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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 19

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 2

Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.

Speak unto all the congregation. Many of the laws enumerated in this chapter had been previously announced. Since they were, however, of a general application, not suited to partitular classes, but to the nation at large, so Moses seems, according to divine instructions, to have rehearsed them, perhaps on different occasions and to successive divisions of the people, until all the congregation of the children of Israel" were taught to know them. The will of God in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament Church was not locked up in the repositories of an unknown language, but communicated plainly and openly to the people.

Ye shall be holy: for I ... am holy. Separated from the world, the people of God required to be holy; for His character, His laws and service were holy (see 1 Peter 1:15).

Verse 3

Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.

Ye shall fear every man. The duty of obedience to parents is placed in connection with the proper observance of the Sabbaths, as both of them lying at the foundation of practical religion.

Verse 4

Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God.

Turn ye not unto idols, [ haa'ªliyliym (H457)] - vain, empty nothings; either from [ 'al (H408)] not, or it is a diminutive from 'eel (H410) god-a little god-a term of contempt. Ezekiel applies [ giluwliym (H1544)], things rolled, dung, to the idols of Egypt and Canaan (Ezekiel 20:7-8; Ezekiel 20:16; Ezekiel 20:18; Ezekiel 20:24; Ezekiel 20:31; Ezekiel 23:37).

Verses 5-8

And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will.

If ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings. Those which included thank offerings, or offerings made for vows, were always free-will offerings. Except the portions which, being waved and heaved, became the property of the priests (see Leviticus 3:1-17), the rest of the victim was eaten by the offerer and his friends, under the following regulations, however-that, if thank offerings, they were to be eaten on the day of their presentation; and if a free-will offering, although it might be eaten on the second day, yet if any remains of it were left until the third day, it was to be burnt, or deep criminality was incurred by the person who then ventured to partake of it. The reason of this strict prohibition seems to have been to prevent any intrinsic holiness or mysterious virtue being superstitiously attached to meat offered on the altar.

Verse 8. That soul shall be cutoff from among his people. This phrase means excommunication, or perhaps death, (cf. Exodus 28:43; Numbers 14:34; Numbers 18:22; Numbers 18:32, etc.)

Verses 9-10

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.

When ye reap the harvest of your land. The right of the poor in Israel to glean after reapers, as well as to the unreaped corners of the field, was secured by a positive statute; and this, in addition to other enactments connected with the ceremonial law, formed a beneficial provision for their support (cf. Deuteronomy 24:19-22). At the same time, proprietors were not obliged to admit them into the field until the grain had been carried off the field; and they seem also to have been left at liberty to choose the poor whom they deemed the most deserving or needful (Ruth 2:2; Ruth 2:8). The same regulation applied to the clusters remaining on the vines after the first gathering. This was the earliest poor-law that we read of in the code of any people; and it combined in admirable union the obligation of a public duty with the exercise of private and voluntary benevolence at a time when the hearts of the rich would be strongly inclined to liberality.

Verses 11-16

Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.

Ye shall not steal ... neither lie one to another, [ 'iysh (H376) ba`ªmiytow (H5997)] - a man by his neighbour. A variety of social duties are inculcated in this passage, chiefly in reference to common and little-thought-of vices to which mankind are exceedingly prone-such as committing petty frauds, or not scrupling to violate truth in transactions of business, ridiculing bodily infirmities, or circulating stories to the prejudice of others. In opposition to these bad habits, a spirit of humanity and brotherly kindness is strongly enforced.

Verse 12. Ye shall not swear by my name falsely. Since this prohibition occurs frequently in this and the two following chapters, it may be observed that the section relates principally to the sanctification of God.

Verse 13. Thou shalt test defraud ... the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee ... - (cf. Deuteronomy 24:14-15.) The Apostle James (James 5:4) refers to this statute as being still in full obligation, as he does also (James 2:9) that in Leviticus 19:15 (see the note at Exodus 23:8).

Verse 16. Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer, [ teeleek (H3212) raakiyl (H7400)]. The words are borrowed in Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 20:19; Jeremiah 6:28; Jeremiah 9:3. Secret informers were not allowed to communicate with magistrates, except in cases of idolatry or undiscovered murder. This statute, however, refers only to the circulation of malicious or injurious rumours; and as a tattler, though speaking merely in levity or thoughtlessness, may produce much mischief, tale-bearing was discouraged.

Neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour - i:e., act as a false accuser or a false witness, to endanger the life of another. Accusers and witnesses usually stood in courts of judicature, while the judges sat.

Verse 17

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.

Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour. Instead of cherishing latent feelings of malice, or meditating purposes of revenge, against a person who has committed an insult or injury against them, God's people were taught to remonstrate with the offender, and endeavour, by calm and kindly reason, to bring him to a sense of taught to remonstrate with the offender, and endeavour, by calm and kindly reason, to bring him to a sense of his fault.

Not suffer sin upon him - literally, that ye may not participate in his sin.

Verse 18

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The word "neighbour" is used as synonymous with fellow-creature. The Israelites in a later age restricted its meaning as applicable only to their own countrymen. This narrow interpretation was refuted by our Lord in a beautiful parable (Luke 10:30).

Verse 19

Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind. This prohibition was probably intended to discourage a practice which seemed to infringe upon the economy which God has established in the animal kingdom.

Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed. This also was directed against an idolatrous practice-namely, that of the ancient Zabians, or fire-worshippers, who sowed different seeds, accompanying the act with magical rites and invocations; and commentators have generally thought the design of this and the preceding law was to put an end to the unnatural lusts and foolish superstitions which were prevalent among the pagan.

But the reason of the prohibition was probably deeper; because those who have studied the diseases of land and vegetables tell us that the practice of mingling seeds is injurious both to flowers and to grains. 'If the various genre of the natural order Gramineoe, which includes the grains and the grasses, should be sown in the same field, and flower at the same time, so that the pollen of the two flowers is mixed, a spurious seed will be the consequence, called by the farmers chess, and is always inferior, and unlike either of the two grains that produced it, in size, flavour, and nutritious principles. Independently of contributing to disease the soil, they never fail to produce the same in animals and men that feed on them' (Whitelaw).

Neither shall a garment ... of linen and woollen come upon thee. This precept, like the other two with which it is associated, was in all probability designed to root out some superstition; and accordingly Maimonides (Townley's 'More Nevochim,' ch. 12:) informs us that he found it enjoined in old magical books that the idolatrous priests should clothe themselves in garments of linen and woolen mixed together, for the purpose of performing their ceremonies. A secret virtue was attributed to this mixture. But it seems to have had a further meaning. The law, it is to be observed, did not prohibit the Israelites wearing many different kinds of cloths together, but only the two specified; and the observations and researches of modern science have proved that 'wool, when combined with linen, increases its power of passing off the electricity from the body. In hot climates it brings on malignant fevers, and exhausts the strength, and when passing off from the body, it meets with the heated air, inflames and excoriates like a blister' (Whitelaw) (see Ezekiel 44:17-18).

Verses 20-22

And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.

Whosoever lieth carnally with a ... bondmaid. Female slaves having, in a political point of view, no status, possessed no rights nor privileges. In the case supposed, no matrimonial nor pecuniary reparation was enjoined; and the only penalty for the offence was a trespass offering.

Verses 23-25

And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.

Fruit ... three years ... it shall not be eaten. 'The wisdom of this law is very striking. Every gardener will teach us not to let fruit trees bear in their earliest years, but to pluck off the blossoms; and for this reason, that they will thus thrive the better, and bear more abundantly afterward. The very expression, "to regard them as uncircumcised," suggests the propriety of pinching them off; I do not say cutting them off because it is generally the hand, and not a knife, that is employed in this operation' (Michaelis).

Verse 26

Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.

Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood, [ `al (H5921) hadaam (H1818)] - upon the blood. This phrase may be understood as prohibiting the use of flesh with any of the blood remaining in it; and in this respect the precept will not be a mere repetition of that in Leviticus 17:10 (see the notes on that passage: cf. Deuteronomy 12:23; 1 Samuel 14:32-33; Ezekiel 33:25). [The Septuagint has here, mee esthete api toon oreoon.]

Neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times, [ tªnachashuw (H6049)]. This verb signfies to mutter or utter a low hissing sound like a serpent, as sorcerers were accustomed to do; and hence, some consider that the reference is to [ofiomanteia, or] divination by serpents (Bochart, 'Hieroz.,' 2:, p. 21).

But the word is frequently used in a wider sense to signify auguries in general (Genesis 30:27; Genesis 44:5). Augurs drew omens from the flight and feeding of birds, as well as from serpents [and in this sense the Septuagint took the word, rendering it by oiooneisthe] (see Rosenmuller's 'Scholia,' in hoc loco).

[ tª`owneenuw (H5172)] The verb signifies to cloud, or to gather clouded; and hence, some render the words, 'ye shall not observe clouds.' A study of the appearance and motion of the clouds was a common way of prognosticating good or bad fortune. There are doubts, however, whether that is meant here.

Jewish writers derive the verb rather from [ `ayin (H5869)], the eye, and suppose the reference is to witchcraft with the evil eye. [The Septuagint renders it here, ornithoskopeesesthe, inspect birds; but in Deuteronomy 18:10, and other passages, that version translates it kleedonizesthe, deriving divination from a word or voice.] Such absurd but deep rooted superstitions often put a stop to the prosecution of serious and important transactions; but they were forbidden especially as implying a want of faith in the being, or of reliance on the providence, of God.

Verse 27

Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.

Ye shall not round ... It seems probable that this fashion had been learned by the Israelites in Egypt; because the ancient Egyptians had their dark locks cropped short or shaved with great nicety, so that what remained on the crown appeared in the form of a circle surrounding the head, whilst the beard was dressed into a square form. This kind of coiffure had a highly idolatrous meaning; and it was adopted, with some slight variations, by the Arabs and other idolaters in ancient times (Jeremiah 9:25-26; Jeremiah 25:23, where "in the utmost corners" means having the extremity of their hair along the forehead, temples, or behind the ears, cut in a circular form: see Robinson's 'Biblical Researches.' vol 1:; 'Egypt's Testimony,' p. 123: cf. 'Herodotus," b. 3:, ch. 8:) Frequently a lock or tuft of hair was left on the hinder part of the head, the rest being cut round in the form of a ring, as the Turks, Chinese, and Hindus do at the present day.

Neither shalt thou mar ... The Egyptians used to cut or shave off their whiskers toward the ears, as may be seen in the coffins of mummies and the representations of divinities on the monuments. But the Hebrews, in order to separate them from the neighbouring nations, or perhaps to put a stop to some existing superstition, were forbidden to imitate this practice. It may appear surprising that Moses should condescend to such minutiae as that of regulating the fashion of the hair and the beard-matters which do not usually occupy the attention of a legislator-and which appear widely remote from the province either of a government or of a religion. A strong presumption, therefore, arises that he had it in view by these regulations to combat some superstitious practices of the Egyptians.

Verse 28

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

Ye shall not make any cuttings ... The practice of making deep gashes on the face and arms and legs, in time of bereavement, was universal among the pagan, and it was deemed a becoming mark of respect for the dead, as well as a sort of propitiatory offering to the deities who presided over death and the grave. The Jews learned this custom in Egypt; and, though weaned from it, relapsed in a later and degenerate age into this old superstition (Deuteronomy 14:1; Isaiah 15:2; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5; Jeremiah 47:5), which, as Palgrave informs us, still prevails among the Djowf people in Arabia.

Nor print any marks upon you - by tatooing; imprinting figures of flowers, leaves, stars, and other fanciful devices on various parts of their person. The impression was made sometimes by means of a hot iron, sometimes by ink or paint, as is done by the Arab females of the present day (D'Arvieux and Burckhardt's 'Travels among the Bedouins;' Lane's 'Manners and Customs of Modern Egypt,' pp. 25-35), and the different castes of the Hindus. It is probable, from the association of Leviticus 19:29, that a strong propensity to adopt such marks in honour of some idol gave occasion to the prohibition in this verse; and they were wisely forbidden, for they were signs of apostasy, and, when once made, were insuperable obstacles to a return. (See allusions to the practice, Isaiah 44:5; Revelation 13:17; Revelation 14:1.)

Verse 29

Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 30

Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.

Keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary. This precept is frequently repeated along with the prohibition of idolatrous practices; and here it stands closely connected with the superstitions forbidden in the previous verses.

Verse 31

Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.

Regard not them that have familiar spirits, [ haa'obot (H178); Septuagint, engastrimuthous] - ventriloquists (Leviticus 20:7; Deuteronomy 18:11; 1 Samuel 28:3; 1 Samuel 28:7-9): The witch of Endor is called "mistress of ob" (2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 29:3). The Hebrew word rendered "familiar spirit," signifies the belly, and sometimes a leather "bottle", from its similarity to the belly. It was applied in the sense of this passage to ventriloquists, who pretended to have communication with the invisible world; and the Hebrews were strictly forbidden to consult them; as the vain but high pretensions of those impostors were derogatory to the honour of God, and subversive of their covenant relations with him as His people.

Neither seek after wizards, [ hayid`oniym (H3049)] - the knowing, wizards - i:e., wise men, magi. The Septuagint has: epaoidois, enchanters, sorcerers: but being commonly associated with those who had 'owb (H178), it is probable that they were necromancers.

Verse 32

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 33-34

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.

If a stranger sojourn with thee. The Israelites were to hold out encouragement to strangers to settle among them, that these might be brought to the knowledge and worship of the true God; and with this view they were enjoined to treat such persons, not as aliens, but as friends, on the ground that they themselves, who were strangers in Egypt, were at first kindly and hospitably received in that country.

Verses 35-36

Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 37

Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the LORD.

I am the Lord. This solemn admonition by which these various precepts are repeatedly sanctioned is equivalent to 'I, your Creator, your Deliverer from bondage, and your Sovereign, who have wisdom to establish laws, have power also to punish the violation of them.' It was well fitted to impress the minds of the Israelites with a sense of their duty, and God's claims to obedience.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Leviticus 19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/leviticus-19.html. 1871-8.
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