Leviticus 24
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Leviticus 24:1-23. Regulations, Ceremonial and Moral (H and P)

The separation of materials derived from different sources in this ch. is fairly simple. P as in ch. 23, takes a prominent place. Leviticus 24:1-9 clearly belong to the Priestly Code. Their tone is that of P throughout, and the passage contains various words characteristic of that source, e.g. Leviticus 24:5esrônîm, the tenth part (of an ephah, occurring in H only in Leviticus 23:17), Leviticus 24:9 most holy, lit. holiness of holinesses. Leviticus 24:10-14; Leviticus 24:23 owe their present form to P.To mark, as is here done, the connexion between laws and the actual events of life is, as Dillm. remarks, quite in P’s manner (cp. Leviticus 10:16 ff.; Numbers 9:6 ff; Numbers 15:32-36), while Leviticus 24:15-22 unmistakably have their origin in H, while showing indications of modification from the later source. See on Leviticus 24:16; Leviticus 24:22.

It is not easy to account for the combination with one another of the subjects in this ch. and at least as difficult to suggest a reason for their incorporation at this point in the Law of Holiness. The conjecture might be hazarded that Leviticus 24:1-9 follow on the sacrificial duties of the priesthood as set forth in ch. 23 in order to add an account of the continuous service demanded of them from day to day. But, then, should we not have expected as well the regulation concerning the daily Burnt-Offering (Exodus 29:38 ff.) and Incense-Offering (Exodus 30:7 ff.)? Or the connexion may be the application of the results of the ingathering and harvest (such as corn and olives), dealt with in ch. 23, to the purposes here mentioned. It may be, however, that there has been at some stage a shifting in position of the material of the ch. such as cannot now be traced. The contents may be thus sub-divided:

(1) Leviticus 24:1-4, the care of the Tabernacle lamps; (2) Leviticus 24:5-9, the ordering of the shewbread; (3) Leviticus 24:10-23, the incident of the blasphemer, and laws arising out of, or suggested by, that circumstance.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
1–3. These vv. agree almost verbatim with Exodus 27:20 f. The care of the lamps is also enjoined in Exodus 25:31 ff.; cp. Exodus 37:17 ff.

Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually.
2. beaten] i.e. skimmed off the liquid obtained by pounding the olives in a mortar and then straining the pulp.

Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before the LORD continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations.
3. the testimony] the attestation, affirmation of God’s will, which was contained on the Tables of Stone, within the Holy of Holies.

tent of meeting] See p. 1 and Driver (C.B.) on Exodus 27:21.

Aaron] The LXX. have ‘Aaron and his sons,’ as in the parallel in Exod.

He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the LORD continually.
4. The v. ‘has somewhat the air of a later addition to make the directions quite plain’ (Oxf. Hex.). For ‘continually’ the LXX. have ‘until the morning.’

And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake.
5. twelve cakes] Though probably alluding in the Jewish ritual to the number of the tribes, the original reference in the corresponding Babylonian rite was doubtless to the signs of the zodiac. See Zimmern, Beiträge zur Kenntniss d. Babylon. Religion, p. 94, for a Babylonian parallel.

cakes] most probably unleavened (Jos. Ant. iii. 6. 6). They were of flour, the fineness of which was secured by sifting eleven times (Menaḥoth, 76 b). In the time of the Chronicler (1 Chronicles 9:32) this was done by the Levitical guild called ‘the sons of the Kohathites.’ The cakes in the early times of the Jewish monarchy were placed hot upon the table (see 1 Sam. above). The rite in its form is probably a survival from a pre-Mosaic stage of Hebrew religion.

5–9. The ordering of the shewbread

Cp. Exodus 25:30; Exodus 37:10 ff.; Numbers 4:7. The ‘twelve cakes’ are not here given this name. For its origin and for parallels to the custom in other religions, see Driver, Exodus 25:30, and HDB. s.v. The undoubtedly correct rendering is presence-bread (lit. bread of the countenance [of God]), as in R.V. mg. there, i.e. bread which was placed as an offering in the presence of the Lord. Cp. the expression used of this bread in the story of 1 Samuel 21:6 [Matthew 7], ‘taken from before [from the presence of] the Lord.’ The LXX. mostly render by ἄρτοι τῆς πρθέσεως, loaves of the setting forth (or, before [God]).

And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the LORD.
6. rows … row] rather, as R.V. mg., piles. So the word ‘shewbread’ should be rendered pile-bread in 1 Chronicles 9:32; 1 Chronicles 23:29; Nehemiah 10:33.

the pure table] i.e. overlaid with pure gold (Exodus 25:24). For a reproduction of the familiar likeness of it as depicted on the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum, see Driver (C.B.) on Exod. at p. 272, or HDB. Art. Music, iii. 462.

And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
7. frankincense] The LXX. add ‘and salt,’ apparently in view of the rule in Leviticus 2:13. According to a tradition preserved by Josephus (Ant. iii. 10. 7) the frankincense was not poured on the bread, but placed beside it in two golden bowls.

an offering made by fire] The frankincense was burnt on the altar of Burnt-Offering. See Jos. Ant. l.c.

Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant.
And it shall be Aaron's and his sons'; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the LORD made by fire by a perpetual statute.
9. they shall eat it] The Tal. Bab. (Sukkah 56 a) says that half was eaten by the outgoing and half by the incoming division of priests.

And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp;
10–23. Incident of the blasphemer, and laws arising out of that occurrence or suggested by it.

This section closely resembles Numbers 15:32-36, which relates the punishment of the man found gathering sticks on the sabbath day. The blasphemer was only half Israelite; according to Deuteronomy 23:8 children of the Edomites and the Egyptians were admitted into the congregation in the third generation, but after the Return alliances with Egyptians and other ‘strange’ nations were prohibited (Ezra 9, 10; Nehemiah 13) on the ground that from such mixed marriages harmful results to the Jewish faith might be anticipated.

And the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:)
11. blasphemed the Name] The Heb. verb denotes ‘to indicate by name’ either honourably or with reproach. In the latter sense it is used in Numbers 23:8; Proverbs 11:26, etc., and obviously must be so interpreted here. But the Jews, taking the word in its more general sense, understood the passage as forbidding the mention of the Sacred Name, and wherever it occurs in the Scriptures they either pronounced it Adônai instead (rendered in English by ‘the Lord’), or, where the word Adônai was itself in immediate juxtaposition with the Sacred Name, they substituted for the latter Elôhîm.

And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them.
12. that it might be declared unto them at the mouth of the Lord] more exact than the A.V. ‘that the mind of the Lord might be shewn them.’

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
14. let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head] Cp. the inclusion of the witnesses in the account of the stoning of St Stephen (Acts 7:58).

And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.
And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.
16. all … stone him] probably to be attributed to P or Rp[72], as the original word for ‘congregation’ is not found elsewhere in H.

[72] A Reviser, who, probably after that collection had been combined with the Priestly Code, introduced further elements from that Code.

The occurrence just related having brought about the enactment of a law dealing with the particular case of blasphemy, an occasion is thus offered for adding penalties for other transgressions. For the death penalty as prescribed in this v. for smiting a man mortally, cp. Exodus 21:12-14.

And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.
And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast.
18. There is no exact parallel for this direction in Exodus 21-23. Exodus 21:33-34 is dealing with a different case.

And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him;
19. Cp. Exodus 21:23-25. The lex talionis or law of retaliation bulks largely in the Code of Hammurabi (op. cit.), e.g. in the case of human life, §§ 116, 210, 219, 229; of tooth for tooth, § 200; of eye for eye, § 196; and so of ox for ox, §§ 245, 263; of sheep for sheep, § 263; and of goods for goods, § 232. Cp. the Koran, Sura, 2. 173 ff.

Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.
And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.
21. A repetition, introduced apparently in order to emphasize the direction to exercise no discrimination (Leviticus 24:22) between ‘the stranger’ and the ‘homeborn.’ P repeatedly urges this matter. Cp. Exodus 12:49; Leviticus 16:29; Leviticus 17:15, etc.

Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.
And Moses spake to the children of Israel, that they should bring forth him that had cursed out of the camp, and stone him with stones. And the children of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.
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