LEVITICUS CHAPTER 19.
A Summary of Various Laws.
CHIEFLY OF THE FIRST TABLE. - V.1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v.2. Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel and say unto them, ye shall be holy; for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. They were not only to be pure and sinless, but their entire life was to present a definite and unvarying contrast to sin and transgression in any form. That is the fundamental thought of the chapter. V.3. Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father. The mother is here mentioned first, as the children are chiefly dependent upon her and associated with her, especially in the first years of their lives. Reverence to the mother of the home is essential for the proper social relationship, and the importance of this relation is seen from the fact that the family is the unit of civilization. And keep My Sabbaths, all the festival days sacred to the Lord. I am the Lord, your God. This observance governed the entire social organization of the Jews. V.4. Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods. I am the Lord, your God. “If the heart of man becomes benumbed to the use of images of false gods of any kind, he sinks down to the level of the idols which are his ideals, and becomes as dumb and unspiritual as they are.” (Lange.) It is significant that the word here used for idols really means “nothingnesses,” thus describing the idols in their true character. Cp. Ps. 96, 5; 115, 8; 135, 18; Is. 40, 18; 44, 10. V.5. And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace-offerings unto the Lord, ye shall offer it at your own will. Unless the offerings were made in this spirit, with a right good will, from the heart, they would have no value in the sight of God. V.6. It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow, for that was the rule with regard to voluntary sacrifices, chap. 7, 16; and if aught remain until the third day, it shall be burned in the fire. V.7. And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is abominable; it shall not be accepted, the object of the sacrifice was not attained, its purpose was made void by the deliberate disregard of God’s rule. V.8. Therefore every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the hallowed thing of the Lord, in eating of flesh which had been devoted to the Lord as a gift after it had become unclean; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. This threat involved excommunication on the part of the congregation and the punishment of death on the part of God, who is a holy, jealous God.
CHIEFLY OF THE SECOND TABLE. - V.9. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, to the very edge of the property line, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest, single stalks and ears that dropped when the sheaves were bound. V.10. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard after the first picking, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard, those that had fallen to the ground during the picking; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger. I am the Lord, your God. Love toward one’s neighbor was emphasized again and again as a fundamental requirement of the Law. V.11. Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, hypocritically, neither lie one to another, said of deceit and perfidiousness. Note that falsehood and fraud are enumerated with theft, for the three go together. V.12. And ye shall not swear by My name falsely; true oaths are indeed permitted, those in the interest of one’s neighbor, but not false oaths; neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God, desecrate it by taking it in vain. I am the Lord. V.13. Thou shalt not defraud, oppress, thy neighbor, neither rob him, in any manner whatever deprive him of something which is due him; the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning. The day-laborer was to receive his pay at the end of each day, Deut. 24. 14. 15. V.14. Thou shalt not curse the deaf, the poor man not being able to hear the maledictions and to defend himself, nor put a stumbling-block before the blind, to cause him to fall, a decidedly ill-conceived form of practical joke, but shalt fear thy God, who both hears and sees, and will avenge the wrong in due time. I am the Lord. V.15. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, not let personal interests influence you to disregard the demands of justice. Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, take his part from false sympathy, nor honor the person of the mighty, with the aim of gaining his favor; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor. V.16. Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor, as the false witness often does. I am the Lord. This involves, of course, “casting aside all inhumane conduct, all ill will, as manifested in malicious belittling, blackening, and slandering, and especially in attempts against the life of a neighbor, whether in court or in private life.” (Lange.) V.17. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart, not bear him any grudge. Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, frankly and openly tell him his fault in the event of a transgression, as the Lord also bids us do, Matt. 18, 15-17, and not suffer sin upon him, that is, not bear a sin on his account by remaining silent, when a remonstrance in time might save one’s neighbor from severe transgressions. So even the Israelites, according to this precept, would become partakers of other men’s sins. V.18. Thou shalt not avenge, seek and take revenge for a wrong which has been inflicted, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, Rom. 12, 19, after a wrong has been committed, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. I am the Lord. Cp. Matt. 19, 19; 22, 39. Many of these cases, if not all, are applications of the law of love, and therefore require to be observed by Christians to this day.
VARIOUS STATUTES. - V.19. Ye shall keep My statutes, those special precepts which applied particularly to the conditions under which the Jews lived. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind, for the production of hybrids. Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed, for the same reason; neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee. V.20. And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman that is a bondmaid, a slave, betrothed to an husband, probably after the manner spoken of Ex. 21, 7-11, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her, these being the two ways in which a slave could gain his liberty; she shall be scourged, or rather, there shall be a punishment of both guilty persons; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free and could not legally contract marriage. V.21. And he, the guilty man, shall bring his trespass-offering unto the Lord, unto the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, even a ram for a trespass-offering. V.22. And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass-offering before the Lord for his sin which he hath done, in the manner prescribed by God, chap. 7, 1-7; and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him. V.23. And when ye shall come in to the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, fruit-trees and nut-trees, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised, and therefore not to be used; three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you; it shall not be eaten of. V.24. But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord withal, hallowed to Jehovah, and fit to be used as an offering of first-fruits. V.25. And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof through the blessing of the Lord. I am the Lord, your God. This manner of treating the trees incidentally increased the yield of the orchard. V.26. Ye shall not eat anything with the blood, flesh from which the blood had not thoroughly drained, chap. 17. 10; neither shall ye use enchantment, any form of soothsaying, nor observe times, another form of witchcraft, that of using the evil eye. V.27. Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, cut or shave the hair in a circle from one temple to the other, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard, crop or trim the ends. This seems to have reference to a custom followed by some heathen nations in honor of certain idols. V.28. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, such tattooing and such incisions as the Jews must have seen done among the Egyptians, nor print any marks upon you, in the form of pictures, letters, or figures. I am the Lord. V.29. Do not prostitute thy daughter, induce her to permit her body to he used for immoral purposes, to cause her to be a whore, a sin which profanes the body in the most specific and emphatic sense, lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness, full of abominable deeds. The reference is probably to religious immorality, as it was joined with many idolatrous worships and is to this day, in which women voluntarily abandoned their chastity as priestesses of the idol. V.30. Ye shall keep My Sabbaths, all the prescribed festivals, and reverence My Sanctuary. I am the Lord. The entire social and domestic life of the Israelites was to be pervaded by the fear of God and characterized by chasteness and propriety. V.31. Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards to be defiled by them; literally: “Do not turn to the spirits of the dead, and after the spirits of soothsaying do not follow.” I am the Lord, your God. All intercourse with conjurors of the dead and with wizards was equivalent to desecration of the holy relation with God, “The chief means used by both these classes of persons was the consulting with the spirits of the departed. While this furnishes an incidental testimony all along to the belief of the Israelites in the life beyond the grave, it is self-evident that all such attempts to secure knowledge which God has not put in the power of living man to acquire are a resistance to His will, and a chafing against the barriers He has imposed. It is remarkable that such attempts should have been persisted in through all ages and in all lands.” (Gardiner.) 6) V.32. Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God. I am the Lord. The respect for old age, coming under the Fourth Commandment, is here associated with the fear of God, who demands this showing of respect. V.33. And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex, that is, oppress, him, make him feel that he is an outcast. V.34. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, be treated with all kind regard, just as though he were an inhabitant of the land, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt, and the remembrance of the oppression suffered there was to have a wholesome influence in teaching them mercy, I am the Lord, your God. V.35. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in any matter that is to be decided in court, in mete-yard, in measurements of length, in weight, or in measure, both dry and liquid measure being included. V.36. Just balances, for measures of weight, just weights, stones used as standards of weight, a just ephah, as a standard for dry measure, and a just hin, as the standard for liquid measure, shall ye have. I am the Lord, your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. It is clear that equity in the affairs of daily life is here made to rest upon the foundation of duty toward God. V.37. Therefore shall ye observe all My statutes and all My judgments, the precepts flowing out of the natural law inscribed in the hearts of all men as well as those given to the Jews in particular, and do them. I am the Lord, Love is still the fulfillment of the Law, the advantage which the Christians have consisting chiefly in this, that its application in the individual cases is left to the judgment of the believer, as a spur to his ingenuity.