Leviticus 19


Exhortations to holiness, and a repetition of various laws,

1, 2

Duty to parents, and observance of the Sabbath, 3.

Against idolatry, 4.

Concerning peace-offerings, 5-8.

The gleanings of the harvest and vintage to be left for the

poor, 9, 10.

Against stealing and lying, 11;

false swearing, 12;

defrauding the hireling, 13.

Laws in behalf of the deaf and the blind, 14.

Against respect of persons in judgment, 15;

tale-bearing, 16;

hatred and uncharitableness, 17;

revenge, 18;

unlawful mixtures in cattle, seed, and garments, 19.

Laws relative to the bondmaid that is betrothed, 20-22.

The fruit of the trees of the land not to be eaten for the

first three years, 23;

but this is lawful in the fourth and fifth years, 24, 25.

Against eating of blood, and using incantations, 26;

superstitious cutting of the hair, 27;

and cutting of the flesh in the times of mourning, 28;

prostitution, 29.

Sabbaths to be reverenced, 30.

Against consulting those who are wizards, and have familiar

spirits, 31.

Respect must be shown to the aged, 32.

The stranger shall not be oppressed, 33, 34.

They shall keep just measures, weights, and balances, 35, 36.

Conclusion, 37.


Verse 3. Ye shall fear every man his mother, &c.] Ye shall

have the profoundest reverence and respect for them.

See Clarke on Ge 48:12; "Ex 20:8"; and "Ex 20:12".

Verse 4. Turn ye not unto idols] elilim, literally

nothings; and to this St. Paul seems to allude 1Co 8:4, where

he says, We know that an idol is NOTHING in the world.

Verse 5. Peace-offerings] See at the conclusion of

Clarke's note "Le 7:38".

Verse 7. It is be eaten-on the third day]

See Clarke on Le 7:15.

Verse 9. When ye reap the harvest] Liberty for the poor to

glean both the corn-fields and vineyards was a Divine

institution among the Jews; for the whole of the Mosaic

dispensation, like the Christian, breathed love to God and

benevolence to man. The poor in Judea were to live by gleanings

from the corn-fields and vine yards. To the honour of the

public and charitable spirit of the English, this merciful law

is in general as much attended to as if it had been incorporated

with the Gospel.

Verse 11. Ye shall not steal, &c.]

See Clarke on Ex 20:15.

Verse 13. The wages-shall not abide with thee all night] For

this plain reason, it is the support of the man's life and

family, and they need to expend it as fast as it is earned.

Verse 14. Thou shalt not curse the deaf] Or speak evil of

him, because he cannot hear, and so cannot vindicate his own


Nor put a stumbling-block before the blind] He who is capable

of doing this, must have a heart cased with cruelty. The spirit

and design of these precepts are, that no man shall in any case

take advantage of the ignorance, simplicity, or inexperience of

his neighbour, but in all things do to his neighbour as he

would, on a change of circumstances, that his neighbour should

do to him.

Verse 16. Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer]

rachil signifies a trader, a pedlar, and is here applied

to the person who travels about dealing in scandal and calumny,

getting the secrets of every person and family, and retailing

them wherever he goes. A more despicable character exists not:

such a person is a pest to society, and should be exiled from

the habitations of men.

Neither shalt thou stand against the blood, &c.] Thou shalt

not be as a false witness, because by such testimony the

blood-the life of an innocent man may be endangered.

Verse 17. Thou shalt not hate thy brother] Thou shalt not

only not do him any kind of evil, but thou shalt harbour no

hatred in thy heart towards him. On the contrary, thou shalt

love him as thyself, Le 19:18. Many persons suppose, from

misunderstanding our Lord's words, Joh 13:34,

A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another, &c.,

that loving our neighbour as ourselves was first instituted under

the Gospel. This verse shows the opinion to be unfounded: but to

love another as Christ has loved us, i. e., to lay down our

lives for each other, is certainly a new commandment; we have it

simply on the authority of Jesus Christ alone.

And not suffer sin upon him.] If thou see him sin, or know

him to be addicted to any thing by which the safety of his soul

is endangered, thou shalt mildly and affectionately reprove him,

and by no means permit him to go on without counsel and advice

in a way that is leading him to perdition. In a multitude of

cases timely reproof has been the means of saving the soul.

Speak to him privately if possible; if not, write to him in such

a way that himself alone shall see it.

Verse 19. Gender with a diverse kind] These precepts taken

literally seem to imply that they should not permit the horse

and the she-ass, nor the he-ass and the cow, (as they do in the

East,) to couple together; nor sow different kinds of seeds in

the same field or garden; nor have garments of silk and

woollen, cotton and silk, linen and wool, &c. And if all these

were forbidden, there must have been some moral reason for the

prohibitions, because domestic economy required several of these

mixtures, especially those which relate to seeds and clothing.

With respect to heterogeneous mixtures among cattle, there is

something very unnatural in it, and it was probably forbidden to

prevent excitements to such unnatural lusts as those condemned

in the preceding chapter, Le 18:22, 23.

As to seeds, in many cases it would be very improper to sow

different kinds in the same plot of ground. It would be

improvident to sow oats and wheat together: the latter would be

injured, the former ruined. The turnip and carrot would not

succeed conjointly, where either of them separately would prosper

and yield a good crop; so we may say of many other kinds of seeds;

and if this be all that is intended, the counsels are prudential

agricultural maxims. As to different kinds of garments, such as

the linsey woolsey, the prohibition here might be intended as much

against pride and vanity as any thing else; for it is certain that

both these articles may be so manufactured in conjunction as to

minister to pride, though in general the linsey woolsey or drugget

is the clothing of the poor. But we really do not know what the

original word shaatnez, which we translate linen and

woollen, means: it is true that in De 22:11, where it is again

used, it seems to be explained by the words immediately

following, Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of

linen and woollen together; but this may as well refer to a

garment made up of a sort of patchwork differently coloured and

arranged for pride and for show. A folly of this kind prevailed

anciently in this very land, and I shall give a proof of it,

taken from a sermon against luxury in dress, composed in the

fourteenth century.

"As to the first sinne in superfluitie of clothing, soche that

maketh it so dere, to the harme of the peple, nat only the cost

of enbrauderlng, the disguised endenting, or barring, ounding

paling, winding or bending and semblable wast of clothe in

vanite. But there is also the costlewe furring in their gounes,

so moche pounsing of chesel, to make holes; so moche dagging

with sheres foorth; with the superfluitie in length of the

forsaied gounes,-to grete dammage of pore folke.-And more

ouer-they shewe throughe disguising, in departing of ther hosen

in white and red, semeth that halfe ther members were

slain.-They departe ther hosen into other colours, as is white

and blewe, or white and blacke, or blacke and red, and so forth;

than semeth it as by variaunce of colour, that the halfe part of

ther members ben corrupt by the fire of Saint Anthony, or by

canker, or other suche mischaunce." The Parson's Tale, in

Chaucer, p. 198. Urry's edit. The reader will pardon the

antiquated spelling.

"What could exhibit," says Dr. Henry, "a more fantastical

appearance than an English beau of the 14th century? He wore

long pointed shoes, fastened to his knees by gold or silver

chains; hose of one colour on the one leg, and of another colour

on the other; short breeches which did reach to the middle of

his thighs; a coat the one half white, the other half black or

blue; a long beard; a silk hood buttoned under his chin,

embroidered with grotesque figures of animals, dancing men, &c.,

and sometimes ornamented with gold and precious stones." This

dress was the height of the mode in the reign of King Edward


Something of the same kind seems to have existed in the

patriarchal times; witness the coat of many colours made by

Jacob for his son Joseph. See Clarke on Ge 37:3. Concerning

these different mixtures much may be seen in the Mishna, Tract,

Kilaim, and in Ainsworth, and Calmet on this place.

Verse 20. A woman that is a bondmaid] Had she been free, the

law required that she should be put to death; (see De 22:24;)

but as she was a slave, she is supposed to have less

self-command, and therefore less guilt: but as it is taken for

granted she did not make resistance, or did consent, she is to

be scourged, and the man is to bring a ram for a


Verse 23. Three years shall it be as uncircumcised] I see no

great reason to seek for mystical meanings in this prohibition.

The fruit of a young tree cannot be good; for not having arrived

at a state of maturity, the juices cannot be sufficiently

elaborated to produce fruit excellent in its kind. The

Israelites are commanded not to eat of the fruit of a tree till

the fifth year after its planting: in the three first years the

fruit is unwholesome; in the fourth year the fruit is holy, it

belongs to God, and should be consecrated to him, Le 19:24; and

in the fifth year and afterward the fruit may be employed for

common use, Le 19:25.

Verse 26. Neither shall ye use enchantment] lo

thenachashu. Conjecture itself can do little towards a proper

explanation of the terms used in this verse. nachash;

See Clarke on Ge 3:1,

we translate serpent, and with very little propriety; but

though the word may not signify a serpent in that place, it has

that signification in others. Possibly, therefore, the

superstition here prohibited may be what the Greeks called

Ophiomanteia, or divination by serpents.

Nor observe times.] velo teonenu, ye shall not

divine by clouds, which was also a superstition much in practice

among the heathens, as well as divination by the flight of

birds. What these prohibitions may particularly refer to, we

know not. See Clarke on Ge 41:8.

Verse 27. Ye shall not round the corners your heads] This

and the following verse evidently refer to customs which must

have existed among the Egyptians when the Israelites sojourned

in Egypt; and what they were it is now difficult, even with any

probability, to conjecture. Herodotus observes that the Arabs

shave or cut their hair round, in honour of Bacchus, who, they

say, had his hair cut in this way, lib. iii., cap. 8. He says

also that the Macians, a people of Libya, cut their hair round,

so as to leave a tuft on the top of the head, lib. iv., cap. 175.

In this manner the Chinese cut their hair to the present day.

This might have been in honour of some idol, and therefore

forbidden to the Israelites.

The hair was much used in divination among the ancients, and

for purposes of religious superstition among the Greeks; and

particularly about the time of the giving of this law, as this

is supposed to have been the era of the Trojan war. We learn

from Homer that it was customary for parents to dedicate the

hair of their children to some god; which, when they came to

manhood, they cut off and consecrated to the deity. Achilles,

at the funeral of Patroclus, cut off his golden locks which his

father had dedicated to the river god Sperchius, and threw them

into the flood:-





Iliad, 1. xxiii., ver. 142, &c.

But great Achilles stands apart in prayer,

And from his head divides the yellow hair,

Those curling locks which from his youth he vowed,

And sacred threw to Sperchius' honoured flood.

Then sighing, to the deep his looks he cast,

And rolled his eyes around the watery waste.

Sperchius! whose waves, in mazy errors lost,

Delightful roll along my native coast!

To whom we vainly vowed, at our return,

These locks to fall, and hecatombs to burn

So vowed my father, but he vowed in vain,

No more Achilles sees his native plain;

In that vain hope these hairs no longer grow;

Patrocius bears them to the shades below.


From Virgil we learn that the topmost lock of hair was

dedicated to the infernal gods; see his account of the death of


"Nondum illi flavum Proserpina vertice crinem

Abstulerat, Stygioque caput damnaverat orco--

-----------------------Hunc ego Diti

Sacrum jussa fero; teque isto corpore solvo.

Sic ait, et dextra crinem secat."

AEneid, lib. iv., ver. 698.

The sisters had not cut the topmost hair,

Which Proserpine and they can only know.

Nor made her sacred to the shades below-

This offering to the infernal gods I bear;

Thus while she spoke, she cut the fatal hair.


If the hair was rounded, and dedicated for purposes of this

kind, it will at once account for the prohibition in this verse.

The corners of thy beard.] Probably meaning the hair of the

cheek that connects the hair of the head with the beard. This

was no doubt cut in some peculiar manner, for the superstitious

purposes mentioned above. Several of our own countrymen wear

this said hair in a curious form; for what purposes they know

best: we cannot say precisely that it is the ancient Egyptian

custom revived. From the images and paintings which remain of

the ancient Egyptians, we find that they were accustomed to

shave the whole hair off their face, except merely that upon the

chin, which last they cut off only in times of mourning.

Verse 28. Any cuttings in your flesh for the dead] That the

ancients were very violent in their grief, tearing the hair and

face, beating the breast, &c., is well known. Virgil represents

the sister of Dido "tearing her face with her nails, and beating

her breast with her fists."

"Unguibus ora soror foedans, et pectora pugnis."

AEn., l. iv., ver. 672.

Nor print any marks upon you] It was a very ancient and a

very general custom to carry marks on the body in honour of the

object of their worship. All the castes of the Hindoos bear on

their foreheads or elsewhere what are called the sectarian

marks, which distinguish them, not only in a civil but also in a

religious point of view, from each other.

Most of the barbarous nations lately discovered have their

faces, arms, breasts, &c., curiously carved or tattooed, probably

for superstitious purposes. Ancient writers abound with

accounts of marks made on the face, arms, &c., in honour of

different idols; and to this the inspired penman alludes,

Re 13:16, 17; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4, where false

worshippers are represented as receiving in their hands and in

their forehead the marks of the beast. These were called

στιγματα stigmata among the Greeks, and to these St. Paul refers

when he says, I bear about in my body the MARKS (stigmata) of

the Lord Jesus; Ga 6:17. I have seen several cases where

persons have got the figure of the cross, the Virgin Mary, &c.,

made on their arms, breasts, &c., the skin being first

punctured, and then a blue colouring matter rubbed in, which is

never afterward effaced. All these were done for superstitious

purposes, and to such things probably the prohibition in this

verse refers. Calmet, on this verse, gives several examples.

See also Mariner's Tonga Islands, vol. i. p. 311-313.

Verse 29. Do not prostitute thy daughter] This was a very

frequent custom, and with examples of it writers of antiquity

abound. The Cyprian women, according to Justin, gained that

portion which their husbands received with them at marriage by

previous public prostitution. And the Phoenicians, according to

Augustine, made a gift to Venus of the gain acquired by the

public prostitution of their daughters, previously to their

marriage. "Veneri donum dabant, et prostitutiones filiarum,

antequam jungerent eas viris."-De Civit. Del, lib. xviii., c. 5;

and see Calmet.

Verse 31. Regard not them that have familiar spirits] The

Hebrew word oboth probably signifies a kind of

engastromuthoi or ventriloquists, or such as the Pythoness

mentioned Ac 16:16,18; persons who, while under the

influence of their demon, became greatly inflated, as the Hebrew

word implies, and gave answers in a sort of phrensy. See a case

of this kind in Virgil, AEneid, l. vi., ver. 46, &c.:-

"----Deus ecce, Deus! cui talla fanti

Ante fores, subito non vultus, non color unus,

Non comptae mansere comae; sed pectus anhelum,

Et rabie fera corda tument; majorque videri,

Nec mortale sonans, afflata est numine quando

Jam propiore Dei."

-------------------Invoke the skies,

I feel the god, the rushing god, she cries.

While yet she spoke, enlarged her features grew,

Her colour changed, her locks dishevelled flew.

The heavenly tumult reigns in every part,

Pants in her breast, and swells her rising heart:

Still swelling to the sight, the priestess glowed,

And heaved impatient of the incumbent god.


Neither seek after wizards] yiddeonim, the wise or

knowing ones, from yada, to know or understand;

called wizard in Scotland, wise or cunning man in England; and

hence also the wise woman, the white witch. Not only all real

dealers with familiar spirits, or necromantic or magical

superstitions, are here forbidden, but also all pretenders to

the knowledge of futurity, fortune-tellers, astrologers, &c.,

&c. To attempt to know what God has not thought proper to

reveal, is a sin against his wisdom, providence, and goodness.

In mercy, great mercy, God has hidden the knowledge of futurity

from man, and given him hope-the expectation of future good, in

its place. See Clarke on Ex 22:18.

Verse 32. Before the hoary head]

See Clarke on Ge 48:12.

Verse 33. If a stranger sojourn] This law to protect and

comfort the stranger was at once humane and politic. None is so

desolate as the stranger, and none needs the offices of

benevolence and charity more: and we may add that he who is not

affected by the desolate state of the stranger has neither

benevolence nor charity. It was politic to encourage strangers,

as in consequence many came, not only to sojourn, but to settle

among the Jews, and thus their political strength became

increased; and many of these settlers became at least proselytes

of the gate if not proselytes of the covenant, and thus got

their souls saved. Hence humanity, sound policy, and religion

said, Vex not the stranger; thou shalt love him as thyself. The

apostle makes use of a strong argument to induce men to

hospitality towards strangers: Be not forgetful to entertain

strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,

Heb 13:2. Moses also uses a powerful motive:

Ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. The spirit of the precept

here laid down, may be well expressed in our Lord's words: Do unto

all men as ye would they should do unto you.

Verse 35. Ye shall do no unrighteousness] Ye shall not act

contrary to the strictest justice in any case, and especially in

the four following, which properly understood, comprise all that

can occur between a man and his fellow. 1. JUDGMENT in all

cases that come before the civil magistrate; he is to judge and

decide according to the law. 2. METE-YARD, bammiddah, in

measures of length and surface, such as the reed, cubit, foot,

span, hand's breadth, among the Jews; or ell, yard, foot, and

inch, among us. 3. WEIGHT, bammishkal, in any thing that

is weighed, the weights being all according to the standards kept

for the purpose of trying the rest in the sanctuary, as appears

from Ex 30:13; 1Ch 23:29; these weights were the

talent, shekel, barleycorn, &c. 4. MEASURE,

bammesurah, from which we derive our term. This refers to all

measures of capacity, such as the homer, ephah, seah, hin, omer,

kab, and log. See all these explained, Clarke "Ex 16:16".

Verse 36. Just balances] Scales, steel-yard, &c. Weights,

abanim, stones, as the weights appear to have been

originally formed out of stones. Ephah, hin, &c., see before.

Verse 37. Shall ye observe all my statutes]

chukkothi, from chak, to describe, mark, or trace out;

the righteousness which I have described, and the path of duty

which I have traced out. Judgments, mishpatai, from

shaphat, to discern, determine, direct, &c.; that which

Divine Wisdom has discerned to be best for man, has determined

shall promote his best interest, and has directed him

conscientiously to use. See Clarke on Le 26:15.

1. MANY difficulties occur in this very important chapter, but

they are such only to us; for there can be no doubt of their

having been perfectly well known to the Israelites, to whom the

precepts contained in this chapter were given. Considerable

pains however have been taken to make them plain, and no serious

mind can read them without profit.

2. The precepts against injustice, fraud, slander, enmity, &c.,

&c., are well worth the notice of every Christian; and those

against superstitious usages are not less so; and by these last

we learn, that having recourse to astrologers,

fortune-tellers, &c., to get intelligence of lost or stolen

goods, or to know the future events of our own lives, or those

of others, is highly criminal in the sight of God. Those who

have recourse to such persons renounce their baptism, and in

effect renounce the providence as well as the word of God.

3. The precepts of humanity and mercy relative to the poor, the

hireling, and the stranger, are worthy of our most serious

regard. Nor are those which concern weights and measures,

traffic, and the whole system of commutative justice, less

necessary to be observed for the benefit and comfort of the

individual, and the safety and prosperity of the state.

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