New European Commentary

 

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Deeper Commentary

 

Lev 19:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

Lev 19:2 Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘You shall be holy; for I Yahweh your God am holy.
Lev 19:3 Each one of you shall respect his mother and his father. You shall keep My Sabbaths. I am Yahweh your God-

The contemporary Near Eastern legal codes prescribed the most severe penalties for crimes against the wealthy and their property. Rich people were given lesser punishments than poor people for the same crime. The value of persons reflected in Yahweh's law meant that all people were judged equally before the law, and truly there was no respect of persons with the true God. Both father and mother are placed together as worthy of equal honour (Lev. 19:3; Ex. 20:12)- whereas the contemporary laws were oriented towards respect of the male rather than females.


Lev 19:4 Don’t turn to idols, nor make molten gods for yourselves. I am Yahweh your God.
Lev 19:5 When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to Yahweh, you shall offer it voluntarily-
 
The law of the peace offerings was designed so as to encourage the person who decided to make such a freewill offering to execute immediately- they were to eat it the same day they offered it, and the sacrifice would be totally unacceptable if it was killed but left for some days (Lev. 19:5-7). If we have an impulse to respond to the Lord, we should respond to it immediately. This isn’t mere impetuosity. It’s a spirit of always having an immediacy of response, which empowers us to overcome the procrastination which holds us back so much.

Freewill offerings such as the peace offering must really be of our free will. We mustn’t feel any sense of obligation to others, doing voluntary things to be seen of them, but any act of freewill devotion must be genuine, motivated by our personal desire to devote our time or resources to God.


Lev 19:6 It shall be eaten the same day you offer it, and on the next day: and if anything remains until the third day, it shall be burned with fire.
Lev 19:7 If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination. It will not be accepted-

If we think our freewill devotions to be God can be done as we wish without regard for His principles, then what we do is obnoxious to Him. The Hebrew word translated “abomination” is often used about idol worship; we will not be worshipping Him, but the idols of our own image and standing in the eyes of people.


Lev 19:8 but everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned the holy thing of Yahweh, and that soul shall be cut off from his people.

Lev 19:9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.
Lev 19:10 You shall not glean your vineyard, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the foreigner. I am Yahweh your God-

If all Israel were obedient to the Law of Moses, there wouldn’t have been any poor in Israelite society (Dt. 15:4). But the same Law of Moses repeatedly instructed Israel to be generous and sensitive to the poor; it tacitly recognized, as did Jesus, that there would always be poor within Israel, for the Law would never be fully kept (Mt. 26:11). We see in the structure of the Law the recognition of human failure in a way which no other law has ever equalled. There’s a tendency to assume that the poor are poor because of their own poor decision making and therefore we have no responsibility to help them- although we are all poor decision makers in various ways, especially in spiritual matters. The Law taught a principle we need to learn also- that even if folk have dug a whole and fallen into it, we are still to assist them and be sensitive to their situation.


Lev 19:11 You shall not steal, nor lie, nor shall you deceive one another-

The command not to steal is associated with not deceiving others nor lying to them. Dishonesty, even if it’s unrelated to material gain at another’s expense, is a form of theft; we are taking from another wrongfully.


Lev 19:12 You shall not swear by My name falsely, and profane the name of your God. I am Yahweh-

The vulnerability and sensitivity of God is reflected in the way that He is concerned that His covenant people, His wife, who bears His Name, might profane His Name (Lev. 19:12; Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). His repeated concern that His Name be taken in vain doesn't simply refer to the casual use of the word "God" as an expression of exasperation. God is concerned about His people taking His Name upon themselves (Num. 6:27) in vain- i.e., marrying Him, entering covenant relationship with Him, taking on His Name- but not being serious about that relationship, taking it on as a vain thing, like a woman who casually marries a man who loves her at the very core of his being, when for her, it's just a casual thing and she lives a profligate and adulterous life as his wife. When God revealed His Name to His people, opening up the very essence of His character to them, He was making Himself vulnerable. We reveal ourselves intimately to another because we wish for them to make a response to us, to love us for what we revealed to them. God revealed Himself to Israel, He sought for intimacy in the covenant relationship, and therefore was and is all the more hurt when His people turn away from Him, after having revealed to them all the wonders of His word (Hos. 8:12).


Lev 19:13 You shall not oppress your neighbour, nor rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.
Lev 19:14 You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind; but you shall fear your God. I am Yahweh’-

As if God is especially sensitive to our abusing others’ disadvantages in whatever form, and His wrath about this is to be feared.



Lev 19:15 ’You shall do no injustice in judgment: you shall not be partial to the poor, nor show favouritism to the great; but you shall judge your neighbour in righteousness-

We are not to judge in the sense of condemn others, but it’s inevitable in daily life that we have to form opinions. But we must always remember that the person we are judging is in fact our neighbour, our brother, our equal; our judgment shouldn’t be rooted in any sense of feeling inherently superior over him or her, spiritually or otherwise.


Lev 19:16 You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people. You shall not endanger the life of your neighbour. I am Yahweh.
Lev 19:17 You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him-
 
“Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him”. The implication is that if we don’t have transparency with our neighbour, if we don’t rebuke them openly and specifically, then we will end up hating them. Just saying nothing about those situations calling for rebuke will only drive you to hate the person in the end. "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbour" (Lev. 19:17,18). Unless there is direct, one on one dialogue, the hatred born of misunderstanding will develop. But reasoning together is something only possible if we perceive the value of persons.

By not rebuking our brother, by saying nothing and not engaging with the issues when we need to, we are likely to breed anger in our hearts against him or her.

 


Lev 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; but you shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am Yahweh-

One reason we fail to love others as ourselves is because we may in fact not love ourselves in the sense of perceiving our own value before God.



Lev 19:19 You shall keep my statutes. You shall not crossbreed different kinds of animals, you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; neither shall there come upon you a garment made of two kinds of material-
 
The first mention of mules in the Bible is when Absalom murders his brother Amnon (2 Sam. 13:29). They were cross bred in disobedience to this command. We get the impression that a generally slack attitude to what might have been considered minor matters of the law was associated with the major sin of murder. This is the problem when we start to think that some parts of God's laws can just be ignored.


Lev 19:20 If a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave girl, pledged to be married to another man, and not ransomed, or given her freedom; they shall be punished. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free.
Lev 19:21 He shall bring his trespass offering to Yahweh, to the door of the Tent of Meeting, even a ram for a trespass offering.
Lev 19:22 The priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before Yahweh for his sin which he has committed; and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him.
Lev 19:23 When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden. Three years shall they be forbidden to you. It shall not be eaten-

Forbidden fruit naturally recalls the forbidden fruit on the tree in Eden. To grab as much as we can immediately without working for it nor recognizing that the firstfruits of all human endeavour must be given to the Lord- is all very human and common. But to do so is painted as being as bad as taking the forbidden fruit of Eden, with all the long term suffering which came as a result of short-termism.


Lev 19:24 But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, for giving a praise offering to Yahweh.
Lev 19:25 In the fifth year you shall eat its fruit, that it may yield its increase to you. I am Yahweh your God.
Lev 19:26 You shall not eat any meat with the blood still in it; neither shall you use enchantments, nor practise sorcery.
Lev 19:27 You shall not cut the hair on the sides of your heads, neither shall you clip off the edge of your beard.
Lev 19:28 You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you. I am Yahweh.
Lev 19:29 Don’t profane your daughter, to make her a prostitute; lest the land fall to prostitution, and the land become full of wickedness-

Sexual misbehaviour sets an example which spreads so easily.


Lev 19:30 You shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am Yahweh.
Lev 19:31 Don’t turn to those who are mediums, nor to the wizards. Don’t seek them out, to be defiled by them. I am Yahweh your God.
Lev 19:32 You shall rise up before the gray head, and honour the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God. I am Yahweh-

Some time, read through the book of Deuteronomy in one or two sessions. You'll see many themes of Moses in Deuteronomy. It really shows how Moses felt towards Israel, and how the Lord Jesus feels towards us, and especially how he felt towards us just before his death. For this is what the whole book prefigures. "Love" and the idea of love occurs far more in Deuteronomy than in the other books of the Law. "Fear the Lord your God" of Ex. 9:30; Lev. 19:14,32; 25:17 becomes "love the Lord your God" in Deuteronomy (Dt. 6:5; 7:9; 10:12; 11:1; 19:9; 30:6,16,20). There are 23 references to not hating in Deuteronomy, compared to only 5 in Ex. - Num.; Moses saw the danger of bitterness and lack of love. He saw these things as the spiritual cancer they are, in his time of maturity he warned his beloved people against them. His mind was full of them. The LXX uses the word ekklesia eight times in Deuteronomy, but not once in Moses' other words (Dt. 4:10; 9:10; 18:16; 23:1,2,3,8; 32:1). Responsibility for the whole family God had redeemed was a mark of Moses; maturity at the end of his life, at the time of Deuteronomy. It is observable that both as a community and as individuals, this will be a sign of our maturity too.


Lev 19:33 If a stranger lives as a foreigner with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.
Lev 19:34 The stranger who lives as a foreigner with you shall be to you as the native-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you lived as foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh your God.
Lev 19:35 You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in measures of length, of weight, or of quantity-

The Hebrew mishpat, "judgment", s.w. "ordinances", has a wide range of meaning. The idea is of judgment, as if God and His Angels gave these laws as their considered judgment after considering the human condition, and Israel were to abide by them. But the word also the idea of a right or privilege; and that is how we should see God's laws. They are only felt as a burden because of human hardness of neck towards God's ways. His laws are not of themselves burdensome, but rather a privilege and blessing. The law was indeed "holy, just and good" (Rom. 7:12), designed to inculcate a holy, just and good life (Tit. 1:8), a way in which a man should "walk" in daily life (Lev. 18:4), a culture of kindness and grace to others which reflected God's grace to man. If we dwell upon the idea of "rights" carried within the word mishpat, we note that the law begins in Ex. 21:1,2 (also Dt. 15:12-18) with the rights of a slave- those considered to have no rights in the society of that day. The "rights" to be afforded by us to others are the essence of God's rightness / justice.  
Lev 19:36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin. I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Lev 19:37 You shall observe all my statutes, and all my ordinances, and do them. I am Yahweh’.