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Le 19:1-37. A REPETITION OF SUNDRY LAWS.
2. Speak unto all the congregation of the children of
Israel--Many of the laws enumerated in this chapter had been
previously announced. As they were, however, of a general application,
not suited to particular classes, but to the nation at large, so Moses
seems, according to divine instructions, to have rehearsed them,
perhaps on different occasions and to successive divisions of the
people, till "all the congregation of the children of Israel" were
taught to know them. The will of God in the Old as well as the New
Testament Church was not locked up in the repositories of an unknown
tongue, but communicated plainly and openly to the people.
3. Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths--The duty of obedience to parents is placed in connection with the proper observance of the Sabbaths, both of them lying at the foundation of practical religion.
5-8. if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord, ye shall offer it at your own will--Those which included thank offerings, or offerings made for vows, were always freewill offerings. Except the portions which, being waved and heaved, became the property of the priests (see Le 3:1-17), the rest of the victim was eaten by the offerer and his friend, under the following regulations, however, that, if thank offerings, they were to be eaten on the day of their presentation; and if a freewill offering, although it might be eaten on the second day, yet if any remained of it till the third day, it was to be burnt, or deep criminality was incurred by the person who then ventured to partake of it. The reason of this strict prohibition seems to have been to prevent any mysterious virtue being superstitiously attached to meat offered on the altar.
9, 10. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field--The right of the poor in Israel to glean after reapers, as well as to the unreaped corners of the field, was secured by a positive statute; and this, in addition to other enactments connected with the ceremonial law, formed a beneficial provision for their support. At the same time, proprietors were not obliged to admit them into the field until the grain had been carried off the field; and they seem also to have been left at liberty to choose the poor whom they deemed the most deserving or needful (Ru 2:2, 8). This was the earliest law for the benefit of the poor that we read of in the code of any people; and it combined in admirable union the obligation of a public duty with the exercise of private and voluntary benevolence at a time when the hearts of the rich would be strongly inclined to liberality.
11-16. Ye shall not steal--A variety of social duties are inculcated in this passage, chiefly in reference to common and little-thought-of vices to which mankind are exceedingly prone; such as committing petty frauds, or not scrupling to violate truth in transactions of business, ridiculing bodily infirmities, or circulating stories to the prejudice of others. In opposition to these bad habits, a spirit of humanity and brotherly kindness is strongly enforced.
17. thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour--Instead of
cherishing latent feelings of malice or meditating purposes of revenge
against a person who has committed an insult or injury against them,
God's people were taught to remonstrate with the offender and endeavor,
by calm and kindly reason, to bring him to a sense of his fault.
18. thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself--The word "neighbour" is used as synonymous with "fellow creature." The Israelites in a later age restricted its meaning as applicable only to their own countrymen. This narrow interpretation was refuted by our Lord in a beautiful parable (Lu 10:30-37).
19. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse
kind--This prohibition was probably intended to discourage a
practice which seemed to infringe upon the economy which God has
established in the animal kingdom.
23-25. ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised; three years . . . it shall not be eaten of--"The wisdom of this law is very striking. Every gardener will teach us not to let fruit trees bear in their earliest years, but to pluck off the blossoms: and for this reason, that they will thus thrive the better, and bear more abundantly afterwards. The very expression, 'to regard them as uncircumcised,' suggests the propriety of pinching them off; I do not say cutting them off, because it is generally the hand, and not a knife, that is employed in this operation" [MICHAELIS].
26. shall not eat any thing with the blood--(See on
27. Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, &c.--It seems
probable that this fashion had been learned by the Israelites in Egypt,
for the ancient Egyptians had their dark locks cropped short or shaved
with great nicety, so that what remained on the crown appeared in the
form of a circle surrounding the head, while the beard was dressed into
a square form. This kind of coiffure had a highly idolatrous meaning;
and it was adopted, with some slight variations, by almost all
idolaters in ancient times.
(Jer 9:25, 26; 25:23,
where "in the utmost corners" means having the corners of their hair
cut.) Frequently a lock or tuft of hair was left on the hinder part of
the head, the rest being cut round in the form of a ring, as the Turks,
Chinese, and Hindus do at the present day.
28. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the
dead--The practice of making deep gashes on the face and arms and
legs, in time of bereavement, was universal among the heathen, and it
was deemed a becoming mark of respect for the dead, as well as a sort
of propitiatory offering to the deities who presided over death and the
grave. The Jews learned this custom in Egypt, and though weaned from
it, relapsed in a later and degenerate age into this old superstition
Jer 16:6; 41:5).
30. Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary--This precept is frequently repeated along with the prohibition of idolatrous practices, and here it stands closely connected with the superstitions forbidden in the previous verses.
31. Regard not them that have familiar spirits--The
Hebrew word, rendered "familiar spirit," signifies the belly,
and sometimes a leathern bottle, from its similarity to the belly. It
was applied in the sense of this passage to ventriloquists, who
pretended to have communication with the invisible world. The Hebrews
were strictly forbidden to consult them as the vain but high
pretensions of those impostors were derogatory to the honor of God and
subversive of their covenant relations with Him as His people.
33, 34. if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him--The Israelites were to hold out encouragement to strangers to settle among them, that they might be brought to the knowledge and worship of the true God; and with this in view, they were enjoined to treat them not as aliens, but as friends, on the ground that they themselves, who were strangers in Egypt, were at first kindly and hospitably received in that country.
37. I am the Lord--This solemn admonition, by which these various precepts are repeatedly sanctioned, is equivalent to "I, your Creator--your Deliverer from bondage, and your Sovereign, who have wisdom to establish laws, have power also to punish the violation of them." It was well fitted to impress the minds of the Israelites with a sense of their duty and God's claims to obedience.