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MANY LAWS GROUPED TOGETHER (vv. 1-37)
We have seen at the beginning and end of chapter 18 God's announcement, “I am the Lord your God.” In chapter 19 the expression “I am the Lord” occurs 15 times. But here it is difficult to find any division of topics, for laws of every kind are found following one another. It has been suggested that in this case the reason is to stress that the law is one: there is a unity about it that is not to be ignored by those under law. James 2:10 strongly enforces this: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
The chapter begins with God's assertion, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (v. 2). Holiness involves, not only acting rightly, but loving what is good and hating what is evil. Thus, Israel was to be totally and feelingly on God's side. True regard for mother and father is linked with the keeping of the sabbath days, which was to express regard for God (v. 3).
Idolatry is therefore firmly forbidden (v. 4). This had been stated in the ten commandments, but is often repeated because God knew Israel's tendency to disobedience. If a peace offering was offered, it was to be eaten the first two days, but after this any part left over was to be burned, not eaten (vv. 6-7). One who ignored this was to be put to death (v. 8).
Self discipline was also to be exercised in harvesting. They must not reap the corners of their fields, nor go back to glean what had been left in the first harvest. This was to be left for the poor or for strangers who had little means of support (vv. 9-10). Such a law tested whether they loved their neighbor and whether their faith was really in God.
Stealing, cheating, lying, swearing falsely in God's name are common evils, but forbidden by law (vv. 11-12), and no less evil under grace, for again there is no faith nor love in any of these. The same is true in whatever kind of oppressive treatment one may practice on his neighbor, including deferring to pay the wages of an employee (v. 13). Consideration of the deaf and the blind is also required by law (v. 14), as is fairness and impartiality in judgment, favoring neither rich or poor (v. 15).
Talebearing or slandering is then mentioned followed by hidden hatred. Law does not only forbid bad actions, but also bad thoughts of the heart (vv. 16-17). If one's brother had done evil, this was no reason to hate him: rather, even the law required that he should rebuke the offender, not in a harsh spirit, not condemning him nor bearing any grudge against him, but instead, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 18).
Mixtures were also forbidden. Jews were not to allow their livestock to breed with other species. Mixed seed was not to be sown. Linen and wool were not to be mixed in any garment. This has typical significance such as is seen in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?”
While adultery was punishable by death, yet a difference was made in the case of verse 20, and this fornication could be atoned for by a trespass offering (vv. 21-22).
When Israel came into the land of Canaan and planted trees, they were not to eat any of their fruit for the first three years. In the fourth year they were still not to eat the fruit, but sanctify it to the Lord, then in the fifth year they could eat it. These are not laws for Gentiles, nor for the present dispensation of grace, but they teach us that in everything, even in our eating, God should have the first place.
In verse 26 the prohibition against eating anything with blood is linked with that against divination or soothsaying, for the first speaks of God's rights, the second that we are not to allow Satan any rights over us.
Verses 27-28 tell us that our bodies are not our own to do with them as we please, whether in shaving for show or making cuts in the flesh or being tattooed (Compare 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). All of these are only to satisfy a person's pride.
Parents are warned against the horrible evil of prostituting their daughters (v. 29). This would not only be gross cruelty to the daughters, but would lead to wickedness filling the land. Again also the Lord insists on their keeping His sabbaths and reverencing His sanctuary, for the parent-daughter relationship will be rightly sustained only where there is a proper relationship with the Lord. This sacred relationship also calls for the total refusal of any relationship with mediums and familiar spirits (v. 31), who represent Satan, the arch-enemy of God.
The aged among the people were to be held in honor and respect. In eastern countries today people are more careful about this than in the west. Also, when a stranger came to reside in Israel he was to be treated with respect and courtesy, in fact, Israel was told to “love him as yourself” (v. 34). If this was true in Israel under law, how much more emphatic it should be for Christians who are “under grace.”
It is insisted that no injustice of any kind should be found amongst Israelites, whether in measurements, weights or volume. Their scales were to be honest, their weights and all measurements. These things are always right, whether in Israel or among Gentiles, as everyone's conscience bears witness. The Christian is glad to conform to such instruction, not because it is law, but because he knows and loves the Lord. Thus it is added here, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” We have been brought by grace out of worse bondage than that of Egypt, and have greater reason to respond in love and obedience to the Lord.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Leviticus 19". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29