William Kelly Major Works Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,Leviticus Chapter 19
ISRAEL'S PRACTICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Our chapter begins a varied application of the law to Israel, both Godward and manward. This was divine wisdom. It was excellent to have His will as to the earthly people as a whole or summary; not less valuable was it for them to have its several parts in suitable connection. There is no vain repetition anywhere, though those who count themselves able to sit in judgment of His word are necessarily incapable of entering into the truth. For man only learns it through his need and in a spirit of faith, dependence, and obedience. Indeed it would deny God and His majesty if it could be in any other way.
" 1 And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Speak to all the assembly of the children of Israel, and say to them, Ye shall be holy, for I Jehovah your God [am] holy. 3 Ye shall reverence every man his mother, and his father, and ye shall keep my sabbaths: I [am] Jehovah your God. 4 Ye shall not turn to idols, and ye shall not make to yourselves molten gods: I [am] Jehovah your God. 5 And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace-offerings to Jehovah, ye shall offer it for your acceptance. 6 It shall be eaten on the day when ye sacrifice it, and on the morrow; and that which remaineth to the third day shall be burned with fire. 7 And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is an unclean thing (or, abomination), it shall not be accepted. 8 And he that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, for he hath profaned the holy thing of Jehovah; and that soul shall be cut off from among his peoples. 9 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field; and the gleaning of thy harvest thou shalt not gather. 10 And thy vineyard shalt thou not glean, neither shalt thou gather the scattered grapes of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and the stranger: I [am] Jehovah your God. 11 Ye shall not steal, and ye shall not deal falsely, and ye shall not lie one to another. 12 And ye shall not swear by my name falsely and profane the name of thy God; I [am] Jehovah. 13 thou shalt not oppress thy neighbour, nor rob him. The wages of the hired servant shall not abide with thee all night until the morning" (vers. 1-13).
It is not here the abominable things against which they were warned, but the good inculcated because of their relation to Jehovah: what they should do, rather than what they should not, though this continues here and there to have its place still. So the chapter begins with a word and principle applied by the apostle Peter to the Christian Jews he addressed, as it is far more deeply true in Christianity; "be ye holy, for I am holy." As woman so largely figured through the corrupt lusts of fallen nature in the chapter before, and even to unnatural vileness, it is striking that here we begin with, "Ye shall reverence every man his mother, and his father, and my sabbaths ye shall keep: I am Jehovah your God." The mother has the first place in singular contrast with the slight of woman and the pride of man characteristic of the Talmud for modern Judaism. Of course the father is in no way forgotten, and if remembered would have his place of just authority. It is worthy of note that Jehovah adds here, "and my sabbaths shall ye keep." The sabbath was not a moral duty, but of divine authority; and hence of all moment as a question of relationship with Jehovah and therefore the sign of His people Israel. If we as Christians own the Lord's day, Israel will truly honour the sabbath in the age to come when Jehovah reigns. How pithily contempt is poured on "molten gods" in ver. 4!
Peace-offerings are next guarded; for man there had a large place, and danger was nigh. It is well when holiness guards our joy; but it is evanescent. Hence it could not be eaten on the third day without iniquity, and profanation (5-8). Man's eating even with a thankful heart must be kept near the offering to God.
Jehovah would also train His people in gracious feeling. If He would bless their harvest and their vintage, He inculcates kindness to the needy, and instructs them to leave a margin of their good crop, and the scattered or fallen grapes, for the poor and the stranger. Such had once been their own lot in the land of Egypt; but the ground is Himself, Jehovah their God (9, 10).
Dishonesty and untruthfulness He prohibits, especially with the profanation of His name; and He denounces oppression of one's neighbour, were it but in delaying for a single night to pay what was due to a poor labourer. Wealthy Jews were guilty in this way: is it confined to men of Israel? Vers. 11-13 are of great weight. The employment of labour is often conducted in a hard spirit, grinding the faces of the poor. It is no compensation but rather an aggravation in God's eyes for masters to give liberally to so-called Christian or to philanthropic objects what is wrung out of tears and curses. And what has not trade or commerce to answer for in the oppressive desire to grow rich?
ISRAEL'S PRACTICAL HOLINESS.
Another duty is here urged, considerateness for such as through natural infirmity are liable not only to err but to have advantage taken of them by the lightminded or the malicious. Other warnings are given that an Israelite might behave to his brother as became the people of Jehovah. His fear was to govern all the life, individually or together. Righteousness in judgment is insisted on, irrespective of low or high. Tale-bearing is frowned on: who could tell the mischief that might result? Hatred in the heart is the deep wrong against a brother; but it is immediately urged earnestly to rebuke one's neighbour that one bear not sin on his account (or, bring not sin on them). In short, no allowance of grudge, or self-vengeance, but to love one's neighbour as oneself.
" 14 Thou shalt not curse (or, revile) a deaf [person] nor put a stumbling-block before a blind one, but thou shalt fear thy God: I [am] Jehovah. 15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the lowly, nor honour the person of the mighty; in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. 16 Thou shalt not go about a tale-bearer among thy people; nor shalt thou stand against the blood (or, life) of thy neighbour: I [am] Jehovah. 17 thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; thou shalt earnestly rebuke thy neighbour, lest thou bear sin on account of him. 18 Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I [am] Jehovah" (vers 14-18).
We may view these injunctions as a class, and even from ver. 11. But it is well to observe that moral and ceremonial are expressly flowing together side by side, both founded on the revealed name of Jehovah, Whose honour is at the head of all, and Whose dishonour was more deadly and detestable than any other sin. It must and ought Lo be so, if He, the living God chose Israel to be His people, and Israel gladly owned Jehovah as their God, the one true God. And beautiful it is to note how He deigns to guide them in all the details of life, civil as well as religious, as their moral Governor: for so it really was.
Israel was in obvious contrast with the long abnormal time which stretched from man driven out of paradise till the deluge was sent on the race left to its self, and his so-called free-will ended in corruption and violence, greatly aggravated by the fallen angels, as Gen. 6 tells us, interpreted (if we needed it) by 2 Peter and Jude. It was now in Israel, apart from all nations, brought out of Egypt, led through the wilderness, and established in Canaan under a divine government which comprehended all the people in their relation with Jehovah and with one another, and strangers too, with the utmost minuteness. Love would delight in it as showing His deep interest in them; self-knowledge would gratefully own His wisdom and their need. Insubjection to Him could only if distinct and unjudged bring death, as obedience was met by His manifested blessings.
Yet we must never forget that it necessarily and wholly differs from Christianity, which sprang from the sovereign grace of God in honour of His Son, after the Jew scornfully and with hatred refused Him - the end of their wicked history as a responsible people. So Isaiah had prophesied, disclosing first their captivity in Babylon for their idolatry (Isa. 40 - 48); next, the irretrievable ruin as far as they were concerned by the rejection of their Messiah (Isa. 49 - 57). But his last chaps. (Isa. 48 - 56) prove no less certainly, that divine mercy will restore them to unfailing better blessing for the elect remnant, who will become His strong and honoured and holy people, when the Lord appears in power and glory for His world-kingdom (Revelation 11:15).
Christianity, and the church of which Christ is the glorified head, come in after His cross and ascension, and before He comes to receive the saints destined for the heavenly places. Christ as revealed in the written word is their rule of life, and the Holy Spirit sent forth is their power, in faith working by love, on the ground of Christ's redemption and their deliverance by His death and resurrection. Hence, while taught to appreciate the faith and walk, the service and the worship of saints from Abel all through the O.T., there is in Christ a quite new standard of walk and worship. Also we are called to suffer for righteousness and Christ's name, to love our enemies and to lay down our lives for the brethren, as no Jew was. Hence the N.T., which not only confirms the Old but reveals God's secrets, that were not then revealed to the fathers or their children, as they are now by the Spirit to the glory of the Father and the Son.
It could not but be that these wondrous counsels of God, when the cross of Christ and His exaltation furnished the fit moment for making them known to His children, introduced wholly new ways both in the individual Christian and in the church as a whole. Alas! as they were the last to be revealed, they were the first to evaporate when the apostles departed to be with Christ. The Fathers so styled, the sub-apostolic Fathers, as far as we have their remains, are the clearest proof of the then fall from the grace and truth which came through our Lord Jesus. The heavenly things are thereby eclipsed. The very righteousness of God as revealed in the gospel is ignored, clouded, or debased. What could be expected of their knowledge in the mystery of Christ and of the church? of its standing, or of its hope?
It thus appears that time is a vast parenthesis between eternity before it and eternity to follow, in which the earth and Israel with the other nations fill the scene as in the O.T. Within that parenthesis comes another, turning on Christ's rejection and exaltation on high, and the revelation of the great mystery concerning Christ, and concerning the church united to Him by the Spirit already, but awaiting His coming for heavenly glory and their reign with Him over the earth. Restored Israel will be blessed, at the head of all the nations here below, under the new covenant and the Messiah till eternity begins.
It is the new age which has had no recognition from the accredited guides of Christendom, who fall into the error that Israel had lost its place for ever that the Gentile might go on conquering and to conquer till the whole world was brought under the rule of Christ by the gospel and the church. But this was a total misconception on God's revealed mind. The apostle Paul had formally warned against the notion in Rom. xi. Not only is it there laid down that the tenure of the Gentile rests on a responsibility similar to that of Israel, and contingent on abiding in goodness, but it is declared categorically that on its failure the Gentile is to be cut off as the Jew had been before. And prophecy is cited to prove that, when the fulness of the nations is come, Israel shall be saved as a whole. "According as it is written, The deliverer shall come out of Zion; he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. And this is the covenant from me to them, when I shall have taken away their sins." Hence the apostle explains, As regards the gospel, they are enemies on account of us Gentiles who now believe; but as regards election, beloved on account of the patriarchal fathers; and this on an indisputable ground: "for the gifts and calling of God are not subject to a change of mind." For as ye [Gentiles] once disobeyed God, but now were shown mercy through their disobedience, so these also [Israel] disobeyed your mercy, in order that they too may be shown mercy For God shut together the whole of them into disobedience, that he might show mercy to the whole.
This wondrous display of mercy to God's glory (to say nothing of the portion of the glorified in heaven) is necessary to fulfil the prophets, and establish His kingdom universally here below for a new age, after the present evil age is closed by divine judgments, and before eternity begins. Where it is not believed, there must be a gap left, which is in vain covered up by forcing the scriptures into a reluctant squeeze, some into this age, and others into the eternal scene.
It is remarkable that here they are called to observe Jehovah's statutes, when three prohibitions are laid on Israel of a seemingly minor importance, not moral like that which follows.
"19 Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind; thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed; nor shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together. 20 And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman that [is] a bondmaid betrothed to a husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her: there shall be punishment; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. 21 And he shall bring his guilt-offering unto Jehovah to the door of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt-offering. 22 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt-offering before Jehovah for his sin which he hath sinned, and he shall be forgiven for his sin which he hath sinned. 23 And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as their uncircumcision: three years shall they be as uncircumcised to you; it shall not be eaten. 24 But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy for giving praise unto Jehovah. 25 And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield to you the increase thereof: I [am] Jehovah your God.
26 Ye shall not eat [anything] with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantments, nor practise augury. 27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, nor shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. 28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I [am] Jehovah. 29 Profane not thy daughter to make her a harlot; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of enormity. 30 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I [am] Jehovah. 31 Turn ye not to those that have familiar spirits, nor to the wizards; seek them not to be defiled by them: I [am] Jehovah, your God. 32 Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and thou shalt fear thy God: I [am] Jehovah. 33 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be to you as the homeborn among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I [am] Jehovah your God. 35 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in mete-yard, in weight, or in measure. 36 Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I [am] Jehovah your God that brought you out of the land of Egypt. 37 And ye shall observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I [am] Jehovah" (vers. 19-37).
Peremptorily, but in wisdom, was divine order impressed, and mixture of different kinds forbidden. He is a faithful Creator, and gave to each creature its species. Hence as it was sin to separate what He joined, it was not lees to join what He separated. Their cattle must gender according to the respective kind; their field must not be sown with different kinds of seed; nor was a garment woven of two materials to come on the Israelite. To the Christian the words are full of importance. It was Satan that sowed darner with the wheat; and the Spirit warns against every incongruous communion (2 Cor. 6). There must be no diverse yoking with unbelievers, no touching what is unclean, no compromise of truth by mixed principles. In matters of this life compromise is amiable and right; but where God's will is in question, it is a ruse of the devil.
The case that is next provided for (vers. 20-22) supposes the imperfect state which the law contemplates; for if she had been free, death was the penalty. But being a bondwoman and espoused, she was scourged, and he brought a guilt or trespass-offering; by which ram the priest made atonement, and the sin was forgiven. Jew or Greek, bond or free, is all gone now: Christ abides for faith.
Again, it was the day of earthly things; but Jehovah would have His people bear in mind the ruin of the earth through man's sin. A full time must pees during which the fruit of their planted trees lay "as uncircumcised unto them"; the fourth year "all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise Jehovah"; after which they are free to eat, "that it may increase to you its produce." It is the right principle of the first-fruits for Jehovah (vers. 23-25). God's rights have the first place.
Then not only is the eating of anything with the blood forbidden, but enchantments and auguries, and heathenish ways in trimming of heads and beards, cutting of the flesh and tattooing, as opposed to Jehovah. So too the devoting of a daughter to whoredom, as not immoral only but "profane." So as His sabbaths were to be kept, and His sanctuary reverenced, they were to shun necromancers and soothsayers as polluting (vers. 26-31). The same authority of Jehovah, which proscribed those heathen enormities, calls for honour to the hoary head and the face of the old man, coupling them with the fear of "thy God" (32). And what strikingly cuts off by anticipation the narrow and base pride of the Talmud, "a stranger" that might sojourn in their land was. not only to be allowed there unmolested, but to be loved as one born among them. "Thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I [am] Jehovah your God" (33, 34). How touching to remember their oppression in Egypt, not for resentment but for compassion!
Lastly, strict equity is enjoined in all dealings of trade and commerce. "Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in measure of length, in weight, and in measure of capacity: just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin shall ye have: I [am] Jehovah your God, that brought you out of the land of Egypt" (36). It is a great aggravation, because it is not transient but deliberate wrong, when the scales and weights are unfair, when solids and liquids have a falsified criterion. "Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes and all my judgments, and do them: I [am] Jehovah" (37). The least things of daily life fall under His eye.
One of the prevalent errors in Christendom is to confound the divine aim of Israel's calling with that that is by the gospel and in His church. The one was His kingdom regulated by the law, which failed utterly through the disobedience and at length apostasy of that people. But now in Christ rejected and glorified above the centre is transferred from earth to heaven, man as he is is treated as lost, and if any one be in Christ, as all saints now are, it is a new creation: the old things are passed; behold; new things are come in; and all things are of the God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
It is not therefore an effort to achieve the moral improvement of mankind, nor the hope still less of incorporating all the nations in one body, a contradiction of both letter and spirit, but all to Christ as head over all things to the church which is His body, already united to Him by the Holy Spirit, and about to join Him on high at His coming for an administration of the fulness of the times, when all things shall be summed, or headed, up in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth, in whom we were allotted our portion, for we are not the mere inheritance, but heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The church is to share His heavenly and earthly glories.
Israel on earth under Messiah and the new covenant will manifest the law written on their heart. No longer under the law and the yet deeper guilt of rejecting Messiah to their own long rejection, they will be the theatre here below, as His blessed earthly nation, of manifesting to all families the happiness of a people that is in such a case, the happy people whose God is Jehovah; and thus the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea.
But our calling is to be delivered from the present evil age, and to be blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, while sharing His reproach and shame on earth, and waiting for Him to come and receive us to Himself in the Father's house.
Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.
Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.
Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God.
And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will.
It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be burnt in the fire.
And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is abominable; it shall not be accepted.
Therefore every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the hallowed thing of the LORD: and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.
And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.
Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.
And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.
Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.
Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.
Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.
Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.
And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.
And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering.
And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.
And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.
But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the LORD withal.
And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the LORD your God.
Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.
Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.
Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.
And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.
Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the LORD.