And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.
Ye shall be holy ... - These words express the keynote to the whole book of Leviticus, being addressed to the whole nation. There does not appear to be any systematic arrangement in the laws which follow. They were intended as guards to the sanctity of the elect people, enforcing common duties by immediate appeal to the highest authority. Compare Leviticus 18:24-30 note.
Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.
Compare Exodus 20:8, Exodus 20:12; Exodus 31:13-14. The two laws repeated here are the only laws in the Decalogue which assume a positive shape, all the others being introduced by the formula, "Thou shalt not." These express two great central points, the first belonging to natural law and the second to positive law, in the maintenance of the well-being of the social body of which Yahweh was the acknowledged king.
Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God.
And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will.
Rather, ye shall offer it that you may be accepted.
It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be burnt in the fire.
And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is abominable; it shall not be accepted.
Therefore every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the hallowed thing of the LORD: and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.
See Deuteronomy 24:19-21. "Grape" signifies fallen fruit of any kind; and "vineyard" a fruit garden of any kind. Compare Deuteronomy 23:24.
The poor - is the poor Israelite - "the stranger" is properly the foreigner, who could possess no land of his own in the land of Israel.
And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.
Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.
Leviticus 19:11 forbids injuries perpetrated by craft; Leviticus 19:13, those perpetrated by violence or power, the conversion of might into right. In Leviticus 19:13 "defraud" should rather be, oppress.
And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.
Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.
The meaning appears to be, "Thou shalt not utter curses to the deaf because he cannot hear thee, neither shalt thou put a stumbling-block in the way of the blind because he cannot see thee (compare Deuteronomy 27:18), but thou shalt remember that though the weak and poor cannot resist, nor the deaf hear, nor the blind see, God is strong, and sees and hears all that thou doest." Compare Job 29:15.
Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.
Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.
Stand against the blood of thy neighbor - Either, to put his life in danger by standing up as his accuser (compare Matthew 26:60); or, to stand by idly when thy neighbor's life is in danger. Whichever interpretation we adopt, the clause prohibits that which might interfere with the course of justice.
Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
Not suffer sin upon him - Rather, not hear sin on his account; that is, either by bearing secret ill-will Ephesians 4:26, or by encouraging him to sin in withholding due rebuke Romans 1:32.
Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.
Linen and woolen - The original word is found only here and in Deuteronomy 22:11, where it is rendered "of divers sorts." It may denote such tissues as linsey woolsey.
And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.
Betrothed to an husband - Rather, who has been betrothed to a man. The reference appears to be to a bondwoman who has been betrothed to a fellow-servant by her master. Death was the punishment for unfaithfulness in a betrothed woman in other cases. Compare Deuteronomy 22:23-24.
She shall be scourged - Or, They shall be chastized (see the margin). The trespass-offering was especially due from the man as having not only sinned with the woman, but inflicted an injury on the rights of the master.
And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering.
And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.
And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.
Fruit ... uncircumcised - i. e. unfit for presentation to Yahweh. In regard to its spiritual lesson, this law may be compared with the dedication of the first-born of beasts to Yahweh Exodus 13:12; Exodus 34:19. Its meaning in a moral point of view was plain, and tended to illustrate the spirit of the whole Law.
But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the LORD withal.
And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the LORD your God.
Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.
Certain pagan customs, several of them connected with magic, are here grouped together. The prohibition to eat anything with the blood may indeed refer to the eating of meat which had not been properly bled in slaughtering (Leviticus 7:26; Leviticus 17:10, etc.): but it is not improbable that there may be a special reference to some sort of magical or idolatrous rites. Compare Ezekiel 33:25.
Observe times - It is not clear whether the original word refers to the fancied distinction between lucky and unlucky days, to some mode of drawing omens from the clouds, or to the exercise of "the evil eye."
Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
Round the corners of your heads - This may allude to such a custom as that of the Arabs described by Herodotus. They used to show honor to their deity Orotal by cutting the hair away from the temples in a circular form. Compare the margin reference.
Mar the corners of thy beard - It has been conjectured that this also relates to a custom which existed among the Arabs, but we are not informed that it had any idolatrous or magical association. As the same, or very similar customs, are mentioned in Leviticus 21:5, and in Deuteronomy 14:1, as well as here, it would appear that they may have been signs of mourning.
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
Cuttings in your flesh for the dead - Compare the margin reference. Among the excitable races of the East this custom appears to have been very common.
Print any marks - Tattooing was probably practiced in ancient Egypt, as it is now by the lower classes of the modern Egyptians, and was connected with superstitious notions. Any voluntary disfigurement of the person was in itself an outrage upon God's workmanship, and might well form the subject of a law.
Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.
Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
The devotion of faith, which would manifest itself in obedience to the commandment to keep God's Sabbaths and to reverence His sanctuary Leviticus 19:30, is the true preservative against the superstition which is forbidden in this verse. The people whose God was Yahweh were not to indulge those wayward feelings of their human nature which are gratified in magical arts and pretensions. Compare Isaiah 8:19.
Familiar spirits - literally, "bottles". This application of the word is supposed to have been suggested by the tricks of ventriloquists, within whose bodies (as vessels or bottles) it was fancied that spirits used to speak. In other cases, the word is used for the familiar spirit which a man pretended to employ in order to consult, or to raise, the spirits of the dead. See 1 Samuel 28:7-8.
Wizard - A word equivalent to "a knowing man", or, "a cunning man".
Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.
The outward respect due to old age is here immediately connected with the fear of God. Compare the margin reference.
And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.
The ephah is here taken as the standard of dry measure, and the bin (see Exodus 29:40 note) as the standard of liquid measure. Of the two very different estimates of the capacities of these measures, the more probable is that the ephah did not hold quite four gallons and a half, and the hin not quite six pints. The log was a twelfth part of the hin Leviticus 14:10.
Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.
I am the Lord your God ... - A full stop should precede these words. They intraduce the formal conclusion to the whole string of precepts in this chapter, which are all enforced upon the ground of the election of the nation by Yahweh who had delivered them from the bondage of Egypt.
Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the LORD.