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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 20

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



Of giving their offspring to Molech: of wizards: of cursing parents: of incestuous and unnatural mixtures, &c.

Before Christ 1490.

Verses 1-5

Leviticus 20:1-5. And the Lord spake, &c.— In ch. Lev 18:21 this dedication of children to Molech, is forbidden in more general terms. It is there said, thou shalt not let any of thy offspring pass through the fire to Molech: where the reader will observe, that the words, the fire, are in Italics, and, consequently, not in the Hebrew. Accordingly, Houbigant is of opinion that the phrase signifies to become servants to; and that it expresses dedicating children in perpetual servitude to the worship of Molech, and therefore he renders it, non mittes ad Molech semen tuum in servitutem, thou mayest not send thy offspring into servitude to Molech: and he observes, that the word fire is never used, where Molech is spoken of: but he certainly forgot, 2Ki 23:10 where it is expressly said, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech: and I have no doubt but that in many other places in Scripture, where passing through the fire is spoken of, reference is made to this same idol. Calmet has a very learned and excellent dissertation upon this subject. He informs us from the Rabbins, that "this idol was of brass, sitting upon a throne of the same metal, adorned with a royal crown; having the head of a calf, and his arms extended, as if to embrace any one. When they would offer any children to him, they heated the statue within by a great fire; and, when it was burning hot, they put the miserable victim within his arms, which was soon consumed by the violence of the heat: and, that the cries of the children might not be heard, they made a great noise with drums and other instruments about the idol." Others relate that the idol was hollow, and within it were contrived seven partitions, one of which was appointed for meal or flour; in the second, there were turtles; in the third, an ewe; in the fourth, a ram; in the fifth, a calf; in the sixth, an ox; and in the seventh, a child. All these were burned together by heating the statue in the inside. Parkhurst observes, that "it appears from the substance of this idol, which was brass; from its having the head of a calf (the animal-emblem of fire;) from its being divided into seven partitions, answering to the seven planetary spheres or orbits; and from the horrid rites performed to it, that it was intended as a representative of the solar fire. This is also confirmed by its name מלךֶ melek, the king: [the LXX several times render it, when meaning the idol, αρχων the ruler:] for, as a king, in his political capacity, acts where he is not, by means of others; so the solar fire in our system does, in some sense, act where it is not, by means of the light which it is continually sending forth, and putting in motion. It has been doubted, whether in that shocking rite of making their children pass through the fire to Molech, they were always destroyed or burnt to death or not. Whoever will attentively consider the following passages in the Hebrew Bible, will be strongly inclined to the affirmative; Ezekiel 16:20-21; Ezekiel 37:28.: Compare Jer 32:35 with Jeremiah 7:31. Some savages of Florida, we are informed by some writers, used to sacrifice their first-born, if a male, to the sun; see Ceremonies and Religious customs, vol. 3: p. 129:" see also 2Ch 28:2. 2 Kings 23:10. Those who desire further information on this subject, we refer to Calmet and Selden's Dissertations, and Bishop Newton's Notes on Milton's Paradise Lost, Book i. ver. 392.

Verses 2-5

Leviticus 20:2. Shall stone him, &c.— Compare Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 7:26. Who, upon the face of these laws, could ever attempt to support so absurd a notion, as that idolatry was tolerated among the Jews? Yet such is the hypothesis of the admirable Voltaire! Bishop Warburton upon this law observes, that there were two cases in which the offender, here described, might escape punishment: first, when the crime could not be legally proved; or, secondly, when the magistrate was remiss in punishing. The divine lawgiver obviates both; and declares, that the infanticide shall suffer death by God's own hand in an extraordinary manner. The supplial of the first defect is in these words, and I will set my face, &c. Leviticus 20:3. The supplial of the second is in these; and if the people of the land, &c. Leviticus 20:4-5.

Verse 9

Leviticus 20:9. For every one Our old version here is, If there be any that curseth, &c. The particle כי ki, rendered for, is not always causal; but frequently signifies moreover, further, when, &c.; see Noldius, Leviticus 9:22 : &c.

REFLECTIONS.—The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The former laws are here armed with their sanction, and we need hear and fear before this holy Lord God.

1. In respect to the sacrificing of children. When we see the votaries of sin in general serving the devil with such loss and suffering, how ought we to value the perfect freedom of God's service. 2. In respect to the escape of the criminal from the hands of men, God would then take the matter into his own hand. Note; Sinners may escape the hand of justice here; but at God's tribunal they must stand, and none can deliver them out of his hand. 3. Nor shall the abettors of the idolaters share a milder judgment. Note; (1.) The character of an informer is often, and justly perhaps in general, stamped with infamy: but there are offences where silence involves us in the guilt of the crime we conceal; and it is at our peril if we hold our tongue. (2.) A negligent magistrate is a most criminal character; and they who will not judge for God, shall be judged by him. 4. A general charge is given to sanctify themselves for God, and, consequently, to separate themselves from the ways and company of sinners: and the reasons are given: (1.) Because God is their Lord and Master, and they must serve him only. (2.) Because they thus answer his designs of grace upon them: I am he that sanctifieth you. Note; [1.] Sanctification is the work of God: his power must be obtained, or else impotent would be the command. [2.] All God's people are a holy people: though the measure of their attainments differ, yet universal sanctification of heart and life is the prayer, the purpose, and sincere endeavour of every gracious soul.

Verse 10

Leviticus 20:10. The man that committeth adultery The Hebrew word may signify all kinds of uncleanness; yet here it does, and must, properly, signify adultery; a crime held so detestable by all nations, that there were few in ancient times that did not reckon it capital. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans held it alike enormous. Is it not strange, that in our laws we punish a petty robbery with death; and suffer adultery to go wholly unpunished?

Verse 11

Leviticus 20:11. Their blood shall be upon them Compare Deuteronomy 19:10. The plain meaning of the phrase is, their blood shall be chargeable upon themselves: the punishment of them shall acquit the land from guilt; see Matthew 27:25.

Verse 14

Leviticus 20:14. If a man take a wife, &c.—they shall be burnt with fire Some have thought it very extraordinary, that this crime should be punished with burning alive; when simple death only is assigned as a punishment for a more monstrous crime: (Leviticus 20:15-16.) and, therefore, they have thought that burning with fire here means, the marking of their bodies with a red-hot instrument, as a present punishment, and a future brand of infamy.

Verse 17

Leviticus 20:17. They shall be cut off in the sight of their people Some, again, believe that this punishment implies that they shall be separated from the communion and covenant of Israel; and not, that they should be put to death. They think, that the punishments assigned in the other verses seem to prove this.

Verse 20

Leviticus 20:20. They shall die childless Whatever be the precise mode in which this curse was to be executed, whether by the entire withholding of children, or the speedy cutting them off when born; it affords us a striking proof of the Divinity of the Jewish law: for, to give or withhold children being in the power of the Divine Providence only, no impostor would have added such a sanction, the impotency of which a little time must have fully detected.

Verse 21

Leviticus 20:21. If a man take his brother's wife Except that brother die childless. Compare Genesis 38:8. Deuteronomy 25:5-6.

REFLECTIONS.—Nothing needs severer restraints than the lusts which naturally reign in our mortal bodies: no sins have severer punishments denounced on their indulgence. To instance only one—The adulterer and adulterers were both to perish together. The wrong is irreparable to the injured, peace of conscience destroyed to the guilty, and the avenging wrath of God provoked by such a daring violation of his ordinance of marriage.

Verse 23

Leviticus 20:23. Ye shall not walk in the manners of the nations, &c.— See Genesis 9:25.

Verse 25

Leviticus 20:25. Ye shall therefore put difference The therefore in this verse plainly proves, that the principal reason, as we have observed on ch. 11: of the distinction between clean beasts, &c. is that given in the preceding verse, I am the Lord—who have separated you.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Leviticus 20". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/leviticus-20.html. 1801-1803.
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