You are sons of the LORD your God; do not cut yourselves or shave your forehead on behalf of the dead,
I. AS DISHONORING TO THE CREATOR. God, the Creator of the body, cannot take delight in seeing it abused. This proposition seems self-evident. The idea above referred to, and which lies at the root of so many false religions, viz. that it is pleasing to the Deity to see his creatures torturing and defacing themselves, is a libel on the Divine character. The body is rather to be reverenced as one of the noblest of God's works. It is to be studiously preserved and cared for. Religion, with reason, enjoins, "Do thyself no harm" (Acts 16:28).
II. AS INCONSISTENT WITH SELF-RESPECT. There is a propriety and decorum becoming in beings who possess reason. Wild and excessive grief, indicating the absence of power of self-control, lowers us beneath the dignity of rational existences. Neglect of the person, and, still more, wanton self-injury, in grief, betokens a like absence of proper self-respect. Least of all is such conduct excusable in those who claim the dignity of being God's children. They, of all others, ought to set an example of propriety and seemliness in behavior. They are "an holy people," and must study to deport themselves worthily of their high calling. The priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:28) behaved like maniacs. David and Job behaved like religious men (2 Samuel 12:20; Job 1:20, 21).
III. AS IMPLYING THE ABSENCE OF RELIGIOUS CONSOLATIONS. The early Jews were not without these (Hebrews 11:13, 14). We in the Christian age have them still more abundantly. Therefore must we not sorrow "as those which have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). - J.O.
Ye are the children of the Lord your God.
I. HOW GOD HAD DIGNIFIED THEM, AS A PECULIAR PEOPLE, WITH THREE DISTINGUISHABLE PRIVILEGES, which were their honour, and figures of those spiritual blessings in heavenly things with which God has in Christ blessed us.
1. Here is election. "The Lord hath chosen thee" (ver. 2); not for their own merits, or for any good works foreseen, but because He would magnify the riches of His power and grace among them. And thus were believers chosen (Ephesians 1:4).
2. Here is adoption. "Ye are the children of the Lord your God" (ver. 1); formed by Him into a people, owned by Him as His people, nay, His family, a people near unto Him, nearer than any other. Every "Israelite indeed" is a child of God; partaker of His nature and favour, His love and blessing.
3. Here is sanctification. "Thou art an holy people" (ver. 2); separated and set apart for God, devoted to His service, designed for His praise, governed by a holy law, graced by a holy tabernacle and the holy ordinances relating to it.
II. HOW THEY OUGHT TO DISTINGUISH THEMSELVES BY A SOBER SINGULARITY FROM ALL THE NATIONS THAT WERE ABOUT THEM.
1. In their mourning. "Ye shall not cut yourselves" (ver. 1).(1) They are forbidden to deform or hurt their own bodies upon any account. This is like a parent's charge to his children that are foolish, careless, and wilful. The true meaning of such commandments is, do yourselves no harm; and this is also the design of those providences which most cross us, to remove from us those things by which we are in danger of doing ourselves injury. The body is for the Lord, and is to be used accordingly.(2) They are forbidden to disturb and afflict their own minds with inordinate grief for the loss of near and dear relations. If your father die, "ye shall not cut yourselves," you shall not sorrow more than is meet, for you are not fatherless, you have a Father who is great, living and permanent, even the holy, blessed God, whose children ye are.
2. In their meat. Their observance of this law would make them to be taken notice of in all mixed companies as a separate people, and preserve them from mingling themselves with their idolatrous neighbours.(1) It is plain, in the law itself, that these precepts belonged only to the Jews, and were not moral nor of perpetual use, because not of perpetual obligation (ver. 21).(2) It is plain, in the Gospel, that they are now antiquated and repealed (1 Timothy 4:4).
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
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