Leviticus 20

CHAPTER XX

Of giving seed to Molech, and the punishment of this crime,

1-5.

Of consulting wizards, &c., 6-8.

Of disrespect to parents, 9.

Of adultery, 10.

Of incestuous mixtures, 11, 12.

Bestiality, 13-16.

Different cases of incest and uncleanness, 17-21.

Exhortations and promises, 22-24.

The difference between clean and unclean animals to be

carefully observed, 25.

The Israelites are separated from other nations, that they may

be holy, 26.

A repetition of the law against wizards and them that have

familiar spirits, 27.

NOTES ON CHAP. XX

Verse 2. That giveth any of his seed unto Molech] To what

has been said in the note on Le 18:21, we may add, that the

rabbins describe this idol, who was probably a representative or

emblematical personification of the solar influence, as made of

brass, in the form of a man, with the head of an ox; that a fire

was kindled in the inside, and the child to be sacrificed to him

was put in his arms, and roasted to death. Others say that the

idol, which was hollow, was divided into seven compartments

within; in one of which they put flour, in the second

turtle-doves, in the third a ewe, in the fourth a ram, in the

fifth a calf, in the sixth an ox, and in the seventh a child,

which, by heating the statue on the outside, were all burnt

alive together. I question the whole truth of these statements,

whether from Jewish or Christian rabbins. There is no evidence

of all this in the sacred writings. And there is but

presumptive proof, and that not very strong, that human

sacrifices were at all offered to Molech by the Jews. The

passing through the fire, so frequently spoken of, might mean no

more than a simple rite of consecration to the service of this

idol. Probably a kind of ordeal was meant, the persons passing

suddenly through the flame of a large fire, by which, though

they might be burnt or scorched, yet they were neither killed

nor consumed. Or they might have passed between two large

fires, as a sort of purification.

See Clarke on Le 20:14; and "Le 18:21".

Caesar, in his history of the Gallic war, lib. vi., c. 16,

mentions a custom of the Druids similar to this. They made an

image of wickerwork, inclosed those in it whom they had adjudged

to death, and, setting the whole on fire, all were consumed

together.

Verse 6. Familiar spirits]

See Clarke on Le 19:31; and "Ex 22:18".

Verse 9. Curseth his father or his mother]

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

He who conscientiously keeps the fifth commandment can be in no

danger of this judgment. The term yekallel signifies, not

only to curse, but to speak of a person contemptuously and

disrespectfully, to make light of; so that all speeches which have

a tendency to lessen our parents in the eyes of others, or to

render their judgment, piety, &c., suspected and contemptible, may

be here included; though the act of cursing, or of treating the

parent with injurious and opprobrious language, is that which is

particularly intended.

Verse 10. Committeth adultery] To what has been said in

Clarke's note on "Ex 20:14", we may add, that the word

adultery comes from the Latin adulterium, which is compounded of

ad, to or with, and alter, another, or, according to Minshieu, of

ad alterius forum, he that approaches to another man's bed.

Verse 12. They have wrought confusion]

See Le 18:1-30, and especially Clarke's note on "Le 18:6".

Verse 14. They shall be burnt with fire] As there are worse

crimes mentioned here, (see Le 20:11 and Le 20:17,) where the

delinquent is ordered simply to be put to death, or to be cut

off, it is very likely that the crime mentioned in this verse

was not punished by burning alive, but by some kind of branding,

by which they were ever after rendered infamous. I need not add

that the original, baesh yishrephu, may, without

violence to its grammatical meaning, be understood as above,

though in other places it is certainly used to signify a

consuming by fire. But the case in question requires some

explanation; it is this: a man marries a wife, and afterward

takes his mother-in-law or wife's mother to wife also: now for

this offence the text says all three shall be burnt with fire,

and this is understood as signifying that they shall be burnt

alive. Now the first wife, we may safely presume, was

completely innocent, and was legally married: for a man may take

to wife the daughter if single, or the mother if a widow, and in

neither of these cases can any blame attach to the man or the

party he marries; the crime therefore lies in taking both.

Either, therefore, they were all branded as infamous persons,

and this certainly was severe enough in the case of the first

wife; or the man and the woman taken last were burnt: but the

text says, both he and they; therefore, we should seek for

another interpretation of they shall be burnt with fire, than

that which is commonly given. Branding with a hot iron would

certainly accomplish every desirable end both for punishment and

prevention of the crime; and because the Mosaic laws are so

generally distinguished by humanity, it seems to be necessary to

limit the meaning of the words as above.

Verse 16. If a woman approach unto any beast] We have the

authority of one of the most eminent historians in the world,

Herodotus, to say that this was a crime not unknown in Egypt;

yea, that a case of this nature actually took place while he was

there. εγενετοδεντωνομωτουτωεπεμευτουτοτοτερας

γυναικιτραγοςεμισγετοαναφανδοντουτοεςεπιδειξινανθρεπεν

απικετο-Herod. in Euterp., p. 108. Edit. Gale, Lond. 1679.

"In this district, within my own recollection, this portentous

business took place: a goat coupled so publicly with a woman

that every person knew it," &c. After this, need we wonder that

God should have made laws of this nature, when it appears these

abominations were not only practised among the Egyptians, but

were parts of a superstitious religious system? This one

observation will account for many of those strange prohibitions

which we find in the Mosaic law; others, the reasons of which

are not so plain, we should see the propriety of equally, had

we ampler historic records of the customs that existed in that

country.

Verse 22. The land, whither I bring you to dwell therein,

spue you not out.] See this energetic prosopopoeia explained in

the note on Le 18:25. From this we learn that the cup of

the iniquities of the Canaanitish nations was full; and that,

consistently with Divine justice, they could be no longer spared.

Verse 24. A land that floweth with milk and honey]

See this explained "Ex 3:8".

Verse 25. Between clean beasts and unclean] See the notes on

Le 11:1-47.

Verse 27. A familiar spirit] A spirit or demon, which, by

magical rites, is supposed to be bound to appear at the call of

his employer.

See Clarke on Ge 41:8; "Ex 7:11"; "Ex 7:22";

And see Clarke's notes "Ex 7:25"; and "Le 19:31".

FROM the accounts we have of the abominations both of Egypt

and Canaan, we may blush for human nature; for wherever it is

without cultivation, and without the revelation of God, it is

every thing that is vile in principle and detestable in

practice. Nor would any part of the habitable globe materially

differ from Egypt and Canaan, had they not that rule of

righteousness, the revealed LAW of God, and had not life and

immortality been brought to light by the GOSPEL among them. From

these accounts, for which we could easily find parallels in

ancient Greece and Italy, we may see the absolute need of a

Divine revelation, without which man, even in his best estate,

differs little from the brute.

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