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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Leviticus 26


Idolatry forbidden: a blessing promised; a curse denounced.

Before Christ 1490.

Verse 1

Leviticus 26:1. Ye shall make you no idols, &c.— For the word rendered idols, see on ch. Leviticus 19:4. For the word rendered standing image, see Exodus 34:13. The words rendered, image of stone, are, in the Hebrew, משׁכית אבן eben mashkit, a stone of fixing; i.e. a stone fixed, or set up. Some suppose, with the margin of our English Bibles, that the words signify a pictured stone, like those in use among the Egyptians, which were full of hieroglyphics, expressing some perfections of their gods: but it is most probable the sacred writer means, by forbidding pillars, and fixed stones, to forbid the superstitious use of those obelisks and pillars, which, in the ruder times of idolatry, were erected to the honour of the sun, moon, and stars; and which were of different forms, sometimes pyramidical, sometimes plain square stones, well known among the Greeks by the name βεθυλια : and it is probable that this practice was derived from an imitation of the true worshippers; see Genesis 28:18. Jablonski has traced the origin of these pillars in the very curious and learned Prolegomena, cap. 2: sect. 33 prefixed to his Pantheon, to which we refer. We may just observe, that the sacred writer being about to give solemn promises and denunciations to his people, by way of enforcing all the foregoing precepts, prefaces them by a recapitulation of the two laws which peculiarly distinguished the Israelites: the abhorrence of idolatry, and the observation of the sabbath; each alike calculated to preserve and enforce the worship of the true God.

Verse 4

Leviticus 26:4. Then will I give you rain in due season It is manifest to every reader that the blessings and curses denounced here, and in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, as sanctions of the law, are merely temporal, and refer entirely to the things of this world in their primary sense. As they are more fully expressed in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, we refer our readers to the commentary on that chapter.

Verse 5

Leviticus 26:5. Your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, &c.— This is a nervous and beautiful promise of such entire plenty of corn and wine, that, before they could have reaped and threshed out their corn, the vintage should be ready; and before they could have pressed out their wine, it would be time to sow again. The prophet Amos, ch. Lev 9:13 expresses the same blessing in the same manner: The plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed.

Verse 10

Leviticus 26:10. Bring forth the old Throw away the old. Houb.

Verse 13

Leviticus 26:13. I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright Bondage is frequently compared in the Scriptures to the bearing a yoke, which, lying upon the neck, causes the bearer to stoop down, and hang the head; in which view, the allusion here is as plain as it is beautiful.

REFLECTIONS.—God will not prove an unkind master to those who serve him: none follow him with fidelity whom he will not follow with blessings. We have,

1. A solemn repetition of those commands, on the observance of which their happiness especially depended, viz. Abstaining from idolatry, and keeping holy God's sabbaths. Whilst they worshipped the true God, and in the ways of his own appointments, so long they would be a peculiar people to him.
2. Rich promises to the obedient. Plenty shall crown the year, and peace be in their borders. Their enemies shall bow before them, and their people multiply exceedingly. God's favour shall he continually towards them, his presence in the midst of them, and his covenant perpetually established with them. They shall be his people, and he will be their God for ever. To the faithful Israel of God these promises are daily fulfilling: the rain of divine grace produces the abundance of spiritual gifts and holy dispositions; the peace of God shall keep their hearts and minds; their enemies, Satan, sin, and death, shall be vanquished; the in-dwelling presence of Jesus in their heart shall exceed the tabernacle-glory; and in death, and after death, he will be their God, and they shall be his people for ever and ever. Amen! Amen!

Verse 16

Leviticus 26:16. Appoint over you terror See Deuteronomy 28:28. Psa 78:33 compared with the 36th verse of this chapter, which fully explains the meaning of the word. Houbigant reads, בחלה bechle, here, after the Samaritans which he renders diseases. One cannot read these blessings and denunciations upon the Jews without an awful admiration of that providence, which, in future times, so amply and fearfully fulfilled both the one and the other. Remarkable are the words of Josephus: "In proportion to their neglect of the law, easy things became unsurmountable; and all their undertakings, how just soever, ended in incurable calamities." Antiq. lib. 5: cap. 1. See the Divine Legat. Book 5: sect. 2: p. 68.

Verse 21

Leviticus 26:21. If ye walk contrary unto me In the 23rd and 24th verses, &c. this same phrase is used. The Hebrew is, literally, in opposition to me; [בקרי bekeri,] and, consequently, the remarks which some have formed upon the marginal translation of our English Bibles are of no weight.

Verse 26

Leviticus 26:26. Ten women, &c.— Ten, that is, many; a certain for an uncertain number. See 1 Samuel 1:8. Job 19:3. See also Ezekiel 4:16-17.

Verse 30

Leviticus 26:30. I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images Or, I will destroy your pillars, (altars,) and cut down your solar statues. Some have translated the word images, by temples dedicated to the fire; which, say they, was a symbol of the sun. The carcases of the idols, in all probability, mean the broken bodies of the images, which are called in contempt the carcases. The word is well rendered truncos by Houbigant; the trunks of your idols. Ezekiel 6:4; Eze 5:13 and Jer 8:1-2 will fully explain this passage. Your sanctuaries, in the next verse, either mean their idol temples, or the one true temple of their God; which, consisting of various parts, is spoken of in the plural. See ch. Leviticus 21:23. The Samaritan, which Houbigant approves and follows, reads the word in the singular, your sanctuary: and Houbigant understands the passage as a prediction of the destruction of the temple at the Babylonish captivity.

Verse 34

Leviticus 26:34. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths See 2 Chronicles 36:21. There can be no need to point out to the attentive reader the striking energy of many of the expressions in this chapter.

Verse 35

Leviticus 26:35. As long as it lieth desolate, it shall rest "This," says Houbigant, "is literally and historically true. From Saul to the Babylonish captivity, 490 years are commonly numbered; in which period of time were 70 sabbaths of years; for 7 multiplied by 70 makes 490: but the Babylonish captivity continued 70 years, during which the land of Israel rested: therefore the land rested in that captivity so many years as it ought to have rested sabbaths, if the Jews had observed the law respecting the rest of the land."

Verse 38

Leviticus 26:38. The land of your enemies shall eat you up This was literally fulfilled in the captivity of the ten tribes, as well as in the sufferings and oppressions, which the rest of the family of Israel have undergone for their own and the iniquities of their fathers; Leviticus 26:39.

REFLECTIONS.—As God encouraged to obedience by rewards, he threatened the disobedient with the most awful judgments. If mercy will not draw them, at least let terror drive them.

1. The sins that God threatens are, wilful disobedience persisted in, with impenitence under their chastisements. This is supposed to begin in carelessness and disregard of God's commandments, the consequence of which would soon be to despise them. Sin is a down-hill road; the transition from evil to worse is most natural. When they began to slight religion, destruction would hasten apace; they would then loath it, and breaking off every restraint, give scope to the insatiable lusts of their corrupted hearts. Such is the usual process of evil. God will visit for these things; and if his rod of correction is despised, his sword of judgment shall be unsheathed. Before he strikes, he warns: if they will hearken to the calls of his word, and the pleadings of their conscience; if they turn from the evil of their way, and reform their course of evil, there will be hope: but when his calls are rejected with obstinacy, and his judgments exasperate and harden instead of humbling them, then woe unto them. Note; They who resist the calls of God, and the convictions of conscience, and, under the corrections of sickness and affliction, continue unhumbled, impatient, murmuring, and unreformed, have nothing to hope for, but wrath to the uttermost.

2. The punishments to be inflicted on the rebellious. The first and sorest judgment, and the cause of all the rest, is God's face being set against them. They who contend with their Maker will find the struggle most unequal. He threatens to cross their designs, and disappoint their hopes; evil and misfortune shall attend them as their shadows. Diseases, like a flight of locusts, shall seize upon their bodies; unfruitful seasons shall make their lands barren, and the sword of their enemies shall be drenched in their blood. If these judgments have no effect, greater shall follow: God will not stay his arm from punishment, whilst we refuse to bow our hearts in penitence. The beasts of the earth shall devour their children, and, as executioners of God's wrath, make their habitations desolate. If they remain yet incorrigible, heavier and thicker strokes descend. Whilst the sinner is out of hell, there is hope; but every rejected call hardens him thither. Famine shall stalk through their barren land, and pestilence devour and depopulate their cities. God thus arms all creation against his enemies, and heaven and earth conspire to destroy them. If, after all, their desperate hearts reject the warning, and continue impenitent, their ruin shall come. When God begins he will make an end with the sinner, nor leave him till he is brought to himself or to everlasting burnings. Their cities shall be besieged, and they shall eat their sons and daughters through the famine: their enemies shall throw down their walls, and lay their carcases on their idols. And whilst in desolation the land enjoys her sabbaths, the poor remnant shall be scattered among the heathen, nor even there be at rest. A sword shall pursue them, and their souls withal be as miserable as their bodies. Continual terror within shall torment their coward, guilty hearts; and in their iniquities they shall pine away without prospect of redress. Despair in this life is the consummation of a sinner's guilt, and, in hell, of his torment. Vengeance so exemplary shall even astonish their enemies, and they shall be seen and acknowledged the objects of God's just abhorrence. Note; (1.) What a dreadful thing is sin! (2.) How sure is the ruin of the impenitent sinner! (3.) How aggravated the guilt of that soul whom mercies cannot engage, nor corrections deter. (4.) How just will God appear, to give up those to despair, who have given up themselves to work wickedness.

Verse 45

Leviticus 26:45. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant, &c.— Houbigant renders this, Therefore will I remember my covenant of old with them, when——It might be rendered, nearer to the Hebrew, I will remember for or towards them: להם lahem, erga eos, in the Syriac and Arabic versions. This is one of those texts of Scripture from which the Jews derive great consolation, promising themselves from hence a sure deliverance from their national exile; insomuch, that they cannot forbear, expressing their joy by elevating their voice when this passage is read. And when they turn to that Lord of glory whom they crucified, this promise will have its full completion.

Verse 46

Leviticus 26:46. These are the statutes, &c.— See the note on the first verse of the next chapter.

REFLECTIONS.—While there is life there is hope. It is never too late to return to God. The greatness of our provocations, or the length of our rebellions, prevent not his compassions towards us. May such patience and goodness of God lead us to repentance!

1. Their repentance is here described. They must confess their sins, and acknowledge God's hand in their visitation. Deep humiliation of heart must accompany these penitent acknowledgments, in the view of their baseness and ingratitude to their gracious God, with humble acquiescence in their punishment, glorifying God in the justice of it. Note; (1.) The great evil of sin is the opposition of the heart to God. This carnal mind is the heaviest burden to the awakened soul. (2.) When God's grace joins with his afflictive providences, then the convinced soul is softened to sensibility, and bowed into the dust of humiliation. (3.) The humble soul will ever bear the miseries that sin has brought upon it with patience, and be more solicitous to have the end of the visitation answered, than the burden of it removed.

2. Mercy promised to them on returning to their God: not indeed for their sake, but because of that covenant which God had established with their fathers. He will remember mercy in the midst of judgment, and, as a tender father, extend to them that favour which they had so justly forfeited. Note; It is for Jesus's sake, not our own, that the least regard can be shewed us; and in him there is such fulness of merit, and freedom of promise, that none need despair.

Thus Moses concludes his message from God, and Israel are to prove their obedience. While they do so, God will be in the midst of them, and they shall experience the blessings of fidelity.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Leviticus 26". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.