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Blessings Promised to the Obedient
v. 1. Ye shall make you no idols, literally, nothingnesses, vain, empty deities of your own imagination, nor graven image, one carved or chiseled from wood and stone, neither rear you up a standing image, a pillar of commemoration used for idolatrous purposes; neither shall ye set up any image of stone, a stone shaped or hewn to represent some real or imagined creature, in your land to bow down unto it; for I am the Lord, your God.
v. 2. Ye shall keep My Sabbaths, as the days set a part for His special worship, and reverence My Sanctuary, stand in awe of the place where the holy God revealed Himself to them. I am the Lord. These two verses, containing substantially the entire Law of God as applied to the Jews in particular, serve admirably as a basis of the following promises and warnings.
v. 3. If ye walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, both the general precepts of the natural law and the special ordinances pertaining to the children of Israel, and do them,
v. 4. then I will give you rain in due season, the showers at the two periods of the year when the land needed moisture for fruitfulness, Deuteronomy 11:14, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. The extraordinary extent of the blessings is shown next.
v. 5. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time. Threshing in Palestine was done on the great open floors, beginning with the harvest, in April; the grapes were usually ripe in September; and sowing for the new crop began at the end of October or the beginning of November. And ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely, without cares and worries about the necessaries of life.
v. 6. And I will give peace in the land, perfect security, and ye shall lie down, in peaceful settlement, like a herd which is safe from the attacks of beasts of prey, and none shall make you afraid. And I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land, because the enemies that might venture an attack would be driven back triumphantly from their borders.
v. 7. And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword, since the Israelites would be rendered invincible by the Lord.
v. 8. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight, a proverbial expression for the absolute certainty of victory for Israel's arms, Deuteronomy 23:20; Isaiah 30:17; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. These promises were abundantly fulfilled, as the history of Israel and Judah shows, e. g. in the case of Gideon.
v. 9. For I will have respect unto you, turning His face upon them in goodness and mercy, and make you fruitful and multiply you, giving increase upon increase, blessings which were properly appreciated in those days, and establish My covenant with you, which had promised such unusual blessings, Genesis 17:4-6.
v. 10. And ye shall eat old store, grain of last year's crop, and bring forth the old because of the new, since the old would not even he consumed by the time the new harvest would be filling the granaries.
v. 11. And I will set My Tabernacle among you, as the visible sign of His merciful presence; and My soul shall not abhor you.
v. 12. And I will walk among you, in gracious communion through the worship offered to Him, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people. Cf Deuteronomy 23:15.
v. 13. I am the Lord, your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt that ye should not be their bondmen, held in shameful slavery by a heathen nation; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright. The deliverance from Egypt was a proof and pledge of the fulfillment of God's promises, and the fellowship which the children of Israel enjoyed in Him was symbolic of the perfect communion which the children of God have entered upon with Him through the redemption of Christ. If we Christians believe and trust in God with all our heart, and walk in the ways of His commandments, then He will remain with us with His Word and Sacraments. Therefore we should also love and trust in Him and gladly perform the demands of His holy will.
The Curse upon the Disobedient
v. 14. But if ye will not hearken unto Me, and will not do all these commandments,
v. 15. and if ye shall despise My statutes, or if your soul abhor My judgments, so that ye will not do all My commandments, but that ye break My covenant, willfully set it aside,
v. 16. I also will do this unto you: I will even appoint over you terror, order it to strike them, to fill their hearts with nameless dread, consumption, and the burning ague, a consuming fever, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart; and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it, they would find no difficulty about entering the country and taking the standing grain or the contents of the granaries.
v. 17. And I will set My face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies, with no chance of overcoming them; they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you, which is characteristic of the godless and wicked, Proverbs 28:1; Psalms 53:5. After this preliminary summary the Lord now announces the form which His punishment mould take in a carefully graded series which reaches its climax in the last part of the Chapter.
v. 18. And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.
v. 19. And I will break the pride, the majesty, the glory, the boast, of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron and your earth as brass, withholding both the rain above and the fruitfulness below;
v. 20. and your strength shall be spent in vain, in the fruitless endeavor to coax the land into producing; for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits. That was the first degree of the increased punishment: an absolute lack of fertility in the land.
v. 21. And if ye walk contrary unto Me and will not hearken unto Me, I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins, as the second step of the intensified curse.
v. 22. I will also send wild beasts among you, the larger predatory beasts and birds, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your highways shall be desolate on account of the reduced number of inhabitants. These were the two punishments of the second increased degree: loss caused by beasts of prey and bereavement.
v. 23. And if ye will not be reformed by Me by these things, if they would not learn their lesson as held before them by the Lord, but will walk contrary unto Me,
v. 24. then will I also walk contrary unto you, be engaged in continual acts of aggressive enmity, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins, as the third step in the increased revenge.
v. 25. And I will bring a sword upon you, permit the scourge of war to sweep their country, that shall avenge the quarrel of My covenant; and when ye are gathered together within your cities, where the greater density of the population made the spread of diseases easier, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered in to the hand of the enemy, for war and epidemics usually come together.
v. 26. And when I have broken the staff of your bread, which is here also represented as the staff of life, the proverbial expression denoting the infliction of extreme scarcity, ten women, of as many households, shall bake your bread in one oven, where formerly ten were needed, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight, in careful rations; and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied. That was the third stage of God's increased punishment: war, pestilence, and famine.
v. 27. And if ye will not for all this hearken unto Me, but walk contrary unto Me,
v. 28. then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury, in consuming anger; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins, in some last horrible catastrophes.
v. 29. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat, in a madness of cannibal hunger brought on by the severe famine.
v. 30. And I will destroy your high places, where idolatrous worship was carried on, and cut down your images, the pillars erected to the heathen deities, and cast your carcasses upon the carcasses of your idols, and My soul shall abhor you, be filled with loathing at their sight.
v. 31. And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, the houses of idolatry erected in spite of the warning of Jehovah; and I will not smell the savor of your sweet odors, the burnt sacrifices which they brought in the insolence of their hypocrisy, as though the Lord would accept the mere outward work, without faith of the heart.
v. 32. And I will bring the land in to desolation; and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it, even they would be surprised at the distinct marks of God's punitive justice, as they were in evidence everywhere.
v. 33. And I will scatter you among the heathen, in a shameful captivity equivalent to slavery, and will draw out a sword after you, drive them from their homes with a drawn sword; and your land shall be desolate and your cities waste. That was the climax of God's revenging justice: destruction of all idols and their sanctuaries, complete overthrow of the cities, desolation of the land, and deportation of its inhabitants. These threats hold good even today. If we turn away from God, deny Him faith and obedience, and despise His commandments, He will take away His blessings, peace and prosperity, from us and even visit His anger upon us. Therefore we should fear His wrath and not act contrary to His commandments.
The Effects of these Visitations and the Restoration of the Covenant
v. 34. Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest and enjoy her Sabbaths. It is here implied that Israel, in its revolt against Jehovah and His commandments, would omit the observance of the sabbatical years, and that the land, suffering under the oppression of this greed, would feel the relief brought about by the deportation of the owners.
v. 35. As long as it lieth desolate, it shall rest, because it did not rest in your Sabbaths when ye blood upon it.
v. 36. And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies, filling their hearts with a cowardly fear, with the despondency of an unreasonable terror; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth, victims more of their own terror than of any harm done to them by their enemies,
v. 37. And they shall fall one upon another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth; and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies.
v. 38. And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. Cf Numbers 13-32; Ezekiel 36:13.
v. 39. And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies' lands, So long as they remain in their unrepentant attitude toward God; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them; for if the children follow in the footsteps of their sinful parents, the sins of the latter are visited upon them also. But now the mercy of the Lord comes into the foreground Again.
v. 40. If they shall confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, the guilt which they brought upon themselves by their misdeeds, with their trespass which they trespassed against Me, and that also they have walked contrary unto Me, an open confession being necessary to show the sincerity of their repentance;
v. 41. and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies, thereby freely acknowledging that they were suffering a well-deserved punishment; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity,
v. 42. then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember, with all the blessings promised therein; and I will remember the land, turn back to it with thoughts of love and kindness.
v. 43. The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her Sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them, being free from the oppression of a population that disregarded the will of the Lord; and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity, bowing their backs to the Lord's chastening rod; because, even because they despised My judgments, and because their soul abhorred My statutes.
v. 44. And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, when it seems that they are absolutely forsaken by God, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them to destroy them utterly, for that had not been the purpose of His punishment in the first place, and to break My covenant with them; for I am the Lord, their God, who always has mercy upon the repentant sinner.
v. 45. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen. I am the Lord. In this way the punishment of the Lord would finally result in blessing the people, in bringing them back to the fellowship of the covenant which He had never repudiated.
v. 46. These are the statutes and judgments and laws which the Lord made between Him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses. The history of Israel, as foreshadowed in this Chapter, is an example of warning to all men. Unto those that are disobedient to the truth the Lord will render tribulation and anguish, Romans 2:8-9. He will in flaming fire take vengeance on them that know not God, that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9. But His mercy is always ready to turn to those that come to Him with a sorrowful and repentant heart.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Leviticus 26". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany