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Moses forbids their cutting themselves at funerals: informs them what may be eaten, and what not. Concerning tithes, and the payment of them in money.
Before Christ 1451.
Ver. 1. Ye shall not cut yourselves, &c.— See Leviticus 19:28. Mr. Locke, upon the words, ye shall not make any baldness between your eyes, remarks, that the meaning is, "when any of your friends are dead, you shall not shave the forepart of your head, which is between your eyes, as the heathens do." These furious expressions of funeral mourning still subsist in some of the eastern countries. But nothing certainly is more unbecoming the peculiar people of God, the heirs of immortality, than thus to sorrow like those who have no hope. See Calmet's Dissert. on Chemosh. This law, like many others, was designed to discriminate them from idolaters, and to preserve them in their attachment, as an holy or separate people, to the Lord their God.
Ver. 1-21. God, having chosen Israel for his own, separated them from the nations, adopted them as his children, and designed them for his glory, has a right to expect from them that they should answer these purposes of his grace, and approve themselves a holy people before him. And this must appear, 1. In their mournings, when all inordinate sorrow must be avoided; and every superstitious practice which the Gentiles used must be abhorred. Note; (1.) We are not forbidden to mourn for the dead; but to express immoderate sorrow would be the proof of idolatrous attachment to the creature, and a dishonour to God. (2.) As our bodies are not our own, but bought with a price, we must glorify God in them, and not disfigure or deform that temple where he is pleased to take up his abode. 2. In their meat. Though many of the forbidden beasts, or fish, or fowl, may, in themselves, be good for food, and allowable to others, yet God will lay them under particular restraints, to prevent their mingling with the heathen. There is enough permitted them to remove every occasion of just complaint, if their perverse appetites did not enslave them. Note; Those who are not satisfied with the lawful gratifications that God allows, never will be satisfied in the gratification of their lawless lusts. The above observances are purely judaical, and the reason of them has now ceased; but the separation from evil, and the dedication of ourselves to God, which these signified, still remain obligatory on every christian.
Ver. 3. Any abominable thing— Not that the things were abominable in themselves, but they were to be looked upon as such, being forbidden by the ordinance of God, and, most probably, abused by the heathens to some idolatrous purposes.
Ver. 5. The fallow-deer— It is not certain what animal is meant by the word יחמור iachmor, which we render fallow-deer. Parkhurst says, it is the antelope, an animal of the deer kind, very fierce and quarrelsome (whence its name). It is found in Syria, about the Euphrates; and the Arabs still retain its Hebrew name, calling it jachmur or jamur. See Bochart, vol. 2: p. 910. & seq. The pygarg דישׁון dishon, is also an animal of the deer kind, so called from its ashen colour; the tragelaphus or pygarg, LXX πυγαργον Vulg. pygargum. See Johnston's Nat. Hist. of Quad. p. 63. תאו teou, which we render the wild ox, is a species also of the deer kind, among which it is mentioned. It occurs also Isaiah 51:20. Bochart thinks it another name for the ראם reem or oryx; and observes, that the LXX accordingly render it here by ορυγα, and Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, in Isaiah by ο ρυξ, and so the Vulgate in both places, orygem and oryx. He is of opinion, that the name תאו teou, or תוא tou, is formed from the noise or cry which the animal makes, [as the Greek name θωες, and Latin thoes, for jackalls,] and which is the more remarkable, as it fails not to utter it at the rising of the sun and moon. See Bochart, vol. 2: p. 973, &c. The chamois, זמר zemer, (which word signifies to prune,) is of the goat kind: the reason of the name will appear from the following account of the animal, which we partly transcribe from a late ingenious writer: "The horns are not large, but they are very strong; they are straight all the way to the top, but there they turn into a kind of hook. The creature feeds on the young shoots and shrubs; and these horns, which, like those of the camelopardal, are not fit for weapons either of offence or defence, serve admirably for the purpose of getting at its food. As the crooked horns of that animal are very well situated for pulling down a bough which is a little out of the reach of the mouth, and bending it till it is pliable; those of the chamois, which have absolutely hooks at the end, are as useful for laying hold of a single branch or shoot out of an entangled thicket, and dragging it out singly, that the creature may browse its verdure without wounding its face, or endangering its eyes in the thicket." Watson's Animal World Displayed, p. 114. It must not be overlooked, that both the LXX and Vulgate interpret זמר zemer, the camelopardal; and indeed this animal feeds in such a remarkable manner, as well enough to suit the Hebrew name. (Watson, p. 110.) But Bochart is of opinion, that this creature was not even known in Judea; Bochart, vol. 2: p. 908. For all these names, see Parkhurst's Lexicon. The reader will find in vol. 2 Chronicles 2:0 sect. 6 of Dr. Shaw's Travels, some curious observations respecting the quadrupeds and birds mentioned in this chapter, which are too accurate to be abridged, and too long to be inserted here.
Ver. 13. And the glede— The glede is a bird of the vulture kind, denominated in the Hebrew from its sharp sight: it is not specified in Leviticus.
Ver. 20. But of all clean fowls— Rather, of all clean flying things: it is principally meant of the insect kind, locusts especially. See Leviticus 11:21-22.
Ver. 21. Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself— To this discourse about food it was proper to add a caution, that though they might kill and eat any clean creature, yet, if it died of itself, it was unlawful to eat it, because the blood was in it. Proselytes of the gate, who were not obliged to observe these laws, or mere Gentiles who might happen to be in their country, might eat such food; but as to those who were called proselytes of righteousness, i.e. circumcised Gentiles, who had embraced the Jewish religion, they were obliged to abstain from such food as much as the native Jews. The Egyptians, in the same manner, sold to others what they might not eat themselves. So Herodotus tells us, that they first imprecated many curses upon the head of the victim, and then carried it to those who trafficked with the Greek merchants, that they might sell it to them; but, if no such Greeks were there, they cast it into the river.
Ver. 22. Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed— This is meant of the second tithe, as appears from the following verses, compared with Numbers 18:24; Numbers 18:32.
Ver. 23. That thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always— That is, that thou mayest be accustomed to the worship of the only true God; for that is sometimes the meaning of the word to learn. Thus the design of this and their other annual feasts was, to preserve them steadfast in their religion; for, by this solemn rite of eating and drinking together, in the presence of Jehovah, at the place of his public worship, they professed their adherence to the service of the true God, in opposition to all false deities.
Ver. 26. And thou shalt rejoice— See ch. Deuteronomy 12:7. This is no other than an injunction on the Hebrew nation to use one part of their income in hospitality; to rejoice in the goodness of God, when they came before his presence; to acknowledge that they owed all their blessings to his protection and favour; and to gladden the hearts of the poor, the fatherless, and the widow, with a cheerful entertainment; imitating the goodness of God to themselves, by such acts of kindness to others; ver. 29. But this was left entirely to the owner, and his good will, on what to spend it, and whom to entertain: it is therefore not unfitly called by the Hebrew writers, the tithe of feasts, and the poor man's tithe. See Lowman's Dissert. ch. 6. It is strange, that a religion, fraught with such merciful precepts, should ever have been stigmatised with the name of barbarous and inhospitable!
Ver. 28. At the end of three years— It is the opinion of the rabbis, that this is not a distinct tithe from what they call the second tithe, paid every year; but the very same which, every third year, was not to be carried to the sanctuary as in the other years, but to be employed to the comfort of the poor, in their own cities and houses, that the Lord might bless them, ver. 29. Therefore this tithe was called the consummation of tithes; because herein the love of their neighbour was most eminently apparent: a duty, which, of all others, is most acceptable to God; and therefore, to the performance of it, a blessing is promised, as blessings are often annexed in Scripture to such works of mercy. Proverbs 3:9-10. Isaiah 58:6-8. 2 Corinthians 9:9-10. Bishop Montague, however, and many others, are of a different opinion respecting this tithe; and they urge, that Josephus, and Tobias before him, appear evidently to speak of a third tithe. See Hist. Jud. lib. iv. c. 8. Tobit, i. 7, 8. See also Grotius and Calmet.
REFLECTIONS.—Their ground paid a double tithe: one for the Levites' maintenance; and another, which was wholly employed in works of piety and charity. The former, the Levites themselves saw truly performed; the latter was left to the people's own integrity: not to be honest here, were to rob God. Note; We must make conscience of devoting to God's service a portion of our increase. Two years this tithe was either carried up to the temple in kind, and eaten by them and their families, in a holy feast before the Lord; or, the money arising from the sale of the tithe, if their abode was distant, was brought up and laid out in this manner: the Levite was never to be forgotten by them; his company not only graced their table, but his presence and watchfulness over them would prevent excess. Every third year this second tithe was spent at home, on the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow; and with them the Levite had his portion also, his presence and company being always profitable, whether at the temple or at home. God promises that they shall be no losers by this liberality, his blessing will amply repay them. Note; (1.) Frequent assemblings before God are among the best means to keep us faithful in his service. (2.) He, who calls us to him, wills that we should rejoice before him. (3.) They have a continual feast who possess contentment, and use all God's gifts with holy thankfulness. (4.) God cares for the fatherless and widow, and so must we; nor shall we ever lose by that which is thus lent to the Lord; for he saith, it shall be paid us again, and with abundant interest.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 14". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent