Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Leviticus 11Psalm 104, 107; Job 38-41; Matthew 13; 2 Samuel 22:34. We pass now to the relation in which the Lord's people are to stand to animated nature. So far from treating it with indifference, they were bound to regard certain animals as clean and certain others as unclean, and to regard their use of and contact with them as of religious importance. The temptation to use nature as something outside religious considerations was hereby avoided, and the Jew was led to regard every animal as having some religious significance to him. A literal watchfulness was thus inculcated of the most painstaking character. The Jew, wherever he went, was on his guard against the unclean, and was providing for his use only what was legally clean and pure.
I. NATURE IS A REVELATION OF GOD IF WE ONLY HAD ITS KEY. It is too often forgotten that nature was the first revelation of God to his creatures. The Bible is the supplementary revelation necessitated by sin. To our first parents before the Fall, nature had a deeper meaning, most probably, than it has yet had to us. The interpretation of nature is most important, and there is no need that it should be "agnostic" or irreligious. Provided scientific fact be welcomed, there is no detriment, but rather there is gain, in looking at our surroundings in a religious spirit. Science is not bound to become a department of theology, and to be running up into theological statements; neither, on the other hand, is it bound to indulge in atheistic ones. The "argument of design" may not be a part of science, but it is just as true that the argument of chance, which is the only alternative, is no part of true science either. But while science is under no obligation to become theological, it is right that nature should be regarded religiously, Natural religion has its sphere just as well as supernatural religion.
II. WE INSTINCTIVELY USE ANIMATED NATURE TO ILLUSTRATE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF MANKIND. The animals become our picture alphabet, by whose help we spell out character. Indeed, so close are the affinities between the lower animals and the successive stages of human character, that one ingenious foreign writer points out an analogy between the development in nature and the development in individual human nature Man passes still today, says M. Secretan, "through the form of the ape, and he passes through it visibly; the embryonic evolution continues itself in the transformations of the first age, the spiritual development allies itself to the corporeal evolution, it is regulated by the same laws. Just as the human body reproduces in summary form the whole history of organized nature, the spirit of a civilized person reproduces in abridgment the whole history of the human spirit, and the two histories are inseparable. The characteristic of the ape, imitation without intelligence, is also the characteristic of the child when he is put in possession of his organs. This phase is essential; the child would not learn to eat, he would not learn to walk, he would not learn especially to speak, and by consequence to think, were he not, during some period and in certain respects, a little parrot and a little ape, Simian imitation is the process by which the acquisitions of the species are appropriated by the individual. Simian imitation, by which I mean the reproduction of movements of which the intention is not comprehended, is the normal and desired transition between instinct and the reflective intelligence, which is the properly human condition." There seems, therefore, to be a reason in the very nature of things for the illustration of moral or immoral qualities from the animals. Amid other uses served by the lower creation, there is certainly this one of furnishing illustrations of character. Our Lord's parables embody the principle of the spiritual significance of nature in its broadest applications.
III. BY THE DIVISION OF THE ANIMALS HERE PROPOSED IMPORTANT MORAL QUALITIES ARE COMMENDED AND IMMORAL ONES CONDEMNED. A scientific division was not needed for a religious purpose. A popular division, easily apprehended, would serve infinitely better. The distinctions drawn are such as may be seen at a glance.
1. Quadrupeds. The clean are those who divide the hoof and chew the cud. In other words, the ruminants are to be regarded as the clean. All other quadrupeds are to be accounted unclean. That there may be no mistake, the camel, coney, hare, and swine are emphasized as unclean, because possessing only one of the required characteristics. The flesh of the ruminants is generally considered as more wholesome than that of the other quadrupeds; but this would scarcely determine the division. Let the fact, however, be noted that reflection finds its fitting illustration in the rumination of these animals, and that they are justly regarded as both sure-footed and cleanly; then we see a moral purpose in the distinction. If the Lord's people were to associate with these animals and use them for food, while the other quadrupeds were to be avoided, it was to teach them to reflect faithfully upon what God gave them, to be steadfast in running the race he sets before them, and to be pure in their walk and conversation. That such moral ideas were associated with the clean animals is corroborated by such passages as 2 Samuel 22:34; Psalm 18:33; Hebrews 3:19; with which may be compared 1 Samuel 2:9.
2. Fishes. Here, again, the clean ones are those which have both fins and scales. All that have not these two characteristics are to be deemed an abomination, such as sharks, eels, and the swarmers generally (שֶׁרֶצ). That moral characteristics are illustrated in fish as well as in quadrupeds is acknowledged by the common usage of language. Do we not call men of a rapacious disposition "sharks;" and say of men of uncertain and cunning ways that they "wriggle like eels"? It seems certain, therefore, that the distinction here made, while perhaps having some foundation in the quality of the flesh, is primarily to illustrate disposition, and to guard the Jews against the selfishness and rapacity associated with the unclean fishes. It could hardly be locomotion which is referred to in this animal kingdom, since some of the unclean fishes, for example, the sharks, are remarkable for their speed. Moreover, the fact of sharks and some other fishes having scales, though of almost microscopic character, is no argument against the fidelity of the record. The Law was given primarily to a people of simple and not scientific habits - not to microscopists. Its popular style and adaptation to common life are among its highest recommendations.
3. Birds. Here, again, when the words are looked carefully into, the distinction seems to be that clean birds are such as feed. on grain and grasses, while the carnivorous birds are excluded as unclean. In no more striking way could unholy appetites be illustrated and condemned. Restraint and purity were thus inculcated.
4. Reptiles. Of these permission is given to eat four kinds of locust, all of which are distinguished as leapers, and not runners. Locomotion in this case, rather than food, is the ground of the distinction. When besides, we remember the migratory character of these insects, there is conveyed an excellent illustration of the stranger spirit, which alights on earth only so far as is needful, and takes more kindly to the air. If God's people should be "strangers and pilgrims upon earth," if they should be setting their affections on things above, the locust tribes, which the Jews were allowed to eat, most admirably illustrated the required spirit. On the other hand, the mole, the mouse, the lizard (צָב, not "tortoise," as in English 'Version), gecko (אַגָקָה, not "the ferret," as in English Version), monitor (כֹחַ, from its great strength - not "the chameleon"), lizard and sand-lizard (חֹמֶט, from lying on the ground - not "snail," for they are eaten by Jews and Orientals, as not unclean), and. chameleon are to be regarded as unclean. Earthliness and ugliness - in one word, the repulsiveness of sin - seem indicated by this distinction. We have thus inculcated, by this easy, popular division of the animals, important moral qualities to be cultivated and immoral qualities to be avoided. Animated nature became thus a mirror for human nature. The living world around man was thus made to take up a parabolic language and promote his sanctification.
IV. THE DEFILING CHARACTER OF DEATH THROUGH NATURAL CAUSES WAS TO BE CONSTANTLY RECOGNIZED. Even a clean animal which had died of itself was not to be eaten or touched with impunity. Defilement was the result of such contact. The lesson of mortality as the penalty of sin was thus illustrated. Men might devote an animal to death for sacrificial purposes or for their own use, but when death came as the debt of nature, at once its defiling character must be realized, and purification sought accordingly. The laws of this chapter entailed constant watchfulness. No careless living was possible under the Jewish regime. In the same spirit surely should we "watch and. pray, lest we enter into temptation." In the same spirit should we ask ourselves, What spiritual lessons is surrounding nature communicating to our spirits? Not in vain, and not for mere utility, has such an environment been thrown around us. - R.M.E.
Romans 1:20). The key to unlock the mysteries of this system is to be found in the Scriptures of truth; and animals, according to it, are to be viewed as representing men.
I. THE LAW DISTRIBUTES THEM INTO TWO CLASSES.
1. The clean. The marks of cleanness are:
(1) That they "divide the hoof." By the division of the hoof, as in the ox and sheep, the animal is able so to order its steps as not to throw up the mud upon itself, as the horse does whose hoof is not cloven.
(2) They "chew the cud." So their food is more perfectly prepared for digestion. The manner in which this is done, while the creature rests, is so suggestive of thoughtfulness and meditation that it is described as ruminating.
(3) The clean animals were therefore chosen to represent the Israelites, who were a holy nation. They were ceremonially holy:
(a) So walking in the ways of God's commandments as not to be polluted with the abominations of idolatry.
(c) Thus also they became morally greatly superior to the nations around them.
2. The unclean.
(1) The Gentiles in contrast to the Jews were so, ceremonially, and were therefore shut out from communion with the Jews. But it was competent to them to be made holy by becoming proselytes.
(2) They were in general idolaters, and so morally abominable. It was mainly to keep the Israelites from being contaminated with the idolatries of their neighbours, that these laws were instituted (see verse 45; 20:23-25; Deuteronomy 14:1-3).
3. There are but two classes of men.
(1) Though some animals divide the hoof, they are not clean unless they also chew the cud. The hog is of this order, and is filthy to a proverb (2 Peter 1:22). So it does not make men clean to have the faculty for walking cleanly when their disposition otherwise leads them to wallow in the mire of sin.
(2) Though some chew the cud, yet if they divide not the hoof they are unclean. The "camel," the "coney," and the "hare," or whatever creature, the word ארנבת may describe, are of this order. For what good is the semblance of meditation and repentance, if the walk of the life be not clean (James 1:20)?
(3) As there are varieties of clean and also of unclean animals, so are there varieties and degrees of goodness, on the one hand, and of wickedness on the other, amongst men. Still the classes are but two. The one is led by Christ, the other by Satan (Matthew 12:30; Matthew 25:2, 32, 33). To which class do you belong?
II. THE LAW IN THE LETTER IS NOW CHANGED.
1. The gospel is freely preached to the Gentiles.
(1) They are not now under obligation to be proselyted to Judaism. This subject was debated in the early Church, and settled at the Council of Jerusalem.
2. This was according to prophetic indication.
(1) Under the figure of the unclean wolf dwelling with the lamb, etc., (Isaiah 11) describes the Gentile and Jew as to be wonderfully reconciled in the days of Messiah.
(2) To show that the Jew must have no fellowship with the Gentile, the Law forbade the yoking together of the clean ox with the unclean ass (Deuteronomy 22:10). But prophecy anticipates the blessedness of the time when the seed, viz. of the gospel, should be sewn beside all waters - not those of Judea only, but of the wide world; and that in this business the ox and the ass - the Jew and the Gentile - should become fellow-workers (see Isaiah 32:20; comp. also Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9-11; 1 Timothy 5:18).
3. Peter's vision instructed him that this lime was come.
(1) The animals contained in the sheet were those described as unclean in the Law, and represented the Gentiles. Peter, therefore, when commanded to kill and eat, hesitated, for that he "had never eaten anything that was common or unclean." He therefore held that "it was an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company or come unto one of another nation."
(2) But the linen sheet which enclosed the animals was the emblem of purity; and they were thrice lifted into the heavens. To these symbols agreed also the voice which said, "What God hath cleansed that call not thou common."
(3) When therefore Peter had all this corroborated by the counter-vision of Cornelius, he was convinced that henceforth he "should not call any man common or unclean." For the universality of the mercy of the gospel had been testified in that the sheet was knit at the four corners, showing that the Gentiles were to be gathered together from the four quarters of the world.
III. THE LAW IN ITS SPIRIT STILL ABIDES.
1. For the gospel is that spirit.
(1) The glory on the face of Moses was veiled to the Jews. So concerned were they with the letter that they could not steadfastly look upon the true glory of their own Law. Moses therefore put a vail upon his face, viz. the vail of the letter. This vail is still upon their hearts, and must so remain until they turn to the Lord, or become converted to Christ.
(2) When Moses turned to the Lord, from whom he derived his glory, he took off the vail; and it is the same glory which falls upon us. The only difference is that in the spirit of the Law we see the glory of the Lord reflected from the face of Moses; but in the spirit of the gospel we see the same glory as Moses himself saw it, immediately, in the face of Jesus.
(3) Thus passing from the Law to the gospel, a spiritual person is changed from glory to glory. This brightening transfiguration is effected "by the Spirit of the Lord," or, as the margin construes it, "by the Lord who is the Spirit," viz. of the Law. The Spirit of the Lord is the Spirit of the Law.
2. The gospel insists upon moral purity.
(1) We have seen that the law of yoking together the ox and the ass is repealed under the gospel. This was as to the letter. But we shall find it still insisted upon, viz. as to the spirit. For Paul clearly refers to it (2 Corinthians 6:14) when he forbids the unequal yoking together of Christians and infidels.
(2) In the spirit of it Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfill, the Law, and that to the jot and tittle (Matthew 5:17-20). What a rebuke is here to the antinomian! What a stumbling-block to the Jew is the antinomianism in false theories of Christianity! Christians who neglect the study of the Law miss the benefit of many glorious views of precious gospel truth. How just is the remark of Augustine, that "the Old Testament, when rightly understood, is one great prophecy of the Sew"! - J.A.M.
I. THE BASIS ON WHICH HOLINESS RESTS. The Divine call.
1. All religion must find its real strength as well as its root in Divine love. "We love him because he first loved us." A redeemed life must be holy. "He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." We begin our holiness with the cross of Christ. He has cleansed us with his blood, therefore we must be clean.
2. The deliverance effected by God for his people is made the pledge of an eternal life by the special covenant, which separated them from all others. We must have fact and positive revelation and direct premise to fall back upon. He also calls us to himself, declares himself our God. He says, "Be ye holy; for I am holy." Likeness to God is our rule; fellowship with God is our strength and joy.
II. THE NATURE AND METHOD OF HOLINESS.
1. The holiness which God requires is personal holiness - holiness in life, manners, habits, food, everything which concerns the man himself. The distinctions of clean and unclean animals, etc., refer to natural laws of health and life.
2. Holiness must be the characteristic of God's people as a community. The laws of cleanliness separated the nation as a whole from other nations. They applied to all classes, and to every individual. The Church must be a holy Church. The lack of discipline is a terrible hindrance to the advance of religion. We must keep off the unclean. The covenant blessing will not be given unless the covenant law be observed, "Let a man examine himself." Defilement of sacred things is judgment to ourselves.
3. The holiness of this world's life is a promise and prediction of the higher holiness of the everlasting life. The clean and unclean animals were distinguished that the taint of death might be removed in the case of those fit for food. The distinction itself seemed to say all would be clean to you if it were not for death. When we are above the conditions of earthly life, then to be holy will be to be really like God - not in a mere negative purity of not being contaminated, not sinning; but being spiritually created afresh, with immortal natures, with perfect hearts to serve God, with life interpenetrated by his Divine glory. The holiness of the best Christian on earth is but an imperfect thing, largely a holiness of external regulation and separation from the unclean; but the holiness of the angelic nature will be a real and positive participation of the Divine. - R.
I. BECAUSE THE HUMAN BODY IS THE FAIR WORKMANSHIP OF GOD. That which our heavenly Father has made so exquisitely (Psalm 139:14) we should treat as a thing to be protected, to be preserved in its excellency. "Everything is beautiful in its season;" every period and phase of our humanity - smiling infancy, blithe childhood, sunny youth, vigorous young manhood, grave prime, headed-headed age, etc.
II. BECAUSE THE HUMAN BODY IS THE HOME AND ORGAN OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT. In our bodies we ourselves dwell - our thinking, reasoning, loving, hoping, striving selves. Our bodily faculties are the organs of our spiritual activities; therefore they are sacred.
IV. BECAUSE HEALTH IS A CONDITION OF USEFULNESS. It is true that men have been found (like Richard Baxter) to work for years in sickness and pain, but it is only a few rare spirits that can triumph thus over bodily infirmity. If we desire to bear the fullest possible witness and to do the noblest possible work for our God and our generation, we must not be indifferent to the state of our body. The stronger and healthier we are in our physical frame the more cheerful will be the tone of our spirit, the more attractive will be the aspect of our life, the more strenuous and the longer continued gill be the labours of our hand. - C.
I. AN EARLY LESSON IN A RELIGIOUS SCHOOL. The people of God were in process of spiritual cultivation; they were being thus trained for our benefit, that they might give to all lands and times a body of sacred truth which it took them long to learn. God would, with this end in view, implant within them, deeply rooted, the idea of holiness. This distinction of clean from unclean was a daily lesson in sanctity, in the conception of separateness of the pure from the impure, of that which might be partaken of from that which might not be touched, of that which could be liked and chosen from that which was to be detested and avoided. They could not fail to understand, they could not fail to be profoundly impressed with the thought, that all around them were things which, for God's sake, in obedience to his plain commandment, they must shrink from and shun. So the idea of holiness, of sacred separation, of freedom from that which defiles (verse 44), was planted within the soul, and grew in the nation; and it was ready when the time came for the great redeeming purpose of God to be revealed. There was a people well schooled in the essential idea of holiness.
II. A REMINDER OF THE PREVALENCE OF SIN. Connecting uncleanness, defilement, with so many living creatures, there would be before their eyes continual reminders of that which was evil; they would be constantly or frequently put in remembrance that they lived in a world of sin and danger. "All living nature... transmuted into a thousand tongues to remind and warn of sin and uncleanness. The living monitor would meet the devout Jew at every point, and call to him in words of sacred admonition from every direction, Looking out at his door, the passing of a camel or a bird of prey would be a memorial to him... to guard the approaches of uncleanness. Sitting down under his vine or fig tree, or going forth to gather flowers, the insects crawling on the leaves would be monitors of the presence of evil," etc. (Seiss).
III. A PICTURE OF THE MANY-SIDED NATURE OF SIN. The unclean animals being associated in his mind with sin, the Jew would naturally connect particular sins with those animals whose habits suggested the thought: the fox would remind him of the evil of treachery and low cunning; the tiger, of ferocity; the hog, of sensuality; the vulture, of gluttony, etc.; he would see before him living pictures of various forms of sin, and would be reminded that evil in every form, temptation in every phase, were about him, and that vigilance was needful at every hour of his life, at every step of his course. We may learn from these thoughts:
1. That holiness includes, if it is not contained in, separateness of soul and life from that which is evil. Though not minute legal precepts, yet other voices say clearly, forcibly, imperatively to us, "Be ye separate; touch not the unclean thing."
2. That sin, with its taint and temptation, is on every hand; and not only all around us but, what is more and worse, within us. "Watch and pray," say the heavenly voices.
3. That sin is multiform in our day and land as it was in theirs. It approaches by every avenue, drapes itself in every costume, assumes every air and attitude, must be promptly recognized, wisely parried, stoutly fought, patiently and repeatedly subdued. - C.
I. THAT GOD DOES SOME THINGS TO PROVE US. There were plain, palpable reasons of a sanitary or moral nature for many of these prohibitions; for many others there were, doubtless, valid reasons which escape our view. Probably some remain for which there was no reason in the nature of the ease, but it seemed good to the Divine Ruler of Israel to issue them as tests of obedience. Such was the prohibition of the forbidden fruit in Eden. Such were certain statutes on other subjects. Occasionally these laws regulating the dietary must have been severely testing. The fisherman, e.g., must have been sometimes tried when he landed fine palatable fish which were forbidden, and which had to be cast again into the sea. God's dealing may seem arbitrary to us. Enough that he, our Father, who has given us so much, who has indeed given us everything we are and have, and to whom we are looking for everything we shall be and shall enjoy in the furthest future, holds out of reach or takes back again that which we would fain have or keep. God tries us, and we must submit with filial trustfulness and cheerfulness.
II. THAT IN DOUBTFUL CASES WE DO WELL TO ABSTAIN. "There was a difficulty in determining the case of the camel whether or not it really divides the hoof wholly, and the case of the hare whether it really chews the cud." These, however, are prohibited. We are often placed in circumstances in which we are doubtful as to, the legality of pleasures to be enjoyed or profits to be realized. In such cases it is well to keep our "hands off." Abstinence will result in an infinitesimal loss; indulgence might end in serious mischief (see 1 Thessalonians 5:22).
III. THAT WE ARE MOST IMPORTANTLY AFFECTED BY THE THINGS WHICH WE APPROPRIATE. Stringent and detailed dietary laws may seem to us to be a redundant part of revelation. They would not have been added, probably, but for the direct religious aspect they wore. But, apart from their primary object, they teach us the valuable lesson that it is a matter of serious if not supreme importance to be appropriating right things every day.
1. Right food for the body. Many men are less devout, less useful, less excellent and admirable in heart and life, because of the unguarded and intemperate way in which they eat and drink. We may be neither gluttons nor drunkards; yet we may lower our character and lessen our influence by ill-regulated appetite in eating and drinking. Profoundly true and urgently demanded as were the words of our Lord (Matthew 15:11), "not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man," we may be sure that Jesus Christ would have us exercise such self-restraint, and, if need be, such self-denial as will keep us from all grossness of thought and habit, from all degeneracy of spirit (Matthew 16:24; see 1 Corinthians 10:31).
2. Right thoughts for the mind. That which the mind is appropriating, day by day, is determining its nature. It makes all the difference whether, mentally, we are eating and drinking that which is pure, wholesome, clean, refining, or that which is gross, noxious, unclean, deteriorating. How immeasurably important the companions we choose, the books we read, the conversations in which we indulge!
3. Right resolutions for the soul. The soul is entertaining desires and coming to conclusions, on larger and lesser things, every day. If these be unworthy, it is growing in evil; if these be honourable and excellent, it is growing in rectitude, in spiritual beauty, in usefulness, as the days and months go by. - C.
sentence, 'A word spoken according to his two faces is as apples of gold in (משׂכיות) maschyoth of silver' (Proverbs 25:11). Maschyoth are a kind of lattice or network having very small interstices. Therefore 'when a word spoken according to both its faces' (that is, according to its exterior and interior signification) is likened to 'apples of gold in network of silver,' the meaning is that the exterior sense is good and precious as silver, but the interior is much more excellent as gold. An apple of gold covered with a silver network, viewed at a distance, seems to be all silver; but if by the worth and beauty of the silver yon be attracted to view it more narrowly, you may discover the apple of gold that is vailed within, So are the words of the Law in the letter useful and excellent for direction in morals, or for the outward government of the Church, while the interior part or spirit is of superior excellence to build up the believer in the sublime mysteries of faith." According to this principle, let us consider here -
I. THE MYSTERY OF THE WATERS.
1. They denote multitudes of peoples.
(2) The reason, perhaps, is that they lave the shores of the earth and are the highway of commerce. At all times they sustain a multitude of navigators; and at one time, in the ark of Noah, the entire population of the world was afloat.
(3) In the text the waters are distributed into "seas" and "rivers."
2. The sea may be diversely considered,
(2) Under the action of light, the earthy particles precipitated, and the upper portion became gradually clearer and more liquid. Then the mass received the name of "seas" (Genesis 1:10), In this condition the waters became stocked with living creatures and capable of supporting fleets, when it became a figure of the peoples of the world.
(3) When disturbed by fierce winds, and the sediment from the bottom worked up, as if the abyss of hell had been moved, the state of the wicked is described (see Isaiah 57:20). The winds by which the wicked are stirred are their passions, and the effects am turbulence and insurrection (see Psalm 65:7; Psalm 107:26; Jude 1:13).
3. Rivers also may be variously considered.
(1) They are taken in a good sense when they keep their channels, for then they are sources of blessing. The river of Eden represented the covenant of God, which, branching into "four heads," showed how the blessings of the gospel were to be carried to the four quarters of the world (Genesis 2:10; Psalm 36:8; Psalm 46:4; Psalm 65:9; Revelation 22:1). The peaceful people of the covenant would also be represented.
(2) Rivers are taken in a bad sense when they overflow their banks, in which case they become muddy, and carry desolation where they rush. Hence they are compared to invading armies and to ungodly men moved to violence (Judges 5:21; Psalm 69:15; Isaiah 8:7, 8:18; 59:19; Revelation 12:15).
II. THE INHABITANTS OF THE WATERS.
1. The clean are distinguished by fins and scales.
(1) The fins are their instruments of locomotion. By means of these they rise to the surface and swim in purer water under the clearer light of the heavens. Thus they teach us that a holy people should be active, not in the darkness of sin and ignorance, but in the day of goodness and truth (John 3:21; John 8:12; John 9:4, 5).
(2) The scales, which have a beautiful metallic luster, suggest the idea of armour; and, when the creature swims near the surface, these brilliantly reflect the glories of the sun. They teach us to "put on the armour of light" (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 6:7).
2. The unclean are those without fins and scales.
(1) Those destitute of both, like the eel, shun the light, and bury themselves in the mud at the bottom. They teach us to avoid the corresponding habits of the wicked, who rush into sin and ignorance and wallow in moral filth (Job 24:13-17; John 3:19, 20; Ephesians 5:13).
(2) Those who have fins but no scales are covered with a thick glutinous matter, which in appearance contrasts unfavourably with the silver and golden armour in which the clean creatures are clad. If they use their fins to rise out of their depths, it is to make havoc upon shoals of brighter creatures. So are the wicked bloodthirsty and voracious, who therefore should be shunned.
(3) In the imagery of the prophets, anti-Christian kingdoms are sometimes described as great sea-monsters (see Daniel 7:2, 3; Revelation 13:1). Such kingdoms must be held in abomination by the thoughtful student of the Law, and the time, earnestly longed for, when the Lamb will appear on Mount Sion. - J.A.M.
Jeremiah 44:4). Probably nothing in nature affords such a vivid conception of that which is loathsome and disgusting as certain members of the animal world. "The ugliness and spitefulness of the camel the filthy sensuality of the hog, the voracious appetency of the dog, the wolf, and the hyena, the savage ferocity of the tiger, the sluggishness of the sloth, the eagle clutching innocence in its talons, the vulture gorging on putrescence, the slimy fish that creeps among the mud, the snake watching in the grass, the scaly thing that crawls on all the land and in all the sea;" - here we have a striking and almost terrible picture of the repulsiveness of sin. The training of the Hebrew mind to look on "unclean" animals with greatest aversion helped them to view sin in the light in which God would have us regard it, viz. -
I. AS A THING WHICH HE HATES UTTERLY, "It is even an abomination unto him," it is "that abominable thing which he hates." He is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity." The falseness, the impurity, the grossness, the oppression, the selfishness, the profanity, the ingratitude of human nature, are as unendurable in God's sight - things from which he turns with as pained and troubled an eye - as are the most revolting actions of the unclean among the beasts of the field or the reptiles that crawl on the earth, in our esteem. Language fails to express the idea; the vilest habits of the lowest creatures will alone convey the thought of the repulsiveness of sin in the sight of God.
II. As A THING WHICH THE HOLY HATE. Holy angels, the "spirits of just men made perfect," holy men on earth, - all holy spirits, like the Holy One himself, hate sin, shrink from the sight of it, regard it "even as an abomination." David records for us his intolerance of iniquity (Psalm 101). Peter tells us of the vexation of Lot's righteous soul with the unlawful deeds and filthy conversation of the wicked (2 Peter 2:7, 8). The message that comes from the attitude of the holy is, "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil" (Psalm 97:10).
III. AS A THING WHICH WE MUST LEARN TO HATE.
1. If we are numbered among the holy, we are hating sin; as far as our spirit is sanctified by the truth and by the Spirit of God, so far sin is to us "that abominable thing."
2. But we need to learn more of its hideousness, and to shrink from it with more of Divine repugnance.
3. And if we are practicing any evil habit, and therefore cherishing it, and not only enduring but even loving it, there must come a time of disenchantment when the evil thing will assume to our eye its own hateful aspect. It is
(1) a painful thing to consider that we may be, with so many others, liking that which we should be loathing; choosing and cherishing that which we should be indignantly repelling or expelling.
(2) A needful thing to keep an open eye to see that to which we may now be blind; to be willing to learn that which our true friends may have to teach us; to be ready and eager to receive enlightenment from God (Psalm 139:23).
(3) A fearful thine to think how many live and die in the love of that which is loathsome, and will only learn in retributive scenes what an abominable thing is sin. - C.
I. THE UNCLEAN ARE IN GENERAL BINDS OF PREY.
1. Conspicuous amongst these are the eagles.
(1) There is little doubt that first name (נשר) is truly rendered "eagle." The term expresses the propensity of that creature for lacerating and tearing in pieces the flesh of its prey.
(2) Its associates in the group (verses 13, 14) are similar in nature. The "ossifrage," or bone-breaker, is probably the sea-eagle, whose habit is to break bones to get at the marrow. The "ospray" has its name in the Hebrew from its strength, and is generally understood to be the black eagle. The "vulture " - if that truly renders the original - is one of the largest and most formidable of the eagle kind. And what is construed the "kite," being in the same group, is probably some other description of eagle.
2. These are emblems of evil spirits.
(2) From their traversing the air (see Ephesians 2:2). This is eminently the case with eagles, whose flight is towering, and whose nests even are in inaccessible mountain heights.
(3) From the formidableness of their attacks. From dizzy heights they swoop down upon their prey. They are armed with powerful talons, and strong, sharp, hooked beaks fitted to inflict dreadful wounds, tearing as they grip the flesh of their quivering victims (Job 39:30).
3. They also represent wicked men.
(1) Wicked men are the "children of Satan," and naturally exhibit the family likeness. The kings of Babylon and Tyre are compared to the eagle (Ezekiel 17:3, 7). The persecutors of the people of God are likewise so compared (Lamentations 4:19). The Roman armies, whose standards were eagles, are called eagles by our Lord (Matthew 24:28).
(2) The lesson for us is to avoid the disposition of the wicked, and to beware of their relentless voracity and diabolical cruelty. God is stronger than the "powers of the air."
II. SOME UNCLEAN BIRDS ARE PROWLERS OF THE NIGHT.
1. This characterizes the next group (verses 15-19).
(1) The Hebrew name for the "raven" (ערב) is that commonly used for evening. Our name "raven" probably comes from their ravening. The raven Noah sent forth from the ark, which wandered to and fro, and resting upon floating carcasses or what dry thing it could find, was an emblem of an unclean dark spirit, which is cast out from the Church of God, and from the hearts of his people, and wanders among the moral carcasses, the dead in trespasses and sins (comp. Zechariah 13:2; Matthew 12:43).
(2) Keep close to Jesus, lest, departing from him, we may invite this unclean spirit to return with seven others more wicked than himself.
2. With the raven owls are associated (verses 16-19).
(1) These are creatures whose vision will not endure the blaze of day, but who have wonderful sight in the dark. That rendered "hawk" has its name here (דאה) from the swiftness of its flight; but in Daniel 14:13 (ראה) from the sharpness of its sight.
(2) They are distinguished from each other by particular habits. That in our version called the "night hawk" (תחמס) is the screech-owl. Its screams arc violent; and these birds in general make fearful and doleful sounds in the night. This does not argue favourably for the happiness of evil spirits.
(3) Wicked men also, like owls, hate the light. When honest people of the day are sleeping, these prowlers are plotting mischief. Witness the burglaries, the murders, the prostitutions, the debaucheries, practiced by them under the cover of darkness.
III. UNCLEAN BIRDS ARE GROVELLING IN THEIR HABITS.
1. Such are the "fowls that creep going upon all four."
(1) The bat is a creature of this class. It has claws attached to its leathern wings, which serve it instead of feet to crawl by.
(2) This description includes also insects from which exceptions are taken in the verse following.
2. They are types of wicked intelligences.
(1) Some devils have a passion for enshrining themselves in organic bodies. The incarnation of Satan in the serpent was not the last attempt. There were demoniacal possessions in our Lord's day; and when expelled from human beings, they preferred the bodies of swine to having no organic habitation.
(2) Wicked men grovel in the most revolting moral filth.
3. In what contrast to these are the flood!
(1) The dove sent forth by Noah is a figure of the Spirit of God, the gracious Messenger and Dispenser of peace to the Church; but who is often grieved by the impurities of men (Matthew 3:16). The fruit of the Spirit, is peace; and those who exemplify it are called doves (Matthew 10:16).
(2) The lark also is a clean creature, who soars high and sings gloriously in the light of the morning. How angelical! how saintly!
(3) While winged insects that could not leap from the ground were unclean, to show that those men are morally so who are wholly given to the cares of this world; those with benders above their feet, in our version called "legs," those with crouching joints to stoop and spring with, as locusts and grasshoppers, for the opposite reason are clean. The Baptist lived principally upon locusts in the wilderness. - J.A.M.
I. HOW MUCH GOD MAKES OF DEATH. Death is the key-note of very much of sacred Scripture. "Thou shalt die" is a constantly recurring refrain. "And he died" is a continually repeated statement. It was the death of the slain victim at the altar that made expiation for the sinner. It is the death upon the cross which constitutes the sacrifice for the world's sin. The death of the soul is the awful punishment of guilt hereafter as it is on earth. It was the death of these animals that made their caresses unclean. In the Old Testament and New, God makes much of death.
II. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DEATH. Death is odious and intolerable in God's sight: it must be made to seem so in man's; for:
1. It is the consequence of sin in man.
2. It is the picture of sin in man.
3. It is a reminder of the painful and hateful presence of sin in man.
III. THE AVOIDABLENESS OF SIN. The fact that the dead carcass could be and must be avoided, and that contraction of ceremonial defilement could be prevented, indicated to the Jew and now intimates to us that sin may be and must be shunned. Two things were and are necessary:
1. Carefulness: scrupulous regard to the known laws (verses 32, 34, 38).
2. Self-sacrifice: things made unclean must be broken up, disused, cast away, at whatever cost (verses 33, 35).
IV. THE REMOVAL OF THE STAIN OF SIN. "It must be put into water;... so it shall be cleansed" (verse 32). "There is a fountain filled with blood," etc. - C.
I. THE UNCLEAN CHEEPING THINGS THAT CREEP. These are opposed to creeping things that leap, some of which are clean (see verses 21, 22). Their steady attachment to the earth, never rising above it, represents an inveterate worldliness which a holy people must hold in abhorrence. Samples are given under the following groupings (see verse 42), viz.:
1. Those that have no feet, "Whatsoever goeth upon the belly."
(1) Serpents, snakes, vipers, and worms of all kinds are included under this description. The serpent has given its name to Satan ever since he enshrined himself in a creature of that kind (see Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). And wicked men are the "children of the devil," and so are described as the "seed of the serpent," and a "generation of vipers" (Genesis 3:15; Matthew 3:7).
(2) Serpents are abominable for their unclean habits, lurking in the dust or mire, and eating their meat from the dust (Genesis 3:14; Isaiah 65:25; Micah 7:17). Worms are bred in corruption and feast upon carrion (Exodus 16:20; Job 7:5; Job 19:24; Acts 12:23). What a picture of those who wallow in sin! Serpents are double-tongued (Psalm 140:3), teaching us to abhor deception. They nourish poison, which is deadly (Numbers 21:9), teaching us to detest malignity (see Isaiah 41:24, margin; Romans 3:13). The worm of the damned dieth not (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:44).
2. Those that have four feet, "Whatsoever goeth upon all four."
(1) The weasel and the ferret are remarkable for their stealthy sliding motion in closing upon their prey. They teach us that slyness and treachery arc an aggravation of violence, which should be held in abomination. The" mouse" (verse 29) is to be taken as the representative of everything of the mus kind; but it is difficult to say what animal is meant by the word (יזח) rendered" tortoise." By some it is thought to be the crocodile; by others the toad. Its name indicates some habit of swelling, and may teach us to abominate all impudence, ostentation, and vanity.
(2) The animal called "chameleon" (verse 30) is by some thought to be the mongoose, a creature which eats snakes, rats, mice, and other vermin; while Bochart concludes that the chameleon is intended by the word we translate "mole." Creatures of the lizard kind, excepting the aquatic sort, such as the crocodile, live on flies. God makes some unclean creatures useful in exterminating others; so he deals amongst wicked nations, punishing them by one another in their turn.
3. Those that have more feet.
(1) Under this description we have centipedes, caterpillars, perhaps, and innumerable creatures, with legs more in number than four. Amongst these there is scope for naturalists to describe qualities all which will convey moral lessons.
(2) The one thing we mark in creatures that "multiply feet," as the Hebrew expresses it, is the slowness yet steadiness and stillness of their progress. The stealthy, insinuating false teachers who troubled the early Churches, and who have their representatives ha modern times, are compared to these creeping things (see 2 Timothy 3:6; Jude 1:4).
II. THE LAWS OF CONTAMINATION. These are ranged under two heads:
1. The polluting of persons.
(1) This is done by their touching the carcass of an unclean creature. Whatsoever is unfit for food must not be touched (see Genesis 3:3). Whom we cannot commune with we must avoid.
(2) It may be done by their touching the carcass of a creature originally clean that has died of itself. Because in this case it could not be a type of Christ, who died voluntarily, for he had no sin of his own to doom him to die. All intercourse of Christians should be in Christ, who is our life.
2. The polluting of things.
(1) Vessels of any sort are rendered unclean by contact with the carcass of an unclean thing. These represent human beings in the capacity of servants, whether to God or man (Romans 9:21; 2 Timothy 2:20, 21). Some being polluted are to be broken, to show that sin leads to destruction (Romans 9:22). Others may be purified by water, to show that sin may be removed by the sanctifying grace of the Spirit of God. There is a happy time coming (see Zechariah 14:20, 21).
(2) Clean meat may become polluted by contact with anything unclean. This law teaches that "evil communications corrupt good manners."
(3) If an unclean thing fall into a fountain or well in which there is plenty of water, it does not render the water unclean (verse 36). The living water is an emblem of the Holy Spirit, who cannot be rendered unholy by anything that sinners may do. For a like reason, perhaps, seed that is to be sown, which is a figure of Christ, cannot be rendered impure (verse 37). But if water be put upon the seed for any other purpose, the figure is changed and the case is altered (verse 38). - J.A.M.
I. NATIONAL SEPARATION.
1. God purposed to establish a holy nation. He designed, by various methods, to separate for himself a people free from the idolatry and the immorality of the race.
2. He therefore determined to separate Israel from international intercourse. The people of God were not to have any outside social relations, were not to intermarry with neighbouring nations.
3. Therefore, beside geographical obstacles and positive prohibitions, God interposed a precise and separating dietary. This created a strong barrier between his people and all others. The laws of food affect us powerfully in our social relations. Free intercourse is impossible without hospitality, and hospitality is impossible where distinctions as to eating and drinking are not only numerous but sacred and binding. A Hebrew could not sit down to the table of an Egyptian or an Arab without offending his host and sinning against his God. Moreover, such distinctions would generate and foster feelings of moral aversion toward those who did not observe them, and this would be another strong fence, helping to maintain separateness. The Jews may have carried this far beyond the original intention of the Divine Legislator; but at that point in the religious history of the world, all considerations were second, longo intervallo, to the one supreme end of keeping Israel separate and pure. God has, in his providence, divided the human race into nations by separating seas and mountains; there are many obvious advantages in this: it makes government, and therefore order and security, a possible thing. It makes possible national influence for good. How much of benefit and blessing to Europe and the world has arisen and will arise from the fact that he who is Lord of the sea and the rock has cut a channel and filled it with the dividing waters between the continent and this Heaven-taught land of ours (Psalm 147:20)!
II. FAMILY SEPARATION. "God setteth the solitary in families" (Psalm 68:6). But he thereby not only makes the lonely to be social and joyous; he separates one small group of souls from all others. The family unites its members into one fellowship; it also divides the nation into separate circles. It is a fence which shuts out as well as it shuts in. It is one of the most imperative and sacred duties which God lays upon us who are parents to see that no injurious, no poisonous, no ruinous element, in the shape of' a contaminating human soul, is admitted within the gates of family life.
III. INDIVIDUAL SEPARATION. With us (speaking generally) God wills how separate the nation shall be; the human parent determines how separate the family shall be; each individual soul must decide how separate he and his life shall be. There is a sin-stained, corrupted world encompassing us; we must choose, for ourselves, how far we will enter it, how free our intercourse with it shall be. There are, however, some general principles.
2. We must impose some restraints on ourselves; we must draw some lines of limitation; we must "sanctify (separate) ourselves."
3. We should refrain from familiar association with the openly ungodly; for by such familiarity we should identify ourselves with their principles and countenance their evil ways.
4. We should avoid intimacy with the irreligious and undecided; for if we mingle continually with those who walk on lower spiritual ground, we shall surely fall to their level (Proverbs 13:20). - C.
(1) that we are all actuated by a great variety of motives;
(2) that we are affected by many considerations in our choice of the better path;
(3) that of the right motives which actuate us some are much higher than others;
(4) that while it is well to be moved by every honourable impulse, we should seek to be mainly moved by the highest and best of all. Here we have three of the highest possible motives for the best possible estate, three high reasons for holiness.
I. GOD, IN HIS SOVEREIGNTY, COMMANDS IT, AND IT IS OUR HIGHEST DUTY TO OBEY HIM. "I am... your God: ye shall." Duty is one of the highest of all considerations, if not positively the very highest. Our duty to obey God when he says "ye shall" is clearly the highest of all duties.
II. GOD HIMSELF IS THE HOLY ONE, AND IT IS OUR HIGHEST HONOUR TO BE LIKE HIM. "Ye shall be holy; for I am holy." He is the "Holy One of Israel," the "holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts." "He is light, and in him is no darkness at all." There is no conceivable ambition man can cherish that is so high as the aspiration to be like God, the righteous Father of souls (see Matthew 5:48).
III. GOD, OUR REDEEMER, DESIRES IT, AND IT IS OUR HIGHEST SATISFACTION TO PLEASE HIM. "I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt." If there were anything we desired to withhold from him who is "our God," the God from whom we came, to whom we belong, and before whom we stand, still there can be nothing we will keep back from him who is our Redeemer, who has "brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." "To Jesus, our Atoning Priest," we bring
(1) our promptest and devoutest attention,
(2) our unquestioning faith,
(3) our most cheerful obedience. We run to keep his commandments. - C.
Leviticus 10:8; Leviticus 11:1). The legislator and the priest act in harmony under a theocracy; the laws of God are the statutes of the nation.
I. THE SANCTIFICATION REQUIRED OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
1. It is a necessary consequence of his character and of the relationship they sustain to him. What the Master loves, the servant must love; what the King is, that his subjects become. Sanctity is the glory of God. To be untarnished, free from taint, this is his prerogative and separates him from all idol gods. Holiness is not so much one special attribute as the all-embracing purity, the bright cloud that invests his excellences with spotless splendour. Evil flies from his presence. Unless, therefore, his people manifest this separation from impurity, how can be take delight in them and bless them? Unless they reflect something of his image, how can he acknowledge them as his children? He says, "Be ye holy; for I am holy."
2. The intention of God has been signified in delivering his people from bondage, He declares himself Jehovah, the bringer-up of the Israelites from the land of Egypt, in order to be to them for a God (Elohim). This same design is expressed in Leviticus 20:26, "I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine." To what purpose was the yoke of idolatrous sinful Egypt broken, if Israel remained impure and unholy? The intent of Jehovah would be frustrated. A similar line of argument is pursued in 1 Peter 1:15-19, where the precept of the text is enforced by reference to the cost of redemption - not corruptible things, but the precious blood of Christ being the price of our ransom. We make the grace of God and the gift of his Son of none effect if we continue in the former sins.
3. This same deliverance is appealed to as a claim upon his people's gratitude and obedience. The very kindness of Jehovah in emancipating the nation and guiding them through the wilderness constituted a valid reason for abstaining from all that God forbade Unworthy are they of being the recipients of mercy who do not feel themselves bound thereby to please this merciful Lord. Shall not the love of Christ constrain us to live unto him, acknowledging that we are henceforth not our own? Conduct actuated by such motives is not servitude. It accords with the dictates of reason, conscience, and emotion. Compared with the bondage from which Christ releases us his yoke is easy, and his burden light indeed.
II. WHAT THIS SANCTIFICATION INVOLVES.
1. Adherence to distinctions unknown to the world in general. Some animals were to be regarded as totally unfit for food, others unclean under certain conditions. It was not the business of these teachers to make the distinctions, but to explain and enforce them. The popular classification was adopted - it would be the only one intelligible. Even in trivial waiters God's people are to be distinguished from the heathen. These distinctions were not simply arbitrary; they depended on considerations sanitary, ethical, and instinctive. Thankful for the relief the gospel affords us from the burdensome ceremonies of the Law, knowing that "every creature of God is good," we have yet to do all, whether we eat or drink, to the glory of God. His gifts are to be received with thanksgiving, sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. We are not "subject to ordinances that perish with the using," yet are we to set our affection on things above, and to mortify our members which are upon the earth; observances which the majority of mankind practice not. The line of division between things pure and defiling is plainly marked if we apply our eyes to survey it. Others may call us bigoted, narrow-minded, straight-laced, but we prefer the commendation of our Master to the good-will of men.
2. Possible loss of property. How vexatious to an Israelite to be obliged to destroy a vessel because it was polluted (verse 33), or a cooking-range (verse 35), or some moistened seed (verse 38)! Many like a religion that costs them nothing, that is not particular about trifles. Yet real is that man's religion who refuses to employ ill-gotten gain or dishonest measures, and who would renounce connection with a firm rather than be a party to unjust proceedings. Pity that so much evil should be condoned and defiling association suffered for sake of the profit it brings! If thy hand or thy foot cause thee to stumble, cast it off.
3. Continual care and trouble. To touch a dead animal necessitated ablution of the clothes, and the vessel which should be accidentally made "unclean" must be thoroughly washed, and both man and utensil remained ceremonially unclean till the evening. At any moment an Israelite might be compelled to repair the inroads of pollution, and constant caution was requisite to abstain from needlessly incurring stain. The sanctity God desires is a life-long work, and lovers of case had better not undertake it. To be like him who was "holy, undefiled, separate from sinners," is to take up the cross and deny one's self. "Watch and pray unceasingly" must be our motto. Thanks be to him who hath opened a "fountain for sin and uncleanness," wherein at all seasons we may bathe and come forth white as snow! Thus shall we show forth the praises of him who hath called us. Let us learn to welcome the opportunity of testifying our love to him who gave himself for us. - S.R.A.
I. THE FACT THAT THIS LEVITICAL LAW HAS BEEN SET ASIDE.
1. Perhaps by the word of our Lord in Mark 7:15, especially taking the translation of verse 19, "This he said, making all meats pure" (Farrar, 'Life of Paul,' volume 1, page 276).
2. Certainly by the heavenly voice and the apostolic conduct (Acts 10:14, 48).
3. By united apostolic agreement (Acts 15:22-29).
II. THAT SUCH PICTORIAL TEACHING IS NOT NOW NEEDED. What moral and spiritual lessons were to be conveyed by these injunctions and by the habits of thought and deed they created, have been learnt; the rudimentary lesson is no longer needed. We are supposed to understand or to be able to learn in other ways what God means by holiness, how hateful sin is in his sight, how prevalent it is, how manifold in its shapes and colours, how sedulously it is to be avoided.
III. THAT GOD TRUSTS US TO ACT ARIGHT IN THIS MATTER OF BODILY NOURISH MEET. The Law treated the race as if it were in its religious childhood; the gospel as if it had attained to manhood (Galatians 4:1, 23). Christ our Lord trusts us to act wisely and faithfully. We must honour his Divine confidence in us. We shall do so by:
1. Intelligent study of what is really wholesome and health-giving.
2. Moderation in the use of that which is "good for food."
3. Endeavour to make the body the active servant of the soul. - C.