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Leviticus 26 Study Notes


26:1-2 The verb keep refers to the detailed observation of the commandments. The expression keep my Sabbaths occurs four times (v. 2; 19:3,30; Ex 31:13), and it is an allusion to the fourth commandment about keeping and sanctifying the Sabbath.

26:3-13 Here is the list of blessings the Lord promises Israel if they keep his law.

26:4 In Hebrew the word rain is in the plural. It refers to the two rainy periods that occurred in autumn and spring (Dt 11:14; Jr 5:24; Jl 2:23).

26:8 The one to twenty and one to a hundred proportions point to the miraculous victories over their enemies with which God would reward his people if they obeyed his commandments.

26:11 The promise of divine fellowship is rendered by the phrase, I will place my residence among you. The “residence” is literally a “tabernacle.” This is a direct parallel to Jn 1:14, where John affirmed that Jesus, the Word, became flesh “and dwelt among us,” or “tabernacled” among us.

26:13 The bars of your yoke were a reminder of the Egyptian bondage from which God delivered the Israelites. Here Israel is pictured as an animal held down by a heavy yoke. Later Jesus invited humanity to take his light yoke and partake of his rest (Mt 11:28-30).

26:14-39 Here is the list of curses that would befall Israel if they failed to keep the Lord’s law.

26:14-17 The five sets of curses that begin in v. 14 are presented as punishment for disobedience of God’s commands . . . statutes . . . ordinances, and covenant. These curses match the five sets of blessings in vv. 3-13. The curses increase in severity with a persistent refusal to repent. The Lord would turn against his people only after they defiantly turned against him.

26:18-20 The number seven associated with the discipline for sins is not to be taken literally, but it is used figuratively to mean “many times” or “thoroughly.” It could be an allusion to the Sabbaths not kept by the Israelites (v. 34).

26:22 Because the Lord is the God of all creation, he can also sovereignly use wild animals to punish his people. The outbreak of wild animals is frequently regarded as punishment for sin (Dt 32:24; 2Kg 2:24; 17:25; Is 13:21-22).

26:29 This curse was fulfilled during the siege of Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom (2Kg 6:24-29) and later the siege of Jerusalem (Jr 19:9; Lm 4:10; Ezk 5:10).

26:31 The expression I will not smell the pleasing aroma of your sacrifices refers to the fact that God would not accept his people’s sacrifices, and thus he was rejecting the people. Sacrifices without obedience are meaningless (1Sm 15:22).

26:33 The Hebrew verb zarâ, translated here as scatter, can also be translated “winnow.” In the mind of the Jews it would trigger the image of wicked people being blown away like chaff (Ps 1:4). This is an obvious reference to God’s ultimate rejection of the errant Jews—the exile.

26:34-35 This curse anticipates Israel’s failure to keep the Sabbath years. The chronicler fused this verse with Jeremiah’s prophecy that the exile would last seventy years (2Ch 36:21; cp. Jr 25:11; 29:10).

26:40-45 These verses explain that restoration would be possible.

26:40-41 The expression but when indicates a turning point and involves a note of hope. The promised restoration is contingent upon the people’s confession of iniquity and their humility. The verb translated humbled is literally “to bring to one’s knees.”

26:44 The purifying agent will be the exile, not the flood that destroyed the earth during the time of Noah (Gn 6; 9). The great judgments of wars and famines in Rv 6-19 have their original setting in Lv 26 and Dt 28. As in OT times, the NT believer must repent or be judged.