Leviticus 19
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Leviticus 19:1-37. A Miscellany of Laws, Moral and Ceremonial

The fragmentary character of this ch. is apparent on a first reading. The ch. thus affords ample ground for the conclusion that it is composite, although it may be impossible to trace with certainty the process of compilation. The commands and exhortations are (with the exception of Leviticus 19:6-8; Leviticus 19:20-22) in the second person, with numerous shiftings between singular and plural. The natural inference is that material from various sources has been gathered by a compiler who has not allowed himself much editorial freedom.

This ch. contains precepts relating to religious observances (sabbath Leviticus 19:3; Lev 19:30; sacrifice Leviticus 19:5-8; Lev 19:21-22, etc.), moral duties (towards parents 3, against stealing and lying Leviticus 19:11-12, etc.), administration of justice (Leviticus 19:15; Lev 19:35), care of the poor and stranger (Leviticus 19:9-10; Lev 19:33-34), just weights and measures (Leviticus 19:36), etc. They are introduced by the command, ‘Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy’ (Leviticus 19:1). They illustrate the spirit in which commands should be obeyed by a holy people serving a holy God. Many of them are also found in the Decalogue (Exodus 20), the book of the Covenant (Exodus 21-23), and Deut., though expressed in different terms. No reason for their selection or arrangement is apparent, and their position between chs. 18 and 20, which contain almost identical precepts on matters of a very different character, is remarkable.

The introductory command in Leviticus 19:2, together with the reference to the deliverance from Egypt (Leviticus 19:36), forms an exhortation similar to that of Leviticus 11:44 a, Leviticus 11:45, and the phrase, ‘I am the Lord,’ or more fully, ‘I am the Lord your God,’ occurs more frequently than in chs. 18 or 20

Leviticus 19:1-2 set forth the fundamental principle which gives the Laws of Holiness their special character (see pp. xlviii f.). The remainder of the ch. may be divided thus (excluding for the moment Leviticus 19:5-8; Leviticus 19:21-22): (1) Leviticus 19:3-4, which have a kinship with the first part of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:3-12), (2) Leviticus 19:9-21, analogous to certain precepts in the latter part of the Decalogue, (3) Leviticus 19:23-37, consisting of a special introduction (Leviticus 19:23) and supplementary directions of a more general nature. In this last part (as in Leviticus 19:2-8) the 2nd pers. pl. prevails, and the sing. (on the whole) in Leviticus 19:9-19.

The whole ch. may be referred to H, with the exception of Leviticus 19:21-22, which are shown by their character to belong to P. Leviticus 19:5-8, dealing with the time within which the Peace-Offering must be consumed, might also, as far as its subject is concerned, be ascribed to P but for the fact that its directions do not quite harmonise with the similar passage (Leviticus 7:15-18), which is undoubtedly part of P. There, of the three classes into which the Peace-Offering is subdivided, one only (the Thank-Offering) must be consumed on the same day, while the remainder of the other two (the vow and the Freewill-Offering) may be kept uneaten till the morrow. Here no such distinction is made. With Leviticus 19:5 cp. Leviticus 22:29, ‘that ye may be accepted,’ and the note on Leviticus 1:3.

Notwithstanding the parallelisms which have been traced between some parts of this ch. and certain precepts in the Decalogue any such influence on the arrangement of directions in this ch. is far from being established. Paton’s position, e.g., seems quite unjustified, when he says (loc. cit. p. 53), ‘It cannot be doubted that it was the intention of the original H to follow the order of thought of the Decalogue.’ It will be seen that so far as the commands are common to the two passages, they differ much in their order.

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 fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.
3. his mother, and his father] The command in the Decalogue is to ‘honour,’ here to ‘fear,’ or act reverently towards parents. The mother is put first, as in Leviticus 21:2. This order probably indicates diversity of origin. But Rashi, on the authority of the Midrashic commentary, Mechilta, on Exodus 20, accounts for this order on the ground that the child by nature fears the father more than the mother.

ye shall keep my sabbaths] Repeated in Leviticus 19:30. For the sabbath law cp. Leviticus 26:2; Exodus 31:13. It has been remarked that the two injunctions associated together in this v. are the only two positive commands in the Decalogue.

Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God.
4. Turn ye not unto] As in Leviticus 19:31 (A.V. ‘Regard not’), and Leviticus 20:6.

idols] (’ělîlîm) things of nought R.V. mg. See reference there. The Heb. word occurs only here and Leviticus 26:1 in Pentateuch; a word of uncertain etymology, possibly suggesting the idea of gods from its sound (similar to that of ’ël and ’ĕlôhîm), but always associated with the idea of worthlessness. It is used by the prophets ironically of false gods in contrast to the true God.

molten gods] See Exodus 34:17. Cp. Deuteronomy 27:15.

And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will.
5–8. See introd. note to ch.

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.
7. it is an abomination] As in Leviticus 7:18. See note there.

The precepts in Leviticus 19:9-18 set forth the duty of each man towards his neighbour, especially towards the poor, and such as are in need of protection.

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.
9–11. Cp. Leviticus 23:22. The law of gleaning: a portion of the produce of the soil is to be left for the poor. A similar law is found in Deuteronomy 24:19-21. The word translated ‘the fallen fruit’ (‘every grape,’ A.V.) occurs only here in O.T., but is of common occurrence in Mishnaic Heb. to denote a particular object as distinguished from the general name of the class to which it belongs. The traditional interpretation is that the grapes were to be gathered in bunches, but a single grape was to be left, as well as those that fell to the ground during the gathering. The law is expressed in 2nd pers. sing. and in Leviticus 23:22.

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.
11, 12. Precepts analogous to those in the Decalogue and expressed in 2nd pers. plur. (except the last).

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.
13, 14. Cp. Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Malachi 3:5; James 5:4. Precepts expressed in 2nd pers. sing. against unjust dealing, and taking advantage of a neighbour’s infirmities. Though the deaf cannot hear, the curse must not be uttered, and the helpless condition of the blind calls for protection and the removal of stumblingblocks (cp. Deuteronomy 27:18). Cp. Job’s description of his conduct, ‘I was eyes to the blind’ (Job 29:15).

Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.
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.
15. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgement] Cp. Leviticus 19:35.

15, 16. Against unrighteousness in judgement, and slander. Cp. Exodus 23:1-3; Exodus 23:6-7; Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:19; Deuteronomy 27:19; Psalm 82:2; Proverbs 24:23.

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.
16. a talebearer] Cp. Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 20:19. Jewish teachers frequently insist on the heinousness of slander. See Otho, Lex. Rabb. s.v. Calumnia, and note the rendering of Targ. Jon., ‘Thou shalt not go after the slanderous (lit. triple) tongue.’ The epithet ‘triple’ implies that slander affects three persons: the slanderer, the slandered one, and anyone who repeats the slander. See Tal. Bab. ‘Arachin fol. 15a, and cp. Sir 28:14 ff. (C.B.) with notes.

stand against the blood of thy neighbour] This expression has been differently interpreted: taken in connexion with the preceding warning against being a talebearer, it seems to forbid endangering the life of an innocent man by bearing false witness. Cp. Ezekiel 22:9, part of a passage which describes with verbal similarity many of the evil doings which are forbidden in this ch. and the preceding one. Witnessing truly against a murderer is not forbidden, and Targ. Ps-Jon. explains this clause so as to enforce that duty; ‘be not silent about thy neighbour’s blood, when thou knowest the truth.’ Another interpretation is, ‘thou shalt not stand (without rendering help) by the blood of thy neighbour,’ i.e. when he is in peril of his life.

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
17, 18. Against hatred and vengeance; instead of cherishing hatred, rebuke thy neighbour (i.e. point out his fault), and persist in so doing (thou shalt surely), e.g. as in the case mentioned in Matthew 18:15 f.; in so doing thou wilt not ‘bear sin because of him.’ The command to love thy neighbour as thyself is quoted in the N.T., Matthew 19:19; as the second great commandment, Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; also Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; the royal law, James 2:8. These commands here, however, are confined in thought to fellow-Israelites. Even Leviticus 19:34 extends only to the ‘stranger’ who worshipped Israel’s God. The universal application of the word ‘neighbour’ came first in our Lord’s teaching.

In Leviticus 19:9-18 the laws are arranged in groups of two or three verses, each terminated by the phrase, ‘I am the Lord (your God).’ Each group contains either a complete pentad, or what seems to be the remains of a probable pentad. The laws, except in Leviticus 19:11-12, are on the whole in the 2nd pers. sing. Some of them are repeated elsewhere in this collection, e.g. part of Leviticus 19:5-8 in Leviticus 22:29 f., Leviticus 19:9-10 in Leviticus 23:22, Leviticus 19:4 in Leviticus 26:1, Leviticus 19:3 in Leviticus 19:30 and Leviticus 26:2. The precepts in Leviticus 19:3-4 are analogous to those in the first part of the Decalogue, and those in Leviticus 19:11-18 to those in the second part, though Leviticus 19:12 is parallel to the third commandment. Several commentators are of opinion that the order of thought of the Decalogue can be traced here, but see p. 107.

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.
19. Prohibition of improper mixtures. Apparently the precept was based upon the view that each individual, animate or inanimate, had individual qualities assigned by the Creator, and that to mix them was therefore directed against God’s ordinance, and as such involved impurity. Cp. Deuteronomy 22:5; Deuteronomy 22:9-11, where the prohibition is extended to the wearing by one sex of garments properly belonging to the other, or the attaching of an ox and an ass to the same plough.

19–32. Miscellaneous precepts in reference to the various circumstances of every-day life.

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.
20. Inasmuch as the woman here referred to, though betrothed to a husband, is still a slave, it is no ordinary case of adultery, which is punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10), and so the penalty is to be less severe, but is nevertheless demanded, on the ground that she is the husband’s property.

bondmaid] The Hebrew word used here in place of the term ordinarily employed is found nowhere else in a legal enactment.

they shall be punished] The mg. is the literal rendering of the Heb., but it is implied that the ‘inquisition’ is with a view to punishment.

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.
21, 22. See introd. note to ch.

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.
23. The fruit tree in its first three years is to be regarded as a male infant during his first eight days (Dillm.), i.e. as unconsecrated. Probably the object was to allow the tree time to become accustomed to the soil, and so to postpone the enjoyment of the fruit till both quantity and quality had had time to develop. This agrees with the direction in Leviticus 19:24 that in the fourth year it should be dedicated to the Lord. Of the manner in which this dedication was to be carried out we are ignorant, but the hallowing itself was on the same principle as that of the firstborn of mankind and of cattle (Exodus 13:2). For a festive celebration, apparently of the kind contemplated in this v., cp. Jdg 9:27 (with R.V. mg.).

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.
26. with the blood] The LXX. has here instead ‘upon the mountains,’ probably influenced by the phrase in Ezekiel 18:6; Ezekiel 22:9, which, however, according to Rob.-Sm. (Kinship, p. 312), should be assimilated to accord with Ezekiel 33:25.

use enchantments] Employ divination. See e.g. Genesis 44:5, where the method was by hydromancy (Driver ad loc.).

practise augury] The original meaning of the Heb. verb is uncertain, but probably its sense is to hum (as insects) or whisper (as leaves), and hence is applied to the low murmuring made by diviners. Augury in the etymological sense (inferences from marking the flight of birds) was practised in the East. See Driver, Deut. p. 225.

Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
27. round the corners of your heads] i.e. cut off the hair from the temples. Cp. Jeremiah 9:26; Jeremiah 25:23; Jeremiah 49:32. According to Herod. (iii. 8) it had a religious significance with certain Arab tribes. The belief that the hair was specially fitted to mark union with the Divine being, seems to have arisen from its continuous growth so long as life continues. See Rob.-Sm. Rel. of the Sem.2. 323 ff., 481 ff.

28 cuttings in your flesh for the dead] Another practice common among half-civilized races. It represented the custom of human sacrifices (see e.g. Herod. 4:71) as a propitiation to the spirit of the departed. Cp. Jeremiah 41:5, and perhaps (C.B.) Hosea 7:14. A. R. S. Kennedy, on the other hand (HDB. i. 172), considers that the original idea was to make an enduring covenant with the dead. He quotes Rob.-Sm. Rel. Sem.2 p. 305. For the prohibitions in this and Leviticus 19:27, cp. Leviticus 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1.

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
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.
29. For ‘the land’ in the sense of its inhabitants, cp. Leviticus 18:25; Jdg 18:30; Hosea 1:2.

Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
30. Ye shall keep my sabbaths] Cp. Leviticus 19:3.

Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
31. familiar spirits … wizards] Cp. ch. Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27. For the difference between the two see Driver on Deuteronomy 18:11. The former expression (’ôb) may be rendered ghost. Its oracles were uttered in a twittering voice, which, through ventriloquism, appeared to rise from the ground. Accordingly the LXX. mostly renders the word by ἐγγαστρίμυθοι, ventriloquists. See the narrative of the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28). The latter of the two appellations, lit. knowing (but Rob.-Sm. Journal of Philology, xiii. 273 ff.; xiv. 113 ff., prefers acquaintance), may fitly be rendered familiar spirit. The distinction between the two modes of divination will then be that ‘those who divine by the former profess (1 Samuel 28:11) to call up any ghost; those who divine by the latter consult only the particular spirit which is their familiar’ (Driver as above).

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.
32. rise up, etc.] Herodotus (ii. 80) speaks of this and other acts of respect on the part of youth to age as practised by the Egyptians, to whom, according to him, the Lacedaemonians alone of the Greeks furnish a parallel.

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
33, 34. Cp. Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9; Deuteronomy 10:19; cp. Malachi 3:5.

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.
35, 36. Uprightness enjoined in judgement and in commercial dealings. Cp. Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Ezekiel 45:9 ff.

meteyard] lit. (Anglo-Saxon met-geard) a measuring rod. For the word see Taming of the Shrew, iv. 3. 153.

ephah … hin] The former was about a bushel, the latter about 1 1/2 gallons of our measure.

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.
Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the LORD.
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