|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
14:1-21 Moses tells the people of Israel how God had given them three distinguishing privileges, which were their honour, and figures of those spiritual blessings in heavenly things, with which God has in Christ blessed us. Here is election; The Lord hath chosen thee. He did not choose them because they were by their own acts a peculiar people to him above other nations, but he chose them that they might be so by his grace; and thus were believers chosen, Eph 1:4. Here is adoption; Ye are the children of the Lord your God; not because God needed children, but because they were orphans, and needed a father. Every spiritual Israelite is indeed a child of God, a partaker of his nature and favour. Here is sanctification; Thou art a holy people. God's people are required to be holy, and if they are holy, they are indebted to the grace God which makes them so. Those whom God chooses to be his children, he will form to be a holy people, and zealous of good works. They must be careful to avoid every thing which might disgrace their profession, in the sight of those who watch for their halting. Our heavenly Father forbids nothing but for our welfare. Do thyself no harm; do not ruin thy health, thy reputation, thy domestic comforts, thy peace of mind. Especially do not murder thy soul. Do not be the vile slave of thy appetites and passions. Do not render all around thee miserable, and thyself wretched; but aim at that which is most excellent and useful. The laws which regarded many sorts of flesh as unclean, were to keep them from mingling with their idolatrous neighbours. It is plain in the gospel, that these laws are now done away. But let us ask our own hearts, Are we of the children of the Lord our God? Are we separate from the ungodly world, in being set apart to God's glory, the purchase of Christ's blood? Are we subjects of the work of the Holy Ghost? Lord, teach us from these precepts how pure and holy all thy people ought to live!
Verse 1. - Ye are the children of Jehovah your God (cf. Exodus 4:22, etc.). As his children, it behooved them to avoid all that would be offensive to him or indicate distrust in him. Ye shall not cut yourselves, etc. (cf. Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 48:36, 37; Ezekiel 7:18; Ezekiel 27:31). ("Ex hac opinions sunt ilia varia et detestabilia genera lugendi, paedores, muliebres lacerationes genarum, pectoris, feminum, capitis percussiones." Cicero, 'Tusc. Quaest.,' 3:26; see also ' De Legibus,' 2:25.)
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Ye are the children of the Lord your God,.... Some of them were so by the special grace of adoption, and all of them by national adoption; which was the peculiar privilege of the people of Israel, and laid them under great obligation to honour and obey the Lord their God, who stood in the relation of a father to them, and they of children to him, Malachi 1:6. The Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it "beloved children"; so the apostle calls the saints; the "dear children of God", who therefore ought to be followers of him, Ephesians 5:1 and for a like reason this relation is observed here, namely, to quicken a regard to the exhortations of the Lord, his cautions, commands, laws, and ordinances, particularly to what follows:
ye shall not cut yourselves; for the dead, as appears from the next clause, as the Heathens did, who not only tore their garments, but their flesh in several parts of their bodies, in their mouths, cheeks, breasts, &c. (r); and used other extravagant signs of mourning, which the apostle cautions against, 1 Thessalonians 4:13 and were condemned by the Heathens themselves (s). Though some think this refers to incisions the Heathens made in their flesh to the honour of their gods, cutting the names of them therein to whom they devoted themselves; or lashing their bodies at the worship of them, as the worshippers of Baal did when they called upon him, 1 Kings 18:28 and so the Jerusalem Targum,"make not marks, marks,''that is, here and there, in many places, or bruises black and blue by striping and beating themselves, for strange worship, or at it, in honour of their gods; but the former sense seems best to agree with what follows; see Leviticus 19:28,
nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead; by shaving the forepart of their head or their eyebrows, or both, which used to be done in lamentations for the dead; see Jeremiah 16:6 if this could be thought to have any respect to rites and ceremonies used in the worship of dead and lifeless idols, the customs of the Egyptians might be referred to, who are said to shave their heads and their eyebrows in their sacred rites to Isis (t).
(r) Vid. Virgil. Aeneid. 12. ver. 870, 871. and Servium in Aeneid. 1. ver. 78. and in l. 12. (s) Vid. Cicero de Leg. l. 2. c. 23. and Tusculan. Quaest. l. 3. c. 27. (t) Ambros. Epist. l. 4. c. 30. p. 259.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
De 14:1, 2. God's People Must Not Disfigure Themselves in Mourning.
1. ye shall not cut yourselves … for the dead—It was a common practice of idolaters, both on ceremonious occasions of their worship (1Ki 18:28), and at funerals (compare Jer 16:6; 41:5), to make ghastly incisions on their faces and other parts of their persons with their finger nails or sharp instruments. The making a large bare space between the eyebrows was another heathen custom in honor of the dead (see on Le 19:27, 28; Le 21:5). Such indecorous and degrading usages, being extravagant and unnatural expressions of hopeless sorrow (1Th 4:13), were to be carefully avoided by the Israelites, as derogatory to the character, and inconsistent with the position, of those who were the people of God [De 14:2].
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