Leviticus 18 Benson Commentary
Leviticus 18
Benson Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Leviticus 18:1. It being one special design of God to preserve his people from the lewd and idolatrous customs of other nations, Moses now receives particular orders to prohibit the Israelites from many of those unnatural practices which were common among the ancient idolaters.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 18:2. Your God — Your sovereign and lawgiver. This is often repeated, because the things here forbidden were practised and allowed by the Gentiles, to whose custom he opposes divine authority and their obligation to obey his commands.

After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.
Leviticus 18:3. Egypt and Canaan — These two nations he mentions, because their habitation and conversation among them made their evil example in the following matters more dangerous. But under them he includes all other nations.

Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 18:4. My judgments — Though you do not see the particular reason of some of them, and though they be contrary to the laws and usages of the other nations.

Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 18:5. He shall live in them — Not only happily here, but eternally hereafter. This is added as a powerful argument why they should follow God’s commands rather than men’s examples, because their life and happiness depended upon it. And though in strictness, and according to the covenant of works, they could not challenge life for so doing, except their obedience was universal, perfect, constant, and perpetual, and therefore no man since the fall could be justified by the law; yet by the covenant of grace this life is promised to all that obey God’s commands sincerely. I am the Lord — Hebrew, I am Jehovah; that is, I am faithful to keep my covenant, and to fulfil my promises. See on Exodus 6:3. I am the sovereign dispenser of life and death, and therefore they that keep my laws shall live.

None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 18:6. The first of these prohibitions is against all improper and incestuous marriages, a thing very common among the Canaanitish nations and in Egypt, even to the last degree of unnatural mixtures. Diodorus Siculus relates, that it was permitted by law in the latter country, contrary to the custom of other nations, that a man might marry his own sister. None of you shall approach — The prohibition is absolute, and no advances were to be made toward its violation. Indeed the only way to avoid actual transgressions, is to resist and guard against the first motions of evil. Principiis obsta, withstand the first approach of sin, is a most important precept. And it is to be well observed, that as these laws forbade marriages between near relations, they certainly much more prohibited unchastity between them, and every approach to it. Any that is near akin to him — Hebrew, The remainder of his flesh; that is, his immediate relations, so near akin to him, that they are, as we say, his own flesh and blood; such as a man’s sister, mother, daughter. Indeed, had near relations been allowed to marry each other, the most mischievous and fatal consequences must have resulted from it. For being much together in youth, temptations to unchastity would frequently have been too powerful to have been resisted. But, by such a restriction as this, being taught to look upon all such intercourse as prohibited and incestuous, they were assisted to withstand temptations to evil.

The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
Leviticus 18:7. The nakedness of thy father, or of thy mother — This is but one fact, though expressed two ways, as appears from Leviticus 18:8, compared with Leviticus 20:11. The expression imports, that such an action is doing the greatest dishonour to one’s father and mother.

The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness.
The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.
Leviticus 18:9. Whether she be born at home, or born abroad — Whether she be legitimately born in wedlock, or illegitimately out of wedlock. Others explain it thus: “Whether she be thy sister by the same father, or by another marriage.”

The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness.
The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister: for she is thy mother's near kinswoman.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.
Leviticus 18:14. Thy father’s brother — Thou shalt not marry thy uncle’s wife, as is explained in the next words.

Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness.
Leviticus 18:16. Thy brother’s wife — Unless he died childless, for in that case God afterward commanded that a man should marry his brother’s widow, Deuteronomy 25:5. For the prohibiting of marriages in the more remote degrees of consanguinity, where other moral considerations are less obvious, there is this good reason to be assigned, namely, that marriage being one of the firmest bonds of friendship, it is proper, for the greater good of society, that men should seek to enlarge the ties of friendship and social affection, by uniting, not with those to whom they were before related, but with persons of different families.

Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.
Leviticus 18:17. A woman and her daughter — If a man married a widow that had a daughter, he was not allowed to marry this daughter, either while the mother was alive or after her death.

Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.
Leviticus 18:18. A wife to her sister — The meaning seems to be, that no man should take to wife two sisters, which had sometimes been done, as we see in the example of Jacob. It may, however, signify that a man, who already had a wife, was not to take another out of mere incontinency, which would tend only to break his wife’s peace; but that if he took that liberty at all, it ought only to be when his wife consented to it, as Sarah did in the case of Abraham’s marrying Hagar, and Rachel in the case of Bilhah. To vex her — Grotius justly observes, that as the feuds and animosities of brothers are, of all others, the most keen; so are generally the jealousies and emulations between sisters, whereof we have an example in the history of Rachel and Leah.

Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.
Leviticus 18:19. As long as she is set apart — No, not to thy own wife. This was not only a ceremonial pollution, but an immorality also, whence it is put among gross sins, Ezekiel 18:6. And therefore it is now unlawful under the gospel.

Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.
And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 18:21. Pass through the fire to Molech — In the Hebrew it is only pass through to Molech. But though the word fire be not in the original, it is reasonably supplied from other places, where it is expressed, as Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 23:10. Molech, called also Milcom, was the idol of the Ammonites. The name signifies king, or regal dominion, and is thought to denote the sun, the supreme, and probably the first object of idolatrous worship. Or, as others, the planet Saturn; for it appears from Amos 5:26, that Molech represented one of the celestial luminaries. Now, as fire is a fit emblem of the sun, the causing their seed to pass through the fire is thought to have been a rite of purification whereby parents consecrated their children to that deity, either by waving them over the fire, or by making them walk between two fires, or jump over a fire. This is the opinion of many able interpreters. But Selden, who has given a large account of this idol, and of the rites with which it was worshipped, shows, from several testimonies, that the Phœnicians, and other nations in the neighbourhood of Judea, actually sacrificed their children, in times of great calamity, to this blood-thirsty demon. Accordingly this phrase of causing them to pass through the fire, signifies sacrificing them in the following horrid manner, Ezekiel 16:20-21. Fagius informs us, that the image of Molech was of brass, contrived with seven cells or receptacles, probably representing the seven planets, the first for receiving an offering of flour; the second of turtle-doves; the third for a ewe; the fourth for a ram; the fifth for a calf; the sixth for an ox; the seventh for a child. who, being shut up in this cell, as in a furnace, was therein burned to death, while the people danced about the idol, and beat timbrels, that the cries of the tormented infant might not be heard. We have authority from the sacred writings to believe that these nations actually sacrificed their children to that grim idol, in some such horrid manner. Compare 2 Chronicles 28:3, and Jeremiah 7:31, with Jeremiah 32:35; Jeremiah 19:5; Psalm 106:37-38, and Ezekiel 16:20-21. In all which places, to pass through the fire, signifies the consuming of the victim by fire. And Le Clerc ingeniously conjectures, that this phrase, passing through to Molech, was invented by the impious priests, in order to convey a softer idea of that horrid rite. We may further observe, that there was a place near Jerusalem, where this horrid custom was observed. It was called the valley of the sons of Hinnom, (2 Chronicles 28:3,) from the yelling of the sacrificed infants. And for the same reason it had the name of Tophet, (2 Kings 23:10,) from Toph, a tabret or drum, with which they used to drown the dreadful outcries of the unhappy victims. Neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God — This idolatry in the Israelites would be the foulest and most profane renunciation of the true GOD, to whom they and their posterity were solemnly devoted, and at the same time it would give occasion to strangers to blaspheme the name of Jehovah, as if he authorized such barbarities in his worshippers.

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.
Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.
Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
Leviticus 18:26. Nor any stranger — In nation or religion, of what kind soever. For though they might not force them to submit to their religion, yet they might restrain them from the public contempt of the Jewish laws, and from the violation of natural laws, which, besides the offence against God and nature, were matters of evil example to the Israelites themselves.

(For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.
For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.
Leviticus 18:29. Cut off — This phrase therefore, of cutting off, is to be understood variously, either of ecclesiastical or civil punishment, according to the differing natures of the offences for which it was inflicted.

Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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