” (1 Timothy 4:5;) not that anything is in itself impure, but because the earth has contracted pollution from the corruption of man, it is just, as regards us, that the harmless fruits also should be accounted to be in uncircumcision. In sum, God would raise up a wall whereby He might separate His people from the Gentiles, and at the same time admonish them that a legitimate use of those things which the earth produced could not be made by the sons of Adam, except by special privilege. But the similitude of uncircumcision, until the year appointed for their being circumcised, was a very appropriate one, that they might acknowledge the fruits of their trees to be pure for them by the same right whereby they were consecrated as God’s peculiar people. But, lest the three years’ unproductiveness should press heavily upon them, he promises them compensation from the future blessing of God; for, if they should abstain from eating the unclean fruit, a larger produce was to be expected in future.

Verse 27

27. Ye shall not round the corners. It clearly appears that God had no other object than by the interposition of this obstacle to sever His people from heathen nations. For there is nothing to which men are more prone than to conform themselves to the customs of others; and hence it arises, that they mutually communicate each other’s vices. Wherefore care was especially to be taken lest the people of Israel should adopt foreign habits, and by this pliableness should fall away from the true worship of God; from whence too the ordinary phrase has arisen, that the word “common” should be used for “unclean.” God then strictly forbids them from declining to the habits of the Gentiles, and confounding the distinction which He had Himself placed between them. There is no doubt but that it was usual for the Gentiles, out of superstition, to cut marks (31) upon their faces, to trim the hair in certain steps or circles, and in their mourning to lacerate their flesh, or to disfigure it with marks. It is well known that the priests of Cybele (32) made gashes in their flesh with knives and razors, and covered themselves all over with wounds, for the sake of shewing their zeal. The same thing was also commonly practiced by others; inasmuch as the world is easily deceived by external ceremonies. But though this were a thing in itself indifferent, yet God would not allow His people to be at liberty to practice it, that, like children, they might learn from these slight rudiments, that they would not be acceptable with God, unless they were altogether different from uncircumcised foreigners, and as far as possible from following their examples; and especially that they should avoid all ceremonies whereby their religion was testified. For experience teaches how greatly the true worship of God is obscured by anything adscititious, and how easily foul superstitions creep in, when the comments of men are tacked on to the word of God. Doubtless that part, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead,” etc., might be expounded as a correction of immoderate grief; because we know how intemperately men set themselves against God when they give the reins to their sorrow; but since the object of the Gentiles was to pay what was due to the dead, and to celebrate their funeral obsequies (33) as a kind of propitiation, it is probable, and more suitable, that by the whole context those preposterous gestures are condemned, which were proofs of piety among the Gentiles, but which would have been defilements to the people of God.

The same thing appears more clearly from the passage in Deuteronomy, which next follows, wherein Moses condemns cutting themselves, and making themselves bald for the dead in connection with each other, as if they were one thing; and confirms the law by a general argument, that they might withdraw themselves from every pollution as the children of God; since they were chosen to be His peculiar people; as much as to say, that God’s grace would be altogether frustrated, if they did not differ at all from foreign nations. As to his saying that they were chosen out of all the nations, it does not a little illustrate the gratuitous mercy of God, wherewith He honored them alone, by calling them to the hope of eternal salvation, and passing by the Gentiles; for there was no nobility found in them, nor did they exceed others either in number or in any other superiority, on account of which He should prefer them to the whole world. But the design of Moses in magnifying the extraordinary goodness of God, was that they might the more abhor that impure cornmixture, which, by bringing them on a par with the Gentiles, degraded them from this high honor.

(31) “Most of the barbarous nations lately discovered have their faces, arms:, breasts, etc., curiously carved or tattooed, probably for superstitious purposes. Ancient writers abound with accounts of marks made on the faces, arms, etc., in honor of different idols; and to this the inspired penman alludes, (Revelation 13:16, etc.), where false worshippers are represented as receiving in their hands, and in their forehead, the marks of the beast. These were called στίγματα among the Greeks, and to these St. Paul refers when he says, “I bear about in my body the marks ( στίγματα) of the Lord Jesus.".(Galatians 6:17)

" All the castes of the Hindoos bear on their foreheads, or elsewhere, what are called sectarian marks, which not only distinguish them in a civil, but in a religious point of view, from each other."

"Herodotus observes that the Arabs shave, or cut their hair round, in honor of Bacchus; (lib. 3. ch. 8). He says, also, that the Macians, a people of Lybia, cut their hair round, so as to leave a tuft on the top of the head; (lib. 4. ch. 175."

"That the ancients were very violent in their grief, tearing the hair and face, beating the breast, etc., is well known. Virgil represents the sister of Dido: — Unguibus ora — foedans, et pectora pugnis. AEn. iv. 672.” — Adam Clarke, in loco.

(32) The authorities for this practice of the Galli, or Priests of Cybele, are too numerous to mention. The following extract from a curious description given by Apuleius, of the religious dance of her worshippers, may suffice: “ Die sequenti variis coloribus indusiati, et deformiter quisque formarti, facie coenoso pigmento delita, et oculis obunctis graphice, prodeunt; mitellis, et crocotis, et carbasinis, et bombycinis injecti. Quidam tunicas albas, in modum lanciolarum quoquoversum fluente purpura depictas, cingulo subligati, pedes luteis induti calceis, Deamque serico contectam amiculo mihi gerendam imponunt: brachiisque suis humero tenus renudatis, attollentes immanes gladios ac secures, evantes exsiliunt, incitante tibiae cantu lymphaticum tripudium.

" Nec paucis pererratis casulis, ad quandam villam possessoris beati perveniunt, et ab ingressu primo statim absonis ululatibus constrepentes, fanatice pervolant. Diuque capite demisso, cervices lubricis intorquentes motibus, crinesque pendulos rotantes in circulum, et nonnunquam morsibus suos incursantes musculos, ad postremum ancipiti ferro, quod gerebant, sua quisque brachia dissecant.” — Metam. (lib. 8, Edit). (Bipont. 1. 184-185)

(33) “ Et user de satisfactions pour racheter leurs ames;” and to offer satisfactions for the redemption of their souls. — Fr.

Verse 29

This passage more clearly proves that all unlicensed connections (64) were always unlawful in God’s sight. It is a tame and forced interpretation to apply what is here said to spiritual fornication; and those also, who suppose that public stews only are forbidden, restrict the law too much, whereas God rather gives a general injunction that parents should preserve their daughters by means of a pure and chaste education. But even although we admit that nothing else is prohibited but that parents should be the panders of their daughters, still we gather from the word pollute (65) (for some render the word חלל, chalal, too tamely to make common) that they are contaminated by their whoredom, and the reason given abundantly confirms the fact, that all whoredom is hateful to God, “lest the land fall to whoredom, (He says,) and the land become full of wickedness.” It is plain that adultery is not in question here; but God declares it to be criminal if a man and woman have connection out of wedlock. Consequently, the people are taught in the Seventh Commandment to beware of all unchastity.

(64) “Toute compagnie d’homme et de femme hors le mariage.” — Fr.

(65) Margin A. V. , “profane.”

Verse 30

Leviticus 19:30

; 26:2. Ye shall keep my Sabbaths. From these two passages it is manifest that the service of the tabernacle was annexed to the Sabbath, and that the two things were not only connected by an indissoluble tie, but that the rest from labor had reference to the sacrifices; since it would have been a mere mockery to rest without any ulterior object; nay more, after Moses has spoken of the rest, he seems to subjoin the reverencing of the sanctuary, as if it were the generic ordinance; so that the people might understand that all impediments were removed which are wont to withdraw them from the service of God. The expression, “fear the sanctuary,” (336) is a figurative one; but is equivalent to this, that they should shew by their very reverence of the sanctuary how truly and sincerely they fear God, who had promised that He would be present there, whenever He should be invoked.

(336) “ Reverence my sanctuary.” — A.V. Ainsworth says, “In Targum Jonathan this law is explained thus, Ye shall go to the house of my sanctuary in fear;” and then quotes from Maimon many Jewish rites observed in the temple.

Verse 32

32. Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head. God teaches us that some sparks of His majesty shine forth in old men, whereby they approach to the honor of parents. It is not my purpose to gather quotations from profane authors in reference to the honor due to the old; let it suffice that what God here commands is dictated by nature itself. This appeared at Athens, (14) when an old man had come into the theater, and found no place among his fellow-citizens; but, when at length he was admitted with honor by the Spartan ambassador, (because old age is greatly reverenced among the Lacedemonians,) applause was raised on all sides; and then the Lacedemonian exclaimed, that “the Athenians knew what was right, but would not do it.” It was surely manifested by this universal consent of the people that it is a natural law in the hearts of all to reverence and honor old men. Many old men, indeed, either by their levity, or lewdness, or sloth, subvert their own dignity; yet, although gray hairs may not always be accompanied by courteous wisdom, still, in itself, age is venerable, according to God’s command.

(14) Cicero, de Senectute, 18; and Val. Max., lib. 4:5.

Verse 33

Leviticus 19:33

. And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land. Before I pass on to the other iniquities, I have thought fit to introduce this precept, wherein the people are commanded to cultivate equity towards all without exception. Fob if no mention had been made of strangers, the Israelites would have thought that, provided they had not injured any one of their own nation, they had fully discharged their duty; but, when God recommends guests and sojourners to them, just as if they had been their own kindred, they thence understand that equity is to be cultivated constantly and towards all men. Nor is it without cause that God interposes Himself and His protection, lest injury should be done to strangers; for since they have no one who would submit to ill-will in their defense, they are more exposed to the violence and various oppressions of the ungodly, than as if they were under the shelter of domestic securities. The same rule is to be observed towards widows and orphans; a woman, on account of the weakness of her sex, is exposed to many evils, unless she dwells under the shadow of a husband; and many plot against orphans, as if they were their prey, because they have none to advise them. Since, then, they are thus destitute of human aid, God interposes to assist them; and, if they are unjustly oppressed, He declares that He will be their avenger. In the first passage He includes widows and orphans together with strangers; in the latter He enumerates strangers only; yet the substance is the same, viz., that all those who are destitute and deprived of earthly succor, are under the guardianship and protection of God, and preserved by His hand; and thus the audacity of those is restrained, who trust that they may commit any wickedness with impunity, provided no earthly being resists them. No iniquity, indeed, will be left unavenged by God, but there is a special reason why He declares that strangers, widows, and orphans are taken under His care; inasmuch as the more flagrant the evil is, the greater need there is of an effectual remedy. He recommends strangers to them on this ground, that the people, who had themselves been sojourners in Egypt, being mindful of their ancient condition, ought to deal more kindly to strangers; for although they were at last oppressed by cruel tyranny, still they were bound to consider their entrance there, viz., that poverty and hunger had driven their forefathers thither, and that they had been received hospitably, when they were in need of aid from others. When He threatens, that if the afflicted widows and orphans cry unto Him, their cry shall be heard, He does not mean that He will not interfere, if they endure their wrongs in silence; but He speaks in accordance with the ordinary practice, that those who find no consolation elsewhere, are wont to appeal to Him. Meanwhile, let us be sure that although those who are injured abstain from complaining, yet God does not by any means forget His office, so as to overlook their wrongs. Nay, there is nothing which incites Him more to inflict punishment on the ungodly, than the endurance of His servants.

The nature of the punishment is also expressed; those who have afflicted widows and orphans shall perish by the sword, so that their own widows and orphans may be exposed to the audacity, violence, and knavery of the ungodly. Moreover, it must be observed that, in the second passage, they are commanded to love strangers and foreigners as themselves. Hence it appears that the name of neighbor is not confined to our kindred, or such other persons with whom we are nearly connected, but extends to the whole human race; as Christ shows in the person of the Samaritan, who had compassion on an unknown man, and performed towards him the duties of humanity neglected by a Jew, and even a Levite. (Luke 10:30.)

Verse 35

Leviticus 19:35

Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment. If you take the word judgment in its strict sense, this will be a special precept, that judges should faithfully do justice to all, and not subvert just causes from favor or ill-will. But since the word משפט, mishpat, often means rectitude, it will not be unsuitable to suppose that all iniquities contrary to integrity are generally condemned; and that he afterwards proceeds to particular cases, which he adverts to elsewhere, where he enumerates the most injurious thefts of all, and such as involve the grossest violation of public justice. For the corruption which tends to the subversion of judgments, or, by undermining rectitude, vitiates all contracts, leaves nothing in security; whilst deception in weights and measures destroys and sweeps away all legitimate modes of dealing. Now, if the laws of buying and selling are corrupted, human society is in a manner dissolved; so that he who cheats by false weights and measures, differs little from him who utters false coin: and consequently one, who, whether as a buyer or seller, has falsified the standard measures of wine or corn, or anything else, is accounted criminal. (103) By the laws of Rome, (104) he is condemned to a fine of double the amount; and by a decree of Adrian, he is to be banished to an island. It is not, therefore, without reason that Solomon reiterates this decree, that he may fix it the deeper in the hearts of all. ( Proverbs 20:10.) But although this pestilent sin is by no means to be endured, but to be severely punished, still God, even if legal punishments be not inflicted, summons men’s consciences before His tribunal, and this he does both by promises and threats. A just weight (He says) and a just measure shall prolong a man’s life; but he who has been guilty of deception in them, is an abomination before me. Length of life, indeed, has only a figurative connection with just weights and measures: but, because the avaricious, in their pursuit of dishonest gain, are too devoted to this transitory life, God, in order to withhold His people from this blind and impetuous covetousness, promises them long life, if they keep themselves from fraud and all knavish dealings. We perceive from the conclusion, that, not in this respect only, but in all our affairs, those trickeries are condemned, by which our neighbors are defrauded. For, after God has said that He abominates “all that do such things,” He adds immediately by way of explanation, “all that do unrighteously.” We see, then, that He sets Himself against all evil and illicit arts of gain.

(103) “Inter falsarios.” — Lat. “Pour faussaire.” — Fr.

(104) Modest. 1. penult, ad legem Corn. de fals. — C. This law is to be found in Digest. 48, tit. 11, De falsis, 32, “Si venditor mensuras publice probatas vini, frumenti, vel cujuslibet rei, aut emptor corruperit, dolove malo fraudem fecerit, quanti ea res est, ejus dupli condemnatur. Decretoque Divi Hadriani praeceptum est in insulam eos relegari, qui pondera, aut mensuras falsassent.”

Verse 36

36. I am the Lord your God. In these first four passages he treats of the same points which we have observed in the preface to the Law; for he reasons partly from God’s authority, that the law should be reverently obeyed, because the Creator of heaven and earth justly claims supreme dominion; and, partly, he sets before them the blessing of redemption, that they may willingly submit themselves to His law, from whom they have obtained their safety. For, whenever God calls Himself Jehovah, it should suggest His majesty, before which all ought to be humbled; whilst redemption should of itself produce voluntary submission. At the beginning he repeats the same words which he had lately used; and thence exhorts them to observe His statutes and judgments, i.e., treasure them diligently in their minds. Afterwards he reminds them wherefore they ought attentively to observe the Law, viz, that they may perform the works which God therein requires. Nor is it without a reason that at the end of the second verse He declares Himself to be Jehovah, because it is not easy either to subdue rebellious minds or to retain fickle ones in the fear of God. In the next verse, the qualification “which sanctify you” is added, to arouse them earnestly to prove their gratitude to God, who has by peculiar privilege separated them from the rest of mankind.

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 19". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/leviticus-19.html. 1840-57.