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Friday, July 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 18

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-30

Leviticus 18:21. Molech, or Moloch, was the chief idol of the Sabians, and of the Ammonites. 1 Kings 11:7; 1 Kings 11:33. To this idol Solomon built a high place on mount Olivet. The form of the idol was a gigantic human figure, with his arms extended to receive something, but his head resembled a calf. His belly being heated red hot, the priests placed the infants of infatuated parents to be consumed in the arms of the idol, making a horrid noise with drums to deafen their cries, and forcing the parents to join the dance. It appears by comparing Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5, that Baal and Molech were one and the same god. The Israelites worshipped this idol under the appellation of Baal-peor, Numbers 25:0. and Psalms 106:36-39, feasting at the very time they offered up their sons and daughters to devils. The same idol with some variations in its figure, was worshipped by the heathens, under the names of Mars, Saturn, and the Sun. Surely God for a time gave up the nations to strong delusions, as evidently appears from the millions of human beings immolated to the devil. And how lamentable to learn, from the Rev. Dr. Buchanan, that considerable numbers of deluded men in India are almost daily throwing themselves under the wheels of this imaginary divinity, and willingly embracing death for the expiation of sin, that they may enter heaven in spotless purity. Amos 5:26.

Leviticus 18:24. Defile not yourselves in any of these things, for with all of them are the nations defiled which I cast out. The iniquity of the Amorite was now full, the period of divine forbearance was expired, and the Canaanites became the objects of God’s abhorrence. The moral contagion had extended to all ranks of men, and therefore the land vomited them out. The Judge of all the earth does right. For these sins he burned the people of Sodom and Gomorrah; for these sins, as in the warning of Moses, the Lord sent the Chaldeans to burn Samaria, and afterwards to burn Jerusalem. The visitation extended to man, woman, and child: to spare them would have been a snare to the Hebrews. The Lord inspired Joshua fully, as a minister of vengeance, to execute his awful displeasure; he also aided him by raining sheets of hail on the guilty, and by staying the course of the sun. Joshua 10:40.


A necessity having been imposed on the family of Adam, of Noah, and of Abraham, to intermarry; it became requisite for the divine law most explicitly to declare, that what was then allowed was totally inadmissible in national society. In this chapter therefore all marriages within the degree of cousins are forbidden, and all near approaches of kin are declared to be sinful in the sight of God. On this passage commentators have collected a cloud of testimonies from heathen writers of various ages, expressive of the illegality and shame attendant on incestuous marriages.

The object of these laws likewise is, to instruct mankind in domestic purity, and in that perfect modesty and decorum which the male and female relatives, closely connected in the same house, should observe one towards another. Neither word, gesture, nor conduct must be indulged to abridge the liberty, rights, and independence of the several branches of our families; and in particular, those of sisters, nieces, &c. Blots of this nature, though of the slightest degree, cannot be overlooked. One reason is assigned in the preface to the law; God would not have his people to resemble the Egyptians, and the Canaanites. His commands must be exalted above the laws and customs of the most enlightened heathens, though on these subjects most of the refined gentiles speak the language of revelation.

Intermarriages with neighbours, with strangers, or persons but slightly connected by consanguinity, are productive of good in various views. They are thought to promote the health and vigour of the human frame; they augment the peace and friendship of civil society, by enlarging the chain of family connection and relative ties; and they disperse the wealth of opulent houses from one to another, so as to make it become more useful to the public.

The Lord closes these laws by a declaration, that all marriages within the prescribed affinity, are wickedness; consequently the salvation of those who have thus rashly and falsely united their hands must be endangered. It is not therefore safe for them to continue together. Ministers should declare with a high voice, like John to Herod, It is not lawful for, thee to have thy brother Philip’s wife. The former husband or wife being dead, is no plea for superseding a permanent law. Vide Poli synop. crit.

As to the other awful crimes enumerated here, what shall mortals say? The very laws which heaven has enacted, seem to throw dark and dismal shades on the glorious purity of the sacred writings. Are there men who can be guilty of such atrocities! Is human nature capable of so deep a stain? And shall we henceforth own him for kinsman, brother or friend, who contaminates his soul and body with such foul offences. Let us rather pray that his body may suffer, if perchance his soul may thereby be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. The fire which consumed the inhabitants of Sodom; the hail, sword and vengeance, which destroyed the Canaanites, are still pursuing the guilty. The earth, abhorring their crimes, shall vomit them into the grave of corruption; and the indignation of heaven shall intoxicate their soul with everlasting shame and anguish. Let all young men especially endeavour to form the strictest habits of temperance and chastity, let no violence be offered to modesty and bashfulness, let a voice be heard from heaven in the hour of temptation, ye shall not commit any one of these abominable customs, that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the Lord.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 18". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/leviticus-18.html. 1835.
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