Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.
Idols - literally, "things of nought." Hebrew אלילים 'ĕlı̂ylı̂m. There appears to have been a play on the similarity in sound of this word to אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym (God). Compare 1 Corinthians 8:4.
Standing image - Either an upright statue, or a pillar, such as an obelisk or a Celtic menhir, set up for an idolatrous purpose (compare Exodus 34:13 note). The public worship of Yahweh required, first, the exclusion of all visible symbols of deity as well as of all idolatrous objects, and next Leviticus 26:2, the keeping holy the times and the place appointed by the Law for His formal service. The word "sabbaths" must here include the whole of the set times. See Leviticus 23:3 note.
Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;
As "the book of the covenant" Exodus 20:22-23:33 concludes with promises and warnings Exodus 23:20-33, so does this collection of laws contained in the Book of Leviticus. But the former passage relates to the conquest of the land of promise, this one to the subsequent history of the nation. The longer similar passage in Deuteronomy Deut. 27-30 is marked by broader and deeper promises and denunciations having immediate reference not only to outward consequences, but to the spiritual death incurred by transgressing the divine will.
Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
Rain in due season - The periodical rains, on which the fertility of the holy land so much depends, are here spoken of. There are two wet seasons, called in Scripture the former and the latter rain Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23; Hosea 6:3; James 5:7. The former or Autumn rain falls in heavy showers in November and December. In March the latter or Spring rain comes on, which is precarious in quantity and duration, and rarely lasts more than two days.
And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.
And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.
And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.
And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
Five of you shall chase - A proverbial mode of expression for superiority in warlike prowess Deuteronomy 32:30; Isaiah 30:17.
For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.
Establish my covenant - All material blessings were to be regarded in the light of seals of the "everlasting covenant." Compare Genesis 17:4-8; Nehemiah 9:23.
And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new.
Bring forth the old because of the new - Rather, clear away the old before the new; that is, in order to make room for the latter. Compare the margin reference.
And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.
And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.
I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright.
But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;
And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant:
I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.
The first warning for disobedience is disease. "Terror" (literally trembling) is rendered trouble in Psalm 78:33; Isaiah 65:23. It seems here to denote that terrible affliction, an anxious temperament, the mental state ever at war with Faith and Hope. This might well be placed at the head of the visitations on a backslider who had broken the covenant with his God. Compare Deuteronomy 32:25; Jeremiah 15:8; Proverbs 28:1; Job 24:17; Psalm 23:4.
Consumption, and the burning ague - Compare the margin reference. The first of the words in the original comes from a root signifying to waste away; the latter (better, fever), from one signifying to kindle a fire. Consumption is common in Egypt and some parts of Asia Minor, but it is more rare in Syria. Fevers of different kinds are the commonest of all diseases in Syria and all the neighboring countries. The opposite promise to the threat is given in Exodus 15:26; Exodus 23:25.
And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.
And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.
For all this - i. e. for all the afflictions in Leviticus 26:16-17.
And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
The second warning is utter sterility of the soil. Compare Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 28:18; Ezekiel 33:28; Ezekiel 36:34-35.
And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.
And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins.
The third warning is the multiplication of destructive animals, etc. Compare Deuteronomy 32:24; Ezekiel 5:17; Ezekiel 14:15; Judges 5:6-7; Isaiah 33:8.
I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.
And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me;
The fourth warning. Yahweh now places Himself as it were in a hostile position toward His people who "will not be reformed" (rather, brought unto God: Jeremiah 2:30). He will avenge the outraged cause of His covenant, by the sword, pestilence, famine, and captivity.
Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.
And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.
And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied.
Omit "and." "To break the staff of bread," was a proverbial expression for cutting off the supply of bread, the staff of life (Psalm 105:16; Ezekiel 4:16; Ezekiel 5:16; Ezekiel 14:13; compare Isaiah 3:1). The supply was to be so reduced that one oven would suffice for baking the bread maple by ten women for ten families, and when made it was to be dealt out in sparing rations by weight. See 2 Kings 6:25; Jeremiah 14:18; Lamentations 4:9; Ezekiel 5:12; Hosea 4:10; Micah 6:14; Haggai 1:6.
And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me;
The fifth warning. For Leviticus 26:29 see 2 Kings 6:28-29; Jeremiah 19:8-9; Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 4:10; Ezekiel 5:10, for Leviticus 26:30 see 2 Chronicles 34:3; Ezekiel 6:4; Jeremiah 14:19, for Leviticus 26:31 see 2 Kings 25:9; Psalm 74:6-7 : for Leviticus 26:32-33 see Deuteronomy 28:37; Psalm 44:11; Jeremiah 9:16; Jeremiah 18:16; Ezekiel 5:1-17; Jeremiah 4:7; Ezekiel 9:6; Ezekiel 12:15; Zechariah 7:14.
Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.
And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.
And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.
High places - There is no doubt that the word here denotes elevated spots dedicated to false worship (see Deuteronomy 12:2), and especially, it would seem, to that of Baal Numbers 22:41; Joshua 13:17. Such spots were, however, employed and approved for the worship of Yahweh, not only before the building of the temple, but afterward (Judges 6:25-26; Judges 13:16-23; 1 Samuel 7:10; 1 Samuel 16:5; 1 Kings 3:2; 1 Kings 18:30; 2 Kings 12:3; 1 Chronicles 21:26, etc.). The three altars built by Abraham at Shechem, between Bethel and Ai, and at Mamre, appear to have been on heights, and so was the temple.
The high places in the holy land may thus have been divided into those dedicated to the worship of Yahweh, and those which had been dedicated to idols. And it would seem as if there was a constant struggle going on. The high places polluted by idol worship were of course to be wholly condemned. They were probably resorted to only to gratify a degraded superstition. See Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:2-5. The others might have been innocently used for prayer and religious teaching. But the temptation appears to have been too great for the temper of the people. They offered sacrifice and burnt incense on them; and hence, thorough reformers of the national religion, such as Hezekiah and Josiah, removed the high places altogether 2 Kings 18:4; 2 Kings 23:5.
Your images - The original word is rendered in the margin of our Bible sun images (2 Chronicles 14:5; Isaiah 17:8; Ezekiel 6:4, etc.). Phoenician inscriptions prove that the word was commonly applied to images of Baal and Astarte, the god of the sun and the goddess of the moon. This exactly explains 2 Chronicles 34:4 following.
Idols - The Hebrew word here literally means things which could be rolled about, such as a block of wood or a lump of dirt. It was no doubt a name given in derision. Compare Isaiah 40:20; Isaiah 44:19; 2 Kings 1:2.
And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.
Sanctuaries - The holy places in the tabernacle and the temple (Psalm 68:35. Compare Psalm 74:7).
I will not smell the savor ... - See Leviticus 1:9.
And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.
And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.
Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.
As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.
More literally: All the days of its desolation shall it rest that time which it rested not in your Sabbaths while ye dwelt upon it. That is, the periods of rest of which the land had been deprived would be made up to it. Compare 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.
And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.
And they shall fall one upon another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth: and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies.
And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.
And they that 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.
Iniquity - The meaning here is, in the punishment of their iniquity, and, in the next clause, in the punishment of the iniquity (as in Leviticus 26:41, Leviticus 26:43) of their fathers. In the next verse the same Hebrew word is properly represented by "iniquity." Our translators have in several places put one of the English words in the text and the other in the margin (Genesis 4:13; Genesis 19:15; 2 Kings 7:9; Psalm 69:27, etc.). The language of Scripture does not make that trenchant division between sin and punishment which we are accustomed to do. Sin is its own punishment, having in itself, from its very commencement, the germ of death. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" James 1:15; Romans 2:5; Romans 5:12.
If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me;
trespass - The Hebrew word signifies an injury inflicted on the rights of a person, as distinguished from a sin or iniquity regarded as an outrage of the divine law. Every wrong act is of course both a sin and a trespass against God. In this place Yahweh takes the breach of the covenant as a personal trespass.
And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:
Uncircumcised hearts - The outward sign of the covenant might be preserved, but the answering grace in the heart would be wanting (Acts 7:51; Romans 2:28-29; Jeremiah 6:10; Jeremiah 9:26; compare Colossians 2:11).
Accept of the punishment of their iniquity - literally, enjoy their iniquity. The word here and in Leviticus 26:43 rendered "accept" in this phrase, is the same as is rendered "enjoy" in the expression "the land shall enjoy her sabbaths" Leviticus 26:34. The antithesis in Leviticus 26:43 is this: The land shall enjoy her sabbaths - and they shall enjoy the punishment of their iniquity. The meaning is, that the land being desolate shall have the blessing of rest, and they having repented shall have the blessing of chastisement. The feelings of a devout captive Israelite are beautifully expressed in Tobit 13:1-18.
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.
The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes.
And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God.
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 heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.
These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.