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Leviticus 18 commentary

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LEVITICUS 18 COMMENTARY
EDITED BY GLENN PEASE
Unlawful Sexual Relations
1 The Lord said to Moses,
GILL, "And the Lord spak...
to them to keep God's judgments, statutes, and ordinances, Lev_18:4, Lev_18:5. To this
charge, and many similar ones, Davi...
restricts Himself to the subject-matter, as it is called; and thus, by the statutes of the
Gentiles, He means those corrup...
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Leviticus 18 commentary

  1. 1. LEVITICUS 18 COMMENTARY EDITED BY GLENN PEASE Unlawful Sexual Relations 1 The Lord said to Moses, GILL, "And the Lord spake unto Moses,.... He continued speaking to him, after he had delivered to him the laws respecting the day of atonement, and the bringing of the sacrifices to the door of the tabernacle, and particularly concerning the Israelites not worshipping devils, as they had done in Egypt: the Lord proceeds to deliver out others, the more effectually to guard against both the immoral and idolatrous practice, of the Egyptians and Canaanites: saying, as follows. HENRY 1-5, "After divers ceremonial institutions, God here returns to the enforcement of moral precepts. The former are still of use to us as types, the latter still binding as laws. We have here, 1. The sacred authority by which these laws are enacted: I am the Lord your God (Lev_18:1, Lev_18:4, Lev_18:30), and I am the Lord, Lev_18:5, Lev_18:6, Lev_18:21. “The Lord, who has a right to rule all; your God, who has a peculiar right to rule you.” Jehovah is the fountain of being, and therefore the fountain of power, whose we are, whom we are bound to serve, and who is able to punish all disobedience. “Your God to whom you have consented, in whom you are happy, to whom you lie under the highest obligations imaginable, and to whom you are accountable.” 2. A strict caution to take heed of retaining the relics of the idolatries of Egypt, where they had dwelt, and of receiving the infection of the idolatries of Canaan, whither they were now going, Lev_18:3. Now that God was by Moses teaching them his ordinances there was aliquid dediscendum - something to be unlearned, which they had sucked in with their milk in Egypt, a country noted for idolatry: You shall not do after the doings of the land of Egypt. It would be the greatest absurdity in itself to retain such an affection for their house of bondage as to be governed in their devotions by the usages of it, and the greatest ingratitude to God, who had so wonderfully and graciously delivered them. Nay, as if governed by a spirit of contradiction, they would be in danger, even after they had received these ordinances of God, of admitting the wicked usages of the Canaanites and of inheriting their vices with their land. Of this danger they are here warned, You shall not walk in their ordinances. Such a tyrant is custom that their practices are called ordinances, and they became rivals even with God's ordinances, and God's professing people were in danger of receiving law from them. 3. A solemn charge 1
  2. 2. to them to keep God's judgments, statutes, and ordinances, Lev_18:4, Lev_18:5. To this charge, and many similar ones, David seems to refer in the many prayers and professions he makes relating to God's laws in the 119th Psalm. Observe here, (1.) The great rule of our obedience - God's statutes and judgments. These we must keep to walk therein. We must keep them in our books, and keep them in our hands, that we may practise them in our hearts and lives. Remember God's commandments to do them, Psa_103:18. We must keep in them as our way to travel in, keep to them as our rule to work by, keep them as our treasure, as the apple of our eye, with the utmost care and value. (2.) The great advantage of our obedience: Which if a man do, he shall live in them, that is, “he shall be happy here and hereafter.” We have reason to thank God, [1.] That this is still in force as a promise, with a very favourable construction of the condition. If we keep God's commandments in sincerity, though we come short of sinless perfection, we shall find that the way of duty is the way of comfort, and will be the way to happiness. Godliness has the promise of life, 1Ti_4:8. Wisdom has said, Keep my commandments and live: and if through the Spirit we mortify the deeds of the body (which are to us as the usages of Egypt were to Israel) we shall live. [2.] That it is not so in force in the nature of a covenant as that the least transgression shall for ever exclude us from this life. The apostle quotes this twice as opposite to the faith which the gospel reveals. It is the description of the righteousness which is by the law, the man that doeth them shall live en autois - in them (Rom_10:5), and is urged to prove that the law is not of faith, Gal_3:12. The alteration which the gospel has made is in the last word: still the man that does them shall live, but not live in them; for the law could not give life, because we could not perfectly keep it; it was weak through the flesh, not in itself; but now the man that does them shall live by the faith of the Son of God. He shall owe his life to the grace of Christ, and not to the merit of his own works; see Gal_3:21, Gal_ 3:22. The just shall live, but they shall live by faith, by virtue of their union with Christ, who is their life. K&D, "Holiness of the Marriage Relation. - The prohibition of incest and similar sensual abominations is introduced with a general warning as to the licentious customs of the Egyptians and Canaanites, and an exhortation to walk in the judgments and ordinances of Jehovah (Lev_18:2-5), and is brought to a close with a threatening allusion to the consequences of all such defilements (Lev_18:24-30). Lev_18:1-4 By the words, “I am Jehovah your God,” which are placed at the head and repeated at the close (Lev_18:30), the observance of the command is enforced upon the people as a covenant obligation, and urged upon them most strongly by the promise, that through the observance of the ordinances and judgments of Jehovah they should live (Lev_18:5). CALVIN, "1.And the Lord spoke unto Moses. I have not introduced this declaration amongst other similar ones, which had for their object the preparation of their minds for the reverent reception of the Law, because, whatever conformity there may be in the words themselves, in their substance there is a great difference; for they were general, whereas this is specially confined to a single point. For it was not God’s intention here merely to exhort the people to the study of the Law, but the address respecting the keeping of His statutes is directed to the present cause, since He does not refer indifferently to all the statutes of Himself and of the Gentiles, but 2
  3. 3. restricts Himself to the subject-matter, as it is called; and thus, by the statutes of the Gentiles, He means those corruptions whereby they had perverted His pure institution as to holy matrimony. First, however, tie forbids them from following the customs of the Egyptians, and then includes all the Canaanitish nations. For, since all the Orientals are libidinous, they never had any scruple in polluting themselves by incestuous marriages; whilst it is abundantly proved by history, how great were the excesses of the Egyptians (86) in this respect. A brother had no abhorrence against marrying his uterine sister, nor a paternal or maternal uncle his niece; in a word, they were so dead to. shame that they were carried away by their lusts to trample upon all the laws of nature. This is the reason why God here enumerates the kinds of incest of which the mention would else have been superfluous. COFFMAN, "Verse 1 There are four divisions in this chapter: (1) a warning for Israel not to fall into the customs of the Egyptians and the Canaanites (Leviticus 18:1-5); (2) marriages between persons of close kinship forbidden (Leviticus 18:6-18); (3) the prohibition of sexual deviations like those of the Canaanites (Leviticus 18:19-23); (4) and God's warning of the consequences of failure to observe these rules (Leviticus 18:24-30). Significantly, this chapter has a pertinence to our own times that is quite different from many of the previous chapters which dealt with the forms, ceremonies, and sacrifices to remove ceremonial defilement. Most of this chapter is just as binding upon our own generation as it was upon the first generation that received it, because Jesus Christ and the apostles incorporated nearly all of it into the New Covenant. Incest (1 Corinthians 5:1), adultery (Romans 13:9), and homosexuality (Romans 1:27; 1 Corinthians 6:9) are just as sinful today as they were when Leviticus was written. In fact, the law of Jesus Christ regarding adultery is even more strict than the regulations of this chapter (Matthew 5:27,28; 19:3-12). Paul even went so far as to say that homosexuality, not merely the practice of it, but the advocacy of it as a "life-style," is "worthy of death" (Romans 1:32). It is not surprising that, along with the ties of consanguinity as a basis for forbidding marriages between those of close kinship, there appears also in this chapter the inclusion of the ties of propinquity (nearness in time, place or by marriage), thus forbidding marriage to certain in-laws. Surely, this is one of the most interesting chapters in Leviticus, and many of its teachings are still incorporated into the laws of nations all over the world. 3
  4. 4. There are a number of characteristics of this chapter that identify it with "the covenant-treaty form"[1] similar to that found in Exodus 20 and parallel passages in Deuteronomy. It begins and ends with, "I am Jehovah your God" (Leviticus 18:2,30). It has: (1) a preamble (Leviticus 18:2); (2) a glance at past history (Leviticus 18:3); (3) the basic condition, "Do my laws" (Leviticus 18:4); (4) the promised blessing, "enjoy life" (Leviticus 18:5); (5) the spelling out of details (Leviticus 18:16-23); and (6) the invocation of curses (Leviticus 18:24-30). The significance of this is that it identifies the passage with the times of the Hittite treaties "of the second millennium B.C.,"[2] thus linking the Book of Leviticus and the whole Pentateuch with the times of Moses (due to the manifest unity of this chapter with the entire Pentateuch). The cumulative weight of such evidence as this, which we have frequently noted in this series, is enormous and affords strong presumptive proof, not merely of the antiquity of the Pentateuch, but also of its Mosaic authorship as well! "And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am Jehovah your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their statutes. Mine ordinances shah ye do, and my statutes shall ye keep, to walk therein: I am Jehovah your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and mine ordinances; which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am Jehovah." "I am Jehovah your God ..." This preamble also closes the section (Leviticus 18:30), indicating the covenant nature of the instructions. It occurs frequently in Leviticus and also in Numbers and Deuteronomy. Almost exactly the same words occur in Exodus 20:2 and Deuteronomy 5:6. "After the doings of the land of Egypt ... of the land of Canaan ..." The gross sexual wickedness of both Egypt and the land of Canaan were extensively documented, not only in the Bible, but also in non-Biblical literature. The usual retrospective glance at history which characterizes this type of treaty-covenant is here slightly altered to include a glance forward toward the land of Canaan Israel was about to enter. The extreme wickedness of the people of the land whence they came and also that of the land to which they were going demonstrates the isolation and threat inherent in the position of Israel at that time. "Neither shall ye walk in their statutes ..." The last words of this clause were rendered, "You must not follow their rules," by Wenham.[3] The word "rule" comes from a Hebrew word [~chuq] and denotes "something inscribed by God."[4] This indicates that other parts of the Pentateuch in addition to the Decalogue might also have been given to Moses in the form of writing by the finger of God Himself. Whether or not that was the case, the oft-repeated clause stating that God commanded Moses to, "Say unto the people ..." thus and so, serves the same utility of attesting the source of all these regulations as being God himself. Christians must not conform to the customs and value-judgments of the world where they live. 4
  5. 5. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do," is in the Devil's bible, but not in the Holy Scriptures. God's people in all generations are to be different. Continued favor in the eyes of God, in those days, was contingent upon the people's adherence to God's laws and upon their fidelity in obeying them. It must also be received that the same thing is true now. Even the colossal truth that we are saved, not by our own righteousness, but by the righteousness of Jesus Christ does not alter this. Only an OBEDIENT faith can enable a Christian to continue in a saved condition (Romans 1:5,16:26). All of these things "are written for our admonition" (1 Corinthians 10:11); and the big thing that is written about Israel in the O.T. is simply this, that their failure to OBEY God resulted in their final rejection and expulsion from the land of promise. It is to be sincerely hoped that Christians will take such a fact to heart. "If a man do, he shall live ..." True to the pattern of fifteenth century B.C. covenant-treaties, this promises a blessing upon them that receive and adhere by their conduct to the terms of it. "Life is here promised. However, the ancient Jew probably understood this as applicable primarily to the health and prosperity of the present earthly life. Nevertheless, even in the O.T. there are here-and-there substantial hints that something infinitely more wonderful was included, even a glorious life after death. See Psalms 73:17; Daniel 12:1-3; Psalms 16:10, and Job 19:25-29. Despite such O.T. intimations of the glorious after-life, it remained for Jesus Christ to bring life and immortality to to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). See John 5:28,29; 6:54; 8:51; 11:25f; 14:1-3. Leviticus 18:6-23 spell out in detail the particular stipulations of God's agreement here with Israel. These are the terms of the holy treaty. ELLICOTT, "(1) And the Lord spake unto Moses.—Unlike the preceding Divine communications, which treated of the ritual and ceremonial pollutions, the enactments which Moses is here commanded to communicate direct to the children of Israel, or their representatives, the elders, affect their moral life—precepts which form the basis of domestic purity, and which are the foundation of human happiness. EBC, "THE LAW OF HOLINESS: CHASTITY Leviticus 18:1-30 CHAPTERS 18, 19, and 20, by a formal introduction {Leviticus 18:1-5} and a formal closing, {Leviticus 20:22-26} are indicated as a distinct section, very commonly known by the name, "the Law of Holiness." As this phrase indicates, these chapters-unlike chapter 17, which as to its contents has a character intermediate between the ceremonial and moral law-consist substantially of moral prohibitions and commandments throughout. Of the three, the first two contain the prohibitions and precepts of the law; the third (chapter 20), the penal sanctions by 5
  6. 6. which many of these were to be enforced. The section opens (Leviticus 18:1-2) with Jehovah’s assertion of His absolute supremacy, and a reminder to Israel of the fact that He bad entered into covenant relations with them: "I am the Lord your God." With solemn emphasis the words are again repeated, Leviticus 18:4; and yet again in Leviticus 18:5 : "I am the Lord." They would naturally call to mind the scene at Sinai, with its august and appalling grandeur, attesting amid earthquake and fire and tempest at once the being, power, and unapproachable holiness of Him who then and there, with those stupendous solemnities, in inexplicable condescension, took Israel into covenant with Himself, to be to Himself "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." There could be no question as to the right of the God thus revealed to impose law; no question as to the peculiar obligation upon Israel to keep His law; no question as to His intolerance of sin, and full power and determination, as the Holy One, to enforce whatever He commanded. All these thoughts-thoughts of eternal moment-would be called up in the mind of every devout Israelite, as he heard or read this preface to the law of holiness. The prohibitions which we find in chapter 18 are not given as an exhaustive code of laws upon the subjects traversed, but rather deal with certain gross offences against the law of chastity, which, as we know from other sources, were horribly common at that time among the surrounding nations. To indulgence in these crimes, Israel, as the later history sadly shows, would be especially liable; so contagious are evil example and corrupt associations! Hence the general scope of the chapter is announced in this form (Leviticus 18:3): "After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their statutes." Instead of this, they were (Leviticus 18:4) to do God’s judgments, and keep His statutes, to walk in them, bearing in mind whose they were. And as a further motive it is added (Leviticus 18:5): "which if a man do, he shall live in them"; that is, as the Chaldee paraphrast, Onkelos, rightly interprets in the Targum, "with the life of eternity." Which far-reaching promise is sealed by the repetition, for the third time, of the words, "I am the Lord." That is enough; for what Jehovah promises, that shall certainly be! The law begins (Leviticus 18:6) with a general statement of the principle which underlies all particular prohibitions of incest: "None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness"; and then, for the fourth time, are iterated the words, "I am the Lord." The prohibitions which follow require little special explanation. As just remarked, they are directed in particular to those breaches of the law of chastity which were most common with the Egyptians, from the midst of whom Israel had come; and with the Canaanites, to whose land they were going. This explains, for instance, the fulness of detail in the prohibition of incestuous union with a sister or half-sister (Leviticus 18:9, Leviticus 18:11), -an iniquity very common in Egypt, having the sanction of royal custom 6
  7. 7. from the days of the Pharaohs down to the time of the Ptolemies. The unnatural alliance of a man with his mother prohibited in Leviticus 18:8, of which Paul declared {1 Corinthians 5:1} that in his day it did not exist among the Gentiles, was yet the distinguishing infamy of the Medes and Persians for many centuries. Union with an aunt, by blood or by marriage, prohibited in Leviticus 18:12-14, -a connection less gross, and less severely to be punished than the preceding, - seems to have been permitted even among the Israelites themselves while in Egypt, as is plain from the case of Amram and Jochebed. {Exodus 6:20} To the law forbidding connection with a brother’s wife (Leviticus 18:16), the later Deuteronomic law, {Deuteronomy 25:5-10} made an exception, permitting that a man might marry the widow of his deceased brother, when the latter had died without children, and "raise up seed unto his brother." In this, however, the law but sanctioned a custom which-as we learn from the case of Onan {Genesis 38:1-30} -had been observed long before the days of Moses, both by the Hebrews and other ancient nations, and, indeed, even limited and restricted its application; with good reason providing for exemption of the surviving brother from this duty, in cases where for any reason it might be repugnant or impracticable. The case of a connection with both a woman and her daughter or granddaughter is next mentioned (Leviticus 18:17); and, with special emphasis, is declared to be "wickedness," or "enormity." The prohibition (Leviticus 18:18) of marriage with a sister-in-law, as is well known, has been, and still is, the occasion of much controversy, into which it is not necessary here to enter at length. But, whatever may be thought for other reasons as to the lawfulness of such a union, it truly seems quite singular that this verse should ever have been cited as prohibiting such an alliance. No words could well be more explicit than those which we have here, in limiting the application of the prohibition to the lifetime of the wife: "Thou shalt not take a woman to her sister, to be a rival to her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her lifetime" (R.V). The law therefore does not touch the question for which it is so often cited, but was evidently only intended as a restriction on prevalent polygamy. Polygamy is ever likely to produce jealousies and heart burnings; but it is plain that this phase of the evil would reach its most extreme and odious expression when the new and rival wife was a sister to the one already married; when it would practically annul sisterly love, and give rise to such painful and peculiarly humiliating dissensions as we read of between the sisters Leah and Rachel. The sense of the passage is so plain, that we are told that this interpretation "stood its ground unchallenged from the third century B.C. to the middle of the sixteenth century A.D." Whatever opinion any may hold therefore as to the expediency, upon other grounds, of this much debated alliance, this passage, certainly, cannot be fairly cited as forbidding it; but is far more naturally understood as by natural implication permitting the union, after the decease of the first wife. The laws concerning incest therefore terminate with Leviticus 18:17; and Leviticus 18:18, according to this interpretation, must be regarded as a restriction upon polygamous connections, as Leviticus 18:19 is upon the rights of marriage. 7
  8. 8. It seems somewhat surprising that the question should have been raised, even theoretically, whether the Mosaic law, as regards the degrees of affinity prohibited in marriage, is of permanent authority. The reasons for these prohibitions, wherever given, are as valid now as then; for the simple reason that they are grounded fundamentally in a matter of fact, -namely, the nature of the relation between husband and wife, whereby they become "one flesh," implied in such phraseology as we find in Leviticus 18:16; and also the relation of blood between members of the same family, as in Leviticus 18:10, etc. Happily, however, whatever theory any may have held, the Church in all ages has practically recognised every one of these prohibitions, as binding on all persons; and has rather been inclined to err, if at all, by extending, through inference and analogy, the prohibited degrees even beyond the Mosaic code. So much, however, by way of guarding against excess in such inferential extensions of the law, we must certainly say: according to the law itself, as further applied in Leviticus 21:1-4, and limited in Deuteronomy 25:5-10, relationship by marriage is not to be regarded as precisely equivalent in degree of affinity to relationship by blood. We cannot, for instance, conceive that, under any circumstances, the prohibition of the marriage of brothers and sisters should have had any exception; and yet, as we have seen, the marriage between brother and sister-in-law is explicitly authorised, in the case of the levirate marriage, and by implication allowed in other cases, by the language of Leviticus 18:18 of this chapter. But in these days, when there is such a manifest inclination in Christendom, as especially in the United States and in France, to ignore the law of God in regard to marriage and divorce, and regulate these instead by a majority vote, it assuredly becomes peculiarly imperative that, as Christians, we exercise a holy jealousy for the honour of God and the sanctity of the family, and ever refuse to allow a majority vote any authority in these matters, where it contravenes the law of God. While we must observe caution that in these things we lay no burden on the conscience of any, which God has not first placed there, we must insist-all the more strenuously because of the universal tendency to license-upon the strict observance of all that is either explicitly taught or by necessary implication involved in the teachings of God’s Word upon this question. Nothing more fundamentally concerns the well being of society than the relation of the man and the woman in the constitution of the family; and while, unfortunately, in our modern democratic communities, the Church may not be able always to control and determine the civil law in these matters, she can at least utterly refuse any compromise where the civil law ignores what God has spoken; and with unwavering firmness deny her sanction, in any way, to any connection between a man and a woman which is not according, to the revealed will of God, as set before us in this most holy, good, and beneficent law. The chapter before us casts a light upon the moral condition of the most cultivated heathen peoples in those days, among whom many of the grossest of these incestuous connections, as already remarked, were quite common, even among those of the highest station. There are many in our day more or less affected with the present 8
  9. 9. fashion of admiration for the ancient (and modern) heathenisms, who would do well to heed this light, that their blind enthusiasm might thereby be somewhat tempered. On the other hand, these laws show us, in a very striking contrast, the estimate which God puts upon the maintenance of holiness, purity, and chastity between man and woman; and His very jealous regard for the sanctity of the family in all its various relations. Even in the Old Testament we have hints of a reason for this, deeper than mere expediency, -hints which receive a definite form in the clearer teaching of the New Testament, which tells us that in the Divine plan it is ordained that in these earthly relations man shall be the shadow and image of God. If, as the Apostle tells, {Ephesians 3:15, R.V} "every family in heaven and on earth" is named from the Father; and if, as he again teaches, {Ephesians 5:29-32} the relation of husband and wife is intended to be an earthly type and symbol of the relation between the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church, which is His Bride, -then we cannot wonder at the exceedingly strong emphasis which marks these prohibitions. Everything must be excluded which would be incompatible with this holy ideal of God for man; that not only in the constitution of his person, but in these sacred relations which belong to his very nature, as created male and female, he should be the image of the invisible God. Thus, he who is a father is ever to bear in mind that in his fatherhood he is appointed to shadow forth the ineffable mystery of the eternal relation of the only- begotten and most holy Son to this everlasting Father. As husband, the man is to remember that since he who is joined to his wife becomes with her "one flesh," therefore this union becomes, in the Divine ordination, a type and pattern of the yet more mysterious union of life between the Son of God and the Church, which is His Bride. As brothers and sisters, again, the children of God are to remember that brotherly love, in its purity and unselfish devotion, is intended of God to be a living illustration of the love of Him who has been made of God to be "the firstborn among many brethren". {Romans 8:29} And thus, with the family life pervaded through and through by these ideas, will license and impurity be made impossible, and, as happily now in many a Christian home, it will appear that the family, no less truly than the Church, is appointed of God to be a sanctuary of purity in a world impure and corrupt by wicked works, and, no less really than the Church, to be an effective means of Divine grace, and of preparation for the eternal life of the heavenly kingdom, when all of God’s "many sons" shall have been brought to glory, the "many brethren" of the First Begotten, to abide with Him in the Father’s house forever and ever. After the prohibition of adultery in Leviticus 18:20, we have what at first seems like a very abrupt introduction of a totally different subject; for Leviticus 18:21 refers, not to the seventh, but to the second, and, therewith also, to the sixth commandment. It reads: "Thou shalt not give any of thy seed to make them pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God." But the connection of thought is found in the historical relation of the licentious 9
  10. 10. practices prohibited in the preceding verses to idolatry, of which this Molech worship is named as one of the most hideous manifestations. Some, indeed, have supposed that this frequently recurring phrase does not designate an actual sacrifice of the children, but only their consecration to Molech by some kind of fire baptism. But certainly such passages as 2 Kings 17:31, Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5, distinctly require us to understand an actual offering of the children as "burnt offerings." They were not indeed burnt alive, as a late and untrustworthy tradition has it, but were first slain, as in the case of all burnt sacrifices, and then burnt. The unnatural cruelty of the sacrifice, even as thus made, was such, that both here and in Leviticus 20:3 it is described as in a special sense a "profaning" of God’s holy name, -a profanation, in that it represented Him, the Lord of love and fatherly mercy, as requiring such a cruel and unnatural sacrifice of parental love, in the immolation of innocent children. The inconceivably unnatural crimes prohibited in Leviticus 18:22-23 were in like manner essentially connected with idolatrous worship: the former with the worship of Astarte or Ashtoreth; the latter with the worship of the he-goat at Mendes in Egypt, as the symbol of the generative power in nature. What a hideous perversion of the moral sense was involved in these crimes, as thus connected with idolatrous worship, is illustrated strikingly by the fact that men and women, thus prostituted to the service of false gods, were designated by the terms qadesh and qadeshah, " sacred," "holy"! No wonder that the sacred writer brands these horrible crimes as, in a peculiar and almost solitary sense, "abomination," "confusion." In these days of ours, when it has become the fashion among a certain class of cultured writers-who would still, in many instances, apparently desire to be called Christian-to act as the apologist of idolatrous, and, according to Holy Scripture, false religions, the mention of these crimes in this connection may well remind the reader of what such seem to forget, as they certainly ignore; namely, that in all ages, in the modern heathenism no less than in the ancient, idolatry and gross licentiousness ever go hand in hand. Still, today, even in Her Majesty’s Indian Empire, is the most horrible licentiousness practised as an office of religious worship. Nor are such revolting perversions of the moral sense confined to the "Maharajas" of the temples in Western India, who figured in certain trials in Bombay a few years ago; for even the modern "reformed" Hindooism, from which some hope so much, has not always been able to shake itself free from the pollution of these things, as witness the argument conducted in recent numbers of the Arya Patrika of Lahore, to justify the infamous custom known as Niyoga, practised to this day in India, e.g., by the Panday Brahmans of Allahabad; -a practice which is sufficiently described as being adultery arranged for, under certain conditions, by a wife or husband, the one for the other. One would fain charitably hope, if possible, that our modern apologists for Oriental idolatries are unaccountably ignorant of what all history should have taught them as to the inseparable connection between idolatry and licentiousness. Both Egypt and Canaan, in the olden time, -as this chapter with all contemporaneous history teaches, -and also India in modern times, read us a very awful lesson on this subject. Not only have these idolatries led too 10
  11. 11. often to gross licentiousness of life, but in their full development they have, again and again, in audacious and blasphemous profanation of the most holy God, and defiance even of the natural conscience, given to the most horrible excesses of unbridled lust the supreme sanction of declaring them to be religious obligations. Assuredly, in God’s sight, it cannot be a trifling thing for any man, even through ignorance, to extol, or even apologise for, religions with which such enormities are both logically and historically connected. And so, in these stern prohibitions, and their heavy penal sanctions, we may find a profitable lesson for even the cultivated intellect of the nineteenth century! The chapter closes with reiterated charges against indulgence in any of these abominations. Israel is told (Leviticus 18:25, Leviticus 18:28) that it was because the Canaanites practised these enormities that God was about to scourge them out of their land; -a judicial reason which, one would think, should have some weight with those whose sympathies are so drawn out with commiseration for the Canaanites, that they find it impossible to believe that it can be true, as we are told in the Pentateuch, that God ordered their extermination. Rather, in the light of the facts, would we raise the opposite question: whether, if God indeed be a holy and righteous Governor among the nations, He could do anything else either in justice toward the Canaanites, or in mercy toward those whom their horrible example would certainly in like manner corrupt, than, in one way or another, effect the extermination of such a people? Israel is then solemnly warned (Leviticus 18:28) that if they, notwithstanding, shall practise these crimes, God will not spare them any more than He spared the Canaanites. No covenant of His with them shall hinder the land from spueing them out in like manner. And though the nation, as a whole, give not itself to these things, each individual is warned (Leviticus 18:29), "Whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that do them shall be cut off from among their people"; that is, shall be outlawed and shut out from all participation in covenant mercies. And therewith this part of the law of holiness closes, with those pregnant words, repeated now in this chapter for the fifth time: "I am the Lord (Heb. Jehovah) your God!" PETT, "Introduction The Law of Holiness (Leviticus 17-27). The main section of the Book of Leviticus is constructed on a definite pattern. It commences with a description of the offerings and sacrifices of Israel (chapters 1-7), and ends with a description of the times and seasons as they are required of Israel (chapters 23-25). It continues with the establishment of the priesthood (chapters 8-10), which is balanced by the section on the maintenance of the holiness of the priesthood (chapters 21-22). This is then followed by the laws of uncleanness (chapters 11-15) which are balanced by the laws of holiness (chapters 17-20). And central to the whole is the Day of Atonement (chapter 16). 11
  12. 12. This second part of the book has been spoken of as ‘The Holiness Code’. We may balance this by calling chapters 1-15 ‘The Priestly Code’. The first part certainly has a priestly emphasis, for the priests control the offerings and sacrifices (chapters 1-7) and administer the laws of cleanness and uncleanness (chapters 11-15), and the second part a holiness emphasis. But this must not be over-emphasised. The whole book is mainly addressed to the people, it is for their benefit as God’s covenant people, and the maintenance of the holiness of the priests is just as important in the second half. It is to be seen as a whole. We may thus analyse it as follows (note the chiasm): 1). THE PRIESTLY CODE (chapters 1-15). a) Offerings and Sacrifices (chapters 1-7) b) Establishment of the Priesthood (chapters 8-10) c) The Laws of Cleanness and Uncleanness (chapters 11-15) 2) THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (Leviticus 16) 3) THE HOLINESS CODE (chapters 17-25) c) The Laws of Holiness (chapters 17-19) b) Maintenance of the Holiness of the Priesthood (chapters 20-22) a) Times and Seasons (chapters 23-25). As will be seen the Day of Atonement is central and pivotal, with the laws of cleanness and uncleanness and the laws of holiness on each side. This central section is then sandwiched between the establishment of the priesthood (chapters 10-12) and the maintenance of the holiness of the priesthood (chapters 20-22). And outside these are the requirements concerning offerings and sacrifices (chapters 1-7) and the requirements concerning times and seasons (chapters 23-25). So the Holiness Code may be seen as a suitable description of this second half of the book as long as we do not assume by that that it was once a separate book. The description in fact most suitably applies to chapters 19-22. It describes what Israel is to be, as made holy to Yahweh. It was as much a necessary part of the record as what has gone before. The Book would have been incomplete without it. The Book of Leviticus is, as it claims, the record of a whole collection of revelations made to Moses at various times, brought together in one book, and carefully constructed around the central pivot of the Day of Atonement. There is no good reason for doubting this, and there are possible indications of colophons to various original records which help to substantiate it. It was the necessary basis for the establishment of the religion of Yahweh for a conglomerate people. 12
  13. 13. So having in what we know of as the first sixteen chapters of the Book laid down the basis of offerings and sacrifices (chapters 1-7), the establishment of the Priesthood (chapters 8-10), the laws of cleanness and uncleanness (chapters 11-15), and the requirements of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), the whole would have been greatly lacking had Moses not added some further detail of the holiness that God required of His people and of His priests. The former is contained in Leviticus 17:1 to Leviticus 20:27. In this section Moses deals with the sacredness of all life (Leviticus 17), the sexual relationships which can defile (Leviticus 18), and the positive requirements for holiness in the covenant (Leviticus 19-20). It is then followed by the further section dealing with the maintenance of the holiness of the priesthood (Leviticus 21:1 to Leviticus 22:16), with Leviticus 22:17-33 forming a transition from speaking to the priests to speaking to the people. Chapters 23-25 then deal with sacred times and seasons, including the seven day Sabbath (Leviticus 23:1-3), the set feasts of Israel (Leviticus 23:4-44), the daily trimming of the lamps and the weekly offering of showbread (Leviticus 24:1-9), the Sabbatical year (Leviticus 25:1-7), and the year of Yubile (Leviticus 25:8-55). Included in this is a practical example of blasphemy against the Name (Leviticus 24:10-23), which parallels the practical example of priestly blasphemy in Leviticus 10:1-7. Thus practical examples of the blasphemy of both priests and people are included as warnings. Leviticus 26 seals the book with the promises of blessings and cursings regular in covenants of this period, and closes with the words ‘these are the statutes and judgments and laws which Yahweh made between him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses’ (Leviticus 26:46). Leviticus 27 is then a postscript on vows and how they can lawfully be withdrawn from, and closes with a reference to tithing, the sanctifying of a tenth of all their increase to Yahweh. Chapters 11-15 dealt with the uncleannesses of Israel, leading up to the Day when all uncleannesses were atoned for (Leviticus 16). But the Day of Atonement covered far more than those. It covered every way in which the covenant had been broken. It also covers the direct transgressions of Israel. Leviticus 17 onwards therefore deals further with the basis of the covenant against which they ‘transgressed’ and for which they also needed atonement. Chapters 11-15 dealt with practical matters considering what was ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ as they faced daily life, these chapters from 17 onwards now deal with the basis on which they should live their lives as Yahweh’s holy people, and the attitudes that they should have. They deal with prospective sin and disobedience. The former were more within the cultic section up to Leviticus 16, but the latter are firmly directed at the people’s moral response, so that their responsibilities under the covenant might be made clear directly to them. The distinction must not be overpressed. They are all still, of course, cultic, but the 13
  14. 14. latter from a less direct viewpoint. They do not have so much to do with priestly oversight. They come more under the jurisdiction of the elders. There is, however, no change of direction in overall thought. The whole of Leviticus emphasises holiness from start to finish. There is not a change of emphasis only a change of presentation because God is now directly involving the people. It must, however, be firmly asserted that, as we shall see in the commentary, there is nothing in what follows that requires a date after the time of Moses. Having been given by God control of a conglomerate people (Exodus 12:38), with a nucleus made up of descendants from the family and family servants of the patriarchs (Exodus 1 - ‘households’), he had to fashion them into a covenant keeping nation under Yahweh and provide the basis on which they could be one nation and kept in full relationship with their Overlord. It was precisely because the disparate peoples believed that his words came from God that they were willing mainly to turn their backs on their past usages and customs and become one nation under Yahweh, culminating in them all being circumcised into the covenant when they entered the land (Joshua 5). And with such a conglomeration of people with their differing religious ideas, customs and traditions, it is clear that this could only have been successfully achieved by putting together a complete religious system which was a revelation from Yahweh, which would both keep them together as one people and would ensure that when they reached Canaan they would have no excuse for taking part in the Canaanite religious practises such as he knew of from his time of administration in Egypt and from his time with the Priest of Midian. Had they arrived in Canaan without a single binding system, they would soon have fallen prey (as they almost did anyway) to the attractions of Canaanite religion. It was only the firm foundation that Moses had laid (combined with God’s own powerful activities) that finally resulted in their rising above their backslidings, and in their constantly turning back to Yahwism, because Moses had rooted it so deeply within them. And this finally enabled the establishing of the nation under Samuel and David after times of great turmoil. This system did not come all at once. He had to begin instructing them soon after the crossing of the Reed Sea (Exodus 15:26), and a system gradually grew up (Exodus 17:13-16) as they went along, based as we learn later on a tent of meeting set outside the camp (Exodus 33:7-11), until at Sinai the book of the covenant (Exodus 20:1 to Exodus 23:33) was written down as a result of God’s words to the people and to Moses. Then in his time in the Mount this was expanded on. But it would continue to be expanded on in the days to come, until the time came when Moses knew that he had to accumulate in one record all the regulations concerning sacrifices, priesthood and the multitude of requirements that went along with them. By this time he had much material to draw on. For leaders from different groups had no doubt been constantly coming to him for 14
  15. 15. direction and leadership (Exodus 16:22), and especially for those who were not firmly established in the customs of Israel he no doubt had to deal with a wide number of diversified queries, and seek God’s will about them. This explains why sometimes the collections may not always seem as having been put together in as logical order as they might have been. They partly depended on what questions he had been asked, and what particular problems had arisen, and what particular issues were important at the time. But it was on the basis of all this activity that we have the Book of Leviticus as a part of the wider Pentateuch. Chapter 18. God’s Covenant Is Concerned With Right Sexual Relations. In this chapter, having laid the basis in sacrifice, God now commands His people to walk in His ways and in accordance with all that He has shown them. And here He especially declares to them what relationships with women they are to avoid. So as in Leviticus 11-12 the pattern is maintained. First the treatment of domestic and other animals (compare Leviticus 11), then the treatment of sexual relations with their results in the bearing of life (Leviticus 12, 15). The chapter is in twelfth century BC treaty form. It begins with the declaration of the overlord, ‘I am Yahweh your God’, goes on with the preamble about their required behaviour, followed by the promised blessing that those who did His commands would live in them, details the further requirements, and finishes up with the final warnings for disobedience. Note how ‘I am Yahweh’ is repeated (Leviticus 18:2; Leviticus 18:4-6; Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 18:30), stressing the connection with the covenant. Verse 1 This Is The Word Of God (Leviticus 18:1). Leviticus 18:1 ‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,’ Once more we have the emphasis on the fact that these are God’s words to Moses. The ideas are not to be seen as Moses’ ideas, but as God’s. PULPIT, "MORAL UNCLEANNESS AND ITS PUNISHMENT. This being the subject of the three following chapters (chapters 18-20), they naturally form a sequence to chapters 11-17, which have dealt with ceremonial uncleanness and its purification. It is a remarkable thing that, except by implication in connection with the sin offerings and the trespass offerings and the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement, there has not yet been a single moral precept, as such, in the Book of Leviticus, and there has been very little recognition of sin as distinct from pollution. All has been ceremonial. But the ceremonial is typical of the moral, and from the consideration of ceremonial uncleanness and its remedy, we now proceed to the 15
  16. 16. consideration of moral uncleanness and its penalty. It is to be noticed too that, while the ensuing laws are commanded as the positive injunction of God (verses 2, 30), which of itself is sufficient to give them their authority and force, they are still founded, like the ceremonial prohibitions, upon the feelings of repugnance implanted in the mind of man. To enter into the marriage relation with near relatives is abhorrent to a sentiment in mankind so widely spread that it may be deemed to have been originally universal, and the same abhorrence is entertained towards other foul sins of lust. Ugliness, which creates disgust by its ugliness, symbolizes sin; immorality, which inspires abhorrence by its immoral character, proves itself thereby to be sin. The section deals first with sin in the marriage relation, next with sexual impurities connected with marriage, then with other cases of immorality, and lastly with the penalties inflicted on these sins in their character of crimes. Leviticus 18:1-5 Form an introduction to the Hebrew code of prohibited degrees of marriage and of forbidden sins of lust. The formal and solemn declaration, I am the Lord your God, is made three times in these five verses. This places before the people the two thoughts: 1. That the Lord is holy, and they ought to be like him in holiness; 2. That the Lord has commanded holiness, and they ought to obey him by being holy. Because the Lord is their God, and they are his people, they are, negatively, to refrain from the vicious habits and lax customs prevalent in the land of Egypt wherein they dwelt, and in the land of Canaan whither they were going, the sensuality of which is indirectly condemned by the injunctions which command purity in contrast to their doings; and, positively, they are to keep God's statutes, and his judgments, as laid down in the following code, which if a man do, he shall live in them. The latter clause is of special importance, because it is repeated in the same connection by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20:11, Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:21), and in the Levitical confession in the Book of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:29), and is quoted by St. Paul in a controversial sense (Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12). Its full meaning is that by obedience to God's commands man attains to a state of existence which alone deserves to be called true life—"the life which connects him with Jehovah through his obedience" (Clark). And this involves the further truth that disobedience results in death. Accordingly, St. Paul uses the text as being the testimony of the Law with regard to itself, that salvation by it is of works in contrast with faith. (Cf. Luke 10:28.) We have no evidence to tell us what were the doings of the land of Canaan in respect to the marriage relation, but this chapter is enough to show that the utmost laxity prevailed in it, and we may be sure that their religious rites, like those of Midian (Numbers 25:1-18), were penetrated with the spirit of licentiousness. With regard to the doings of the land of Egypt, we have fuller information. We know that among the Egyptians marriage with sisters and half-sisters was not only permissible, but that its propriety was justified by their religious beliefs, and practiced in the 16
  17. 17. royal family (Died. Sic; 1:27; Die. Cass; 42). Other abominations condemned in this chapter (verse 23) also, as we know, existed there (Herod; 2:46), and if queens could be what in later times Cleopatra was, we may imagine the general dissoluteness of the people. Among Persians, Medes, Indians, Ethiopians and Assyrians, marriage with mothers and daughters was allowed, and from the time of Cambyses, marriage with a sister was regarded as lawful (Herod; Nehemiah 3:31). The Athenians and Spartans permitted marriage with half-sisters. All these concessions to lust, and ether unclean acts with which the heathen world was full (verse 22; Romans 1:27), were fallings away from the law of purity implanted in the heart of man and now renewed for the Hebrew people. BI 1-5, "Ye shall do My judgments Safety in the observance of God’s laws This preface of some is taken generally to concern all the laws of God; the observation whereof is ever the sure safety of a state public or private, for it is not the munition of walls, leagues, and alliance with foreign princes, largeness of confines, plenty of treasure, or such like, that preserve a commonwealth, but careful and diligent observation of public laws ordained of God for the good of man. It is said that Lacedemon flourished whilst Lycurgus’s laws were observed: much more any commonwealth when God’s be kept. For what comparison betwixt man’s laws and God’s? Demosthenes saith, It was the manner of the Loerenses, that if any man would publish and devise a new law he should put his neck into a halter ready to be put to death, if the law were not good, by which means they made men more careful to observe old and ancient, tried and known laws, than with busy heads to make new. Now what laws so old and so approved good as God’s laws? Ever, therefore, are they to be regarded and hearkened unto. Others take this preface particularly of these laws concerning marriage now following, that if they be carefully kept, a kingdom long flourisheth, and if not, soon ii cometh to a fearful fall. For so odious and abhorred of God is the unlawful mixture of man and woman that the Lord cannot long withhold great judgments. And thus much remember as you read them ever, that these laws do not concern the Jews only, as the ceremonial laws now spoken of and judicial did, but these laws belong to all men and women and to all succeeding times, being eternal, immutable, grafted by God in man’s nature and given by Him for holiness’ sake. Note all the words well that God would not have them like either the Egyptians or Canaanites, and wish with me that there was a like law against our being like foreign nations near us, with ruffs dipped in the devil’s liquor called starch, Turkish heads, Spanish backs, Italian waists, &c., giving daily occasion to the mockers that say French nets catch English fools. (Bp. Babington.) 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 17
  18. 18. BARNES, "I am, the Lord your God - The frequent repetition of this formula in these parts of the Law may be intended to keep the Israelites in mind of their covenant with Yahweh in connection with the common affairs of life, in which they might be tempted to look at legal restrictions in a mere secular light. GILL, "Speak unto the children of Israel,.... To the heads of their tribes, that they might deliver to them the following laws; or Moses is bid to publish them among them, either by word of mouth, or by writing, or both: and say unto them, I am the Lord your God; with which they were to be introduced; showing the right he had to enact and enjoin such laws, since he was Jehovah, the Being of beings, and from whom they received their beings; their sovereign Lord and King, who had a right to rule over them, and command what he pleased; and also the obligation they lay under to him to regard them, and yield a cheerful obedience to them, since he was their God, not only that had made them, but had redeemed them out of Egypt; and who had made a covenant with them, and had taken special care of them, and had bestowed many wonderful favours on them; and for this purpose is this phrase often used in this chapter, and very frequently in the next. See Lev_18:2. JAMISON, "I am the Lord your God — This renewed mention of the divine sovereignty over the Israelites was intended to bear particularly on some laws that were widely different from the social customs that obtained both in Egypt and Canaan; for the enormities, which the laws enumerated in this chapter were intended to put down, were freely practiced or publicly sanctioned in both of those countries; and, indeed, the extermination of the ancient Canaanites is described as owing to the abominations with which they had polluted the land. ELLICOTT, "(2) I am the Lord your God.—The Lord is their recognised and sole sovereign, the children of Israel are therefore bound to obey His precepts, and not be led astray by the customs or statutes which prevailed among the people whose country they are to possess. Moreover, as He is holy, the Israelites, by faithfully obeying His sacred laws, will attain to that holiness which will bring them in communion with Him in whose image they were created. This phrase, which is so emphatically repeated twice more in this chapter (Leviticus 18:4; Leviticus 18:30), has only been used once before in this book. (See Leviticus 11:44.) PETT, "Verses 2-5 The Command To Obey Yahweh Their God Whose Commands Bring Life (Leviticus 18:2-5). Leviticus 18:2 18
  19. 19. “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, I am Yahweh your God.” What follows very much has the covenant in mind. God stresses constantly, as He did at the giving of the covenant (Leviticus 20:2), that He is Yahweh their God, and that He therefore expects their response. Note that these words are directed solely at the people. This continues from now until Leviticus 20:27, and then from Leviticus 23 onwards. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. CLARKE, "The doings of the land of Egypt - the land of Canaan - The worshipping of demons, beasts, etc., as mentioned in the preceding chapter, Lev_17:7, and the abominations mentioned in this chapter from Lev_18:21-23. GILL, "After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do,.... Where they had dwelt many years, and were just come out from thence, and where they had learned many of their evil practices; not only their idolatrous ones referred to in the preceding chapter, which it is certain they followed, Eze_20:7; but also their immoral practices, particularly respecting incestuous marriages, after insisted on, some of which were established by a law among them; so Diodorus Siculus relates (q), that it passed into a law with the Egyptians, contrary to the common custom of all others, that men might marry their own sisters; which is one of the incestuous marriages taken notice of in this chapter, and forbid: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: which land had been promised to their ancestors and to them long ago, and whither they were now going under divine direction and guidance, to inherit it, and are here particularly warned of the evil practices among them, that they might avoid them: Maimonides (r) says, these are what our Rabbins call "the ways of the Amorites" (the principal people of the nations of the land of Canaan), and which, he adds, are as branches of the magic art; namely, such which do not follow from natural reason, but 19
  20. 20. from magical operation, and depend upon the dispositions and orders of the stars, and so were necessarily led to worship them: hence, they say, in whatsoever is anything of medicine, in it is nothing of the way of the Amorites; by which they mean nothing else than this, that everything is lawful in which there appears a natural reason for it; and on the contrary, all others are unlawful: but here respect is had not to magical operations but to incestuous marriages, which prevailed among that people, and which they might have received from their ancestor Canaan, who learned them from his father Ham, of whom Berosus (s) writes, that even before the flood he corrupted mankind; asserting and putting it in practice, that men might lie with their mothers, sisters, daughters, and with males and brutes, or any other, for which he was cast out by Noah: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances: which they ordained, appointed, and settled, for they were such a people the Psalmist speaks of, which framed mischief or wickedness by a law, Psa_94:2; so Diodorus Siculus says of the incestuous marriage before referred to, and which the above writer, Berosus, derives from Ham their ancestor, that they are said νομοθετησαι, "to pass into a law"; but Aben Ezra puts another sense on these words, let no man use himself to walk in this way until it becomes an ordinance or statute unto him; custom is second nature, and in course of time has the force of a law, wherefore bad customs should be strictly guarded against. ELLICOTT, " (3) After the doings of the land of Egypt.—During their sojourn in Egypt the Israelites became familiar with the practices which obtained in the land of their bondage, and as they adopted some of them (see Leviticus 17:7), they are here solemnly warned to eschew those which are especially proscribed in the sequel. And after the doings of the land of Canaan. The danger of imitating the customs which they had for centuries witnessed in the land they quitted, was greatly increased by the fact that these licentious practices obtained in worse forms in the land which they were to inherit. It is therefore against the past and the future that they are here warned. Neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. As some of “the doings” referred to may have been simple custom, not based upon the law of the country where they obtained, the Lawgiver here emphatically condemns the acts which were legalised, declaring them to have no authority whatever. (See Leviticus 18:30.) TRAPP, " (30) Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance. As God is no respecter of persons, and as He will assuredly visit His own people with the same punishment which He inflicted upon the former occupants of the laud, the Israelites are to take special care to keep inviolate His ordinances. Commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you. Better, Do not any one of these abominable statutes which were done, as the Authorised Version translates the word in Deuteronomy 6:24; Deuteronomy 16:12; Deuteronomy 26:16. These abominations were not practised simply as customs, but were legally enacted as statutes of the land, and formed part of their religious institutions (see Leviticus 18:3). A similar state of degeneracy is described by Isaiah, 20
  21. 21. who tells us that the Divine statutes, which is the same word used in the passage before us, were changed. By deviating here from the usual rendering of this phrase the Authorised Version mars the import of the passage. I am the Lord your God.—This is the declaration with which this group of laws was introduced. Its repetition at the end imparts peculiar solemnity to these enactments. (See Leviticus 18:1.) whedon, " 3. After the doings of… Egypt — The Israelites appear during the oppression, for the most part, to have adopted the religion of their masters, (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7-8,) and, of course, were morally defiled. Ashtoreth, the oriental Venus, was worshipped in Memphis with all the pollutions attendant upon such a cultus, as is shown by a tablet recently discovered. The sculptures and paintings of the tombs give a very full insight into the domestic life of the ancient Egyptians, as exhibited by Sir G. Wilkinson. Licentious and naked festal dances are conspicuous in the stony record, exactly corroborating Exodus 32:25. Concubines, or trains of inferior wives, also appear on the tablets. The gross and unnatural vices of the Egyptians are hinted at in this chapter. After the doings of… Canaan — Outside of the Old Testament we have no clew to the manners or customs of this people; but within, the sacred annals are abundant proofs of the moral abominations by which the land was defiled. Leviticus 20:23; Deuteronomy 12:30-31. Whither I bring you — These words point to the sojourn in the wilderness prior to the occupation of Canaan; and they are an insuperable objection to the theory that the Levitical legislation was an invention of crafty men centuries after Moses died. Ordinances — The extent and pervasiveness of Canaanitish depravity may be inferred from the fact that their very laws, in which moral purity lingers longest, had been changed from guardians of virtue to patrons of vice. PETT, "Leviticus 18:3 “You shall not do after the doings of the land of Egypt, in which you dwelt, and you shall not do after the doings of the land of Canaan, to which I will bring you, nor shall you walk in their statutes.” Because He is Yahweh their God, and because they are His, they are not to live as others live and do as others do. They are not to follow the doings of the land of Egypt. They are not to follow the doings of the land of Canaan. Nor when he has brought them there are they to walk in their statutes, their behavioural rules that were recorded and required of men. They are rather to do as He requires. Particularly are they not to follow their attitudes towards sexual relationships. Both the Egyptians and the Canaanites allowed sexual relationships and marriage within 21
  22. 22. some of the degrees described below, and the Canaanites especially were free with their sexual favours, but Israel was not to be so. This was particularly important in view of the conglomerate nature of ‘the children of Israel’. All among them were used to living in accordance with differing long established and varying customs picked up in Egypt, and previously in Canaan and other places. They were a total mixture of customs. But now they were to put all those behind them and begin to follow Yahweh’s statutes and ordinances. The new beginning established at Sinai had to be seen as pre-eminent. The past must be put behind them. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. GILL, "Ye shall do my judgments,.... Which are just and right, and according to the rules of justice and equity; these are things, as Jarchi observes, which are said in the law with judgment, or are laws framed with the highest reason, even by the judgment of God himself, whose judgment is always according to truth: Aben Ezra thinks, these are the judicial laws in Exo_21:1; but though they may include them, they have more particular respect to the following laws: and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: which he had ordained and appointed of his own will and pleasure, which Jarchi calls the decree of the king, or which he decreed and determined as a king, having absolute power over his subjects to enact and enjoin what he pleased; wherefore some think these refer to ceremonial laws, which depended upon the will of the lawgiver, and were not founded in any natural sense or reason, wherefore it follows: I am the Lord your God: who had a right to make what laws he pleased, being their Sovereign, and which they in gratitude as well as in justice ought to obey, he being their God, their covenant God, who had done great and good things for them. CALVIN, "4.Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments. Because it is no less difficult to correct vices, to which men have been long accustomed, than to cure diseases of long standing, especially because people in general so pertinaciously cleave to bad examples, God adduces His statutes, in order to recall the people from the errors of their evil habits into the right way. For nothing is more absurd than for us to fix our minds on the actions of men, and not on God’s word, in which is to 22
  23. 23. be found the rule of a holy life. It is, therefore, just as if God would overthrow whatever had been received from long custom, and abolish the universal consent of the world by the authority of His doctrine. With this object He commands His Law to be regarded not once only, as we have already seen, lest the Israelites should abandon themselves to filthy lusts; but He diligently inculcates upon them, that they should turn away from all abuses, and keep themselves within the bounds and ordinances of His Law. And to this refers the expression, “I am the Lord your God;” containing a comparison between Himself and the heathen nations, between whom and His people He had interposed, as it were, a wall of partition. ELLICOTT, " (4) Ye shall do my judgments.—The expression “my judgments and mine ordinances” is here used emphatically, in opposition to “their ordinances,” and has here the force of Mine only; just as the phrase “Him shalt thou serve” (Deuteronomy 6:13) is explained by Christ “Him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10). TRAPP, "Leviticus 18:4 Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I [am] the LORD your God. Ver. 4. To walk therein.] Not to halt therein, nor to take a turn or two, or for a while, as Samson went with his parents till he met with a honeycomb; but indesinenter ambulabo, as David saith, [Psalms 116:9] "Walk, and not be weary; run, and not faint," as those in Isaiah 40:31. "So run, that ye may obtain," saith the apostle. [1 Corinthians 9:24] PETT, "Leviticus 18:4 “My ordinances shall you do, and my statutes shall you keep, to walk in them. I am Yahweh your God.” Rather are they to do the ordinances and judgments that He has required of them, given them in judgments, or caused to be written as their guide (see Exodus 17:14; Exodus 24:4; Exodus 34:27; Numbers 33:1-2; Deuteronomy 31:9), and to follow His demands and declarations, and walk in His ways. And they are to do this because He is Yahweh their God, their Great Deliverer. We are reminded by this that we too when we become Christians have become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We too have to put aside the old ways and walk as new men and women (Ephesians 4:22-32; Colossians 3:5-11; Galatians 2:20). 23
  24. 24. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. BARNES, "If a man keeps the “statutes” (i. e. the ordinances of Lev_18:4) and “judgments” of the divine law, he shall not be “cut off from his people” (compare Lev_ 18:29), he shall gain true life, the life which connects him with Yahweh through his obedience. See the margin reference and Luk_10:28; Rom_10:5; Gal_3:12. GILL, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments,.... The same as before; these they were to keep in their minds and memories, and to observe them and do them: which if a man do he shall live in them; live a long life in the land of Canaan, in great happiness and prosperity, see Deu_30:20; for as for eternal life, that was never intended to be had, nor was it possible it could be had and enjoyed by obedience to the law, which fallen man is unable to keep; but is what was graciously promised and provided the covenant of grace, before the world was, to come through Christ, as a free gift to all that believe in him, see Gal_3:11; though some Jewish writers interpret this of eternal life, as Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Ben Gersom: I am the Lord; that has enjoined these statutes and judgments, and promised life to the doers of them, able and faithful to perform what is promised. JAMISON, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them — A special blessing was promised to the Israelites on condition of their obedience to the divine law; and this promise was remarkably verified at particular eras of their history, when pure and undefiled religion prevailed among them, in the public prosperity and domestic happiness enjoyed by them as a people. Obedience to the divine law always, indeed, ensures temporal advantages; and this, doubtless, was the primary meaning of the words, “which if a man do, he shall live in them.” But that they had a higher reference to spiritual life is evident from the application made of them by our Lord (Luk_10:28) and the apostle (Rom_10:2). K&D, "Lev_18:5 “The man who does them (the ordinances of Jehovah) shall live (gain true life) through them” (see at Exo_1:16 and Gen_3:22). CALVIN, "5.Ye shall therefore keep my statutes. Although Moses introduces this passage, where he exhorts the Israelites to cultivate chastity in respect to marriage, 24
  25. 25. and not to fall into the incestuous pollutions of the Gentiles, yet, as it is a remarkable one, and contains general instruction, from whence Paul derives his definition of the righteousness of the Law, (Romans 10:5,) it seems to me to come in very appropriately here, inasmuch as it sanctions and confirms the Law by the promise of reward. The hope of eternal life is, therefore, given to all who keep the Law; for those who expound the passage as referring to this earthly and transitory life are mistaken. (195) The cause of this error was, because they feared that thus the righteousness of faith might be subverted, and salvation grounded on the merit of works. But Scripture does not therefore deny that men are justified by works, because the Law itself is imperfect, or does not give instructions for perfect righteousness; but because the promise is made of none effect by our corruption and sin. Paul, therefore, as I have just said, when he teaches that righteousness is to be sought for in the grace of Christ by faith, (Romans 10:4,) proves his statement by this argument, that none is justified who has not fulfilled what the Law commands. Elsewhere also he reasons by contrast, where he contends that the Law does not accord with faith as regards the cause of justification, because the Law requires works for the attainment of salvation, whilst faith directs us to Christ, that we may be delivered from the curse of the Law. Foolishly, then, do some reject as an absurdity the statement, that if a man fulfills the Law he attains to righteousness; for the defect does not arise from the doctrine of the Law, but from the infirmity of men, as is plain from another testimony given by Paul. (Romans 8:3.) We must observe, however, that salvation is not to be expected from the Law unless its precepts be in every respect complied with; for life is not promised to one who shall have done this thing, or that thing, but, by the plural word, full obedience is required of us. The pratings of the Popish theologians about partial righteousness are frivolous and silly, since God embraces at once all the commandments; and who is there that can boast of having thoroughly fulfilled them? If, then, none was ever clear of transgression, or ever will be, although God by no means deceives us, yet the promise becomes ineffectual, because we do not perform our part of the agreement. COKE, "Verse 5 Leviticus 18:5. Which if a man do, he shall live in them— That the primary sense of these words refers to that temporal life and prosperity which God promised to the Jews as the consequence of their obedience, there can be no question; see Deuteronomy 30:15-16; Deuteronomy 32:47 compared with Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 3:35. That they have a secondary sense of a sublimer import, referring to spiritual life, there can also be no question with those who consider in what manner they are used in the New Testament. See Matthew 18:8-9; Matthew 19:17. Luke 10:28. Romans 10:5; Romans 10:21. REFLECTIONS.—The moral precepts are binding, though the ceremonial are abolished. Such are the injunctions here given. God, as the Lord, has a right to command obedience: as our God, reconciled in Jesus Christ, has every reason to expect it. They were going into a land as idolatrous as that out of which they came; and as they were but too prone to their old practices, they had need of repeated 25
  26. 26. solemn warnings. Note; Because sin has such deep hold on our hearts, and old habits are so hardly eradicated, we have need of line upon line, and precept upon precept. God charges them to remember his commandments to do them, and promises a happy and long life to the obedient. They, who in simplicity follow God, will find themselves no losers thereby. ELLICOTT, " (5) Ye shall therefore keep my statutes. Better, and ye shall keep my ordinances. The word here rendered by “statutes” is the same which the Authorised Version translates ordinances in Leviticus 18:3-4. He shall live in them.—Better, he shall live by or through them; that is, by observing them the law abiding will live a happy and prosperous life, since disobedience will expose the offender to the penalty of death. The spiritual authorities in the time of the second Temple interpreted this clause to mean that he who obeys these laws shall have eternal life. Hence the ancient Chaldee Versions translate it, “Shall have life eternal.” This passage is quoted both in the Prophets (Ezekiel 20:11; Ezekiel 20:13; Ezekiel 20:21; Nehemiah 9:29) and by St. Paul (Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12), who contrasts this promise made to works with the promise of the Gospel made to faith. TRAPP, "Leviticus 18:5 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I [am] the LORD. Ver. 5. He shall live in them.] As the flame lives in the oil, as the creature by his food, so the spiritual life is maintained by an evangelical keeping of God’s commandments. As on the contrary, every motion of the soul out of this way, tends to death; being as the motion of the fish out of his element. BENSON, "Verse 5 Leviticus 18:5. He shall live in them — Not only happily here, but eternally hereafter. This is added as a powerful argument why they should follow God’s commands rather than men’s examples, because their life and happiness depended upon it. And though in strictness, and according to the covenant of works, they could not challenge life for so doing, except their obedience was universal, perfect, constant, and perpetual, and therefore no man since the fall could be justified by the law; yet by the covenant of grace this life is promised to all that obey God’s commands sincerely. I am the Lord — Hebrew, I am Jehovah; that is, I am faithful to keep my covenant, and to fulfil my promises. See on Exodus 6:3. I am the sovereign dispenser of life and death, and therefore they that keep my laws shall live. WHEDON, "Verse 5 5. If a man do, he shall live — This important sentence contains the whole doctrine of justification by works. It is rendered more correctly and more emphatically in 26
  27. 27. Ezekiel 20:11; Ezekiel 20:13; Ezekiel 20:21, “he shall even live.” “The precepts of the law,” says Aquinas, “are not concerning things to be believed, but concerning things to be done.” Nevertheless, acceptable doing implies faith, while evangelical believing includes the subsequent doing of the will of God as the fruit of faith. As regards the life here promised, the Jewish interpreters themselves included in it more than mere earthly felicity in Canaan, (Deuteronomy 30:20,) and extended their view to a better life hereafter. The Palestine Targum renders it, “he shall live in them in the life of eternity;” that of Onkelos, “an everlasting life.” Says Tholuck, “Life seems to be a general promise, and length of days a particular species of felicity. In the New Testament this idea (of life) is always exalted into that of life blessed and eternal. See Matthew 7:14; Matthew 18:8-9; Luke 10:28.” Hence this is a plain intimation of the doctrine of a future life in the Pentateuch, which is denied by some superficial readers. St. Paul found “to be unto death” “the commandment which was ordained to life,” just as the murderer on the scaffold finds that the law against murder, designed to protect life, when transgressed, is “unto death.” The design and normal tendency of the law is life; but through man’s imperfection and disobedience the actual result is death. See Galatians 3:21, note, and John 11:25, note. In them — He shall live in the strength of, or by means of, these laws, in the faithful keeping of which is his fountain of life. But “he is a debtor to do the whole law.” Failure to do this renders “all the world guilty before God.” PETT, "Leviticus 18:5 “You shall therefore keep my statutes, and my ordinances, which if a man do, he shall live in them. I am Yahweh.” For it is in keeping those statutes and ordinances that they will find life. First of all they will avoid the danger of dying because of sin (compare Exodus 28:35; Exodus 28:43; Exodus 30:20-21; Leviticus 8:35; Leviticus 10:6-7; Leviticus 10:9; Leviticus 15:31; Leviticus 16:2; Leviticus 16:13). Secondly they will live in prosperity and blessing, for in Deuteronomy the idea of life and prosperity go very much together (Deuteronomy 30:15-16). The blessings of Deuteronomy 28:1-14 were to be for those who ‘lived’. And thirdly elsewhere in Leviticus it is stressed that they would enjoy the abundant blessings of God. ‘If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments and do them, then I shall give you rains in their season, and the land will yield its abundant produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. And your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time, and you will eat your food to the full and live securely in your land’ (Leviticus 26:3-5). So fullness of life, He tells us, results from knowing God and walking in His ways. This was also the essential message of the writer of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26; Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:18-19; Ecclesiastes 11:9) as he sought to understand the meaning of life. He pointed to the free and happy life under God 27
  28. 28. available to those who trusted in Him. And that was the life that the Law was intended to give, as the people responded to God in love and worship and sought eagerly to do what pleased Him and to enjoy the good things in life that He gave them. This was not saying that the Law could ‘give life’ as we might understand it. It very much could not. It could only show the life that should be lived. It could show what life was. It was the God of the covenant Who could give life, Who could renew His spirit within them (Psalms 51:10; Psalms 139:7; Psalms 143:10 compare Numbers 11:25), Who could give them clean hearts if they sought them (Psalms 51:10; Ezekiel 18:31). For the purpose of the ordinances was that they should constantly be returned to cleanness, and to a sense of a right relationship with God. The one who had raised up Abraham, Who had raised up Jacob, could also constantly raise them up. This is the message that the prophets would remind them of again and again. But it was true from the beginning. And through this they could live according to His covenant and enjoy His fullness of blessing. They would ‘live in them’. Relationships Which Are Forbidden. But central to this fullness of life were satisfactory family relationships. If they wished to enjoy ‘life’ these were vital. Living in a patriarchal society where the wider family lived in close relationships with each other, and where authority was vested in the wider family and very much determined by status in the household, there was the greatest possible danger among such families, knowing the propensities of men, that the closeness of their relationships in their living together could produce sexual problems, and that those could then produce situations that struck at the very roots of the family and of authority. Men’s lusts would be able to destroy families and especially womenfolk. They could also make life very difficult for everybody in a constant changing of relationships. They could in effect destroy ‘life’. This was especially true because men who were in positions of authority in the family could, without these regulations, have enforced their will sexually and caused untold hurt within their own family circles. Without regulation children especially would clearly be vulnerable to those whom they loved and who were responsible for their protection. It was therefore necessary to have strict rules to control these relationships, to prevent them getting out of hand, and to so legislate that such aberrations should not even be thought of. Practically speaking there were a number of good reasons why the relationships that follow were to be carefully regulated and any stepping across the boundary avoided, even if the assumption is that marriage, albeit often ‘forced’ marriage, was mainly in view by the perpetrators. They could produce complications in status and in inheritance, cause deep rows, division and distress within families, result in huge tensions, destroy inter-relationships, foster discrimination and jealousies between blood relations, produce insecurity and uncertainty in family life, encourage 28
  29. 29. constant distrust and fear, leave young children very vulnerable, and cause much bad blood and hurt which might affect a number of generations. They could destroy the stability, trust and love of the family. Such practises could also have been carried out deliberately in order to concentrate wealth and power within a few families to the general harm of the nation (compare the inter-marriage policy of Abraham’s family in order to maintain status). In most cases they were also totally unseemly anyway, denoting total lack of what was decent and natural (like boiling a kid in its mother’s milk was to be unthinkable because it went against nature), and underlying them were also no doubt a recognition by God of the genetic problems that could arise. But above all they are a reminder that we are not just to be free to follow ‘love’ (or lust) but must first do what is seemly and considerate for all. There are things that come before ‘love’. The family unity must not be destroyed for the selfish gratification of the few. That is why rigid barriers were and are necessary. Where Christian standards of marriage and life, based on these words, have held sway, these relationships described have not outwardly seemed much of a problem. They have simply not been openly breached (although much has gone on under cover which we would be ashamed to talk about if we knew of it). But now that in many countries sex has become a free for all once again they have again begun to raise their heads, and many families are being affected, and many people hurt, by uncouth sexual behaviour in lands once thought of as ‘Christian’. The problem of incestuous relationships was acknowledged elsewhere in the ancient world, but in a wide variety of ways and with varying penalties, many not very severe. It was, therefore, often not treated too seriously and never dealt with in detail in quite this way. This is thus a rare attempt to formalise in depth how such relationships should be viewed. 6 “‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord. BARNES, "Near of kin - See the margin. The term was evidently used to denote those only who came within certain limits of consanguinity, together with those who by 29
  30. 30. affinity were regarded in the same relationship. To uncover their nakedness - i. e. to have sexual intercourse. The immediate object of this law was to forbid incest. CLARKE, "Any that is near of kin - ‫בשרו‬ ‫שאר‬ ‫כל‬ col shear besaro, any remnant of his flesh, i.e., to any particularly allied to his own family, the prohibited degrees in which are specified from the 7th to the 17th verse (Lev_18:7-17) inclusive. Notwithstanding the prohibitions here, it must be evident that in the infancy of the world, persons very near of kin must have been joined in matrimonial alliances; and that even brothers must have matched with their own sisters. This must have been the case in the family of Adam. In these first instances necessity required this; when this necessity no longer existed, the thing became inexpedient and improper for two reasons: 1. That the duties owing by nature to relatives might not be confounded with those of a social or political kind; for could a man be a brother and a husband, a son and a husband, at the same time, and fulfill the duties of both? Impossible. 2. That by intermarrying with other families, the bonds of social compact might be strengthened and extended, so that the love of our neighbor, etc., might at once be felt to be not only a maxim of sound policy, but also a very practicable and easy duty; and thus feuds, divisions, and wars be prevented. GILL, "None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him,.... Or to all "the rest of his flesh" (t), which together with his make one flesh, who are of the same flesh and blood with him, and are united together in the bonds of consanguinity; and such, with respect to a man, are his mother, sister, and daughter; his mother, of whom he was born, his sister, who lay in and sprung from the same "venter" he did, and his daughter, who is his own flesh; and with respect to a woman, her father brother, and son, who are in the same degree of relation, and both sexes are included in this prohibition; for though in the original text it is "a man, a man" (u), yet as it takes in every man, so every woman: hence, as Jarchi observes, it is expressed in the plural number, "do not ye approach", to caution both male and female; and it is also understood by the Talmudists (w) of Gentiles as well as Israelites, for they ask, what is the meaning of the phrase "a man, a man?" the design of it is, they say, to comprehend the Gentiles, who are equally cautioned against incests as the Israelites; and indeed the inhabitants of the land of Canaan are said to defile the land with the incests and other abominations hereafter mentioned, and for which they were driven out of it: now when man and woman are forbidden to "approach" to those of the same flesh and blood with them, the sense is not that they may not come into each other's company, or make use of any civil or friendly salutations, or have a free and familiar conversation with each other, provided that modesty and chastity be preserved; but they are not so to draw near as to lie with, or have carnal knowledge of one another, in which sense the phrase is used, Gen_20:4; or to tempt to it or solicit it, and as it follows, which explains the meaning of it: to uncover their nakedness; that is, those parts, which, by a contrary way of 30
  31. 31. speaking, are so called, which should never be naked or exposed to view; but should be always covered, as nature teaches to do, and as our first parents did, when they perceived themselves naked, and were ashamed, Gen_3:7, this phrase signifies the same as to lie with another, or have carnal knowledge of them, wherefore the following laws are generally understood of incestuous marriages; for if such an action is not to be done between persons standing in such a relation, as here in general, and afterwards more particularly described, then there ought to be no intermarriages between them; and if such marriages are forbidden, and such actions unlawful in a married state, then much more in an unmarried one; wherefore the several following instances are so many breaches of the seventh command, Exo_20:14, and so many explications and illustrations of it, and consequently of a moral nature, and binding upon all men, Jews and Gentiles: I am the Lord; that gave this caution, and enjoined this prohibition, and would greatly resent and severely revenge the neglect of it: the particulars follow. HENRY 6-18, "These laws relate to the seventh commandment, and, no doubt, are obligatory on us under the gospel, for they are consonant to the very light and law of nature: one of the articles, that of a man's having his father's wife, the apostle speaks of as a sin not so much as named among the Gentiles, 1Co_5:1. Though some of the incests here forbidden were practised by some particular persons among the heathen, yet they were disallowed and detested, unless among those nations who had become barbarous, and were quite given up to vile affections. Observe, I. That which is forbidden as to the relations here specified is approaching to them to uncover their nakedness, Lev_18:6. 1. It is chiefly intended to forbid the marrying of any of these relations. Marriage is a divine institution; this and the sabbath, the eldest of all, of equal standing with man upon the earth: it is intended for the comfort of human life, and the decent and honourable propagation of the human race, such as became the dignity of man's nature above that of the beasts. It is honourable in all, and these laws are for the support of the honour of it. It was requisite that a divine ordinance should be subject to divine rules and restraints, especially because it concerns a thing wherein the corrupt nature of man is as apt as in any thing to be wilful and impetuous in its desires, and impatient of check. Yet these prohibitions, besides their being enacted by an incontestable authority, are in themselves highly reasonable and equitable. (1.) By marriage two were to become one flesh, therefore those that before were in a sense one flesh by nature could not, without the greatest absurdity, become one flesh by institution; for the institution was designed to unite those who before were not united. (2.) Marriage puts an equality between husband and wife. “Is she not thy companion taken out of thy side?” Therefore, if those who before were superior and inferior should intermarry (which is the case in most of the instances here laid down), the order of nature would be taken away by a positive institution, which must by no means be allowed. The inequality between master and servant, noble and ignoble, is founded in consent and custom, and there is no harm done if that be taken away by the equality of marriage; but the inequality between parents and children, uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, either by blood or marriage, is founded in nature, and is therefore perpetual, and cannot without confusion be taken away by the equality of marriage, the institution of which, though ancient, is subsequent to the order of nature. (3.) No relations that are equals are forbidden, except brothers and sisters, by 31
  32. 32. the whole blood or half blood, or by marriage; and in this there is not the same natural absurdity as in the former, for Adam's sons must of necessity have married their own sisters; but it was requisite that it should be made by a positive law unlawful and detestable, for the preventing of sinful familiarities between those that in the days of their youth are supposed to live in a house together, and yet cannot intermarry without defeating one of the intentions of marriage, which is the enlargement of friendship and interest. If every man married his own sister (as they would be apt to do from generation to generation if it were lawful), each family would be a world to itself, and it would be forgotten that we are members one of another. It is certain that this has always been looked upon by the more sober heathen as a most infamous and abominable thing; and those who had not this law yet were herein a law to themselves. The making use of the ordinance of marriage for the patronizing of incestuous mixtures is so far from justifying them, or extenuating their guilt, that it adds the guilt of profaning an ordinance of God, and prostituting that to the vilest of purposes which was instituted for the noblest ends. But, 2. Uncleanness, committed with any of these relations out of marriage, is likewise, without doubt, forbidden here, and no less intended than the former: as also all lascivious carriage, wanton dalliance, and every thing that has the appearance of this evil. Relations must love one another, and are to have free and familiar converse with each other, but it must be with all purity; and the less it is suspected of evil by others the more care ought the persons themselves to take that Satan do not get advantage against them, for he is a very subtle enemy, and seeks all occasions against us. II. The relations forbidden are most of them plainly described; and it is generally laid down as a rule that what relations of a man's own he is bound up from marrying the same relations of his wife he is likewise forbidden to marry, for they two are one. That law which forbids marrying a brother's wife (Lev_18:16) had an exception peculiar to the Jewish state, that, if a man died without issue, his brother or next of kin should marry the widow, and raise up seed to the deceased (Deu_25:5), for reasons which held good only in that commonwealth; and therefore now that those reasons have ceased the exception ceases, and the law is in force, that a man must in no case marry his brother's widow. That article (Lev_18:18) which forbids a man to take a wife to her sister supposes a connivance at polygamy, as some other laws then did (Exo_21:10; Deu_ 21:15), but forbids a man's marrying two sisters, as Jacob did, because between those who had before been equal there would be apt to arise greater jealousies and animosities than between wives that were not so nearly related. If the sister of the wife be taken for the concubine, or secondary wife, nothing can be more vexing in her life, or as long as she lives. JAMISON, "None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him — Very great laxity prevailed amongst the Egyptians in their sentiments and practice about the conjugal relation, as they not only openly sanctioned marriages between brothers and sisters, but even between parents and children. Such incestuous alliances Moses wisely prohibited, and his laws form the basis upon which the marriage regulations of this and other Christian nations are chiefly founded. This verse contains a general summary of all the particular prohibitions; and the forbidden intercourse is pointed out by the phrase, “to approach to.” In the specified prohibitions that follow, all of which are included in this general summary, the prohibited familiarity is indicated by the phrases, 32

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