Leviticus 26:1
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.
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(1) Ye shall make you no idols.—The first two verses of this chapter are still a part of the previous section in the Hebrew original. By separating them from their proper position, and making them begin a new chapter, both the logical sequence and the import of these two verses are greatly obscured. As Lev 26:47-55 legislated for cases where Israelites are driven by extreme poverty to sell themselves to a heathen, and when they may be compelled to continue in this service to the year of jubile, and thus be obliged to witness idolatrous practices, the Lawgiver solemnly repeats the two fundamental precepts of Judaism, which they might be in danger of neglecting, viz., to abstain from idol-worship and to keep the Sabbath, which are two essential commandments of the Decalogue. The same two commandments, but in reverse order, are also joined together in Leviticus 19:3-4.

Idols.—For this expression see Leviticus 19:4.

Nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image.—Better, nor shall ye rear you up a graven image or pillar. Graven image is not only a plastic image of a heathen deity, but a visible or sensuous representation of the God of Israel (Exodus 20:19-20; Deuteronomy 4:15-16).

A standing image.—This expression, which only occurs once more in the text of the Authorised Version (Micah 5:13), and four times in the Margin (1Kings 14:23; Jeremiah 43:13; Hosea 3:4; Hosea 10:1), is the rendering of a Hebrew word (matzebah), which is usually and more correctly translated “pillar” or “statue” (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 28:22; Genesis 31:13, &c.). This was a plain and rude stone without any image engraved on it, and was not unfrequently erected to God himself. but in after-time more especially as a memorial to false deities. (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 28:22; Genesis 31:13; Genesis 35:14, with Exodus 23:24; Exodus 34:13, &c.)

Neither shall ye set up any image of stone.—The authorities during the second Temple interpreted the words here rendered “images of stone” to denote beholding, or worshipping stonesi.e., stones set in the ground in places of worship upon which the worshippers prostrated themselves to perform their devotions. The stone was therefore a kind of signal, calling the attention of the worshipper to itself, so that he may fall down upon it. With such stones, these authorities assure us, the Temple was paved, since they were perfectly lawful in the sanctuary, but must not be used in worship out of the Temple, or rather, out of the land, as these authorities understood the words “in your land” here to denote. Hence the Chaldee Version paraphrases it, “and a painted stone ye shall not place in your land to prostrate yourselves upon it, but a pavement adorned with figures and pictures ye may put in the floor of your sanctuary, but not to bow down upon it,” i.e., in an idolatrous manner. Hence, too, the ancient canon, “in your own land” (i.e., in all other lands) “ye must not prostrate yourselves upon stones, but ye may prostrate yourselves upon the stones in the sanctuary.”

Leviticus 26:1-2. The substance of their religious laws are here recapitulated in two chief articles, on which all the rest very much depended; and God, by Moses, inculcates upon them, 1st, A careful abhorrence of all idolatrous worship, especially that of image-worship of every kind, which had often been forbidden before; and, 2d, An exact celebration of the sabbath, and all other religious festivals; and a punctual regard to God’s worship, according to the stated ordinances to be observed in the tabernacle service; and all this as a means to preserve them from the corruptions and superstitions of the rest of the world.

Ye shall make no idols — Hebrew, אלילם elilim, things of naught; the same word which occurs Leviticus 19:4. Nor graven image — פסל, phesel; which signifies any image hewn out of wood or stone. These images, being consecrated by certain ceremonies, were conceived to be shrines or mansions of some deity, and upon that account were worshipped by the Gentiles. A standing image — These were a kind of rude stones or pillars which the heathen erected to their gods, and to which they paid divine honours. Any image of stone — אבן משׁכית, Eben mashchith; stone of figure, device, or portraiture; or figured stone, or stone of picture, as we read in the margin; like those in use among the Egyptians, which were full of hieroglyphics, expressing some fancied perfections of their gods. Some, without any authority from the original, would render the words, a stone set up. The simply setting up pillars, or even images, was not prohibited; but only the setting them up to worship them.

Reverence my sanctuary — By purging and preserving it from all uncleanness, by approaching to it, and managing all the services of it with reverence, and in such manner only as God hath appointed.

26:1-13 This chapter contains a general enforcement of all the laws given by Moses; by promises of reward in case of obedience, on the one hand; and threatenings of punishment for disobedience, on the other. While Israel maintained a national regard to God's worship, sabbaths, and sanctuary, and did not turn aside to idolatry, the Lord engaged to continue to them temporal mercies and religious advantages. These great and precious promises, though they relate chiefly to the life which now is, were typical of the spiritual blessings made sure by the covenant of grace to all believers, through Christ. 1. Plenty and abundance of the fruits of the earth. Every good and perfect gift must be expected from above, from the Father of lights. 2. Peace under the Divine protection. Those dwell in safety, that dwell in God. 3. Victory and success in their wars. It is all one with the Lord to save by many or by few. 4. The increase of their people. The gospel church shall be fruitful. 5. The favour of God, which is the fountain of all Good. 6. Tokens of his presence in and by his ordinances. The way to have God's ordinances fixed among us, is to cleave closely to them. 7. The grace of the covenant. All covenant blessings are summed up in the covenant relation, I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and they are all grounded upon their redemption. Having purchased them, God would own them, and never cast them off till they cast him off.Idols - literally, "things of nought." Hebrew אלילים 'ĕlı̂ylı̂m. There appears to have been a play on the similarity in sound of this word to אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym (God). Compare 1 Corinthians 8:4.

Standing image - Either an upright statue, or a pillar, such as an obelisk or a Celtic menhir, set up for an idolatrous purpose (compare Exodus 34:13 note). The public worship of Yahweh required, first, the exclusion of all visible symbols of deity as well as of all idolatrous objects, and next Leviticus 26:2, the keeping holy the times and the place appointed by the Law for His formal service. The word "sabbaths" must here include the whole of the set times. See Leviticus 23:3 note.


Le 26:1, 2. Of Idolatry.

1. Ye shall make you no idols—Idolatry had been previously forbidden (Ex 20:4, 5), but the law was repeated here with reference to some particular forms of it that were very prevalent among the neighboring nations.

a standing image—that is, "upright pillar."

image of stone—that is, an obelisk, inscribed with hieroglyphical and superstitious characters; the former denoting the common and smaller pillars of the Syrians or Canaanites; the latter, pointing to the large and elaborate obelisks which the Egyptians worshipped as guardian divinities, or used as stones of adoration to stimulate religious worship. The Israelites were enjoined to beware of them.God commands them to shun idolatry, Leviticus 26:1, keep his sabbaths, and reverence his sanctuary, Leviticus 26:2, and walk in his statutes, Leviticus 26:3; promising plenty, peace, victory, fruitfulness, his tabernacle and presence, Leviticus 26:4-13. Dreadful threatenings against the despisers, haters, and breakers of his commands; he will give them over to diseases, their enemies, drought, pestilence, sword, ramble; they who remain shall fall one upon another, and pine away in their sins, Leviticus 26:14-39. But if they confess their sins, and are humbled under God’s judgments, God will remember his covenant, and show them favour in their enemies’ land, Leviticus 26:40-45. These statutes the Lord gave to Israel in Mount Sinai by Moses, Leviticus 26:46.

A standing image, or, pillar, to wit, to worship it, or bow down to it, as it follows. Otherwise this was not simply prohibited, being practised by holy men both before and after this law. Compare Exodus 23:24 Deu 16:22. So Exodus 20:4. They are forbidden to make images, not simply or for any use, but for worship.

Ye shall have no idols, or graven image,.... Some of the Jewish writers, as Jarchi and Aben Ezra, think this law against idolatry is mentioned on account of the Israelite sold to a stranger, spoken of in the latter part of the preceding chapter, lest he should be drawn into idolatry; See Gill on Leviticus 25:48; but this is rather mentioned as being a principal law, respecting the honour and glory of God, and the foundation of all religion and godliness, and the breach of it a capital crime, and which led on to other sins, and exposed to the displeasure and resentment of God, and brought on all the calamities after mentioned in this chapter. "Idols" here signify "things of nought", as an idol is nothing in the world, 1 Corinthians 8:4; and a "graven image", any likeness of man or beast cut out of wood, or stone; and may include any molten image of gold, silver, or brass, and then engraven with a tool, as the golden calf was, Exodus 32:4,

neither rear you up a standing image; or pillar (g); an heap of rude stones, set up pillar, not bearing the likeness of any creature; otherwise graven and molten images were standing ones, but these were statues without any figure; such as the Arabians used to worship; the god Mars, worshipped in Arabia Petraea, was no other than a black stone four square, unformed, four feet high, and two broad, and was placed on a basis of gold (h):

neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto; any "figured stone", as the Targum and Aben Ezra interpret it, which had figures and representations of creatures cut in it, in order to bow down unto and worship: the word has the signification of covering, as they cover a floor with a pavement of stones:

for I am the Lord your God; who is the alone object of religious worship and adoration.

(g) Sept. "titulos", V. L. "titulum", Samar. Ar. "pillar", Ainsworth. (h) "Suidas in voce" Vid. Arnob. adv. Gentes, l. 6. p. 232.

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.
1. a pillar] maẓẓçbâh, an upright stone, frequently mentioned in connexion with local worship. See for illustrations of those discovered at Gezer, Driver’s Schweich Lectures, p. 63.

any figured stone] i.e. with some idolatrous representation carved on it.

1, 2. These two vv. contain only repetitions of the precepts already given (Leviticus 19:3-4; Leviticus 19:30); in fact, the direction to observe the sabbath appears here for the third time. The redactor of H attached great importance to these vv., and accordingly closed his legislation with them. Their position, however, at the commencement of this ch. is unsuitable and may be owing to accident. Still their importance, as corresponding to the first four Commandments, may account for their insertion.

Verse 1. - 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. The word idols (elilim) means the "nothings" which the heathen substituted for the Lord God. The graven image (here meaning a carved wooden image), the standing image (meaning a sacred pillar), and the image of stone (that is, a sculptured stone idol), are the three forms of images under which adoration was paid, whether to the true God or to a false doily. The expression, to bow down unto (or towards) it, forbids worshipping before an image as well as worshipping an image. Leviticus 26:1Leviticus 26:1 and Leviticus 26:2 form the introduction; and the essence of the whole law, the observance of which will bring a rich blessing, and the transgression of it severe judgments, is summed up in two leading commandments, and placed at the head of the blessing and curse which were to be proclaimed. Ye shall not make to you elilim, nugatory gods, and set up carved images and standing images for worship, but worship Jehovah your God with the observance of His Sabbaths, and fear before His sanctuary. The prohibition of elilim, according to Leviticus 19:4, calls to mind the fundamental law of the decalogue (Exodus 20:3-4, cf. Leviticus 21:23; Exodus 23:24-25). To pesel (cf. Exodus 20:4) and mazzebah (cf. Exodus 23:24), which were not to be set up, there is added the command not to put משׂכּית אבן, "figure-stones," in the land, to worship over (by) them. The "figure-stone" is a stone formed into a figure, and idol of stone, not merely a stone with an inscription or with hieroglyphical figures; it is synonymous with משׂכּית in Numbers 33:52, and consequently we are to understand by pesel the wooden idol as in Isaiah 44:15, etc. The construction of השׁתּחוה with על may be explained on the ground that the worshipper of a stone image placed upon the ground rises above it (for על in this sense, see Genesis 18:2). - In Leviticus 26:3 the true way to serve God is urged upon the Israelites once more, in words copied verbally from Leviticus 19:30.
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