William Kelly Major Works Commentary
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.Leviticus Chapter 26
THE COVENANT WITH MOSES, AND THAT WITH THE FATHERS
Leviticus 26:1-13Chapters 26 and 27 wind up the book as an appendix: the first on the obligations which bound all the people of Israel; the second on the vows of the individual.
Chap. 26 opens with the prohibition of image worship, and with the reverence due to the sabbath and the sanctuary of Jehovah, the pillars of the law; the very evils to which man was most prone (vers. 1, 2). This is followed by His blessings on their obedience (vers. 3-13).
" 1 Ye shall make yourselves no idols, nor rear yourselves carved image or statue, nor shall ye set up a figured stone in your land, to bow down unto it; for I [am] Jehovah your God. 2 Ye shall observe my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I [am] Jehovah. 3 If ye walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit; 5 and your treading out (or, 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 securely. 6 And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make [you] afraid: and 1 will put away the evil beasts out of the land; and the sword shall not go through your land. 7 And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword; 8 and five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. 9 And I will turn my face toward you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you. 10 And ye shall eat old store and clear off the old because of the new. 11 And I will set my habitation among you; and my soul shall not abhor you; 12 and I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. 13 I [am] Jehovah your God, who 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 walk upright" (vers. 1-13).
The sons of Israel of all men had the least excuse for idolatry. Those who heard His voice out of the midst of fire, and besought a mediator lest they should perish, saw no similitude, and heard Him denounce the heathen device of representing Him by any likeness of the creature in heaven above, or on earth beneath, or in the waters that sink below it. He could not be true God if He tolerated bowing down to another god. Real service must be His exclusively; yet Aaron's deplorable weakness here betrayed itself at the beginning of their history, and Solomon's even worse in its zenith. There too lay the continual warfare of His true prophets with the false who misled kings and priests and people, till there was no remedy; and He who loved them had to say, "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it. And it shall be no [more], until he come whose right it is; and I will give it [him]" (Ezekiel 21:27).
But there was another thing hateful in His eyes, where they set up no strange god. Nor is anyone more explicit in denouncing their profane irreverence and shameless hypocrisy than Malachi, the last of the post-captivity prophets. We know from his contemporary Nehemiah how His sabbaths were then profaned, and His sanctuary set at nought The sabbath had a special place in the decalogue as flowing simply from divine authority, prescriptive and not in the same sense moral as the other nine commandments. It was instituted as a sign of creation and a pledge of God's rest; and God imposed it in His law for Israel, the measure of man's responsibility, as a sign to them as His people. A new day, the first day of the week, is the day of Christ's resurrection, the Lord's day for the Christian, as the day of the new creation in Him, and of sovereign grace to us who now believe for heavenly glory as His body and bride. The sabbath is in no way abrogated or changed or spiritualised, but must be fulfilled in all its own blessedness for man on earth, and for Israel God's firstborn among all nations, when idols vanish for ever, and the sanctuary of Jehovah shall never be profaned more.
The conditional blessings are for Israel obedient to their God, Jehovah, and earthly, however rich; they are not those characteristic of the Christian, whatever special pleaders argue. If Israel walk in His statutes submissively, rain is assured in due season, the earth will yield its produce, and trees their fruit; the threshing reaches to the vintage, and it to the sowing time. Bread to the full should be theirs, instead of selling it for their other wants, and safety within their dwellings. Nay more, neither evil beasts, nor hostile sword should alarm. it I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall terrify." "And ye shall chase your foes, and they shall fall before you by the sword," five chasing a hundred, and a hundred putting ten thousand to flight. "And I will turn my face toward you, and make you fruitful and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you." The old store will abound beyond their eating and need clearing away because of the new. And, better still, "I will set my habitation among you, and my soul shall not abhor you; and I will walk among you and be your God, and ye shall be my people." As He began, so would He continue: "I [am] Jehovah your God, who 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 walk upright."
THE PENALTIES OF THE VIOLATED COVENANT
Leviticus 26:14-26Then Jehovah pronounces the inevitable consequences of Israel's disobedience.
" 14 But if ye hearken not unto me, and do not all these commandments, 15 and if ye shall despise my statutes, and if your soul shall abhor mine ordinances, so that ye do not all my commandments, that ye break my covenant, I also will do this unto you: 16 I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and fever, which shall cause the eyes to fail, and the soul to waste away; and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 And I will set my face against you, that ye may be routed before your enemies: they that hate you shall have dominion over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.
" 18 And if for this ye hearken not unto me, I will punish you sevenfold more for your sins, and I will break the arrogance of your power, 19 and I will make your heaven as iron and your earth as bronze; 20 and your strength shall be spent in vain; and your land shall not yield its produce, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.
" 21 And if ye walk contrary to me, and will not hearken unto me, I will bring sevenfold more plagues upon you, according to your sins. 22 And I will send the beasts of the field among you, that they may rob you of your children, and cut off your cattle, and make you few in number; and your streets shall be desolate.
" 23 And if ye will not be disciplined by me through these, but walk contrary to me, 24 then will I also walk contrary to you, and will smite you, even I, sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you that avengeth with the vengeance of the covenant, and ye shall be gathered into your cities, and I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break the staff of your breed, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and shall deliver you the bread again by weight; and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied" (vers. 14-26).
Israel's promises end in misery; and Jehovah judges his disobedience as it deserves, and with increasing severity at his ever growing rebelliousness. He appoints over the people, when their soul abhorred His righteous ordinances, "terror, consumption and fever," not only the dread of a guilty conscience, but disease in its wasting chronic form and in its raging acuteness; and sends their enemies to devour their harvests and rout their armies, yea to domineer over them even to their fleeing when unpursued. If this suffice not to humble them before Him, He will punish sevenfold more, to break their arrogance. He will make their heaven as iron and their earth as bronze, refusing all heat and moisture, and vegetation, so that their toil should be vain. And if this be not enough to recall them, sevenfold more plagues should fall on them, and the very beasts of the field should rob them of their children and cut off their cattle, to reduce them indefinitely and desolate their very streets. And if this failed to discipline their refractory spirit, He would walk as contrary to them in displeasure as they to Him in self-will. He must smite them Himself personally sevenfold for their sins, and bring a sword on them to execute the vengeance of the covenant. And as they gathered into their cities out of the goodly land, Me would send the pestilence on them, and they should be delivered into the hand of the enemy. Their efforts at union for strength should only and surely bring on them death and degradation as a people. Scarcity of bread should do its withering work in their prostrate condition. How could it be otherwise under the condition of law between the righteous Jehovah, and His people more guilty than the nations which knew not God?
The law as such knows no grace; its function must be to condemn every breach. Grace and truth came through our Lord Jesus; undoubtedly God's grace, but through Him, the one Mediator of God and men, Who gave Himself a ransom for all, the testimony in its own time. This we Gentiles know now as the consequence of Israel's unbelief to the uttermost after the fullest and most patient waiting on them; and no remedy when their Messiah came in gracious humiliation and divine power, any more than under the law and the prophets. The apostles too testified in the Holy Spirit and like power in men of like passions. But all has been vain, that mercy might flow to the Gentiles who have sinned worse than Israel under far superior privileges, till they too are cut off; and sovereign mercy shall once more shine on Israel, and for ever.
STERNER WOES ON THE PEOPLE AND THE LAND
Leviticus 26:27-39It might have been thought hard to find strokes heavier than those Jehovah inflicted on His people according to the earlier half of our chapter. But as Israel hardened their necks and persevered in their iniquities, here we have His yet more awful dealings with their stubborn rebelliousness. He is gracious beyond measure; but we know Him that said, To me [belongs] vengeance: I will recompense, saith the Lord [Jehovah]; and again, The Lord [Jehovah] will judge His people. Fearful [is it] to fall into a living God's hands (Hebrews 10:30-31). If He punished the vile abominations of the doomed nations who had intruded into His land, much more strictly does Be chasten His people. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" (Amos 3:2).
" 27 And if for all this ye hearken not to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you sevenfold for your sins. 29 And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. 30 And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your sun-pillars, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols; and my soul shall abhor you. 31 And I will lay waste your cities, and desolate your sanctuaries, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. 32 And I will bring the land into desolation, that your enemies who dwell therein may be astonished at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and will draw out the sword after you; and your land shall be desolation, and your cities waste. 34 Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths all the days of her desolation, when ye [are] in your enemies' land; then shall the land rest and enjoy her sabbaths. 35 All the days of the desolation it shall rest; in which it rested not in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it. 36 And as to those that remain of you, I will send faintness into their heart in the lands of their enemies, and the sound of a driven leaf shall chase them, and they shall flee as one fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth; 37 and they shall stumble one over another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth; and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And ye shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And they that remain of you shall waste away through their iniquity in your enemies' lands; and also through the iniquities of their fathers shall they waste away with them" (vers. 27-39).
The furnace of wrath waxes hotter against guilty Israel, and as Jehovah says, "I, even I, will chastise you sevenfold for your sins." The flesh of their own sons and daughters should be their food, and the high places and sun-pillars which they had honoured should be cut down, their own carcases heaped upon those of their idols, and His soul abhorring them. He would proceed to devastate their cities and sanctuaries to the astonishment of their enemies dwelling therein (27-32)
Their land too should not escape; and as they had despised His sabbaths in days and years and jubilees, there should be a judicial sabbath: for it should be desolate while Israel should be in the enemies' land. The land that flows with milk and honey should lie desolate and have rest, against the rest which it had not when the tribes dwelt there (32-35). Instead of the courage He once gave them against all odds, they would fall into abject terror. "I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a driven leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee as one fleeth from the sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth. And they shall stumble one upon another, as it were before the sword, when none pursueth" (36, 37). There too should they perish among the nations and the enemies' land eat them up. Those left of them in their enemies' lands shall pine away in their own iniquities, and in the iniquities of their fathers with them (38, 39).
Thus brought down to the lowest misery and degradation, the goodness of God leads them to repentance. What a lesson to all the nations! Yet this they never learn, till Israel shows the way, forgiven of grace, when they cannot forgive themselves before Jehovah and His anointed! But we must not anticipate what is to follow. How awful when a people boasting of Jehovah's name sell themselves really to His enemy, and become slaves of demons which supplant His will and worship; and their religion so-called becomes their worst sin and their most destructive snare. Thus it was in Israel, as it now is in Christendom. The end for both (as far at least as "this generation" goes for the Jew) will be at the consummation of the age in judgment, which the Lord Jesus will surely execute. But the greatest reviler of revelation cannot charge the God of Israel with partiality to His people when inconsistent or unworthy. Demons, instead of chastising, humoured their devotees for their own bad and mischievously vile ends. So it is in all religions, save the faith in God through Christ.
ISRAEL, REPENT, AND JEHOVAH REMEMBERS HIS COVENANT WITH THEIR FATHERS
Leviticus 26:40-46Here however we have the turning-point of grace. There is no restoration for Babylon, and especially none for the Babylon of the N.T. which among her many lies dares to call herself "the eternal city," but is really doomed to the everlasting judgment of God, as we read in Rev. 14, 16, 17 and 18 to the joy of all in heaven who in view of her smoke going up unto the ages of ages say, Hallelujah (Revelation 19:1-5)! Reunion of Christendom or not, this is God's destiny for her of the seven hills. "Come out of her, My people," says the voice from above, "that ye have not fellowship with her sins, and that ye do not receive of her plagues." But there is sure restoration for Israel, and a history in the future of their land more glorious than David's or Solomon's, or than any nation's that ever existed on the earth. The time hastens and is at hand. Israel will repent, and believe in Jehovah's Messiah, their crucified King of glory.
" 40 And they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, through their unfaithfulness wherein they were unfaithful to me, and also that they have walked contrary to me, 41 so [that] I also walked contrary to them, and brought them into the land of their enemies. If then their uncircumcised heart be humbled, and they then accept the punishment of their iniquity, 42 I will 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. 43 For the land shall be left by them, and shall enjoy its sabbaths, when it is in desolation without them; and they shall accept the punishment of their iniquity; because, even because, they despised my judgments, and their soul despised my statutes. 44 And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not despise them, and will not abhor them, to make an end of them utterly, and to break my covenant with them, for I [am] Jehovah their God. 45 But I will remember toward them the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, that I might be their God: I [am] Jehovah.
46 These [are] the statutes and ordinances and laws which Jehovah made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses" (vers. 40-46).
Does anyone object that this blessed change is sometimes made conditional on Israel's repentance? The answer is that there is no real force in the objection, because Jehovah has promised unconditionally that He will so work in their hearts when the due moment comes as only known to Him. And this is remarkably confirmed even in this chapter of arraignment and denunciation and furious wrath against them for their wickedness. Yet here there is no condition but an express prediction, "And they shall confess their iniquity" etc. God may exceed in goodness and mercy; never does He come short; and He here declares that so it is to be. Undoubtedly He makes good the condition in their souls where such a condition is laid down in His word.
In fact such a prediction as this unconditional one entirely agrees with the covenant with their fathers; for such was its character in distinct contrast with the covenant of law whereof Moses was mediator. And observe the deliberate iteration of His assurance to Israel, beginning with the "worm" Jacob yet redeemed and called by name, His servant and chosen, next with Isaac, and then with Abraham His friend. Why all this care but to give the most stable confidence to those just awakened to feel and own their ages of rebellious and even apostate iniquity? The covenant with the fathers as here joins in one common boon the entire people of spared Israel and the land. In this future kingdom of power it will not be what characterises Christianity and the church, the extinction of Jewish and Gentile differences in Christ as now. The blessing to come in that day will be of Israel as the head, and of the nations in willing subordination, because Israel is the special people of Jehovah Messiah for the earth. We are of heavenly grace, wherein fleshly difference is of no account.
It is well for Christians to learn that Christianity, precious as it is, is not all; and that, when God's present work is accomplished, God has other ways in which He is to be glorified in Christ. There will be another and a good age to succeed this present evil age, before the eternal state, the complete form of the new heavens and new earth, wherein righteousness is to dwell.
It is the millennium which begins when this age closes and continues till the dissolution of all things, preparatory to the absolutely perfect state of heaven and earth, when there is no change, but all is fixed for the righteous, as well as for the unrighteous. In the millennial age there will be perfect blessedness for those in the heavens who reign with Christ; but the earth, though governed righteously, and delivered from the power of evil, and full of divine fruits, will be tried by Satan's temptation at the end, and bring the final judgment. of God on the wicked from first to last.
Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;
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.
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.
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.
And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by 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.
For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.
And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new.
And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.
And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.
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.
But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;
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:
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.
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.
And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.
And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
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.
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.
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.
And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me;
Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.
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.
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.
And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me;
Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.
And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.
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.
And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.
And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.
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.
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.
As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.
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.
And they shall fall one upon another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth: and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies.
And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.
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.
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;
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.