Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.XXVI.
(1) Ye shall make you no idols.—The first two verses of this chapter are still a part of the previous section in the Hebrew original. By separating them from their proper position, and making them begin a new chapter, both the logical sequence and the import of these two verses are greatly obscured. As Lev 26:47-55 legislated for cases where Israelites are driven by extreme poverty to sell themselves to a heathen, and when they may be compelled to continue in this service to the year of jubile, and thus be obliged to witness idolatrous practices, the Lawgiver solemnly repeats the two fundamental precepts of Judaism, which they might be in danger of neglecting, viz., to abstain from idol-worship and to keep the Sabbath, which are two essential commandments of the Decalogue. The same two commandments, but in reverse order, are also joined together in Leviticus 19:3-4.
Idols.—For this expression see Leviticus 19:4.
Nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image.—Better, nor shall ye rear you up a graven image or pillar. Graven image is not only a plastic image of a heathen deity, but a visible or sensuous representation of the God of Israel (Exodus 20:19-20; Deuteronomy 4:15-16).
A standing image.—This expression, which only occurs once more in the text of the Authorised Version (Micah 5:13), and four times in the Margin (1Kings 14:23; Jeremiah 43:13; Hosea 3:4; Hosea 10:1), is the rendering of a Hebrew word (matzebah), which is usually and more correctly translated “pillar” or “statue” (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 28:22; Genesis 31:13, &c.). This was a plain and rude stone without any image engraved on it, and was not unfrequently erected to God himself. but in after-time more especially as a memorial to false deities. (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 28:22; Genesis 31:13; Genesis 35:14, with Exodus 23:24; Exodus 34:13, &c.)
Neither shall ye set up any image of stone.—The authorities during the second Temple interpreted the words here rendered “images of stone” to denote beholding, or worshipping stones—i.e., stones set in the ground in places of worship upon which the worshippers prostrated themselves to perform their devotions. The stone was therefore a kind of signal, calling the attention of the worshipper to itself, so that he may fall down upon it. With such stones, these authorities assure us, the Temple was paved, since they were perfectly lawful in the sanctuary, but must not be used in worship out of the Temple, or rather, out of the land, as these authorities understood the words “in your land” here to denote. Hence the Chaldee Version paraphrases it, “and a painted stone ye shall not place in your land to prostrate yourselves upon it, but a pavement adorned with figures and pictures ye may put in the floor of your sanctuary, but not to bow down upon it,” i.e., in an idolatrous manner. Hence, too, the ancient canon, “in your own land” (i.e., in all other lands) “ye must not prostrate yourselves upon stones, but ye may prostrate yourselves upon the stones in the sanctuary.”
Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.(2) Ye shall keep my sabbaths . . . —This is exactly the same precept laid down in chap 19:30, and is here repeated because of the danger of desecrating the Sabbath to which the Israelite is exposed who sells himself to a heathen. The Israelite will effectually guard against idol-worship, by keeping the Sabbath holy, and reverencing God’s sanctuary.
If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;(3) If ye walk in my statutes.—We have already remarked that this verse begins the section in the Hebrew and ought to have begun the chapter in English. Having set forth the ceremonial and moral injunctions which are necessary for the development and maintenance of holiness and purity in the commonwealth, the legislator now concludes by showing the happiness which will accrue to the Israelites from a faithful observance of these laws, and the punishments which await them if they transgress these Divine ordinances.
Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.(4) Then I will give you rain in due season.—Better, then I will give you your rains in due season, that is, the former and latter rains (Deuteronomy 11:14). In Palestine the proper season for the early rain is from about the middle of October until December, thus preparing the ground for receiving the seed, whilst that of the latter or vernal rain is in the months of March and April, just before the harvest. Thus, also, in the covenant which God is to make with His people, a similar promise is made, “I will cause the showers to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:26).
And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.(5) And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage.—That is, the corn crop shall be so plentiful that those who shall be employed in threshing about the month of March will not complete it before the vintage, which was about the month of July.
The vintage shall reach unto the sowing time.—The wine, again, is to be so abundant that those who shall be engaged in gathering and pressing the grapes will not be able to finish before the sowing time again arrives, which is about the month of October. A similar promise is made by Amos: “the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sowed seed” (Amos 9:13).
And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.(6) And I will give peace.—Not only are they to have rich harvests, but the Lord will grant them peace among themselves, so that they shall be able to retire at night without any anxiety, or fear of robbers (Psalm 3:5; Psalm 4:8).
I will rid evil beasts out of the land.—The promise to destroy the beasts of prey, which endanger life, and which abounded in Palestine, is also to be found in Ezekiel, where exactly the same words are rendered in the Authorised Version, “And will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land” (Ezekiel 34:25). The two passages should be uniform in the translation.
And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.(7) And ye shall chase your enemies.—If, covetous of their prosperity, the enemies should dare to attack them, God will inspire His people with marvellous courage, so that they will not only pursue them, but put them to the sword.
And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.(8) And five of you shall chase an hundred.—This is a proverbial saying, corresponding to our phrase “A very small number, or a mere handful, shall be more than a match for a whole regiment.” The same phrase, with different proportions to the numbers, occurs in other parts of the Bible (Deuteronomy 32:30; Joshua 23:10; Isaiah 30:17).
For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.(9) For I will have respect unto you.—Better, And I will turn unto you, as it is rendered in the Authorised Version in Ezekiel 46:9, the only other passage where this phrase occurs; that is, be merciful to them and bless them. (Comp. 2Kings 13:23; Psalm 25:16; Psalm 69:17, &c.)
And multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.—That is, by multiplying them as the stars of heaven and the sand of the sea, God fulfil the covenant which He made with their fathers (Genesis 12:2; Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5; Genesis 22:17; Exodus 23:26).
And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new.(10) And ye shall eat old store.—Better, old store which hath become old. Though they will thus multiply, there shall be abundant stores for them, which become old because it will take them so long to consume them.
And bring forth the old because of the new.—Better, and remove the old on account of the new, that is, they will always have such abundant harvests that they will be obliged to remove from the barns and garners the old stock of corn, in order to make room for the new.
And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.(11) And I will set my tabernacle among you.—Better, And I will set my dwelling-place among you. (See Leviticus 15:31.) Not only will God bless them with these material blessings, but will permanently abide with them in the sanctuary erected in their midst.
My soul shall not abhor you.—That is, God has no aversion to them; does not regard it below His dignity to sojourn amongst them, and to show them His favour.
And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.(12) And I will walk among you.—This promise is quoted by St. Paul (2Corinthians 6:16).
I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright.(13) I have broken the bands of your yoke.—The promises thus made to the Israelites of the extraordinary fertility of their land, of peace within and immunity from war without, and of the Divine presence constantly sojourning amongst them, if they will faithfully obey the commandments of the Lord, now conclude with the oft-repeated solemn appeal to the obligation they are under to the God who had so marvellously delivered them from cruel bondage and made them His servants. To remind them of the abject state from which they were rescued, the illustration is taken from the way in which oxen are still harnessed in the East. The bands or the rods are straight pieces of wood, which are inserted in the yoke, or laid across the necks of the animals, to fasten together their heads and keep them level with each other. These bands, which are then attached to the pole of the waggon, are not only oppressive, but exhibit the beasts as perfectly helpless to resist the cruel treatment of the driver. This phrase is often used to denote oppression and tyranny (Deuteronomy 28:48; Isaiah 9:3; Isaiah 10:27; Isaiah 14:25, &c.), but nowhere are the words as like those in the passage before us as in Ezekiel 34:27.
But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;(14) But if ye will not hearken unto me.—The glowing promises of blessings for obedience are now followed by a catalogue of calamities of the most appalling nature, which will overtake the Israelites if they disobey the Divine commandments. The first degree of punishment with which this verse begins extends to Leviticus 26:17.
And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant:(15) And if ye shall despise my statutes.—From passive indifference to the Divine statutes mentioned in the preceding verse, their falling away is sure to follow. Hence what was at first mere listlessness now develops itself into a contemptuous education of God’s ordinances.
Or if your soul abhor my judgments.—Better, and if your soul, &c, as the picture of their Apostasy goes on developing itself.
But that ye break my covenant.—Better, that ye break, &c, without the “but,” which is not in the original, and obscures the sense of the passage, since it is the fact of their abhorrence of God’s law which breaks the Divine covenant with them. (See Genesis 17:14.) The sense is more correctly given by rendering this clause “Thus breaking my covenant,” or “Thereby breaking my covenant.”
I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.(16) I also will do this unto you.—That is, He will do the same unto them; He will requite them in the same way, and abhor them.
I will even appoint over you terror.—Better, and I will appoint, &c, that is, God will visit them with terrible things, consisting of consumption and burning ague. These two diseases also occur together in Deuteronomy 28:22, the only passage in the Bible where they occur again. The second of the two, however, which is here translated “burning ague” in the Authorised Version, is, in the Deuteronomy passage, rendered simply by “fever.” The two passages ought to be uniformly rendered.
That shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart.—Better, that shall extinguish the eyes, and cause life to waste away. The rendering of the Authorised Version, “consume the eyes,” though giving the sense, is misleading, inasmuch as it suggests that the verb “consume” is the same as the disease, “consumption” mentioned in the preceding clause. For the phrase “extinguish the eye”—the eye failing—see Job 11:20; Job 17:5; Job 31:16, &c, and for the whole phrase, comp. Deuteronomy 28:65; 1Samuel 2:23.
And ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.—Besides these terrible diseases, the production of the soil, which is necessary for the sustenance of life, and which is to be so abundant and secure against enemies when the Israelites obey the Divine commandments (see Leviticus 26:4-6), will be carried off by strangers. Similar threatenings in case of disobedience are to be found both in the Pentateuch (Deut. xxviii, 33, 51) and in the prophets (Jeremiah 5:17). The most striking parallel is the one in Micah, “Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil” (Micah 6:15). For the reverse state of things, see Isaiah 62:8; Isaiah 65:22-23.
And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.(17) And I will set my face against you.—That is, make them feel his anger. (See Note on Leviticus 17:10.)
And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.(18) And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me.—Better, and if up to these ye will not hearken unto me, that is, if they should persist in their disobedience to the very end of those punishments mentioned in Leviticus 26:16-17. This verse, therefore, introduces the second degree of punishments, which ends with Leviticus 26:20.
I will punish you seven times more.—That is, indefinitely or unceasingly; many more times. Seven being a complete number is often used to denote thoroughness (see Note on Leviticus 4:6), a large or indefinite number. Hence the declaration “He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee” (Job 5:19), and “if he trespass against thee seven times in a day” (Luke 17:4), that is, an indefinite number of times. (Comp. also Psalm 119:164; Proverbs 24:16, &c.)
And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:(19) And I will break the pride of your power.—That is, the strength which is the cause of your pride, the wealth which they derive from the abundant harvests mentioned in Leviticus 26:4-5, as is evident from what follows immediately, where the punishment is threatened against the resources of this power or wealth. Comp. Ezekiel 30:6; Ezekiel 33:28.) The authorities during the second Temple, however, took the phrase “the pride of your power” to denote the sanctuary, which is called “the pride of your power” in Ezekiel 24:21. the expression used here, but the identity of which is obliterated in the Authorised Version by rendering the phrase “the excellency of your strength.” Hence the Chaldee Versions paraphrase it, “And I will break down the glory of the strength of your sanctuary.”
I will make your heaven as iron.—That is, the heaven which is over them shall yield no more rain than if it were of metal. In Deuteronomy 28:23, where the same punishment is threatened, and the same figure is used, the metals are reversed, the heaven is brass, and the earth iron.
And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.(20) And your strength shall be spent in vain.—That is, with the heaven over them as metal, their labour expended in ploughing, digging, and sowing will be perfectly useless.
Your land shall not yield her increase, as no amount of human labour will make up for the want of rain. In Deuteronomy 11:17, where the same punishment is threatened, and the same phrase is used, the Authorised Version unnecessarily obliterates the identity of the words in the original by rendering them “the land yield not her fruit.”
And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins.(21) And if ye walk contrary unto me.—That is, continue the defiance of the Divine law, and rebel against God’s authority. The third warning, contained in Leviticus 26:21-22, threatens them with destruction by wild beasts.
Seven times more plagues.—That is, a still greater number. (See Leviticus 26:18.)
According to your sins.—This increased number of scourges will be in proportion to their sins, since their defiance, in spite of the two preceding classes of punishments, aggravates and enhances their guilt.
I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.(22) I will also send wild beasts.—Better, and I will send wild beasts. Wild beasts, which abounded in Palestine (Exodus 23:29), are used as a punishment for sin (Deuteronomy 32:24; 2Kings 17:25; Isaiah 13:21-22; Ezekiel 14:15, &c.).
And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me;(23) And if ye will not be reformed.—The fourth warning (Leviticus 26:23-26) threatens the rebellious Israelites with a more intensified form of the punishment partially mentioned in the first warning. (See Leviticus 26:17.)
Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.(24) Then will I also walk contrary unto you.—By their increased hostility to God, they simply increase their calamities, since He whom they are defying now also assumes a hostile attitude towards those who are defiant.
And will punish you yet.—Better, and I also will smite you. (See Leviticus 26:28.)
And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.(25) That shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant.—Better, that shall avenge my covenant, that is, the sword, which shall avenge the breach of the Divine covenant; a war, which will devastate them because of their rebellion against the covenant God. Hence the Chaldee Versions render it, “that shall avenge on you the vengeance for that ye have transgressed against the words of the law.”
And when ye are gathered together within your cities.—When, completely defeated in the battlefield, the Israelites escape from the avenging sword into their fortified cities, they will then become a prey to pestilence, so that the surviving remnant will prefer to deliver themselves over into the hands of the relentless enemy. (Comp. Jeremiah 21:6-9; Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 7:15.)
And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied.(26)And when I have broken the staff of your bread.—Better, when I break you the staff of bread, that is, when God cuts off their supply of bread, which is the staff of life. “To break the staff of bread” denotes to take away or to destroy the staff or the support which bread is to man. This metaphor also occurs in other parts of Scripture (Isaiah 3:1; Ezekiel 4:16; Ezekiel 5:16; Ezekiel 14:13; Psalm 105:16). This, in addition to the pestilence in the cities, which will drive them to deliver themselves up to the enemy, or rather the cause of this pestilence will be the famine which will rage in the town whither they fled for protection.
Ten women shall bake your bread in one oven.—Better, then ten women, &c., that is, so great will be the famine when God cuts off the supply, that one ordinary oven will suffice to bake the bread of ten families, who are represented by their ten women, whilst in ordinary times one oven was only sufficient for one family.
And they shall deliver you your bread again by weight.—When it is brought from the bake-house each one will not be allowed to eat as much as he requires, but will have his stinted allowance most carefully served out to him by weight. Parallel to this picture of misery is the appalling scene described by Ezekiel, “I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, and they shall eat bread by weight, and with care, and they shall drink water by measure, and with astonishment; that they may want bread and water, and be astonished one with another, and consume away for their iniquity” (Ezekiel 4:16-17).
And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me;(27) And if he will not for all this hearken unto me.—Better, And if, notwithstanding these, ye will not hearken unto me, that is, if in spite of these awful punishments they persist in rebellion against God. With this reiterated formula the fifth warning is introduced (Leviticus 26:27-33), which threatens the total destruction of the land and the people in the midst of the most appalling horrors.
Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.(28) Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury.—Whilst in Leviticus 26:24 the persistent rebellion is responded to on the part of the defied God in the simple words, “then will I also work contrary unto you,” we have here the addition “in fury” as the provocation is more intense.
And I, even I, will chastise you.—Better, And I also will chastise you. The verb here is different from the one in Leviticus 26:24.
And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.(29) And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons.—The harrowing scene here described is also depicted in Deuteronomy 28:53-57. This prediction actually came to pass at the siege of Samaria by the Syrians (2Kings 6:28-29), and at the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldæans, which Jeremiah thus bewails, “the hands of pitiful women have sodden their own children, they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people” (Lamentations 4:10; comp. also Jeremiah 19:9; Ezekiel 5:10; Zechariah 11:9, &c.). This also happened at the siege of Jerusalem by Titus. A woman named Mary killed her infant child and boiled it during the height of the famine, and after she had eaten part of it, the soldiers found the rest in her house.
And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.(30) And I will destroy your high places.—Though these eminences were also used for the worship of Jehovah (Judges 6:25-26; Judges 13:16-23; 1Samuel 7:10; 1Kings 3:2; 2Kings 12:3; 1Chronicles 21:26, &c.), the context shows that the high places here are such as were dedicated to idolatrous worship (Numbers 22:41; Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 12:2; Joshua 13:17, &c.). By the destruction of these places of idolatrous worship, the Israelites would see how utterly worthless those deities were whom they preferred to the God who had wrought such signal redemption for them.
And cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols.—Nothing could show a greater contempt both for the idol-worshippers and the idols than the picture here given. When the apostate Israelites have succumbed to the sword, famine, and pestilence, they will not even have a seemly burial, but their carcases will be mixed up with the shattered remains of their gods, and thus form one dunghill. Similar is the picture given by Ezekiel, “Your altars shall be desolate, and your images shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain men before your idols, and I will lay the dead carcases of the children of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones round about your altars” (Ezekiel 6:4-5).
And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.(31) I will make your cities waste.—Not only will the elevated spots outside the cities with their idols be destroyed, and the carcases of the deluded worshippers be scattered among their remains, but the cities themselves will be converted into ruins and desolations (Jeremiah 4:7; Jeremiah 9:11; Ezekiel 6:6; Ezekiel 12:20; Nehemiah 2:17, &c.).
And bring your sanctuaries unto desolation.—Even the sanctuary with all its holy places (Jeremiah 51:51; Ezekiel 21:7; Amos 7:9; Pss. 68:36, Psalm 74:7. &c.), sacred edifices, synagogues, &c. (Leviticus 21:23), will not be spared, God thus reversing the promise which He made to the Israelites, that He will set up His dwelling place in the midst of them (see Leviticus 26:11) if they will walk according to His commandments.
I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.—When this awful destruction of the sanctuary is to take place God will not regard the fact that the odour of sweet sacrifices is there being offered up. (See Leviticus 1:9.) The service which may then be performed to Him will not hinder Him from executing this judgment.
And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.(32) And I will bring the land into desolation. Better, And I myself will bring, &c. From the ruin of the cities and the sanctuaries the desolation extends to the whole country. Whilst the devastations hitherto were the result of God permitting hostile invasions and conquests, the desolation of the whole country and the dispersion of the Israelites described in the following verses are to be the work of God Himself. He who has promised to bless the land in so marvellous a manner (Leviticus 26:4-10) as a reward for their obedience, will Himself reduce it to the most astounding desolation as a punishment for their disobedience, so much so, that their very enemies will be amazed at it (Jeremiah 9:11 : Ezekiel 5:15; Ezekiel 33:28-29; Ezekiel 35:10; Ezekiel 36:5).
And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.(33) And I will scatter you among the heathen.—They will not even be permitted to tarry among the ruins of their favoured places, but God Himself, who brings about the desolation, will disperse the surviving inhabitants far and wide.
And will draw out a sword after you.—To show how complete this dispersion is to be, God is represented with a drawn sword in His hand pursuing them and scattering them, so that both their land and every city in it should be denuded of them, and that there should be no possibility of any of them turning back. Thus the sword which God promised should not go through their land (see Leviticus 26:6) if they walk according to the Divine commandments, will now be wielded by Himself to bring about their utter dispersion from the land. A similar appalling scene is described by Jeremiah: “I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers hare known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them” (Jeremiah 9:16, with Jeremiah 42:16-18; Ezekiel 12:14).
Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.(34) Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths.—The land, which participates both in the happiness and misery of the Israelites (see Leviticus 18:25), and which through their disobedience of the Divine laws would be deprived of her sabbatical rests as long as the rebellious people occupy it, would now at last be able to enjoy its prescribed legal rest, when it is ridden of these defiant transgressors, and as long as they remain in exile.
As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.(35) As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest . . . —Better, All the days of its desolation shall it keep that rest which it did not rest, &c, that is, the land during its desolation will not be cultivated but will lie fallow, and thus be enabled to make up by its long rest for the many sabbaths and sabbatical years of which it had been deprived by the lawless Israelites during their sojourn in it. (Comp. Jeremiah 34:17; 2Chronicles 36:21.)
And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.(36, 37) And upon them that are left alive of you.—Better, And as to those that remain of you, as the Authorised Version generally renders this expression. This obviates the insertion of the expression “alive,” which is not in the original, and is not put in the Authorised Version in Leviticus 26:39, where the same phrase occurs. Where these will remain is explained in the next clause.
I will send a faintness into their hearts.—That is, He will implant in them such timidity and cowardice that they will be frightened at the faintest sound. He will make life a misery to them. (Comp. Deuteronomy 28:65-67.)
And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.(38) And ye shall perish among the heathen.—Better, And ye shall be lost among the heathen, as the word here rendered “perish” is often translated. (See Deuteronomy 22:3; 1Samuel 9:3; 1Samuel 9:20; Jeremiah 1:6; Ezekiel 34:4; Ezekiel 34:16; Psalm 119:176, &c.) The context plainly shows that utter destruction is not meant here. The very next verse speaks of a remnant who are to pine away, whilst Leviticus 26:40 speaks of their confessing their guilt.
The land of your enemies shall eat you up.—That is, they shall be so completely mixed up with the heathen nations amongst whom they are to be dispersed, and so utterly incorporated amongst them, that they will disappear, and have no separate existence. This is the sense of this peculiar phrase in Numbers 13:32; Ezekiel 36:13.
And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies' lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.(39) And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity.—Better, But those that remain of you shall pine away because of their iniquity, that is, those who will survive the terrible doom described under the five warnings, will pine away with grief, reflecting upon their sins which have brought upon them these tribulations.
And also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.—Better, and also on account of the iniquity of their fathers with them shall they pine away, that is, they shall pine away on account of their ancestral sins, which they repeat and reproduce. Hence the ancient Chaldee Versions render it, “And also on account of the evil sins of their fathers, which they hold fast in their hands, shall they pine away.” It may, however, also be rendered, “And also on account of the iniquities of their fathers which are with them;” that is, which they must bear and expiate. (See Exodus 20:5.)
If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me;(40) If they shall confess their iniquity.—Better, And they shall confess, that is, when their sufferings have reached this terrible point, the Israelites will realise and confess their iniquities and those of their fathers who have perished in these terrible punishments, on account of their sins, and who are no longer alive to confess their sins themselves. The whole description is present to the Lawgiver’s mind; hence the different degrees of the sins, the various stages of the sufferings, and the ultimate penitence of the people are described as passing before our eyes, as if exhibited in a kaleidoscope.
With their trespass which they trespassed against me.—Better, because of their trespass that they have, &c., as this phrase is rendered in the Authorised Version in Daniel 9:7.
And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:(41) And that I also have walked contrary unto them.—That is, and they shall also confess that through their walking contrary unto God, He also walked contrary unto them, and brought them into the land of their enemies.
If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled.—Better, or rather, their uncircumcised hearts shall be humbled. This is a resumption of the statement made at the beginning of Leviticus 26:40, viz., “And they shall confess their iniquity . . . ;” or rather, their uncircumcised hearts shall be humbled. That is, perverse and stubborn hearts; too proud to make an humble confession. (See Leviticus 19:23, with Jeremiah 9:26.) The same metaphor is used by the Apostle: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51).
Accept of the punishment of their iniquity.—Rather, accept willingly, that is, they will acknowledge the justice of their punishment, and be in that frame of mind when they will freely own that the punishment is not commensurate with their guilt, and willingly accept the Divine retribution. The exact shade of meaning covered by this phrase in the original cannot adequately be given in a translation, since the verb here translated “accept,” or “accept willingly,” is the same which is translated “enjoy” in Leviticus 26:34. The whole phrase denotes literally, they shall rejoice in their iniquity, or in the punishment of their iniquity; they will take it joyfully, as the best and most appropriate means to bring them to repentance. The nearest approach to it is the passage, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, for I have sinned against him” (Micah 7:9).
Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.(42) Then will I remember.—That is, perform the covenant God made. The expression “remember” frequently denotes “to be mindful,” “to perform,” especially when used with regard to God; as, for instance, “I have remembered my covenant,” &c. (Exodus 6:5-6); “He remembered for them his covenant” (Psalm 106:45).
My covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham.—When thus brought to repentance, the Lord will perform towards them the covenant which He made with their ancestors, and in which He not only promised that the Israelites are to be a numerous people, but that they are to possess the land for ever (Exodus 32:13). From the fact that the expression “covenant” is here exceptionally repeated before the name of each patriarch, the authorities during the second Temple rightly concluded that it refers to three distinct covenants made respectively with the patriarchs. Hence the Chaldee Versions render it, “And I will remember in mercy the covenant which I covenanted with Jacob at Bethel [Genesis 35:9-15], and also the covenant which I covenanted with Isaac at Mount Moriah [Genesis 22], and the covenant which I covenanted with Abraham between the divided pieces [of the sacrifices (Genesis 15:18-21)].” The ancients also call attention to the fact that whilst in all other passages where the three patriarchs are mentioned together, the order is according to their seniority, viz., Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 1:24; Exodus 2:24; Exodus 6:8; Exodus 32:13; Deuteronomy 29:13; Deuteronomy 34:4; 2Kings 13:23; Psalm 105:8-10; 1Chronicles 16:16-17), this is the solitary instance where the regular order is inverted.
The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes.(43) The land also shall be left of them.—Better, but the land shall be deserted by them. The solemn warning is here reiterated, that before God will remember His covenant with the patriarchs, and also be mindful of the land, the land must be depopulated of its rebellious inhabitants, and enjoy the Sabbaths which have been denied to it. This verse, therefore which is substantially a repetition of Leviticus 26:33-34, seems to have been inserted here to deprecate more solemnly the heinousness of their sins.
And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God.(44) And yet for all that.—Better, And yet even so, that is, even if it be so that they remain exiles in foreign lands for a long time, this is no proof that God has finally cast them off, has given them over to destruction, and abrogated His covenant with them. He is always their God, and will keep His covenant for ever.
But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.(45) But I will for their sakes remember the covenant.—Better, And will remember unto them the covenant, that is, as their God He will execute to them the covenant which He made with their ancestors. This verse is therefore closely connected with the preceding verse.
These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.(46) These are the statutes and judgments.—That is, the statutes and judgments contained in Leviticus 25:1 to Leviticus 26:45.
In Mount Sinai.—That is, in the mountainous district of Sinai. This group of statutes therefore concludes with the very phrase with which it began (see Leviticus 25:1), thus showing that it forms a section by itself.