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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 26

 

 

Introduction

The Law of Holiness (Leviticus 17-27).

The main section of the Book of Leviticus is constructed on a definite pattern. It commences with a description of the offerings and sacrifices of Israel (chapters 1-7), and ends with a description of the times and seasons as they are required of Israel (chapters 23-25). It continues with the establishment of the priesthood (chapters 8-10), which is balanced by the section on the maintenance of the holiness of the priesthood (chapters 21-22). This is then followed by the laws of uncleanness (chapters 11-15) which are balanced by the laws of holiness (chapters 17-20). And central to the whole is the Day of Atonement (chapter 16).

This second part of the book has been spoken of as ‘The Holiness Code’. We may balance this by calling chapters 1-15 ‘The Priestly Code’. The first part certainly has a priestly emphasis, for the priests control the offerings and sacrifices (chapters 1-7) and administer the laws of cleanness and uncleanness (chapters 11-15), and the second part a holiness emphasis. But this must not be over-emphasised. The whole book is mainly addressed to the people, it is for their benefit as God’s covenant people, and the maintenance of the holiness of the priests is just as important in the second half. It is to be seen as a whole.

We may thus analyse it as follows (note the chiasm):

1). THE PRIESTLY CODE (chapters 1-15).

a) Offerings and Sacrifices (chapters 1-7)
b) Establishment of the Priesthood (chapters 8-10)
c) The Laws of Cleanness and Uncleanness (chapters 11-15)

2) THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (Leviticus 16)

3) THE HOLINESS CODE (chapters 17-25)

c) The Laws of Holiness (chapters 17-19)
b) Maintenance of the Holiness of the Priesthood (chapters 20-22)
a) Times and Seasons (chapters 23-25).

As will be seen the Day of Atonement is central and pivotal, with the laws of cleanness and uncleanness and the laws of holiness on each side. This central section is then sandwiched between the establishment of the priesthood (chapters 10-12) and the maintenance of the holiness of the priesthood (chapters 20-22). And outside these are the requirements concerning offerings and sacrifices (chapters 1-7) and the requirements concerning times and seasons (chapters 23-25).

So the Holiness Code may be seen as a suitable description of this second half of the book as long as we do not assume by that that it was once a separate book. The description in fact most suitably applies to chapters 19-22. It describes what Israel is to be, as made holy to Yahweh.

It was as much a necessary part of the record as what has gone before. The Book would have been incomplete without it. The Book of Leviticus is, as it claims, the record of a whole collection of revelations made to Moses at various times, brought together in one book, and carefully constructed around the central pivot of the Day of Atonement. There is no good reason for doubting this, and there are possible indications of colophons to various original records which help to substantiate it. It was the necessary basis for the establishment of the religion of Yahweh for a conglomerate people.

So having in what we know of as the first sixteen chapters of the Book laid down the basis of offerings and sacrifices (chapters 1-7), the establishment of the Priesthood (chapters 8-10), the laws of cleanness and uncleanness (chapters 11-15), and the requirements of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), the whole would have been greatly lacking had Moses not added some further detail of the holiness that God required of His people and of His priests.

The former is contained in Leviticus 17:1 to Leviticus 20:27. In this section Moses deals with the sacredness of all life (Leviticus 17), the sexual relationships which can defile (Leviticus 18), and the positive requirements for holiness in the covenant (Leviticus 19-20).

It is then followed by the further section dealing with the maintenance of the holiness of the priesthood (Leviticus 21:1 to Leviticus 22:16), with Leviticus 22:17-33 forming a transition from speaking to the priests to speaking to the people.

Chapters 23-25 then deal with sacred times and seasons, including the seven day Sabbath (Leviticus 23:1-3), the set feasts of Israel (Leviticus 23:4-44), the daily trimming of the lamps and the weekly offering of showbread (Leviticus 24:1-9), the Sabbatical year (Leviticus 25:1-7), and the year of Yubile (Leviticus 25:8-55). Included in this is a practical example of blasphemy against the Name (Leviticus 24:10-23), which parallels the practical example of priestly blasphemy in Leviticus 10:1-7. Thus practical examples of the blasphemy of both priests and people are included as warnings.

Leviticus 26 seals the book with the promises of blessings and cursings regular in covenants of this period, and closes with the words ‘these are the statutes and judgments and laws which Yahweh made between him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses’ (Leviticus 26:46). Leviticus 27 is then a postscript on vows and how they can lawfully be withdrawn from, and closes with a reference to tithing, the sanctifying of a tenth of all their increase to Yahweh.

Chapters 11-15 dealt with the uncleannesses of Israel, leading up to the Day when all uncleannesses were atoned for (Leviticus 16). But the Day of Atonement covered far more than those. It covered every way in which the covenant had been broken. It also covers the direct transgressions of Israel. Leviticus 17 onwards therefore deals further with the basis of the covenant against which they ‘transgressed’ and for which they also needed atonement. Chapters 11-15 dealt with practical matters considering what was ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ as they faced daily life, these chapters from 17 onwards now deal with the basis on which they should live their lives as Yahweh’s holy people, and the attitudes that they should have. They deal with prospective sin and disobedience. The former were more within the cultic section up to Leviticus 16, but the latter are firmly directed at the people’s moral response, so that their responsibilities under the covenant might be made clear directly to them. The distinction must not be overpressed. They are all still, of course, cultic, but the latter from a less direct viewpoint. They do not have so much to do with priestly oversight. They come more under the jurisdiction of the elders.

There is, however, no change of direction in overall thought. The whole of Leviticus emphasises holiness from start to finish. There is not a change of emphasis only a change of presentation because God is now directly involving the people.

It must, however, be firmly asserted that, as we shall see in the commentary, there is nothing in what follows that requires a date after the time of Moses. Having been given by God control of a conglomerate people (Exodus 12:38), with a nucleus made up of descendants from the family and family servants of the patriarchs (Exodus 1 - ‘households’), he had to fashion them into a covenant keeping nation under Yahweh and provide the basis on which they could be one nation and kept in full relationship with their Overlord. It was precisely because the disparate peoples believed that his words came from God that they were willing mainly to turn their backs on their past usages and customs and become one nation under Yahweh, culminating in them all being circumcised into the covenant when they entered the land (Joshua 5).

And with such a conglomeration of people with their differing religious ideas, customs and traditions, it is clear that this could only have been successfully achieved by putting together a complete religious system which was a revelation from Yahweh, which would both keep them together as one people and would ensure that when they reached Canaan they would have no excuse for taking part in the Canaanite religious practises such as he knew of from his time of administration in Egypt and from his time with the Priest of Midian. Had they arrived in Canaan without a single binding system, they would soon have fallen prey (as they almost did anyway) to the attractions of Canaanite religion. It was only the firm foundation that Moses had laid (combined with God’s own powerful activities) that finally resulted in their rising above their backslidings, and in their constantly turning back to Yahwism, because Moses had rooted it so deeply within them. And this finally enabled the establishing of the nation under Samuel and David after times of great turmoil.

This system did not come all at once. He had to begin instructing them soon after the crossing of the Reed Sea (Exodus 15:26), and a system gradually grew up (Exodus 17:13-16) as they went along, based as we learn later on a tent of meeting set outside the camp (Exodus 33:7-11), until at Sinai the book of the covenant (Exodus 20:1 to Exodus 23:33) was written down as a result of God’s words to the people and to Moses. Then in his time in the Mount this was expanded on. But it would continue to be expanded on in the days to come, until the time came when Moses knew that he had to accumulate in one record all the regulations concerning sacrifices, priesthood and the multitude of requirements that went along with them. By this time he had much material to draw on.

For leaders from different groups had no doubt been constantly coming to him for direction and leadership (Exodus 16:22), and especially for those who were not firmly established in the customs of Israel he no doubt had to deal with a wide number of diversified queries, and seek God’s will about them. This explains why sometimes the collections may not always seem as having been put together in as logical order as they might have been. They partly depended on what questions he had been asked, and what particular problems had arisen, and what particular issues were important at the time. But it was on the basis of all this activity that we have the Book of Leviticus as a part of the wider Pentateuch.


Verse 1-2

Chapter 26 Final Recognition of His Authority, Blessings and Cursings.

The Book now virtually closes with the recognition that Israel were bound to Him, and only Him, by the covenant. Yahweh reaffirms His authority over them and then confirms the blessings and cursings attaching to the whole. If they walk with Him faithfully, blessing, but if they turn away there can only be disaster.

The Overlordship Of Yahweh To Be Honoured (Leviticus 26:1-2).

Leviticus 26:1

“You shall make you no idols, neither shall you rear you up a graven image, or a pillar, neither shall you place any figured stone in your land, to bow down to it: for I am Yahweh your God.

Firstly they must recognise that Yahweh, the invisible One, the One Who is there with them, is their God. Thus in lieu of this they were to make no idols (elilim - ‘nothings’ - compare Leviticus 19:4), nor were they to raise up a graven image (representations of deities as found in many sites in Canaan) or a pillar (pillars of stone indicated the presence of deities such as Baal and El) or any figure of stone (carved representations of a deity), for the purpose of bowing down to them. The whole paraphernalia of idolatrous worship was to be avoided. Compare Numbers 33:52.

Leviticus 26:2

“You shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am Yahweh.”

Rather are they to keep His sabbaths and reverence His Sanctuary (compare Leviticus 19:3; Leviticus 19:30), thus indicating their submission to the signs of His overlordship and presence. What we believe is indicated by the preferences we choose, and this is especially true of worship. If our worship becomes debased, so also will our view of God.


Verses 3-13

The Blessings (Leviticus 26:3-13).

Here follow all the blessings that would be theirs if only they would walk in His statutes and keep His commandments in their hearts and do them.

Leviticus 26:3-5

“If you walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them, then I will give your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach to the vintage, and the vintage shall reach to the sowing time; and you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.”

The first promise in response to their loving obedience is that He would send the rain at the right times, when they were due, and would make the land and the trees fruitful. Their agricultural way of life would prosper. They would be continually busy because they would have so much grain to thresh that by the time they had completed the task the vintage harvest would be ready. Then there would be so much vintage that by the time that they had gathered in the vintage it would be time for sowing. They would be full of all manner of food. And they would dwell securely.

Leviticus 26:6

“And I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will cause evil beasts to cease out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.”

Furthermore the land would know peace. They would be able to rest content with a total sense of security. They would not be troubled either by plagues of evil beasts or by the swords of evil men. Yahweh would keep their land free of both.

Leviticus 26:7-8

“And you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword, and five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.”

Indeed when faced with an enemy they would always be victorious. When they chased them they would fall before them. To deal with a hundred (a larger unit) they would only require five men (their smallest fighting unit). And their own medium unit of ‘a hundred’ would be sufficient to deal with ten large units of ‘a thousand’ each (ten thousand). For their enemy would be unable to resist them.

Leviticus 26:9

“And I will have respect to you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and will establish my covenant with you.”

And Yahweh would watch over them, and take notice of them and watch out for them, and cause their numbers to multiply. He would make His covenant with them firm and strong, fulfilling its potential.

Leviticus 26:10

“And you shall eat old store long kept, and you shall bring forth the old because of the new.”

Such would be their harvests that they would find that they always had good stocks of wheat and barley continually dating back a long time. They would never find themselves without. And because they would have such abundance they would have to bring the old out in order to make way for the new.

Leviticus 26:11

“And I will set my tabernacle among you, and I myself (my soul) shall not abhor you.”

And His tabernacle would be set among them. He would be there with them. And there would be nothing about them that He could hate, because their hearts were truly set towards Him. They would be able to be confident that His love was set on them and that there was no barrier between Him and them. See Exodus 29:45.

Leviticus 26:12

“And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”

And He Himself would walk among them and be their God, and they would be His people (compare Deuteronomy 23:14). It would be like the Garden of Eden restored (compare Genesis 3:8).

“And will be your God, and you shall be my people.” As promised in Exodus 6:7. This was a theme of Jeremiah. See Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 11:4; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 30:22; Jeremiah 32:38. In His mercy He is ever ready to respond to His people. See also Ezekiel 11:20; Ezekiel 36:28; Ezekiel 37:23; Ezekiel 37:27; Zechariah 8:8. It was God's purpose that He might be their God, recognised, acknowledged, worshipped and obeyed. Then would they in turn be His people, watched over, protected, honoured, prosperous and secure.

Leviticus 26:13

“I am Yahweh your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bars of your yoke, and made you go upright.”

For it was for this that He in His mighty power and presence as Yahweh had brought them forth safely from the land of Egypt so that they would not be bondmen but free. That was why He had broken the bar of their yoke so that they could go upright. The bar of the yoke went across the neck of the beast of burden bowing them down with the yoke of what they bore. But it would not be so for His people. They would be able to stand upright with no yoke to bow them down.

All this then would be so if only they were responsive and obedient to His will as revealed in His covenant.

The same equally applies to Christians. If we would enjoy overflowing spiritual blessing it can only result from obedience. But without responsive obedience there will be no genuine blessing. It is those who hear the Master’s voice and walk in the Master’s way (John 10:27-28), and only they, who will enjoy the fullness of what He wants to give. Only fullness of obedience will bring fullness of blessing.

Jesus constantly stressed that there were only two ways, one was the narrow way of obedience, the afflicted way, the hemmed in way, the way that leads to life, where men do not do their own will but His will. The other was the broad and easy road and it leads to destruction for all. There is no middle way (Matthew 7:13-14). The one way was to build on the solid foundation, the rock, of hearing His words and doing them, the other way was to build on sand, hearing His words but not doing them (Matthew 7:24-27). Note that both hear His words. It is the way that they then take that reveals them for what they are. Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter under the Kingly Rule of Heaven, only those who do the will of His Father Who is in Heaven (Matthew 7:21). We dilute His words at our peril.


Verses 14-38

The Cursings (Leviticus 26:14-38).

In the ancient second millennium covenants the cursings were regularly more than the blessings, and so it is here. The devastating consequence of disobedience and unfaithfulness is now laid out in all its detail. We have here a foretaste of the history of Israel, for Moses was a prophet. But this was not just prophecy, they were the words of someone who was aware of the troubles and problems that could come on an unprotected nation, and who recognised what God could bring on them from the lessons of history. Moses was well aware of those. He would have both seen and heard about such things during his upbringing. It was enlightened awareness, not the trickery of an oracle which could claim to be right whatever happened.

Leviticus 26:14-15

“But if you will not hearken to me, and will not do all these commandments; and if you shall reject my statutes, and if your soul abhor my ordinances, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant;”

Here is the picture of the one who will be cursed. He does not obey God. He does not love His word. It is not that he does not believe. Like the devils he believes and trembles. It is that he does not have responsive faith. He does not hear God’s voice and respond to it, he does not do what God requires in His commands. He chooses to reject God’s statutes and live his own life. He does not like what God demands, thus he turns from it and breaks the covenant. He does not live as God requires.

Leviticus 26:16

“I also will do this to you: I will appoint terror over you, even consumption and fever, that shall consume the eyes, and make the soul to pine away; and you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.”

To such a person God will react with the very opposite of His blessings. Note that God says that He will be directly active in it. It may not seem like that, but that will be how it will be. He will be against them. He will put them through hard and difficult times, He will make them afraid with wasting disease and fever, their eyes will suffer, their inner hearts will be full of grief. When they sow their seed it will be in vain. It is the enemy who will eat of it. In every way times will be hard.

Sometimes such things happen to us as a test, to see whether we will be faithful or not, and to chasten us and purify us so that our love and response to Him becomes stronger (Hebrews 12:5-11). But we need to be aware that if we claim to be His people, then disobedience to his will can result in what goes beyond chastening to a harshness of judgment that will bring us to deep repentance. As we discover at the end of the chapter this would be His purpose for Israel. But the way would first be very hard.

Leviticus 26:17

“And I will set my face against you, and you shall be smitten before your enemies: they that hate you shall rule over you; and you shall flee when no one pursues you.”

For He will set His face against them, and when their enemies come they will be unable to combat them. They will be smitten before them. They will come under the rulership of tyrants who do not seek their good. And things will be so bad that they will even run away when there is nothing really to be afraid of. Their nerve will have gone. They will be without faith.

This picture is not of the outside world but of the supposed people of God. We need to be afraid when we do not look to God in obedience, for then we face a long track downwards. God is not mocked. The lampstand can be taken out of its place. Many of the lands which first flourished under the Gospel are now trodden down under Islam. They did not believe it could happen, but it did, for they had lost their true faith.

Leviticus 26:18

“And if you will not yet for these things hearken to me, then I will chastise you seven times more for your sins.”

And if they still do not listen to Him then their chastisement will increase sevenfold. Instead of sevenfold divine blessing there will be sevenfold divine chastisement.

Leviticus 26:19-20

“And I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as bronze, and your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruit.”

He will break the pride of their power. They would be so sure of their power and ability to withstand. They would be so sure of their leaders, so confident in themselves. But God will break that in which they trust, that of which they are so proud (compare Isaiah 22:8-12).

And the heavens would be like iron. There would be no rain from them, no response. And the earth would be like bronze, hard and unyielding. All their efforts to produce grain and fruit would be in vain. The land would not yield its increase. The trees would not yield their fruit.

As the history tells us this would take a long time. But it would happen again and again over hundreds of years until every particle was fulfilled. The mills of God may only grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small. And the sad thing was that they did not always realise that it had happened or would happen until it was too late. They thought that things would be fine.

There is no man or blessed nation which is not vulnerable to God’s judgment in the light of continual disobedience and apathy.

Leviticus 26:21-22

“And if you walk contrary to me, and will not hearken to me, I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins, and I will send the beast of the field among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your ways shall become desolate.”

And if they still disobeyed Him and would not listen, the plagues and troubles that came on them would increase seven times because their sins had increased seven times. And he would send among them lions, and leopards, and bears who would seize their children, destroy their cattle, and even attack them so that their numbers decreased (compare 2 Kings 17:25-26). Their ways would be desolate.

Leviticus 26:23-24

“And if by these things you will not be reformed to me, but will walk contrary unto me; then will I also walk contrary unto you; and I will smite you, even I, seven times for your sins.”

And if they still would not listen and be reformed, but continued to walk in the opposite direction to His will, then He would walk in the opposition to them and smite them another seven times for their sins. With the previous warning this made seven times seven. The number seven of blessing was being turned against them and becoming the number seven of doom.

Leviticus 26:25

“And I will bring a sword on you, which will execute the vengeance of the covenant; and you shall be gathered together within your cities: and I will send the pestilence among you; and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.”

And if they still would not listen a powerful enemy would come against them, one who would smite with the sword and execute against them the vengeance of the covenant. Note the phrase ‘vengeance of the covenant’. This covenant which was intended to be such a blessing to them would become the instrument of their judgment. God’s goodness spurned becomes a terrible weapon against men.

Leviticus 26:26

“When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver your bread again by weight: and you shall eat, and not be satisfied.”

Not only would the sword slay, but also famine. Their staff of bread, that food that they relied on and leaned on, would be broken. There would be so little that one small oven would be sufficient for ten women to bake in. Indeed the food would be rationed and handed out by weighing it, as in a siege, and there would never be enough. They would eat and not be satisfied.

Leviticus 26:27-28

“ And if you will not for all this hearken to me, but walk contrary to me; then I will walk contrary to you in wrath; and I also will chastise you seven times for your sins.”

And if they still would not listen but continued to walk contrary to Him, His anger would be roused and He would walk even more contrary to them. They would be chastised seven times for their sins. Divine retribution would come on them.

Leviticus 26:29

“And you shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall you eat.”

For they would come to such a state that they would eat their own children because their hunger had become so desperate. This may refer to the final stages of a long siege when men are desperate enough even for cannibalism (compare Jeremiah 19:9), or it may be referring to their offering their children in sacrifice to Molech. For to ‘eat flesh’ regularly means to kill someone (Psalms 27:2; Micah 3:3; compare (Psalms 14:4; Psalms 53:4). This latter would tie in with the next verse.

Leviticus 26:30

“And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your sun-images, and cast your dead bodies on the bodies of your idols; and my soul shall abhor you.”

We see here examples of their disobedience. They would be offering incense at high places where altars had been built, and worshipping before sun-images. So God would destroy their high places and would cut down their sun-images and then toss their own bodies on to the bodies of their idols. And because of their idolatry God would have an aversion against them. Compare Ezekiel 6:6-7. As a priest Ezekiel would know Leviticus by heart.

Leviticus 26:31-32

“And I will make your cities a waste, and will bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. And I will bring the land into desolation; and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it.”

The land would be invaded, their cities laid waste, their holy place become a desolation, and God would not regard their offerings. The land will be so desolated that even their enemies will be astonished at it.

Leviticus 26:33

“And you will I scatter among the nations, and I will draw out the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.”

Just as Israel were to scatter the Canaanites among the nations, so would be done to Israel. They in their turn would be scattered among the nations, and their land would be desolated, and their cities laid waste. Compare Deuteronomy 4:27; Deuteronomy 28:64.

Leviticus 26:34

“Then shall the land enjoy its sabbaths, as long as it lies desolate, and you are in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy its sabbaths.”

For one way or another God would ensure that His land enjoyed its sabbaths, and if Israel would not ensure it voluntarily, then He would bring it about compulsorily. If Israel failed to observe God’s sabbatical years, then God Himself would require them of them. For every year in which they had failed to give the land its rest, and more, God would give the land its rest. It would be deserted, and what would grow would grow of itself. There would be no sowing, no reaping, only continual desolation. (Compare 2 Chronicles 36:21). Later Jeremiah would declare that the time would be ‘seventy years’ (Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10). Not the recurrence of seven intensified. Daniel would speak of seventy sevens (Daniel 9).

Leviticus 26:35

“As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, even the rest which it had not in your sabbaths, when you dwelt on it.”

What they sowed in sin, they would reap in judgment. The desolated land would have the rest that they had failed to give it. If they refused to obey God he would bring His purpose about in His own way. Man’s disobedience cannot thwart God, it can only bring problems on himself.

Leviticus 26:36-37

“And as for those who are left of you, I will send a faintness into their heart in the lands of their enemies: and the sound of a driven leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as one flees from the sword; and they shall fall when none pursues. And they shall stumble one on another, as it were before the sword, when none pursues: and you shall have no power to stand before your enemies.”

And the judgment will still continue to follow the remnant who survive. They will be faint in heart. Even the sound of a leaf driven by the wind will alarm them. Their state will be such that they will imagine fears even when there are none. They will run even when there is no enemy, pursued by their own fears. They will fall over one another in their desperation to escape from their illusions. They will be without the strength to stand up to their enemies. They will be possessed with imaginary terrors.

Leviticus 26:38

“And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.”

For they will perish among the nations, and the land to which they have gone will eat them up. This was the fate that was to come on the expelled Canaanites (Exodus 23:28; Exodus 33:2; Exodus 34:11; Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 4:38; Deuteronomy 9:3-5; Deuteronomy 11:23; Deuteronomy 18:12), and if they behaved like the Canaanites it would come on them too. Compare also Numbers 13:32. What they had feared will actually happen.


Verses 39-46

But Repentance Will Bring Mercy. God’s Mercy Is Unfailing (Leviticus 26:39-46).

Compare here Deuteronomy 30:1-6. God’s judgments are in the earth that men might learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9) His mercy is always thus open to those who repent (compare especially Jonah 3:1-10).

Leviticus 26:39-41 a

“And those who are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them. And they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, in their trespass which they trespassed against me, and also that, because they walked contrary unto me, I also walked contrary unto them, and brought them into the land of their enemies.”

Once the shock of the destruction of their country and exile has taken hold of them, they will come to their senses and recognise what they have done. They will pine away because of their sin and the sin of their fathers. They will admit their sin and their guilt, and the ways in which they have disobeyed His laws, and have walked in the opposite way to that in which He wanted them to go. For they will recognise that this is what has made God walk contrary to them, which has resulted in their being in the land of their enemies. See for example Psalms 137 and the book of Lamentations.

Leviticus 26:41-42 (41b-42)

“If then their uncircumcised heart be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity, then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.”

Then everything will depend on their response. The uncircumcised heart is one that has not responded to the act of circumcision by genuine covenant obedience. Being outwardly circumcised, God is saying, is of no use unless the heart is circumcised as well. For circumcision to mean anything it must be revealed in the direction which their hearts take. A circumcised heart is one that loves God and His covenant, and reveals it by obedience. Compare Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 9:26; Ezekiel 44:7; Ezekiel 44:9; Acts 7:51). Just as a circumcised ear is one that hears and obeys (Jeremiah 6:10).

In the New Testament this is where the emphasis is laid. He is a true man of God who is circumcised in the heart (Romans 2:26-29), for the true Christian has been circumcised with the circumcision made without hands by the putting off of the body of flesh by the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11). By partaking with Him in His death we partake in all that He is and in the significance of His circumcision. What matters in Christ is not circumcision, or uncircumcision, but a new creature (Galatians 6:15),a revealing of faith that works by love (Galatians 5:6). Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, what matters is the response of the heart, keeping of the commandments of God (1 Corinthians 7:19).

So if in their need the circumcised of Israel recognise that in God’s eyes they are really uncircumcised, because their circumcision has not reached their hearts, and will circumcise the foreskins of their hearts and not those of their flesh (Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4) by true repentance and faith, then God will remember His covenant, the covenant He made with Jacob, and the one He made with Isaac and Abraham. Then He will remember the land. God’s response is limited to those whose hearts are genuine, and who reveal it by love and obedience. In returning and in rest they will be saved. In quietness and confidence will be their strength (Isaiah 30:15). And one evidence of this will be their patient waiting in the land to which God has sent them until their time of chastening is over.

For we need to recognise the important lesson that while God forgives immediately, very often the consequences of our sins go on. We cannot call back what we have done.

Leviticus 26:43

“The land also shall be left by them, and shall enjoy its sabbaths, while it lies desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity; because, even because they rejected my ordinances, and their soul abhorred my statutes.”

So they would have to wait until the land had enjoyed the period of rest laid down by God. They would have to patiently accept the punishment of their iniquity, while their land remained in desolation. And this would be because they had rejected His ordinances and hated His requirements as expressed in His statutes.

Leviticus 26:44

“And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them; for I am Yahweh their God;”

But of one thing they could be certain. He would not forget them for ever. While they had broken the covenant, He would not. He therefore would not totally reject them, or hate them, or destroy them utterly. He would not break His covenant with them. And this was because of Who He Is. He is Yahweh, the One Who will be what He wants to be, Who does what He wants to do, Who brings into being what He wants to bring into being.

Leviticus 26:45

“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 nations, that I might be their God. I am Yahweh.”

And so for their sakes He will remember the covenant He had made with their ancestors when He brought them forth from the land of Egypt in the sight of all the nations, revealing Himself as their God, as Yahweh. For His own name’s sake He will deliver them and restore them that all the world might know that He had the power to do so, and that He was faithful and true.

And it is important to recognise that He did do so. He brought them back to the land and established them there. The opportunity was there for them once more to be His people. And He brought their Messiah and called on them to respond to Him, and those who responded became the true Israel, and as His ‘congregation’ the Church await His return. This promise is therefore already fulfilled. In His church all Israel is saved (Romans 11:26).

Leviticus 26:46

“These are the statutes and ordinances and laws, which Yahweh made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by Moses.”

This further record is now closed with a colophon stating what is in the record, the occasion of its writing, and the responsible author, Moses. It is a record of the statutes, ordinances and laws which Yahweh made between Himself and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by Moses, as spoken directly to Moses as brought together and recorded by the writer. It probably covers Leviticus 17:1 to Leviticus 26:46, although it may cover the whole of Leviticus. Compare Leviticus 7:37-38; Leviticus 11:46-47; Leviticus 14:54-57; Leviticus 15:32-33; Leviticus 16:34.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 26:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/leviticus-26.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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