INTRODUCTION TO LEVITICUS 18
In this chapter the Israelites are directed in general not to imitate the customs and practices of the Egyptians and Canaanites, but to keep the ordinances, statutes, and judgments of the Lord, Leviticus 18:1; and they are instructed particularly to avoid incestuous marriages, Leviticus 18:6; carnal copulation with a menstruous woman, Leviticus 18:19; adultery, Leviticus 18:20; letting any of their seed pass through the fire to Molech, Leviticus 18:21; sodomy, Leviticus 18:22; and bestiality, Leviticus 18:23; and they are deterred from these things by observing to them the pollution and destruction which they brought on the inhabitants of Canaan, and would bring the same on them should they commit them, Leviticus 18:24.
And the Lord spake unto Moses,.... He continued speaking to him, after he had delivered to him the laws respecting the day of atonement, and the bringing of the sacrifices to the door of the tabernacle, and particularly concerning the Israelites not worshipping devils, as they had done in Egypt: the Lord proceeds to deliver out others, the more effectually to guard against both the immoral and idolatrous practice, of the Egyptians and Canaanites:
saying, as follows.
Speak unto the children of Israel,.... To the heads of their tribes, that they might deliver to them the following laws; or Moses is bid to publish them among them, either by word of mouth, or by writing, or both:
and say unto them, I am the Lord your God; with which they were to be introduced; showing the right he had to enact and enjoin such laws, since he was Jehovah, the Being of beings, and from whom they received their beings; their sovereign Lord and King, who had a right to rule over them, and command what he pleased; and also the obligation they lay under to him to regard them, and yield a cheerful obedience to them, since he was their God, not only that had made them, but had redeemed them out of Egypt; and who had made a covenant with them, and had taken special care of them, and had bestowed many wonderful favours on them; and for this purpose is this phrase often used in this chapter, and very frequently in the next. See Leviticus 18:2.
After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do,.... Where they had dwelt many years, and were just come out from thence, and where they had learned many of their evil practices; not only their idolatrous ones referred to in the preceding chapter, which it is certain they followed, Ezekiel 20:7; but also their immoral practices, particularly respecting incestuous marriages, after insisted on, some of which were established by a law among them; so Diodorus Siculus relates
and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: which land had been promised to their ancestors and to them long ago, and whither they were now going under divine direction and guidance, to inherit it, and are here particularly warned of the evil practices among them, that they might avoid them: Maimonides
neither shall ye walk in their ordinances: which they ordained, appointed, and settled, for they were such a people the Psalmist speaks of, which framed mischief or wickedness by a law, Psalm 94:2; so Diodorus Siculus says of the incestuous marriage before referred to, and which the above writer, Berosus, derives from Ham their ancestor, that they are said νομοθετησαι, "to pass into a law"; but Aben Ezra puts another sense on these words, let no man use himself to walk in this way until it becomes an ordinance or statute unto him; custom is second nature, and in course of time has the force of a law, wherefore bad customs should be strictly guarded against.
Ye shall do my judgments,.... Which are just and right, and according to the rules of justice and equity; these are things, as Jarchi observes, which are said in the law with judgment, or are laws framed with the highest reason, even by the judgment of God himself, whose judgment is always according to truth: Aben Ezra thinks, these are the judicial laws in Exodus 21:1; but though they may include them, they have more particular respect to the following laws:
and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: which he had ordained and appointed of his own will and pleasure, which Jarchi calls the decree of the king, or which he decreed and determined as a king, having absolute power over his subjects to enact and enjoin what he pleased; wherefore some think these refer to ceremonial laws, which depended upon the will of the lawgiver, and were not founded in any natural sense or reason, wherefore it follows:
I am the Lord your God: who had a right to make what laws he pleased, being their Sovereign, and which they in gratitude as well as in justice ought to obey, he being their God, their covenant God, who had done great and good things for them.
Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments,.... The same as before; these they were to keep in their minds and memories, and to observe them and do them:
which if a man do he shall live in them; live a long life in the land of Canaan, in great happiness and prosperity, see Deuteronomy 30:20; for as for eternal life, that was never intended to be had, nor was it possible it could be had and enjoyed by obedience to the law, which fallen man is unable to keep; but is what was graciously promised and provided the covenant of grace, before the world was, to come through Christ, as a free gift to all that believe in him, see Galatians 3:11; though some Jewish writers interpret this of eternal life, as Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Ben Gersom:
I am the Lord; that has enjoined these statutes and judgments, and promised life to the doers of them, able and faithful to perform what is promised.
None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him,.... Or to all "the rest of his flesh"
to uncover their nakedness; that is, those parts, which, by a contrary way of speaking, are so called, which should never be naked or exposed to view; but should be always covered, as nature teaches to do, and as our first parents did, when they perceived themselves naked, and were ashamed, Genesis 3:7, this phrase signifies the same as to lie with another, or have carnal knowledge of them, wherefore the following laws are generally understood of incestuous marriages; for if such an action is not to be done between persons standing in such a relation, as here in general, and afterwards more particularly described, then there ought to be no intermarriages between them; and if such marriages are forbidden, and such actions unlawful in a married state, then much more in an unmarried one; wherefore the several following instances are so many breaches of the seventh command, Exodus 20:14, and so many explications and illustrations of it, and consequently of a moral nature, and binding upon all men, Jews and Gentiles:
I am the Lord; that gave this caution, and enjoined this prohibition, and would greatly resent and severely revenge the neglect of it: the particulars follow.
The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother,
shall thou not uncover,.... By uncovering a father's nakedness is not meant anything similar to what befell Noah, which Ham beheld with pleasure, and the other two sons of Noah studiously and with reverence to their father covered; nor any sodomitical practice of a son with his father; as Gersom interprets it; but the same is meant by both phrases, and the words are by many interpreters thus rendered, "the nakedness of thy father, that is
she is thy mother, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness; that is, not lie with her, nor marry her, because she is his mother that bore him, of whom he was born, and therefore ought not to become his wife, or be taken into his bed; such a marriage must be incestuous and shocking; such were the marriages of Oedipus with his mother Jocasta, and of Nero with Agrippina; though the words will bear another sense, that a woman may not marry her father, which may be meant by the first clause, nor a man his mother, intended in the next; and where indeed it is not expressed, females in the same degree of relation are included with the males, and under the same prohibition; and so the Targum of Jonathan explains this, a woman shall not have to do with her father, nor a man with his mother; as Lot's two daughters had with him, and the Persians with their mothers; among whom such incestuous marriages and copulations were frequent, and especially among their Magi
The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover,.... That is, who is indeed a man's father's wife, but not his own mother, but a stepmother or mother-in-law; or otherwise this law would coincide with the former; a man lying with such an one is accursed by the law, Deuteronomy 27:23; such an incestuous copulation was that of Reuben with Bilhah, and Absalom with his father's concubines or secondary wives, and such an incestuous marriage was that of the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 5:1; and of Antiochus Soter, king of Syria, with Stratonice his mother-in-law
it is thy father's nakedness; being espoused to him, and so one flesh with him; and the son and father being one flesh, such a mixture must be unlawful; and since then the nakedness of a mother-in-law is the father's, then surely that of an own mother's must be so likewise, which confirms a sense given of it in Leviticus 18:7, Cicero
The nakedness of thy sister,.... To lie with one in so near a relation is exceeding criminal, and for which the law curses a man, Deuteronomy 27:22; and to marry her is not lawful; for though it was necessary for the propagation of mankind that a man should marry his sister, for who else could Cain and Abel marry? yet afterwards, when there was an increase of mankind, and there were people enough remote from each other, it became unlawful for persons in such near ties of consanguinity to marry with each other; though the Egyptians did, in imitation of Isis and Osiris
the daughter of thy father, or the daughter of thy mother; whether she is a sister both by father and mother's side, or whether only by the fathers side and not the mother's, as Sarah was to Abraham, Genesis 20:12; or only by the mother's side and not the father's:
whether she be born at home or born abroad; not whether born and brought up in his and her father's house, or born and brought up in another place and province; though there were some, as Aben Ezra observes, that so interpreted it, according to the sense of the word in Genesis 50:23; but rather the sense is, as that writer gives it, whether born according to the law of the house of Israel, after espousals and marriage, or without it; that is, whether begotten in lawful marriage or not, whether a legitimate offspring or spurious, born in adultery and whoredom, whether on the father or mother's side; so the Targum of Jonathan, whom thy father begat of another woman, or of thy mother, or whom thy mother bore or brought forth, of thy father, or of another man; and to the same purpose Onkelos:
even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover; neither lie with, or have carnal knowledge of, nor marry one or the other.
The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter,.... A man might not marry his granddaughter, whether a descendant of his son or of his daughter, nor any further off descending from him in a right line, not his great-granddaughter, and so on; and if he might not marry his granddaughter, much less his own daughter, as Jarchi observes, for the relation is still nearer; therefore that being prohibited, this in course must, though not mentioned:
even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover; neither debauch nor marry such an one:
for theirs is thine own nakedness; which sprung from his, being the descendants either of his son or daughter; the Targum of Jonathan is,"for they are as thy nakedness,'his own flesh and blood.
The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter,.... Either the daughter of his father by another wife, which seems to be countenanced by what follows:
begotten of thy father, she is thy sister; but then this coincides with what is prohibited, Leviticus 18:9, "the daughter of thy father"; that is, by another woman than a man's mother, only with this difference, that there is added, or "daughter of thy mother", that is, by another man than a man's own father; so that there is a prohibition of a sister whether by father or mother's side; here only as by the father's side, and so is only a part of that law; and, as some think, is for the confirmation of it, as Aben Ezra observes; or else the sense, as he thinks, is, that if a man marries a woman, and she has a little daughter by a former husband, that daughter may not be given in marriage to his son; and so the Septuagint version finishes this clause first, before it gives the other, which it considers as distinct from it, thus, "the shame of thy father's, wife's daughter thou shalt not uncover"; and then makes a distinct law of the latter; "she that is begotten of thy father is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her shame"; but then this last falls in with Leviticus 18:9, the Sadducees, as Aben Ezra also observes, by whom he means the Karaites, interpret it not of a mother's daughter, but of one brought up and educated by a man's father, and so is his adopted daughter, whom his son might not marry; and thus with the Romans it is said
thou shalt not uncover her nakedness; See Gill on Leviticus 18:9.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister,.... His aunt by his father's side, an instance of which we have in Amram, Exodus 6:20; and Maimonides says
she is thy father's near kinswoman; or, the rest of thy father
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister,.... Which is the same relation as before, an aunt by the mother's side; wherefore, if such a marriage was unlawful, this must also, and for the same reason:
for she is thy mother's near kinswoman; the same phraseology is used here as in the preceding verse; See Gill on Leviticus 18:12; and by the same rule a woman might not marry her uncle, whether by father or mother's side, the relation being the same, and this reaches to great-uncle and great-aunt; instances of women marrying their uncles, and men their aunts, among the Heathens, have been given, as among the Persians and Lacedaemonians by Herodotus
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother,.... Which Gersom understands of committing sodomy with him, on which account he was doubly guilty, partly because of lying with a male, and partly because of uncovering the nakedness of his father's brother; but it rather seems at first sight as if the sense was, that a woman should not marry her father's brother, that is, her uncle, as a man might not marry his aunt, whether by father or mother's side, as in Leviticus 18:12; but Jarchi directs to a better sense than either, when he asks, what is his nakedness? in answer to which he recites the following clause as explanative of it:
thou shall not approach to his wife; in the use of the bed, as the Targum of Jonathan adds, that is, to lie with her, her husband being living, or to marry her, he being dead:
she is thine aunt: even as a father's or mother's sister, only they are aunts by blood, this by marriage or affinity: in the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan it is, she is the wife of thy father's brother; and as Aben Ezra, she is accounted as thine aunt, and so marriage with her prohibited; and the same holds good of a father's brother's wife, which being not mentioned, the same writer says, we have need of the tradition which expresses that and also of a father's sister's husband; for if marriage with a father's brother's wife is unlawful, then marriage with a father's sister's husband must be so too; for a father's sister's husband stands in the same degree or line of affinity as a father's brother's wife; and it is a sure rule, that in whatsoever degree or line of affinity males are forbid to marry females, in the same females are forbid to marry males.
Thou shall not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law,.... Shall not he with her in his son's lifetime, or marry her after his death:
she is that son's wife; and so one flesh with him, and who is of the same flesh and blood with his father, and therefore the nearness of the relation forbids such incestuous copulation or marriage:
thou shall not uncover her nakedness; or have carnal knowledge of her, whether in the life or after the death of his son, even then marriage with her is not lawful.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife,.... Neither debauch her nor after the death of the brother marry her, that is, unless he dies without issue; and then, by another law, he was obliged to marry her, Deuteronomy 25:5; hence the Targum of Jonathan adds; by way of explanation."in the life of thy brother, or after his death, if he has children,'but then that law was but an exception from this general rule, and so did not make it void in other respects, but bound it the more strongly; and besides, it was a special and peculiar law to the Jews, until the Messiah came to make it manifest of what tribe and family he came; and the reason of it ceasing, the law itself is ceased, and so neither binding on Jews nor Gentiles: hence John the Baptist boldly told Herod to his face, that it was not lawful for him to have his brother's wife Matthew 14:3; and even such marriages were condemned by the very Heathens: Dionysius Halicarnassensis
it is thy brother's nakedness; that is, his wife is, being by marriage one flesh with him, and his brother being so to him, the relation is too near to intermarry, and more especially when there is issue by the first, which connects them strongly.
Thou shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter,.... That is, if a man marries a woman, and she has a daughter, which is the man's daughter-in-law, after the death of his wife he may not marry this daughter; for this daughter is of the same flesh with her mother, who became one flesh with the man she married, and therefore his relation to her daughter is too near to marry her: Jarchi says, if he does not marry the woman, but only deflower her, it is free for him to marry her daughter; but Aben Ezra says, if he has lain with the mother, the daughter is forbidden; however, if he married either of them, the other was forbidden; he could not marry them both, neither in the lifetime of them both, nor after the death of either of them:
neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; not any of her granddaughters, either in the line of her son or daughter; that is, might not lie with either of them, or marry them, and much less then marry her own daughter, these being a further remove from her:
for they are her near kinswomen; one or other of them, even every one of them, "the rest" and residue "of her"
it is wickedness: a very great wickedness, abominable in the sight of God, and to be detested by man as vile and impious; it is whoredom, as the Targum of Jonathan renders it.
Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister,.... Both of them together, as Jarchi; two sisters at one and the same time; so the Targum of Jonathan,"a woman in the life of her sister thou shall not take;'that is, in marriage, that sister being his wife; for the sense of the Targumist can never be that a man might not take a woman for his wife, she having a sister living, but not to take one sister to another, or marry his first wife's sister, whether, as Maimonides
to vex her, to uncover her nakedness; two reasons are given, why, though polygamy, or having more wives than one, was connived at, yet it was not allowed that a man should have two sisters; partly, because they would be more apt to quarrel, and be more jealous and impatient of one another, if more favour was shown or thought to be shown to one more than another; and partly, because it was a filthy and unbecoming action to uncover the nakedness of one, or lie with one so nearly related to his wife:
besides her in her life time; from whence some have concluded, and so many of the Jewish writers
Also thou shall not approach unto a woman,.... Not even a man to his own wife, and much less to another woman:
to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness; in her monthly courses; and the time of her separation from her husband on that account was seven days, Leviticus 15:19; if a man lay with a woman when in such circumstances, they were both to be cut off from their people, Leviticus 20:18; and such an action is reckoned among sins, and uncleanness of the worst sort, Ezekiel 22:10.
Moreover, thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife,.... Which is adultery, and a breach of the seventh command, Exodus 20:14,
to defile thyself with her; not only adultery is a defiling a man's wife, as it is sometimes called, but the adulterer defiles himself: all sin is of a defiling nature, but especially this, which defiles a man both in soul and body, and brings a blot and stain upon his character, which shall not be wiped off, Proverbs 6:32.
And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech,.... The name of an image or idol, according to Aben Ezra, who observes, that their wise men interpret it as a general name for everyone whom they made to reign over them; and it is right, he says, that it is the abomination of the children of Ammon, and so the same with Milcom, 1 Kings 11:5; and with Baal, as appears from Jeremiah 32:35; and they are both of much the same signification, the one signifies a king, the other a lord; and perhaps is the same with the Melicarthus of Sanchoniatho
neither shall thou profane the name of thy God; who had given them children, and to whom they ought to have devoted them, and in whose service they should have trained them up to the honour of his name; but instead of that profaned it, by the above idolatrous and cruel usages:
I am the Lord; who would avenge such a profanation of his name.
Thou shall not lie with mankind as with womankind,.... By carnal knowledge of them, and carnal copulation with them, and mixing bodies in like manner: this is the sin commonly called sodomy, from the inhabitants of Sodom, greatly addicted to it, for which their city was destroyed by fire: those that are guilty of this sin, are, by the apostle, called "abusers of themselves with mankind", 1 Corinthians 6:9,
it is abomination; it is so to God, as the above instance of his vengeance shows, and ought to be abominable to men, as being not only contrary to the law of God, but even contrary to nature itself, and what is never to be observed among brute creatures.
Neither shall thou lie with any beast, to defile thyself therewith,.... A female one, as Aben Ezra notes, as a mare, cow, or ewe, or any other beast, small or great, as Ben Gersom, or whether tame or wild, as Maimonides
neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: that is, stand before a beast, and by a lascivious and obscene behaviour solicit the beast to a congress with her, and then lie down after the manner of four-footed beasts, as the word signifies, that it may have carnal copulation with her: for a man to lie with a beast is most shocking and detestable, but for a woman to solicit such an unnatural mixture is most horrible and astonishing: perhaps reference may be had to a most shocking practice among the Egyptians, from among whom the Israelites were lately come, and whose doings they were not to imitate, Leviticus 18:3; and which may account for this law, as Bishop Patrick observes: at Mendes, in Egypt, a goat was worshipped, as has been remarked Leviticus 18:7; and where the women used to lie with such creatures, as Strabo
it is confusion; a mixing of the seed of man and beast together, a blending of different kinds of creatures, a perverting the order of nature, and introducing the utmost confusion of beings, from whence monsters in nature may arise.
Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things,.... In incestuous copulations and marriages, in adultery, corporeal and spiritual, and bestiality:
for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you; that is, the seven nations of the land of Canaan, which God was about to eject out of their land to make room for the Israelites, and that on account of the above shocking vices which abounded among them; so that in some sense the land they dwelt upon was defiled by them, and called for vengeance on them, as even loathing its inhabitants, as afterwards suggested.
And the land is defiled,.... The inhabitants of it, with the immoralities and idolatries before mentioned:
therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it; or punish the inhabitants that are on it for their sins:
and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants; as a stomach loaded with corrupt and bad food it has taken in, nauseates it, and cannot bear and retain it, but casts it up, and never receives it again; so the land of Canaan is represented as loathing its inhabitants, and as having an aversion to them, and indignation against them, and as not being able to bear them, but entirely willing to be rid of them and throw them out of their places in it, never to be admitted more, being as nauseous and as useless as the cast of a man's stomach; see Revelation 3:16.
Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments,.... Before observed to them, whether of a ceremonial nature, and enjoined them according to his sovereign will and pleasure; or of a moral nature, and founded in justice and equity, and so worthy of their regard, and obligatory upon them; as well as in their own nature they recommended themselves to their regard, as being the reverse of those loathsome and abominable things before dehorted from:
and shall not commit any of these abominations; such as incest, adultery, idolatry, and bestiality, which are in themselves abominable things, execrable to God, and to be detested by men:
neither any of your own nation; that belonged to any of their own tribes, or should be born to them in the land of Canaan when they came thither, and were properly natives of it:
nor any stranger that sojourneth among you; any proselyte, and especially a proselyte of righteousness, who conformed to the Jewish religion, and had laid himself under obligation to do everything that was binding upon an Israelite.
For all these abominations have the men of the land done,.... The then present inhabitants of Canaan, who dwelt in it before the Israelites came into it; these were guilty of unclean copulations, of incestuous, marriages, of fornication and adultery, and of bestiality and idolatry:
which were before you; lived in the land before them, had long dwelt there, but now about to be cast out for their sins; and therefore they who were going to succeed them should take warning by them, lest, committing the same sins, they should be cast out likewise:
and the land is defiled; See Gill on Leviticus 18:25.
That the land spew not you out also, when ye defile it,.... By sinning on it, and so rendering it obnoxious to the curse of God, as the whole earth originally was for the sin of man; and so be cast out of it, as Adam was out of paradise, and as the Israelites might expect to be cast out of Canaan, as the old inhabitants of it had been:
as it spewed out the nations that were before you; which for the certainty of it is spoken of as done, though it was as yet future; and what the Lord did is ascribed to the land, the more to aggravate their crying sins and abominations, for which the land mourned, and which it could not bear.
For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations,.... Before particularly forbid, any of them, be it which it will, they all being very heinous and vile, and especially these last mentioned:
even the souls that commit them; whether male or female, as Jarchi observes; for the above things concern them both for the most part, however some one, and some another; and though most, if not all the said crimes are committed by the members of the body, yet since under the influence and direction of the soul, the commission of them is attributed to that, and the punishment threatened respects both:
shall be cut off from among the people; be removed from their church state, and deprived of ecclesiastical privileges, and from their civil state, and reckoned no more of the commonwealth of Israel; and if known and convicted, to be punished by the civil magistrate, and if not, by the immediate hand of God.
Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance,.... Whatever the Lord appointed them and commanded, whether contained in this chapter, or elsewhere:
that ye commit not anyone of these abominable customs; for attending to the ordinances of God, and a close in them, they would be preserved from the commission of such abominable things, and giving in to such detestable customs as before warned against:
which were committed before you; by the inhabitants of Canaan; and by the punishment on them for them they might be deterred from doing the same:
and that ye defile not yourselves therein; for though the land is so often said to be defiled, yet, properly speaking, and chiefly, it was the inhabitants that were defiled by their abominable customs; and so would the Israelites also, should they observe the same, and thereby become abominable in the sight of God, and incur his displeasure, and be liable to his vengeance:
I am the Lord your God; who had a sovereign authority over them, and a right to give out what commands he pleased, both negative and affirmative; and to whom they were under obligations to obey, as the God of nature and providence, from whom they had their beings, and were supported in them, and as their covenant God, who had bestowed special and spiritual favours on them.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 18". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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