Promises upon keeping the precepts. (1-13) Threatenings against disobedience. (14-39) God promises to remember those that repent. (40-46)
Verses 1-13 This chapter contains a general enforcement of all the laws given by Moses; by promises of reward in case of obedience, on the one hand; and threatenings of punishment for disobedience, on the other. While Israel maintained a national regard to God's worship, sabbaths, and sanctuary, and did not turn aside to idolatry, the Lord engaged to continue to them temporal mercies and religious advantages. These great and precious promises, though they relate chiefly to the life which now is, were typical of the spiritual blessings made sure by the covenant of grace to all believers, through Christ. 1. Plenty and abundance of the fruits of the earth. Every good and perfect gift must be expected from above, from the Father of lights. 2. Peace under the Divine protection. Those dwell in safety, that dwell in God. 3. Victory and success in their wars. It is all one with the Lord to save by many or by few. 4. The increase of their people. The gospel church shall be fruitful. 5. The favour of God, which is the fountain of all Good. 6. Tokens of his presence in and by his ordinances. The way to have God's ordinances fixed among us, is to cleave closely to them. 7. The grace of the covenant. All covenant blessings are summed up in the covenant relation, I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and they are all grounded upon their redemption. Having purchased them, God would own them, and never cast them off till they cast him off.
Verses 14-39 After God has set the blessing before them which would make them a happy people if they would be obedient, he here sets the curse before them, the evils which would make them miserable, if they were disobedient. Two things would bring ruin. 1. A contempt of God's commandments. They that reject the precept, will come at last to renounce the covenant. 2. A contempt of his corrections. If they will not learn obedience by the things they suffer, God himself would be against them; and this is the root and cause of all their misery. And also, The whole creation would be at war with them. All God's sore judgments would be sent against them. The threatenings here are very particular, they were prophecies, and He that foresaw all their rebellions, knew they would prove so. TEMPORAL judgments are threatened. Those who will not be parted from their sins by the commands of God, shall be parted from them by judgments. Those wedded to their lusts, will have enough of them. SPIRITUAL judgments are threatened, which should seize the mind. They should find no acceptance with God. A guilty conscience would be their continual terror. It is righteous with God to leave those to despair of pardon, who presume to sin; and it is owing to free grace, if we are not left to pine away in the iniquity we were born in, and have lived in.
Verses 40-46 Among the Israelites, persons were not always prosperous or afflicted according to their obedience or disobedience. But national prosperity was the effect of national obedience, and national judgments were brought on by national wickedness. Israel was under a peculiar covenant. National wickedness will end in the ruin of any people, especially where the word of God and the light of the gospel are enjoyed. Sooner or later, sin will be the ruin, as well as the reproach, of every people. Oh that, being humbled for our sins, we might avert the rising storm before it bursts upon us! God grant that we may, in this our day, consider the things which belong to our eternal peace.
Leviticus 26:1 Leviticus 26:2 . OF IDOLATRY.
1. Ye shall make you no idols--Idolatry had been previously forbidden ( Exodus 20:4 Exodus 20:5 ), but the law was repeated here with reference to some particular forms of it that were very prevalent among the neighboring nations.
a standing image--that is, "upright pillar."
image of stone--that is, an obelisk, inscribed with hieroglyphical and superstitious characters; the former denoting the common and smaller pillars of the Syrians or Canaanites; the latter, pointing to the large and elaborate obelisks which the Egyptians worshipped as guardian divinities, or used as stones of adoration to stimulate religious worship. The Israelites were enjoined to beware of them.
2. Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary--Very frequently, in this Book of the Law, the Sabbath and the sanctuary are mentioned as antidotes to idolatry.
Leviticus 26:3-13 . A BLESSING TO THE OBEDIENT.
3. If ye walk in my statutes--In that covenant into which God graciously entered with the people of Israel, He promised to bestow upon them a variety of blessings, so long as they continued obedient to Him as their Almighty Ruler; and in their subsequent history that people found every promise amply fulfilled, in the enjoyment of plenty, peace, a populous country, and victory over all enemies.
4. I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase--Rain seldom fell in Judea except at two seasons--the former rain at the end of autumn, the seedtime; and the latter rain in spring, before the beginning of harvest ( Jeremiah 5:24 ).
5. your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time, &c.--The barley harvest in Judea was about the middle of April; the wheat harvest about six weeks after, or in the beginning of June. After the harvest came the vintage, and fruit gathering towards the latter end of July. Moses led the Hebrews to believe that, provided they were faithful to God, there would be no idle time between the harvest and vintage, so great would be the increase. (See Amos 9:13 ). This promise would be very animating to a people who had come from a country where, for three months, they were pent up without being able to walk abroad because the fields were under water.
10. ye shall eat old store--Their stock of old corn would be still unexhausted and large when the next harvest brought a new supply.
13. I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright--a metaphorical expression to denote their emancipation from Egyptian slavery.
Leviticus 26:14-39 . A CURSE TO THE DISOBEDIENT.
14, 15. But if ye will not hearken unto me, &c.--In proportion to the great and manifold privileges bestowed upon the Israelites would be the extent of their national criminality and the severity of their national punishments if they disobeyed.
16. I will even appoint over you terror--the falling sickness [PATRICK].
consumption, and the burning ague--Some consider these as symptoms of the same disease--consumption followed by the shivering, burning, and sweating fits that are the usual concomitants of that malady. According to the Septuagint, "ague" is "the jaundice," which disorders the eyes and produces great depression of spirits. Others, however, consider the word as referring to a scorching wind; no certain explanation can be given.
18. if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more--that is, with far more severe and protracted calamities.
19. I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass--No figures could have been employed to convey a better idea of severe and long-continued famine.
22. I will also send wild beasts among you--This was one of the four judgments threatened ( Ezekiel 14:21 ; see also 2 Kings 2:4 ).
your highways shall be desolate--Trade and commerce will be destroyed--freedom and safety will be gone--neither stranger nor native will be found on the roads ( Isaiah 33:8 ). This is an exact picture of the present state of the Holy Land, which has long lain in a state of desolation, brought on by the sins of the ancient Jews.
26. ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, &c.--The bread used in families is usually baked by women, and at home. But sometimes also, in times of scarcity, it is baked in public ovens for want of fuel; and the scarcity predicted here would be so great, that one oven would be sufficient to bake as much as ten women used in ordinary occasions to provide for family use; and even this scanty portion of bread would be distributed by weight ( Ezekiel 4:16 ).
29. ye shall eat the flesh of your sons--The revolting picture was actually exhibited at the siege of Samaria, at the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar ( Lamentations 4:10 ), and at the destruction of that city by the Romans.
30. I will destroy your high places--Consecrated enclosures on the tops of mountains, or on little hillocks, raised for practising the rites of idolatry.
cut down your images--According to some, those images were made in the form of chariots ( 2 Kings 23:11 ); according to others, they were of a conical form, like small pyramids. Reared in honor of the sun, they were usually placed on a very high situation, to enable the worshippers to have a better view of the rising sun. They were forbidden to the Israelites, and when set up, ordered to be destroyed.
cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, &c.--Like the statues of idols, which, when broken, lie neglected and contemned, the Jews during the sieges and subsequent captivity often wanted the rites of sepulture.
31. I will make your cities waste--This destruction of its numerous and flourishing cities, which was brought upon Judea through the sins of Israel, took place by the forced removal of the people during, and long after, the captivity. But it is realized to a far greater extent now.
bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours--the tabernacle and temple, as is evident from the tenor of the subsequent clause, in which God announces that He will not accept or regard their sacrifices.
33. I will scatter you among the heathen, &c.--as was done when the elite of the nation were removed into Assyria and placed in various parts of the kingdom.
34. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, &c.--A long arrear of sabbatic years had accumulated through the avarice and apostasy of the Israelites, who had deprived their land of its appointed season of rest. The number of those sabbatic years seems to have been seventy, as determined by the duration of the captivity. This early prediction is very remarkable, considering that the usual policy of the Assyrian conquerors was to send colonies to cultivate and inhabit their newly acquired provinces.
38. the land of your enemies shall eat you up, &c.--On the removal of the ten tribes into captivity, they never returned, and all traces of them were lost.
40-45. If they shall confess their iniquity, &c.--This passage holds out the gracious promise of divine forgiveness and favor on their repentance, and their happy restoration to their land, in memory of the covenant made with their fathers ( Romans 2:1-29 ).
46. These are the statutes and judgments and laws--It has been thought by some that the last chapter was originally placed after the twenty-fifth [ADAM CLARKE], while others consider that the next chapter was added as an appendix, in consequence of many people being influenced by the promises and threats of the preceding one, to resolve that they would dedicate themselves and their possessions to the service of God [CALMET].