Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Conclusion.—Promises and Threats
1YE shall make you no idols1 nor graven image,2 neither rear you up a standing image,3 neither shall ye set up any image of stone4 in your land, to bow down unto5it: for I am the LORD your God. 2Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
3, 4If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; then will I give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5And 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. 6And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts 7[animals6] 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. 8And 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. 9For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you. 10And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth [clear away7] the old because of the new. 11And I will set my tabernacle [dwelling-place8] among you: and my soul shall not abhor you. 12And I will walk among you, and will be your 13God, 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 bands9 of your yoke, and made you go upright.
14But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; 15and10 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: 16I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror,11 consumption, and the burning ague [wasting away, and the burning fever12] that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart [the soul to pine away13]: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17And 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. 18And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. 19And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: 20and your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land14 yield their fruits. 21And 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. 22I will also send wild beasts [animals6] among you, which shall rob you of your children [make you childless15], and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate. 23And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; 24then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins. 25And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of [omit the quarrel of16] my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send a pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the 26hand of the enemy. [;] And [omit 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. 27And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; 28then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. 29And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.30And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images,17 and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols,18 and my soul shall abhor you. 31And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries19 unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. 32And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. 33And 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.
34Then 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. 35As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because [all the days of its desolation it shallrest that which20] it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it. 36And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness21 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; 37and they shall fall when none pursueth. And they shall fall one upon another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth: 38and 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. 39And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity22 in your23 enemies’ lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.
40If 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 41unto 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 accept24 of the punishment of their iniquity: 42then 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.
43The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept24 of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes.
44And 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. 45But 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.
46These 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.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lev 26:1. אֱלִילִם. See Textual Note3 on 19:4.
Lev 26:1. פֶּסֶל from פָּסַל to carve, is used of an image of any material, but is here taken, as in Isa. 44:15, 17; 45:20, of an image of wood.
Lev 26:1. מַצֵּבָה lit. anything set up. Hence used of a memorial stone, Gen. 28:18–22; 35:14; Isa. 19:19; answering to the λίθαροι λιπαροί of the ancients. As these came to be used for idolatrous purposes the word obtained its secondary sense as in the text (Ex. 23:24; 2 Ki. 3:2, etc.). The marg. of the A. V. follows the LXX. στύλην. The Vulg. has titulum.
Lev 26:1. מַשְׂכִּית does not elsewhere occur in connection with אֶבֶן, but its meaning by itself figure, imagery, is sufficiently well settled. The only question here is whether the phrase denotes an image of stone (A. V. so Keil), or a stone with images sculptured upon it (A. V. marg. Rosen.). The latter is probably the more correct view, but not sufficiently certain to warrant a change in the text. LXX. λίθον σκοπὸν apparently in the sense of a prophylactery, and of this the Vulg. lapidem insignem may be a translation. Targ. Onk., and Jon. and Syr. stone of adoration; Targ. Jerus. stone of error.
Lev 26:1. The construction of עַל here has somewhat perplexed the critics. Geddes contends that as it never elsewhere precedes the object of adoration, it must here signify at, by or upon. Keil explains it “on the ground that the worshipper of a stone image rises above it (for עַל in this sense, see Gen. 18:2).” But this fact is, at the least, very doubtful; and the ordinary meaning of עַל as signifying motion towards, ἐπί, seems to be all that the connection requires.
Lev 26:6. חַיָּה. See Textual Note 1 on 11:2.
Lev 26:10. תּוֹצִיאוּ is exactly rendered by the A. V., but the sense intended is better conveyed by the suggested emendation of Clark.
Lev 26:11. מִשְׁכָּנִי. See Textual Note 8 on 15:31.
Lev 26:13. “מֹטֹת עֹל, lit. the poles of the yoke (comp. Ezek. 34:27), i.e., the poles which are laid upon the necks of beasts of burden (Jer. 27:2) as a yoke.” Keil. For עֹל the Sam. and many MSS. have the fuller form עוֹל.
Lev 26:15. The conjunction is wanting in 6 MSS., the Sam., Vulg., and Syr.
Lev 26:16. For בֶּהָלָה = terror the Sam. reads בֶּחָלָה = sickness as a general term including the specifications that follow. The word is rendered in the A. V. of Jer. 15:8 as here, and in Ps. 78:33; Isa. 65:23, trouble. It does not occur elsewhere. The idea is that of “mens’ hearts failing them for fear,” Luke 21:26.
Lev 26:16. שַׁחֶפֶת = wasting away is well expressed by the consumption of the A. V. in its etymological sense, but is in danger of being misunderstood of the specific disease of that name which is rare in Palestine and Syria. The LXX., however, has ψώραν. קַדַּחַת, LXX. πυρετός, according to all authorities should be burning fever. Fevers are the most common of all diseases in Syria and the neighboring countries. These words occur only in the parallel, Deut. 28:22.
Lev 26:16. מְדִיבֹּת נֶפֶשׁ. The literal translation is more expressive than the paraphrase of the A. V.
Lev 26:20. For הארץ 21 MSS. and the LXX. read השדה.
Lev 26:22. שִׁכְּלָה אֶתְכֶם. The literal rendering is sufficient.
Lev 26:25. נֹקֶמֶת נְקַס־בְּרִית lit. “avenging the covenant vengeance.” As this cannot be expressed in English the נקַם is better left untranslated than rendered by quarrel, which it does not mean.
Lev 26:30. הַמָּנֵיכֶם. In most other places where the word occurs (2 Chr. 14:5 (4); 34:4; Isa. 17:8; Ezek. 6:4) the marg. of the A. V. has sun-images. Such was undoubtedly the original meaning of the word; but Gesenius (Thes.) shows that the word was applied to images of Baal and Astarte as the deities of the sun and moon. The word indicates “idols of the Canaanitish nature-worship.” Keil.
Lev 26:30. גִּלֵּלִים = something to be rolled about, a contemptuous expression for idols. The Heb. had three different words which are rendered idol in the A. V., and seven which are rendered image.
Lev 26:31. More than 50 MSS., the Sam. and the Syr., have the sing. The plural refers to “the holy things of the worship of Jehovah, the tabernacle and temple, with their altars, and the rest of their holy furniture, as in Ps. 68:36; 74:6,” Keil; and not to the sanctuaries of false gods (Rosen and others).
Lev 26:35. Here also it is better to keep to the literal rendering of the Heb. כָּל־יְמֵ חָשַּׁמָּה תִּשְׁבֹּת אֵת אֲשֶׁר וגק. The land should rest not merely because, but it should actually rest the time which it had not rested.
Lev 26:36. מֹרֶךְ ἅπ. λεγ LXX. δειλία, Vulg. pavor. It “signifies that inward anguish, fear, and despair, which rend the heart and destroy the life.” Keil. Comp. Deut. 28:65.
Lev 26:39. עָוֹן is either iniquity (as here twice and in the next verse twice), or the punishment of iniquity (as in Lev 26:41). The phrase “perish in one’s iniquity” is however sufficiently common, and there is no occasion to change the translation here. The אִתָּם = with them at the close of the verse refers to the iniquities.
Lev 26:39. For your ־כֶם more than 80 MSS. read their ־הֶם, so also the Sam., LXX., Sym., Theod., Vulg. and Syr. as the text in Lev 26:41.
Lev 26:41, 43. יִרְצוּ. The same word as is used in Lev 26:34, 43, the land shall enjoy her sabbaths. The literal rendering is perhaps too bold for our version; but the meaning is really this. “The land being desolate shall have the blessing of rest, and they having repented shall have the blessing of chastisement. So the LXX. and Syriac.” Clark. Comp. Isa. 40:2. נִרְצָת עֲונָתּ.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lange here again insists that Lev 26:1 and 2 are properly the close of the foregoing section. It was already too late to adopt his division when his work appeared; but independently of this the connection with the present chap. is preferred. The verses reiterate the most fundamental requirements of the law, and thus form an appropriate introduction to these concluding promises and threats.
The whole precepts and prohibitions of the Book of Leviticus have now been given, and here the people are incited to their faithful observance by promises of blessings on their obedience and curses upon their disobedience. This arrangement is both natural in itself, and is in accordance with the analogy of the warnings and promises (Ex. 23:20–33) at the close of the “Book of the Covenant,” (Ex. 20:22–23:19) and in the parting exhortations of Moses (Deut. 29, 30). The passage in Exodus, however, relates to the conquest of the land, while here the subsequent history of the nation is had in view. The chapter contains: first, promises upon their obedience (3–13); it then describes the consequences of disobedience (14–39), which are put hypothetically, but evidently contemplated as likely to occur; and finally, looks forward to the restoration of the covenant on the repentance of the people (40–44), which is also put hypothetically, but is evidently prophetic. Lev 26:46 forms the conclusion of this whole series of legislation.
Objection has been made to the Mosaic origin of this chap. by rationalistic critics on account of its prophetic character. Certainly it is prophetic, and if this be objected to any portion of Scripture, the objector must be met on other than merely exegetical grounds, but here the rationalistic argument may be fully met in a different way. It is impossible to conceive that the author of the remarkable legislation contained in this book, possessed of as intimate knowledge as he must have been of the people under his charge, should not have foreseen that they would fail to maintain the standard of holiness here required, and that consequently God, whose holiness and majesty it has been his object to set forth, would visit them for their transgressions. It is but a step beyond this to look forward to the effect of chastisement and humiliation in producing repentance, and when this had been effected, his knowledge of the mercy and loving-kindness of God assured him of the restoration of the people to His favor. See this point admirably treated by Keil in a note on p. 468.
Lange: “The germ of this whole setting forth of blessing and curse already lies in the decalogue itself (Ex. 20:5, 12), but especially as a conditional promise of blessing in the section Ex. 23:23–33. It is appropriate to the purpose of Leviticus that this germ now comes here to its development, that by the side of the promise of blessing on the keeping of the covenant comes out very explicitly the threatening of curse on the breach of the covenant; for the contrast of blessing and curse goes forth from the religious behaviour or misbehaviour towards the law of God as a whole, as all particular commands are summed up therein…… It must not be overlooked that the subject is here always Israel in its totality, the nation as a whole. The date of this section is thereby shown to be very ancient; for it would have been otherwise from the days of Messianic prophecy. Then the contrast comes forward very strongly: the apostate Israel, and the Israel reforming itself; also the contrast: the Israel of the mass, and the Israel of the poor, of the humble, of the purified remnant. For this reason it would be a false inference to consider the conditional prediction of our section as apodictical, or indeed to suppose that the curse would fall upon every individual of the nation of Israel. The apostasy of Israel has often been treated as if the flower of its elect had fallen under the curse, although history declares that the Gentile church was grafted upon the stock of the Jewish, and Paul can designate the unbelieving portion of the Jews as “some,” notwithstanding its numerical majority, in contrast to the dynamical majority whose central point is Christ Himself. The national curse has then been fulfilled only in a conditional degree in contrast to the dynamical blessing overmastering all curse; but nevertheless in a degree which has shown in fearful majesty the reality of the threatening of the curse. It is a vain attempt when one seeks to intimate, like Knobel, that our prophecy looks back upon that which has already occurred in isolated particulars; at all events, this creates no prejudice against its Mosaic origin, for its fulfilment has been progressing even to the present day, and is not yet fully accomplished. Yet even at the present day the emphasis falls upon the fearful realization of the curse upon the nation; upon individuals, however, as such, only in proportion as they transmit the fanatical or unbelieving spirit of the community.
“Our section, moreover, is characterized as a prophetic word in that it brings into view in grand outlines a future which it cannot and will not describe with verbal definiteness. Yet a progress consonant to nature is to be observed in the gradations of the curse, which one might enjoy as a physiological picture of development.
“If we suppose that one may speak of the Divine government or word blamelessly if the section before us is invested with a less mysterious aspect, we overlook the fact that the course of things immanent in life remains the same although the prophetic character of the word be set aside; that the chapters of calamity remain the same although one seek to erase the superscription from the punishment and from the judgment. Strange that one should think the world will thereupon cheer up when he traces back the dark destiny of a people to a gloomy fate, instead of to the justice of the living God. It is the very nobility of apostate Israel that its Jehovah is, and has been, jealous with such burning jealousy over its fall; and it would even seem worthy of contempt if it were considered as the football of a gloomy destiny—its sorrows without reason, without proportion, and without purpose. Certainly also the continuing motive for the rejection of Israel itself is its ill-will-against Jehovah, or indeed against the Gentiles, in return for which it must acknowledge in its history its well deserved visitation……
“That the bearing of God towards Israel was an impartial bearing, which could only be obscured through the idea of a national God, is proved even by our section with its threatenings in presence of the development of the history of Israel itself: they have been brought out of Egypt, and Canaan must become their land; but when they apostatize, they must lose Canaan and must be scattered among the heathen (Keil, p. 169 [Trans. p. 468]). Not only the impartiality indeed, but the jealousy of Jehovah must be made manifest in this. The idea or key of the whole history and destiny of Israel is: vengeance of the covenant. The people could fall so low because they stood so high, because they were the first-fruits, the first-born son, the favorite of God (Jeshurun). But for this reason especially the promise of their restoration is bound up with the prophecy of their curse (Isa., Jer., Ezek., Hos., etc., Rom. 11). Knobel gives prominence to the peculiarly elevated language of this section; it cannot be explained by the ordinary mechanicism of ‘Elohistic and Jehovistic documents.’ ”
This chapter forms a part of the same Divine communication with the preceding one.
Lev 26:1, 2. These verses include substantially the first table of the decalogue, and by this short summary the whole duty of the Israelites toward God is called to mind and made the basis of the following promises and warnings. On Lev 26:1 see the Textual Notes. Lev 26:2 is a repetition verbatim of 19:30. Here, at least, it must be understood to include the whole of the “appointed seasons” as well as the weekly Sabbaths.
A. The Blessing. Lev 26:3–13
With Lev 26:3 a new Parashah of the law begins, extending to the close of Leviticus. The parallel proper lesson from the prophets is Jer. 16:19–17:14. “The subject here is not the isolated good conduct of individuals, but the keeping of the Covenant of the people as a whole and its general tendency to blessing; the contrast to which, the breach of the Covenant, is moulded into the tendency to curse.” Lange.
Lev 26:4. Lange: “Rain in its season appears here as the first gift of Jehovah. When He gives the rain from heaven, the earth gives its produce and the fruit-trees give their fruit; there is formed a chain of gifts whose beginning lies in the mysterious hand of God. “The allusion here is to the showers which fall at the two rainy seasons, and upon which the fruitfulness of Palestine depends, viz., the early and latter rain (Deut. 11:14). The former of these occurs after the autumnal equinox, at the time of the winter-sowing of wheat and barley, in the latter half of October or beginning of November. It generally falls in heavy showers in Nov. and Dec., and then after that only at long intervals, and not so heavily. The latter, or so-called latter rain, falls in March before the beginning of the harvest of the winter crops, at the time of the sowing of the summer seed, and lasts only a few days, in some years only a few hours (see Robinson, Pal. ii., pp. 97 sqq.).” Keil. [Also Robinson, Phys. Geog, of the H. L., p. 263.] “In consequence of these rains the land should yield so rich an increase that your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time (for the next year). [Lev 26:5. Comp. Amos 9:13.]
“Lev 26:6–8. The second yet higher gift of blessing is peace in the land, and that in relation to wild beasts” [חיָה רָעָה, an evil animal, for a beast of prey, as in Gen. 37:20. Keil] “as well as to war; therefore they shall lie down as a herd which no beast of prey and no robber shall affright. Yet more: neither shall the sword go through your land, because they should drive back triumphantly from their borders the enemies who should make any attack. The aggressor should fall by the sword upon the border.” On the language in Lev 26:6 comp. Job 11:19; Ps. 147:14; Ezek. 34:25–28. Lev 26:8 is “a proverbial mode of expression for superiority in warlike prowess.” Comp. Deut. 32:30; Josh. 23:10; Isa. 30:17.
Lev 26:9, 10. Lange: “The third blessing is fruitfulness: increase upon increase of the people, and the strengthening of the Covenant under the special support of Jehovah.” The multiplication of the people was a part of the covenant promise (Gen. 17:4–6), and its fulfillment established the covenant (ib. 7); not merely preserved it, but became the means by which it should be extended ever farther and farther. In view of this increase the promise of Lev 26:10 becomes more emphatic: so far from a dearth being caused by the multitude, the new store should be reached before the old could be consumed. This constitutes the fourth particular of the blessing.
Lev 26:11–13. Lange: “The fifth blessing is the highest: the flower of their religion and religiousness. Jehovah will establish His dwelling (His living habitation) among them.—And I will walk among you, etc.—This promise touches typically even upon the height of the Christological incarnation. Jno. 1:14.” [As this whole chapter has in view their residence in Canaan, so this promise in particular does not refer to God’s leading His people in their wanderings, but to His continual manifestation of Himself in their midst in their settled home.—F. G.] “For these promises, spiritually and dynamically understood, Jehovah, the personal God of Israel, makes Himself security; and He has given them their deliverance from Egypt as a proof and pledge. They shall not become the slaves of men through distress, but shall stand upright as the servants of God.” That is, the yoke of bondage which bowed down their heads as beasts of burden had been broken, and God had made them in consequence walk upright.
B. The Curse. Lev 26:14–33
Lev 26:14, 15. Lange: “The breach of the Covenant. He begins with the external contempt of the ordinances of the covenant, and goes on to the internal scorn and rejection of the covenant law, a transgression therefore of the commands in their totality.” This is carefully to be borne in mind in regard to these warnings. These “judgments are threatened, not for single breaches of the law, but for contempt of all the laws, amounting to inward contempt of the Divine commandments and a breach of the covenant (Lev 26:14, 15)—for presumptuous and obstinate rebellion, therefore, against God and His commandments.” Keil. Single sins, or sins of individuals, are not the subject, but the general apostasy of the nation.
Lev 26:16, 17, contain what Lange describes as “the punishment in the first grade;” it is the warning of visitation upon apostasy alone before it has become complicated with the added guilt of obdurate persistency. Three punishments are mentioned which are to be sent together, and not singly as they were offered to the choice of David after his sin in numbering the people (2 Sam. 24:12–14)—disease, famine and defeat. It is easy to see how all these might (and historically did) come upon Israel as a natural consequence of their neglect of the Divine law; but they were none the less judgments of Him who had commanded that law and ordained that nature itself should protect it. Lange justly says: “One must not overlook the spirit of the Divine action; it is called visitation (Lev 26:16), and henceforth this is the principal thought and purpose which pervades all the punishments. It is also of a deeper meaning here that Jehovah will set His face against them; for their enemies are His instruments, and they will be smitten.” Comp. Ezek. 33:27–29.
Lev 26:18–20. According to Lange, “the punishment in the second grade,” or the first of the more severe measures to be visited upon obdurate disobedience. Here, and in each of the three remaining stages (Lev 26:18, 21, 24, 28), the expression seven times is used. It is at once the number of perfection, indicating the full strength of the visitation, and also the sabbatical number, reminding the people of the broken covenant. Comp. Gen. 4:15, 24; Ps. 79:12; Prov. 24:16; Luke 17:4. “There are five degrees in the ever seven times more severe punishment. God punishes so, that He always in wrath remembers mercy, and gives time for repentance. But no punishment is so great that a greater cannot follow it.” Von Gerlach.
Lev 26:21, 22. Lange: “The punishment in the third grade. The godlessness becomes aggressive; they walk inimically towards Jehovah, the apostasy advances to bolder idolatry and contempt of God. But meanwhile, Jehovah yet stands still, and only sends against them the forerunners of His vengeance: ravaging beasts—a symptom of falling into decay: robbers of children, calamities among live stock, depopulation, desolated highways. The beasts may here be understood not merely literally.” Comp. Judg. 5:6; Isa. 33:8; Ezek. 5:17; 14:15. “חָלַךְ קֶרִי עִם (to go to a meeting with a person, i.e., to meet a person in a hostile manner, to fight against him) only occurs here in Lev 26:21 and 23, and is strengthened in Lev 26:24, 27, 28, 40, 41, into חָלַךְ בְּקֶרִי עִם, to engage in a hostile encounter with a person.” Keil.
Lev 26:23–26. Lange: “The punishment in the fourth grade. Now Jehovah also becomes aggressive and acts inimically towards them, as if He would destroy them. Now the breach of the covenant is decided, and the sword comes over them as the avenger of the covenant. Picturesque delineation of the three dark riders, Rev. 6, only that here the plague goes before the famine.” The idea of the text is clearly that by the inroads of the enemy Israel would be shut up in their cities, and while besieged there, would be visited with pestilence and famine. Such calamities were repeatedly experienced, 2 Kings 6:24–29, etc. Comp. Isa. 3:1; Jer. 14:18; Ezek. 4:16; 5:12, and especially the story of the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. To break the staff of bread is a frequent proverbial expression for the infliction of extreme scarcity. One oven should suffice for the bread of families ordinarily baked in ten, and in its scarcity it should be dealt out by weight.
Lev 26:27–33. Lange: “The punishment in the fifth grade. Now Jehovah moves against them verily in fury, and the last catastrophes follow: despair even to madness; the eating of their own children (Knobel, Keil, and the Jewish history) [comp. Deut. 28:53; 2 Kings 6:28, 29; Jer. 14:12; Lam. 2:20; 4:10; Ezek. 5:10. Also Jos. Bel. Jud. v. 10, 3.—F. G.]; overthrow of their idolatrous cultus, in the sarcastic conception that the dead bodies of men fall down on the mock dead bodies of their idols, carcases upon carcases” [comp. 2 Kings 23:16; Ezek. 6:4. The high places refer to places of idolatrous worship as in use among the Canaanites and most other nations, and which must have been already sufficiently familiar to Moses and his people.—F. G.]; “overthrow of even the real historical sanctuary; repudiation of the sacrificial cultus, Lev 26:31” [comp. 2 Kings 25:9; Ps. 74:6, 7]; “desolation of the land, so that even the enemies settling therein recognize the dismal footprints of punitive justice, deportations of the people (one after another, comp. the Jewish history from Alexander to Hadrian).” Comp. Jer. 9:16–22; 18:16; 19:8; Ezek. 5. Also Deut. 4:27, 28; 28:37, 64–68.
Effects of these Visitations. Lev 26:34–39
Lev 26:34, 35, express the restorative effect accomplished by the punishment itself. The land must needs enjoy its Sabbaths while it lay desolate. In regard to the kingdom of Judah, 2 Chron. 36:21 expressly fixes the length of the Babylonish captivity with reference to the number of unobserved Sabbatical years. These constituted the Sabbaths of the land, the weekly Sabbath of one day being too brief for effect upon the soil. Lev 26:36–39 describe in fearful terms the effect of the Divine visitation upon the remnant who should escape immediate destruction. On the language of Lev 26:38 comp. Num. 13:32; Ezek. 36:13.
C. The Restoration of the Covenant. Lev 26:40–45
Lange: “The first thing is the acknowledgment and confession of guilt. But the repentance would be thorough only in case the misdeeds of the fathers were acknowledged along with their own misdeeds, see Ps. 51. The view that Jehovah has interposed, contending against them because they contended against Him, is the second thing, Lev 26:41.—(Repeated declaration in regard to the cause of the punishments.) The humiliation under the judgment of their having an uncircumcised heart, i.e., of their being heathen in a spiritual sense, is the third. Yes, they come now to bless the punishments of their misdeeds, to rejoice over them, since God has visited them in this manner (יִרְצוּ). Keil accepts the translation of the LXX. εὐδοκήσουσιν τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν, “they will take pleasure, rejoice in their misdeeds, i.e., in the consequences and results of them.” We hold with Luther to the idea of עָוֹן (see Gesen.) as sufficient punishment; the paradox itself O felix culpa could not be translated: they have pleasure in their misdeeds. But to salute the cross is a proof in action of a deeper religiousness, which here already germinates.” [See, however, Textual Note 24.—F. G.]
“Lev 26:41. In a religious sense the divine pardon is the cause, in a moral sense the consequence of the repentance of the people; the remembrance of the Covenant with Jacob and Isaac and Abraham, i.e. an ever-deepening, inward remembrance of the old love, appears to awake in Jehovah, for it does awake in the consciousness of the people. The holy land itself, which cannot be forgotten and is kindly, receives now a peculiarly affecting form. The land whose mourning is changed to feasts, and the people whose penitence is changed to feasts, accord so affectingly with Jehovah, that, so to speak, He reveals Himself again as justifying: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes. And yet for all that—their pardon is approaching: viz. the restoration, and that truly entirely according to the analogy of the restoration from the land of Egypt. That this promise is effective for the nation of Israel, but is not to be understood of the spiritual Israel as such, needs no argument. At the close again, אֲנִי יְהֹוָה.” [The promise of mercy upon Israel when they should repent and turn to the Lord, was certainly a promise to the covenant people, and was repeatedly fulfilled in their history, especially in the restoration from the captivity of Babylon. But the promise (Jer. 31:31–34) was that in the days to come God would make a new covenant with His people of a more spiritual character, and in the Ep. to the Heb (8:10–12; 10:15–18) we are told that this has been accomplished in the Christian Church springing from the bosom of the Jewish. The continued faithfulness of God to His people according to the promises of this section, must therefore be now looked for after a Christian and spiritual, rather than a Jewish and temporal fashion.—F. G.]
“And thus it is conformable to the truth of a personal God that He should attach the utmost importance to afflicting the personal life of His people, and then reanimating it again. If it is said; What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? so is it likewise said: What shall it harm a man, if he shall lose the whole world, and his soul thereby be delivered? Would a philosophy in opposition to this, which has sunk the personal life in impersonal things, be a higher wisdom?
“It is to be understood that the principles of this Divine government over Israel apply, according to their modifications, to His government over every nation.”
At the beginning of this chapter Lange says: “It cannot be concluded from Lev 26:46 that Leviticus should properly end with this section; Lev 26:46 much rather looks back to Lev 26:3, and makes it clear that the subject here is the Covenant bond between Jehovah and the people of Israel.” Lev 26:46 undoubtedly looks back immediately to 25:1, the beginning of the Divine communication of which this is the end; but as it also forms the close of Lev 26, so we cannot but regard this chapter itself as closing the Book of Leviticus proper. The analogy of this with other portions of the law has already been pointed out, and the reasons for regarding Lev 27 as an appendix will be mentioned in the treatment of that chapter.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
I. The warnings and promises of this chapter show it was foreseen that much of the Mosaic legislation was likely to be neglected by the people. Nevertheless God gave it. The same is true of much of Christian duty, both in regard to definite observances as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and still more in regard to the standard of Christian life and character. But because man does not come up to its requirements, the law is not thereby foiled of its purpose; its requirements were not lowered to the level of human weakness and sinfulness, but rather designed to set forth so much of the Divine holiness and purity as would be instrumental in raising man to a higher level. “It was not like the legislation of ordinary states, intended primarily to meet the exigencies of existing facts and to keep offenders in order. Its purpose was to help and instruct the best of the people, not merely to chastise the worst. Other legislators have taken their starting points from human facts: Moses took his from the character and purpose of God.” Clark. And in this, to the thoughtful man, is a really powerful evidence of the Divine authorship of the legislation.
II. In Lev 26:39, 40, the iniquity of their fathers is made a part of the sin for which the people were to suffer, and on the confession of which they were to be forgiven. As this is God’s revealed word, so does all history show that it is in accordance with His government of nature that in nations, as in individuals, the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children; but all this is nevertheless under the law that the sincere repentance of the children shall avert from them the punishment of their forefathers’ sins as well as of their own.
III. Illustrative of Lev 26:41 is 2 Cor. 7:10 and Heb. 12:11. The punishments of God leading to repentance, however grievous they may seem, are yet truly occasions of rejoicing in view of their higher object.
IV. In Lev 26:46 the covenant legislation of Mt. Sinai is expressly said to have been given by the hand of Moses. This fact is sufficiently patent throughout the whole story of the legislation; but its emphatic mention here has a double use: first, in showing that this book claims a contemporary origin; and second, in bringing out the fact of the necessity of a mediator between man and God. If Moses was only a human mediator, especially strengthened and authorized for this purpose; yet he points forward typically to the one true Mediator from whom alone man may know the will of God, and through whom alone be may draw near to His inapproachable majesty.
V. Although it is abundantly evident from the warnings of this chapter that man is unable so to keep God’s commandments as to claim any reward as of merit; yet it is also clear from its promises, and especially from these as contrasted with the warnings, that He does look with favor upon and will bless and reward the honest effort to do His will. These things are spoken of Israel as a nation, and are true of all nations in all time; but nations are made up of individuals, and the principles of the Divine bearing towards man are as true of the component elements as of the mass in its totality.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Lange: “The great contrast of blessing and of curse which lies in the law—which the law strengthens. The law speaks not only of curse, as many imagine; it speaks also of blessing. For it is one thing to be occupied with the works of the law and to seek righteousness through the law and by means of works (according to Gal. 3:10 sqq.), and another thing to stand under the law in the true fear of God, and to strive after its righteousness until one comes to the righteousness which is of faith (according to Rom. 7). The law of Jehovah ever stands under the protection of the Lawgiver. It is the rule of His power; it is the spirit of the world’s history; it is the voice of conscience (Rom. 2), and the disposition of the heart. The blessings of fidelity to the law: the piety of a people, the fruitfulness of the land, peace, victory, etc., etc. (26:1 sqq.). The fearful gradations of the curse. Particular blessings. Particular curses. The final promise of the restoration of Israel out of the state of the curse. Jehovah will remember His covenant for all those who reform themselves.”
“There is a marvellous and grand display of the greatness of God in the fact, that He holds out before the people, whom He has just delivered from the hands of the heathen and gathered round Himself, the prospect of being scattered again among the heathen, and that, even before the land is taken by the Israelites, He predicts its return to desolation. These words could only be spoken by One who has the future really before His mind, who sees through the whole depth of sin, and who can destroy His own work, and yet attain His end. But so much the more adorable and marvellous is the grace, which nevertheless begins its work among such sinners, and is certain of victory notwithstanding all retarding and opposing influences.” Auberlen.
God promises in Lev 26:11, 12, that He will set His tabernacle and will walk among His people—a typical promise, fulfilled in Christ who tabernacled in us (John 1:14), and through whom we become Temples of God the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 6:19), and God will “tabernacle for ever” with us (Rev. 7:15; 21:3). Wordsworth.
Origen deduces from this chapter a commentary on 2 Timothy 2:5: “If a man strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully.” Our efforts to obtain God’s blessing, our hope of avoiding His wrath, must be in the way of His commandment. We can only please Him by seeking to do His will, and He has made it known to us.
There is ever a due relation between the temporal and the spiritual, and these promises show that the rewards held out before the Israelites were of a spiritual as well as a temporal character; so it is to be remembered that along with the more spiritual rewards of the Christian religion, it has the “promise of the life that now is,” as well as of that which is to come. Calvin.
1Lev 26:1. אֱלִילִם. See Textual Note3 on 19:4.
2Lev 26:1. פֶּסֶל from פָּסַל to carve, is used of an image of any material, but is here taken, as in Isa. 44:15, 17; 45:20, of an image of wood.
3Lev 26:1. מַצֵּבָה lit. anything set up. Hence used of a memorial stone, Gen. 28:18–22; 35:14; Isa. 19:19; answering to the λίθαροι λιπαροί of the ancients. As these came to be used for idolatrous purposes the word obtained its secondary sense as in the text (Ex. 23:24; 2 Ki. 3:2, etc.). The marg. of the A. V. follows the LXX. στύλην. The Vulg. has titulum.
4Lev 26:1. מַשְׂכִּית does not elsewhere occur in connection with אֶבֶן, but its meaning by itself figure, imagery, is sufficiently well settled. The only question here is whether the phrase denotes an image of stone (A. V. so Keil), or a stone with images sculptured upon it (A. V. marg. Rosen.). The latter is probably the more correct view, but not sufficiently certain to warrant a change in the text. LXX. λίθον σκοπὸν apparently in the sense of a prophylactery, and of this the Vulg. lapidem insignem may be a translation. Targ. Onk., and Jon. and Syr. stone of adoration; Targ. Jerus. stone of error.
5Lev 26:1. The construction of עַל here has somewhat perplexed the critics. Geddes contends that as it never elsewhere precedes the object of adoration, it must here signify at, by or upon. Keil explains it “on the ground that the worshipper of a stone image rises above it (for עַל in this sense, see Gen. 18:2).” But this fact is, at the least, very doubtful; and the ordinary meaning of עַל as signifying motion towards, ἐπί, seems to be all that the connection requires.
6Lev 26:6. חַיָּה. See Textual Note 1 on 11:2.
7Lev 26:10. תּוֹצִיאוּ is exactly rendered by the A. V., but the sense intended is better conveyed by the suggested emendation of Clark.
8Lev 26:11. מִשְׁכָּנִי. See Textual Note 8 on 15:31.
9Lev 26:13. “מֹטֹת עֹל, lit. the poles of the yoke (comp. Ezek. 34:27), i.e., the poles which are laid upon the necks of beasts of burden (Jer. 27:2) as a yoke.” Keil. For עֹל the Sam. and many MSS. have the fuller form עוֹל.
10Lev 26:15. The conjunction is wanting in 6 MSS., the Sam., Vulg., and Syr.
11Lev 26:16. For בֶּהָלָה = terror the Sam. reads בֶּחָלָה = sickness as a general term including the specifications that follow. The word is rendered in the A. V. of Jer. 15:8 as here, and in Ps. 78:33; Isa. 65:23, trouble. It does not occur elsewhere. The idea is that of “mens’ hearts failing them for fear,” Luke 21:26.
12Lev 26:16. שַׁחֶפֶת = wasting away is well expressed by the consumption of the A. V. in its etymological sense, but is in danger of being misunderstood of the specific disease of that name which is rare in Palestine and Syria. The LXX., however, has ψώραν. קַדַּחַת, LXX. πυρετός, according to all authorities should be burning fever. Fevers are the most common of all diseases in Syria and the neighboring countries. These words occur only in the parallel, Deut. 28:22.
13Lev 26:16. מְדִיבֹּת נֶפֶשׁ. The literal translation is more expressive than the paraphrase of the A. V.
14Lev 26:20. For הארץ 21 MSS. and the LXX. read השדה.
15Lev 26:22. שִׁכְּלָה אֶתְכֶם. The literal rendering is sufficient.
16Lev 26:25. נֹקֶמֶת נְקַס־בְּרִית lit. “avenging the covenant vengeance.” As this cannot be expressed in English the נקַם is better left untranslated than rendered by quarrel, which it does not mean.
17Lev 26:30. הַמָּנֵיכֶם. In most other places where the word occurs (2 Chr. 14:5 (4); 34:4; Isa. 17:8; Ezek. 6:4) the marg. of the A. V. has sun-images. Such was undoubtedly the original meaning of the word; but Gesenius (Thes.) shows that the word was applied to images of Baal and Astarte as the deities of the sun and moon. The word indicates “idols of the Canaanitish nature-worship.” Keil.
18Lev 26:30. גִּלֵּלִים = something to be rolled about, a contemptuous expression for idols. The Heb. had three different words which are rendered idol in the A. V., and seven which are rendered image.
19Lev 26:31. More than 50 MSS., the Sam. and the Syr., have the sing. The plural refers to “the holy things of the worship of Jehovah, the tabernacle and temple, with their altars, and the rest of their holy furniture, as in Ps. 68:36; 74:6,” Keil; and not to the sanctuaries of false gods (Rosen and others).
20Lev 26:35. Here also it is better to keep to the literal rendering of the Heb. כָּל־יְמֵ חָשַּׁמָּה תִּשְׁבֹּת אֵת אֲשֶׁר וגק. The land should rest not merely because, but it should actually rest the time which it had not rested.
21Lev 26:36. מֹרֶךְ ἅπ. λεγ LXX. δειλία, Vulg. pavor. It “signifies that inward anguish, fear, and despair, which rend the heart and destroy the life.” Keil. Comp. Deut. 28:65.
22Lev 26:39. עָוֹן is either iniquity (as here twice and in the next verse twice), or the punishment of iniquity (as in Lev 26:41). The phrase “perish in one’s iniquity” is however sufficiently common, and there is no occasion to change the translation here. The אִתָּם = with them at the close of the verse refers to the iniquities.
23Lev 26:39. For your ־כֶם more than 80 MSS. read their ־הֶם, so also the Sam., LXX., Sym., Theod., Vulg. and Syr. as the text in Lev 26:41.
24Lev 26:41, 43. יִרְצוּ. The same word as is used in Lev 26:34, 43, the land shall enjoy her sabbaths. The literal rendering is perhaps too bold for our version; but the meaning is really this. “The land being desolate shall have the blessing of rest, and they having repented shall have the blessing of chastisement. So the LXX. and Syriac.” Clark. Comp. Isa. 40:2. נִרְצָת עֲונָתּ.
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.