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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 19

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-4


Verses 1-4:

The theme of morality continues in this chapter, with the declaration that faith in Jehovah God is the basis for all morality. This chapter contains restatements of the principles embodied in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17), although not arranged in the same order as given originally.

Chapters 18-20 show the fallacy of the modern, humanistic idea, "You cannot legislate morality." These chapters contain strict laws regulating morality, and the penalties for violation are severe. The fact is: law is given to "legislate" in the sense of regulate morality - either God’s, or man’s.

Verse 2 is God’s command to be holy. This does not mean to be without sin. It means to be sanctified, set apart, reserved exclusively for the use and service of Jehovah Elohim. This command is relevant for Christians today, see 1Pe 1:15; 3:15.

Verse 3 is a statement of the principles found in the Fourth and Fifth Commandments. It shows the close tie between respect for parents and faith in God. One who has no respect for father or mother will have no respect for God and His holy appointments; and one who has no respect for God will have no respect for the parents God has given him.

Verse 4 is the principle embodied in the First and Second Commandments. "Idols," elilim, meaning "nothings," is in contrast to "Elohim," the true God, see 1Co 8:4.

Verses 5-8

Verses 5-8:

This is an example of the unsystematic arrangement of this chapter. Moses turns from the moral principles to ceremonial instructions regarding the Peace Offering, see Le 3:1-17; 7:15-21. Peace Offerings were of two kinds: (1) thank offerings; and (2) vow or voluntary offerings. The first of these could be eaten only on the day offered, the latter could be eaten on both the day offered and the day following.

Penalty for transgressing this command: excommunication, with no means for reconciliation being noted in Scripture.

The religious significance of this law is not clear. However, it may have been given for dietary reasons. In the warm climate of that land, and in the absence of refrigeration, food - particularly meat - would spoil rapidly, and become unsuitable for human consumption.

This law demonstrates the principle of God’s care for even the most mundane affairs in the life of His child.

Verses 9-10

Verses 9, 10:

An important aspect of morality is compassion toward the poor and the disadvantaged. The law in this text is repeated again in Le 23:22; and in De 24:19-22. The passage in Deuteronomy includes the olive yard along with the vineyard.

"Vineyard," kerem, "an enclosed place, olive or vineyard."

"Neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard" is literally, "Neither shalt thou gather the scattering of thy vineyard," denoting either the grapes or the olive berries.

Ruth chapter 2 is an example of the application of this law by the Godly in Israel.

Verses 11-13

Verses 11-13:

This text affirms the principles stated in the Third, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments (Ex 20:7, 15-17). It classifies lying, stealing, and cheating as kindred sins. In chapter 2:3 is an example of stealing by lying, see Eph 4:25; Col 3:9.

"Defraud," ashaq, "oppress" (so translated 22 times). The meaning is more than to cheat or to wrongfully withhold. It includes the idea of oppression and wrong treatment. One way the wealthy would do this to the poor was to withhold their wages. The commandment prohibits this practice, even though it be but overnight. The day-laborer was often very poor, and lived a hand-to-mouth existence. There was a pressing and immediate need to receive his wages at the end of each day.

Jas 5:1-9 is the New Testament counterpart of this command.

Verses 14-15

Verses 14, 15:

"Curse," qalal, "to vilify, revile, lightly esteem." It is a sin to curse or vilify another, whether or not the other hear the curse, because it is the expression of sin in the speaker’s heart, see Mt 12:34-37. The principle of this law: it is a sin to vilify one even though he would never know of it.

"Stumblingblock," mikshol, in the LXX is skandalon, a "cause for stumbling," the word from which "scandal" comes. It is a sin to place a cause for stumbling in the path of one unable to see.

"Judgment," mishpat, denotes legal decisions in a duly established court. In legal matters, it is a sin to deal unjustly. This applies alike to all parties involved: judge, attorney, plaintiff, or defendant. One cause of injustice is lack of respect for the poor who are unable to defend their case. But the greater cause of injustice is deference to the wealthy and powerful. The principle of this law applies today, Jas 2:9.

Verse 16

Verse 16:

"Talebearer," rakil, "slanderer." The term occurs also in Pr 11:13; 20:19. The modern term is "gossip," denoting one who magnifies and sensationalizes rumors and partial information, usually with no desire to help the subject of the rumor. Gossip is a sin today, 2Th 3:11; 1Ti 5:13; 1Pe 4:15; Pr 18:8; 26: 20-22.

Gossip is the product of a vicious heart that seeks to justify a wrong attitude by pointing out the faults and failings of another, often under the guise of piety and "spirituality." But spirituality is not measured by one’s ability to expose sin; it is measured by one’s desire and effort to restore the erring, Ga 6:1.

Gossip is a certain way to endanger the life of one’s neighbor, which this text declares to be a sin. An example of this is 1 Kings 21:13; see also Mt 26:20; 27:4.

Verse 17

Verse 17:

Jesus stated the principle of this text in his Sermon on the Mount, Mt 5:21, 22, 43-48.

"Rebuke," yakach, "to reason, reprove, decide." It does not mean to speak reproachfully. The concept is that one is to seek to reason with his neighbor regarding any wrongdoing, rather than to harbor ill-will against him. "Open rebuke is better than secret love" (Pr 27:5), see Pr 9:8; 13:1; 24:25; Ec 7:5.

Verse 18

Verse 18:

God’s child is not to seek revenge for personal wrongs, see Pr 20:22; 24:9; Mt 5:38-41; Ro 12:19-21.

A grudge is a weight which is heavy only to the one who bears it, and it will eventually destroy him, see Eph 4:26, 27. One who carries a grudge is to divest himself of it as soon as he becomes aware of it, Mt 5:21-24.

Jesus refers to the last clause of this verse as the second greatest of all the commandments, Mt 5:34; 19:19; 22:39; Mr 12:31; Lu 10:27. See also Ro 13:9; Ga 5:14; 1Jo 4:7, 11, 20; 3:14.

Verse 19

Verse 19:

This text is a prohibition against mixing of those things best kept separate. In this text, it is three-fold:

1. "Cattle" or domestic livestock generally.

2. Seeds sown in the field.

3. Garments.

De 22:10 adds a prohibition against yoking ox and ass together in plowing the field.

These apply to all areas of life: business, domestic, social. The symbolic significance of this may be seen in these passages: 1Co 10:21; 2Co 6:14-16; Jas 3:11, 12.

Verses 20-22

Verses 20-22:

There was a distinction made between sexual relations with a slave-girl, and with a free woman. In the latter case, the punishment was death, Le 20:20; De 22:23. The former case, the punishment was scourging, and the man must offer a ram for a Trespass Offering, Le 5:14-16.

"She shall be scourged" is literally "they shall be punished, after an investigation." Since adultery is a sin committed by two people, it would be manifestly unjust that only one should suffer punishment.

Verses 23-25

Verses 23-25:

This law prohibited the eating of fruit from the young trees of an orchard for the first three years. The fruit was considered "uncircumcised." It was not to be eaten until sanctified by offering the firstfruits to the Lord. This occurred the fourth year, when all the fruit the trees produced was brought to the tabernacle in a consecration rite.

This symbolizes the principle that the means of man’s livelihood is to be consecrated by acknowledging God’s prior claim of ownership, and man’s stewardship.

A practical reason could be that the trees should be allowed to mature fully before being put to full practical use.

Verses 26-28

Verses 26-28:

The practices prohibited in this text were those commonly followed in idolatrous worship:

1. Eating of blood.

2. Enchantment, nachash, "whisper or mutter after holding communication with spirits (serpents)."

3. Observe times, predict events by horoscope or omens.

4. Round the corners of the head, or the hair; a form of mourning; De 14:1; Isa 22:12 According to Herodotus, this was also a form of tonsure practiced by some pagan tribes in honor of their God Orotal.

5. Mar the corners of the beard, a form of mourning used in conjunction with the trimming of the hair, Le 21:5; Isa 15:2; Jer 48:37.

6. Cutting the flesh for the dead, another form of mourning associated with the two practices above, De 21:5; 14:1, Jer 16:6; 41:3.

7. Printing marks, that is, to tattoo in memory of the dead.

Among some pagan religions, self-mutilation was commonly practiced as a sign of mourning for the dead. The pagan view of death is that of despair and hopelessness. Mutilation was a reminder of this. But death to the child of God is not hopeless, despair, futility; it is the beginning of a better life, one of joy and union with the God of the universe. Thus there was to be none of the pagan marks of despair.

Verse 29

Verse 29:

The context implies that this law primarily concerns the practice common in pagan worship: the sanctification of sexual immorality by the dedication of young girls to serve as temple prostitutes. In such cases, sexual intercourse was regarded as worship of the pagan deity.

The prohibition extends to every Israeli maiden, and condemns any legal sanction of prostitution, regardless of the purpose. The consequence of ignoring this command: the pollution of the entire land, De 23:17. The term "prostitution" covers all forms of sexual immorality, including sodomy, incest, adultery, bestiality.

Verse 30

Verse 30:

This verse is identical with chapter 26:2.

"Sabbaths," plural, indicates more than the weekly Sabbath. Various holy days are designated as "sabbaths," Le 23:24, 32, 39; 25:2-7; Joh 19:31.

Reverence for Jehovah’s sanctuary is here coupled with proper observance of the sabbaths, both the weekly Sabbath, and the special sabbaths. Lack of reverence for one affects the other.

Christians today do not observe the Jewish Sabbath. However, the principle of one day out of seven to reverence the Lord still applies, Heb 10:25. One cannot properly reverence God and His House (church) and ignore this principle.

Verse 31

Verse 31:

This statute forbids all forms of occult practices. Included are:

1. Familiar spirits, or spirit mediums.

2. Wizards, yiddeoni, "knowing one," male or female magician or sorcerer; one who knows (or claims to know) the secrets of the supernatural.

De 18:10-12 gives a more complete list of those who engage in occult practices.

Modern "psychics," spiritual advisers, fortune tellers, spirit mediums, psychic doctors and surgeons, fall into this category. This includes the use of the ouija board, tarot cards, tea leaves, etc. God’s view of these practices remains the same as when He prescribed the death penalty for this sin, Le 20:27. All these are to be strictly avoided, and the paraphernalia associated with them should be burned, Ac 19:18-20.

Verse 32

Verse 32:

This text commands respect for the aged. The context implies that this respect is closely related to reverence for Jehovah God, see Pr 16:31; 20:29.

Verses 33-34

Verses 33, 34:

This text amplifies the mandate given in Ex 22:21; 23:9, and is incorporated into the positive Law. It extends the law of verse 18 to include the "stranger" or foreigner who lives in Israel.

"Stranger," ger, a sojourner, one not native-born.

"Dwelleth," gur, "inhabit, draw together." From the same root word as "stranger."

Beginning with Abraham, Israel was not a permanent resident in any land, but looked for a city "eternal and in the heavens" (Heb 11:8-14). They lived as temporary residents in Egypt. Their status as "strangers" demanded that they show concern for those who were "strangers" among them. Their relationship to Jehovah their Elohim was the basis for their hospitality, see Heb 13:2.

Verses 35-37

Verses 35-37:

The law demanded strict honesty and equity in all business dealings, see De 25:16; Pr 11:1; 20:10; Eze 45:10; Mic 6:10, 11; Ro 12:17.

"Meteyard," Middah, a measure of length.

Balance, weights, ephah, hin, are all units of measure.

The foundation of all moral law is reverence for Jehovah God.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Leviticus 19". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/leviticus-19.html. 1985.
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