The Pulpit Commentary

Leviticus 19:1-37 (Leviticus 19:1-37)

These four laws are, in their positive aspects,

In Leviticus 20:11 , Leviticus 20:14 , Leviticus 20:16 , 35, 36, obedience is inculcated to the eighth and the ninth commandments, which are the laws of honesty and of truthfulness; in Leviticus 20:12 to the third commandment, which is the law of reverence; in Leviticus 20:17 , Leviticus 20:18 , 33, 34, to the sixth commandment, which is the law of love; in Leviticus 20:20 , 29, to the seventh commandment, which is the law of purity; in Leviticus 20:9 , Leviticus 20:10 , Leviticus 20:13 , the spirit of covetousness is prohibited, as forbidden in the tenth commandment, which is the law of charity. Thus this chapter may in a way be regarded as the Old Testament counterpart of the Sermon on the Mount, inasmuch as it lays down the laws of conduct, as the latter lays down the principles of action, in as comprehensive though not in so systematic a manner as the ten commandments.

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Leviticus 19:2 (Leviticus 19:2)

Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy. The religious motive is put forward here, as in the previous chapter, as the foundation of all morality. It is God's will that we should be holy, and by being holy we. are like God, who is to be our model so far as is possible to the creature. So in the new dispensation, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" ( Matthew 5:48 ). "As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation" ( 1 Peter 1:15 ).

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Leviticus 19:1-37 (Leviticus 19:1-37)

Religion and superstition.

It is not always easy or even possible to distinguish between religion and superstition. We may fall into the latter when we are seeking to practice the former; or we may, from undue fear of the latter, neglect the former. In this chapter the Jews were taught (and we are thereby encouraged) to avoid the one, and to perfect the other in the fear of God.

I. THE SUPERSTITION WHICH WAS TO BE SHUNNED .

1 . Clearly and decisively everything that was in any way idolatrous was condemned; "turn ye not unto idols" ( Leviticus 19:4 ).

2 . All that was distinctively or closely connected with heathen worship was also forbidden: the use of enchantments, the superstitious observance of lucky or unlucky times, also superstitious cutting of the hair or of the flesh ( Leviticus 19:26-28 ); resorting to wizards, etc. (see 1 Chronicles 10:13 ). There is amongst us much adoption of practices which are idle and vain, not warranted in Scripture nor founded on reason. Such things are to be deprecated and shunned, They are

II. THE RELIGION WHICH WAS TO BE CULTIVATED AND PRACTISED . The Jews were to cherish and cultivate, even as we are,

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Leviticus 19:1-37 (Leviticus 19:1-37)

Social morality.

cf. Matthew 22:35-40 ; Romans 12:1-21 ; James, passim. From the primary principle of unworldliness, we now have to proceed to sundry details about social morality. Although these details are given indiscriminately, it is yet possible to discern certain great principles among them. And—

I. ALL SOCIAL MORALITY IS MADE TO REST ON OUR RELATION TO GOD HIMSELF . In the Decalogue we have social morality, that is, our duty to man, based upon our duty to God; the "second table" rests upon the first. It is the same here. God brooks no rival (verse 4). He sets himself as our model of holiness (verse 2). He calls man to fellowship through the peace offering (verses 5-8). His Name must be subjected to no profanation (verse 12), and the sabbaths are to be strictly kept (verse 30). In other words, we have the four commandments of the first table strewn up and down these details, and exhibiting the fountain-head of social morality in faithfulness to God.

It is significant that all the efforts to make out an "independent morality" by the elimination or ignoring of God are proving failures. He is, after all, the sine qua non of real morality as well as of salvation. It is when his Name is feared and reverenced as it ought to be that man acts aright in his various relations.

II. COMPASSION FOR THE POOR AND AFFLICTED RESULTS , OF NECESSITY , FROM A DUE REGARD FOR GOD . For God is compassionate, and so should his people be. Hence the exhortation of verses 9, 10, about leaving in harvest-time what would be a help to the poor and the stranger. This is grounded upon the great fact, "I am the Lord your God." Hence also the warning not to curse the deaf, nor to put a stumbling-block in the way of the blind, but" thou shalt fear thy God" (verse 14). This consideration for the afflicted and for the poor is a most important element in social morality. Our asylums for the deaf, the dumb, and the blind are embodiments of this great social duty. The poor-law system, if a little more Christian sympathy were engrafted upon it, is a noble tribute to a sense of national obligation towards the poor, better organizations even than these will yet be the fruit of the religious spirit. How to apply the principle that "he that will not work shall not eat," and at the same time show the due measure of compassion, is a problem demanding most careful solution.

III. MERCANTILE MORALITY IS STRICTLY ENJOINED . All stealing, lying, and dishonest dealing is denounced (verse 11). No advantage is to be taken of a neighbour or of a servant (verse 13). All arbitration is to be without respect of persons (verse 15). Weights, measures, and balances are all to be just and true (verses 35, 36). This branch of social morality requires the strictest attention from the Lord's people. It is here that continual contact goes on between them and the world. If religion, therefore, do not produce a higher type of mercantile morality than the world, it will be discredited. Nothing injures religion so much as the mercantile immoralities of its professors. Fraudulent bankrupts, dishonest tradings, overreachings,—these are what go to lessen the influence of religion among men. It is just possible that we may, in our eagerness to be always presenting the truth of the gospel to our fellow-men, have failed to enforce sufficiently the morality which must be the great evidence of our religious life. At present, in this peculiarly mercantile age, this department of morality needs most earnest attention.

IV. PURITY IS TO BE CULTIVATED IN ALL SOCIAL RELATIONS . Not only was immorality discountenanced (verse 29), and punishment and trespass offerings directed in cases where immorality had occurred (verses 20-22), but the very cultivation of the land, the rearing of cattle, the making of garments, and, in a word, all their associations were to be pervaded by the principle of purity (verses 19, 23-25). For the use made of cattle, and of seed, and of raw material, might be prejudicial to purity in idea. Thus carefully does the Lord fence round his people with precautions.

V. SUPERSTITION IS TO BE DISCOURAGED , NO enchantment was to be used, nor were they to round the corners of their heads or beards; they were to make no cuttings in their flesh for the dead, or print marks upon themselves (verses 26-28). Nor were they to have recourse to familiar spirits or wizards, to be defiled by them (verse 31). God treats his people as intelligent, rational beings; and so he discourages all resort to unmeaning and pretended inspirations.

VI. IT IS CLEARLY SHOWS THAT LOVE IS THE ESSENCE OF ALL SOCIAL MORALITY . Vengeance is discouraged (verse 18)—it is the outcome of hatred, which is unlawful when borne towards a brother (verse 17). The form of blood-feud (verse 16), which existed and exists among the Oriental and wandering tribes, is denounced. In fact, the Law is brought to this simple issue," Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (verse 18). It is upon this that our blessed Lord seizes as the essence of the Divine Law ( Matthew 22:35-40 ). Paul also brings this out clearly and emphatically ( Romans 13:9 , Romans 13:10 ). And this suggests—

1. That there is a legitimate self-love. There is a "better self" which it is our duty to love and cherish, just as there is a "worse self" which it is our duty to detest and mortify. When we consider this "better self," we do not suffer sin upon it, we try to keep it pure and subject unto Christ. We try to be faithful with ourselves. We foster what is good and holy within us. All this is most distinct from selfishness. The selfish man is his own worst enemy; the man who cultivates proper self-love is his own best friend.

2. This self-love is to measure our love to our neighbour. Now, our Lord brought out, by the parable of the "Good Samaritan," who is our neighbour. Every one to whom our heart leads us to be neighbourly. Neighbourhood is a matter of the heart. We must cultivate it. We shall have no difficulty in discerning the objects of our love. Let us then love them as we do ourselves. The golden rule is the essence of the Divine Law, "Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you."

It is evident from this that Judaism was not intended to be an exclusive and selfish system, so far as outsiders were concerned, Men did not work it out properly, and this was why it became so narrow and selfish.—R.M.E.

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Leviticus 19:1-8 (Leviticus 19:1-8)

Purity in worship.

The laws set out in this chapter were before communicated to Aaron and his sons; now they are given to the people ( Leviticus 19:1 , Leviticus 19:2 ). It is the privilege and duty of God's people to acquaint themselves with his will. They should learn the Law from the lips of Moses. They should learn the gospel from the lips of Jesus. It is a maxim of antichrist that" Ignorance is the mother of devotion" The mother of devotion, viz. to superstition, it is (see 1 John 2:20 , 1 John 2:21 ).

I. THE PEOPLE OF THE HOLY GOD MUST BE HOLY . ( Leviticus 19:2 .)

1 . They must be separate from sinners.

2 . They must be separated to God.

(a) We have our work assigned by his appointment.

(b) He pays us our wages. In this life. In that to come.

(a) We have assurance of our adoption ( Romans 8:16 ; Galatians 4:6 ).

(b) Consequently also concerning our heirship ( Romans 8:17 ; Galatians 4:7 ).

(c) We have also blissful fellowship ( John 17:21 ; 1 Corinthians 1:9 ; 1 John 1:3 , 1 John 1:7 ).

3 . Grace makes us to differ.

II. THEIR HOLINESS WILL BE EXPRESSED IN PURE WORSHIP .

1 . They keep the sabbaths of the Lord.

(a) In their paternity.

(b) In the providence they exercise during the helplessness and dependence of infancy and youth.

(c) In their authority.

This is from God, and it should be religiously maintained. Those who are allowed to break God's sabbaths will disobey their parents.

2 . They keep themselves from idols.

3 . They serve God with reverence.

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Leviticus 19:1-2 (Leviticus 19:1-2)

Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy. Holiness.

I. THE UNIVERSAL REQUIREMENT . "Speak unto all the congregation," etc.

1 . No exception. "All have sinned."

2 . The nature of man requires him to be holy. The relation between man and God. The laws of God not mere arbitrary decrees, but the expression, in positive relation to the freedom of man, of the Eternal Reality of the universe.

3 . The universality of revelation is the universality of responsibility. "Their line is gone out in all the earth." "Having not the Law, they are a law unto themselves." What was said. to the Jews was said. to the world. The blessedness of humanity is the realization of the Divine image. A holy God, a holy universe.

II. THE UNIVERSAL MOTIVE . "For I am holy."

1 . Dependence upon God the root of religion, not as mere blind dependence, but that of the children on the Father.

2 . Gratitude the constant appeal of the heart. The Lord your God, who has done so much for you, requires your holiness.

3 . The Divine command is related to and blessed with the Divine provision of grace in a specific system of holiness, in which the people of God are held up. Be holy, for I have prepared for your holiness. We are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" ( Ephesians 2:10 ). Work out salvation, for God worketh in you.

III. THE MEDIATING MINISTRY . "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation."

1 . Here is the gracious method by which our holiness is made possible. The holy God speaks. The holy men of God speak as they are moved by the Holy Ghost. The holy Word speaks, everywhere and always. The holy life is maintained among the holy people.

2 . The holiness of humanity will be achieved as a fact through a holy ministry of the people of God to the world at large; of the consecrated few to the many. The hope of a revived Church, in a revived ministry. The spiritual leaders should feel their responsibility, both in teaching and in example.

3 . Personal holiness must underlie all other. The purification of temples and services is not the sanctification God requires. He says not, "Be ye punctilious in worship and profuse in ritual;" but "Be ye personally holy, let your holiness be a transcript of mine, which is the holiness of will, of work, of thought, of character.—R.

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