Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.XIV.
(1) Ye are the children of Jehovah.—This fact is made the foundation of all the laws of ceremonial and moral holiness in the Pentateuch, more especially in the Book of Leviticus, where these laws are chiefly to be found.
Ye shall not cut yourselves.—The precept is repeated with little variation from Leviticus 19:28.
Any baldness between your eyes—i.e., apparently, “on your foreheads.” The word for baldness in this place is generally used for baldness on the back of the head.
For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.(2) For thou art an holy people.—This verse is repeated from Deuteronomy 7:6, word for word, except the “and,” which is added here. In the former passage, the principle is made the ground for destroying all monuments of idolatry in the land of Israel. Here it is made the basis of outward personal dignity and purity. This recalls the arrangement of the Book of Leviticus somewhat forcibly. The laws of ceremonial holiness stand first in that book, before the law of yearly atonement. Then follow the laws of moral holiness. But the principle and ground of all these laws is the same: “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy, and ye are Mine.”
Nations.—Rather, peoples. The commonwealth of Israel and its institutions are contrasted with other states and their institutions.
Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.(3) Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.—That is, anything which Jehovah has pronounced abominable. The distinctions between His creatures were alike established and removed by the Creator. Yet, no doubt, they had also a sanitary purpose in relation to the chosen people.
These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat,(4) These are the beasts which ye shall eat.—The following paragraph to the end of Deuteronomy 14:8 answers to Leviticus 11:2-8, with this difference. The beasts that are to be eaten are specified in Deuteronomy. The exceptions are given in Leviticus.
The ox, the sheep, and the goat.—These being sacrificial animals, naturally stand first. “The sheep and the goat” are literally, “a young one of the sheep or of the goats.” This may serve to illustrate Exodus 12:5, “Ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats.” According to the letter of the Law in Exodus, the Passover victim might be either lamb or kid. The word sêh, used there and in Genesis 22:7-8, is not distinctive of the species. This word is rendered “lamb” in several places in our English Version.
The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois.(5) The wild goat.—In German the “Steinbock” is given as the equivalent for this creature. The pygarg (dîshon) is sometimes taken to be the buffalo. If all these creatures were then to be found in Palestine, there must have been far more uncleared land than there has been for many centuries past.
And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat.(6-8) These directions are the same given in Leviticus 11:3-8.
These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat:(9-10) See Leviticus 11:9-12.
But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,(12) These are they of which ye shall not eat.—With one exception, the unclean birds are the same described in Leviticus 11:13-19.
And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind,(13) The glede, and the kite, and the vulture.—In Leviticus 11:14, “the vulture and the kite” alone are named. The Hebrew words are in Leviticus dââh and ayyah. In this place they are rââh, ayyah, and dayyah. The close resemblance between the names is noticeable. For a description of the creatures, see list in Variorum Bible.
Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.(21) That he may eat it.—Literally, and he will eat it. The common practice, and not the intention of the writer, may be indicated. It should be remembered that these rules and restrictions were intended to raise the Israelites above the common level; not to degrade the other nations in comparison of them. Strangers were not compelled to eat what Israel refused; they were left free to please themselves.
Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.(22) Thou shalt truly tithe.—The Talmud and Jewish interpreters in general are agreed in the view that the tithe mentioned in this passage, both here and in Deuteronomy 14:28, and also the tithe described in Deuteronomy 26:12-15, are all one thing—“the second tithe;” and entirely distinct from the ordinary tithe assigned to the Levites for their subsistence in Numbers 18:21, and by them tithed again for the priests (Numbers 18:26).
The tithe described in Numbers was called “the first tithe,” and was not considered sacred. The second tithe, on the contrary, was always regarded as a holy thing.
And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.(23) And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God—i.e., thou shalt eat the second tithe. This was to be done two years; but in the third and sixth years there was a different arrangement (see Deuteronomy 14:28). In the seventh year, which was Sabbatical, there would probably be no tithe, for there was to be no harvest. The profit of the earth was for all, and every one was free to eat at pleasure.
And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,(26) Thou shalt bestow that money.—The Jews were very particular in not permitting the second tithe to be expended upon anything not permitted here. The rules as to its disposal form a separate treatise in the Talmud, called Ma’aser Shênî, “second tithe.”
Or for strong drink.—From this it is clear that the use of strong drink is not sinful in itself. The same word appears in its Greek form (Heb., shêcar; Greek, sikêr) in Luke 1:15.
At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:(28) At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth ail the tithe.—This is called by the Jews Ma’aser ‘Âni, “the poor’s tithe.” They regard it as identical with the second tithe, which was ordinarily eaten by the owners at Jerusalem; but in every third and sixth year was bestowed upon the poor.
And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.(29) And the Levite.—Rashi says, “the Levite shall come and take the first tithe (described in Numbers 18), and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow the second tithe.” But there is no proof whatever that anything except the second tithe is alluded to in the whole of this passage. The Levite always shared with the poor (see Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14). Rashi’s opinion is worth notice chiefly for the following reason. Some modern critics insist that the Law of Deuteronomy is contradictory to that of Numbers in respect of tithe; but if the Jews, who kept the whole Law strictly, not only saw no discrepancy between its several precepts, but actually took the precept in Deuteronomy to imply the precept in Numbers, why should we go out of our way to make difficulties now? If the precepts were harmonious and compatible, why should they be the work of different men? It is hardly likely that a whole nation would consent to pay double tithes, and acknowledge the obligation to do so by perpetual enactment, if the laws that commanded the tithe were contradictory. And the more closely we look at the subject, the more clearly will the distinction between the first and second tithes appear. The first was only an ordinary rate for the support of the Levitical ministry. No sacredness attached to it. The second was a tithe taken for Jehovah, “that thou mayest learn to fear Jehovah thy God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23). The tithe was either to be a joyful feast for the family, or a special gift to God’s poor. It furnished a table spread by the God of Israel for the entertainment of His guests. Why this should be confused with the ordinary rate for the maintenance of the Levitical ministry, it is not easy to understand.