Translated From The Original Latin, And Compared With The French Edition; With Annotations, Etc.


Rector Of Melcombe-Horsey, Dorset, And Formerly Fellow Of New College, Oxford

Another Supplement
as to the Shutting. up of the Leprous  f1

Deuteronomy 24

<052408>Deuteronomy 24:8, 9

8. Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you: as I commanded them, so ye shall observe to do.

8. Observa in plaga leprae, ad observandum diligenter et faciendum secundum omnia quae docuerint vos sacerdotes Levitae: sicuti praecepi eis, ita observabitis ad faciendum.

9. Remember what the Lord thy God did unto Miriam by the way, after that ye were come forth out of Egypt.

9. Recordare quid fecerit Jehova Deus tuus Mariae in itinere, quum egressi estis ex Aegypto.


8. Take heed in the plague of leprosy. I am aware how greatly interpreters differ from each other and how variously they twist whatever Moses has written about Leprosy. Some are too eagerly devoted to allegories; some think that God, as a prudent Legislator, merely gave a commandment of a sanitary, nature, in order that a contagious disease should not, spread among the people. This notion, however, is very. poor, and almost unmeaning; and is briefly. refuted by Moses himself, both where he recounts the history of Miriam’s leprosy, and also where he assigns the cause why lepers should be put out of the camp, viz that they might not defile the camp in which God dwelt, whilst he ranks them with those that have an issue, and that they are defiled by the dead. Wherefore, I have thought it well, previous to attempting the full elucidation of the matter, to adduce two passages, by way of preface, from whence the design of God may more fully appear. When, in this passage from Deuteronomy, He commands the people to “take heed” and “observe diligently” the plague of leprosy, there can be no question but that He thus ratifies what He had before set forth at greater length in Leviticus. And, first of all, He refers the judgment of the matter to the priests, that what they pronounce should be firm and unalterable; and secondly, He would have the priests, lest they should pronounce rashly, and according to their own wishes, to follow simply what He prescribed to them, so that they may only be the ministers, or heralds; whilst, as to the sovereign authority, He alone should be the Judge. He confirms the law which He imposes by a special example; because He had cast out Miriam, the sister of Moses, for a time, lest her uncleanness during her leprosy should defile the camp. For the view which some take, that He exhorts the people lest, through sin, they should bring upon themselves the same evil as Miriam, is not to the purpose. But that which I have stated makes excellent sense, viz., that God’s command, whereby He prohibited Miriam from entering the camp, was to have the force and weight of a perpetual law; because He thus ordained what He would always have done.

Numbers 5

<040501>Numbers 5:1-3

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

1. Et loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

2. Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead:

2. Praecipe filiis Israel ut ejiciant e castris omnem leprosum, omnem seminifluum, et omnem immundum super anima.

3. Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell.

3. Tam masculum quam faeminam ejicietis: extra castra ejicietis eos, ne contaminent castra sua, quia ego habito in medio eorum.


2. Command the children of Israel. This passage clearly shews that God, in desiring the lepers to be put out of the camp, was not acting as a physician by any means, and merely consulting the health of the people: but that by this external rite and ceremony He exercised them in the pursuit of purity; for, by joining with the lepers those who had an issue,  f2 and who were defiled by the dead, He instructs the people simply to keep away from all uncleanness. The reason, which follows, confirms this, — ”that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof He dwells.” It is just as if He had said, that all the habitations of His elect people were parts of His sanctuary, which it was a shame to defile with any pollution. For we know what license men give themselves in corrupting  f3 the service of God, by mixing, as the proverb says, sacred things with profane. Thus we see that the very worst of men boast themselves to be anything but the least zealous of His worshipers, and spare not to lift up polluted hands, although God so sternly repudiates them. It was, then, profitable that the ancient people should be reminded by this visible proof, that all those who are defiled cannot duly serve God, but that they rather pollute. with their filthiness what is otherwise holy, and thus grossly abuse religious exercises; and again, that they ought not tobe tolerated in the holy congregation, lest their infection should spread to others. Let us now briefly examine Leviticus 13.

Leviticus 13

Go To Leviticus 13: 1-59

2. When a man. shall have in the skin. Since every eruption was not the leprosy, and did not render a man unclean, when God appoints the priests to be the judges, He distinguishes by certain marks a common eruption from the leprosy; and then subjoins the difference between the various kinds of leprosy. For the disease was not always incurable; but, only when the blood was altogether corrupted, so that the skin itself had become hardened by its corrosion, or swollen by its diseased state. This, then, must be observed in the first place, that the Greek and Latin word lepra, and the Hebrew t[rx tzaragmath, extend further than to the incurable disease, which medical men call elephantiasis f4 both on account of the hardness of the skin, and also its mottled color; not, however, that there is an entire agreement between the thickness of the man’s skin and that of an elephant, but because this disease produces insensibility of the skin. This the Greeks call Yw>ra, and if it be not a kind of leprosy, it is nearly allied to it. Thus we see that there was a distinction between the scab and leprosy; just as now-a-days, if it were necessary to judge respecting the itch, (which is commonly called the disease of St. Menanus, f5 the marks must be observed, which distinguish it from leprosy. But, as to the various kinds of leprosy, I confess that I am not a physician, so as to discuss them accurately, and I purposely abstain from close inquiry about them, because I am persuaded that the disease here treated of affected the Israelites in an extraordinary manner, which we are now unacquainted with; for what do we now know of a leprous house? Indeed it is probable that, since heathen writers knew that the Jewish people suffered from this disease, they laid hold of it as the ground of their falsehood, that all the descendants of Abraham were infected with the itch, and were driven away from Egypt, lest others should catch it from them. That  f6 this was an ancient calumny appears from Josephus, both in the ninth book of his Antiquities, and in his Treatise against Apion; and it is repeated both by C. Tacitus and Justin. Yet I make no doubt that the Egyptians, a very proud nation, in order to efface the memory of their own disgrace, and of the vengeance inflicted upon them by God, invented this lie, and thus grossly turned against this innocent people what had happened to themselves, when they were smitten with boils and blains. But we shall see hereafter, amongst God’s curses, that He chastised His people with the same plagues as He had inflicted on the Egyptians:

“The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab,” etc.(<052827>Deuteronomy 28:27.)

Whence it may be probably inferred, that God avenged the crimes of His ancient people with special judgments, which are now unknown to us; just as afterwards new diseases arose, from which those in old times were free. At any rate, Josephus, by clear and solid arguments, exposes the absurdity of this accusation, that Moses was driven from Egypt with a crowd of exiles, lest they should infect the country with their disease; because, if they had been universally affected with this malady, he never would have imposed such severe laws for separating the lepers from general society.

God first commands that, whenever a suspicion of leprosy arose, the man was to present himself to the priest; if any symptom of leprosy appeared, He commands him to be shut up for a period of seven days, until it should appear from the progress of the disease that it was incurable leprosy. That God should have appointed the priests to be judges, and those, too, only of the highest order, is a proof that His spiritual service was rather regarded than mere bodily health. If any shall inquire whether leprosy is not a contagious disease, and whether it be not therefore expedient that all who were affected by it should be removed from intercourse with others, I admit, indeed, that such is the case, but I deny that this was the main object in view. For, in process of time, physicians would have been better able to decide by their art and skill: whereas God enjoined this decision upon the priests alone, and gave them the rule whereby they were to judge. Nor did He appoint the Levites indiscriminately, but only the sons of Aaron, who were the highest order, in order that the authority of the decision might be greater. It was, then, by a gross error, or rather impudence, that the Papal priests (sacrifici) assumed to themselves this jurisdiction. It was (they say) the office of the chief priests under the Law to distinguish between the kinds of leprosy; and, therefore, the same right is transferred to the bishops. But they carry the mockery still further: the official  f7the bishop’s representative, sits as the legitimate judge; he calls in physicians and surgeons, from whose answers he pronounces what he confesses he is ignorant of himself. Behold how cleverly they accommodate a legal rite to our times! The mockery, however, is still more disgusting, when in another sense they extend to the whole tribe of priests what they have said to belong solely to the bishops; for, since the sin under which all labor is a spiritual leprosy, they thence infer that all are excluded from the congregation of the faithful until they shall have been purged and received by absolution, which they hold to be the common office of all the priests. They afterwards add, that judgment cannot be pronounced till the cause is heard, and so conclude that confession is necessary. But, if they choose to have recourse to subtleties, reason would rather conduct us to the opposite conclusion; for God did not desire the priests to take cognizance of a hidden disease, but only after the manifest symptoms had appeared: hence it will follow, that it is preposterous to bring secret sins to judgment, and that wretched men are dragged to their confession contrary to all law and justice. But, setting aside all these absurdities, an analogy must be observed between us and God’s ancient people. He of old forbade the external uncleanness of the flesh to be tolerated in His people. By Christ’s coming, the typical. figure has ceased; but we are taught that all uncleanness, whereby the purity of His services is defiled, is not to be cherished, or borne with amongst us. And surely excommunication answers to this ceremony; since by it the Church is purified, lest corruptions should everywhere assail it, if wicked and guilty persons occupied a place in it promiscuously with the good. The command of God that, whilst the disease was obscure and questionable, the infected person should be shut up for seven days, recommends moderation to us, lest any, who is still curable, should be condemned before his time. In fact, this medium is to be observed, that the judge should not be too remiss and hasty in pardoning, and still that he should temper severity by justice; and especially that he should not be too precipitate in his judgment. What we translate “shall pronounce him clean, or unclean,” is in Hebrew, “shall clean, or unclean him; “ thus the dignity of the judgment is more fully established, as though it had proceeded from God Himself; and assuredly no medical skill could declare on the seventh day a leprosy to be incurable, respecting which there was doubt so short a time before, unless God should in some special manner discover the uncleanness, and guide the eyes of the priests by His Spirit.

29. If a man or woman. What is here spoken of is not the baldness which so often occurs in old age; but that loss of hair, which is the consequence of leprosy, is distinguished from any other, the cause of which may be some indisposition, and which yet does not pollute a man. But, inasmuch as some kinds of baldness do not so greatly differ at first sight from leprosy, — such, for instance, as ophiasis and alopecia  f8 — it is therefore necessary to distinguish them.

44. He is a leprous man, he is unclean. In the first part of the verse he says that the leprous man must be counted unclean; but, in the latter part, he commands the priest to give sentence against this uncleanness, lest it should be carried into the congregation. On this ground he says, “his plague is upon his head,” which is as much as to say, that he is sentenced to just ignominy, for Moses takes it for granted that God holds up to public infamy whomsoever He smites with leprosy, and thence reminds them that they justly and deservedly bear this punishment.

The two following verses contain the form in which the sentence is executed, viz., that the man should wear a rent in his garment, which is to be the mark of his disgrace, that he should walk with his head bare, and with his mouth covered, (for this I take to be the meaning of the covering of his lip;) and besides this, that he is to be the proclaimer of his own pollution; finally, that he must dwell without the camp, as if banished from communication with men. Moses here  f9 refers to the existing state of the people, as long as they sojourned in the desert; for after they began to inhabit the land, the lepers were driven out of the towns and villages to dwell by themselves. I know not whether the opinion of some is a sound one, that they were enjoined to cover the mouth or lip, lest by the infection of their breath they should injure others. My own view is rather, that because they were civilly dead, they also bore the symbol of death in having the face covered — as their separation deprived them of the ordinary life of men. Where we translate “shall cry, Unclean, unclean,” some, taking the verb, arqy yikra,  f10 indefinitely, construe it passively, “shall be called,:” and I admit that in many passages it has the same force as if it were in the plural number. But, because the repetition of the word “unclean” is emphatic, it is probable that the word is not to be taken simply for “to call,” (vocare;) and therefore, I rather incline to the opinion that, by the command of the Law, they warned all with their own mouth not to approach them, lest any one should incautiously pollute himself by touching them; although their uncleanness was perhaps proclaimed publicly, so that all might mutually exhort each other to beware And Jeremiah seems to allude to this passage, where, speaking  f11of the defilements of the city, he says that all men cried

“Unclean; fly ye, fly ye.” (<250415>Lamentations 4:15)

58. And the garment. This kind of disease, God, in his infinite clemency, has willed to be unknown to us. He has indeed subjected woolen garments and furs to the ravages of the moth, and vessels of various kinds to rust, and other corruptions; in fact, has surrounded the human race with rottenness, in order that everywhere our eyes should light on the punishment of sin; but what the leprosy of garments may be, is unknown. But its expiation under the Law admonished his ancient people that the must carefully beware of even external uncleanness, so as to cleanse themselves “from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” It has appeared to me sufficient to touch upon the sum of the matter, because it would be almost superfluous labor to insist upon the words, although I should be unwilling to condemn the diligence of those who examine these points also; but it is not my purpose to perform the office of the grammarian.

Of the Purifying of the Lepers  f12

Leviticus 14

Go To Leviticus 14: 1-57

2. This shall be the law of the leper. Moses now treats of the manner in which those who were cured of leprosy were to be cleansed and restored. Thus far he had shewn whom the priest was to admit into the holy congregation, and account to be clean; he now prescribes the rite of expiation, whereby the people might learn how greatly God abominates the uncleanness, which He commands to be purified by a solemn propitiation; and also that he who is healed may acknowledge that he is rescued from death by God’s special blessing, and may in future be more diligent in seeking to be pure. For there were two parts in the sacrifice here demanded-purification and thanksgiving. But we must ever keep in view the object which I have stated in the last chapter, that the Israelites were instructed by this ceremony to serve God in chastity and purity, and to keep far away from those defilements, whereby religion would be profaned. Since, then, leprosy was a kind of pollution, God was unwilling that those who were cured of it should be received into the holy congregation, f13 except after the offering of a sacrifice; as if the priest reconciled them after excommunication. It will now be well to discuss the points which are worthy of consideration. The office of cleansing is imposed on the priest; yet he is at the same time forbidden to cleanse any except those who were already pure and clean. In this, on the one hand, God claims for Himself the honor of the cure, lest men should assume it; and also establishes the discipline which He would have to reign in His Church. To make the matter clearer, it belongs to God only to forgive sins; what, then, remains to man, except to be the witness and herald of the grace which He confers? God’s minister can, therefore, absolve none whom God has not before absolved. In sum, absolution is not in the power or will of man: the minister only sustains an inferior part, to endorse God’s judgment, or rather to proclaim God’s sentence. Hence that remarkable expression of Isaiah, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, O Israel, and none but me. f14 (<236302>Isaiah 63:25.) In which sense, too, God everywhere promises by the prophets that the people shall be clean, when He shall have cleansed them. Meanwhile, however, this does not prevent those who are called to the office of teaching from purging the uncleanness of the people in a certain peculiar way. For, since faith alone purifies the heart, in so far as it receives the testimony which God proffers by the mouth of man, the minister who testifies that we are reconciled to God, is justly reckoned to take away our pollution. This expiation is still in force, though the ceremony has long ceased to be in use. But, since the spiritual healing, which we receive by faith, proceeds from the mere grace of God, the ministry of man does not at all detract from His glory. Let us, then, remember that these two things are perfectly consistent with each other, that God is the sole author of our purity; and yet that the method, which He uses for our justification, must not on that account be neglected. And this is properly referred to discipline, that whosoever has been once cast out of the holy congregation by public authority, must not be received again except upon professing penitence and a new life. We must observe, too, that this jurisdiction was given to the priests not only on the ground that they represented Christ, but also in respect to the ministry, which we have in common with them.

3. And the priest shall go forth. This is the examination, which was more fully treated of in the last chapter, without which it was not lawful to receive him who had been once rejected. The priest’s command, which is mentioned immediately afterwards, I refer to the Levites, some one of whom probably accompanied the priest to prepare the sacrifice, that thus the priests might only discharge the principal duty. The sum of the rite respecting the two birds tends to this, that the cleansing from leprosy was a kind of resurrection Two birds were placed before their eyes; the liberty of one was purchased by the blood of the other; because the former was not let go until it had been first dipped in the blood and the water; and thus the matter of sprinkling was prepared for the man’s purification. The sevenfold repetition was intended to impress more deeply on men’s memories a continual meditation on God’s grace; for we know that by this number perfection is often expressed in Scripture. With the same object, he who had been cured shaved his hair, and washed in water. Yet he did not return home on the first day, but on the eighth. Meantime, on the seventh day he shaved his beard, and his eyebrows, and all the hair of his head; he washed himself and his garments, and then proceeded to the sacrifice. So difficult is it to accustom men to a serious acknowledgment of the two points, to hold their vice in detestation, and worthily to estimate the grace of God whereby they are delivered.

10. And on the eighth. As infants on the eighth day after they were cleansed from the uncleanness which they had brought from the womb, were grafted into the Church, and made members of it; so now the eighth day is prescribed for the restoration of those who, in the cure that they have received, are as it were born again; for they are accounted dead whom the leprosy had banished from the holy congregation. A sacrifice is therefore appointed which may renew the circumcision that had been in some measure effaced. Now, the meaning of all the things here mentioned is not clear to myself, and I would not have my readers too curious respecting them. Some may be probably accounted for; the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot, were sprinkled with the blood of the offering, because the leper was restored to the ordinary habits and customs of life, so as to have freedom of walk and action, and free conversational intercourse; for in the ear there is a mutual correspondence between speaking and hearing. The head is anointed, or cleansed with the oil, that nothing impure should remain in his whole body  f15 God spare the poor and lowly, and does not compel them to offer the two lambs, lest they should be burdened beyond their means; whence it appears, that sacrifices are not estimated according to their intrinsic value, but according to the pious feeling which disposes each on liberally to offer in proportion to what is given him.

34. When ye be come into the land. Another sort of leprosy is here treated of, as to which we may not unreasonably rejoice that it is now unknown to us. But, as God had honored that people with extraordinary privileges, so it was consistent that their ingratitude should be punished by more severe penalties, if they defiled the gifts in which they excelled. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that punishments were inflicted upon them, which it fills us with surprise and horror to hear of. It was a sad sight to behold the leprosy invading the human body; but there was something portentous to perceive it affecting their houses also, and driving out the owners and their families; for if they wittingly and voluntarily remained there, the contagion spread to themselves and all their furniture. But, since God marked with public ignominy those whose houses were struck with leprosy, He commands them to confess their guilt, and not only when the evil had made much advance, but when any suspicion of it had begun to exist. It appears, too, from the Law, that some were but lightly chastised: for, if after the priest’s inspection, in seven days the plague did not increase on the scraped walls, the possessor returned to his house. God punished others more severely, and it was necessary that the building should be utterly destroyed, because the pollution was incurable. But, although these were tokens of God’s wrath, yet, inexpiating the uncleanness, He exercised His people in the study of purity; for it was just as if He drove away from approaching His sanctuary those who came from an unclean house. The sense, then, was that. they should each of them diligently endeavor to keep their houses pure, and chaste, and free from every stain. But if, through God’s mercy, the plague ceased, a sacrifice of thanksgiving was to be offered, as for the human beings (who had been healed.) The next chapter, in which general pollutions and their purifications are not treated of, but only one kind of pollution is glanced at, which has reference to fleshly lust, would perhaps be suitably introduced under the Seventh Commandment; but it will presently appear from the context that it must be brought under this head.

Of the Pollutions which arise from Issues  f16

Leviticus 15

Go To Leviticus 15: 1-33

2. When any man hath a running issue. He here alludes to other species of contamination, for which a solemn purification is required. And, first, he teaches that men are defiled by the flow of the seminal fluid, which occurs in two ways, either when it involuntarily bursts out in sleep, or when it escapes gradually in the disease, which the Greeks call gono>rjrJoia This Supplement might, as I have said, be appended to the Seventh Commandment, because every  f17 indisposition arising from lust appears here to be condemned; but, if we look more closely, we shall perceive that it is a general law for the cultivation of purity, and which must not  f3 be confined to chastity alone. For this flux, arising from disease and debility, unless it be contracted from immoderate venery, has nothing in common with venereal lust. Besides, what is immediately after added concerning the menstruation of women, is connected with other forms of uncleanness and defilement. The sum then is, that the seminal-flux is reckoned among the pollutions which prevented the Israelites from entering the tabernacle, and from the external service of God; and thence the rule must always be borne in mind, that whatever proceeds from an unclean man is corrupt, and that no one can duly offer either himself, or what he possesses, to God, except he who is pure and perfect in soul and body. Thus Paul explains the end and object of this ceremony, when he exhorts believers that, being received as God’s peculiar people, they should cleanse themselves

“from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.”
(<470701>2 Corinthians 7:1.)

But Moses further declares, that uncleanness is contracted, not only when the seed is emitted, but when it is retained; and that not only is the man himself rendered unclean, but whatever he may have touched — his bed, his seat, his saddle, his clothes; and that the contagion extends to others also, if any should have lain on the same bed, or ridden on the same saddle. Thus did God desire to impress them with horror, that they might be more accustomed to fly from all impurity. Nor would the crime have been detestable: in itself, had not spiritual purity been set forth under this external exercise and symbol. Thus, too, in (<192403>Psalm 24:3, 4), the truth of this figure is described:

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart.”

Therefore he who was conscious of no sin in the seminal-flux, still must be reminded by this sign of the corruption of his nature; and at the same time be an example to others, that all should diligently take heed to themselves, because corruption cleaves to the whole human race. In the ablution the remedy of the evil was proposed, since the mark of ignominy induced them to repentance. It is expedient that whosoever is infected with any stain should be brought to shame, so as to be displeased with himself; but the acknowledgment of the evil would produce despair, unless the hope of pardon were associated with it. Therefore, those to whom purification was necessary, are always sent to water; and, whenever water is mentioned, the passage in St. John should be brought to mind, that Christ came “by water and blood,” to purge and expiate all uncleanness. (<620506>1 John 5:6.) Besides the water, a sacrifice of turtle doves, or two young pigeons is added; and this has reference to the same thing; viz., that purification for the unclean must be sought for elsewhere, which we have at length obtained by the sacrifice of Christ.

19. And if a woman have an issue. Women are now spoken of who suffer under a twofold issue of blood; for with almost all it occurs every month, (whence it is called menses, or menstruation,) and some labor under a constant hemorrhage. He declares both to be unclean; and, after menstruation, a certain period of separation is appointed, during which the law prohibited their cohabitation with men; but, if the blood flowed beyond the usual time, the time of purification is postponed until it ceased. Whence it appears, that in every shameful thing the Jews were reminded of their uncleanness, that thus they might be accustomed to modesty and seek after purity. And this still more clearly appears at the end of the chapter, where it is said, (v. 3l,) “Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not — when they defile my tabernacle.” God, I say, briefly sets forth His intention that He would drive away all profanation far from His people; because he desires sincerity to prevail amongst his worshippers, and cannot bear his tabernacle to be polluted by any stain.

Of other Defects which exclude
Men from Tabernacle  f18

Deuteronomy 23

<052301>Deuteronomy 23:1, 2

1. He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord

1. Non ingredietur qui contusione fractos aut abscissos habet testiculos, in congregationem Jehovae

2. A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.

2. Non ingredietur spurius congregationem Jehovae: etiam genereatione decima non ingredietur congregationem Jehovae


1. He that is wounded. What is here delivered respecting those who are mutilated, and who are bastards, has a similar object; lest the Church of God should be onctaminate by foul stains, and thus religion should lose its honor. Moses rejects from the congregation of the faithful two sorts of men, viz, eunuchs and bastards. But, before we treat of the subject itself, the definition of the words is to be considered. The first question is, that it is to enter into the congregation; the second, what it is to be wounded in the stones; the third, who are the yrzmm, mamzerim, which we have translated bastards, (spurios).Many understand that both are rejected from the church, lest they should undertake any public office in it; others, lest they should marry wives of the seed of Abraham; because it would not be fair that women should be thrown away upon bastards, (Lat, mamzeris;) and it would be absurd that those who were created to multiply God’s people, should marry impotent persons, (effoeminatis). But both these opinions appear to me to be tame. For what is afterwards added respecting certain foreign nations cannot be so taken, that no government or dignity should be entrusted to them; besides, by “the congregation of the Lord,” the purity and holiness of religion is sufficiently expressed. I do not doubt, then, but that Moses prohibits those who are defiled by these two stains from communicating in the sacrifices. For although they were circumcised as well as the rest of the chosen people, still God would have them bear this mark of their disgrace, that they might be an example to others, and that the people might be more diligent in preserving themselves from all pollution. This, then, is to be concluded that the privilege which was peculiar to the legitimate Israelites, was to be denied them of being participators and associates  f19 in the sacrifices. As to the wounded testicles, the Jews dispute more curiously, in my opinion, that the subject warrants, and after all miss the right meaning. For God intended nothing else than to exclude from the congregation of His people, wherever holy assemblies were held, those who were mutilated or defective in the genital organs; although by synecdoche, He comprehends more than are specified. Finally, by condemning this external bodily defect He commends the excellency of His people that they may remember themselves to be His chosen property, not that they should pride themselves upon it  f20 but that the holiness of their life may correspond with such high nobility.

2. A bastard shall not enter. All agree that by the word rzmm, mamzer, a bastard is signified, who is born of an uncertain father; but they take it in different ways, For some extend it to all bastards who spring from fornication, whilst others imagine that it refers to those only whose origin is doubtful, and who are called vulgo geniti; viz, whose mothers, in their base and common prostitution of themselves, have brought it about by their gross licentiousness, that their children should be born from this monstrous medley, as it were. This second opinion I approve of most. But, by this symbol God would admonish the seed of Abraham how exalted was its dignity, as being separate from the polluted heathen. Meanwhile, He would not altogether exclude these unhappy persons from the hope of salvation, although, by no fault of their own, they were unable to give the name of their father; but He only humbled them by a temporal punishment, and desired that their example should be profitable to others.

Another Supplement as to
the general Purification of the People  f21

Numbers 19

Go To Numbers 19: 1-22

2. This is the ordinance of the law. Because it could not but occur that, whilst the faithful were engaged in the world, they should often contract some pollution by their contact with its many impurities, the composition of the water is here described, by the sprinkling of which they might wash away, and expiate their uncleanness: and then certain kinds of pollution are specified, whereof the purification is required. God commands that a red heifer should be slain, which had never been subjected to the yoke; and that it should be burnt without the camp, together with its skin and dung; that the ashes should be gathered by a man that was clean, and laid up without the camp for the common use of the people. But, in order that the water, which was mixed with these ashes, should have the power of reconciliation, God at the same time commands that the blood should be sprinkled seven times before the altar by the finger of the priest. The object of this ceremony was twofold: for God would awaken the attention of the people to reflect more closely upon their impurity; and, although they might be pure within, still would have them carefully look around them, lest they should be polluted from without; and also taught them that, as often as they were infected by any pollution, expiation was to be sought for from elsewhere, viz., from sacrifice and sprinkling; and thus admonish them that men inquire in vain in themselves for the remedies demanded for their purification, because purity can only proceed from the sanctuary. Those, who speculate subtilty on the details, advance some questionable matters. I leave them, therefore, to the enjoyment of their conceits; let it suffice for us to consider generally what God referred to in this ceremony, and what advantage accrued from it to the people. By the red color, they suppose that sin is signified. Meanwhile, lest they should run into a manifest contradiction, they are obliged absurdly to interpret what follows, that He required a heifer perfect and without blemish, as if it were said that there should be no difference of color in her hair; whereas God demands the same thing as in the other sacrifices, which were rejected as faulty if any mark of deformity existed in them. And in this sense it is added that she should never have borne a yoke. Therefore I make no doubt but that God enjoined that a pure heifer, neither mutilated nor lame, should be chosen; and, that her perfectness might be more apparent, as yet unbroken to the yoke. What, then, is the meaning of the red color? First of all, I prefer confessing my ignorance to advancing anything doubtful; but it may be conjectured that a common and ordinary color was rather chosen, lest it should be too conspicuous, as it would have been, if either white or black. But this should be deemed sure, that a perfect heifer, and one free from every blemish, was to be offered, and one too, which had not been broken to bear the yoke by the hands of men, that the purification might have nothing of humanity about it.: But the command to offer her was given to the whole people; because, in order that we may be partakers of ablution, it is necessary that each of us should offer Christ to the Father. For, although He only, and that but once, has offered Himself, still a daily offering of Him, which is effected by faith and prayers, is enjoined to us, not such as  f22 the Papists have invented, by whom in their impiety and perverseness, the Lord’s Supper has been mistakenly turned into a sacrifice, because they imagined that Christ must be daily slain, in order that His death might profit us. The offering, however, of faith and prayers, of which I speak, is very different, and by it alone we apply to ourselves the virtue and fruit of Christ’s death.

3. And ye shall give her unto Eleazar. A clear distinction is here made between two offerings; for the people are not permitted to kill the heifer, but this is the peculiar office of the priest. Thus the people offered vicariously by the hand of the priest; and in this way also at present, although we set Christ before God’s face in order to propitiate Him, still it is necessary that Christ Himself should interpose, and exercise the office of a priest. Again, the heifer was to be taken outside the camp, as a sign that it was accursed, since it was an atonement. On which account, too, the atoning victims, whose blood was carried into the Holy of Holies, were burnt without the camp; the truth of which figure was accomplished in Christ, who therefore suffered outside the gates of the city, as the Apostle testifies. (<581311>Hebrews 13:11-12.) But, because this was a species of rejection, lest the heifer should be less accounted of, or lest the Israelites should think her polluted by the curse, God shews that her blood was sacred and of a sweet savor, by commanding that it should be sprinkled seven times upon the altar, which might not be profaned by anything unclean. The same thing is most clearly seen in Christ; for although He was made a curse for us, and is called “sin,” because by bearing our accursed sins upon the cross, He was our atoning victim, yet nothing was thereby taken from His purity, so as to prevent His holiness from being the sanctification of the whole world. For He offered Himself through the Spirit, and by His own blood entered into the holy place, and His death is elsewhere called by Paul, “a sacrifice for a sweet-smelling savor.” (<580911>Hebrews 9:11-12; <490502>Ephesians 5:2; <500418>Philippians 4:18).

6. And the priest shall take cedar-wood. That the sprinkling of the blood might be conjoined with that of the water, the cedar-wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, thread, with which the sprinkling was wont to be made, were cast into the fire; for, unless the Israelites had been admonished by this visible sign, they would not have so clearly known that they were not only washed with the water, but that by the offering of the sacrifice also their uncleanness was removed. But it was not enough that the blood should be poured forth, unless, as has been already seen, they were purified by its aspersion. But, for as much as the scent of cedar-wood is precious, and in hyssop there is a cleansing property, we gather from hence also that the victim was pure, although it bore their sins together with the curse and expiation. Peter teaches us how we are sprinkled with the blood of Christ, viz., through the Spirit, (<600102>1 Peter 1:2;) nay, John shews us in his Canonical Epistle, that we find all the parts of this ceremony in Christ, where he writes that Christ “came by water and blood,” and “it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.”(<620506>1 John 5:6.)

7. Then the priest shall wash his clothes. At first sight there seems to be a discrepancy in the facts, that the heifer was sacred to God, and pure, and still that the priest was polluted by touching it; yet they accord very well with each other. But that both the priest as well as the minister who made the burning, were unclean until the evening, ought to have forcibly struck the people, and taught them the more to abominate sin. And, since it was not permitted to any but a man that was clean to gather the ashes, not that they should be laid anywhere but in a clean place, it was manifested by this sign that there was no impurity in the sacrifice itself, but that from an extraneous and adventitious pollution; because it was destined to purge away uncleanness, it was accounted in a certain sense unclean. Whence too the water, into which the ashes were thrown, was called the water of separation, as well as the expiation. f23 For this translation which I have given is the right one; and others improperly render it “for waters of separation, and for expiation.” The old interpreter has not given the sense amiss, as far as regards this word, “because the heifer is burnt for sin.” But since in Hebrew the word, hafj chateah, f24 means not only wickedness or sin, but also the sacrifice on which the curse is imposed; what Moses intended to convey is better expressed by the word “expiation.” But the expression “separation” has reference to the men, whose personal uncleanness excluded them from the holy congregation. But the question arises, why this ordinance is pronounced to be common to the strangers who sojourned in the land of Israel, as well as to the natives; because it was by no means reasonable that the uncircumcised should be purified. The reply is easy, that such strangers are not adverted to as were altogether aliens from the people, but those who, although born of heathen parentage, had embraced the Law. These God equalizes with the children of Abraham in the sacrifices and other religious services; for if their condition were different, the-church, into the body of which they were ingrafted, would be rent asunder.

11. He that toucheth the dead body. He now recites certain forms of pollution in which the washing was necessary; all of them, however, come to the point, that men are defiled by the touch of a corpse or, bones, or a grave. Nor is there here any distinction between the body of a person who is slain, or of one who has died in bed; whence it follows that death is here set forth as a mirror of God’s curse: And assuredly, if we consider its origin and cause, the corruption of nature, whereby the image of God is defaced, presents itself in every, dead man; for, unless we were altogether corrupt, we should not be born to perish But God also taught His people by another mode of signifying it, that uncleanness is contracted by our communication with the unfruitful works of darkness. For the Apostle (<580601>Hebrews 6:1) calls them “dead works,” either from their consequences, or because, as faith is the life of the soul, so unbelief keeps it in death. Since, then, the corpse the bones, the grave, designate whatever we bring from the womb, because, until we are born again, and God quickens us by His Spirit and faith, we are dead while we live; there is no question but that the children of Israel were reminded, that in order to keep themselves pure before God, they must abstain from all corruption; inasmuch as, if they were rendered unclean by their contact with a dead man, they must immediately have recourse to ablution. In fine, the ceremony had no other object than that they should serve God in pureness from the sins of the flesh; and exercise themselves in constant thoughts of repentance, whilst, if they fell from their purity, they should labor to obtain reconciliation with God, by means of sacrifice and ablution.

13. Whosoever toucheth the dead body. The severity of. the capital punishment shews how very pleasing to God is purity. If any one bad forgotten to sprinkle himself on the third or the seventh day, he might redeem his negligence by a prolongation of the term, because he only postponed his purification to another day; but it was a capital crime to enter the sanctuary in his uncleanness, since thus holy and profane things would be mixed together, nay, the altar would have been polluted as well as the whole service of God. But indeed the act of touching a dead body was of slight importance, nor was it to be deemed an atrocious crime; but here the external defilement is not regarded in itself, as if God were wroth on account of a stain contracted by the performance of a pious duty.  f25 Rather must the object of the ceremony be considered, for God designed by these rudiments to teach the Israelites, like children, that if any one should pollute sacred things by his impurity, he would by no means be tolerated in this audacity. In this then consisted the religious import of the transaction, that the worship of God was too precious for the Israelites to be permitted to contaminate it with impunity. Whence we gather that the punishment was denounced as against sacrilege. In sum, it comes to this, that God is not duly worshipped except with a sincere heart and pure hands; and that if any pollution be contracted, there is need of expiation before a free access is re-opened to holy things. But it must be remarked as to the contact, that it was accounted the same thing, whether the corpse lay in a field or a house; whilst, if any one died in a tent, men were polluted by merely entering it, and likewise vessels without covers thus became unclean.

22. And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth. Others translate it, — “Whosoever toucheth an unclean thing shall be unclean.” for, since the Hebrew is without a neuter gender,  f26 the relative ra, asher, and the noun amfh, hattame, may be either masculine or neuter; and either sense would not be unsuitable; except that we gather from the second clause, that reference is rather made here to the contagion with which unclean persons infect either men or garments, or other articles. For those who had touched a dead body, or bones, or a grave, were not only unclean until the evening, but for seven entire days. But it appears that this was added in conclusion, lest the Jews should murmur at the severity of the punishment, as if God would inflict the penalty of death for a trifling sin. In this way, then, Moses shews how great is the guilt incurred by those who, being unclean, intrude into the sanctuary; because, as far as in them lies, they pollute the holiness of God, and not without intolerable impertinence. Hence appears to be taken the reproof of the Prophet, when he reproaches the Jews with having done nothing but defile the worship of God with their sacrifices; for he proposes this question to the priests, — ”If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy?” After they have replied in the negative, he asks again, “If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean?” and they answer, “It shall be unclean.” Whence the Prophet infers:

“So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord, and so is the work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.” (<370212>Haggai 2:12-14.)

This passage shews us the legitimate use of the ceremony, that corrupt and perverse worshippers  f27 bring disgrace rather than honor on God, whilst they mix up His holy name with their profanations.

Another Supplement as to keeping themselves clean by the concealment of their impurities  f28

Deuteronomy 23

Go To Deuteronomy 23: 9-14

9. When the host goeth forth. What he had taught with respect to the preservation of purity at home, and in time of peace, he now extends to times of war also, so that they might keep themselves clean from all defilement even in the midst of the clang of arms. We know how greatly laws are disregarded during war, when all things are under the control of violence rather than reason; and we know that much license is wont to be given to soldiers, which would be by no means tolerated in peace. God would remedy this evil by requiring the Israelites to aim at the same purity in war as in peace; for this is a special law which forbids their being dissolute and unruly in war-time, as He has before condemned all impurity in general, as if He had said, that under no pretext would they be excusable, if they neglect the duty of cultivating habits of purity. For He does not command them to be cautious in the army and in the camp, as if they might sin with impunity when at home, but admonishes them that God would by no means excuse them although they should allege the necessity of war. Much more would the crime be aggravated, if they should pollute themselves in peace and when their minds were calm. Whence we gather that it is vain to catch at empty excuses for the violation of God’s commands in any respect; for, however difficult the performance of duty may be, still God never resigns His rights. Now, if war, which seems to dispense with laws, does not excuse crime, much greater, as I have said, shall their guilt be accounted, who in a tranquil condition of life are licentiously carried away by sin.

10. If there be among you. He enumerates two kinds of pollution, whereby the Israelites may know what is meant by their keeping from the “wicked thing.” First, He pronounces to be unclean, and casts out of the camp those who may have had a filthy dream, until they shall have washed themselves in the evening. Secondly, He forbids them to defile the camp with what passes from the bowels; and not only this, but, even when they have gone outside the camp, He commands them to bury their excrement beneath the earth, lest any filthiness should appear. Yet it is probable that, by synecdoche, everything is referred to which rendered men unclean and polluted. But Moses, speaking as to soldiers, considered it sufficient to tell them briefly, that although they might be occupied with war, cleanliness must still be attended to. By “what chanceth at night,” all are agreed in understanding a flow of semen; from whence we infer how greatly impurity defiles a man, since uncleanness is contracted even from foul dreams. As to the second part, some desire to appear quick and clever by attacking Moses, because he has introduced among the precepts of holiness, that none should relieve his bowels in the camp. Forsooth, they say, the smell might offend the nostrils of God! But their silly petulance is easily rebutted; for God would by such rudiments keep His ancient people in the way of duty, lest liberty even in the most trifling things should lead them onwards to audacity. If they had been permitted to defile every part of the camp, the people would presently have been hardened against filthiness of every sort. Thus they were held back by this rein, that they might more earnestly apply their minds to spiritual integrity. They also are mistaken who suppose that this was a sanitary precaution, lest the smell should produce diseases, and be injurious to their bodily health. For Moses plainly declares that he not only had regard to what was wholesome, or even to what was decent in the eyes of men; but rather that he would accustom the people to abhor uncleanness, and to keep themselves pure and unpolluted — for he adds, that God presided in the camp, to protect them from the power and assaults of their enemies; and that they should fear, lest, if they should contaminate the camp, He would be offended with their filthiness and forsake them. The sum is, that when they have need of God’s assistance, and are engaged in war against their enemies, the pursuit of holiness must not be omitted or neglected even in the midst of arms.

Another Supplement  f29

Deuteronomy 22

<052209>Deuteronomy 22:9-11

9. Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds; lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.

9. Non seres vineam tuam diversis speciebus seminum, ne forte pollatur fructus seminis quod sevisti, et fruetus vineae.

10. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.

10. Non arabis cum bove et asino pariter.

11. Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woolien and linen together.

11. Non indues te diversa specie, lana et lino pariter.


Deuteronomy 14

<051401>Deuteronomy 14:1, 2

1. Ye are the children of the Lord your God. Ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.

1. Filii estis Jehovae Dei vestri. Non vos incidetis, nec facietis calvitium super mortuo.

2. For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.

2. Quoniam populus sanctus es Jehovae Deo tuo, qui te elegit ut sis ei in populum peculiarem e cunctis gentibus quae sunt in superficie terrae.


<052209>Deuteronomy 22:9. Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard. These four precepts, which all condemn strange medleys, I doubt not to be supplements of the First Commandment; and the reason, which is subjoined in Deuteronomy, directs us to this, where God declares that the produce of the seed and of the vineyard is polluted, if there be divers mixtures. Whence it appears that nothing else is demanded but that they should cultivate purity. The word indeed, which Moses uses, means to “sanctify,dq kadesh; but, by antiphrasis, it is taken for to “contaminate.” To the same effect is what follows, that they should not plough with an ox and an ass together; for this diversity is forbidden on no other account, but because men contract some defilement as soon as they depart from simplicity. Yet, if any one thinks otherwise, I shall not strongly contend with him. It might indeed be objected, that when God forbids animals to be used promiscuously, so that those of different kinds should not be mixed together, He has regard to chastity,  f30 and that, by forbidding the fields to be sown with divers seeds, and garments to be woven of divers materials, He would prevent frauds. But the more simple explanation is, that the people were thus retained in purity, lest they should accustom themselves to corrupt habits, and lest they should bring in strange rites from various quarters, or seek, with depraved curiosity, for mixtures which might at length invade the worship of God. For if animals of different species are joined together, the integrity of nature is corrupted, and an adulterine offspring is produced, which degenerates from the institution of God; but, if various kinds of seed should be mixed together, or if a garment should be woven of linen and wool, there would be no danger of deception or fraud in so manifest a matter. It is probable, therefore, that the end which, as I have said, was proposed by God was, that, by cultivating natural and simple habits all their life through, they should keep themselves pure and uncorrupted from every strange vice. On this account Scripture compares strange doctrines to leaven, since by their additions or curtailings they corrupt the pure word of God. (<401611>Matthew 16:11.) And this was by no means a useless discipline; when, in trifles, and almost things of nought, the rein was applied to them, so that they should not decline from purity in the very least degree. It was a small matter to interweave a thin thread with a thicker one, and perchance such a process would have been profitable for their general advantage; in some fields, too, a better crop is grown, if the seed is compounded of pure wheat, and some other sort of grain (siligine), as also the union of the horse and ass has been approved of, since thus mules are produced. But God would not allow these things amongst His ancient people, lest, sinking by degrees to greater license, they should at length addict themselves to the practice and customs of the heathen. He therefore uses this preface: “Ye shall keep my statutes,” (<031919>Leviticus 19:19;) from whence we gather that the people were surrounded with fixed barriers, lest they should defile themselves with foreign vices, and imitate the nations, from which they had been separated. Wherefore this is the sum, that they should abide in God’s statutes.

Leviticus 19

Go To Leviticus 19: 19, 23-25, 27, 28

23. And when ye shall come. There seems to me no question but that the circumcision of trees as well as of men appertains to the First Commandment, not only that the Jews might see a symbol of their own adoption in the very trees, but that they might learn that it was permitted to none but the children of God to feed on their fruit; and also that whatsoever the earth produces is in a manner profane, until it is purified. For surely by this ceremony was set forth what Paul teaches, that all things are “sanctified by the word of God, and prayer,” (<540405>1 Timothy 4:5;) not that anything is in itself impure, but because the earth has contracted pollution from the corruption of man, it is just, as regards us, that the harmless fruits also should be accounted to be in uncircumcision. In sum, God would raise up a wall whereby He might separate His people from the Gentiles, and at the same time admonish them that a legitimate use of those things which the earth produced could not be made by the sons of Adam, except by special privilege. But the similitude of uncircumcision, until the year appointed for their being circumcised, was a very appropriate one, that they might acknowledge the fruits of their trees to be pure for them by the same right whereby they were consecrated as God’s peculiar people. But, lest the three years’ unproductiveness should press heavily upon them, he promises them compensation from the future blessing of God; for, if they should abstain from eating the unclean fruit, a larger produce was to be expected in future.

27. Ye shall not round the corners. It clearly appears that God had no other object than by the interposition of this obstacle to sever His people from heathen nations. For there is nothing to which men are more prone than to conform themselves to the customs of others; and hence it arises, that they mutually communicate each other’s vices. Wherefore care was especially to be taken lest the people of Israel should adopt foreign habits, and by this pliableness should fall away from the true worship of God; from whence too the ordinary phrase has arisen, that the word “common” should be used for “unclean.” God then strictly forbids them from declining to the habits of the Gentiles, and confounding the distinction which He had Himself placed between them. There is no doubt but that it was usual for the Gentiles, out of superstition, to cut marks  f31 upon their faces, to trim the hair in certain steps or circles, and in their mourning to lacerate their flesh, or to disfigure it with marks. It is well known that the priests of Cybele  f32 made gashes in their flesh with knives and razors, and covered themselves all over with wounds, for the sake of shewing their zeal. The same thing was also commonly practiced by others; inasmuch as the world is easily deceived by external ceremonies. But though this were a thing in itself indifferent, yet God would not allow His people to be at liberty to practice it, that, like children, they might learn from these slight rudiments, that they would not be acceptable with God, unless they were altogether different from uncircumcised foreigners, and as far as possible from following their examples; and especially that they should avoid all ceremonies whereby their religion was testified. For experience teaches how greatly the true worship of God is obscured by anything adscititious, and how easily foul superstitions creep in, when the comments of men are tacked on to the word of God. Doubtless that part, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead,” etc., might be expounded as a correction of immoderate grief; because we know how intemperately men set themselves against God when they give the reins to their sorrow; but since the object of the Gentiles was to pay what was due to the dead, and to celebrate their funeral obsequies  f33 as a kind of propitiation, it is probable, and more suitable, that by the whole context those preposterous gestures are condemned, which were proofs of piety among the Gentiles, but which would have been defilements to the people of God.

The same thing appears more clearly from the passage in Deuteronomy, which next follows, wherein Moses condemns cutting themselves, and making themselves bald for the dead in connection with each other, as if they were one thing; and confirms the law by a general argument, that they might withdraw themselves from every pollution as the children of God; since they were chosen to be His peculiar people; as much as to say, that God’s grace would be altogether frustrated, if they did not differ at all from foreign nations. As to his saying that they were chosen out of all the nations, it does not a little illustrate the gratuitous mercy of God, wherewith He honored them alone, by calling them to the hope of eternal salvation, and passing by the Gentiles; for there was no nobility found in them, nor did they exceed others either in number or in any other superiority, on account of which He should prefer them to the whole world. But the design of Moses in magnifying the extraordinary goodness of God, was that they might the more abhor that impure cornmixture, which, by bringing them on a par with the Gentiles, degraded them from this high honor.

Another Supplement touching
the Clean and Unclean Beasts  f34

Leviticus 20

<032025>Leviticus 20:25, 26

25. Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean.

25. Vos quoque discrimen facite inter animal mundum et immundum, et inter avem immundam et mundam, et ne abominabiles reddatis animas vestras in animalibus et volatilibus, atque in omni quod reptat in terra: quae separavi vobis ad im-munditiam.

26. And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.

26. Eritis autem sancti mihi: quia sanctus sum ego Jehova, et separavi vosa populis, ut essetis mei.

Deuteronomy 14

Go To Deuteronomy 14: 3-20

<032025>Leviticus 20:25. Ye shall therefore put difference. I have no doubt but that this sentence depends on the end of the foregoing verse; for although that verse contains a reason to deter them from incest, of which he had been speaking, still it refers also to the doctrine before us, and stands in the shape of preface to it. In a word, it connects two things, for God here briefly declares His will, not only with respect to unlawful and improper intercourse, but also why He forbids His people to eat of unclean animals. Therefore He says, “I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people.” Whence it follows, that for no other reason were they prohibited from eating those animals, except that they thence may learn to take more diligent heed, and to withdraw themselves far from all the pollutions of the Gentiles. He had before recommended purity by various symbols, and now extends it even to the very animals. And this reason must be carefully marked, that the distinction between meats is propounded to them in order that they may study purity. For there would be something unmeaning in what is here said, if we did not know that this interdiction was imposed with this object, that they should not mix themselves promiscuously with the Gentiles. Therefore it is again repeated, that they were severed, that they might be God’s inheritance; and hence it is inferred, that holiness was to be cultivated by them, that they might conform themselves to the example of their God. Now it cannot be questioned, that the distinction of meats which is prescribed, is a supplement to the First Commandment, wherein the rule for worshipping God duly and purely is laid down; and thus religion is rescued from all admixtures of superstition.

Leviticus 11

Go To Leviticus 11: 1-47

2. These are the beasts which ye shall eat. The holy fathers, before the birth of Moses, knew what animals were unclean; of which fact Noah afforded a manifest proof, when, by God’s command, he took into the ark seven pairs of the clean animals, and offered of them his sacrifice of thanksgiving to God. Certainly he could not have obeyed the command of God, unless he had either been taught by secret inspiration, or unless this tradition had descended to him from his forefathers. But there is nothing absurd in the notion that God, desiring to confirm the traditional distinction, appointed certain marks of difference whereby its observation might be more scrupulously attended to, and lest any transgression of it should creep in through ignorance. For God also consecrated the Sabbath to Himself from the creation of the world, and desired it to be observed by the people before the promulgation of the Law; and yet afterwards the peculiar holiness of the day was more distinctly expressed. Besides, the clean animals are here distinguished from the unclean, by name as well as by signs. The proper names, which are recited, are of little service to us now-a-days; because many species which are common in the East, are unknown elsewhere; and it was therefore easy for Jews  f35 who were born and had lived in distant countries, to fall into error about them; whilst, on the other hand, the more bold they are in their conjectures, the less are they to be trusted. As to many of them, I acknowledge that there is no ambiguity, especially as to the tame animals, or those that are to be found everywhere, or that have plain descriptions of them given in the Bible. A positive knowledge then is only to be sought from the signs which are here laid down; viz., that the animals which have cloven hoofs, and which ruminate, are clean: and that those are unclean in which either of these two things is wanting; that either sea or river fish, which have fins and scales, are clean. No such distinction as to birds is given, but only the unclean are named, which it was sinful to eat. Lastly, mention is made of reptiles. As to details, if there be anything worthy of observation, the place to consider them will be further on; let us now remember, in general, what I have before touched upon, viz., that whilst the Gentiles might eat every kind of food, many were forbidden to the Jews, in order that they might learn in their very food to cultivate purity; and this was the object of their separation from ordinary customs. Hence it arose that they use the word llj, chalal  f36 both for “to make common,” and to “contaminate; “ and the word, lwj, chol, signifies “polluted,” because it is opposed to anything holy or set apart. It is true, indeed, that the Gentiles, by natural instinct, have regarded with the utmost horror the eating of some of the animals which are here forbidden; still, God would surround His people with barriers, which must separate them from their neighbors.

Those who imagine that God here had regard to their health, as if discharging the office of a Physician, pervert by their vain speculation the whole force and utility of this law. I allow, indeed, that the meats which God permits to be eaten are wholesome, and best adapted for food; but, both from the preface, — in which God admonished them that holiness was to be cultivated by the people whom He had chosen, — as also from the (subsequent) abolition of this law, it is sufficiently plain that this distinction of meats was a part of that elementary instruction  f37 under which God kept His ancient people.

“Let no man therefore judge you (says Paul) in meat or in drink, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (<510216>Colossians 2:16-17.)

By which expressions he means, that what was spiritual had been shadowed forth in the external rite of abstaining from meats. To the same effect he elsewhere says, (<451414>Romans 14:14) that he knows and is persuaded,  f38 that in the Lord Jesus Christ there is nothing unclean; viz., because Christ by his death has redeemed His people from slavish subjection. Hence it follows, that the prohibition of meats must be counted among the ceremonies, which were exercises in the worship of God. But here a question arises, how it is reconcilable that, even from the days of Noah, certain animals were unclean, and yet that all without exception were allowed to be eaten? I cannot agree with some in thinking that the distinction originally made by God grew obsolete by degrees; for God, in excepting the eating of blood only, makes a grant of whatsoever moves upon the earth as the food of the posterity of Noah. I therefore restrict to the sacrifices that uncleanness, with the knowledge of which the hearts of the Patriarchs were then inspired, nor do I doubt but that it was as lawful for Abraham, as well as for them, to eat swine’s flesh as the flesh of oxen. Afterwards, when God imposed the yoke of the Law to repress the licentiousness of the people, He somewhat curtailed this general permission, not because He repented of His liberality; but because it was useful to compel in this way to obedience these almost rude and uncivilized people. But, since before the Law the condition of the saints was the same as our own, it must be remembered, as I said before, that, agreeably to the dictates of nature, they spontaneously avoided certain foods, just as at present no one will hunt wolves or lions for food, nor desire to eat serpents and other venomous animals. But the object of this ordinance was different, viz., lest they who were God’s sacred and peculiar people, should freely and promiscuously communicate with the Gentiles.

3. Whatsoever parteth the hoof. Whilst I fear that but little confidence can be placed in the allegories, in which many have taken delight; so I do not find any fault with, nor even refuse that which has been handed down from the ancients,  f39 viz., that by the cleaving of the hoof is signified prudence in distinguishing the mysteries of Scripture, and by the chewing of the cud serious meditation on its heavenly doctrines; although I cannot approve of the subtlety  f40 which they add, viz., that those “rightly divide the word” who have known how to elicit mystical senses from its letter; because hence it has come to pass that they have allowed themselves in all sorts of imaginations. I therefore embrace the more simple notion, that they who only have a taste for the carnal sense, do not divide the hoof; for, as Paul says, only “he that is spiritual discerneth all things.” (<460215>1 Corinthians 2:15, margin.) The chewing of the cud ought to follow, duly to prepare and digest the spiritual food; for many gulp down Scripture without profit, because they neither sincerely desire to profit by it, nor seek to refresh their souls by it, as their nourishment; but satisfied with the empty delights of knowledge, make no efforts to conform their life to it. In the first clause, then, brutal stupidity is condemned; in the other, the ambition and levity of curious men.  f41 God, indeed, set before Peter, in the vision, unclean animals as images and figures of the Gentiles, (<441012>Acts 10:12;) and therefore it is lawful, by probable analogy, to transfer to men what is said about the animals. But why God should have appointed the cloven hoof and rumination as signs, is no more clear to me than why He should have forbidden their eating swine’s flesh; unless, perchance, because the solid hoof is a sign of wildness; whilst the animals which do not ruminate feed for the most part on filth and excrement. We know that on this point there was much contention immediately after the promulgation of the Gospel, because some of the Jews, in their excessive devotion to the Law, and considering that the distinction of meats was not to be reckoned among the, ceremonial enactments, desired that the new Church should be bound by the same trammels as had been imposed upon the ancient people. At length, by the decree of the Apostles, permission was given to the Gentiles to eat all kinds of meat, except only blood and things strangled, and that only for a time, for the sake of avoiding offense, since the Jews would not otherwise have been propitiated. Now, after what God Himself had ordained respecting the distinction of meats had been abrogated, it was an act of diabolical audacity to oblige men’s consciences by human laws, and to prevent them from enjoying the liberty obtained by Christ.

Another question remains, how God should pronounce anything which He has created to be unclean; for, if an animal be rejected on account of its uncleanness, part of the reproach redounds to the Author Himself. Besides, this rejection seems also to be opposed to the first declaration of God, when, considering all things which He had made, He acknowledged them to be “very good.” The solution is, that no animal was ever unclean in itself; but that this merely refers to its use. Thus in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil there was naturally neither fault nor harm, so that it should infect man by its pollution, yet he contracted death from it on account of God’s prohibition. Wherefore, also, in this passage, God does not condemn His work in the animals, but, as to their being eaten, He would have them accounted unclean, that the people may abominate that which is forbidden them. In a word, it is only transgression which defiles: for the animals have never changed their nature; but it was in God’s power to determine what He would have to be lawful or unlawful. Thus another objection is removed. Christ declares that

“not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man.
(<401011>Matthew 10:11.)

If any one should thence infer that harmless animals are improperly condemned, we must reply that they are not accounted unclean in themselves, but that the prohibition had a different object. For that doctrine was always true, that

“the kingdom of God is not meat and drink,”
(<451417>Romans 14:17;)

but, when God forbade the Israelites to eat this or that kind of food, they were admonished by this ceremonial precept how abominable is the inward corruption of the heart. But by such elementary teaching they were prepared and led onwards to spiritual doctrine, that they might know that nothing defiles a man except what comes out of his mouth. Now-a-days the condition of believers is different. for liberty is obtained for them, since Christ, having abrogated the Law, has nailed

“the handwriting of ordinances to his cross.”
(<510214>Colossians 2:14.)

4. Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of. He more clearly expresses what he had previously glanced at, viz., that an animal, although it may ruminate, shall not be clean unless it also cleaves the hoof; and, on the other hand, that the cloven hoof will not be sufficient unless combined with rumination. In these words Moses taught that partial and imperfect purity must not be obtruded upon God. If any choose to think that rumination is the symbol of internal purity, and the cloven hoof of external, his opinion will be a probable one. Since this distinction has occurred to my mind, although I have no taste for subtle speculations, I have thought it well to mention it, yet leaving it free for any one to accept it or not. Meanwhile we must hold it as certain, as I have lately said, that God demands perfect cleanliness, undefiled by any admixture. But the prohibition was most onerous to the Jews with respect to swine’s flesh, because it is very well adapted for food, not only as being a pleasant accompaniment of other meats, but because the working-classes are fed upon it at a smaller cost. In this point, therefore, the religion of the Jewish people was especially proved. For, when the soldiers of Antiochus desired to force the people to an entire renunciation of the Law, they only urged them to eat swine’s flesh  f42 And hence the famous witticism of Augustus, “I would rather be Herod’s pig than his son;”  f43 because, whilst he abstained from pork, he was the murderer of his children. But, in order that the Jews might observe this prohibition more strictly, the very touch was also forbidden them; so that it was not only wicked to taste swine’s flesh, but even to touch it with their hands after the animal was killed. The same rule did not apply to beef or mutton; for it is necessary to handle the meat which is appointed for our food.

9. These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters. Here, also, some who know little of religion, plausibly contend that God is acting the physician’s part, and distinguishing wholesome from unwholesome food. But although their opinion is sufficiently refuted by medical men themselves, yet, even if I should admit what they desire, they reason badly. For the purpose of God was other than to provide for the people’s health; and, because He had to do with a rude people, He chose common marks, being admonished by which they might gradually ascend to higher things. It would be useless to follow the allegories which Isychius has invented  f44 and I would willingly bury in oblivion these triflings, except that many have such a leaning to subtleties, that sober views would scarcely please them, until the folly of these allegories shall have been convicted. I will say nothing of the scales and fins. If at first sight any should approve of what he says as to the names of the fish being omitted, because the Church seeks not. a name upon earth, and that the Church is signified by the fish, — let them consider whether it is consistent that the Church should only exist in the water; and, again, that the birds, which are nearer heaven, should be excluded from this honor; thirdly, that the clean animals should be rejected, as if they did not belong to the Church; lastly, that those who by their contagion pollute the Church should be counted amongst the elect, whose names are written in heaven; for certainly many of the fish are unclean. Those who will not acquiesce in these perspicuous reasons, I will allow to wander in their labyrinth. This simple view will satisfy the moderate and teachable, that the fish are not named, because the greater part of them were unknown to the Jews, whose country did not produce many of the river-fish, since it scarcely had any river besides the Jordan, whilst the sea-fish only visited the neighboring shores.

13. And these are they which ye shall have in abomination. The species of birds and reptiles which are forbidden, are such as common feeling almost naturally repudiates. And assuredly God dealt with great indulgence towards His people, so as not to weigh them down with too heavy burdens. But because man’s greediness sometimes delights in monstrous food, He desired even in minor matters to put the rein upon them, lest they should rush with heathen nations into intemperance, whereby they would be polluted. For there was danger lest, by devouring filthy animals, they should harden themselves to join in various other corruptions. Another law is added, that they should not only abstain from eating these unclean animals, but, if any such should be killed, that they should not defile themselves by touching its carcase; nay, that if any vessels should have come in contact with them, those made of earth should be broken, and others should be washed. It seems to be a trifling matter to enjoin, that if a mouse should have been drowned in a vessel of water, the vessel itself should be unclean; and the strictness appears excessive, that the Jews should be commanded,  f45 if any such animal had fallen into a vessel of wine, and had died there, not only to pour away the wine, but also to destroy the vessel; and if it had been smothered in an oven, or had lain in the hearth, to break down both of them; as if spiritual infection reached even to things without life. But we must always consider the intention of God:. from whence we shall learn that He was not so severe and exacting in unimportant things as to tie His people to the observation of (superfluous)  f46 matters; but that these were acts of discipline whereby He might accustom them to study purity, which is so generally neglected and omitted among men. Now-a-days, also, we are commanded by the mouth of Paul,

“whether we eat, or drink, or whatsoever we do, to do all to the glory of God,” (<461031>1 Corinthians 10:31;)

but in this respect we differ from the ancient people, that, being delivered from childish rudiments, we are directed only to what is spiritual, viz., that meat and drink are supplied to us by God, that we may serve in purity the Author of our life. But it was necessary to stimulate the Jews in various ways that they might be more attentive to this object; whilst God commanded them to keep their houses free from all uncleanness, and to be diligent in watching over the purity of their water, and all their vessels; that He might constantly set before their eyes how diligently He would have them to labor after true cleanliness; as follows in the end of the chapter.

43. Ye shall not make yourselves abominable. He does not invite them to take care of their health, nor warn them of the danger of contracting’ diseases, but bids them beware of defiling themselves. And a clearer explanation is subjoined, “For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves; for I am holy.” Lest they should imagine that the main part of religion was contained in external ceremonies, they were to consider the nature of God; for, inasmuch as He is a Spirit, He would be worshipped only spiritually. Thus holiness is only connected instrumentally with the distinction of meats; since their abstinence had no other object than that they should consecrate themselves to God. Therefore the superstition of the Jews was inexcusable, when they satisfied themselves with trifling observances;  f47 as if one should learn the letters of the alphabet without applying them to their use, and reading what is written. From their example we perceive how eagerly men lay hold of everything they can to sustain them in their hypocrisy, for they not only wrested to their earthly notions the things which were profitable in the pursuit of true integrity of heart; but, not content, with this, they heaped to themselves many supererogatory rites;  f48 hence the water of expiation, or lustration always in use, even when they were unconscious of any pollution: hence their anxious labor in washing cups and platters, that it might readily appear how constantly the perversity of man abuses what God has appointed for the best of reasons.

Another Supplement touching Things
Accidentally Unclean  f49

Deuteronomy 14

<051421>Deuteronomy 14:21

21. Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God.

21. Non comedetis ullum cadaver: peregrino qui est intra portas tuas dabis illud, et comedet illud, aut vendes alienigenae: populus enim sanctus es Jehovae Deo tuo.

Exodus 22

<022231>Exodus 22:31

31. And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.

31. Viri sancti eritis mihi: carnem in agro raptam non comedetis, cani projicietis eam.

Leviticus 17

<031715>Leviticus 17:15, 16

15. And every soul that eateth that which died of itse!f, or that which was torn with beasts, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even; then shall he be clean.

15. Onmis anima quae comederit cadaver, aut raptum, tam de indigenis quam de peregrinis, lavabit vestimenta sua, ubi laverit se aqua,: eritque immundus usque ad vesperam, deinde mundus erit.

16. But if he wash them not, nor bathe his flesh, then he shall bear his iniquity.

16. Quod si non laverit vestes, et carnem non laverit, portabit iniquitatem suam.


<051421>Deuteronomy 14:21. Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself. The eating of any carcase, or of flesh torn by wild beasts, is reckoned among the causes of defilement; but we must understand it to be the carcase of an animal which has died of hunger or disease, for, from the nature of its death, it contracted impurity, although in itself it were otherwise pure. The end of the precept is gathered from the reason which is immediately subjoined, “for thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God,” and from the ablution which is prescribed in the passage from Leviticus. The same thing is, secondly, enjoined respecting flesh that has been torn, as before with regard to the carcase, for the deformity of its laceration is counted as uncleanness. The holiness of the people is again referred to, that they may more diligently beware of defilements. Hence it follows that those were contaminated who should eat of torn flesh. Therefore, in the third passage, he confirms it that the Jews were to abstain, and were prohibited from the eating of a carcase or the flesh of an animal torn by beasts, lest they should pollute themselves. Nor is it an objection that the eating of carrion and of blood are here prohibited in conjunction with each other; for we know that Moses does not always arrange his precepts in order, but promiscuously adduces such as appertain to different classes. Therefore, I have thought it well to separate these two prohibitions which have distinct objects, and whose dissimilarity manifestly appears from the difference of their punishment. He who shall have eaten blood shall be cut off from the people; whereas he who shall have eaten carrion, shall wash himself and be unclean till the evening. A question might again arise respecting torn or lacerated flesh; but it seems in my judgment to be plain enough from the context, that flesh torn by beasts is counted amongst unclean meats; for the reason of the law is expressed, viz., because those who were chosen to be a holy people should keep themselves pure and incorrupt. Nor would God command that meat intended for man should be thrown to dogs, unless it were infected with a contagion, which would pollute His holy ones. As to the command, in the first passage, to give it to a stranger, or to sell it to an alien, that he might eat it, it does not appear reasonable, since that would be to supply the materials for sin, as though one should offer a sword to a madman, or transfer illicit goods to others. But the solution of this difficulty is easy: for the Gentiles were permitted to eat indifferently of all sorts of food, since no distinctions were placed between them; but the prohibition of certain meats was a mark of separation between them and the elect people of God. A more difficult question arises from a kind of contradiction, because Moses in another passage binds both the stranger and the home-born by the same law, and declares them to be alike unclean if they shall have tasted of carrion. But we must bear in mind that he sometimes calls those strangers who, although born of heathen parents, had embraced the Law. Circumcision, therefore, connected them with God, just as if they had derived their origin from Abraham; whilst there were other strangers, whom uncircumcision separated from the children of Abraham as profane and excomnmnicate. The sum is, that whosoever allege God’s name, and boast themselves to be His people, are called to cultivate holiness, and to keep themselves pure from every stain.

Another Supplement
as to Marriage with Unbelievers  f50

Deuteronomy 21

Go To Deuteronomy 21: 10-13

10. When thou goest forth to war. The same thing is now commanded respecting wives as above respecting meats. As regarded the Canaanites, who were destined and devoted to destruction, we have seen that the Israelites were prohibited from taking their women to wife, lest this connection should be an enticement to sin; but Moses now goes further, viz., that the Israelites, having obtained a victory over other nations, should not marry any of the captive women, unless purified by a solemn rite. This, then, is the sum, that the Israelites should not defile themselves by profane marriages, but in this point also should keep themselves pure and uncorrupt, because they were separated from other people, to be the peculiar people of God. It was better, indeed, that they should altogether abstain from such marriages; yet it was difficult so to restrain their lust as that they should not decline from chastity in the least, degree; and hence we learn how much license conquerors allow themselves in war, so that there is no room for perfect purity in them. Wherefore God so tempers His indulgence as that the Israelites, remembering the adoption wherewith He had honored them, should not disgrace themselves, but in the very fervor of their lust should retain some religious affection. But the question here is not of unlawful ravishment, but Moses only speaks of women who have been made captives by the right of war, for we know that conquerors have abused them with impunity, because they had them under their power and dominion. But since many are led astray by the blandishments of their wives, God applies a remedy, viz., that the abjuration of their former life should precede their marriage; and that none should be allowed to marry a foreign wife until she shall have first renounced her own nation. To this refers the ceremony, that the woman should shave her head, and cut her nails, and change her garments, and lament her father and her family for an entire month, viz., that she may renounce her former life, and pass over to another people. Some of the rabbins twist the words to a different meaning, as if God would extinguish love in the minds of the husbands by disfiguring the women; for the shaving of the head greatly detracts from female beauty and elegance; and “to make the nails,” for so the words literally mean, they understand as to let them grow; and the prolongation of the nails has a disgusting appearance. But their gloss is refuted by the context, in which she is commanded to put off the raiment of her captivity.: But I have no doubt but that their month of mourning, their shaven head, and the other signs, are intended by God for their renewal, so that they may accustom themselves to different habits. And with the same object they are commanded to bewail their parents as if dead, that they may bid farewell to their own people. To this the Prophet seems to allude in <194510>Psalm 45:10, when he says, “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house;” for he intimates that otherwise the marriage of a foreign woman with Solomon would not be pure and legitimate, unless she should relinquish her superstitions, and devote herself to God’s service. Nor was it needless that God should require the Israelites diligently to beware lest they should take wives as yet aliens from the study of true religion, since experience most abundantly shows how fatal a snare it is. But although we are not now bound to this observance, yet the rule still holds good that men should not rashly ally themselves with women still devoted to wicked superstitions. f51

Judicial Supplements

Deuteronomy 18

<051819>Deuteronomy 18:19

19. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

19. Erit autem ut si quis non audierit verba mea quae loquetur Propheta in nomine meo, ego re-quiram ab eo.


Thus far I have reviewed The Supplements To The First Commandment, which relate to the Ancient Types and Legal Worship. The Commandment itself will always remain in force, even to the end of the world; and is given not only to the Jews, but likewise to us also. But God formerly made use of the ceremonies as temporary aids, of which, although the use has ceased, the utility still remains; because from them it more clearly appears how God is to be duly served; and the spirit of religion shines forth in them. Therefore the whole substance is contained in the precept, but in the external exercise, as it were, the form to which God bound none but His ancient people. Now follow The Political Supplements, f52 whereby God commands the punishments to be inflicted, if His religion shall have been violated. For political laws are not only enacted with reference to earthly affairs, in order that men should maintain mutual equity with each other, and should follow and observe what is right, but that they should exercise themselves in the veneration of God. For Plato also begins from hence, when he lays down the legitimate constitution of a republic, and calls the fear of God the preface of all laws; nor has any profane author ever existed who has not confessed that this is the principal part of a well-constituted state, that all with one consent should reverence and worship God. In this respect, indeed, the wisdom of men was at fault, that they deemed that any religion which they might prefer was to be sanctioned by laws and by punishments; yet the principle was a just one, that the whole system of law is perverted if the cultivation of piety is ignored by it.

But, whilst God commends the care and study of religion to the judge, and commands that the contempt of it should be publicly avenged, He at the same time provides against a common error, that they should not rush into severity with rash and inconsiderate zeal. For, inasmuch as the several nations, cities, and kingdoms foolishly invent their own gods, He propounds His own Law, from the regulation of which it is sinful to decline. It has been wisely forbidden by human legislators, that men should make to themselves private gods; but all this is vain unless the knowledge of the true God enlightens and directs them. Justly, therefore, does God recall His people to that doctrine which He has delivered, to the end that whosoever shall have contumaciously despised it should be punished. But, since it would be insufficient that they should be once instructed in the proper worship of God by a written law, unless daily preaching were subjoined, God expressly furnishes His prophets with authority, and denounces the punishment to be inflicted if any should violate it. He had previously said that He would raise up prophets, that the condition of His chosen people should not be worse than that of other nations; since, therefore, He had deposited with them the treasure of true religion, that they might be, as it were, its guardians, He now threatens with destruction whosoever shall refuse to obey their commands. It is plain, however, from the expression “in my name,” that He does not speak of all who may usurp the name of prophet, for it is as much as to say that they came from Him, and advanced nothing without His command. For, although many may falsely present themselves in God’s name, this honorable distinction does not belong to them unless God should ratify it; but this is truly the characteristic of faithful and approved teachers, that they speak in the name of God. Thus, when Christ promises that

where two or three are gathered in His name, there is He in the midst of them,” (<401820>Matthew 18:20,)

He does not dignify with such great honor hypocrites, who with sacrilegious audacity usurp His name; but He speaks of the reality, as will also appear more clearly from the reverse law, which follows.

Deuteronomy 13

<051305>Deuteronomy 13:5

5. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in: so shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

5. Propheta antem falsus aut somniator interficietur, eo quod defectionem loquutus sit contra Jehovam Deum vestrum, qui eduxit tee e terra AEgypti, et redemit tee domo servorum, ut te depelleret a via quam princaepit tibi Jehova Deus tuus, ut ambules in ea: et exterminabit malam e medio tui.


5. And that prophet. Since the ministers of Satan deceive men by their plausible exterior, when they vaunt themselves to be the prophets of God, Moses had already admonished them, that all. teachers were not to be listened to indifferently, but that the true were to be distinguished from the false, and that, after judgment had, those should obtain credit who deserved it. He now subjoins the punishment of such as should creep in under the name of a prophet to draw away the people into rebellion. For he does not condemn to capital punishment those who may have spread false doctrine, only on account of some particular or trifling error, but those who are the authors of apostasy, and so who pluck up religion by the roots. Observe, again, that the season of this severity would not be until a positive religion should be established; and, therefore, the grossness of the impiety is expressly named, “if they should have tried to turn the people away from the worship of the true God.” Moreover, that all excuse might be obviated, Moses says that it is sufficiently manifested who God is, and how He is to be worshipped, both by the wonderful blessing of their redemption, as well as by the doctrine of the Law. Therefore, in order that God may shew that so heavy a punishment is justly inflicted upon apostates, He declares the certainty of that religion which should exist among the Israelites; as much as to say, that no pardon could be granted to such impious contempt, since God had abundantly proved the glory of His Godhead by the miracle of their redemption, and had manifested His will in the Law.

It must then be remembered, that the crime of impiety would not otherwise merit punishment, unless the religion had not only been received by public consent and the suffrages of the people, but, being supported also by sure and indisputable proofs, should place its truth above the reach of doubt. Thus, whilst their severity is preposterous who defend superstitions with the sword, so also in a well constituted polity, profane men are by no means to be tolerated, by whom religion is subverted.  f53 Thus they are unable to endure, who desire to be at liberty to make disturbances with impunity; and therefore they call those sanguinary who teach that the errors by which religion is undermined and thence destroyed, should be restrained by public authority. But what will they gain by openly raving against God? God commands the false prophets to be put to death, who pluck up the foundations of religion, and are the authors and leaders of rebellion. Some scoundrel or other gainsays this, and sets himself against the author of life and death. What insolence is this!  f54 As to their denial that the truth of God stands in need of such support, it is very true; but what is the meaning of this madness, in imposing a law upon God, that He should not make use of the obedience of magistrates in this respect? And what avails it to question about the necessity of this, since so it pleases God? God might, indeed, do without the assistance of the sword in defending religion; but such is not His will. And what wonder if God should command magistrates to be the avengers of His glory, when He neither wills nor suffers that thefts, fornications, and drunkenness should be exempt from punishment. In minor offenses it shall not be lawful for the judge to hesitate; and when the worship of God and the whole of religion is violated, shall so great a crime be fostered by his dissimulation? Capital punishment shall be decreed against adulterers; but shall the despisers of God be permitted with impunity to adulterate the doctrines of salvation, and to draw away wretched souls from the faith? Pardon shall never be extended to poisoners, by whom the body alone is injured; and shall it be sport to deliver souls to eternal destruction? Finally, the magistracy, if its own authority be assailed, shall take severe vengeance upon that contempt; and shall it suffer the profanation of God’s holy name to be unavenged? What can be more monstrous! But it is superfluous to contend by argument, when God has once pronounced what is His will, for we must needs abide by His inviolable decree.

But it is questioned whether the law pertains to the kingdom of Christ, which is spiritual and distinct from all earthly dominion; and there are some men, not otherwise ill-disposed, to whom it appears that our condition under the Gospel is different from that of the ancient people under the law; not only because the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but because Christ was unwilling that the beginnings of His kingdom should be aided by the sword. But, when human judges consecrate their work to the promotion of Christ’s kingdom, I deny that on that account its nature is changed. For, although it was Christ’s will that His Gospel should be proclaimed by His disciples in opposition to the power of the whole world, and He exposed them armed with the Word alone like sheep amongst wolves, He did not impose on Himself an eternal law that He should never bring kings under His subjection, nor tame their violence, nor change them from being cruel persecutors into the patrons and guardians of His Church. Magistrates at first exercised tyranny against the Church, because the time had not yet come when they should “kiss the Son” of God, and, laying aside their violence, should become the nursing fathers of the Church, which they had assailed according to Isaiah’s prophecy, that undoubtedly refers to the coming of Christ. (<234906>Isaiah 49:6-23.) Nor was it causelessly that Paul, when he enjoins prayers to be made for kings and other worldly rulers, added the reason that under them

“we may lead a quiet and peaceable life
in all godliness and honesty.” (<540202>1 Timothy 2:2.)

Christ, indeed as He is meek, would also, I confess, have us to be imitators of His gentleness, but that does not prevent pious magistrates from providing for the tranquillity and safety of the Church by their defense of godliness; since to neglect this part of their duty, would be the greatest perfidy and cruelty. And assuredly nothing can be more base than, when we see wretched souls drawn away to eternal destruction by reason of the impunity conceded to impious, wicked, and perverse impostors, to count the salvation of those souls for nothing. But, if under this pretext the superstitious have dared to shed innocent blood, I reply that what God has once commanded must not be brought to nought on account of any abuse or corruption of men. For, if the cause alone abundantly distinguishes the martyrs of Christ from malefactors, though their punishment may be identical, so the Papal executioners will not bring it to pass by their unjust cruelty that the zeal of pious magistrates in punishing false and noxious teachers should be otherwise than pleasing to God. And this is admirably expressed in the words of Moses, when he reminds them that judgment must be passed according to the law of God. I have already said that. this severity must not be extended to particular errors, but where impiety breaks forth even into rebellion. When it is added, “to thrust thee out of the way, which the Lord thy God commanded thee,” we gather from it that none are to be given over to punishment, but those who shall have been convicted by the plain word of God, lest men should judge them arbitrarily. Whence it also appears that zeal will err in hastily drawing the sword, unless a lawful examination shall have been previously instituted.

Deuteronomy 17

<051712>Deuteronomy 17:12, 13

12. And the man that will do pre sumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth tominister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.

12. Vir autem qui egerit in superbia ut non audiat sacerdotem qui stat ut illic ministret Jehovae Deo, tuo, aut judicem, morietur vir ille, et exterminabis malum ex Israele

13. And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously,

13. Atque omnes e populo audi ant, ut timeant, neque in posterurn superbiant.


He pronounces a similar punishment on those who shall have contumaciously rejected the judgment of the priests. We have already seen that the prophetical office was united with the priesthood; since, according to <390204>Malachi 2:4, the covenant of God was with Levi, that his descendants might be the guardians of His knowledge, and the interpreters of His law: yet God often punished the laxity of the priests, by setting other teachers over his people. At any rate, both were ambassadors for Him. Since, therefore, the authority of the prophets had been sanctioned above, the same rights are now conferred upon the priests; nor is this surprising, for it was no trifling crime to despise God, the appointer of this order. Yet we must remember what I have elsewhere stated, that the priests were not armed with tyrannical authority, so that it was sinful to reject whatever they might have decreed according to their own fancy. For neither did God dethrone Himself when He appointed them, nor did He bind men’s consciences to obey their ordinances without distinction, but only would put reins on the audacity of those who have no scruple in undervaluing the government of the Church. For this must be considered, that foul and horrible would be the disorder, if men were promiscuously permitted to reject whatever the rulers of the Church may have appointed; and it would be ridiculous that persons should be called to govern, to whom no dignity should be accorded; and, therefore, natural reason itself shews and dictates, that the reverence, which is here demanded, is due to all lawful commands. God was the author of the priesthood: He, too, ordained judges. What could be more absurd than that they should be despised and laughed at with impunity, who presided in the name and by the command of God? But He has never exalted a mortal man so high as to abdicate His own rights; nay, it was often necessary boldly to reject what the priests had commanded. Urijah the priest built a profane altar in the fashion of that at Damascus, which Ahaz had sent, and offered a sacrifice thereon, f55 (<121612>2 Kings 16:12,) was it necessary that Isaiah should acquiesce in this? Nay, detestable was the adulation of all who assented to the decree of a wicked and perfidious priest. Moreover, we see that the prophets were very often so far from agreeing with the priests, that they waged open war with them. But the whole of this matter is decided by the words of Moses, for he does not unreservedly condemn all who should not obey, but restricts his law by the addition of a special mark, viz., if the contempt should arise from presumption or arrogance. Therefore it was not else a capital crime to disobey the priest or the judge, unless any one should insolently and proudly oppose himself to the ordinance established by God. Otherwise this exception would have been interposed without reason. In fine, the priests of old were to be obeyed, as far as it concerned the public peace that the pastors ordained by God should be reverently honored; yet so as that there should be no departure from God Himself, the one Head and Prince of all pastors. We have elsewhere seen how foolishly the Papists take this to themselves. f56

13. And all the people. He shews from the object of the enactment why the proud despisers (of the priests) were not to be spared; for punishments have reference to common example, whilst, on the other hand, impunity is a bait to sin, and the nurse of unbridled licentiousness. And, assuredly, when He commands that the whole people should be inspired with terror, it is a hint that, unless presumption should be corrected, and the bold and wicked should be restrained by severe discipline, the door would be opened to them to destroy the Church.

Deuteronomy 13

Go To Deuteronomy 13: 6-11

6. If thy brother, the son of thy mother. The punishment which he had commanded to be inflicted on false teachers, is now extended to each one of the people. For although it is a lighter offense in a private individual to draw others with him into error, both because his ignorance is excusable, and the profession of a teacher does not increase his responsibility, yet a falling away from religion, from whencesoever it arises, is intolerable to God. Only, those two points, to which we have already adverted, are to be kept in remembrance, viz., that this judgment can have no place except where religion is duly constituted; and, also, that all are not to be put to death indifferently, who may have erred in some particular, but that this severity is only to be exercised against apostates, who pluck up religion by the roots, so that the worship of God is adulterated, or pure doctrine abolished. Nor indeed does God enjoin that the slipperiness of the tongue is to be capitally punished, if it shall have inconsiderately let fall something amiss, but rather  f57 the wicked design of altering the true religion, as the words clearly express the matter. It is worth while remarking with what particularity God enforces upon us the duty of fostering and upholding religion: for, because general laws are usually eluded by various exceptions, He expressly says that neither brother, nor son, nor wife, nor intimate friend is to be spared.  f58 The eye is said to pity, because the very look is of great power in awakening the affections on both sides; therefore it is not without reason that God requires  f59 such courage as may be moved to pity neither by tears, nor blandishments, nor the sadness of the spectacle. The phrases, too, are emphatic, “thy brother, who proceeded from the same womb;” “the wife who sleeps in thy bosom or embrace;” “the friend whom you love as yourself;” in order that pure zeal, when it sees God’s sacred name profaned, may not give way to any human affection. Christ says that no one is worthy to be acknowledged as His disciple, but he who shall neglect his father, and mother, and children, when necessary. So now God declares that all our tenderest affections, which are implanted in us by nature, and in which all the best persons sometimes indulge, are sinful, if they hinder us from vindicating His glory.

It is pious and praiseworthy to love our wives and children as our own bowels; nor is there any reason which forbids us from regarding our brother and our friend with similar love; only let God be preferred to all, for it is too preposterous to betray His glory for the sake of man. For to plead the love due to our wives, or anything of the same kind, what is this but to set our affections against God and His precepts? Wherefore the desire to mitigate that severity to which He would harden us, betrays an effeminacy which He will not endure. Now, there are two most just grounds for the heaviness of the punishment; first, because we are almost all of us slack when we ought to be very zealous in avenging the insults which God may receive; and, secondly, because more severe remedies are applied to perilous diseases, so it is right that so noxious, and altogether deadly pestilence as this should be met with extraordinary means. And to this refers the expression “secretly.” For although it might seem cruel to betray such as have not publicly transgressed, yet, inasmuch as sectaries fly from the light, and creep in by clandestine and deceitful arts, it is necessary to prevent them from fraudulently infecting individual houses with their poison, as always is the case with them. Therefore God would have their insidious endeavors checked betimes, lest the contagion should spread.

7. Namely, of the gods of the people. The sum of the matter is to this effect, that we should so acquiesce in the known truth, as that our ears may be closed to all the falsehoods by which it is opposed. Men’s neighborhood to each other commonly produces, by their intercommunication, a conformity of habits. Thus errors pass from one to the other; f60 and since we are generally prone to evil, the worse pervert the better. Since, then, the people of Israel were everywhere surrounded by idolaters, they might have easily been enticed to imitate them, unless measures were taken to prevent it. But the expression “round about” is used, because a pretext for yielding might have been taken from the fact, that the Israelites differed in religion not from a single nation only, but from all who surrounded them on every side. For to whatever quarter they looked, examples presented themselves to their eyes, whereby they were attracted to a new and strange form of religion. He afterwards amplifies this, by adding, even if those nations “be far off from thee;” for the Israelites were not divided from their neighbors only, but severed also from the whole human race. But this was no slight temptation, that they found no companions in the whole world, nor any nation, which agreed with them. Besides, distance itself sometimes causes us to have respect for those who are unknown to us; since the curiosity of men is volatile, and traverses in its levity sea and land, in order to procure for itself pestiferous monsters for the sake of their novelty. Meanwhile, God exalts the faith which is founded on His Word, in comparison with the manners, institutions, rites, and customs of all nations; for none has made any true proficiency in religion unless he abominates whatever is opposed to it.

9. But thou shalt surely kill him. He would not that every one should privately execute vengeance without a public trial; but he referred to the ordinary custom, that the witnesses should throw the first stone at condemned criminals, as we shall see elsewhere. For it was an admirable provision, that God would have those who had denounced the crime, to be the executors of its punishment, in order that they should be more cautious and moderate in giving their testimony. The reason, which is added at the end, “because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, who brought thee out,” etc., again exaggerates the crime on the score of its ingratitude; which was detestable in proportion to the inestimable blessing of their deliverance. It was an act of gross wickedness to rebel against God after they had known Him; but it was still more gross to undervalue their Deliverer. Finally, the advantage and fruit of this severity is subjoined; for, whilst punishment was inflicted on one man’s crime, all others were inspired with terror; and thus the death of one is a wholesome discipline for all, in the way of example.

Deuteronomy 13

Go To Deuteronomy 13: 12-17

12. If thou shalt hear say. If impiety and rebellion should more widely prevail, Moses declares that whole cities, together with their inhabitants, should rather be destroyed, than that so great a crime should remain unpunished. Hence we may better infer how unholy is the tenderness of those who would have no punishment inflicted for the violation of the religion of God. If any sedition may have arisen in an army or nation, and the contagion may have spread through the whole multitude, the severity of a just and moderate ruler does not usually proceed further than to punish the ringleaders; when, therefore, God commands all without exception to be destroyed, the great atrocity of the crime is made apparent. Hence, too, we are admonished, that zeal for God’s glory is but cold among us, unless true religion is held to be of more value than the preservation of a single city or people. But if so many together are to be dragged to death in crowds, their impudence is more than detestable, and their pity cruelty itself, who would take no account of God’s injured majesty, so that one man may be spared. And since we are created to no other end, and live for no other cause than that God may be glorified in us, it is better that the whole world should perish, than that men should enjoy the fruits of the earth in order that they may contaminate it with their blasphemies. If those who first professed Christ’s name had been inspired with such zeal as this, true religion would never have been overwhelmed, and almost extinguished by so many corruptions. But we must always bear in mind what I have already said, that this severity must not be resorted to except when the religion is suffering, which is not only received by public authority and general opinion, but which is proved on solid grounds to be true; so that it may clearly appear that we are the avengers of God against the wicked.

13. Certain men, the children of Belial. Moses puts a case, which very often is wont to occur. For all do not break forth into impiety together at the same moment, but Satan stirs up some who are like fans to excite others; and by their instigations the multitude is led to imitate them. Moses calls such as these “children of Belial;” f61 by which word some think that rebellious (proefractos) men are pointed out, and expound it “without yoke.” Their opinion, however, seems to be more correct, who interpret it “men of nothing,” men in whom nothing good or praiseworthy is found; and literally translate it “those who are worthless.”  f62 This expression is invariably applied to the wicked (sceleratis, improbis, et nequam;) and therefore Paul, contrasting Christ with Belial, designates by it Satan the chief of all the wicked. (<470615>2 Corinthians 6:15.) He uses the words “gone out,” as if they had dared to come forward, and openly to parade their impiety. But, though the evil may have originated with a few authors, he does not mean that punishment should stop with them; as if the instigation of others availed as an excuse for the multitude. And he enjoins diligent inquiry to be made, for two reasons: viz., lest they should connive at the iniquity, and be lax, and careless about it, or lest they should be too hasty and precipitate in their judgment; because, on the one hand, whilst we are never equitable, nor decide rightly in precipitation and anger, so on the other it betrays base indifference, and something like disloyalty, to overlook so great a crime. Thus both activity and moderation are commended, so that the judge may neither be lax, nor make any decision until the matter shall be carefully inquired into.

15. Thou shalt surely smite. Lest the severity of the punishment should occasion surprise, let us first observe that the error was unpardonable, because its authors, being educated in the doctrines of the Law, could not be deceived involuntarily, nor unless they had grown weary of religion, and set their hearts on the impostures of the devil. On this account God, in the Book of Jeremiah, in order to inveigh more heavily against the inconstancy of the Jews, refers them to distant isles and nations: “Passover (He says) and consider,” etc., “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this,” etc. (<240210>Jeremiah 2:10-12.) For justly must their instability be accounted monstrous, that they should have voluntarily forsaken the fountain of life, and have been carried away to vanity by their preposterous love of novelty. If any should object that the little children at least were innocent, I reply that, since all are condemned by the judgment of God from the least to the greatest, we contend against Him in vain, even though He should destroy the very infants as yet in their mothers’ womb. When Sodom and the neighboring cities were swallowed up, we doubt not but that in the mighty multitude many infants and pregnant women also perished; and whilst our reason struggles against this, it is better rather to look up reverently to the Divine tribunal, than to subject it to our own laws. The same may be said of the destruction of Babylon; for when the Prophet exclaims: “Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones,” he assuredly eulogizes the just vengeance of God. (<19D709>Psalm 137:9.) So also in this passage, if it does not appear to us agreeable to reason that the whole race of evil-doers should be exterminated, let us understand that God is defrauded of His rights, whensoever we measure His infinite greatness, which the angels themselves admiringly adore, by our own feelings. Although we must recollect that God would never have suffered any infants to be destroyed, except those which He had already reprobated and condemned to eternal death. But if we admit God’s right to deprive of the hope of salvation whomsoever He sees fit, why should the temporal punishment, which is much lighter, be found fault with? Rather let us learn from the severity of this Law, how detestable is the crime of setting up false and spurious modes of worship, since it contaminates not only the infants, whose age prevents them from being conscious of it,  f63 but even the cattle and flocks, and the very houses and walls. For he proceeds immediately afterwards to say,

16. And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it. They are commanded to burn all the furniture, and whatever is found in the city; and the reason is subjoined, because it is accursed (anathema). If any city was taken in war, all that God here commands to be burnt was to be counted as spoil, for the Jews would pollute themselves by its very touch. It might be indeed that God’s intention was to obviate covetousness, lest the Jews should mix up their zeal with rapine; but the principal reason was that which Moses expresses, that the people might be more accustomed to detest the crime, which they saw to be so cruelly punished by God. The word rj, cherem, which the Greeks have translated anathema,  f64 properly means destruction, or abolition; but that which God would have annihilated, because He cannot bear the sight of it, is called rj, before Him. Therefore it is said, “Thou shalt burn it to the Lord thy God;” for the translation which some give, “for (propter) the Lord,” is not quite literal. The sum is to this effect, that if they fear God’s vengeance for themselves, and desire to propitiate His favor, they must hold in execration the houses and property of those who have rebelled against the Law. Moreover, it is implied by the words “mercy” and “compassion,” that if God should deal with absolute justice, the wickedness of one city would suffice to destroy a whole country. Whence we gather, that a kind of expiation is demanded to propitiate God, when they are commanded utterly to destroy the city, and to cast every remnant of it into the fire.

Exodus 22

<022218>Exodus 22:18

18. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live

18. Maleficam non pateris vivere.


18. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. In these passages the punishment of those is appointed who should in any respect violate the worship of God. We have lately seen how severely God avenged apostasy from the faith; but now He touches upon certain particular points when religion is not professedly forsaken, but some corruption is introduced, whereby its purity is affected. The first passage denounces capital punishment upon witches; by which name Moses means enchantresses, or sorceresses, who devote themselves to magic arts, either to injure persons by their fascinations, or to seek revelations from the devil; such as she was whom Saul consulted, although she might be called by a different name  f65 Since such illusions carry with them a wicked renunciation of God, no wonder that He would have them punished with death. But since this pestilent crime would be no more tolerable in a man than a woman, it has been probably supposed that the law was directed against women, because their sex is more disposed to superstition. Certainly the same enactment is made respecting males in <051801>Deuteronomy 18:1,  f66 only the punishment is not there denounced, but God merely prohibits any of the people from being an enchanter or a witch. Now it is clear that all the kinds which are there recited, are here included under one; so that God would condemn to capital punishment all augurs, and magicians, and consulters with familiar spirits, and necromancers and followers of magic arts, as well as enchanters. And this will appear more plainly from the second and third passages, in which God declares that He “will set. His face against all, that shall turn after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards,” so as to cut them off from His people; and then commands that they should be destroyed by stoning. Wherefore, since it is not just that men should escape with impunity, when the infirmity of women is not spared, nor that dissimilar sentences should be pronounced in similar cases, the same punishment which was decreed against witches and enchantresses, is now extended to either sex, and to all magical superstitions. In the words also “that turneth to go a whoring,” the atrocity of the crime is again expressed, the similitude being taken from immodest women, who seek with wandering glances for the indulgence of their lust. Moses, therefore, signifies that, as soon as we begin to cast our eyes this way and that, and do not keep them fixed on God alone so as to be content with Him, that sacred union  f67 is violated wherein He has bound us to Himself.

Numbers 15

<041530>Numbers 15:30, 31

30. But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, (whether he be born in the land, or a stranger,) the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

30. Anima quae fecerit in manu excelsa, tam civis quam peregrinus, ut Jehovam contumelia afficiat, ex-cidetur anima illa e medio populi sui.

31. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off: his iniquity shall be upon him.

31. Quia sermonem Jehovae contempsit, et praeceptum ejus irritum fecit: excidendo excidetur anima illa: iniquitas ejus in ea.


30. But the soul that doeth ought. This verse is variously translated. For some read it thus  f68 “The soul that doeth ought with a high hand, the same reproacheth the Lord, and, therefore, shall be cut off;” thus there would be two propositions. We have followed another opinion, reading it connectedly, The soul, who shall have raised a high hand to the reproach of God, shall be cut off.” Literally, it is, “The soul, who shall have dealt with a high hand, whether born in the land, or a stranger, himself blaspheming God, and that soul shall be plucked up from the midst of his people.” But, since either version is probable, and makes no difference in substance, I have allowed myself freely to choose that which expressed the meaning more clearly. “To deal with a high hand” is nothing more than to attempt, or undertake proudly, what is not lawful: for our hands ought to be guided, and, as it were, restrained by God’s word, lest they should lift themselves up. But although men’s hands are used in various acts of audacity and wantonness, yet here there is especial mention of the profanation of God’s true and legitimate worship, when anything is invented inconsistent with its purity: for the punishment is not decreed against thefts, or murders, or other similar crimes, but against the perverse imaginations, which tend to the corruption of religion. The reason is afterwards added: “Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken His commandment.” For it is no light offense to transgress the bounds which God hath placed. Now, it is certain that all self-invented services betray an impious contempt of God, as if men designedly despised Him, and spurned at His commands. Whence we infer, that nothing is more opposed to perfect and sincere religion than that temerity which induces men to follow whatever course they please. The clause, “his iniquity shall be upon him,” may be explained in two ways, either as a confirmation by Moses of the justice of this punishment, and of its merited infliction, or as an admonition, that the impiety should be corrected betimes, before it has advanced too far. There is no objection to either.

Leviticus 20

Go To Leviticus 20: 1-6, 27

1. And the Lord spake. The prohibition of this superstition was previously expounded in its proper place. God here commands the punishment to be inflicted, if any one should have polluted himself with it. And surely it was a detestable sacrilege to enslave to idols that offspring, which was begotten to God, and which He had adopted in the loins of Abraham, since in this way they not only despoiled God of His right, but, so far as they could, blotted out the grace of adoption. What He had then generally pronounced, He now specially applies, viz., that they should be stoned who offered their seed to Molech; for otherwise they would have tried to escape on the pretense that they had no intention of revolting to other gods. Just as now-a-days, under the Papacy, whatever is alleged from Scripture against their impious and corrupt worship, is coldly and contemptuously received; because they varnish over their idolatries, and so indulge themselves in them in security. But after God has commanded His judges to punish this crime severely, He at the same time declares that, if perchance they should connive at it, and encourage it. by their lenity, He Himself will avenge it, so as to punish much more heavily those who may have escaped from the hands of men; and not only so, but that He would implicate all those who might have been aware of it in the same con-detonation.

Exodus 12

<021215>Exodus 12:15, 19

15. Whosoever eateth leavened bread, from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.

15. Quicunque comederit fermentatum a die primo usque ad diem septimum, excidetur anima illa ex Israel.

19. Whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.

19. Quicunque comederit fermentatum, exterminabitur anima illa e coetu Israel: tam peregrinus quam indigena terre.


15. Whosoever eateth leavened bread. This law specially refers to the keeping of the Passover. God had before forbidden the use of leaven; and He now enacts the punishment to be inflicted, if any should neglect the prohibition, and mingle leaven with the Paschal feast. But it is not without reason that we have postponed to this place what Moses has joined together with the institution of the Passover; for the plan proposed by us demands that the political laws, which sanction God’s worship by the denunciation of punishments, should occupy their peculiar place. From the punishment it appears that, although it may be in itself a trifling matter to abstain from leaven, (as Paul teaches that “bodily exercise profiteth little,” <540408>1 Timothy 4:8,) yet, inasmuch as in this ceremony the redemption of the people was kept in memory, it was a very gross crime not to observe whatever God had prescribed, for we must estimate the importance of the rites of the law from their object.  f69

Deuteronomy 17

Go To Deuteronomy 17: 14-20

14. When thou art come unto the land. In this passage God sets forth the merits of that sacerdotal kingdom, of which mention is made elsewhere; for, since the splendor of the royal name might dazzle their eyes, so that they should forget that God retained the sovereignty over them, they are thus early admonished how unjust it would be if the majesty of God should be diminished by the rule of a mortal man. In sum, the power of kings is here put beneath that of God; and kings themselves are consecrated unto obedience to Him, lest the people should ever turn to ungodliness, whatever change of government might take place. But although under the judges religion was often subverted, yet it was not without a cause that a special law was enacted with respect to kings, because nothing is more likely than that earthly pomps should draw men away from piety. Now we understand the design of God in this matter, let us proceed to examine its several parts. He passes over (as I have said) all the intermediate time until the beginning of the kingdom, because this new state of things brought with it an increase of danger: for as long as the judges were in power, their different form of government separated the Jews from heathen nations. All the surrounding neighbors were subject to kings; and God always retained the preeminence, whilst He raised up judges from amongst the people; but when they began to choose kings for themselves, they were so mixed up with the Gentiles, that it was easy for them to fall into other corruptions. For the very similarity (of their governments) united them more closely; wherefore, it is expressly said, When thou shalt set a king over thee “like as all the nations that are about” thee. For God signifies that the example of the nations would be an evil snare to them, that they should desire to have a king, and thus their condition would in future be identical, though by divine decree it had been distinct. In short, their rebellion is here indirectly condemned, when God foretells that they would wantonly shake off their yoke; as indeed actually took place, when they rejected Samuel, and tumultuously required a king. On which point God elsewhere complains that He was despised. But the question arises, how these two things can be reconciled, that kings should reign over them from the lust or foolish desire of the people, and yet that the kingdom was the chief glory of the people, a special pledge of God’s favor, and consequently of their welfare and full felicity. The prophecy of Jacob is well known,

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,. — until Shiloh come.” (<0147910>Genesis 49:10.)

Whence it appears that a king was promised to the children of Abraham as an inestimable blessing. Why, then, does not God declare Himself its author? I reply that, although it was God’s design from the beginning to set up David as a type of Christ, yet, because their unseemly haste disturbed the order of things, the commencement of the kingdom is ascribed to the people’s fault, when they were impelled by their perverse emulation to wish to be like the Gentiles. God appears then to have designedly censured their wilfulness, as if He had said, “Although by appointing a king, you approach more nearly to the Gentiles, beware lest your perverse desire should altogether turn you away from true religion.

15. Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee. First of all, God maintains His own supremacy in the appointment of a king, and does not consign the matter to the people’s own suffrages; that thus He may chastise their audacity in demanding a king in accordance with a hasty impulse. Secondly, He commands that he should be taken from the people themselves, and excludes foreigners, because, if they had been admitted, a door was opened to apostasy; for each would have tried to force upon them his native gods, and true religion would have been persecuted by the force and threatenings of the royal power. Behold why God would not suffer a king to be sought elsewhere but from the bosom of His Church; in order that he might cherish and maintain that pure worship which he had imbibed from his childhood.

16. But he shall not multiply horses. The royal power is here circumscribed within certain limits, lest it should exalt itself too much in reliance on the glory of its dignity,  f70 For we know how insatiable are the desires of kings, inasmuch as they imagine that all things are lawful to them. Therefore, although the royal dignity may be splendid, God would not have it to be the pretext of unrestrained power, but restricts and limits it to legal bounds.  f71 qr, rak, is an adversative particle which some construe only; almost with the same meaning, because this exception was added to restrain the passions of their kings. The first prohibition is, that he should not collect for himself a multitude of horses; but, since it is twice repeated, we must consider why it is so. Many thus translate it, “He shall not multiply horses, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to multiply horses;” but this manner of speaking is harsh and obscure. Now, since the particle ˆ[ml lemagnan, signifies “for the sake of (propter), it may be properly translated to the letter, “for the sake of multiplying horses,” (propter multiplicare, vel propter ad multiplicandum.) I have no doubt, then, but that God condemns an immoderate number of horses from the consequences which might ensue; because it might excite the minds of the kings rashly to undertake expeditions against the Egyptians. This, therefore, I consider to be the genuine meaning, that the king should not provide himself with horses in too great numbers, lest, when he was in possession of many horses, he should lead his army into Egypt. Thus, amongst other evils which might arise from a multitude of horses, Moses mentions this, that the king’s mind will be puffed up with pride, so as to invade Egypt with an army of horse. Now, the question is, why God forbade His people to return by that way? Some explain it, that the horses would be brought contrary to God’s command, who had forbidden them to trade (with that people;)  f72 but this does not seem appropriate. Others think that the people were prohibited from passing the desert, lest in their curiosity they should be ungrateful to God; but this, too, is far-farfetched. To me it seems probable, that this journey was prohibited them, in order that, being mindful of their deliverance, they should be content with their own boundaries. They had been rescued from a thousand deaths: if they had voluntarily gone thither to provoke an adversary, their confidence would have been a sign of their despising and forgetting God’s grace. Therefore, in order that the recollection of their redemption should be deeply impressed upon their minds, God would have the honor put upon His miracles, that they should avoid those regions like the abysses of death. Unless perhaps this reason may be preferred, that a handle for those wicked alliances was cut off, which we see were audaciously contracted, because the kings of Israel gloried in the abundance of their cavalry. But the former explanation is most suitable. This law, however, was not obeyed by their best kings; and hence it appears that the wilfulness and pride of their kings could scarcely be repressed by any restraints.

17. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself. Polygamy at that time had generally prevailed, so that the very humblest of the people violated the marriage vow with impunity; and therefore it was necessary that the kings should be bound with closer restrictions, lest by their example they should give greater countenance to incontinency. And thus their ignorance is easily refuted who conclude that what was specially interdicted to the kings was permitted to private individuals, whereas the law of chastity was imposed upon the former, because without this remedy there would be no bounds to their lasciviousness. Besides, the people would have been subjected to great expense on their account, since such is the ambition of women, that they would all have desired to receive royal treatment, and would have even vied with each other in finery, as actually came to pass. David transgressed this law, and in some degree excusably on account of his repudiation by Michal; still it appears that lust had more power over him than the continency prescribed by God. What follows is so connected by some as if it were the reason of the foregoing sentence, in this way, “that kings were not to multiply wives to themselves, lest their heart should turn away from what was right,” as was the case with Solomon; for, from being too devoted to his wives, and being deceived by the snares of women, he fell into idolatry. And assuredly it can scarcely fail to happen, that when many wives beset a man, they must render his mind effeminate, and stifle in him all his manly good sense. Yet I prefer taking the clause separately, that kings must beware lest the splendor of their dignity should affect the soundness of their judgment, for nothing is more difficult than for one in great power to continue disposed to temperance. Therefore God does not in vain enjoin that they should constantly persevere in their duty, and not lose their understanding. Moreover, He forbids kings to heap up treasures, because it cannot be done without rapine and violent exactions; whilst, at the same time, wealth encourages them audaciously to undertake unjust wars, incites them to gross dissipation, and at length hurries them forward to tyrannical excesses. First, therefore, God would have kings beware, lest in their pursuit of riches they should exhaust the blood of the people, and lest they should lavish their ill-gotten money in superfluous expenses, and be extravagant with what belongs to others; and lastly, lest they should be tempted by the pride of wealth to attempt unlawful things.

18. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne. It would not be enough to correct their errors unless kings were also instructed in the fear of God, and properly taught their duty; now, therefore, a system of discipline is added, whereby it was profitable for them to be grounded in the study of religion and justice, viz., that they should take the Law from the priests and Levites, which was to be the rule of all their actions. Because the demonstrative pronoun is used,  f73 some think that only the book of Deuteronomy is referred to, but without good reason. I make no doubt but that the whole sum of doctrine is included, which is delivered both here and in Exodus and Leviticus. But although it was without exception to be common to all, yet in order that kings might be more assiduously attentive in reading it, God would have a copy peculiarly dedicated to their use by the priests and Levites, and given into their hands in a solemn ceremony; that kings might know that they required greater wisdom and counsel for ruling the people than private persons. When, therefore, the priests and Levites presented them with this book, it was as if God deposited this treasure with the king. He then enjoins that they should exercise themselves in the doctrine of the Law through the whole course of their lives, because kings are usually supplied with books only out of ostentation and pomp, and when they have tasted of what is taught in them, straightway grow tired and cease to read them. Finally, the object of their reading is subjoined: first of all, in general, that they may learn to fear God and keep His statutes; and, secondly, lest, being lifted up with pride and vanity, they should despise and oppress their brethren. And the word brethren is used designedly, lest they should imagine that the law of brotherhood was abolished, because they were set over the whole people; but rather that they should study to cherish all as members (of themselves.) Again, it is afterwards repeated, lest they should “turn aside to the right hand or the left;” because, when men have much liberty of action, their lusts can never be sufficiently restrained. But, lest it should be grievous to them to be thus reduced to order, finally God reminds them that this moderation would be useful to them, for that they thus would prolong their reigns; whereas the tyranny of kings is often their destruction; as the Lacedemonian king replied, when his wife was annoyed that the Ephori were appointed to restrain him, “that he should indeed leave less power to his children, but that it would be the more lasting.  f74 But, here a long succession is promised by God’s favor, if they were willing to guide themselves aright.

Deuteronomy 20

Go To Deuteronomy 20: 1-4

1. When thou goest out to battle. This law also, which concerns their political government, is a Supplement to the First Commandment, enacting that they should carry on their wars under the auspices of God, and, trusting in His help, should follow Him as their leader. For it behoved them to give this proof of their piety, so as to look to God not less in war than in peace, and not to rest their hopes of safety on anything but the invocation of His name. Whence we gather that the worship of God should be by no means passed over in civil and earthly government; for, although its direct object is to preserve mutual equity between men, yet religion always ought to hold the first, place. The sum, therefore, is that, amidst the very clang of arms, they must not be in such confusion as not to recognize that they are under the guardianship of God, or to lose the confidence they will be safe in reliance on His power. He does not, however, encourage them rashly to engage in war, but takes it for granted that there is a legitimate cause for it; because this would be a gross abuse of God’s name, to seek a prosperous issue from Him, when we are engaged in anything contrary to His command. But He forbids them to fear, although the enemy should be superior in horses, in multitude, and in all their warlike array; and in these words He reminds them that they would not be liable to suffer defeat, because they were not supplied with abundance of chariots and horses; for we have lately seen that not even their kings were permitted to collect the forces in which the Gentile nations gloried; and therefore, lest the consciousness of their weakness should make them afraid, God declares that His strength would be a sufficient safeguard to them. And without question that passage in <192007>Psalm 20:7, is taken from hence, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” On which score Isaiah reproves the people, because, refusing the waters of Shiloah, they long for great and rapid rivers; viz., as he elsewhere explains it, because they trust in the horsemen of Egypt. (<230806>Isaiah 8:6; 31:1.) But we must observe upon what their security is to be founded, viz., because the people ought to hope that the same Divine power would be with them to the end, which their fathers had experienced when they were redeemed from Egypt.

2. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh. God commits the duty of exhortation to the priests, when the time of the conflict shall have arrived. But we gather from the expressions used that this passage is supplementary to the First Commandment, for it contains no more than that the priest should encourage the Israelites to confidence, the ground of which is declared to be the help of God in preserving and constantly protecting the Church, which He has once redeemed. Moreover, He forbids their fears not in one word only, but heaps many together, “let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified.” By this we are reminded how difficult it is to cure that evil — fear, which in so many different ways assails and disturbs our minds, that they should not rest in God. And surely we all experience that we are troubled by such various besetments, that we have need of manifold remedies for the establishment of our faith. We must observe, too, the familiar representation of the presence of God, that He should go together with His people, to save them, viz., if they should be exposed to danger not by their own fault, but by the unjust aggression of their enemies.

Numbers 10

Go To Numbers 10: 1-10

2. Make thee two trumpets of silver. This passage respecting the silver trumpets, which gave the gathering-signal, so that the people should always be attentive to the voice and will of God, is properly annexed to the First Commandment. For God would have the Israelites set in motion by their sound, whithersoever they were to go, so that they should not dare to commence anything either in war or in peace, except under His guidance and auspices, as it were. But their use was threefold, viz., to gather the people or the rulers to public assemblies; to arm them against their enemies; and, thirdly, to announce the sacrifices and festivals. It might seem absurd, and somewhat indecorous, to appoint the priests to be trumpeters, since there was no splendor or dignity in this office; but God would in this way awaken greater reverence in the minds of the people, that the authority of the priests should precede all their actions. For this office, to which they were appointed, was no servile one, as that they should blow the trumpets at the command of others; but rather did God thus set them over public affairs, that the people might not tumultuously call their assemblies in the blindness and precipitation of passion, but rather that modesty, gravity, and moderation should be observed in them. We know how often in earthly affairs God is not regarded, but counsels are confidently discussed without reference to His word. He testified, therefore, by this employment of the priests, that all assemblies, except those in which He should preside, were accursed. Profane nations also had their ceremonies, such as auguries, supplications, soothsayings, victims,  f75 because natural reason dictated that nothing could be engaged in successfully without Divine assistance; but God would have His people bound to Him in another way, so that, when called by the sound of the sacred trumpets as by a voice from heaven, they should assemble to holy and pious deliberations. The circumstance of the place also has the same object. The door of the Tabernacle was to them, as if they placed themselves in the sight; of God. We will speak of the word d[wm, mogned  f76 elsewhere. Although it signifies an appointed time, or place, and also an assembly of the people, I prefer translating it convention, because God there in a solemn manner, as if before His sacred tribunal, called the people to witness, or, according to appointment, proceeded to make a covenant with them.

He was also unwilling that wars should be undertaken precipitately, or with the desire of vengeance, but that the priests should perform the office of heralds, (feciales,) in order that he might be the originator of them himself. But it was honorable for the priests to be the proclaimers of the festivals, and to cite the people to the sanctuary. Now, since we understand the intention of the Legislator, let us briefly touch upon the words. We have said that the priests, when they sounded, were, as it were, the organs or interpreters of God, that the Israelites might depend upon His voice and commandment. If the princes or heads of thousands only were to be called, they sounded only once; if it was a convocation of the whole people, they doubled the sound. A similar distinction was observed in war, that a different signal should be given, according as the camps of either side were to advance. Some use the fictitious word taratantara,  f77 in place of what I have translated “with jubilation:” it is probable that it was a louder and more protracted sound, but blown with intervals. We must, however, observe the promise, which is inserted, that the Israelites “should be remembered before the Lord,” that He should put their enemies to flight; not as if the safety or deliverance of the people was attached to the trumpets, but because they did not go to the battle except in reliance on God’s aid. For the reality itself is conjoined with the external symbol, viz., that they should fight under God, should follow Him as their Leader, and should account all their strength to be in His grace. And that all the saints were guided by this rule appears from <192007>Psalm 20:7, —

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God:”

and again, “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host; a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy.” (<193316>Psalm 33:16-18)

10. Also in the day of your gladness. This was as if God should make it manifest that He approved of no festivals, and that no sacrifices pleased Him, except His command should go before them; for it was not lawful for the people to choose this or that day, but the authority for prescribing them was in the hands of the ministers of sacred things. And, indeed, God Himself had appointed the New-moons (Neomenias, vel novilunia) and the other solemnities; but, lest any change should occur, since men are ever daring in their innovations, He would have their lawful observation sanctioned by the sound of the trumpets; as if, by the mouth of the priests, He Himself published the holy assemblies. The sacrifices, which others have translated “of your peace-offerings,”  f78 I translate, and not without reason, “of your prosperities.” For this is what kyml, shalmecem, properly means; and it was the name they gave to their supplications and testimonies of thanksgiving, when they had been delivered from some great danger, or were visited by some extraordinary blessing from God. But Moses says that the trumpets were to be “for a memorial before their God;” because when they should have assembled at His command, He would look upon them, and honor them with His paternal favor.

The Second Commandment

Exodus 20

<022004>Exodus 20:4-6

4. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

4. Non facies tibi sculptlie, neque ullam imaginem eorum quae sunt in coelo sursum, neque eorum qae in terra deorsum, neque eorum quae in aquis sunt subter terram.

5. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

5. Non adorabis ea, neque coles ea, ego enim Jehova Deus tuus, Deus zelotes, visitans iniquitatem patrum super filios, in tertiam et quartam generationem in his qui me oderunt:

6. And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

6. Et faciens misericordiam: in mille diligentibus me, et custodientibus praecepta mea.


4. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. In the First Commandment, after He had taught who was the true God, He commanded that He alone should e worshipped; and now He defines what is His Legitimate Worship. Now, since these are two distinct things, we conclude that the commandments are also distinct, in which different things are treated of. The former indeed precedes in order, viz., that believers are to be contented with one God; but it would not be sufficient for us to be instructed to worship him alone, unless we also knew the manner in which He would be worshipped. The sum is, that the worship of God must be spiritual, in order that it may correspond with His nature. For although Moses only speaks of idolatry, yet there is no doubt but that by synecdoche, as in all the rest of the Law, he condemns all fictitious services which men in their ingenuity have invented. For hence have arisen the carnal mixtures whereby God’s worship has been profaned, that they estimate Him according to their own reason, and thus in a manner metamorphose Him. It is necessary, then, to remember what God is, lest we should form any gross or earthly ideas respecting Him. The words simply express that it is wrong  f79 for men to seek the presence of God in any visible image, because He cannot be represented to our eyes. The command that they should not make any likeness, either of any thing which is in heaven, or in the earth, or in the waters under the earth, is derived from the evil custom which had everywhere prevailed; for, since superstition is never uniform, but is drawn aside in various directions, some thought that God was represented under the form of fishes, others under that of birds, others in that of brutes; and history especially recounts by what shameless delusions Egypt was led astray. And hence too the vanity of men is declared, since, whithersoever they turn their eyes, they everywhere lay hold of the materials of error, notwithstanding that God’s glory shines on every side, and whatever is seen above or below, invites us to the true God.

Since, therefore, men are thus deluded, so as to frame for themselves the materials of error from all things they behold, Moses now elevates them above the whole fabric and elements of the world; for by the things that are “in heaven above,” he designates not only the birds, but the sun, and the moon, and all the stars also; as will soon be seen. He declares, then, that a true image of God is not to be found in all the world; and hence that His glory is defiled, and His truth corrupted by the lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in a visible form. Now we must remark, that there are two parts in the Commandment — the first forbids the erection of a graven image, or any likeness; the second prohibits the transferring of the worship which God claims for Himself alone, to any of these phantoms or delusive shows. Therefore, to devise any image of God, is in itself impious; because by this corruption His Majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is. There is no need of refuting the foolish fancy of some, that all sculptures and pictures are here condemned by Moses, for he had no other object than to rescue God’s glory from all the imaginations which tend to corrupt it. And assuredly it is a most gross indecency to make God like a stock or a stone. Some expound the words, “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven image, which thou mayest adore;”  f80 as if it were allowable to make a visible image of God, provided it be not adored; but the expositions which will follow will easily refute their error. Meanwhile, I do not deny that these things are to be taken connectedly, since superstitious worship is hardly ever separated from the preceding error; for as soon as any one has permitted himself to devise an image of God, he immediately falls into false worship. And surely whosoever reverently and soberly feels and thinks about God Himself, is far from this absurdity; nor does any desire or presumption to metamorphose God ever creep in, except when coarse and carnal imaginations occupy our minds. Hence it comes to pass, that those, who frame for themselves gods of corruptible materials, superstitiously adore the work of their own hands. I will then readily allow these two things, which are inseparable, to be joined together; only let us recollect that God is insulted, not only when His worship is transferred to idols, but when we try to represent Him by any outward similitude.


Deuteronomy 5

<050508>Deuteronomy 5:8-10

8. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:

8. Non facies tibi sculptile, vel ullam imaginem eorum quae sunt in coelo sursum, nec eorum quae sunt in terra deorsum, nec eorum quae sunt in aquis sub terra.

9. Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,

9. Non adorabis ea, neque coles: ego enim Jehova Deus tuus, Deus zelotes, visitans iniquitatem patrum super filios, in tertiam et quartam generationem in his qui me oderunt.

10. And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

10. Faciens autem misericordiam in millia diligentibus me, et custodientibus praecepta mea.


9. Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them. Idolaters in vain endeavor to elude this second point by their foolish cavils; as amongst the Papists that trifling distinction is commonly advanced, that only latre>ia,  f81 and not dele>ia is prohibited. For Moses, first of all, comprehends generally all the Forms And Ceremonies Of Worship; and then adds immediately afterwards the word db[, gnabad, which means properly to serve. Hence we conclude that they make a childish endeavor at evasion, when they pay only the honor of service to pictures and statues. But if we grant them what they desire, not even so will they escape; because the prohibition is equivalent to God’s declaring that He will not be worshipped in wood and stone, or in any other likeness. For unbelievers have never been carried away to such an extent of folly as to adore mere statues or pictures; they have always alleged the same pretext which now-a-days is rife in the mouths of the Papists, viz., that not the image itself was actually worshipped, but that which it represented. But the Spirit everywhere reproves them for worshipping gods of wood and stone, since God rejects that carnal worship which unbelievers offer before stocks and stones. If any one should ask them, whom they have it in their mind to worship, they will immediately reply, that they offer to God that honor which they pay to pictures and statues. But this frivolous excuse comes to nothing; because to erect the idol before which they prostrate themselves, is really to deny the true God; and, therefore, no wonder that He should declare that unbelievers worship wood and stone, when they worship in that wood and stone phantoms of their own imagination. And we have already said, that all rites which do not accord with the spiritual worship of God, are here forbidden: and this is enough, and more than enough to put to flight all such misty notions, (nebulas.)

For I the Lord thy God. He partly terrifies them by threats, and partly attracts them by sweet promises, in order to keep them in the way of duty. In the earlier expressions He convicts them of ingratitude, if they prostitute themselves to idolatry, when they had been chosen to be a peculiar and holy people. He afterwards inspires them with terror, by the denunciation of punishment; and, finally, allures them with the hope of reward, if they obediently abide in the pure worship of God. Nor does He affirm that He will be severe or kind to individuals only, but extends both to their posterity, although, as we shall afterwards see, not equally. I have indeed assigned another place to the promises and threatenings, whereby the authority of the whole Law is sanctioned; but since this clause is annexed to a particular Commandment,. it could not be conveniently separated from it. The word la, el, some translate appellatively, mighty; but since God is so called from His might, I have preferred following this meaning,  f82 which is more suitable here. Yet I do not think that Moses used various names without reason; for when he had first employed the name yhla, elohim, he soon afterwards honors God by another title, and magnifies His power, that He may be feared. And for this reason he also calls Him the Rival,  f83 or, as some not inaptly translate it, the jealous; for to give the name of “the envious” (obtrectatoris) to God, as somebody has done, is not only silly, but monstrous. This is the word by which Cicero renders zhlotupi>an,  f84 expressing by it the sin of guilty rivalry, when one person envies the superiority of another. But God is here set before us in the character of a husband, who suffers no rival; or if it be preferred to extend the meaning of the word, He is called the assertor of His rights; since His rivalry is nothing more than retaining what is His own, and thus excluding all the rivals of His honor. Because mention has lately been made of His sacred covenant with the Jews, Moses seems to allude to the violation of this spiritual marriage. But although he begins with threatening, still, far preferring mercy to His severity, He rather gently allures them, than compels them by fear, to allegiance; for He declares that He will be merciful even to a thousand generations; whilst He only denounces punishment on the thirds and fourths, (for thus it is literally expressed,) i.e., on their grandsons and great-grandsons. In order, therefore, to encourage His worshippers to earnest piety, He declares that He will be kind, not only to themselves, but to their posterity, even for a thousand generations. But this is the proof of His inestimable kindness, and even indulgence, that He deigns to bind Himself to His servants, to whom He owes nothing, so far as to acknowledge, in His favor towards them, their seed also for His people. For hence it appears, that it is wrong to infer merit from the promised reward, because He does not say that He will be faithful or just towards the keepers of His Law, but merciful. Let then the most perfect come forward, and he can require nothing better of God than that He should be favorable to him on the grounds of His gratuitous liberality. For dsj, chesed, is equivalent to kindness, or beneficence; but when it is applied to God, it generally signifies mercy, or paternal favor, and the blessings which flow from it.

Since, then, He here promises that He will shew mercy, it is as much as to say that He will be beneficent, or will deal with clemency. Hence it follows, that the main source of reward is that. gratuitous beneficence wherewith He liberally blesses His people. Now, when it is said, “unto them that love me,”  f85 the fountain and origin of true righteousness is expressed; for the external observation of the Law would be of no avail unless it flowed from hence. And praise is given to love rather than to fear, because God is delighted with none but voluntary obedience, but He rejects that which is forced and servile, as we shall again see elsewhere. But because hypocrites also boast that they love God, whilst their life corresponds not with the profession of their lips, the two things are here distinctly connected; viz., that the true servants of God love Him, and keep His commandments, i.e., make effectual proof of their piety. But here a difficult question arises, for the history of all ages shews that a great proportion of the progeny of the holy have been rejected and condemned; and that God has inflicted upon them weightier manifestations of His curse and vengeance, than upon strangers. We must, however, observe, that in these words grace is not promised severally to all the posterity of the saints, as if God were bound to each individual who may derive their race and original from them. There were many degenerate children of Abraham, to whom it profited nothing that they were called the offspring of the holy patriarch; nor indeed is the promise restricted to individuals, for many who are children after the flesh, are not counted for the seed — but God in His free election adopts whom He will, yet so governs His judgments, as that His paternal favor should always abide with the race of believers. Besides, the fruits of this promised grace are manifested in temporal blessings; and thus although God severely avenged the sins of the children of Abraham, and at length when their impiety shewed itself to be desperate, renounced them, yet did He not fail to be kind to them for a thousand generations. For again, God fulfills and performs what He here promised by the outward testimonies of His favor, although they turn to the destruction of the reprobate. Thus He was merciful to the race of Abraham, as long as he saw fit to leave them the Law, the Prophets, the Temple, and other exercises of religion.  f86 Now, again, it. will be well for us to consider how far even the holiest fall short of the perfect keeping of the Law, and perfect love of God; and therefore we need not wonder if they experience in many respects the failure of this grace, and only enjoy some slight taste of it. In any case, the goodness of God ever superabounds, so that His grace, if it does not shine with full splendor, still appears in bright sparks unto a thousand generations. As to the opposite clause, wherein God limits His vengeance to the third or fourth generation, we see how He prefers to attract men to duty by gentle invitations, than by terrifying threatenings to extort from them more than they are willing to do; inasmuch as He extends His mercy further than the severity of His judgment. We must also observe that the transgressors of the Law are called the enemies and haters of God. It is surely horrible, and almost monstrous impiety to hate God; and scarcely would any one be found so wicked as openly to declare Him to be his enemy; yet it is not without a cause that God pronounces thus harshly respecting their impiety; for since He cannot be separated from His justice, a contempt of the Law convicts men of this hatred; for it is impossible that they should not wish to deprive Him of His dominion, who endure Him not as a Lawgiver and a Judge.

To visit iniquities,” is equivalent to inquiring into them, or taking cognizance of them, in order that punishment should be inflicted in proportion to the crime; for as long as God spares men and suspends His judgment, He seems to connive at them, or to pay no attention to them. Therefore, when men shall think that their sin is buried, He declares that He will bear it in memory. But it may be asked, how it is consistent for God to exact punishment from the children or grandchildren on account of the sins of their fathers? for nothing is more unreasonable than that the innocent and guilty should be involved in the same punishment; and the declaration of the Prophet is well known,

“The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; but the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (<261820>Ezekiel 18:20.)

The difficulty, which arises from the words of the Prophet, is easily solved, for God therein refutes the wicked expostulation of the people, that their children, who were not in fault, were unjustly and cruelly exposed to punishment. The proverb was generally rife, that “the fathers had eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth were set on edge;” but God replies, that not one of those with whom He was angry and severe was free from crime; and, therefore, that their complaint was false, since each of them received the recompense of his own iniquity. And this is most true, that God’s severity never assails the innocent; and however the world may murmur against His judgments, that He will always be clear in condemning this person or that. f87

But when God declares that He will cast back the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of the children, He does not mean that He will take vengeance on poor wretches who have never deserved anything of the sort; but that He is at liberty to punish the crimes of the fathers upon their children and descendants, with the proviso that they too may be justly punished, as being the imitators of their fathers. If any should object, that this is nothing more than to repay every one according to his works, we must remember that, — whenever God blinds the children of the ungodly, casts them into a state of reprobation, (conjicit in sesum reprobum), and smites them with a spirit of madness or folly, so that they give themselves up to foul desires, and hasten to their final destruction, — in this way the iniquity of the fathers is visited on their children. But suppose other punishments are added, all are under condemnation (convicti, so that they have no ground for murmuring against God; and even then also God still proceeds to execute the vengeance which He here denounces; for, when He would direct one work to various objects, He uses wonderful and secret expedients. When He commanded the people of Canaan to be destroyed, it is certain that those, who then were living, were worthy of this punishment; yet, inasmuch as God foretold  f88 that their iniquities were not yet full, we infer that He then inflicted the punishment upon them which He had deferred for 400 years. On this ground, Christ declares that the Jews of His time were guilty of all the blood that had been shed from that of Abel to the blood of Zacharias, the son of Barachias, (<402335>Matthew 23:35.) But if it be not agreeable to our judgment that God should repay every one according to his deserts, and yet that He at the same time requires the sins of their fathers of the children, we should remember that His judgments are a great depth; and, therefore, if anything in His dealings is incomprehensible to us, we must bow to it with sobriety and reverence. But since this doctrine will recur elsewhere, I have thought fit only to touch upon it lightly here. One question remains, how we can reconcile the statement of Paul, that the fifth commandment is the first with promise, (<490602>Ephesians 6:2,) whereas a promise is annexed to this second. The solution of this is easy; for if you duly consider, this promise, which we have now explained, is not peculiarly annexed to any single commandment, but is common to the whole first Table of the Law, and these refer to the whole service of God; but when it is said, “honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long,” the keeping of that commandment is particularly and specially sanctioned.

Exposition of the Second Commandment

Exodus 34

<023417>Exodus 34:17

17. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.

17. Deos conflatiles non facies tibi.


<031904>Leviticus 19:4

<031904>Leviticus 19:4

4. Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the Lord your God.

4. Ne vertatis vos ad idola, neque deos conflatiles faciatis vobis: ego Jehova Deus vester.

Leviticus 26

<032601>Leviticus 26:1

1. Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for: I am the Lord your God.

1. Non facietis vobis idolum, et sculptile: statuam non erigetis vobis, nec lapidem politum ponetis in terra vestra, ut vos incurvetis coram eo: quia ego Jehova Deus rester.


Exodus 22

<022222>Exodus 22:22, 23

22. And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen. that I have talked with you from heaven.

22. Et ait Jehova ad Mosen, Sic dices filiis Israel, Vos vidistis quod e coelis loquutus sum vobiscum.

23. Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

23. Non facietis mecum deos ar- gentcos, neque deos aureos fadetis vobis.


<023417>Exodus 34:17. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods. When he calls graven things, statues, and pictures, by the name of gods, he shews the object and sum of the Second Commandment, viz., that God is insulted when He is clothed in a corporeal image. Moreover, the name of God is transferred to idols, according to common parlance, and the corrupt opinion of the Gentiles; not that unbelievers thought that the Deity was included in the corruptible material, but because they imagined that it was nearer to them, if some earthly symbol of its presence were standing before their eyes. In this sense, they called the images of the gods their gods; because they thought they could not ascend to the heights in which the Deity dwelt, unless they mounted by these earthly aids. There is no doubt but that he comprehends by synecdoche, all kinds of images, when he forbids the making of molten gods; because metal is no more abominated by God than wood, or stone, or any other material, out of which idols are usually made; but, inasmuch as the insane zeal of superstition is the more inflamed by the value of the material or the beauty of the workmanship, Moses especially condemned molten gods. All question on this point is removed by the fourth passage here cited, wherein the Israelites are forbidden to make gods of silver or gold, viz., because idolaters indulge themselves more fully in their worship of very precious idols, by the external splendor of which all their senses are ravished. To the same effect is the third passage, in which mention is not, only made of graven images, but there is also added the name of a statue  f89 or figured stone; for, although some expound these words as referring to a pavement, yet I have no doubt but that all monuments are included in them, wherein foolish men think that they have God in some measure visible, and therefore that they express all sculptures and pictures by which the spiritual worship of God is corrupted. For the object of Moses is to restrain the rashness of men, lest they should travesty God’s glory by their imaginations; for another clause is immediately added, “I am the Lord your God,” in which God reminds them that He is despoiled of His due honor, whenever men devise anything earthly or carnal respecting Him. The word hbxm, f90 matsebah, is sometimes used in a good sense; whence it follows, that no other statues are here condemned, except those which are erected as representations of God. The same also is the case as to the polished stone,  f91 viz., when it receives a consecration, which may attract men’s minds to regard it in a religious light, so as to worship God in the stone. But both in the second and third passages, Moses teaches men that as soon as they imagine anything gross or terrestrial in the deity, they altogether depart from the true God. And this is also expressed in the word ylyla, elilim, which embraces in it statues, stones, and graven images, as well as molten gods. Some think that this. word is compounded of la, al  f92 the negative particle, and la, el, God. Others translate it “a thing of nought;” the Greeks and Latins have rendered it “idols.” It is plain, that the false representations, which travesty God, are so called to mark them with disgrace and ignominy. But, since the superstitious cease not to gloss over their errors with cavils, God is not content with this opprobrious name, but adds others also, respecting which their pretext was more specious; that we may know that whatsoever withdraws us from His spiritual service, or whatsoever men introduce alien from His nature, is repudiated by Him. In the fourth passage, the antithesis must be noted, which will presently be explained more fully, viz., when God forbids them to make gods of corruptible materials, since He has “spoken from heaven;” in which words He signifies that all are doing wrong, who, when they ought to look up to heaven, tie down their own minds as well as Him to earthly elements.

Deuteronomy 4

Go To Deuteronomy 4: 12-19, 23, 24

Exodus 34

<023414>Exodus 34:14

14. For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

14. Non incurvabis te Deo alieno. Nam Jehova zelotes nomen ejus, Deus zelotes est.

Deuteronomy 8

<050819>Deuteronomy 8:19, 20

19. And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day, that ye shall surely perish.

19. Si obliviscendo oblitus fueris Jehovae Dei tui, et ambulaveris post deos alienos, et colueris eos, et te in-curvaveris illis, testificor vobis hodie quod pereundi sitis perituri.

20. As the nations which the Lord destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God.

20. Sicut gentes quas Jehova disperdit a facie vestra, sic peribitis: eo quod non obediveris voci Jehovec Dei vestri.


<050412>Deuteronomy 4:12. And the Lord spake unto you. It is a confirmation of the Second Commandment, that God manifested Himself to the Israelites by a voice, and not in a bodily form; whence it follows that those who are not contented with His voice, but seek His visible form, substitute imaginations and phantoms in His place. But here arises a difficult question, for God made Himself known to the patriarchs in other ways besides by His voice alone; thus Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew Him not only by hearing, but by sight. Moses himself saw Him in the midst of the burning bush; and He also manifested Himself to the Prophets under visible figures. Since it would be superfluous to heap together many citations, let the remarkable vision of Isaiah suffice, which is related in (<230601>Isaiah 6), and those of Ezekiel, which we read of in (<260101>Ezekiel 1 and <261001>Ezekiel 10) And yet God was not forgetful of Himself, when He thus presented Himself to the sight of His servants. Wherefore, this argument does not appear to be valid and good, that it is sinful to represent God in a visible image, because His voice was once heard without His being seen; when, on the other side, it is easy to object that visible forms have often been exhibited, wherein He testified His presence. The solution is twofold: first, that, although God may have invested Himself in certain forms for the purpose of manifesting Himself, this must be accounted as a peculiar circumstance, and not be taken as a general rule; secondly, that the visions shewn to the patriarchs were testimonies of His invisible glory, rather to elevate men’s minds to things above than to keep them entangled amongst earthly elements. In the promulgation of His Law, God first prescribed what believers must follow; because He saw that this was the best method (compendium) for retaining the minds of His people in true religion, and at the same time the best remedy for idolatry. Unless we submit to this counsel of God, we shall not only betray a licentious spirit of contention, but shall run directly against God, like butting bulls. For it was not in vain that Moses laid down this principle, that when God collected to Himself a Church, and handed down a certain and inviolable rule for holy living, He had not invested Himself in a bodily shape, but had exhibited the living image of His glory in the doctrine itself. Hence we may conclude that all those who seek for God in a visible figure, not only decline, but actually revolt, from the true study of piety.

If any one should object that God is not inconsistent with Himself, and yet, as has been said, that He has more than once taken upon Himself a visible form, the reply is simple and easy, that, whenever He appeared to the patriarchs in a visible form, He gave a temporary sign, which still was by no means contradictory of this commandment. Isaiah saw the Lord of hosts sitting on His throne; yet he boldly cries out as from the mouth of God, “To whom will ye liken me?” (<236002>Isaiah 60:25.) Nor need I repeat how constantly he speaks against idolaters; certainly he inveighs more strongly than any of the prophets against the folly, nay, the madness of those who make to themselves any image of God; because they thus turn truth into falsehood; and finally he assumes the same principle as that of Moses, that the true nature of God is corrupted by tricks and delusions if a corruptible thing be called His image. But what was His vision itself? The seraphim, who surrounded God’s throne, sufficiently shewed by their covering their faces with their wings that the sight of Him could not be borne by mortals. As to what Ezekiel relates, no painter could represent it; for God has always appeared distinguished from the shape of any creature by those marks which surpass man’s apprehension. This conclusion, therefore, always remains sure, that no image is suitable to God, because He would not be perceived by His people otherwise than in a voice. But then also fire was a symbol of His presence, yet He testified by it that His glory is incomprehensible, and thus would prevent men from idol-making. We have elsewhere explained what it is “to guard themselves as to their souls.”  f93 But we infer, from his anxious exhortations, that they should take heed, how great is the leaning of the human soul to idolatry. This is the tendency of that attestation against them, which I have inserted from (Deuteronomy 8); for Moses not only threatens them, but, as if summoning witnesses according to the custom of solemn trials, denounces that they shall perish, in order to inspire them with greater fear by this earnest mode of address. Whence it appears that this insane lust (of idolatry) is not to be repressed by ordinary means. With the same object he says that they are “corrupted, or corrupt themselves,” who make any similitude of God. Thus Paul also declares that in this way the truth is changed into a lie, (<450125>Romans 1:25;) and Jeremiah and Habakkuk condemn images for their falsehood. (<241014>Jeremiah 10:14; <350218>Habakkuk 2:18.) No wonder, then, that an idol should be called the “corruption” of men, since it adulterates the worship of God; and it is a most just recompense to those who pollute the pure and perfect knowledge of God, that they should be thence infected with a rottenness which consumes their souls. Hence, also, the stupid ignorance of the Papists is confuted who confine this prohibition to the ancient people, as if it were now permitted to paint or to sculpture (images of God)  f94 as if they had been Jews whom Paul was addressing, when he reasoned from the common origin of our nature: “Forasmuch as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver,” or corruptible matter. (<441729>Acts 17:29)  f95 There is no necessity for entering into details; but the Spirit declares no less plainly now that we must keep ourselves from idols, (<620521>1 John 5:21,) than He of old forbade their being made. Moreover, it was an act of diabolical madness to make away with one of the Ten Commandments, in order that they might rush into this foul and detestable extravagance with impunity. They pretend that the Jews were formerly prohibited from idolatry with greater strictness, because they were too much disposed to it, as if they were not themselves much worse in this respect. But, setting aside this, who does not see that the vice of superstition, which is natural to the human mind, was corrected by this remedy? Until, therefore, men have laid aside their nature, we infer that this Commandment is necessary for them.

19. And lest thou lift up thine eyes. Moses proceeds further, lest the Jews should imagine any divinity in the sun, and moon, and stars; nor does he only recall them from the error with which many were imbued,  f96 thinking that these were so many gods; but also anticipates another superstition, lest, being ravished by the brightness of the stars, they should conceive them to be images of God. And to this the expression, to “be driven,” refers. For since God represents His glory in the heavenly host, so also Satan, under this pretext, confuses and stupefies men’s minds by a wily artifice, in order that they may worship God in these luminaries, and thus stumble at the very threshold. Therefore, that the Israelites may the better acknowledge how absurd it is to seek for God in earthly things, or in the elements of the world, or in corruptible matter, he expressly declares that they must not even lean  f97 on heavenly creatures; since God’s majesty is superior to the sun, and moon, and all the stars. Besides, he reproves the absurdity of transferring the worship of God to the stars, which, by God’s appointment, are to minister to us; for when he says that “God hath divided them unto all nations,” it implies subjection; as if he had said that the sun was our minister, and the moon, together with all the stars, our handmaid. Still, by the word “divided,” God’s admirable providence is fitly commended in respect to their varied position, and course, and different offices; for the sun does not enlighten and warm all lands at the same moment; and, again, it now retires from us, and now approaches us more closely; the moon has her circuits; the stars rise and set as the heaven revolves. I pass over the slower movement of the planets; but, according to the aspect of the stars, one climate is moister, another drier; one feels more heat, another more cold. This variety is aptly called by Moses “dividing.” Yet it aggravates the sin of superstition, if the Jews give themselves to the service of the stars, which minister also to heathen nations; for what can be more unworthy than for the children of God to worship the sun, which is the servant of all the world? whence again it follows, that in proportion to the dignity and excellence of the creatures themselves, so is the ingratitude of men towards God all the more base, if they adorn with His worship as with spoils, those creatures which He has appointed to minister to their advantage. The silly notion in which some of the Rabbins delight themselves,  f98 is unworthy of mention, viz., that God has divided the stars to the Gentiles, since they are subject to their influences, from which by special privilege the Jews are free; as if the condition of the human race had not been the same from the beginning. But the reason which I have adduced plainly shews, that they depart most widely from the meaning of Moses, and therefore pervert his intention; viz., that the creatures which are destined for our use, are by no means to be worshipped as God.

23. Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget. There is no contradiction in the sense, that he should first of all altogether forbid that idols should be made; and, secondly, speak only of worshipping and adoring them; for it is already in itself a wicked error to attribute any image to God; and another superstition always accompanies it, that God is always improperly worshipped in this visible symbol. There is a strong confirmation here of what I have previously stated, that whatever holds down and confines our senses to the earth, is contrary to the covenant of God; in which, inviting us to Himself, He permits us to think of nothing but what is spiritual, and therefore sets His voice against all the imaginations, whereby heathen nations have always been deceived; because they have been deprived of the light of that doctrine which would direct them to the heavenly greatness of God Himself. But those who have been taught by God’s Law, not only that He alone is to be worshipped, but that He may not be represented by any visible effigy, are justly accounted covenant-breakers, if they do not confine themselves within these bounds; for they violate that Second Commandment (caput) by which they are commanded to worship God spiritually; and consequently are forbidden to make to themselves likenesses, or images, whereby they would deface and pollute His glory. At the end of the verse, which some translate “the likeness, which your God. hath forbidden, f99 the proper rendering is, “hath commanded, or enjoined:” and hence the relative rwa, asher, must be taken, as in many other places, as an adverb of comparison. The meaning of Moses is indeed by no means obscure; viz., that we must simply obey God’s word; and that we must not dispute whether what He has forbidden is lawful or not; and that no other rule of right is to be sought for, except that we should follow what He has prescribed. Let the Papists dispute as they please, that images are not to be removed because they are useful for the people’s instruction; but let this be our wisdom, to acquiesce in what God has chosen to decree in this matter. Although the threat which is subjoined might have been placed amongst the sanctions, which we shall hereafter consider in their proper place, yet I have been unwilling to separate it from the Second Commandment, to which it is annexed. A confirmation is added in Deuteronomy; viz., that God, who has not spared foreign nations, will much less pardon His people; inasnmch as it is a greater crime, and fouler ingratitude to forsake God when once He is known, and to cast aside the teaching of His Law, than to follow errors handed down from our forefathers. I have already explained in what sense He is called a “jealous God;” but in <023414>Exodus 34:14, Moses has not deemed it sufficient simply to honor God with this title; but, in amplification, he has added that this is His name, in order that we may know that He can no more bear a companion, or a rival, to be compared with Him, than He can cast away His Godhead, or deny Himself. He compares Him to fire, to increase our terror of Him. We know how audaciously the world indulges itself in superstitions; so that, as if in very sport, it metamorphoses God just as fancy leads. Wherefore, in order to incline men’s minds to reverence, he sets before us in this figure God’s fearful vengeance; as though He would instantly consume them, just as fire consumes stubble, if they shall have dared to think of God otherwise than is right.

Deuteronomy 11

<051116>Deuteronomy 11:16, 17

16. Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;

16. Cavete ergo vobis ne seducatur cor vestrum, et recedatis, colatisque deos alienos, et vos incurvetis coram eis.

17. And then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.

17. Unde excandescat ira Jehovae in vos, et claudat coelos ne sit pluvia, ac ne det terra fructum suum: pere-atisque celeriter e terra bona quam Jehova dat vobis.


16. Take heed to yourselves. By often inculcating the same thing, viz., that they should diligently take heed, he indirectly arraigns man’s proneness to superstition; and this too is again expressed in the words, “that your heart be not deceived;” for by them he signifies, that unless they take diligent heed to themselves, nothing will be more easy than for them to fall into the snares of Satan. Wherefore the impudence of the Papists is the less excusable, who intoxicate their own and others’ minds with security, when God constantly exhorts them to solicitude. Let us learn, then, that since many impostures and deceits besiege us on every side, we shall in the vanity of our nature be liable immediately to fall into them, unless we carefully guard ourselves. By the expression “turn aside,” he implies what has been before said, that whosoever declines to corrupted worship, impiously falls away from the true God. Unbelievers but little think so, for with them it is a light transgression to exceed in this respect; and they would wilfully blind the eyes of God with their inventions (commentis), nay, there is nothing too silly for them to desire to be approved of, and sanctioned by God. But if it be objected that obedience is better than sacrifice, they shield themselves under the cover of their good intention, as if God were not at liberty to repudiate what they foolishly obtrude upon Him. At any rate, they so pertinaciously indulge themselves in their inconsiderate zeal, that they will hardly acknowledge the slightest fault in it. But, on the other side, God declares that all are apostates who do not confine themselves to the simplicity of the Law. A threat is again added, that God will avenge the violation of His worship, and will curse their land, until He shall destroy them by dearth and famine; and, finally, He pronounces that they shall perish off that land which God had promised them to the end that He might be there purely worshipped.

Deuteronomy 16

<051622>Deuteronomy 16:22

22. Neither shalt thou set thee up any image, which the Lord thy God hateth.

22. Non eriges tibi statuam: quod odio habet Jehova Deus tuus.


22. Neither shalt thou set thee up. Hence also it more clearly appears what is the meaning and tendency of the Second Commandment. God elsewhere commands,  f100 (as we have seen,) that statues  f101 should be erected on the borders of the land, on which the sum of the Law should be inscribed. At first sight this prohibition seems to be contradictory; and indeed it would be so, unless you understand “statue” to be a false image of God, in which men set Him before them in bodily form; and, therefore, it is added, that He hates such statues. But I have preferred translating  f102 the relative in the neuter gender, that the sentence might be fuller; i.e., that the erecting of statues is an abomination to the Lord; because in this way His glory is dishonored, when He is transfigured into a body, or when anything corporeal is mixed with His spiritual nature.

Exodus 23

<022324>Exodus 23:24

24. Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works.

24. Non adorabis deos eorum, neque coles eos, neque facies secundum opera eorum.


24. Thou shalt not bow down to their gods. Moses repeats what had been before said, that the worship of God must be separated from all the superstitions of the Gentiles; for this error has been everywhere rife, that unbelievers would rather draw down God to themselves on earth, than ascend above to seek for Him. And in this sense we have said that idols are called gods; because it is impossible but that he who would represent God by wood and stone, should associate Him with corruptible matter. Experience also teaches us, that all the wicked are so attached to their idols, that they gain nothing by their subterfuge, when they allege that this is a necessary help to their ignorance. The following clause, “nor do after their works,” sufficiently proves that all corrupt worship is comprehended under the term idolatry.

Deuteronomy 12

Go To Deuteronomy 12: 4-14, 17, 18, 26, 27

4. Ye shall not do so unto the Lord your God. The principal distinction, as far as regards the external exercises of devotion, is here laid down between the legitimate worship of God, and all the fictitious rites which the Gentiles have invented; viz., that God would have but one sanctuary and one altar, which might be a symbol of the difference between Himself and all idols; and thus that true religion should have no affinity to superstitions. To this refers the prohibition, that the Israelites should not conduct themselves towards God as the Gentiles did towards their idols; but that a barrier should be raised, which would separate  f103 them from the whole world. The whole external profession of God’s worship is fitly annexed to the Second Commandment, because upon that it depends, and has no other object than its due observation. But when I begin to speak of the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the sacrifices, I am entering on a deep and vast ocean, in which many interpreters, whilst indulging their curiosity, have pursued a wild and wandering course. Admonished, therefore, by their example, I will take in my sails, and only touch upon a few points which tend to edification in the faith. But my readers must now be requested, not only to pardon me for abstaining from subtle speculations, but also themselves willingly to keep within the bounds of simplicity. Many have itching ears; and in our natural vanity, most men are more delighted by foolish allegories, than by solid erudition. But let those who shall desire to profit in God’s school, learn to restrain this perverse desire of knowing more than is good for them, although it may tickle their minds. Now let us consider the words of Moses.

5. But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose. It is asked why God would have sacrifices offered to Him only on one altar? Besides the reason which I have lately advanced, it is not to be doubted but that He in this way had regard to believers, that He might cherish in them an agreement in the unity of the faith. This place, then, was like a standard to gather together the people, lest their religion should be torn by divisions, and lest any diversities should insinuate themselves. Moreover, God, by claiming His right and authority to choose the place, commends obedience, on which also the purity of worship depends. But, again, another question arises; because, before the time of David, the Ark had nowhere a fixed resting-place, but traveled about, as it were, to various lodgings, therefore, if the chosen place is understood to be Mount Zion, the people were free in the intermediate time to perform the sacrifices wherever they pleased. I reply, that the place was not, chosen until the Ark was placed in Zion; for not till then was fulfilled what is said in the Psalm,

“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord; our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem,”
(<19C201>Psalm 122:1-2;)

in which words the Prophet intimates that there was before no resting-place, because God had not yet pointed out the place in which He would be worshipped. Therefore it is expressly said, “out of all your tribes,” or “in one of your tribes,” whereby a special privilege is referred to, which was to be conferred on one of their tribes, to the exclusion of the others. And to this relates what is said in another Psalm,

“Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion which he loved: and he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth, which he hath established for ever.”
(<197867>Psalm 78:67-69.)

To the same effect the faithful elsewhere congratulate themselves, after the Ark was deposited with David, “We will go into his tabernacles, we will worship at his footstool;” and, on the other hand, the Spirit declares,

“The Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” (<19D207>Psalm 132:7-13-14.)

Similar statements everywhere occur, confirming the opinion that the Ark never rested in its true home until it was deposited on Zion; and God, in my judgment, in order that He might keep the hope of His people in suspense, promised, although the Ark changed its place from time to time, that He had still determined on a perpetual abode in which it should rest. Yet it does not therefore follow that, up to that period, a free permission was given to the people to sacrifice wherever they would. For, wherever the sanctuary was, there was also a temporary choice of the place, until the legitimate resting-place was shewn them. Therefore God, chastising by Jeremiah the foolish confidence by which the Jews were puffed up, said,

“Go ye now unto my place, which was in Shiloh,
and see what I did to it,” etc., (<240712>Jeremiah 7:12;)

in which words he implies that Shiloh had been highly honored for a season, but had now been deprived of its honor, because the sacrifices had there been unworthily polluted.

Although, then, there is a special promise here concerning Zion, still there is no doubt but that God in the meantime confines the Jews to His sanctuary, lest any one should erect a private altar for himself, or build for himself other cities and other temples. The phrase is worthy of observation, “to put his name there; “ and again, “his habitation.” The gross imaginations of men are thus obviated, lest the people should enclose God within walls, as they are wont to circumscribe His infinite essence, or to draw Him down from heaven, and to place Him beneath the elements of the world. But God’s name is said to inhabit a place, not in His own nature, but with reference to man; whilst, in deference to their ignorance, He sets before their eyes a visible symbol of His presence. Thus He is often said to “come down,” not as if He, who fills heaven and earth, actually moved, but because the familiar knowledge of Him brings Him near to men. But although He allows Himself to be invoked on earth, yet He would not have the minds of men rest there, but rather lifts them up on high as if by steps. Therefore, by Isaiah, He harshly chides them, because, although enwrapped in their sins, they still thought that He was under obligation to them because His temple was in their sight, (<236601>Isaiah 66:1,) whereas it is our business to approach Him by faith and with serious feelings when He extends His hand to us. The Ark of the Covenant indeed is often called “His face;” but, lest men should form any gross or earthly conceptions of Him, the sanctuary is also called “His footstool.”

The various kinds of oblations which are here enumerated will be hereafter more clearly explained. I will only briefly remind you that the burnt-offerings are included in the sacrifices, as a part is taken for the whole. The Hebrew word, which we have translated “the elevating of the hand,” is, hmwrt, therumah,  f104 to which another word, hpwnt, thenuphah, is often added; but, although both are derived from the act of elevating, still they seem to differ, and those skilled in the language thus distinguish them, viz., that hmwrt, therumah, is to be lifted up, and then brought down; and, hpwnt, thanuphah, to be turned at the same time to the right and left, although others think it means to be turned round to the four quarters of the globe. There is a difference between vows and freewill-offerings; for although a vow is at first freely made, yet we may offer things which we have not vowed. I have already spoken of the firstlings.

7. And there shall ye eat. We see that the sanctuary in which God manifested Himself is called His face;  f105 for, although believers are taught that always, wherever they dwell, they walk before God; yet they placed themselves nearer, and in some special manner in His sight, when they approached His sanctuary. By this mode of speaking God also stimulates the laziness or tardiness of the people, lest it should be irksome to them to come to the Ark of the Covenant for the purpose of sacrificing, inasmuch as this inestimable benefit would compensate for the labor and expense of the journey. I have elsewhere shewn that, when men are said to feast before the Lord, sacred feasts are thus distinguished from our daily meals. For this was as it were an accessory to the sacrifices, to eat what remained of the victims; and in this way the guests were made partakers of the offering, which custom even heathen nations imitated, though improperly. Again, God kindly invites them when He says, “ye shall rejoice in all that thou puttest thine hands unto,” for which some translate it, “in everything to which you shall have sent your hand; “ literally it is, “in the sending forth of the land.” There is no ambiguity in the sense, for it refers to those works which require the motion and application of the hands. A little below, where I have translated it, “which he hath blessed,” (quibus benedixerit,) some insert the proposition in, and supply the pronoun you, (i.e., in which he hath blessed you;) but it is quite appropriate to say, that God blesses their works, although it may be understood of their families also. As to the command that the tithes should be eaten in the holy place, I do not extend it to tithes in general,  f106 for it was hardly probable that the food of those who were dispersed through various cities should be transferred to another place, so that they would perish (at home)  f107 from hunger; but I understand it of the second tithes, which the Levites separated to be a special and peculiar oblation; for we shall see elsewhere that what remained over passed into the nature of ordinary produce, as if the Levites ate of the fruits of their own possessions.

8. Ye shall not do after all. Even then they observed the rite of sacrifice handed down to them from the fathers; but since as yet they were wandering in the desert, it was lawful for them to build altars anywhere, until an end should be put to their journeyings. And this Moses expressly declares, adding the reason, viz., that they had not yet entered into the rest which the Lord had promised them. He shews them, then, that when they shall have attained the tranquil possession of the land, there would be no further room for excuse if they should sacrifice wheresoever it pleased them. When, therefore, it is said that they then did “every man whatsoever was right in his own eyes,” it does not extend to any of the inventions which men devise for themselves in the worship of God, but only points out a freer system and form in the exercise of devotion, before the place was shewn them in which they must stay their foot.  f180

10. But when ye go over Jordan. This verse confirms what I have before said, that the Jews were constrained to a certain rule as soon as they should have reached the promised land; and yet that the place in which the Ark was perpetually to rest, would not be immediately manifested to them; for what is declared at the end of the verse, that God would give them rest round about, so that they should dwell in safety, was not in fact perfectly exhibited before the time of David. Still God would have them, as soon as they were in enjoyment of the land, come together even from their remotest boundaries to the sanctuary. He omits certain kinds of offerings of which he had lately spoken, and puts, instead of “vows, f109 “the choice vows,” which some translate “very choice vows,” or “the chief things in your vows.” I do not reject this; but the other sense is more simple, that all the vows were comprised which every one had made of his own free judgment and choice. Soon afterwards he more fully expresses his meaning, when he prohibits them from offering sacrifices of their own accord in any places that might please them; for, “to see a place,” here, is equivalent to being carried away by the sight, so as to connect religion and holiness with elegance and beauty.

26. Only thy holy things. This passage more clearly explains what was meant by the foregoing precepts, viz., that but one place was set apart for the performance of their sacred rites, lest, if each should offer wherever it pleased him, religion should be corrupted, and by degrees the various altars should beget as many gods. He therefore commands that all the victims should be sacrificed on one altar, with a provision that the blood should be poured out.

Deuteronomy 14

Go To Deuteronomy 14: 23-26

23. And thou shalt eat before the Lord. He again commands the victims to be brought into the place of the sanctuary; although by the place which God shall choose, he designates Jerusalem, as has been said in the above commentary on chap. 12.; for the Ark of the Covenant had no settled resting-place until the time of David, but was received as it were in temporary lodgings. Moses, therefore, now commands, that when God shall have so greatly honored a particular place, and shall have chosen a perpetual rest, in which His name shall dwell, thither are the offerings to be brought. But we know that this place was Jerusalem; and all the oblations were restricted to this one place, lest any corruption should creep in to destroy the unity of the faith. For all strange inventions, as has already been sufficiently seen, are so many profanations of God’s worship. But, whereas in chap. 12, Moses had promiscuously joined the tithes with the firstlings, and had made the same appointment with respect to both, he now relaxes the stringency of that law, by adding an exception, viz, that if the way should be too long, a commutation might be made, and money might be paid instead of corn. He does not, indeed, speak only of the tithes, but unites with them the vows and free-gifts; nay, he refers properly to these alone. But, since as to the latter there is no question, let us only consider whether it was consistent that the tithes should be paid in one place alone. They were given to the Levites for their maintenance, who, as is well known, were dispersed throughout the whole land; either then their residence must have been fixed at Jerusalem, or they must not be deprived of their subsistence, wherever they might dwell. The command, therefore, appears to be absurd, that all the tithes of the whole land should be brought to Jerusalem, for that would have amounted to nothing less than to destroy the poor Levites by famine. This absurdity has compelled the commentators to fabricate a doubtful conjecture; viz., that the people voluntarily set apart certain tithes, which they might carry to Jerusalem at the festivals; but it is not probable that so heavy a burden was imposed upon them,  f110 as that they should only keep at home what remained of the fifth part. But a nearer approach to probability would be, that the tithes of the neighboring country, as convenience offered, were carried to Jerusalem; whilst those which were collected in more distant places were set aside there; but that they were accounted for at Jerusalem, so that upon a calculation of the number of their families, an equal distribution might be made to the Levites. Certainly it is by no means probable that the respective tillers of the soil carried up to Jerusalem what the Levites, having received there, were compelled to take back again for the maintenance of their families; for what would have been the advantage of all this expense and trouble of carrying them backwards and forwards? Besides, it would have been useless to command the Levites, and that too with the addition of severe threats, to pay the priests faithfully, if the tithes had been first deposited with the priests themselves, who might easily have provided against all deception, since they had the whole quantity of corn in their own hands. I have, therefore, no doubt but that the Levites collected the tithes each in their own neighborhood, but that another tithing, of which mention will be made presently, was carried up to the sanctuary as a sacred offering, and a profession of service to God. For we have lately seen, that after that part had been withdrawn, the nine parts which remained were assigned to the Levites, as if they had been grown on their own ground. But because it was a subject which might cause complaints, that the first-fruits and other tithes should be collected into one place, God would anticipate this by showing the advantage of it to the whole people, in that there might be food enough for all who should come to the celebration of the festivals; for this is the meaning of the words, “thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God;” as if it had been said, that the place should be sacred to God, to which the worshippers of God might come from the whole land. Yet He commands, in the meanwhile, the pure observation of His worship; lest a diversity of places might draw away the people in various directions to false superstitions.

24. And if the way be too long. I am prevented from understanding this restriction as having reference to the tithes, by the ordinance which is elsewhere made, that whosoever would redeem them by a money-payment, (<032731>Leviticus 27:31,) should add a fifth part, and this is omitted here; and, again, by the explanation which is soon after added, that they should bring money with them instead of their offerings, and buy with it oxen and sheep, wine, and strong drink, as they pleased. The sum is, that if it were too burdensome for them to bring from their distant homes victims and other gifts, they were permitted to buy at Jerusalem whatever they chose to offer, provided they made no offerings elsewhere.

Exodus 20

<022024>Exodus 20:24, 25

24. An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt-offerings, and thy peace-offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen. In all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.

24. Altare terreum facies mihi, et sacrificabis super illud holocausta tua, et sacrificia prosperitatum tuarum, pecudes tuas, et armenta tua: in onmi loco in quo memoriam posuero nominis mei, veniam ad te, et benedicam tibi.

25. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

25. Quod si altare ex lapidibus feceris mihi, non aedificabis eos excisos, si gladium tuum elevaveris super illos, pollues.


24. An altar of earth thou shalt make. This precept differs from the other, which I have just explained; because although it refers to the choice of a place,  f111 yet the mention of a place is omitted, and it only touches upon the material and form of the altar. God, therefore, commands that an altar should be built to Him, either of earth or of a heap of stones, which had not been artificially polished. But I understand this of the altars, which either in the desert or elsewhere should be built, before the choice of the perpetual place had been manifested to them. God would have them built of earth, that they might fall down of themselves, and that no trace of them might remain after the departure of the people; but if stones were used, He forbade their being fitted together in a permanent structure, but would have them thrown rough and unpolished into a heap, lest their appearance should entice posterity to superstition. I am surprised that commentators  f112 should here put themselves to the pains of inventing allegories; since God had no other object than to remove stumbling-blocks, whereby the Israelites might be turned away from the sanctuary; for we know how antiquity, and the example of our forefathers, is apt to attract the minds of the vulgar. If anything in the shape of an altar had remained, immediately religious notions would have been associated with it, that, God could nowhere be more solemnly or better worshipped, than in the place already dedicated of old by their fathers. Thus degenerate modes of worship would have sprung up, and the dignity of the sanctuary would have been brought into contempt. Wherefore this evil is anticipated when He forbids altars to be built which might exist for any length of time; and only allows them to be adapted for present use, being made of earth, or of an unfashioned heap of stones. As to “the sacrifices of prosperities,”. I have elsewhere stated why I so translate the word ymwl, shelumim,  f113 which signifies all prosperous and happy results; for the rendering of others, viz., peaceful things, (pacifica), is very unsuitable. The latter part of the verse, “in all places, where I record my name, I will come unto thee,” has been ignorantly perverted by commentators, and hence has afforded a ground of error; for they have read it in connection with the former part, as if God had forbidden such an altar to be made in Mount Sion also; whereas He rather anticipates a doubt, which might have otherwise perplexed the minds of the people; Will not God be favorable to us where He heard the prayers of our fathers? He replies, I say, to this by the promise, that they will pray to Him well and duly, if they only obey His command, and seek no other place except that which He shall choose. On this score it is said, that wheresoever it shall please God that sacrifices should be offered, there He will descend to you, to be favorable unto you.

Deuteronomy 27

<052705>Deuteronomy 27:5-7

5. And there shalt thou build an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them.

5. AEdificabis in monte Ebal altare ex lapidibus Jehovae Deo tuo: non levabis super eos ferrum.

6. Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole stones; and thou shalt offer burnt-offerings thereon unto the Lord thy God:

6. E lapidibus integris aedificabis altare Jehovae Dei tui: et offeres super illud holocausta Jehovae Deo tuo:

7. And thou shalt offer peace-offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the Lord thy God.

7. Et offeres sacrificia prosperiratum, comedesque illic, ac laetaberis coram Jehova Deo tuo.


5. And there shalt thou build an altar. At their first entrance into the land, God commands that a sacrifice of thanksgiving should be offered to Him; and this Joshua performed, as is related in <060830>Joshua 8:30-31.

“Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the Lord commanded the children of Israel, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron.”

First of all, then, this testimony of their gratitude is required, that the children of Israel, as soon as they have begun to set foot in the land of Canaan, might celebrate the praises of the Lord; secondly, he forbids all artificial work, because, if the altar had been permanent, it would have been an occasion of superstition, and this exceptional instance would have been more regarded than the perpetual Law of God. Hence the nine tribes and half were so greatly wroth against the two tribes of Reuben and Gad, and half Manasseh, on account of the altar which was built on the bank of Jordan, (Joshua 22,) insomuch that they determined utterly to destroy their brethren, until they had cleared themselves by alleging that they had only built it as a memorial of their brotherly union, and not for sacrifice. Assuredly they were good expounders of the Law who accounted it an inexpiable crime, that an altar should be left for posterity, to withdraw the people from the one sanctuary, and thus to destroy the unity of faith.

Exodus 25

Go To Exodus 25: 1-22

25. Speak unto the children of Israel. If any caviller should raise a question as to the time in which I have thought fit to introduce this history,  f114 although I would not pertinaciously contend with him, still I have not only a probable, but a sure reason for my opinion. For it appears to me that I clearly gather from Exodus 33, that the tabernacle was already built before Moses brought down the first tables from the Mount; for it is there said, that in token of their divorce, in order that the people might know that they were repudiated by God, Moses took the tabernacle and pitched it separately for himself without the camp; not for his own peculiar use, because it is expressly said that he did not dwell there, but that he went out of the camp as often as he desired to consult God; whilst Joshua was its keeper and guardian, (aedituus.) But there is no doubt but that this took place previous to his second ascent to bring down new tables from the Lord; it is, therefore, clear that the tabernacle was already erected. If any object that it was not set up till the end of the second year, the reply is easy, that it was placed anew in its proper position, so that being everywhere surrounded by the children of Israel, it might have all its guards, according to the twelve tribes encamped in their due order; and again, that the tables were then actually deposited in the Ark of the Covenant, and by them God represented Himself, so that without them the tabernacle was in a manner empty; finally, that the solemn dedication is there treated of, for which the due season had not arrived, until in testimony of God’s presence the covenant was deposited in the Ark, by way of pledge. In order the better to remove all ambiguity, we must briefly calculate the time. In the third month from their exodus the people reached Mount Sinai. On what day the Law was given is nowhere stated, unless we may probably conjecture that it was promulgated about the end of that month. Thus there will be eight months to be computed until the day on which the tabernacle was dedicated, and the tables deposited in the Ark of the Covenant, as Moses expressly says in the last chapter of Exodus; but, in the Book of Numbers, he relates that in the second month of that year the people removed the camp from that place, and departed to Kibroth-Hattaavah. f115 Now, since between the dedication of the tabernacle and their departure only one month intervened, we must admit that the two ascents into the mountain had preceded in order of time.

Now, the question is, whether he was called to receive the first tables in the beginning of the fourth month? If this be allowed, he could scarcely have prescribed the building of the sanctuary before the end of the eighth month; for it would have been absurd to give  f116 the tables of God’s paternal favor between the two ascents, while the separation of the tabernacle was testifying of their divorce from Him. Thus, then, I establish the fact, that four whole months were employed in this long and difficult work. And surely it was wonderful that so short a time should suffice; had not incredible activity surpassed all men’s expectation, whilst they all emulously devoted themselves with unwearied labor to hasten the work. And it is probable, that after God had established His covenant, He immediately delivered the ordinances respecting the tabernacle and its adjuncts; lest the people should be without the external exercises of religion, which we have seen to be so very necessary. But after the completion of the work, Moses was again commanded to come nigh to God with Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders; and after the offering of sacrifices, he was taken up into the cloud to hold familiar communion with God, where he passed about a month and a half. Having returned, and being made aware of the rebellion of the people, the slaughter of the three thousand took place, and he commanded the people to mourn. How long he remained we know not, but it is probable that at least a month passed before he was recalled We have now more than nine months; and if we add the month and a half during which he was kept in the mount, we shall not be far from the end of the year. God then reconciled Himself to the people, and thus the legitimate dedication of the tabernacle soon followed, which took place in the second year at the beginning of the first month. The Passover having been celebrated, the sign of removal was given in the second month.

If any disagree with me, I would now have them answer me, how it is consistent that Moses, having detected the people’s transgression, should then have begun to exhort them to the building of the sanctuary, whereas in his whole address there is no mention made of idolatry? Surely, all things well considered, we must be ready to confess that the people were still loyal when they so heartily consecrated their property to God. But the whole question is sufficiently settled by what I have alleged on the testimony of Moses, viz., that before he came down with the first tables the tabernacle was already in being, unless, perhaps, it be objected that it was another tabernacle, and different from that which was afterwards set up by God’s command. But this is a very foolish cavil, for Moses had no authority to make an earthly dwelling-place for God, and to impose on it the sacred name whereby the sanctuary is always honored; and he expressly relates that God’s glory appeared in it, in order that the people might more surely know that they were separated from God for their uncleanness, of which matter we shall again speak in its proper place. Again, the word jql, lakach, f117 implies that Moses took the tabernacle out of the camp, to transfer it to another place. If any one should now object that the tabernacle was arranged according to the pattern which Moses saw in the mount, the reply is easy, that Moses was not then first in the mountain instructed in the true worship of God and heavenly mysteries, when he was kept there forty days, but already before the promulgation of the Law; nor is there any doubt but that the same things were then shewn to him which he had learned before, in order that the people might be more disposed to diligent meditation on the Law. For, from the length of time, they might acknowledge that nothing was omitted which it would be useful for them to know; since, although God might have so instructed His servant in a moment that nothing should have been wanting, still He chose gradually, and as if at His ease, to form for Himself a perfect teacher; and this concession was made to the infirmity of the people. For thus we read in <021909>Exodus 19:9,

“Behold I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever.”

And again, <022021>Exodus 20:21,

“And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness, where God was.”

From whence it is plain that there is no absurdity in saying that he had already seen the pattern of the tabernacle wherein God would be worshipped.

But lest any should object that I rest upon conjectures only, Moses himself plainly shews that, before he received the tables, God gave him instructions respecting the making of the tabernacle; for twice in chapter 25 it is said, “Thou shalt put in the Ark the testimony which I shall give thee,” verses 16 and 21; from whence it is clear that the tables were not yet given, when from God’s command he described the whole structure; and thence we again infer that, when the tabernacle was set up, he went up into the mount to bring down the tables which were to be placed in the Ark. But, before he begins to treat of the construction of the tabernacle, he imposes a tribute upon the people, that each, according to his means, should contribute materials both for the tabernacle itself and for all its furniture. The heaving, or, hmwrt, therumah,  f118 is here put simply for an offering; and is not, as in other passages, distinguished from another kind of sacrifice, which is called hpwnt, thenuphah. But the Israelites are simply commanded to bestow from their abundance what may suffice for the worship of God. It is indeed certain that all we have is God’s, and that all He bountifully gives us is polluted unless we devote it to His glory. Still in His indulgence He permits us the free use of all, if only we testify that it remains under His power, and are ready to expend it as He shall command. Thus we duly offer alms, as sacrifices of, sweet-smelling savor; although the rich may not exhaust himself to poverty, but, whilst he relieves the poor, enjoys the goods which he possesses. In sum, whatever we offer to God is like the first-fruits, whereby we testify that all we have is consecrated to His glory. Now, although He required no assistance from the people for the building and adorning of His tabernacle, since it was He who, for the maintenance of them all, daily rained down manna from heaven; yet he would have every one, from the very least to the greatest, bring together, in testimony of their piety, whatever was necessary for the sacred work. But what He then would have spent on the visible sanctuary, He now requires for the building of His spiritual temple. Properly speaking, it is He alone that builds His Church; yet He uses the work of men, and will have many builders associated with Him, that the edifice of His Church may arise in some measure by the labor of men; as also He ascribes the praise of its prosperity and success to them. Meanwhile we offer nothing which He Himself has not bestowed; just as the Israelites gave nothing but what had been derived from his bounty alone. Therefore, He distributes the gifts of His Spirit in certain measures, (<461207>1 Corinthians 12:7;) that, as each has received more or less, he may employ it on the building of the Church. But this should be the best incentive to activity, that none is so poor or humble but that his offering is acceptable and pleasing, however small it may be, and almost worthless in the eyes of men. Moreover, it must be observed, that the tribute is not demanded authoritatively, but it is declared that each should freely offer what he pleased; for, from the beginning, Paul’s word was true, that “God loveth a cheerful giver,” (<470407>2 Corinthians 4:7;) and all Scripture teaches us that no obedience is pleasing to God except what is voluntary; for, although the word wnbdy, yidbenu,  f119 is variously rendered by the translators, the sum comes to this, that the gift of each would be pleasing to God according to the cheerful alacrity of his mind. The old interpreter (i.e., the Vulgate) has it “qui offert ultroneus,” (he who offers voluntarily;) but this is rather paraphrastic than literal.  f120 Others differ from each other: some understand the relative as referring to the offering, and translate it, “whose heart shall have voluntarily given it;” others, “He who shall have shewn his heart liberal, or willing.” The second rendering is the right one.

3. And this is the offering. Hence, what I have before said is more fully continued, viz., that what the poor offer of their little will not be eclipsed by the abundance of the rich, since God deigns to reckon goats’ hair among the sacred offerings not less than gold, purple, and precious stones. Again, by the varied and manifold contributions, He would shew, as in a glass, that a variety of gifts are necessary to the building of the spiritual temple, as Paul sets forth in <451201>Romans 12 and <461201>1 Corinthians 12. The liberality of the rich was indeed more splendid; but, as they did not scruple to mix their gold and silver, blue, purple, and precious stones, with brass, iron, and other common materials, so also, now-a-days, those who aid the edification of the Church by their more excellent gifts, admit, without contempt or dislike, into fellowship poor brethren, to whom it is not given to equal them.

8. And let them make me a sanctuary. By first setting before them an inestimable recompense, God stirs up the people to give largely; for, although liberality is praised by all as a most excellent virtue, yet no one willingly deprives himself of his own to bestow it upon others, since all think that it is so much lost to themselves, unless they have some compensation in view. Wherefore, that they may expend cheerfully, God promises that He will dwell among them, than which nothing is more desirable. But we must beware of imagining anything inconsistent with the nature of God, for He who sits above the heavens, and whose footstool is the earth, could not be enclosed in the tabernacle; but, because in His indulgence for the infirmities of an ignorant people, He desired to testify the presence of His grace and help by a visible symbol, the earthly sanctuary is called His dwelling amongst men, inasmuch as there He was not worshipped in vain. And we must bear in memory what we have lately seen, that it was not the infinite essence of God, but His name, or the record of His name, that dwelt there. This was the object of the expressions; that the Israelites ought not to be slow or lazy in setting up the tabernacle, because by these means they would obtain for themselves an inestimable advantage. Another clause follows, that the artificers should copy the pattern shewn to Moses, and not dare to invent anything, since it would be a profanation to mix up anything human with the commands of God; on which matter we shall treat more diffusely when we speak generally of the types. Now is described the form of the Ark and its covering: for the composition of the tabernacle, and its various parts, which Moses now only slightly adverts to, will be presently repeated at greater length in chapter 32. But, although the tabernacle was called God’s house, yet there was a more express image of His glory in the Ark of the Covenant; because the Law, whereby God bound the people to Himself, was there deposited. The material was shittim-wood, covered or overlaid with plates of gold. As to the species of the tree,  f121 not even the Hebrews are agreed among themselves, although we may conjecture that it was beautiful and costly; yet God would have gold over its whole surface, and even shining on its staves, that the dignity of the Law might be enhanced. But here a question may arise, which introduces many others with it, how the sumptuous splendor both of the Ark, as well as the tabernacle and all its utensils, contributed to the worship of God? for it is certain that God would never be worshipped except agreeably to His nature; whence it follows, that His true worship was always spiritual, and therefore by no means comprised in external pomp.

But the great number and intricacy of the ceremonies were so far from awakening piety, that they were even the occasion of superstition, or era foolish and perverse confidence. Again, so many and such various rites seem to have had no other tendency than to feed curiosity. It will be therefore worth while briefly to premise something respecting this point,. They are, in my judgment, at fault, who think that the eyes of the people were captivated by these magnificent sights, lest their religion, being stripped of all ornament, should become dishonored, when amongst the Gentiles their false worship was splendid even to a miracle; and thus a depraved rivalry might affect their minds,  f122 if the beauty of the tabernacle did not at least equal the pomp of others, as though the God they worshipped were inferior to idols. On the same grounds they imagine that the Jews were burdened with many observances; lest, if God had only sparingly and slightly exercised them, they would in their natural curiosity, have sought in all directions after profane trifles. They tell part of the truth, but not the whole; for I admit that this was given to the ancient people, in order that, when they saw the tabernacle so brilliantly ornamented, they might be inspired with greater reverence. I also admit that, by God’s command, they were engrossed with many ceremonies, that they might not seek after strange ones; but if this had been the only object proposed in them, the whole legal service would have only availed for ostentation in its shadows and histrionic pomps. But it is most absurd to think that God so trifled with His people. We see, too, how honorably David and the Prophets speak of these exercises.  f123 It is, therefore, impiety to suppose that the legal rites were like farces composed in imitation of the Gentiles. In order, then, to preserve their honor and dignity, we must remember the principle to which we have lately alluded, viz., that all of them were arranged according to the spiritual pattern which had been shewn to Moses in the mount. (<022540>Exodus 25:40.) And this both Stephen, and the Apostle in the Epistle to the Hebrews, wisely observed, when they would reprove the gross follies of the people who continued to be wrapped up in the external ceremonies, as if religion were comprised in them. (<440744>Acts 7:44; <580805>Hebrews 8:5.) Stephen and the Apostle, therefore, are our best expositors, that the tabernacle, the altar, the table, the Ark of the Covenant, were of no importance except in so far as they referred to the heavenly pattern, of which they were the shadows and images. Thence their entire utility, and even their legitimate use, depended on the truth, (which they represented.)  f124 For the slaughter of an ox profits nothing in itself, nay, it is but an unimportant thing; and so all the sacrifices, except that they were types, would have been thought nothing of. Whence we gather that there is the greatest difference between the ceremonies of the Law and the profane rites of the Gentiles, for they differ from each other not only inasmuch as God is the author of the one, and that the temerity of men has foolishly invented the other, but because among the Gentiles their religion was entirely comprised in these bare and empty pomps; whilst God, by these rudiments, which He gave to His people, elevated pious minds, as it were by steps, to higher things. Thus the Gentiles seemed to themselves duly to propitiate (their gods) when they offered victims; whilst the sacrifices of the Jews were acceptable to God, because they were exercises of repentance and faith. So the Law instructed the Jews in the spiritual worship of God, and in nothing else, though it were clothed in ceremonies agreeably to the requirements of the age. For, before the truth was fully made known, the childhood of the Church was to be directed by earthly elements, and thus, though there was great affinity and likeness between the Jews and Gentiles as regarded the external form of their religious service, yet its end was widely different. Moreover, when we would seek the body or substance of the ancient shadows, and the truth of the figures, we may learn them, not only from the Apostles, but also from the Prophets, who everywhere draw the attention of believers to the kingdom of Christ; yet their clearer explanation must be sought in the Gospel, where Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, shining forth, shews that their fulfillment exists in Himself alone. But, although by His coming He abolished these typical ceremonies as regards their use, yet at the same time He established the reverence justly due to them; since they have no claim to be held in esteem on any other grounds, except that their completion is found in Him; for, if they are separated from Him, it is plain that they are mere farces,  f125 since neither the blood of animals, nor the sweetness of fat, nor aromatic odors, nor candles, nor anything of that sort, have any power to propitiate God. This indeed must be remembered, that the Jews did not pay attention to the legal sacrifices in vain, since the promises were annexed to them; as often, therefore, as these sentences occur, “your iniquity shall be blotted out,” — “ye shall appear before my face,” — “I will hear you from the sanctuary,” we are reminded that all the ancient figures were sure testimonies of God’s grace and of eternal salvation; and thus Christ was represented in them, since all the promises are in Him, yea, and amen. (<470120>2 Corinthians 1:20.) Yet it by no means follows from hence that there were mysteries hidden in all their details, since some, with mistaken acuteness, pass over no point, however trifling, without an allegorical exposition; as, in this passage, for instance, the dimensions of the ark afford them matter of speculation.  f126 But it will be enough for the sound and sober-minded to know that God would have His Law deposited in a handsome vessel, in order that its majesty should be recognized. He commanded that the ark itself should be carried with staves, that the hands of the Levites might not touch it, and thus that its sanctity might be the greater

16. And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony. The title of “the testimony,” which is often given to the law, indicates that something more is contained in it than the rule of a just and holy life; viz., the compact whereby God bound Himself to His people, and His people to Himself; therefore the words “the table of the covenant,” are afterwards used instead of “the testimony.” Thus the word td[,  f127 gneduth, in this passage, and similar ones, is equivalent to a contract, which is commonly called a convention. In this sense the Prophet in Psalm 114 calls by the name of testimonies, not only the Commandments, but whatever God hath delivered by the hand of Moses for the salvation of His people. In <191407>Psalm 14:7, the word testimony is added as if in explanation of the word law: “The law of the Lord is perfect; the testimony of the Lord is sure;” as in <230820>Isaiah 8:20, where it is said, “To the law and to the testimony,” it is not that two different things are referred to, but the utility of the law is commended, because it contains all that God would have testified to His people.

17. And thou shalt make a mercy-seat. The primary root of the verb rpk, caphar, from whence this noun is derived,  f128 is used for “to smear with pitch,” but in the Hiphil conjugation, it signifies either to expiate, or to purge, or to receive into favor; whence rpk, copher, is expiation, as we have seen elsewhere; and trpk, caphoreth, a covering or lid. Yet I doubt not but that Moses alludes in this word to a metaphorical meaning, for the law requires a covering to conceal our transgressions. And it is probable that, when Paul calls Christ iJlasth>rion, (<450325>Romans 3:25,) and John iJlasmo<n, (<620202>1 John 2:2,) they both refer to this figure, because God was propitiated towards believers by the covering of the Law, so as to shew Himself favorable to them by hearing their vows and prayers. For as long as the law stands forth before God’s face it subjects us to His wrath and curse; and hence it is necessary that the blotting out of our guilt should be interposed, so that God may be reconciled with us. Nor is it without reason that David exclaims, after he has proclaimed the righteousness of the law, “Who can understand his errors?” (<191401>Psalm 14:12.) Whence we gather that, without a propitiation, the law does not bring us near to God, but accuses us before Him. And assuredly, when I consider all things, it seems to me a tame explanation, that Moses spoke literally of the cover, when he  f129 would have the Cherubim turn their faces toward it, and God promises that He will give His answers from it. By these honorable distinctions it is exalted above the Ark.

18. And thou shalt make two cherubims. I have stated in my commentary on Genesis and elsewhere,  f130 that there are various opinions respecting the word cherub; but that those approach most nearly to the truth who make the k, caph, not a servile, but a radical letter, and take it generally for any image; for those who suppose the k to be a note of similitude, render it “like a boy;” which in itself is forced, and besides it is refuted by the words of Ezekiel, (<260110>Ezekiel 1:10, and <261001>Ezekiel 10:1,) who calls the forms of a calf, a lion, and an eagle by this name, as well as the human form. It is enough for me that the images were winged, which represented angels. Therefore, when Moses speaks of the angels, who were placed as guards to keep man away from approaching paradise, he calls them cherubim; not so much in reference to that time, as to keep the people in the doctrine of the Law  f131 But God appointed angels, by whom He exercises His dominion, and who are the ministers of His blessings, to be a symbol of His presence; for as often as He manifested Himself to believers by angels, He in a manner extended His hand to them. On this ground, David, and other Prophets, in order to encourage themselves to confidence in prayer, often speak of God as “dwelling between the cherubims,” (<198001>Psalm 80:1, 64:1; <233716>Isaiah 37:16;) as much as to say, that He conversed familiarly with His people, since His virtue exercises itself by His angels. That they covered the lid of the ark with their extended wings, I do not imagine to have been done to hide it, but to mark the readiness of their obedience, for the extension of their wings is equivalent to their being prepared for the performance of whatever God might command. Thus they are said to turn their faces towards the mercy-seat, because they are attentive to the will of God. Moreover, because the fullness of the Godhead resides in Christ, He justly declares that, in His descent upon earth, the heavens were opened that the angels might ascend and descend. Their looking towards each other indicates that harmony in which the angels are united for performing the commands of God. It is indeed a plausible conceit,  f132 that the two cherubim were the Old and New Testaments, which look from one to the other, and surround the mercy-seat, inasmuch as Christ is their common object; but this notion vanishes before the contradiction of many passages of Scripture.

Exodus 35

Go To Exodus 35: 4-19

5. Take ye from among you an offering. I have introduced a passage from chapter 35, wherein Moses again requires what he had before prescribed; but he goes more into detail, and treats at greater length of the parts of the tabernacle. In the former passage he employed a verb, where he here uses a noun, “willing or voluntary of heart.” There is, however, no ambiguity in the meaning; since in both places God requires a cheerful zeal, so that they may not only contribute abundantly, but willingly. He will afterwards use a different form of expression, viz., that they did their duty, whose heart roused, or stirred them up, so as to distinguish them from the indifferent and slow. — 5:21.

10. And every wise-hearted among you. Thus he denominates the artificers, who excelled in shrewdness of intellect, and so, after having commanded them severally of their private means to supply the materials, he now exhorts others to contribute their industry for shaping and joining them together. He then briefly enumerates the parts of the Tabernacle, a longer explanation of which will be seen in chapter 26. This is, therefore, a kind of epitome of all those things, of which he before spoke more in full, since it was necessary to spur them on afresh to the performance of what they had been clearly instructed in. For we know that instruction is very often coldly received without the addition of exhortations. It might indeed seem strange,  f133 how so much wealth could be possessed by a miserably pillaged people, and long driven to servile work; unless it may be inferred from the abundance which is here described, that they were incredibly enriched at their departure from Egypt by the booty which God gave them. The kingdom of Egypt was very wealthy; and its people, as we know, had always been devoted to pleasures and luxuries. What, then, they had accumulated by their rapacity in many years, flowed away from them by the secret influence of God, when they were suddenly made prodigal. But, just as He had blinded the Egyptians, that they should profusely give all they had, so He now directed the minds and hearts of His people, that, mindful of so great a benefit, they should willingly expend, at His command, what they had obtained of His mere grace.

Exodus 25

Go To Exodus 25: 23-30

23. Thou shalt also make a table. The sentiment of a certain ancient bishop  f134 is deservedly praised, who, when he sold the sacred vessels in the time of a famine, to relieve the distress of the poor, thus excused himself to the Church: “Our God, who does not eat or drink, has no need of patens and chalices;” and yet this seems little in accordance with this His command, that bread should be offered to Him. I answer, that if, under that pretext, the bishop had stripped the sacred table of its ornaments under the Law, he would have spoken unseasonably, what, under the Gospel, he spoke piously and wisely; because at the coming of Christ the shadows of the Law ceased. But God would then have the loaves, which were offered to Him, deposited among the golden dishes and censers, and spoons placed with them, not that He had need of meat and drink, but that He might prescribe the duty of temperance to His people, by deigning to have His table among them; for, when they ate of the same wheat, of which the sacred loaves were made, they were reminded by that symbol that their meat and drink was to be taken, as if they sat before God, and were His guests. Finally, they were taught that the food, by which man’s life is sustained, is in a manner sacred to God; that thus they might be contented with simple and sober food, and might not profane the things which were dedicated to His service. Although, therefore, this offering might appear to be gross and rude, yet it had a just object, i.e., that believers might acknowledge that God presided over their tables, because the loaves were presented in the temple before God in the name of all the people. The same was the intention of the first-fruits, in which the produce of the whole year was consecrated; that even in their feasts they might cherish a recollection of God, who fed them as a father does his children. They are called “the bread of faces”  f135 by Moses, because they always appeared before God, in which sense the Greeks called them the bread proqe>sewv, because they were always in His presence; for it was not permitted them to remove the precious offering, until others were substituted in their place. I now pass over many points, because what I now omit will soon have to be treated of.

Exodus 25

Go To Exodus 25: 31-40

31. And thou shalt make a candlestick. God would have seven bright lamps burning day and night in the Tabernacle: first, that the people might know that they were directed by God Himself as to how they were to worship Him aright, and that a light was set before their eyes which might disperse all the darkness of error; and, secondly, lest they should obscure the very worship of God with their gross inventions, but that, intent on the instruction of the Law, they might with a pure and enlightened mind seek after God in all the ceremonies. Let us, therefore, remark a distinction here set forth between the rule of true religion and the superstitions of the Gentiles; because the Gentiles were carried away by their foolish and blind devotions, as they call them, into circuitous and erring ways, so that nothing was straight in them; for unless we have divine teaching to enlighten us, our own reason will beget nothing but mere vanity. But it was not enough for the Israelites that the right way should be pointed out, unless their eyes were open to direct them, since men sometimes are blind in the very midst of light. And this occurred to themselves not only when they went astray into strange and adulterous worships, for though they held fast the external form of the Law, they were, nevertheless, degenerate; and religion was corrupted among them by foul superstitions, when, in obedience to their carnal reason, they conceived that religion consisted in ceremonies. For when God is not worshipped spiritually according to His nature, this is to travesty Him. Hence there was so much security in the hypocrites, that they proudly despised all the reproofs of the Prophets, nay, that they broke out into open fury whenever their empty pomps were condemned. But the candlestick, shining with its seven lights, reminded the people that, in their worship of God, they should look attentively to the light of heavenly doctrine.

But, for the understanding of this type, the vision of Zechariah will be no slight assistance to us, since the truth of this symbol is there set forth. (<380402>Zechariah 4:2.) God there promises that the power of His Spirit will alone avail, and more than avail, for the preservation of His Church, although it may be destitute of all other aid. To awaken confidence in this, He represents the same image of a candlestick which is here described, with the addition of some other circumstances, whereby He reminds us that the shining lights were no vain show like stage plays, but that in the candlestick was represented what believers would really experience to take place. But, that the comparison may be made clearer, we must say a little respecting this passage. The material of the candlestick is pure gold, whereby the excellency of the thing signified is denoted. But, when we have spoken somewhat of its form, the application of Zechariah’s prophecy will be more manifest. Some parts of it were merely for ornament, that its dignity might be increased by its very appearance, such as the flowers and the balls or knops; others for use, as the bowls or receptacles, to prevent the sacred oil from falling on the ground. The lamps were placed at the top, that the Israelites might know that men are surrounded with darkness on earth, if God did not enlighten His Church from on high, and that by day and by night. Thus Isaiah, describing the kingdom of Christ, in which the reality of this sign was at length exhibited, says, — “Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.” And again,

“Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thy everlasting light.”
(<236002>Isaiah 60:2-20.)

Now, since God is called the Father of lights, the grace of illumination resides in the Spirit; and since a variety of gifts are distributed by the Spirit, there were seven lamps which visibly represented what Paul says, —

“The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (<461207>1 Corinthians 12:7-11.)

Some, however, have gratuitously invented a mystery in the number seven, whence the common notion  f136 among the Papists about the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, which is refuted both by the above-cited passage of St. Paul and the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, where a greater number of gifts are enumerated. I suppose rather that perfection is denoted by the seven lamps according to the ordinary and acknowledged use (of the figure); as if God thus declared that nothing would be wanting for the full enlightenment of believers, who should seek it from its one and only source; secondly, that the Spirit presides over all religious rites when He shines forth to the Church in His gifts. Now, the Prophet, (<380402>Zechariah 4:2,) desiring to teach that what had been shewn forth in this visible symbol would be fulfilled in the restoration of the Church, adds to the lamps seven pipes and two olive-trees, from whence oil would continually flow, so that there was no fear of want or failure. Thus he signifies that God is possessed of a manifold abundance of blessings for the enrichment of the Church; and so that the virtue which flows down from heaven is sufficient for its preservation, according to what is added in connection,

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,
saith the Lord of hosts.” (<380406>Zechariah 4:6.)

For although God uses the ministry of men and earthly means at His discretion for the protection and maintenance of the Church, yet He would have, as is just, all the praise ascribed to Himself; whilst He would also have believers to be contented under His guardianship, and not to be discouraged although they should find no ground of confidence in the world.

40. And look that thou make them. He again inculcates, what we have already seen, that Moses should take care that all things were exactly modeled according to the original or pattern seen in the mount. But it is certain that it is not any mere vision which is here in question, but that the external ornaments of the sanctuary have reference to their spiritual object, as is plain from the explanation of Stephen and the Apostle. Wherefore we need not wonder that Zechariah should say that God would make manifest, and that by certain proof, under the reign of Christ, that it was no empty spectacle which God had set before His people under the Law.

Deuteronomy 27

<052705>Deuteronomy 27:5-7

5. And there shalt thou build an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them.

5. AEdificabis in monte Ebal altare ex lapidibus Jehovae Deo tuo: non levabis super eos ferrum.

6. Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole stones; and thou shalt offer burnt-offerings thereon unto the Lord thy God:

6. E lapidibus integris aedificabis altare Jehovae Dei tui: et offeres super illud holocausta Jehovae Deo tuo:

7. And thou shalt offer peace-offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the Lord thy God.

7. Et offeres sacrificia prosperiratum, comedesque illic, ac laetaberis coram Jehova Deo tuo.

Leviticus 24

<032401>Leviticus 24:1-4

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

1. Loquutus est autem Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

2. Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil-olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually.

2. Praecipe filiis Israel ut afferant tibi oleum olivae purum, contusum pro luminari, ad accendendas lucernas semper.

3 Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before the Lord continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations.

3. Extra velum testimonii in tabernaculo conventionis disponet eas Aharon a vespera usque ad mane, coram Jehova semper: statutum per-perpetuum erit in generationibus vestris.

4. He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the Lord continually.

4. Super candelabrum mundum disponet lucernas coram Jehova semper.


<022720>Exodus 27:20 And thou shalt command the children of Israel. I have transferred these two passages from elsewhere, since they relate to the service of the tabernacle; for the children of Israel are commanded to contribute as much oil as may be sufficient for the seven lamps. Now, since Divine illumination and the grace of the Holy Spirit were, as we have seen, the truth of this symbol, God requires pure oil, i.e., not muddy, or mixed with lees, for, had it been in any respect faulty, so much would have been detracted from the dignity of the mystery. Its purity, then, shewed that nothing mean or common was signified by it; that the Israelites also might bring with them pure minds, and duly prepared and disposed to consider the spiritual light. He again repeats, that the oil must be supplied seasonably at its proper hours, so that the lamps may be always burning; that thus the children of Israel might learn that nothing is more opposed to the worship of God than obscurity and darkness; and that it is not to be interrupted at intervals,  f137 but that the direction of the Spirit should shine from heaven in a perpetual flow. Thus, in the second passage cited, He thrice reiterates the word “continually,” to shew that the true light should never be put out in any respect. This office God enjoins upon the priests, because they ought to be ministers of light when they are interpreting the Law, which David calls “the lamp of our feet, and the light of our paths.” (<19B401>Psalm 114:105.) But what is the meaning of the offering (of the oil) by the people, since men are possessed of no power for the spiritual enlightening of their own minds? I reply that, in the types of the Law, the several parts are not to be so scrupulously forced to the rule, as if there were nothing in the outward sign with which the reality did not correspond; and again, that although men having nothing of their own and of themselves to bring, yet, that they may more diligently exert themselves in their endeavors to serve God, they are justly required to dedicate themselves and all that they have to God. At the end, where the words “a statute for ever” are added, understand them to mean, until the real manifestation of those things, of which the candlestick and its lamps were a type. This point I have discussed in Genesis  f138 It is called “a statute from the  f139 children of Israel,” (a filiis Israel,) since God requires its observance from them; unless it be preferred to translate it with Jerome, “Before (coram) the children of Israel.” The exposition of others, “among (apud) the children of Israel,” or from the fathers to the children, is harsher, and altogether forced.

Numbers 8

<040801>Numbers 8:1-4

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

1. Et loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

2. Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him, When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick.

2. Loquere ad Aharon, et dicas illi, Quando accendes lucernam, contra faciem candelabri lucebunt septem lucernae.

3. And Aaron did so: he lighted the lamps thereof over against the candlestick; as the Lord commanded Moses.

3. Fecitque ita Aharon: contra faciem candelabri accendit lucernas ejus, quemadmodum praeceperat Jehova ipsi Mosi.

4. And this work of the candlestick was of beaten gold; unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof was beaten work: according unto the pattern which the Lord had shewed Moses, so he made the candlestick.

4. Et hoc est opus candelabri, ductile aureum usque ad hastile suum, usque ad flores suos ductile erat, juxta exemplar quod ostenderat Jehova ipsi Mosi, sic fecit candelabrum.


2. When thou lightest the lamps. This precept, like many others, is not inserted in its proper place. Moses again declares what was the use of the candlestick, and how the lamps should be arranged, so that their light might be spread through the sanctuary, and that the brightness of the gold might shine over against them; for this was the reason why God would have the lamps lighted against the face of, or opposite to, the candlestick, that the very stand of the light might retain its beauty. Moreover, it is expressly stated that Aaron obeyed God’s command, as if in no despicable matter, as he had received it from Moses. To this also refers what immediately follows, that it was made “according unto the pattern” which Moses had seen in the mount; and this was, as I have before explained it, that God is the Father of lights, who illuminates His Church by His Spirit, that it may not wander in darkness; and so, whilst darkness covers the whole earth, He is as an everlasting light to believers instead of the sun and moon, as says <236019>Isaiah 60:19.

Exodus 26

Go To Exodus 26: 1-37

1. Moreover, thou shalt make the tabernacle. In the whole construction of the tabernacle we must remember what we have already seen, that the Israelites were instructed by external figures how precious a thing is the worship of God, and therefore that they must diligently beware lest it should be polluted by any meanness. For all this richness and magnificence of ornament was the very contrast to meanness. They were also reminded that, if they would be accounted pure worshippers of God, they must avoid all uncleanness, for the tabernacle was the type of the Church. Thus it is certain that by its external ornaments the excellency of spiritual gifts was designated. On this ground Isaiah, discoursing of the perfect glory of the Church as it would be under the reign of Christ, says,

“I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires; and I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones,”
(<235411>Isaiah 54:11, 12;)

by which words he plainly signifies that the Church would be adorned with heavenly beauty, since all kinds of graces shone forth in her But the chief excellency of her adornment must be referred to the instruction which renews us into the image of God. Thus David, when he celebrates the beauty of God’s house, assigns this honor chiefly to the exercises of faith and piety:

“One thing have I desired of the Lord,” he says, “that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” (<192704>Psalm 27:4.)

Was this that he might feed his eyes with empty pictures, with its costly materials, and with the exquisite workmanship of it? Assuredly he does not speak of gazing inquisitively at it, but thus alludes to its visible workmanship, that with the spiritual eyes of faith he may consider the glory more excellent than the whole world, which was there represented. Nor indeed did anything magnificent appear in the tabernacle to delight men’s eyes, but rather was all its richness and excellence covered up with goats’ hair and paltry leather, in order that believers beneath that hidden beauty might reflect on something higher than the carnal sense.

It will suffice to have given these general hints; I now descend to particulars, in which let not my readers expect of me any conceits which may gratify their ears, since nothing is better than to contain ourselves within the limits of edification; and it would be puerile to make a collection of the minutiae wherewith some philosophize; since it was by no means the intention of God to include mysteries in every hook and loop; and even although no part were without a mystical meaning, which no one in his senses will admit, it is better to confess our ignorance than to indulge ourselves in frivolous conjectures. Of this sobriety, too, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is a fit master for us, who, although he professedly shews the analogy between the shadows of the Law and the truth manifested in Christ, yet sparingly touches upon some main points, and by this moderation restrains us from too curious disquisitions and deep speculations. In the first place, curtains are made of twilled linen, and blue, purple, and scarlet, which, when coupled together, made an inclosure of forty cubits; for they were ten in number, and the breadth of each was four cubits. By “cunning work,” commentators are agreed that embroidery is meant, especially when God commands that cherubim should be made in them. But some translate the word cherubim by the general name of pictures, f140 which, although it is not grammatically incorrect, yet, since we have before seen that angels were designated by this word, it; is more probable that figures of angels were everywhere scattered over them; for, when the majesty of God is represented to the life by <270710>Daniel 7:10, “ten thousand times ten thousand” are said to stand around His judgment-seat, Ridiculous is it of the Papists f141 to infer from hence that churches would be empty and unsightly unless they are adorned with images; for in order that the similitude should hold good, they must needs hide their images under a triple covering, lest the people should be able to see them; and then, how would they be “the books of the unlearned” (idiotarum), as they call them? f142

Now, since the seraphim, of which Isaiah makes mention, (<230602>Isaiah 6:2,) signify the same as the cherubim, and are said “with twain of their wings to cover their faces, and with twain their feet,” their images must be veiled, in order to correspond with them. Besides, it is preposterous, as I have said, forcibly to transfer these rudiments, which God delivered only to His ancient; people, to the fullness of time, when the Church has grown up and has passed out of its childhood. But how far the Jews were from worshipping the cherubim, the heathen poets bear them witness; for Juvenal, speaking of them, said,

“Qui puras nubes, et coeli numen adorant;” f143

and God extorted these words from an impure and licentious man, that all might know that the Law of Moses lifted his disciples to things above. A threefold covering is then described, the inner one of goats’ hair, another of rams’ skins dyed red, and the outer one of badgers’ skins; a wooden frame is then added, to strengthen the tabernacle within by its firmness, since otherwise the curtains would have got out of place at the slightest motion. The boards were of shittim-wood, overlaid with gold, either only gilt or covered with gold plates; each of them was supported by two silver bases, f144 like feet, and they were joined together by bars, passed through rings of gold. In this space the whole tabernacle was contained, which then was distinguished into the outer sanctuary and the Holy of holies. Besides these there was the court in which the people were to stand, because it was not lawful for them to enter the sanctuary, to which the priests alone had access, and they only when clean. Thus David, after having exclaimed, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts,” immediately adds, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord;” and again, “for a day in thy courts is better than a thousand,” (<198401>Psalm 84:1, 2, 10;) and again, “Worship the Lord in his holy court.” f145 (<192902>Psalm 29:2.) But on so plain a matter there is no need of the abundant proofs which he furnishes. The disposition of the tabernacle is said again, in ver. 30, to have been shewn in the mount, that the people should not rest their attention on the visible tabernacle, but with the understanding of faith should penetrate to heaven, and direct their minds to the spiritual pattern, the shadows and types of which they beheld. Neither here must we philosophize too curiously. The allegory will please the ears of many, that by the two bases are meant the Old and New Testament, or the two natures of Christ, because believers rest on these two supports. But with no less probability we might say, that two bases were placed beneath each of the boards; either because godliness hath the promise of this life and of that which is to come; or because we must resist on both sides the temptations which assail us from the right and from the left; or because faith must not limp nor turn to the right or left: thus there would be no bounds to trifling. They allegorically explain that the covering of the tabernacle was made of rams’ skins, f146 because the Church is protected by the blood of Christ, who is the spotless lamb; but I ask, what do the badgers’ skins, which were above, mean? Why was the covering of goats’ hair put below? Wherefore, sobriety is our best course.

31. And thou shalt make a vail. The inner shrine or recess was covered by one vail; the sanctuary was divided from the court by another. By both the people were admonished how reverently God’s majesty must be regarded, and with what seriousness holy things are to be engaged in, so that they might not approach God’s presence without fear, nor boldly break in upon the mysteries of things sacred. But by the vail the obscurity of the shadows of the Law was principally denoted, that the Israelites might know that the time of full revelation had not yet come, but that the spiritual worship of God was as yet enshrouded in a vail; and thus might extend their faith to their promised Messiah, at whose coming the truth would be discovered and laid bare. Wherefore, when Christ rose again from the dead, “the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom,” (<402751>Matthew 27:51;) and an end was put to the ceremonies of the Law, because God then presented Himself in His living and express image, and the perfect reality of all the ceremonies was manifested. Now, therefore, in the light of the gospel, we behold “face to face,” what was then shewn afar off to the ancient people under coverings. (<470314>2 Corinthians 3:14.) Yet, although there is now no vail to prevent us from openly and familiarly looking upon Christ, let us learn from this figure that the manifestation of God in the flesh is a hidden and incomprehensible mystery. (<540316>1 Timothy 3:16.) It is not without reason that Christ Himself compares His body to the temple, because the fullness of the Godhead dwells in it. (<430219>John 2:19.) Let us then know assuredly that the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father, (<431721>John 17:21;) but if it be asked in what manner, this is ineffable, except that the eternal Son of God, who, before the creation of the world, possessed the same glory with the Father, (<431705>John 17:5,) that even He is now man, that “He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (<450829>Romans 8:29.)

Exodus 27

Go To Exodus 27: 1-8

1. And thou shalt make an altar. The altar of whole burnt-offerings (holocaustorum) is here described, which, however, it was called by synecdoche, for not only entire victims were burnt there, but also parts of them only, as we shall see in Leviticus. The burnt-offerings received their name from their ascending, f147 whereby the Israelites were reminded that they had need to be purified, that they might ascend to God; and at the same time were instructed that whatever corruption there might be in the flesh did not prevent the sacrifices from being acceptable and of a sweet savor to God. It is clear that from the first beginning of the human race there were burnt-sacrifices, suggested by the secret inspiration of God’s Spirit, since there was no written Law; nor can we doubt but that by this symbol they were taught that the flesh must be burnt by the Spirit, in order that men may duly offer themselves to God; and thus they acknowledged, under this type, that the flesh of Christ must receive this from the divine power, so as to become a perfect victim for the propitiation of God; thus, as the Apostle testifies, he offered himself through the Spirit. (<580914>Hebrews 9:14.) But fuller mention of this subject will be made elsewhere. The altar was so constructed that the sacrifices might be cast upon a grate placed within it, and thus they were covered by its external surface. The ashes were received into a pan, so that they should not fall about upon the ground and be trodden under foot, but that reverence might be inculcated even towards the very remnants of their holy things. f148 That the victims were bound to the four horns, which stood out from the four corners, is plain from the words of <19B827>Psalm 118:27, “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.” And this also is the beginning of a proper offering of spiritual sacrifices, that all the lusts of the flesh should be subdued, and held captive as it were unto the obedience of God. Wherefore even Christ, although in Him there was nothing which was not duly regulated, was nevertheless bound, in order to prove His obedience; as He had said, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (<402639>Matthew 26:39.) The altar was carried on staves, to obviate the necessity of having more than one; else there would have been danger of their being compelled, by the very difficulty of carrying it, to leave it behind after it was made, if they were setting about a long journey; and this would have been the seed or ground of superstition, whilst no other could be built which was not spurious.

Exodus 27

Go To Exodus 27: 9-19

9. And thou shalt make the court. There were two courts divided from the sanctuary, one for the priests, the other common to the whole people. To the first chambers were annexed, in which the Levites dwelt, who were the keepers of the tabernacle; and thus sometimes the courts are spoken of in the plural number, and especially in the Psalms, (<196404>Psalm 64:4; 84:2; 92:13; 96:8.) It is the court of the people which is here referred to, where they consecrated the victims, offered their prayers, and were reconciled to God. In this manner the condition of mankind was shewn to the Israelites, by their being forbidden to enter the Temple, whilst at the same time they were reminded that men, although unworthy outcasts, are received by God, if only they seek Him simply, and with due humility, mindful of their own unworthiness. Hence the consolation in which David gloried, f149 “I had rather dwell in the courts of the Lord, than in the splendid tents of the ungodly.” The court was formed by four curtains, two of which, on the north and south sides, were 100 cubits long, and supported by 20 pillars, whose bases were of brass, and their capitals f150 and fillets of silver; on the east and west, each curtain was 50 cubits long, supported by 10 pillars. The length spoken of is not from the ground upwards, but from their opposite corners: for the court was twice as long as it was broad, as is said in ver. 18. There would be an appearance of contradiction in the fact that Moses afterwards speaks of two sides, and assigns fifteen cubits to each, if he did not immediately go on to mention the hanging or curtain, which covered the gate of the court, and which he sets at twenty cubits. Thus the measure will be correct, and the passage will be quite accordant; for, after he has said in ver. 13 that the curtain on the east side should consist of fifty cubits, he adds in explanation that there were two curtains at the sides of the door, and a third between them to cover the door, making up in all the fifty cubits. But the door was covered by the hanging, that the Israelites might reflect in themselves, whenever they went into the sanctuary, that it was no profane or common (promiscuum) place; but if they came thither in purity and chastity, they might be assuredly persuaded that they were safe under the protection of God. Finally also the majesty of holy things was shewn them in this type, in order that they might reverently approach the worship of God; and they were reminded of their own unworthiness, that they might humble themselves the more before God, and that fear might beget penitence, whilst moderation in the desire of knowledge was recommended to them, that they might not be unduly inquisitive. The religion of the Gentiles also had its secret shrines with the same object, but for very different causes; for it was a brutal religion, for which veneration was sought by darkness, and the disguise of ignorance; whereas God, whilst He retained His people in modesty and simplicity, at the same time set before them the Law, from which they might learn whatever it was right and useful for them to know.

Exodus 29

<022936>Exodus 29:36, 37

36. And thou shalt offer every day a bullock for a sin-offering for atonement: and thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it, and thou shalt anoint it, to sanctify it.

36. Juvencum pro peccato facies in singulos dies pro expiationibus: et expiabis altare expiando ipsum, ungesque illud ad ipsum sanctificandum.

37. Seven days thou shalt make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it; and it shall be an altar most holy: whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy.

37. Septem diebus expiabis altare et sanctificabis illud: eritque sanctitas sanctitatum: quicquid tetigerit altare, sanctificabitur.


36. And thou shalt offer every day a bullock. Since the ancient altar was no less a type of Christ than the priest was, it may naturally be asked, what its expiation could mean, as if there were anything impure or polluted in Christ. But we must remember, what I before adverted to, that no similitude is identical (with the reality); for then the substance and reality of the shadows could not be represented in their perfection. Yet this was an apt similitude, shewing that God could only be propitiated towards the human race by an expiation made with blood. On this account not only was the altar to be cleansed, but; also dedicated to its use, that reconciliation might proceed from it; and this is expressed by the word “sanctify,” especially when it is added, “it shall be the holiness of holinesses,” f151 that it may sanctify whatever is put upon it. Others read it in the masculine gender: “Whosoever shall touch it, shall be holy;” and understand it of the priest, who by right of his anointing might approach the altar; but; it rather dignifies the consecration of the altar by its consequence, viz., because it sanctifies the victims themselves. The sum is that the body of Christ, inasmuch as it was offered as a sacrifice, and consecrated with blood, was acceptable to God; so that its holiness washes away and blots out all our uncleanness. We shall speak of the anointing a little further on.

Exodus 30

Exodus 30: 1-10

1. And thou shalt make an altar. God now issues His commands respecting the altar of burnt incense, whereby the people were assured that the odor of the worship under the Law was sweet to Him. This ceremony indeed also prevailed among the Gentiles; whence there is frequent mention made by heathen authors of incense-burning; but what its object was they knew not themselves, nor did they care to reflect upon its proper intention, since they conceived themselves to have done all that was required of them, by the bare sign itself. In this way, however, God would encourage His believing people, by giving them to know that the worship which they offered at this command sent up to him a sweet savor. Meanwhile He admonished them diligently to beware lest any uncleanness should profane their sacrifices, but that they should come cleansed and pure into His sight. And David applies this type specially to prayer, when he says:

“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense.”
(<19D102>Psalm 131:2.)

Therefore, as the other altar of which we have been hearing, was devoted to the victims for the purpose of propitiating God, so also this altar perfumed the sacrifices with the odor of its incense, that they might be acceptable to God. Hence it was placed near the ark of the testimony, though with the vail between, that its savor might ascend directly to God without any let or hindrance. There is no ambiguity in the words, except that some think there is a repetition where it is said, “every morning,” and “between the two evens;” f152 others suppose that there are two separate oblations, and this latter view is the more probable, i.e., that the incense was offered morning and evening. He afterwards forbids either the altar itself to be transferred to other uses, or any other kind of incense to be burnt upon it; of this he will speak elsewhere.

10. And Aaron shall make an atonement. We should observe here the correspondence between the two altars; for, as the Israelites were admonished that the sacrifices would not please God, unless all uncleanness were wiped away by pure and holy prayers, so also the altar of incense was purified by the sprinkling of blood, that they might learn that their prayers obtained acceptance through sacrifices. Although this was only done once a year, yet it was daily to be called to mind, in order that they might offer the death of Christ by faith and prayer, f153 and yet might know that their prayers had no sweet savor, unless in so far as they were sprinkled with the blood of atonement.

Go To Exodus 30: 34-38

34. Take unto thee sweet spices. This oblation might have been noticed with the others, yet, since it merely describes the composition of the incense, which is connected with the altar of incense, and in fact is but an appendage to it, I have seen no reason why I should separate them. Let the curious subtilely discuss, if they please, the ingredients themselves; it is enough for me that they were chosen at God’s will to make a very sweet smell. For I know not whether it is likely, as some suppose, that galbanum f154 is of a strong and disagreeable savor, and, since they only offer this conjecture in an unknown matter, they deserve little credit. My conviction is that it was sweet, which the words of Moses himself a little further on confirm, where he denounces the penalty of death upon those who should use such perfume for their private gratification; for this prohibition would have been absurd, unless its odor had been very agreeable. Besides, the analogy between the sign and the thing signified would not have held good, unless its sweet savor had testified that God is greatly pleased with the prayers of His people. Moreover, in order that the sacred symbol might be the more reverenced, it was not allowable to transfer this mixture to private use; for since men are rude and earthly-minded, there is nothing they are more prone to than to mix up heavenly things with those of earth. Therefore, to elevate their minds the more, it was necessary that the incense, in which there was a special holiness due to God alone, should be set apart from common use.

Go To Exodus 30: 17-21

18. Thou shalt also make a laver of brass. Although this oblation was a sign of the purity which God required in His priests, yet, inasmuch as this hollow vessel (concha) or laver, which supplied the water, was a part or utensil of the sanctuary, I have thought it best to insert here what is ordained respecting it, not only as to its fashion, but also its use, which could not be well separated: for if bare mention had only been made of a laver or water-vessel, f155 the reader would have received no profit from it. But, when God expressly commands that water should always be ready in this basin for the priests to wash their hands and feet, we gather from hence with what reverence and sanctity God would have His holy service performed. It was, indeed, a common proverb among the Gentiles that they were guilty of impiety who handled holy things with unwashen hands, and they testified in this ceremony that they could not worship God aright except when purified from all pollution and uncleanness. One in Virgil says: —

“——— donec me flumine vivo Abluero.” f156

“Till in some living stream I cleanse the guilt
Of dire debate and blood in battle spilt.” — Dryden.

And such expressions are of constant occurrence. Sometimes they even seemed almost to hit the right point; as where the poet commands the ungodly and the criminal to depart from the sacrifices, lest they should contaminate them; f157 but this was only a fleeting imagination, since no anxiety to repent had awakened in them a desire to propitiate God; and so, even whilst they were diligent in performing ablutions, their minds, darkened with error, knew not what it meant. But the Israelites were thus chiefly reminded how unworthy they were to offer sacrifices to God, since the impurity of the very priests, who were chosen to this once, prevented them from exercising it, until they were cleansed with water. The washing of the hands and feet denoted that all parts of the body were infected with uncleanness; for, since Scripture often uses the word “hands” for the actions of life, and compares the whole course of life to a way or journey, it is very suitable to say by synecdoche that all impurity is purged away by the washing of the hands and feet. The comparison with Christ now remains to be considered; but this we shall understand better a little beyond in reference to the sacrifices.

The Priesthood

Exodus 28

Go To Exodus 28: 1-43

We now arrive at the second part of the Legal Worship, i.e., the Priesthood; for we must bear in mind what I have said, that there are three things to be considered, —

1. The Tabernacle;

2. The Priestly Office; and

3. The Sacrifices.

And indeed all the splendor of the tabernacle, of which we have been speaking, would have been an empty parade without the priest, who so mediated as an intercessor, that he reconciled men to God, and in a manner united heaven to earth. Now it is unquestionable, that the Levitical priests were the representatives of Christ; since, with respect to their office, they were even better than the very angels; which would be by no means reasonable, unless they had been the type of Him, who is Himself the head of the angels. The heathen nations, it is true, had their priests, who presided over their religious services, but they were but empty phantoms; for there was no mention with them of the Mediator, so that the people might know that God cannot be duly appeased, and that our prayers cannot be heard by Him, unless a peace-maker interfere between us. But the nature of the Levitical priesthood was widely different; for the Israelites were instructed that all of them were unworthy to stand before God, and so that there was need of an Intercessor to propitiate Him. Now, since the general rule had been laid down, that all things should be rigidly referred to the pattern which had been shewn to Moses in the mount, their minds were necessarily drawn upwards; and this too they might easily have arrived at, for various reasons. The whole body of the people saw a man like themselves, who could not enter the sanctuary trusting in his own innocence, and whose dignity was conferred upon him by adventitious rites; i.e., by anointing, and by investiture. The full truth, therefore, did not shine forth in this, but only a figure to direct them to the truth; and of this they were doubtless admonished, lest they should rest in earthly things. Besides, its interpretation was added (by the prophets f158); because, as the Apostle wisely teaches us in the Epistle to <580718>Hebrews 7:18, the promise to appoint hereafter a priest after the order of Melchisedec would not hold good, unless it were applied to Christ; for it is plain that the Levitical priesthood is there brought into comparison by contrast with one of a different nature; and since the latter is eternal, it follows that the former is temporary; and, whilst the one is sanctioned by an oath, it clearly is superior to the other. There is no doubt, then, but that David, as a faithful interpreter of the Law, more manifestly shewed forth what there was obscurely shadowed.

Thus far my wish has been to teach that the Levitical priest was ordained, that he might be a type of the true Mediator. It will now be worth our while briefly to advert to the marks by which our perpetual and only Priest, the Son of God, is to be distinguished from those of old; for a fuller exposition will follow hereafter in its proper place. The first distinction I have already pointed out, viz., that the type was temporary; since perpetuity is only to be sought in the reality itself: whence we learn that the priestly office was not so instituted by Moses to last for ever, but to direct the people to a better hope. But what I have said as to the office, must be transferred also to the persons. There was only one high priest under the Law, who was afterwards succeeded by one of his race, since they were all mortal. None, then, was ever such a priest as became us, except Christ; because none other could be perpetual; and hence we arrive at the second distinction. The third arises from Christ’s divinity, which is proved by the fact, that the priest after the order of Melchisedec has no beginning; for we find nowhere the origin of Melchisedec; but he is only brought forward once and unexpectedly, as if be had come down from heaven. The fourth is the combination of the kingdom and the priesthood. Under the Law God would have some to be kings, and others to be priests; nor was it allowable to mix up the one office with the other; but He, of whom it is said that He should be a priest like Melchisedec, is honored with the title of king. The fifth is, that the legal priest only appeared before God in the visible and sanctuary, but Christ entered into heaven, to present us to His Father, not in the external symbols of (precious) stones, f159 but in the reality itself; for in Him as our Head we are all gathered together unto God. The sixth lies in the perfect righteousness of Christ; for the legal priest, since he was one of us sinners, had need to seek pardon for himself; but Christ, being free from all guilt, awakens favor towards us by His own purity. The seventh is, that the priest borrowed from external figures what was truly and really shewn forth in Christ. The sacred garments, as we have lately said, denoted something more than human; the anointing, too, was a symbol of the Spirit which dwells in Christ; and He therefore was not consecrated with visible and corruptible oil, but with the fullness of all gifts. The priest of old abstained from intercourse with his wife when he went into the sanctuary; he was only allowed to marry a virgin; the perfect and spiritual purity of Christ was contented with its own perfection. The last distinction consisted in the sacrifices themselves, respecting which I abstain at present from speaking more fully, because they will have their proper place hereafter. This only we must now recollect, that Christ expiated the sins of the world, not with the blood of beasts, but with His own blood. Now we turn to the words of Moses.

1. And take thou unto thee Aaron. The calling of God is here alleged to prove the importance and dignity of the priesthood, and this too the Apostle has well weighed in the words:

“And no man taketh the honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (<580504>Hebrews 5:4.)

Among heathen nations the priests were appointed by popular election, so that ambition alone governed their appointment; but God would only have those accounted lawful priests whom He had selected at His own sole will; and surely the whole human race together had no power to obtrude any one on God, who should interpose himself to obtain pardon and peace; nay, not even Christ Himself would have been sufficient to propitiate God, unless He had undertaken the office by the decree and appointment of His Father. To which refers the famous oath, whereby His heavenly Father appointed Him to be priest; and so much the more vile and detestable was the sacrilege which afterwards prevailed in the Jewish nation, viz., that the successors of Aaron bought the priesthood! This unworthy traffic of the office, which Josephus relates, ought to awaken horror in us now, when we see that sacred honor profaned by the family which had been chosen by God to represent Christ. Nevertheless, however they may have violated all law and justice, still the counsel of God remained inviolable, that believers might know that the priesthood depended on His authority, just as reconciliation flows from His mere mercy. For in order that it should be lawful for men to establish a priest, it would be necessary that they should anticipate God by their own deservings; and from this they are very far distant. The case is different as to the election of the pastors of the Church; since, after Christ had instituted the order itself, He commanded that there should be chosen out of the Church those who by their doctrine and integrity of life were fitted to exercise the office. Still He does not thus resign His own right and power to men, for He does not cease through them to call those (by whom He would be served. f160) Wherefore, to shew that He is the sole author of the priesthood, God commands Aaron and his sons to be separated from among the others; and the performance of this He entrusts to Moses, whom, however, He does not elevate to the like honor. Moses consecrates Aaron, although he was never himself dedicated by anointing and investiture to the service of God; f161 whence we perceive that the sacraments have their power and effect not from the virtue of the minister, but only from the commandment of God; for Moses would not have given to others what he had not himself, if it had not so pleased God.

2. And thou shalt make holy garments. These external ornaments denoted the want of those which are true and spiritual; for if the priest had been absolutely and entirely perfect, these typical accessories would have been superfluous. But God would shew by this symbol the more than angelical brightness of all virtues which was to be exhibited in Christ. Aaron was defiled by his own corruption, and therefore unworthy to appear in the presence of God; in order, then, that he might be a fit peacemaker between God and man, he put off his ordinary garments, and stood forth as a new man. Hence the holy garments were, first of all, supposed to conceal his faults; and, secondly, to represent the incomparable adornment of all virtues. The latter may indeed be in some measure applied to the pastors of the Church; nor will the comparison be absurd, if we say that no others are worthy of so excellent an honor, except those in whom surpassing and extraordinary virtue brightly manifests itself. But we must chiefly recollect what I have said, viz., that in these garments the supreme purity and wondrous glory of Christ were represented; as if God should promise that the Mediator would be far more august than the condition of man could produce. He therefore declares that they shall be “for glory and for beauty.” We shall speak more fully hereafter, what I will touch upon now, as to the wisdom of the artificers, viz., that all who from the foundation of the world have invented arts useful to the human race, have been imbued with the Spirit of God; so that even heathen authors have been compelled to call them the inventions of the gods. But inasmuch as in this Divine work there was need of rare and unwonted skill, it is expressly spoken of as a peculiar gift of the Spirit.

4. And these are the garments. Here again I must remind my readers, that they should abandon all subtle speculations, and be contented with simplicity. I might repeat many plausible allegories, which perhaps would find more favor with some than a sound knowledge of facts. If any should delight in this kind of child’s play, let him only read what Jerome wrote to Fabiola; in which he collected almost everything that he possibly could from the writings of others; but nothing will be found except dull trifling, the folly of which it is painful even to report, much more to refute. Those who are conversant with my writings, are aware that I do not willingly find fault with the opinions of others; but when I reflect how dangerous are those itching ears, with which many are troubled, I am obliged to prescribe this remedy. Six principal parts of the dress are enumerated. What the Greeks call the logei~on, and the Latins the pectorale, was like a square breastplate attached by small chains, so as to be connected with the ephod. Inclosed in it were twelve stones to represent the tribes of Israel; and the Urim and Thummim were also annexed to it. But what its form might be, cannot be certainly declared from the words of Moses; and since even the Jews also differ among themselves, let us be satisfied with its comparison to a breastplate. I have no objection to the opinion, that its name f162 was derived from strength, or a treasure. But this is worthy of the utmost attention, that the priest bore the sons of Abraham as it were upon his heart, not only that he might present them to God, but that he might be mindful of them, and anxious for their welfare. The twelve precious stones were by no means given to be symbols of the twelve tribes as a cause for awakening their pride, as if they were so highly esteemed on the score of their own dignity or excellence; but they were thus reminded that the whole value, in which believers are held by God, is derived from the sanctity of the priesthood. Therefore, let us learn from this figure, that:, however vile and abject we may be in ourselves, and so altogether worthless refuse, yet inasmuch as Christ deigned to ingraft us into this body, in Him we are precious stones. And to this Isaiah seems to allude in the passage before cited, where, speaking of the restoration of the Church, which was to take place under the reign of Christ, he says, “Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires; and I will make thy windows with carbuncles, and all thy borders with pleasant stones;” for immediately after the exposition follows, “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” (<235411>Isaiah 54:11-13.) Therefore what was to be fulfilled in Christ, was typified by the external sign under the Law; viz., that though we sojourn in the world, yet are we united with Christ by faith, as if we were one with Him; and, besides, that He takes care for our welfare, as if He bore us enclosed in His heart; and, finally, that when our heavenly Father regards us in Him, He esteems us above all the wealth and splendor of the world.

As to the Urim and Thummim, it appears probable to me that they were two conspicuous marks on the breastplate, corresponding to these names; for the supposition of some of the Jews, f163 that the ineffable name of God was placed beneath its texture, is not free from foolish and dangerous superstition. I pass over other fancies, which are equally frivolous; nor am I anxious to know what was the form of either of them; the fact itself is sufficient for me. By the Urim, therefore, or splendors, I doubt not but that the light of doctrine, wherewith the true Priest illuminates all believers, was represented; first, because He is the one “light of the world,” without which all things are full of darkness; and because in Him “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (<430812>John 8:12; 9:5; <510203>Colossians 2:3.) Hence did Paul justly glory that he knew nothing but Jesus Christ, (<460202>1 Corinthians 2:2,) since His priesthood sufficiently and more than sufficiently enlightens us. As then the people were admonished that their eyes should be directed to the splendor of the priest, so now we must diligently remember what Christ Himself teaches, that “he that followeth him shall not walk in darkness.” (<430812>John 8:12.) On the other hand, the Thummim, which signifies perfections, was a symbol of the perfect and entire purity which is only to be sought in Christ; for He would not have been a meet high priest unless He had been perfect, free from every spot, and deficient in nothing which is required unto complete holiness. It is not, then, an improper distinction, that the Urim refers to the light of doctrine, and the Thummim to the life; and this is indeed in some measure applicable to the pastors of the Church, who ought to shine both in sound doctrine and in integrity of life. But it was God’s design to shew that neither of these things is to be sought anywhere except in Christ; since from Him we obtain both light and purity, when He deigns to make us partakers of them according to the measure of His free bounty. Whence it follows, that they who seek for the least spark of light or drop of purity out of Christ, plunge themselves into a labyrinth, where they wander in mortal darkness, and inhale the deadly fumes of false virtues unto their own destruction.

What the Scripture sometimes relates, as to the inquiries made by Urim and Thummim, it was a concession made by God to the rudeness of His ancient people. The true Priest had not yet appeared, the Angel of His Almighty counsel, by whose Spirit all the Prophets spoke, who, finally, is the fountain of all revelations, and the express image of the Father; in order then that the typical priest might be the messenger from God to man, it behooved him to be invested with the ornaments of Christ. Thus even then believers were taught in a figure, that Christ is the way by which we come to the Father, and that He also brings from the secret bosom of His Father whatever it is profitable for us to know unto salvation, hence that fiction of the Jews is contradicted, that the responses were given in this way: if a question was asked respecting a particular tribe, that the stone which represented it was lighted up; and that the colors of the stones were changed according as God refused or assented. For even if we allow that the Urim and Thummim were the rows of precious stones themselves, still this imagination is altogether unmeaning. But, as I have said, by the very form of the breastplate God would testify that the fulness of wisdom and integrity was contained in it; for which reason it is called “the breastplate of judgment,” i.e., of the most perfect rectitude, which left nothing to be desired; for the word fpm mishphot, often signifies in Scripture whatsoever is well and duly ordered. The interpretation which some give, that “judgment” means “inquiry,” because the priest only asked for responses when he had the breastplate on, is too restricted, and is even proved to be erroneous by sundry passages. Let this then be deemed settled, that this honorable appellation is meant to express a correct and infallible rule (ordinem.) Because the breastplate was, as it were, a part of the ephod, it is therefore sometimes comprehended in that word; in which it may be well also to observe, that this peculiar ephod of the high priest’s was different from the others, of which mention is made elsewhere; for all of the sacerdotal lineage wore an ephod in the performance of religious duties. (<091403>1 Samuel 14:3; 23:6.) Even David, when he danced before the Ark, wore his ephod, (<100614>2 Samuel 6:14;) and this custom is still retained by the Jews at their chief festivals. The rest I will introduce presently in their proper places.

9. And thou shalt take two onyx-stones. That the connection between the priest and the people might be made more plain, God not only placed on his breast the memorials of the twelve tribes, but also engraved their names on his shoulders. Thus all occasion of envy was removed, since the people would understand that this one man was not separated from the others for the sake of private advantage, but that in his one person they were all a kingdom of priests, which Peter teaches to have been at length really fulfilled in Christ, (<600205>1 Peter 2:5;) as Isaiah had foretold that there should be priests of God, and Levites brought from the Gentiles, (<236621>Isaiah 66:21;) to which John makes allusion in the Apocalypse, where he says that we are all priests in Christ, (<660106>Revelation 1:6.) But we must remember the reason why our High Priest is said to bear us on His shoulders, for we not only crawl on earth, but we are plunged in the lowest depths of death; how then should we be able to ascend to heaven, unless the Son of God should raise us up with Him; Now, since there is no ability in us unto eternal life, but all our powers of mind and body lie prostrate, we must be borne up by His strength alone. Hence then arises our confidence of ascending to heaven, because Christ raises us up with Him; as Paul says, we “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (<490206>Ephesians 2:6;) however weak then we may be in ourselves, herein is all our strength, that we are His burden. Therefore in this old type was prefigured what Paul teaches, that the Church is “his body,” and “the fullness of him,” (<490122>Ephesians 1:22.) It remains that each of us, conscious of our own weakness, should rest on Christ; for when in foolish arrogance we exalt ourselves, we do not suffer ourselves to be lifted up by Him, to be borne and sustained by His power. Let the proud then, by lifting themselves on high, fall down in ruin, whilst Christ supports us upon His shoulders. These stones are called “stones of memorial;” and again, “for a memorial” to the children of Israel; as is also afterwards repeated of the twelve stones; which some expound, that “God may be mindful of the children of Israel;” others, that “the priest himself may remember them;” others, that “the children of Israel may remember that God is reconciled to them for the sake of the one Mediator;” but I simply interpret it, that they were a monument of the mutual agreement between God and them; as if God would shew by a visible sign that He embraced them and received them into His sanctuary, as often as they were offered in this manner.

30. And thou shalt put in the breastplate. From these words some infer that the Urim and Thummim were distinct from the whole work, which is before described; others think that they were the twelve stones, because no mention will be made of them when Moses relates that the whole was completed. But nothing is more probable, as I have already said, than that on the breastplate itself some representation was given of light in doctrine, and of entire uprightness of life; and therefore after Moses has called it “the breastplate of judgment,” he also speaks of it as “the judgment of the children of Israel;” by which expression he means a certain and defined system, or an absolutely perfect rule, to which the children of Israel ought to direct and conform themselves.

31. And thou shalt make the robe. This robe was above the oblong coat between that and the ephod; and from its lower edge hung the bells and pomegranates alternately. Although there was no smell in the pomegranates, f164 yet the type suggested this to the eyes; as if God required in that garment a sweet smell as well as a sound; and surely we who stink through the foulness of our sins, are only a sweet smell unto God as being covered with the garment of Christ. But God would have the bells give a sound; because the garment of Christ does not procure favor for us, except by the sound of the Gospel, which diffuses the sweet savor of the Head amongst all the members. In this allegory there is nothing too subtle or far-fetched; for the similitude of the smell and the sound naturally leads us to the honoring of grace, f165 and to the preaching of the Gospel. By the pomegranates, therefore, which were attached to the hem of the garment, God testified that whatever was in the priest smelt sweetly, and was acceptable to Him, provided the sound accompanied it; the necessity of which is declared, when God denounces death against the priest if He should enter the sanctuary without the sound. And assuredly it was a general invitation which awakened the peoples’ minds to attention, whilst the sacred offices were performed. There is no absurdity in the fact, that the punishment which God threatens does not properly apply to Christ; because it was necessary to issue severe injunctions to the Levitical priests, lest they should omit these external exercises of piety, until the truth was manifested. The ancients do not unwisely make a spiritual application of this to the ministers of the Church; for the priest is worthy of death, says Gregory, f166 from whom the voice of preaching is not heard; just as Isaiah reproves “the dumb dogs.” (<235610>Isaiah 56:10.) But this we must especially remember, that the garment of Christ is sonorous, since only faith, which cometh by hearing, clothes us with His righteousness.

36. And thou shalt make a plate. It is not without reason that this inscription is placed upon the priest’s forehead, that it may be conspicuous; for not only did God thus testify that the legal priesthood was approved of, and acceptable to Him, since He had consecrated it by His word, but also that holiness was not to be sought elsewhere. These two things, then, are to be observed, — first, that the priesthood of His own appointment is pleasing to God, and so, that all others, however magnificently they may be spoken of, are abominable to Him, and rejected by Him; and secondly, that out of Christ we are all corrupt, and all our worship faulty; and however excellent our actions may seem, that they are still unclean and polluted. Thus, therefore, let all our senses remain fixed on the forehead of our sole and perpetual Priest, that we may know that from Him alone purity flows throughout the whole Church. To this His words refer,

“For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (<431719>John 17:19;)

and the same thing is expressed in this passage of Moses, “that Aaron may hear the iniquity of the holy things,” etc. It is undoubtedly a remarkable passage, whereby, we are taught that nothing proceeds from us pleasing to God except through the intervention of the grace of the Mediator; for here there is no reference to manifest and gross sins, f167 the pardon of which it is clear that we can only obtain through Christ; but the iniquity of the holy oblations was to be taken away and cleansed by the priest. That is but a poor exposition of it, that if any error were committed in the ceremonies, it was remitted in answer to the prayers of the priest; for we must look further, and understand that on this account the iniquity of the offerings must be purged by the priest, because no offering, in so far as it is of man, is altogether free from guilt. This is a harsh saying, and almost a paradox, that our very holinesses are so impure as to need pardon; but it must be borne in mind that nothing is so pure as not to contract some stain from us; just as water, which, although it may be drawn in purity from a limpid fountain, yet, if it passes over muddy ground, is tinged by it, and becomes somewhat turbid: thus nothing is so pure in itself as not to be polluted by the contagion of our flesh. Nothing is more excellent than the service of God; and yet the people could offer nothing, even although prescribed by the Law, except with the intervention of pardon, which none but the priest could obtain for them. There is now no sacrifice, nor was there ever, more pleasing to God than the invocation of His name, as He himself declares,

“Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me,” (<190101>Psalm 1:15;)

yet the Apostle teaches us that “the sacrifice of praise” only pleases God when it is offered in Christ. (<581315>Hebrews 13:15.) Let us learn, then, that our acts of obedience, when they come into God’s sight, are mingled with iniquity, which exposes us to His judgment, unless Christ should sanctify them. In sum, this passage teaches us that whatsoever good works we strive to present to God are so far from deserving reward, that they rather convict us of guilt, unless the holiness of Christ, whereby God is propitiated, obtains pardon for them. And this is again asserted immediately afterwards, where Moses says that by favor of the priest the sins of the sacred oblations are taken away f168 “for favorable acceptation,” i.e., that the Israelites may be sure that God is reconciled and favorable to them. I have nothing to say of the tiara itself, which some call a mitre, (cidarim,) and others a cap; neither do I choose to philosophize too subtilely about the belt or girdle. f169

40. And for Aaron’s sons. The sons of Aaron also are separated not only from the body of the people, but likewise from the Levites; for a peculiar dignity was attached to that family, from whom his successor was afterwards to be taken. f170 And since no single individual was able to perform all their offices, they were distributed amongst them. Hence it was that they were adorned with the coat, the girdle, and the bonnet, “for glory and for beauty.” We shall see as to their anointing in the next chapter. Their hands are said be filled, f171 when they are made fit for offering sacrifices, for as long as their hands are unconsecrated (profanae) they are accounted empty, even though they may be very full, since no gift is acceptable to God except in right of the priesthood; consequently their fullness arose from consecration, whereby it came that the oblations duly made had access to God. But we must observe that it is not their father Aaron, but Moses, who sanctifies them, that the power itself, or effect of their sanctification, may rest in God, and may not be transferred to His ministers. Perhaps, too, God would anticipate the calumnies of the ungodly, lest any should afterwards object that Aaron had fraudulently and unjustly extended the honor conferred upon himself alone to his sons also, and thus had unlawfully made it hereditary. He was protected against this reproach by the fact, that the sacerdotal dignity came to them from elsewhere. Besides, by these means the posterity of Moses was more certainly deprived of the hope they may have conceived in consideration of what their father was. Therefore Moses, by inaugurating the children of Aaron, reduced his own to their proper place, lest ally ambition should hereafter tempt them, or lest envy should possess them when they saw themselves put below others.

42. And thou shalt make them linen breeches. Since men, in their natural levity and frowardness, lay hold of the very slightest causes of offense to the disparagement of holy things, and so religion easily sinks into contempt, God here, as a precaution against such a danger, delivers a precept respecting an apparently trivial matter, viz., that the priests should cover their nakedness with breeches. The sum is, that they should conduct themselves chastely and modestly, lest, if anything improper or indecorous should appear in them, the majesty of holy things should be impaired. Some, therefore, thus explain the clause, “that they may minister in holiness,” f172 as if it were said, “that they may be pure from every stain, and may not desecrate God’s service.” In my opinion, however, the word dwq kodesh, should be taken for the sanctuary; and this is the more natural sense. A threat is added, that if they neglected this observance it would not be with impunity, since they would bring guilt upon themselves. Nor can we wonder at this, since all carelessness and negligence in the performance of sacred duties is closely connected with impiety and contempt of God. What immediately follows as to its being a perpetual law or statute, some, in my judgment improperly, restrict to the precept respecting the breeches, for it has a natural reference to the other ordinances of the priesthood. God therefore declares generally, that the Law which He gives is not for a little time, but that it may always remain in force as regards His elect people; whence we infer that the word lw[ gnolam f173 whenever the legal types are in question, attains its end in the advent of Christ; and assuredly this is the true perpetuity of the ceremonies, that they should rest in Christ, who is their full truth and substance. For, since in Christ was at length manifested what was then delineated in shadows, these figures are established, because their use has ceased after the manifestation of their reality. And this we have already seen was long ago foretold by David, when he substitutes for the Levitical priesthood another “after the order of Melchisedec,” (<19B004>Psalm 110:4;) but the dignity being transferred, as the Apostle well reminds us, the Law and all the statutes must be of necessity transferred also. (<580712>Hebrews 7:12.) The ancient rites, therefore, are now at an end, because they do not accord with the spiritual priesthood of Christ; and herein the twofold sacrilege of the Papacy betrays itself, in that mortal men have dared to substitute another third priesthood for that of Christ, as if His were transitory; and also, in their foolish imitation of the Jews, have heaped together ceremonies which are directly opposed to the nature of Christ’s priesthood. They reply, indeed, that His priesthood remains entire, although they have innumerable sacrifices; but they vainly endeavor to escape by this subterfuge, for if it was unlawful to change, or to innovate anything in the legal priesthood, how much less is it lawful to corrupt the priesthood of Christ by strange inventions, when its integrity has been ratified by the inviolable oath of God? The Father says to the Son, “Thou art a priest for ever;” how, then, does it avail to make the silly assertion that nothing is taken away from Christ, when an innumerable multitude (of priests) are appointed? How do these things accord, that He was anointed to offer Himself by the Spirit, and yet that He is offered by others? that by one offering He completed His work unto our full justification, and yet that He is offered daily? Now, if there be now-a-days no lawful priest except such an one as possesses in himself what was foreshewn in the ancient types, let them bring forth priests adorned with angelic purity, and as it were separate from the ranks of men, otherwise we shall be at liberty to repudiate all who are defiled by the very slightest stain. Hence, too, has arisen their second sacrilege, viz., that they have dared to obscure the brightness of the gospel with a new Judaism. They were altogether without the means of proving their priesthood, and so their easiest plan was to envelop their vanity in an immense mass of ceremonies, and, as it were, to shut out the light by clouds. So much the more diligently, then, must believers beware of departing from the pure institution of Christ, if they desire to have Him for their one and eternal Mediator.

Exodus 29

Go To Exodus 29: 1-35

1. And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them. Since I shall again repeat and more fully explain these things as they are written in Leviticus 9, in the history of the consecration of the tabernacle, it will be sufficient to give nothing more than a brief summary of them here; nor is it my custom to invent mysteries out of vague speculations, f174 such as may rather gratify than instruct my readers. First, since the whole human race is corrupt and infected with many impurities, so that his uncleanness prevents every single individual from having access to God, Moses, before he consecrates the priests, washes them by the sprinkling of water, in order that they may be no longer deemed to be of ordinary rank. Hence we gather that true purity and innocence, which was but typical in the Law, is found in Christ alone. “For such an high priest became us,” says the Apostle, “who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” to present Himself before God for us. (<580726>Hebrews 7:26.) After they had been washed, God commands that they should be invested with the sacerdotal dress, according to their respective ranks: that the high priest should wear the ephod with the Urim and Thummim, and the mitre with the golden plate, on which shone forth “holiness to Jehovah;” and in the third place, He adds the anointing. This preparation was for the purpose of initiating them, before they performed the office of sacrificing; but it must be observed that, as to this first sacrifice, the duties which were afterwards transferred to Aaron were imposed upon Moses, as if he were the only priest; and, in point of fact, the temporal dignity which he afterwards resigned to his brother, was still in his own hands. What Moses introduces about the division of the victim, we shall more conveniently explain elsewhere, in treating of the offerings, which we have stated to be the third part of the legal worship.

16. And thou shalt slay the ram. Moses had previously been commanded to take the parts of the victim from the hands of Aaron, to propitiate God with them, in order that he and his posterity might be able hereafter to perform the same office; but here a peculiar ceremony is described, that he should smear the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the toe of the right foot, both of Aaron and his sons, with the blood of a ram; and then that he should sprinkle them and their garments with the blood which was deposited upon the altar. What we must first observe here is, that the priest must be sprinkled with blood, in order that he may conciliate the favor of God towards himself for the purpose of intercession. Thus the priesthood of Christ was dedicated with blood, so that it might be efficacious to reconcile God with us. The question now arises, why only the right ear and the right thumb and too were sprinkled with blood, as if the priests were consecrated and devoted to God only in half of their persons? I reply, that in this one part the other was comprehended; since both the ears, and both the hands and feet have the same object, and their offices are so connected, that what is said of one ear applies to the other. Again, it is asked, why the ear, and foot, and hand, were smeared rather than the breast and the tongue? and I do not doubt but that by the ear obedience was designated, and by the hands and feet all the actions and the whole course of life; for there is scarcely anything more common in Scripture than these metonymies, by which the cleanness of the hands is taken for the integrity of the whole life, and the way, or course, or walk for the direction, or manner of living. It is therefore very appropriate that man’s life should be consecrated by blood; and, inasmuch as the foundation of welldoing is obedience, which is preferred to all sacrifices, Moses is commanded to begin with the ear. And we know that the “odor of a sweet smell” in the sacrifice of Christ was obedience, (<500418>Philippians 4:18;) on which account, David, in the spirit of prophecy, introduces himself, saying, “Mine ears hast thou bored.” f175 (<194006>Psalm 40:6.) If any should object that the tongue is of no less importance, because the priest is the messenger of the Lord of hosts, I answer that the office of teaching is not here referred to, but only that of intercession; wherefore in these three members Moses embraced whatever related to atonement. But we must remember that what is said of the consecration of Christ does not apply to His own person, but refers to the profit of the whole Church; for neither was He anointed for His own sake, nor had He need to borrow f176 grace from the blood; but He had regard to His members, and devoted Himself altogether to their salvation, as He himself testifies, “For their sake I sanctify myself.” (<431719>John 17:19.)

28. And it shall be Aaron’s. Lest the dignity of the sacred offerings, which are called the holiness of the Lord, should be impaired, strangers are prohibited from partaking of them; for, if it had been permitted that every one should touch them and eat of them, there would have been no distinction between them and ordinary food. Of the priests’ portion some parts were common to all their families; but the holy parts were excepted, to the intent that by this particular instance the reverence due to all might be inculcated. The reference to place has the same object, for it was not lawful to eat what was holy within the walls of their houses, in order that it might be distinguished from their common and ordinary food. For the same reason, whatever remained of it was to be burnt, lest, if the flesh became rank, or the bread moldy, their ill savor and filthy appearance might somewhat detract from the dignity of the holy things; for the infirmity of the ancient people had need of childish rudiments, which might still have a tendency to elevate the minds of the pious to things above. This was the object of all these things, that no corruption should creep in which might pollute or render contemptible the service of God.

Leviticus 6

<030801>Leviticus 8:1-3

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

1. Loquutus est deinde Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

2. Take Aaron, and his sons with him, and the garments, and the anointing oil, and a bullock for the sin-offering, and two rams, and a basket of unleavened bread;

2. Tolle Aharon et filios ejus cure illo, et vestes, et oleum unctionis, et juvencum sacrificii pro peccato: et duos arietes, et canistrum azymorum.

3. And gather thou all the congregation together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

3. Atque omnem coetum congrega ad ostium tabernaculi conventionis.


19. And the Lord spake. It is well known that in conjunction with the sacrifices there was an offering, which they call minha, but we shall elsewhere see that this was also used separately; for it was lawful without a victim to offer either plain meal, or cakes, or wafers seasoned with oil. Therefore, besides the sacrifice of consecration, of which Moses has already treated, this second offering is required from the priest, that he should present at his inauguration a cake fried in a pan, and cut in pieces. The reason of this appears to have been, that he might thence become the legitimate minister of all the people, and might duly offer in the name of others, when he had done what was right for himself. But a distinction is drawn between the demand upon the priest and that, upon the people, viz., that it should be “wholly burnt; “ the reason for which, since it will be explained elsewhere, it will be now sufficient to advert to in a single word. The fact was that God was unwilling that the priests should indulge themselves in vain ostentation, which might have been easily the case, if the oblation had been preserved for their use, like the minha of the people which remained in their hands.

Numbers 8

Go To Numbers 8: 5-19, 23-26

5. And the Lord spake unto Moses. Although the Levites were not allowed to go into the sanctuary, but were only the priests’ ministers, and chiefly employed in servile duties, yet, inasmuch as they carried the tabernacle and the sacred vessels, prepared the sacrifices, took away the ashes and other offscourings from the altar, God would have them consecrated to Himself by a solemn rite. For as all Israel, with respect to the Gentiles, was God’s peculiar people, so the house of Levi was chosen out of the people itself to be His own property, as it is here said. But, lest they should arrogate to themselves more than was right, God anticipates their presumption: first, by putting off their consecration for some time; secondly, by desiring that they should not be initiated by Moses, but by Aaron; and thirdly, by appointing a different ceremony for it. For, if they had been initiated at the same time as the priests, under this pretext they might have contended to be on an equality with them; therefore, although the priests were already separated from the common people, yet the Levites still remain unconsecrated, (privati,) in order that they may learn to reverence the priestly office. And again, since, if they had been dedicated likewise by Moses, there was a danger of their being puffed up with pride against all others, Aaron is appointed to preside over their consecration, that they may modestly submit themselves to his authority. Since, too, they were only purified by water, and sacrifice, and without the addition of anointing, the difference in the external rite reminded them that their degree of honor was not similar or the same.

6. Take the Levites from among. To take them from among the children of Israel, is equivalent to subtracting them from the number of the people, that they might not be included in the general census, and accounted to be one of the tribes. This separation, then, as he will more clearly express a little further on, devoted the Levites to God for the service of the sanctuary. That under this pretext the Papal clergy should claim immunity for themselves, so that they may live as they like in exemption from the laws, is not only an unsound deduction, but one full of impious mockery; for, since the ancient priesthood attained its end in Christ, the succession, which they allege, robs Christ of His right, as if the full truth had not been manifested in Him. Besides, inasmuch as all their privileges only depend on the primacy of the Pope, if they would have them ratified they must needs prove, first of all, that the Pope is appointed by God’s command to be the head of the whole Church, and therefore that he is the successor of Christ. As to Aaron, since he was the minister of their installation, in this way he was set over the Levites to rule them at his discretion. Meanwhile this ministry is thus entrusted to a man, in such a manner as not to stand in the way of God’s gratuitous good pleasure.

7. And thus shalt thou do unto them. Aaron is commanded first to sprinkle the water of purifying upon them, to cleanse them from their uncleanness; and not only so, but they are commanded to wash their clothes, that they may diligently beware of any impurity being anywhere about them, whereby their persons may be infected. Thirdly, they are commanded to shave their skin with a razor, that, putting off their flesh, they may begin to be new men. A sacrifice is afterwards added, and that twofold, to make an atonement for them. These things being completed, Aaron, in right and to the honor of the priesthood, is commanded to offer them just like the holy bread or incense. But the end of this was, that they might acknowledge that they were no longer their own masters, but devoted to God, that they might engage themselves in the service of the sanctuary. It was in testimony of alienation that some of the people were ordered at the same time to lay their hands upon them; as if by this ceremony all the tribes bore witness that with their consent the Levites passed over to be God’s peculiar property, that they might be a part or appendage of the sanctuary. For private individuals (as we shall see hereafter) were accustomed to lay their hands on their sacrifices, yet not with the same object as the priests. f177

16. For they are wholly given. Lest the other tribes should complain that the number of the people was diminished, God declares that the Levites were alienated from the race of Abraham, since He had acquired them to Himself when He smote all the first-born of Egypt; for it is certain that the first-born of the people, as well as those of their animals, were miraculously rescued from the common destruction. Since, then, God delivered them by special privilege, He thus bound them to Himself by the blessing of their redemption. But this reason would seem no longer to hold good, when God, in demanding the price of redemption, set the first-born free, f178 as was elsewhere stated; else He would require the same thing twice over, which would be unjust. The solution, however, of this is easy; when, in the first census, the first-born of the twelve tribes were counted, they were found to exceed the Levites in number. An exchange was then made, viz., that all the first-born of the twelve tribes, being 22,000 in number, should be free from the tribute, and that God should take the Levites in their place as His ministers. Only 273 were redeemed, because this was the excess of their number above that of the Levites. Thus was it brought to pass, that God was content with these just and equal terms, so as not to oppress the people by a heavy burden. But this compensation, which was only made on that one particular day, did not prevent the Israelites from owing their children, who were not then born, to God. Since, then, this obligation still lay upon them as regarded their posterity, the law was passed that they should redeem their first-born. If any should object that it was not fair for those who should be born of the Levites to be consecrated to God, — I reply, that on this point there was no unfairness, for of whatever tribe they might be descended, they were already His property, together with all their offspring; the condition of the people was not therefore made worse by the exchange; and hence, in all equity, God appointed for the future at what price the Israelites should redeem their first-born. In saying that they were “given” to Him, He means to assert that they were His by compact; f179 and in this sense He declares that from the day in which He smote the first-born of Egypt, the first-born of Israel had become His; and then adds, that He then took the Levites; as much as to say, that He only dealt with his people with respect to the time past.

19. And I have given the Levites. He declares on what terms He desires to have them as His own, viz., that they may be directed by Aaron, and obey his commands; for by “a gift” is not to be understood such an act as that whereby a person resigns and cedes his own right to another; but, when He devotes them to the ministry of the sanctuary, He desires that they should have a leader and master. At the end of the verse, Moses teaches that this is done for the advantage and profit of the whole people: whence it follows, that there was no room for ill-will towards them, unless the people should perhaps be annoyed that God had taken measures for their welfare. A two-fold advantage is pointed out; first, because they were to be the intercessors or ministers of reconciliation, (for either sense would be appropriate;) secondly, because, whilst they would be the guardians of the sanctuary, they would prevent the Israelites from bringing destruction upon themselves, by their rash approach to it.

24. This is it, that belongeth to the Levites. The age is here prescribed when the Levites should begin and end the execution of their office. God commands them to commence in their 25th year and grants them their dismissal in their 50th; and for both these provisions there is very good reason. For, if they had been admitted in early youth, their levity might have greatly detracted from the reverence due to sacred things: not only because those, whose manhood is not yet mature, are generally given to pleasure and intemperance, but because either by negligence, or levity, or want of thought, or ignorance and error, they might have made many grievous mistakes in the service of God; and, whilst they were by no means fitted to exercise their charge until they should have attained prudence and gravity, so also, lest they should fail from old age, it was right that they should be seasonably dismissed; for as we have before said, their duties were laborious, and such as demanded bodily strength. If, however, any should choose to make an application of this to the pastoral office, it should be generally remembered, that none should be chosen to it except such as have already given proofs of their moderation, and float those who diligently devote themselves to it should not be unreasonably pressed upon, nor should more be required of them than their ability can bear; for some foolishly count their years, as if it were a sin to choose a pastor before his 24th year, although he might be otherwise fully provided with the necessary qualifications.

Numbers 3

Go To Numbers 3: 5-10

5. And the Lord spake unto Moses. This passage contains two heads: first, That the Levites should be set apart for the ministry of the sanctuary and altar; and, secondly, That they should obey the chief priests of the family of Aaron, and do nothing except by their authority and command. But it has been already said, and we shall hereafter see again, that the tribe of Levi in general was divinely chosen to perform the sacred offices; so that the people might know that no one was worthy of so honorable a charge; but that it depended on the gratuitous calling of God, whose attribute it is to create all things out of nothing. In this way, not only was the temerity of those repressed who might be foolishly ambitious of the honor, but the whole Church was taught that, in order to worship God aright, there was need of extraneous aid. For, if the Levites had not stood between, the Law prohibited the rest of the people from having access to God, since it brought in the whole human race guilty of pollution. But, in order that they might be more certainly directed to the One Mediator, the high priesthood was exalted, and one priest was chosen to preside over all the rest: on this account God would have the Levites subject to the successors of Aaron. At the same time, He had regard to order, for a multitude, which is not governed by chiefs, will always be disorderly. Yet, it is unquestionable that the supreme power of Christ was represented in the person of Aaron; and hence the folly of the Papists is refuted, who transfer, or rather wrest, this example to the state of the Christian Church, f180 so as to set the bishops over the presbyters, and thus to fabricate the primacy of the Roman See. But if the true meaning of this figure be sought, it will be more appropriate to reason that, whatever ministers and pastors of the Church are now appointed, they are placed as it were under the hand of Christ, in order that they may usurp no dominion, but behave themselves modestly, as having to render an account to Him who is the Prince of pastors. (<600504>1 Peter 5:4.) Hence we conclude that the Papacy is only founded in wicked sacrilege; for Christ is unjustly deprived of His own, if any one else is feigned to be Aaron’s successor. Meanwhile, the political distinction of ranks is not to be repudiated, for natural reason itself dictates this in order to take away confusion; but that which shall have this object in view, will be so arranged that it may neither obscure Christ’s glory nor minister to ambition or tyranny, nor prevent all ministers from cultivating mutual fraternity with each other, with equal rights and liberties. Hence, too, was taken that declaration of the Apostle, that it is not lawful for any man to take this honor upon himself, but that they are the legitimate ministers of the Church who are “called” to be so. (<580504>Hebrews 5:4)

Exodus 30

Go To Exodus 30: 22-33

23. Take thou also unto thee principal spices. Although the oil here treated of was not only destined for the anointing of the priests, but also of the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, the altars, and all the vessels, yet no fitter place occurs for discussing the sacred unction, than by connecting it with the priesthood, on which it depends. First of all its composition is described, exquisite both in expensiveness and odor; that by its very excellence and costliness the Israelites may learn that no ordinary thing is represented by it; for we have already often seen that there had been set before this rude people a splendor in sacred symbols, which might affect their external senses, so as to uplift them as it were by steps to the knowledge of spiritual things. We must now see why the priest as well as all the vessels and the other parts of the tabernacle had need of anointing. I conclude that without controversy this oil mixed with precious perfumes was a type of the Holy Spirit; for the metaphor of anointing is everywhere met with, when the prophets would commend the power, the effects, and the gifts of the Spirit. Nor is there any doubt but that God, by anointing kings, testified that He would endow them with the spirit of prudence, fortitude, clemency, and justice. Hence it is easily gathered that the tabernacle was sprinkled with oil, that the Israelites might learn that all the exercises of piety profited nothing without the secret operation of the Spirit. Nay, something more was shewn forth, viz., that the efficacy and grace of the Spirit existed and reigned in the truth of the shadows itself; and that whatever good was derived from them was applied by the gift of the same Spirit for the use of believers. In the altar, reconciliation was to be sought, that God might be propitious to them; but, as the Apostle testifies, the sacrifice of Christ’s death would not otherwise have been efficacious to appease God, if He had not suffered by the Spirit, (<580914>Hebrews 9:14;) and how does its fruit now reach us, except because the same Spirit washes our souls with the blood, which once was shed, as Peter teaches us? (<600102>1 Peter 1:2.) Who now consecrates our prayers but the Spirit, who dictates the groans which cannot be uttered; and by whom we cry, Abba, Father? (<450815>Romans 8:15, 26.) Nay, whence comes the faith which admits us to a participation in the benefits of Christ, but from the same Spirit?

But we were especially to consider the anointing of the priest, who was sanctified by the Spirit of God for the performance of his office; thus, as Isaiah, in the person of Jesus Christ, declares that he was anointed with the spirit of prophecy, (<236101>Isaiah 61:1;) and David affirms the same of the royal spirit, (<194507>Psalm 45:7;) so Daniel is our best interpreter and witness how the sacerdotal unction was at length manifested (in Him f181), for when he says that the time, when by the death of Christ the prophecy shall be sealed up, was determined upon “to anoint the holy of holies,” he plainly reminds us that the spiritual pattern, which answers to the visible sanctuary, is in Christ; so that believers may really feel that these shadows were not mere empty things. (<270924>Daniel 9:24.) We now perceive why Aaron was anointed, viz., because Christ was consecrated by the Holy Spirit to be the Mediator between God and man; and why the tabernacle and its vessels were sprinkled with the same oil, viz., because we are only made partakers of the holiness of Christ by the gift and operation of the Spirit.  f182 Some translate it in the masculine gender, where of the vessels it is said, “whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy;” ver. 29: as if they were not to be touched by any but the priests; but it appears to me to be rather spoken for another reason, viz., that they may embue the oblations with their own sanctity.

25. And thou shalt take it an oil of holy ointment. Although the genitive is put in the place of an epithet, as if Moses had said “a holy oil;” yet it is so called from its effect, because without it nothing is accounted pure. And assuredly the Spirit of God sanctifies ourselves and all that is ours, because without Him we are unholy, and all that belongs to us corrupt. He enjoins the use of the ceremony throughout all the generations of the ancient people, ver. 31. In these words there is an implied contrast with the new Church, which wants no shadows since the manifestation of the substance; and justly does the only begotten Son of God possess the name of Christ, since by His coming He has abolished these figures. And Simeon, when he took Him in his arms, and called Him “the Lord’s Christ,” f183 taught that the external use of the legal oil had ceased. So much the sillier is the superstition of the Papacy, when in imitation of the Jews it anoints its priests, and altars, and other toys: f184 as if they desired to bury Christ again with their ointments; wherefore let us hold this invention in detestation as blasphemous, because it overthrows the limits prescribed by God.

In order that the Jews may hold this mystery in just reverence, he forbids similar ointment to be made. We know that ointments were then among the luxuries of a fine banquet; but it is accounted profanation if they make use of this kind; and we must mark the reason, that what is holy, may be holy unto them, ver. 32, i.e., that they may reverently observe what is peculiarly devoted to their salvation. For although the sacred things divinely instituted always retain their nature, and cannot be either corrupted or made void by our vices, yet may we by our filthiness, by our impure use or neglect of them, pollute them as far as in us lies.

Leviticus 8

Go To Leviticus 8: 1-3

2. Take Aaron. He more clearly explains the mode of anointing and investing the priests, by appointing the place and the assistants; for he commands the congregation to be convoked at the sanctuary; and then that Aaron and his sons should be brought out before them to be inaugurated by God’s authority in their office; and that the whole people together may acknowledge that they are appointed and ordained by God. The execution of the command, which we find connected with it in the text of Moses, must be undoubtedly referred to another time; viz., when the solemn dedication of the tabernacle was made. I have therefore thought fit to transfer thither what is here related out of its place, that the history may proceed uninterruptedly; which will not a little facilitate its comprehension.

Leviticus 21

Leviticus 21: 1-6, 10-12

1. Speak unto the priests. All these things which follow tend to the same end, i.e., that the priests may differ from the rest of the people by notable marks, as if separated from ordinary men; for special purity became those who represented the person of Christ. It seems, indeed, as if God here gave precepts respecting small and unimportant things; but we have elsewhere said that the legal rites were as it were steps by which the Israelites might ascend to the study of true holiness. The declaration of Paul indeed was always true, that “bodily exercise profiteth little,” (<540408>1 Timothy 4:8;) but the use of the ancient shadows under the Law must be estimated by their end. Although, therefore, the observation of the things which are now treated of did not of itself greatly please God, yet inasmuch as it had a higher tendency, it was sinful to make light of it. Now though the priests were thus admonished that holiness was to be cultivated by them with peculiar diligence, as the sanctity of their office required; yet the principal design of God was to set forth the image of perfect holiness which was at length beheld in Christ. The first law contains a prohibition of mourning, absolutely and without exception as regarded the high priest, and as regarded the sons of Aaron with certain specified restrictions; for although God elsewhere forbids the people generally to imitate the custom of the Gentiles in excessive mourning, yet here he requires something more of the priests, viz., that they should abstain even from ordinary mourning, such as was permitted to others. This prohibition indeed was again repeated, as we shall see, arising from an actual occurrence; for when Nadab and Abihu, who had offered incense with strange fire, were consumed with fire from heaven, God allowed them to be mourned for by all the people, except the priests; f185 but on this occasion the general law was again ratified afresh, lest the priests should pollute themselves by mourning for the dead; except that there mourning was forbidden even for a domestic loss, that they might acquiesce in God’s judgment, however sad it might be. For by these means they were impeded in the discharge of their duties; because it was not lawful for mourners to enter the sanctuary. Therefore God threatens them with death, unless they should restrain their grief even for the death of a near relative. But this (as is elsewhere said) is a rare virtue, so to repress our feelings when we are deprived of our brothers or friends, as that the bitterness of our grief should not overcome our resignation and composure of mind. In this way, therefore, the exemplary piety of the priests was put to the proof. Besides, abstinence from mourning manifests the hope of the blessed resurrection. Therefore the priests were forbidden to mourn for the dead, in order that the rest of the people might seek for consolation in their sorrow from them. f186 This was truly and amply fulfilled in Christ, who although He bore not only grief, but the extreme horror of death, yet was free from every stain, and gloriously triumphed over death; so that the very recollection of His cross wipes away our tears, and fills us with joy. Now when it is said, “They shall not profane the name of their God;” and in the case of the high priest, “neither shall he go out of the sanctuary;” this reason confirms what; I have just stated, that mourning was forbidden them, because it prevented them from the discharge of their duties; for their very squalidness would have in some sense defiled God’s sanctuary, in which nothing unseemly was to be seen; and being defiled too, they could not intercede as suppliants for the people. God then commands them to remain pure and clear from all defilement, lest they should be compelled to desert their office, and to leave the sanctuary, of which they were the keepers. Moreover, we learn that the fulfillment of this figure was in Christ, from the reason which is immediately added: viz., because the holy oil is on the head of the high priest; whereby God intimates that it is by no means right that His glory and dignity should be profaned by any pollution.

As to the words themselves; first, greater liberty is granted to the rest of the posterity of Aaron, than to the high priest; but only that they should mourn for their father, mother, children, their own brothers, and unmarried sisters. Lest ambition should carry them further, they are expressly forbidden to put on mourning even upon the death of a prince. Nor can we doubt but that the mourning was improper which God permitted to them out of indulgence; but regard was had to their weakness, lest immoderate strictness might drive them to passionate excess; yet God so spared them as still to distinguish them from the multitude. To “defile” one’s-self, (as we have elsewhere seen,) is equivalent to putting on mourning for the dead, celebrating the funeral rites, or going to the burial; because the curse of God proclaims itself in the death of man, so that a corpse infects with contagion those by whom it is touched; and again, because it must needs be that where lamentation is indulged, and as it were excited, the affection itself must burst out into impatience. As to the prohibition to make “baldness,” this was not allowed even to the rest of the people; but God expressly forbids it to the priests, in order to keep them under stricter restraint. With regard to the high priest, something greater seems to be decreed besides the exceptions, that he “shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes:” which is still enjoined elsewhere on the sons of Aaron. But here what would be allowable in others is condemned in the high priest; and it was surely reasonable that he should present a peculiar example of moderation and gravity; and therefore the dignity of his office, in which he was superior to others, is called to mind, that he may acknowledge his obligations to be so much the greater. This is indeed the sum, that since the priesthood is the holiness of God, it must not be mixed up with any defilements.

Deuteronomy 31

<053109>Deuteronomy 31:9

9. And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel.

9. Scripsitque Moses Legem istam, et dedit eam sacerdotibus filiis Levi portantibus arcata foederis jehovae, et cunctis senioribus Israel.


9. And Moses wrote this law. It is unquestionable that Moses deposited the Book of the Law in the custody of the Levites, to enjoin upon them the duty of teaching; for although it is only related that they were commanded to recite the book before the people every seventh year, yet it is easy to gather that they were appointed the constant proclaimers of its doctrine. For it would have been absurd that the Law should lie buried for seven whole years, and that not a word should be heard of its instruction; besides, the difficulty of hearing in so great a multitude would be great, and the recollection of it would soon have vanished. In a word, very little would have been the use of the ceremony, if at all other times the Levites had been dumb, and nothing should have been heard throughout the land regarding the worship of God. This then was the object of the solemn promulgation of the Law, (<053110>Deuteronomy 31:10, etc.), which was made in the year of release, that the people should daily inquire the right way of serving God of the Levites, who were chosen to be as it were nomofu>lakev (guardians of the Law), that they might bring forward in due season whatever it was profitable to know. Here, then, is represented to us as in a mirror what Paul says, that the Church of God is “the pillar and ground of the truth,” (<540315>1 Timothy 3:15;) because purity of doctrine is preserved unimpaired in the world, and propagated by the ministry of pastors, whilst piety would soon decay if the living preaching of doctrine should cease. Therefore Paul also elsewhere commands that the sound doctrine, of which he was a minister, should be committed by Timothy

“to faithful men, who should be able to teach others also.”
(<550202>2 Timothy 2:2.)

First, then, we must remember, that the Book of the Law was given in trust, as it were, to the Levites, that the people might learn from them what was right. The addition of “the elders” is not superfluous; for although the office of teaching was not committed to them, yet were they given as coadjutors to the Levites, in order that they might uphold the doctrine of the Law, and not suffer it to be scorned. We know how great is the insolence of the people in rejecting pious teachers, unless they are restrained by those in authority; nor do the latter indeed duly fulfill their duty, if they do not keep their subjects to the study of religion, who would be otherwise too much disposed to impiety.

Moses in this passage calls by the name of “the Law,” not the Ten Commandments engraved on the two tables, but the interpretation of it contained in the four books. The circumstances took place thirty-nine years after God had spoken on Mount Sinai. What follows, that it was to be read every seven years, I have commented on elsewhere; f187 but there will be no harm in repeating what may serve for the understanding of this passage. The seventh year was chosen for this purpose, because all, both males and females, might then assemble at Jerusalem without detriment to their private interests, for there was a cessation from all labor; they neither sowed, nor reaped, and agriculture was altogether at a stand-still. There was therefore no business to prevent them from celebrating that festival, whereby God represented to them in a lively manner, how miraculously He had preserved their fathers in the desert. Lest the recollection of so great a benefit should ever perish, the Law indeed commanded them, wherever they might be, to go forth from their houses every year, and to pass seven days under the boughs of trees; but in the Sabbatical Year, when all was at rest at home, it was more convenient for them to go up to Jerusalem from all quarters, that by their very multitude they might the better testify their gratitude. Therefore it is added, “when all Israel is come,” etc. And it must be observed, that in that assembly they were more solemnly pledged, one and all, to keep the Law, because they were mutually witnesses against each other if they should break the covenant thus publicly renewed. On this account it is added, “Gather the people together, men, women, and children.” But that it might not be a mere empty spectacle, it is expressly commanded that the book should be read “in their hearing:” by which words a recitation is expressed, from whence the hearers might receive profit, else it would have been a sham and ludicrous parade; just as in the Papacy, when they loudly bellow out the Scriptures in an unknown tongue, they do but profane God’s name. To this end, therefore, did God desire the doctrine of His Law to be heard; viz., that He might obtain disciples for Himself; not that He might fill their ears with a senseless and unprofitable clamour. And indeed when the Popish priests were a little ashamed of altogether driving the people away from hearing God’s word, they devised this foolish plan of shouting to the deaf, as if this silly formality would satisfy God’s command, when He ordains that all should be taught from the least to the greatest: for it is afterwards again expressed, “that they may hear, and that they may learn.” Hence we lay it down, that the legitimate use of Scripture is perverted when it is enunciated in an obscure manner such as no one can understand. But whilst no other mode of reading Scripture is approved by God, except such as may instruct the people, so also the fruit of understanding, i.e., that they may learn to fear God, is required in the hearers. But it is undoubted, that “the fear of God” comprehends faith, nay, that properly speaking it springs from faith; and by this expression Moses indicates that the Law was given for the purpose of instructing men in piety and the pure service of God. At the same time we may learn from this passage, that all the services which are paid to God in ignorance, are extravagant, and illegitimate. The beginning of wisdom is to fear God; and on this point all agree; but then each one slips away to his own imaginations and erroneous devotions, as they choose to call them. God, however, in order to restrain such audacity as this, declares that he is not duly worshipped, except He shall first have been listened to. As to “the strangers,” when their participation in sacred things is in question, I have elsewhere observed that all foreigners are not so called, but only those who, being Gentiles by origin, had devoted themselves to God, and having received circumcision, had been incorporated into the Church; otherwise it would not have been lawful to admit them into the congregation of the faithful; and this is confirmed by the additional words, “that is within thy gates:” which is as much as if Moses had said, inhabitants of your cities, and dwelling together with the people. Finally, when their children are mentioned, reference is made to the propagation of sound doctrine, that the pure worship of God may continually be maintained. He therefore commands that the Law should be recited, not in one generation only, but as long as the status of the people may last; and surely all God’s servants ought to take care, that they may transmit to posterity what they have learnt themselves. Yet we must remark, that all doctrine which may have been handed down from their ancestors, is not here promiscuously commended; but God rather claims for Himself the entire authority, both towards the fathers and the children.

Leviticus 10

Go To Leviticus 10: 8-11

9. Do not drink wine, nor strong drink. The second cleanness required in the priests is that they should abstain from wine, and strong drink; f188 in which word Jerome says that everything intoxicating is included; and this I admit to be true; but the definition would be more correct, that all liquors espressed from fruits are denoted by it, in whose sweetness there is nearly as much to tempt men as in wine. Even in these days the Orientals compose of dates as well as of other fruits, liquors, which are exceedingly sweet and delicious. The same rule is, therefore, here prescribed for the priests, whilst in the performance of their duties, as for the Nazarites. Both were allowed freely to eat of all the richest foods; but God commanded them to be content with water, because abstinence in drinks very greatly conduces to frugality of living. For few are intemperate in eating, who do not also love wine; besides, an abundance of food generally satisfies the appetite, whilst there is no limit to drinking, where the love of wine prevails. Therefore, abstinence from wines was enjoined upon the priest, not only that they might beware of drunkenness, but that they might be temperate in eating, and not luxuriate in their abundance. But, inasmuch as sobriety is the main point in moderate living, God especially limited His priests in this respect, lest the rigor of their minds, and rectitude, and integrity of judgment, should be impaired by drinking. Hence it appears how great is man’s proneness to all defilements. Wine is very wholesome as one of our means of nutriment; but by the too free use of it many enervate their strength, becloud their understanding, and almost stupify all their senses so as to make themselves inactive. Some, too, degrade themselves into foul and brutish stupidity, or are driven by it to madness. Thus a pleasure, which ought to have incited them to give God thanks, is taken away from them on account of their vicious excess; and not without disgrace, because they know not how to enjoy God’s good gifts in moderation. He afterwards confirms the fact, that He interdicted wine to the priests when exercising their office, that they may distinguish “between clean and unclean,” and be sound and faithful interpreters of the Law. On this score it became them to be abstemious throughout their whole life, because they were always appointed to be masters to instruct the people; but lest immoderate strictness should tend to disgust them, so that they might be less disposed for the willing performance of the rest of their duty, God deemed it sufficient to admonish them by this temporary abstinence, that they should study to be sober at other times. Thus, then, it must be concluded that none are fit to teach who are given to gluttony, which corrupts the soundness of the mind, and destroys its rigor. The comment of Jerome is indeed a childish one, that “A fat belly does not engender a quick understanding:” for many corpulent men are of vigorous and active intellect, and indeed leanness is often the consequence of drinking too much. But those who stuff their bodies will never have sufficient activity of mind to execute the office of teaching. In conclusion, we gather from this passage, as Malachi says, (<390207>Malachi 2:7,) that the priests were interpreters of the Law, and messengers of the Lord of hosts, and not dumb masks For though the Law was written, yet God would ever have the living voice to resound in His Church, just as now-a-days preaching is inseparably united with Scripture.

Concerning the High Priest

Leviticus 21

Go To Leviticus 21: 7-9, 13-15

7. They shall not take a wife. The third kind of purity is in marriage itself, that the priests’ home may be chaste and free from all dishonor. At this time also God commands by the mouth of Paul, that pastors should be chosen, who rule well their own houses, whose wives are chaste and modest, and their children well-behaved. (<540302>1 Timothy 3:2; <560106>Titus 1:6.) The same cause for this existed under the Law, lest those appointed for the government of the Church should be despised and looked down upon on account of their domestic vices. But God most especially had regard to the priesthood of Christ, that it should not be exposed to contempt. It was indeed permitted that men should marry with impunity a woman divorced from her husband; though in the sight of God such an union was unlawful. No law forbade private individuals from marrying a deflowered woman; but what was permitted to the multitude God condemned in the priests, in order to withdraw them from every mark of infamy. And this reason is also expressed when he says that He would have the priests holy, because He has chosen them for Himself; for if the people had not reverenced them, all religion would have been contemptible. Therefore that their dignity might be preserved, He commands them to take diligent heed not to expose themselves to ignominy. Finally, still more highly to commend reverence to their holy office, He reminds them that it related to the welfare of the whole people: “I the Lord (He says) do sanctify him,” ver. 15. In these words He intimates that the grace of adoption, whereby they were chosen as His heritage, was based on the priesthood.

13. And he shall take a wife in her virginity. More is required in the high priest, viz., that he should not marry a widow, nor a woman of any other tribe than his own. A question may indeed arise as to the latter clause, whether the plural word ought to be restricted to one tribe, f189 whereas it is elsewhere applied to all. But, if we examine it more closely, it is plain that “his peoples” is equivalent to “of his people,” (populares.) But nothing peculiar will be here required of the priest, if his wife is to be taken only from the children of Abraham. I admit that the chief priests married wives of Other tribes, as Elizabeth, sprung of the tribe of Judah, married Zacharias; but, since the high priest is here distinguished from all others, I do not see how it would follow that a law or privilege referring to him should be observed by the whole posterity of Aaron. On this point, however, I will not contend, if any one thing is otherwise. But assuredly, since he presented the brightest type of Christ, it was right that superior and more perfect holiness should be beheld in him. f190 For this was the tendency of the restriction, that his wife, not having known another man, should manifest the modesty worthy of her station and quality of sacred honor. If any should object that the marriage of, an old priest with a young girl was ridiculous and somewhat indecorous, as well as liable to many inconveniences; I answer, that special regulations should be so expounded as not to interfere with general principles. If a decrepit old man falls in love with a young girl, it is a base and shameful lust; besides he will defraud her if he marries her. Hence, too, will jealousy and wretched anxiety arise; or, by foolishly and dotingly seeking to preserve his wife’s love, he will cast away all regard for gravity. When God forbade the high priest to marry any but a virgin, he did not wish to violate this rule, which is dictated by nature and reason; but, regard being had to age, He desired that modesty and propriety should be maintained in the marriage, so that, if the priest were of advanced years, he should marry a virgin not too far from his own age: but, if he were failing and now but little fitted for marriage on account of his old age, the law that he should marry a virgin was rather an exhortation to celibacy, than that he should expose himself to many troubles and to general ridicule.

9. And the daughter of any priest. The moderation and chastity (required in the priest f191 ) is extended also to his daughter; and by synecdoche all that relates to good discipline is comprised under a single head; viz., that his children should be educated in the study of virtue, and in decent and pure morality. A heavy punishment is denounced against a priest’s daughter if she should play the harlot, because sacrilege would be combined with her disgraceful licentiousness. But it is no light crime to violate God’s sanctuary; and, if the priest had tolerated such an iniquity in his daughter, he would have been no severe avenger of the same turpitude in strangers; nay, he would not have been at liberty to punish crimes, unless he made a beginning in his own house.

Leviticus 21

Go To Leviticus 21: 16-24

17. Speak unto Aaron, saying. Priests in whom there was any notable bodily defect are here forbidden from approaching the altar. I will not curiously inquire into the defects which Moses enumerates, since the same rule is here laid down, which is afterwards applied to the sacrifices, whereof none but perfect ones were to be offered. For God rejected whatever was defective or mutilated, in order that the Israelites might know that no victim would suffice for the expiation of sin, except such as possessed complete perfection; and this is justly required in a priest, who cannot be a mediator between God and men unless he is free from every spot. But the analogy must be kept in view between the external figures and the spiritual perfection which existed only in Christ. God could bear no defect in the priests; it follows, then, that a man of angelic purity was to be expected, who should reconcile God to the world. The bodily imperfections, then, which were here enumerated, must be transferred to the soul. The offering of bread comprehends by synecdoche the other offerings, and the whole legal service, which the priests were wont to perform in their course; and this the words of Moses immediately afterwards confirm, wherein he mentions all “the offerings made by fire,” besides the bread. We have seen elsewhere that any of the people wounded in the testicles were prohibited from entering the sanctuary; that they were, not even to set foot in the court; but there was a special reason for this as regarded the priests, lest they should pollute the sanctuary by their defects. Hence it appears how needful for us is the intercession of Christ; for, if his perfect cleanness did not wash away our impurity, no oblation could proceed from us except what would be foul and unsavory. Moreover, it is worthy of observation that the sanctuary of God is polluted by any defect or imperfection; and, consequently, that whatever of their own men obtrude upon God, is condemned as profane, so far are they from conciliating God’s favor by any merit.

22. He shall eat the bread of his God. He permits them indeed to eat of the sacrifices, because no uncleanness on account of their natural defects could prevent them from partaking of the sacred meals; f192 they are only forbidden to appear in God’s presence as mediators to propitiate Him. And here the imperfection of the legal service betrays itself; for nothing could be found among men which could fully represent the truth. Since then the defects of men rendered it necessary to separate the two connected things, viz., the honor and the burden, hence the Israelites were admonished that another priest was promised them, in whom nothing would be wanting for the consummation of all virtues and perfection. Finally, Moses relates that he delivered God’s commands not only to Aaron and his sons, but to all the people likewise; so that the humblest of them might be the censor of the priests f193 if in anything they fell short.

Leviticus 22

Go To Leviticus 22: 1-16

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses. Moses here treats of the accidents whereby pollution is contracted, although a man may be by nature pure and sound. If any labored under natural defects, Moses prohibited them from exercising the sacerdotal office; now, if any extrinsic pollution may have affected a priest, he commands him to abstain from his duties until he shall have been purified. He had already commanded that any unclean person should be separated from the people lest their contagion should infect others; it may therefore seem superfluous to prescribe to the priests what had been universally enjoined. But since men placed in any position of honor are apt to abuse God’s favor as a pretext for sin, lest the sacerdotal dignity might be used as a covering for the indulgence or excuse of scandals, it was necessary to enact an express law, that the priests should not plead their privilege to eat in their uncleanness of the sacrifices which none but the clean might offer. And that their sacrilege might be the more detestable, he denounces death against any who should intrude their pollutions into the sacrifices; for it was necessary to arouse by the fear of punishment, and as it were to drive by violence to their duty those who would not have been otherwise restrained by any religious feeling from making God’s service contemptible. He then enumerates the particular kinds of pollution of which we have before spoken. Whence it appears, that the priests were brought into discipline by this law, lest they should think themselves more free than the rest of the people, thus might indulge themselves in security; and this is afterwards more clearly expressed where God admonishes them to “keep his ordinance,” f194 (ver. 9:) i.e., diligently to observe whatever He commanded; and the greater dignity He had honored them with, that the greater should be their study to persevere in the exercises of piety; for he shews them that so far from their sacerdotal rights conducing to the alleviation of their sin, they were more strongly bound by them to keep the Law.

10. There shall no stranger. It was also necessary to add this, that the majesty of sacred things might not be impaired; for if it had been promiscuously permitted to all to eat of the sacred bread and the other oblations, the people would have straightway inferred that they differed not from ordinary food. And unless the avarice of the priests had been thus anticipated, f195 an unworthy trade would have prevailed; for banquets would have been see up for sale, and the priest’s house would have been a kind of provision-market. The prohibition, therefore, that the meats offered in sacrifice should be eaten by strangers, was not made so much with reference to them as to the priests, who would have else driven a profitable trade with the offerings, or, by gratifying their guests, would not have hesitated to bring disrepute on the whole service of God. The Law consequently prohibits that either a sojourner, or a hired servant, should eat of them; and only gives this permission to their slaves, and those who were incorporated into their families. Moreover, He counts the priests’ daughters who had married into another tribe as aliens. The sum has this tendency, that whatsoever depends on the service of God should obtain its due reverence; nor could this be the case, if what was offered in the temple were not distinguished from common food. Inasmuch as they were human beings, they were allowed to subsist in the ordinary manner; yet was this distinction necessary, which might savor of the sanctity of Christ. This was the cleanness of the priests as regarded food.

14. And if a man eat of the holy thing unwittingly. A question may here arise, why God would have satisfaction made to the priests, if any one should have eaten of the offerings; for they deserved punishment rather than reward, if they had suffered sacred things to be brought into contempt by their promiscuous use. But the error of those is here dealt with, who had not reserved for the priests their lawful share. A portion, as we shall see, was assigned by God, which they were to set aside before they tasted any part of the victim; those, therefore, who had sinned by inadvertency, are commanded by Him to expiate their fault, to restore so much to the priest, and to add a fifth part. And this was done with the object of which we have spoken, lest, if the things offered to God were exposed to common use, religion should be brought into contempt. What follows afterwards, “and they shall not profane the holy things,” I interpret as addressed to the priests themselves; for this sentence is connected with the previous one, in which the injunctions were directed to the priests alone; and this is further confirmed by the next verse, which declares that the whole people would be accomplices in the sin of the priests if they should have polluted the sacred oblations. For thus I take the words, “that they should not suffer the people to bear the iniquity,” or the punishment of the transgression, if the unclean should have touched things offered to God. For as the priest is the mediator of reconciliation to propitiate God towards men, so his impiety is a common iniquity, which brings guilt upon all. The translation which some give, “that they should not lade themselves,” f196 is further from the sense, and altogether wrested. Finally, God again declares that in proportion to the greatness of the honor which He had put upon them, would be the heaviness and inexcusableness of the crime, if they acted unworthily of their calling.

Exodus 20

<022026>Exodus 20:26

26. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

26. Non ascendes per gradus ad altare meum, ne detegatur turpitude tua juxta illud.


26. Neither shalt thou go up. When God had prescribed modesty to the priests in their whole life, and in their private actions, no wonder that He should require especial care of decency and propriety in the performance of their sacred duties. He had indeed already desired that the priests should wear drawers or breeches when they went into the sanctuary; yet not content with this symbol of purity, He forbids them to ascend the altar by steps, lest haply the drawers themselves should be seen; since the dignity and sanctity of sacred things would thus be impaired. By all means, therefore, He would induce the Israelites to conduct themselves most purely and most chastely in the exercises of religion.

Numbers 6

Go To Numbers 6: 22-27

22. And the Lord spake unto Moses. A part of the sacerdotal duties, of which mention is constantly made in the Law, is here briefly set forth; for God says that He had appointed the priests to bless the people. To this David seems to allude in the words:

“We have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.”
(<19E302>Psalm 143:26.)

This doctrine is especially profitable, that believers may confidently assure themselves that God is reconciled to them, when He ordains the priests to be witnesses and heralds of His paternal favor towards them. The word to bless is often used for to pray for blessings, which is the common duty of all pious persons; but this rite (as we shall see a little farther on) was an efficacious testimony of God’s grace; as if the priests bore from His own mouth the commandment to bless. But Luke shews that this was truly fulfilled in Christ, when he relates that “He lifted up His hands,” according to the solemn rite of the Law, to bless His disciples. (<422450>Luke 24:50.) In these words, then, the priests were appointed ambassadors to reconcile God to the people; and this in the person of Christ, who is the only sufficient surety of God’s grace and blessing. Inasmuch, therefore, as they then were types of Christ, they were commanded to bless the people. But it is worthy of remark, that they are commanded to pronounce the form of benediction audibly, and not to offer prayers in an obscure whisper; and hence we gather that they preached God’s grace, which the people might apprehend by faith.

24. The Lord bless thee. Blessing is an act of His genuine liberality, because the abundance of all good things is derived to us from His favor as their only source. It is next added, that He should “keep” the people, by which clause lie intimates that He is the sole defender of the Church, and protects it under His guardianship; but since the main advantage of God’s grace consists in our sense of it, the words, “and make His face shine on you,” are added; for nothing is more desirable for the consummation of our happiness, than that. we should behold the serene countenance of God; as it is said in <190406>Psalm 4:6,

“There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.”

Thus then I interpret this clause, that the people may perceive and taste the sweetness of God’s goodness, which may cheer them like the brightness of the sun when it illumines the world in serene weather. But immediately afterwards the people are recalled to the First cause; viz., God’s gratuitous mercy, which alone reconciles Him to us, when we should be otherwise by our own deserts hated and detested by Him. What follows, “The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee,” is a common phrase of Scripture, meaning, May God remember His people; not that forgetfulness can occur in Him, but because we suppose that He has cast away His care of us, unless He actually gives proof of His anxiety for our welfare. Finally, it is added, may He “establish peace upon his people,” which others translate a little less literally, f197 “put thee into peace:” and since this word signifies not only rest and a tranquil state, but also all prosperity and success, I willingly embrace this latter sense, although even its proper signification is not disagreeable to me. f198

27. And they shall put my name. Although Jerome has rightly translated this, “They shall call upon my name:” yet since the Hebrew phrase is emphatic, I have preferred retaining it; for God deposits His name with the priests, that they may daily bring it forward as a pledge of His good will, and of the salvation which proceeds from thence. The promise, which is finally subjoined, gives assurance that this was no empty or useless ceremony, when He declares that He will bless the people. And hence we gather, that whatsoever the ministers of the Church do by God’s command, is ratified by Him with a real and solid result; since He declares nothing by His ministers which He will not Himself fulfill and perform by the efficacy of His Spirit. But we must observe that He does not so transfer the office of blessing to His priests, as to resign this right to them; for after having entrusted this ministry to them, He claims the accomplishment of the thing for Himself alone.

Numbers 35

Go To Numbers 35: 1-8

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses. Although there was no inheritance assigned to the tribe of Levi, yet it was necessary that they should be supplied with dwelling-places. No lands were given then where they might sow and reap; but by way of compensation the tithes were a sufficient means of subsistence, even after deducting the tithes which were paid to the poor. God now, however, makes provision for their residences; and here we must carefully remark, that they were so distributed over the whole land, as to be, as it were, guards regularly posted for the preservation of the worship of God, lest any superstition should creep in, or the people should fall into gross contempt of God. For we know that they were chosen by Him, not only to attend to the ceremonies, but to be the interpreters of the law, and to cherish sincere piety among the people. Now if all had been placed in one station, it was dangerous lest the doctrine of the Law should immediately fall into oblivion through the whole land; and thus the other tribes should grow irreligious. Wherefore the incomparable goodness of God here shone forth, since their punishment was turned as it were into a reward of virtue, and their disgrace into honor; for this dispersion of the tribe of Levi had been foretold by the holy patriarch Jacob, (<014607>Genesis 46:7,) that their posterity should be scattered in that land, which Levi the father of their race had polluted by a detestable murder and wicked perfidy. God proved eventually that this prophecy, which proceeded from Him, did not fall to the ground unfulfilled; nevertheless, although the Levites were to be banished here and there in token of their disgrace, yet were they set in various parts of the land, that they might retain the other tribes under the yoke of the Law. It was then in God’s wonderful providence that they were rather placed in peculiar and fixed residences, than allowed to mingle themselves promiscuously with the rest of the people; for the cities which God assigned to them were so many schools, where they might better and more freely engage themselves in teaching the Law, and prepare themselves for performing the office of teaching. For if they had lived indiscriminately among the multitude, they were liable to contract many vices, as well as to neglect the study of the Law; but when they were thus collected into separate classes, such an union reminded them that they were divided from the people that they might devote themselves altogether to God. Besides, their cities were like lamps shining into the very furthest corners of the land. They were therefore fortified, as it were, by walls, lest the corruptions of the people should penetrate to them. Their association together also should have stimulated them mutually to exhort each other to confinehey, decent and modest manners, temperance, and other virtues worthy of God’s servants; whilst, if they fell into dissolute habits, they were the less excusable. Thus their cities were like watch towers in which they might keep guard, so as to drive impiety away from the borders of the holy land. Hence was the light of heavenly doctrine diffused; hence was the seed of life scattered; hence were the examples to be sought of holiness and universal integrity.

4. And the suburbs of the cities. A discrepancy here appears, from whence a question arises; for Moses first limits the suburbs to a thousand cubits from the city in every direction; and then seems to extend them to two thousand. Some thus explain the difficulty, viz., that the parts nearest to the city were destined for cottages and gardens; and that then there was another space of a thousand cubits left free for their flocks and herds; but this seems only to be invented, in order to elude by the subterfuge the contradiction objected to. My own opinion rather is, that after Moses had given them a boundary of a thousand cubits on every side, he proceeds to shew the way in which they were to be measured, that thus he may obviate all the quarrels which might aria: from their neighbors. It is plain that, when he repeats the same thing twice, the latter verse is only an explanation of the former; and thus it would be absurd, that after having fixed a thousand cubits, he should immediately double that number. But it will be all very consistent, if this measurement be taken in a circuit; for if you draw a circle, and then a line from the center to the circumference, that line will be about a tenth part of the whole circumference; compare then the fourth part of the circle with the straight line which goes to the center, and it will be greater by one part and a half. But, if you leave a thousand cubits for the city, the two thousand cubits f199 in the four parts of the circumference will correspond with one thousand cubits from the city towards each of the boundaries.

It is afterwards prescribed, in accordance with equity, that a greater or less number of cities should be taken according to the size of the possessions belonging to each tribe; for, just as in paying tax or tribute, regard is had to each man’s means, so it was just that every tribe should contribute equitably in proportion to its abundance. As to the cities of refuge, I now omit to explain what their condition was, because this matter relates to the Sixth Commandment; only let us observe that the wretched exiles were entrusted to the care of the Levites, that they might be more safely guarded. Besides, it was probable that those who presided over holy things would be upright and honest judges, so as not to admit men indiscriminately out of hope of advantage, or from carelessness, but only to protect the innocent, after duly examining their case.

Numbers 23

Go To Numbers 23: 1-7, 22, 23

1. And the Lord said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons. By this solemn appeal God stirs up the priests to devote themselves to their duty with the greatest fidelity and zeal, for He declares that if anything should be done contrary to the requirements of religion, they should be accounted guilty of it, since those are said to “bear the iniquity of the sanctuary” who sustain the crime and the punishment of all its pollutions. God would have the sanctuary kept clear from every stain and defect; and also the dignity of the priesthood was to be maintained in chastity and pureness; a heavy burden, therefore, was imposed upon the priests when they were set over the holy things as their guardians, on this condition that if anything were done amiss they were to be exposed to punishment, because the blame rested on them; just as if God had said that negligence alone was tantamount to sacrilege. Thus their honor, conjoined as it was with so much difficulty and danger, was by no means to be envied.

In this way did God admonish them that the legal rites were of no trifling importance, since he so severely avenged all profanations of them; for thus it was easily to be gathered that something far more excellent and altogether divine was to be sought for in these earthly elements. This may also be very properly applied spiritually to all pastors, to whom blame is justly imputed, if religion and the holiness of God’s worship be corrupted, if purity of doctrine impaired, if the welfare of the people endangered, since the care of all these things is entrusted to them.

2. And thy brethren also. He here assigns their duties to the Levites, that they also may minister, but, as it were, under the hand of the priests, viz., that they may be ruled by their commands. Thus the authority was in the hands of the priests, but the Levites afforded them their assistance. On this ground they are prohibited from approaching the altar, or entering the greater sanctuary; in fact, a lower degree is assigned to them, half-way between the priests and the people. Hence did all learn how reverently God’s majesty must be served; for although He had adopted the whole people, yet so far was it from being lawful that any of the multitude should penetrate to the altar, that the Law even kept back the Levites from thence, although they were God’s peculiar ministers. Moreover, in this figure, we perceive how necessary is a Mediator for us to conciliate God’s favor towards us; for, if it was not allowable for the holy and chosen seed of Abraham to approach the typical sanctuary, how should we, who were aliens, f200 now penetrate to heaven, unless a way of access were opened to us through Christ? Finally, when He forbids strangers from meddling with holy things, He does not mean only foreigners, but all the people, except the tribe of Levi; for here a distinction is drawn, not between the Church and heathen nations, but between the ministers of the sanctuary and the rest of the people.

5. And ye shall keep the charge. He again exhorts the priests to be diligent in the performance of their office, with the addition of a denunciation of punishment if they failed in zeal and earnestness. Nor does He now threaten them alone, but the whole people; neither does this contradict the foregoing declaration, inasmuch as the common fault of all by no means lightened theirs. Nay, if God punished the innocent people on account of the pollution of the sanctuary, how much heavier a punishment awaited the priests, (antistites,) by whose fault the sin was committed, so that they might be justly accounted its authors. Meanwhile let us learn from this passage how sincerely we ought to demean ourselves in the service of God, the profanation of which is intolerable to Him. Moreover, in order that the priests might engage themselves in their duties more actively, and with greater sedulity, He shews that they cannot give way to idleness without base ingratitude, since they reign in a manner over the whole tribe of Levi, or at any rate they hold the supremacy among their brethren. An indirect reproof of their negligence, if they do not faithfully fulfill their duties, is implied, when God reminds them that He has of His liberality honored them with the priesthood. “I have appointed your office, as a gift,” f201 i.e., I have gratuitously conferred on you what was otherwise yours by no right. Others read it differently, viz., “I have appointed your priesthood as a ministration of gift:” but since the meaning amounts to the same thing, nor does it make any difference in the main, we may freely take our choice.

22. Neither must the children of Israel. He again inculcates what he had before said, that the Levites were chosen to attend to the sacred things; since God would not admit all the people promiscuously, as before the giving of the Law, when others also offered the sacrifices. But, nevertheless, He strongly charges them that they should be attentive to the performance of their duties, since, if any of them should offend, their crime would be fatal; for so we must understand His words, “they shall bear their iniquity f202 to die:” just as in the next verse He says that they shall be guilty of all the pollutions, for, if the service of God should be defiled by inadvertency, the crime shall be imputed to them.

Numbers 4

Go To Numbers 4: 4-20, 24-28, 31-33

4. This shall be the service of the sons of Kohath. He assigns their various offices to the Levites: firstly, lest their promiscuous sedulity should beget confusion; secondly, lest ambition should stimulate certain of them, f203 from whence disputes and contentions might arise. We know how confusedly men work unless a certain rule is prescribed to them, lest they should run about in an aimless hurry; and whilst each individual desires to anticipate others, an unworthy emulation ensues, which afterwards vents itself in quarrels. If, therefore, this had not been prevented, the Levites would soon have made disturbances in their duty, and contentions would have taken place between them. God, then, comes forward, and by His own authority confines them all within their proper bounds, and restrains their foolish passions. That a more honorable office is assigned to the sons of Kohath than to the others, proceeds from God’s gratuitous favor; and thus all pride was suppressed, lest any should boast of his dexterity, or industry, or other gifts. The charge of the Holy of holies is, therefore, entrusted to the sons of Kohath; not that they should handle any part of it, but only that they should carry on the march its vessels, when packed by the priests; for God commands the sons of Aaron to come and take down the sanctuary, and carefully cover the veil, the altar, and other sacred vessels with their proper covers, before the sons of Kohath laid a finger upon them, that thus the reverence of the people for holy things might be increased; and besides, that when the other tribes should see even the Levites forbidden from touching the sanctuary, they might be reminded of their unworthiness and humbled the more. Moreover, all cause of envy was removed when the other Levites heard that a perilous duty was entrusted to the sons of Kohath, for God threatens them with death if they touch any forbidden thing: and lastly, admonishes the priests, the sons of Aaron, lest by their carelessness they should destroy their brethren; for, if they should leave anything uncovered, they would be the cause of their destruction.

24. This is the service of the families of the Gershonites. The tasks which He enjoins upon the sons of Gershon, as well as the sons of Merari, are apparently mean and laborious, for it was a hard and also a servile work to carry the curtains and the tabernacle, together with its coverings, the boards, too, and the bars, and the pillars. But hence we learn that in God’s service nothing is to be despised, but that each and every part of our duty should be cheerfully performed, inasmuch as it ought abundantly to satisfy us, that God should have deigned to choose us as ministers of His sanctuary, so that neither weariness nor pride should ever hinder us in our duty.

Leviticus 27

Go To Leviticus 27: 1-9

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses. In this, and similar passages, God appoints the priests to offer the sacrifices; for although they were common to all the people, nevertheless He would have them offered to Him by the hand of one person, and in a particular place: first, because, if they had been allowed to build altars everywhere, His pure and genuine worship would have been corrupted by this variety; and secondly, that He might direct the people to the Mediator, because this principle was ever to be held fast by believers, that no offerings could be legitimate except by His grace. The same doctrine will often occur hereafter, where the sacrifices are treated of; but, since we are here discussing the priests’ office, let it be sufficient to have said once for all that it was not lawful for private persons to offer anything to God, except by the hands of the priest, to whom this duty was enjoined. But, since in this point vain glory is marvelously apt to affect men’s minds, He threatens His severe vengeance against whosoever shall have attempted it. It has already been explained why God chose a single sanctuary. He now declares that, unless the victims are brought thither, this profanation will be equivalent to the murder of a man. He therefore commands that all the victims should be brought before the altar, even although those who offer them may be far away; for “the surface of the field” f204 means a distant place, lest any one should excuse himself by the inconvenience of the journey. He expressly names the peace-offerings, because that was the kind of sacrifice whereby private individuals were accustomed to testify their piety. God declares, then, that their service would be acceptable to Him, if the priest should intervene to make the oblation in right of the charge committed to him. Finally, this law is ratified unto all generations, that its abrogation may never be attempted. The reason for this is stated, which has been elsewhere more fully explained, i.e., that a single place had been ordained at which they were to assemble; and again, that a priest was appointed who might observe the ceremonies enjoined by the Law, in order that they might worship God in purity; and pollute not nor adulterate His sacrifices by strange superstitions. For we have stated that the ancient people were tied to the sanctuary, lest religion should be twisted and altered according to men’s fancies, and lest any inventions should creep in whereby they might easily decline into idolatry. The commandment which He gave, then, that the priest only should offer the victims, is recommended on the score of its great usefulness; viz., because it would restrain the people from prostituting themselves to devils. Hence a profitable doctrine is gathered, that men cannot be restrained from turning away to idolatry, except by seeking from God’s mouth the one simple rule of piety.

8. And thou shalt say unto them. The law is now extended to strangers, not those who were heathens, but those who, springing originally from other nations, had devoted themselves to pure religion. For, if more had been allowed to them than to the genuine children of Abraham, the corruption would, according to their wont, have soon spread more widely. God, then, would not have His sanctuary defiled by foreigners, lest their liberty might make its way amongst the whole people. From this latter portion we may gather that the word “kill” f205 which is elsewhere taken in a sense, is here confined to the sacrifices; since permission is elsewhere given to the people to eat (meat) in all their cities and villages, provided they abstain from blood. We must remember, therefore, that the question is not here as to their ordinary food, but only as to the victims, which were never to be offered except at the tabernacle.

Deuteronomy 27

Go To Deuteronomy 27: 8-11

8. If there arise a matter too hard for thee. The principal office of the priests is here described under a single head, viz., that they should declare what was right in doubtful and obscure matters out of the Law of God; for although God seems only to refer to civil controversies, yet there is no doubt but that by synecdoche He appoints them to be interpreters of the doctrine of the Law. That their authority might be more reverenced in general, He commands the people to acquiesce in their judgment even on the most disagreeable points: for if their sentence is to be submitted to where a man’s life is in question, or when any disputes are to be settled, much more is all exception taken away with respect to God’s worship and spiritual doctrine. I confess that the priests are not the sole judges here appointed, but that others of the people are associated with them as colleagues, yet the dignity of the priesthood is especially exalted. The opinion which some hold, that the high priest alone is intended by the word judge, is easily refuted; because Moses distinctly enumerates the priests, the Levites, and the judge. But it is probable that there is by enallage a change of number in it; for it appears from the sacred history that several were appointed, where Jehoshaphat is related to have chosen “of the Levites, and of the priests, and of the chief of the fathers of Israel” to preside at Jerusalem in judgment. (<141908>2 Chronicles 19:8.) Assuredly the pious king would have been unwilling to depart in the very least degree from the rule of the Law, and his zeal is praised by the Holy Spirit Himself: but this was the arrangement made, as appears a little further on, that the high priest held the primacy “in matters of the Lord,” and the king’s governor attended to civil causes and earthly affairs. And thus again is confirmed what I have lately adverted to, i.e., that the office of teaching was entrusted to the priests, that they might solve any difficult questions, which is also supported by the words of Jehoshaphat, when he says, “And what cause soever shall come to you of your brethren — between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and judgments, ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the Lord.” (<141910>2 Chronicles 19:10.)

Certainly, as the cognisance of capital crimes properly belonged to judges of the other tribes, so determinations as to precepts and statutes, and the interpretation of the whole Law, was the peculiar province of the priests; nor can we doubt but that the words of Malachi, (<390207>Malachi 2:7,) “the priests’ lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts,” were taken from this passage. Now, to come to the sum of this, God appoints the seat of judgment to be at the sanctuary; for, although in the first verse He seems to nominate the priests and judges indiscriminately to the decision of earthly quarrels, yet in the fourth verse from this He sufficiently shews that another province is committed to the priests, i.e., to keep the people in sound and pure doctrine, and to expound what is right — in a word, to be the teachers of the Church. But, although the people were to assent to whatever they should decide, so that it would be sinful for them to decline from it to the right hand or the left, yet a tyrannical power was not thus put into their hands, as if, when they had arbitrarily changed light into darkness, their perverted decisions were to be deemed oracular. Their interpretation was to be received without appeal; yet, on the other hand, this rule was prescribed to them, that they should speak as from the mouth of God. It is true that the word here used is, hrwt, f206 thorah; which, although it means teaching, yet undoubtedly signifies that teaching which is comprised in the Law, nay, it is equivalent to the word law. And of this Jehoshaphat is a faithful interpreter, when he enumerates the divisions, of which Scripture everywhere shews the Law of Moses to consist. Although yp, phi, taken metaphorically, is equivalent in Hebrew to discourse, yet it here emphatically expresses the sentence which shall be taken from the pure teaching of the Law. The children of Israel, therefore, are commanded to do what the priests shall have taught them; but how? according to the sentence taken from the Law. Nor can it be doubted but that God at the same time furnished those, whom He desired to exalt to such a high dignity, with the spirit of understanding and rectitude, that they might not deliver any improper sentence. And this also is conveyed by the promise, “They shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:” since it would have been absurd that the people should have obeyed God in vain, and to their own destruction. Since now one sole Priest, who is also our Master, even Christ, is set over us, wo be unto us if we do not simply submit ourselves to His word, and are not ready to obey Him, with all the modesty and teachableness that becomes us.

Rights of the Priests

Numbers 5

<040509>Numbers 5:9, 10

9. And every offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they bring unto the priest, shall be his.

9. Omnis oblatio sanctificationum in filiis Israel, sacerdoti quam efferent erit ipsius.

10. And every man’s hallowed things shall be his: whatsoever any man giveth the priest, it shall be his.

10. Qued quisque sanctificaverit sacerdotis erit, et tradetur in manum ejus.


9. And every offering. Thus far I have brought together the passages, in which Moses treats of the office of the priests, and have briefly expounded them, I will now begin to treat of their rights, i.e., of the honor which God invested them with, that He might have them ready and cheerful in their obedience. Here, however, Moses lightly touches upon what he more fully sets forth in other passages, as we shall presently see, viz., He assigns to the priests all the holy oblations, the various kinds of which He afterwards enumerates. Now, there were three principal grounds for this law; — First, Lest what had been already dedicated to God should be profaned by its promiscuous use; for, that the sacrifices might retain their proper dignity, it was necessary to distinguish the sacred from ordinary meats. Secondly, A vainglorious excess in respect to the ceremonies was restrained; for if after the victims were killed all the flesh had been returned to the owners, a desire of ostentation f207 would have grown up amongst foolish men, the rich would have come emulously to gain applause, and when they had feasted magnificently, they would have exposed the rest for sale. Thus would they have abused their false pretense of worshipping God to the acquirement of favor towards themselves. The third ground is that which Paul touches upon, viz., that it is just that the ministers of the altar should live by the altar, (<460913>1 Corinthians 9:13;) for though it is an unworthy thing that the servants of God should be attracted by their hire, yet was God unwilling that the priests, when they had freely bestowed their labor on the worship of the sanctuary, should suffer from hunger, lest their alacrity might thus be repressed. For if they desired to execute their office properly, it was necessary that they should attend altogether to spiritual things, and abandon the care of their domestic affairs. If any should object that these were incentives to avarice, and that an excellent and profitable calling was set before the priests, the reply is easy: whatever came to their share, since it was restricted to their own eating, could not have been excessive in quantity; for they were not allowed to sell any, nor even to give it away to others, as we have already seen, and as will hereafter be repeated. Thus then the foul dishonesty of those, who taunt Moses as if he had enriched the priests by the spoils of the people, is abundantly reftired; for if there were any whose interests he would have desired to consult, surely his own sons would have been preferred to all; yet to them there is no reference here. Nay, whatever he grants to the priests, he takes away from his own sons and their posterity; as if he purposely deprived them of advantages which were not otherwise unlawful. In a word, the dignity of holy things was alone consulted, without any endeavor being made to enrich the priests.

Numbers 28

Go To Numbers 28: 8-19

8. And the Lord spake unto Aaron. He now proceeds to state more fully what he had been lately adverting to, as to the rights of the priests with respect to the sacred oblations. We must, however, remember the contrast, which I spoke of, between the priests of the higher order and the Levites; for, whilst the family of Aaron is invested with peculiar honors, the other families of the tribe of Levi are abased. God, then, assigns to the priests alone all the offerings, in which was the greater consecration, called “the holy of holinesses.” f208 An exception will afterwards appear; viz., that the whole was to be deposited, by way of honor, with the priests, out of which they were to pay a part to the Levites, who were performing their office in the service of the sanctuary. He tells them that this privilege is given them “by reason of the anointing,” lest the priests should pride themselves or magnify themselves on this score; for God’s gratuitous liberality ought to instruct us in modesty and humility. It is by this argument that Paul corrects and represses all vain boasting: “Why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (<460407>1 Corinthians 4:7.) Now, the sons of Aaron had obtained their anointing by no other right, than that God had been pleased to elect them to it. This is also indicated by their privilege being spoken of as “a gift:” but God thus more expressly commends His grace, for He makes mention of His gift for another reason, i.e., that none should enter into any dispute or controversy with the priests on this point.

9. This shall be thine. He enumerates certain kinds of sacrifices which He desired to come to the share of the priests; viz., all the residue of the burnt-offerings; secondly, the minha, or meat-offering; thirdly, what was consecrated of the sin and trespass-offerings; although the following clause, “which they shall restore unto me,” seems to be added by way of restriction, as if it only designated those sacrifices of which mention will be elsewhere made, f209 and by which they purged themselves from the guilt of theft, unless it may perhaps be preferred to read it as if to the sin and trespass-offerings this third were added, wherein people restored what did not belong to them, that they might be freed from the guilt of theft. After this He adds the free gifts, which the children of Israel vowed, and the first-fruits of oil, as well as of wine and corn. But this distinction was laid down, that God might more surely prevent jealousy and ill-will; for if there had been any ambiguity, many disputes would have straightway arisen, and thus the reverence due to sacred things would have been impaired. At the same time, however, God prescribes to the priests, that none but males should eat of the burnt-offerings, and nowhere else but in the sanctuary; for there would have been danger (as we said before) that the dignity of these holy offerings would have been lessened, if they had been carried away to private houses and mixed with ordinary meats; besides, God was unwilling to indulge the priests in sumptuous living, but by the very sight of the sanctuary induced them to be frugal and sober in their repasts. For this was a kind of military discipline to encourage abstinence, that they should go away from their wife and family to take their meal. But whatever was offered as a vow, and the first-fruits, He allows to be eaten of by the women, and in their houses, provided only that no unclean person should touch what had once been sacred.

15. Every thing that openeth the matrix. The same thing is now ordained as to the first-born, viz., that the priests should have them also for themselves; though at the same time a distinction is inserted, that the first-born of man should be redeemed. With regard to unclean beasts, the owners were free either to redeem or to kill them. But, since this matter is not professedly treated of here, God only briefly declares that He gives to the priests whatever profit may be made of the first-born. The command that the first-born should be redeemed according to the estimation of the priests, does not mean that the priests should themselves prescribe the value, as if they had the authority to do so; but that estimation is referred to by which they were bound according to God’s command, as we saw elsewhere; and this may be readily gathered from the context, because the price is presently added, which God Himself had fixed. As to the first-born of clean animals, another law is given, viz., that they should be killed at the altar, and their fat burned, whilst the flesh was to belong to the priests, like the breast and the right shoulder of the burnt-offerings. But, lest any of the Levites or of the people — since men are always eager for innovation — should ever attempt to violate this decree, all controversy is removed in future ages, when God declares that what He gave to the priests He would never have taken away from them. First, He uses the word edict or decree, f210 which others translate “statute:” and then adds the title “covenant,” f211 in order that its observation may be more sacred, and less exposed to contentions and quarrels; for nothing could be more indecent than that the priests should dispute regarding their rights and privileges. God, then, signifies that He shall be Himself outraged, if any one should trouble the priests. By the word “salt,” perpetuity is metaphorically expressed; in which, however, God appears to allude to the sacrifices, which it was not lawful to offer unless seasoned with salt; that the Israelites might learn that, by earthly and corruptible things, something greater was designated; for we know that salted meats do not so easily become corrupt. In a word, this metaphor implies inviolable stability.

Leviticus 6

Go To Leviticus 6: 16-18, 26-29

16. And the remainder thereof. He repeats what we have seen just before, that the residue of those oblations, in which there was peculiar holiness, should belong to the priests; but upon condition that they should be eaten nowhere except in the sanctuary. A special precept is also given as to the minha, (meat-offering,) that it should not be made into leavened bread; for thus the meal, which had been already dedicated to God, would be changed into common food, which could not be done without profanation. Since, then, God admits the priests, as it were, to His own table, the dignity of their office is not a little heightened by this privilege; yet in such a manner as that by their liberty the reverence due to God’s service may not be impaired. Afterwards Moses confirms in general terms that right, which had been before assigned to them, that they should take what remained of the burnt-offerings, on condition that it should be eaten by males only, and in the sacred place; in order that God’s presence may not only act as a restraint on their luxury and intemperance, but, also instruct them in the sobriety due from His servants, and, in a word, accustom them to exceeding purity, whilst they reflect that they are separated from all others. At the end of ver. 18, some translate it in the neuter gender, “every thing that shall have touched them shall be holy:” but in this passage Moses seems to me to prescribe that none but the priests should touch the minha. It was said elsewhere of the altar and its vessels, that by virtue of their anointing they sanctified whatever was placed upon them; but we now see that ordinary men are prohibited from touching sacred things, that their sanctity may be inviolate. For we know that the sons of Aaron were anointed with this object, that they alone might be allowed to touch whatever was consecrated to God. Therefore the verb in the future tense is put for the imperative. So also it is soon afterwards said of the victims, ver. 27, “Whosoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy:” f212 because Moses enacts this special law for the priests, that they alone should handle the sacrifices. Nor does what immediately follows contradict this, “when there is sprinkled of the blood thereof on any garment,” etc.; for he does not mean to say that the garments or any vessels would be consecrated by the mere touch; but it is an argument from the less to the greater; if it were not lawful to take a garment sprinkled with the blood, or the pots in which the flesh was dressed, out of the tabernacle, unless the garment were washed, or the pots broken or rinsed, much more were they to beware lest any of the ordinary people should meddle with it. For how shall a mortal man dare to lay a hand upon that holy thing (sanctitati) which could not even cleave to the garment; of a priest without atonement? The sum is that a thing so holy should not be mixed with unhallowed things.

Numbers 5

<040508>Numbers 5:8

8. But if the man have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the Lord, even to the priest, beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him.

8. Si non fuerit viro redhibitor cui restituat delictum, delictum restituetur Jehovae, sacerdotis erit, procter arietem expiationum quo expiebit eum.


8. But if the man have no kinsman. This passage, which I have inserted from chapter 5 is connected f213 indeed with another subject, and yet, because it directly refers to the right of the priests, it was necessary to remove it to this place, especially since it expresses that kind of sacrifice which Moses has lately adverted to, i.e., when they expiated the crime of theft. God did not indeed desire that the priests should be enriched by others’ losses, nor that thieves should go free, if they offered what they had stolen to the priests; but, if there were no one to whom they could restore it, He would have their houses delivered from (the proceeds of) their sin; and with very good reason, since otherwise the very gross offender would have never hesitated to plunder the goods of a dead man, if he were without heirs. First, therefore, He commanded their property to be restored to the lawful owners; and, if they were dead, He substituted their kinsmen, who are called ylag, goelim, on account of the right of redemption, which God granted in the Law to relatives, as we shall see elsewhere; and because he who was next of kin was commanded to marry the widow of one who had left no seed. It was therefore a very uncommon thing that a person who had defrauded another had to recompense the loss to the priest; for in most cases some successor to the dead man would be found.

Leviticus 7

Go To Leviticus 7: 6-10, 14, 31-36

In these passages Moses confirms what we have seen before as to the rights of the priests, and also adds an exception to which he had not yet referred. In general, therefore, he claims for the priests whatever remained of the holier victims; and distinguishes them by this prerogative from the other Levites; from whence we gather how free from all self-seeking Moses was, when by God’s command he deprives his own sons not only of the dignity which was conferred on his nephews, but also of their pecuniary advantages. Let none, he says, but the sons of Aaron enjoy the sacred oblations, because they are divinely anointed that they may approach the altar. But, since some rivalry might have arisen among themselves, he adds a special law, that certain kinds of offerings should only be taken by the priest who had offered them. For although they ought all to have disinterestedly discharged their duties, and not to have been attracted by lucre, yet, that all might perform their parts more cheerfully, he appoints a reward for their labor and diligence. On this account he prescribes that the residue of the minha in the peace-offerings, and also the right shoulder of the victim, and the flesh that remained of the trespass-offerings, should be the recompense of the priest who had performed the office of atonement and sprinkling the blood. It is unquestionable that many were attracted by the desire of gain, who would otherwise have neglected their duties; but this was a proof of God’s fatherly indulgence, that He consulted their infirmity so that their hire might be a spur to their diligence. Meanwhile He did not desire to hire their services like those of slaves, so that they should be mercenaries in heart; but rather, when He reproves them by His Prophet because there were none of them who would “kindle fire on His altar for nought.” (<390110>Malachi 1:10.) He aggravates their ingratitude, not only because they would not give their services gratuitously, but because, when they received their hire, they defrauded Him who had appointed them to be His ministers.

Right to Tithes

Numbers 18

Go To Numbers 18: 20, 21, 23, 24

Deuteronomy 12

<051219>Deuteronomy 12:19

19. Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.

19. Cave autem tibi ne derelinquas Levitam omnibus diebus tuis super terrain tuam.


<041820>Numbers 18:20. And the Lord spake unto Aaron. This passage only refers in general to the payment of those tithes which were common to all the Levites. We shall soon afterwards see that the Levites, by God’s command, paid other tithes to the priest; and a third sort will be added, which were only offered every third year. As to the present passage, God requires tithes of the people for the maintenance of the tribe of Levi. It is indeed certain that the custom had existed of old among the ancient patriarchs before the Law, that they should vow or offer tithes to God, as appears from the example of Abraham and Jacob. Moreover, the Apostle infers that the priesthood of Melchisedec was superior to that of the Law, because, when Abraham paid him tithes, he also received tithes of Levi himself. (<011420>Genesis 14:20; <012822>28:22; <580711>Hebrews 7:11.) But there were two different and special reasons for this payment of tithes, which God ordained by Moses. First, because the land had been promised to the seed of Abraham, the Levites were the legitimate inheritors of a twelfth part of it; but they were passed over, and the posterity of Joseph divided into two tribes: unless, therefore, they had been provided for in some other way, the distribution would have been unequal. Again, forasmuch as they were employed in the sanctuary, their labor was worthy of some remuneration, nor was it reasonable that they should be defrauded of their subsistence, when they were set apart for the performance of the sacred offices, and for the instruction of the people. Two reasons are consequently laid down why God would have them receive tithes from the rest of the people, viz., because they had no part in Israel, and because they were engaged in the service of the tabernacle. Besides, God, who as their King laid claim to the tithes as His own right, resigns them to the Levites, and appoints them to be as it were His representatives. To this the words, “I am thine inheritance,” refer.

The manner in which the tithes were employed will be seen afterwards in its proper place: it will be sufficient now to remember that the part which God had taken away from them and transferred to the sons of Joseph was thus compensated for; and since they were withdrawn from domestic cares, that in the name of all the people they might be more at liberty for, and more intent upon, sacred things, an income for their maintenance was thus given them. Wherefore the Papal priests draw a silly inference, when they claim the tithes for themselves, as if due to them in right of the priesthood; else must they needs prove that those, whom they call the laity, are their tenants, as if they were themselves the lords of the twelfth part of all landed property; and again, it would be sacrilege to appropriate the tithes to their own use, and to possess other lands of which they receive the rent. Nor does that expression of the Apostle, which they no less dishonestly than ignorantly allege, help them at all,

“The priesthood being changed, the right also is at the same time transferred.” (<580712>Hebrews 7:12.)

The Apostle there contends, that whatever the Law had conferred on the Levitical priests now belongs to Christ alone, since their dignity and office received its end in Him. These blockheads, just as if they had robbed Christ, appropriate to themselves the honor peculiar to Him. If they duly performed their duties, and, giving up all earthly business, devoted themselves altogether to the instruction of the people, and to the execution of all the other offices of good and faithful pastors, unquestionably they ought to be maintained by the public; as Paul correctly infers that a subsistence is now no less due to the ministers of the Gospel than of old to the priests who waited at the altar, (<460914>1 Corinthians 9:14;) but under this pretext they unjustly lay hands on the tithes, as if they were their owners, and with still greater impudence accumulate landed properties and other revenues.

It is probable that when the Roman Emperors f214 first professed themselves Christians, either induced by just and proper feelings, or out of superstition, or impressed with a pious solicitude that the Church should not be without ministers, they gave the tithes for the maintenance of the clergy; for whilst the Roman State was kee, the people used to exact tithes from their tributary nations. And this was the case, too, where there were kings; for the Sicilians f215 paid tithes before the Romans obtained dominion over them. Moreover, if there was a scarcity of corn in the city, the senate demanded a second tithe of the provinces. Nay, we gather from <090815>1 Samuel 8:15, that it was a most ancient custom for kings to receive tithes; so that we need not be surprised that the Romans should have imitated this example. Whence we may infer that, when the Emperors wished to bestow a maintenance on pastors out of the public stock, they rather chose a tenth than any other proportion, that they might imitate God. And in fact some traces of this still remain; for the tithes do not everywhere belong to the priests; and it is well known that a good part of them are swallowed up by monks and abbots, who were not formerly reckoned among the clergy. I need not say that some lands are tithe free. But how would the Pope have allowed them to be held by laymen, if, by divine right, (as they stupidly prate,) they had been the sacred inheritance of the clergy? In conclusion, inasmuch as titlies are to be counted amongst public imposts and tributes, let not private individuals refuse to pay them, unless they wish to destroy the political state and government of kingdoms; but let pious princes take care to correct abuses, so that idle bellies may not devour public revenues which are devoted to the Church.

I am thy part. I have just before explained the meaning of this clause, viz., that, because the Levites were excluded from the common inheritance, God compensates this loss out of what is His, as if they received it from His hand; as much as to say, that He in Himself afforded a supply abundantly sufficient for their remuneration. Meanwhile, they are commanded to be contented in Him alone. Nor can we doubt but that David alludes to this passage when he exclaims,

“The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance; the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places,” (<191605>Psalm 16:5;)

for he intimates not only that God is more to him than all earthly wealth, but that in comparison with Him all that others accounted to be most excellent and delectable was worthless. Since now we are all made priests in Christ, this condition is imposed upon us, that we should seek no other portion. Not that we are actually to renounce all earthly goods, but because our felicity is so securely based on Him, that, contented with Him, we should patiently endure the want of all things, whilst those who possess anything should be no less free and unentangled than as if they possessed nothing.

Leviticus 27

Go To Leviticus 27: 30-33

30. And all the tithe of the land. In these words God shews that in assigning the tithes to the Levites, He ceded His own rights, inasmuch as they were a kind of royal revenue; and thus He bars all complaint, since otherwise the other tribes might have murmured on being unduly burdened. He therefore appoints the priests as His receivers, to collect in His name what could not be refused without impious and sacrilegious fraudulency. In the provision that, where the tithes are redeemed by a money payment, a fifth part should be added to their value, the object is not that the Levites should make a gain of the loss of others; but, because the owners of property craftily aimed at some advantage in this commutation of corn for money, frauds are thus prevented whereby something would be lost to the Levites by this deceptive exchange. On the same grounds He commands that the animals, whatever they might be, should be given as tithe, and does not permit them to be redeemed by money, since, if the choice had been free, no fat or healthy animal would have ever come to the Levites. Therefore, in this law a remedy was applied to avarice and meanness, and not without good cause; for if the proverb be true, that “good laws spring from evil habits,” f216 it was necessary that so covetous and ill-disposed a people should be restrained in the path of duty by the utmost severity. And although such careful provision was made for the Levites, yet there was scarcely any period in which they did not suffer from want, and sometimes they wandered about half-starved; nay, after the return from the Babylonish captivity, the memory of so great a blessing did not prevent a part of the tithes from being surreptitiously withheld from them; as God complains in <390308>Malachi 3:8. Whence it appears that it was not without purpose that the people were so imperiously enjoined to pay them.

Deuteronomy 14

Go To Deuteronomy 14: 22, 27-29

22. Thou shalt truly tithe. He repeats in general terms the law before enacted, whereby he claims for God the tithe of all the fruit. He does not, however, immediately declare to whom they are to be paid, but inserts some provisions respecting other offerings, which I have elsewhere explained. But when, soon afterwards, in verse 27, he recommends the Levites to them, he shews what is the proper use to which they are to be applied. He signifies that it would be cruel to defraud the Levites of them, f217 and that they would be wicked and unjust if they were grudgingly to pay them the tithes, which were theirs by hereditary right, since their tribe possessed no inheritance in land.

28. At the end of three years. Those are mistaken, in my opinion, who think that another kind of tithe is here referred to. It is rather a correction or interpretation of the Law, lest the priests and Levites alone should consume all the tithes, without applying a part to the relief of the poor, of strangers, and widows. In order to make this clearer, we must first observe, that not every third year is here prescribed, f218 but that the years are counted from the Sabbatical year; for we shall elsewhere see that on every seventh year the land was to rest, so that there was no sowing nor reaping. After two harvests, therefore, the tithes of the third year were not the entire property of the Levites, but were shared also by the poor, the orphans, and widows, and strangers. This may easily be seen by calculating the years; for otherwise the third year would have often fallen on the Sabbatical one, in which all agriculture was at a stand-still. Now, this was a most equitable arrangement, that the priests and Levites having been well provided for during two years, should admit their poor brethren and strangers to a share. Some part was thus withdrawn from their abundance, lest they should give themselves up to luxurious habits; and thus it was brought about that not more than a twelfth portion every year should remain to them. In sum, there was one peculiar year in every seven in which the Levites did not alone receive the tithes for their own proper use, but shared them with the orphans, and widows, and strangers, and the rest of the poor. “They shall eat (He says) and be satisfied,” who would otherwise have to suffer hunger, “that the Lord may bless thee,” (verse 29;) by which promise He encourages them to be liberal.

Deuteronomy 26

Go To Deuteronomy 26: 12-15

12. When thou hast made an end of tithing. In this passage Moses urgently stimulates them to offer the tithes willingly and abundantly, by placing God, as it were, before their eyes, as if they paid them into his hand: for a solemn protestation is enjoined, in which they condemn themselves as guilty before God, if they have not faithfully paid the tax imposed upon them; but they pray for grace and peace if they have honestly discharged their duty. For nothing can be more awakening to men, than when f219 God is introduced as the judge of any particular matter. This is the reason why he commands them to protest in God’s sight that they have obeyed His ordinance in the payment of their tithes. To separate, or “bring away out of the house,” is equivalent to their being conscious of no fraud in withholding from God what was His; and thus that they were guiltless of sacrilege, since they had not diverted anything holy to their private use. What follows, “I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them,” must only be referred to the matter in hand; for it would have been too great an act of temerity and arrogance in them, to have boasted that they had kept and fulfilled the Law in every part and parcel. Still this manner of speaking signifies desire rather than perfection; as if they had said, that it was the full purpose of their minds to obey God’s precepts. We must remember, however, what I have said, that this properly refers to the legal ceremonies. With the same meaning it is soon after said, “I have done according to all that thou hast commanded me:” for if they had gloried in their perfection, they had no need of sacrifices, or other means of purification. But as I have just said, God only invites them to examine themselves, f220 so that they may in sincerity of heart call upon Him as the witness of their piety.

14. I have not eaten thereof in my mourning (tristitia). It is clear that the sacred offerings are here spoken of; but the question is, what is meant by eating in mourning? This is the exposition received by almost universal consent; that although want may have tempted them to theft and fraud, yet the people assert that, even in their poverty and straits, they have abstained from the hallowed things; and to this I willingly assent; although this word “mourning” may be taken for the anxiety of a mind conscious of its iniquity in this sense, “I have not knowingly and willingly eaten anything consecrated to God, so that the hot iron (cauterium) of an evil conscience should burn me, in the way in which man’s guilt ever torments and troubles him.” As to the second clause, interpreters differ. Some translate the word r[b bagnar, f221 “to destroy:” as if it were said, that they had suffered nothing to perish through uncleanness; but others explain it, I have taken away nothing for a profane purpose. My own opinion is, however, that the word amf, tama, is used adverbially for “impurely,” so that the people testify that they are not polluted, or contaminated by withholding anything. f222 Thus, in my idea, some do not badly translate it “by uncleanness:” for it was not possible for the Israelites to apply the tithes to other uses, without contracting pollution by their wicked abuse of them. The ambiguity in the third clause is still greater; literally it is, “I have not given thereof to the dead.” In my version I have followed those who refer it to funeral rites; but some suppose that the word “dead” is used metaphorically for an unclean thing; others, in a less natural sense, for expenses, which do not contribute to support man’s life. But it does not yet appear wherefore it should he said that nothing had been spent on funeral rites. It is true that whatever had touched a dead body was unclean; and therefore some expound it, that the victims had not been polluted by any connection with funeral preparations. But if this sense is preferred, the expression must be taken by synecdoche for anything unclean. My own opinion however, is, that under this particular head all things are included which have a shew of piety. The burial of the dead was a praiseworthy office and a religious exercise; f223 so that it might afford a colorable pretext for peculiar laxity; in this word, therefore, God would have the Israelites declare, that they offered no excuse if they had misemployed any of the consecrated things.

15. Look down from thy holy habitation. Whilst they are commanded to offer their prayers and supplications, that God would bless the land, on this condition, that they had not defiled themselves by any sacrilege, at the same time they are reminded, on the other hand, that God’s blessing was not else to be hoped for. Meanwhile the expression is remarkable, “Bless the land which thou hast given us, a land that floweth with milk and honey:” for we infer from hence that the land was not so much fertile by nature, as because God daily watered it by His secret blessing to make it so.

Numbers 18

Go To Numbers 18: 25-32

25. And the Lord spake unto Moses. This is another kind of tithe, i.e., a hundredth part of the whole produce, which the Levites paid to the priests. Some reckon a third kind; but I have given my reasons why I do not agree with this opinion. Assuredly it is not probable that in the same year double tithes were exacted and paid. Let this twofold division, therefore, be enough for us. A larger portion was given to the priests, not only as an honorable distinction, but. because greater holiness and integrity in expending them was expected from them; and also that they might meet many peculiar burdens. Lest then the Levites should be too sordid and niggardly, God declares that their theft would be no less wicked if they dealt dishonestly towards the priests, than as if the people should withhold any part of their own just share; for this is the object of the words, that the tithe of the tithes, which they are commanded to pay, should be as if they paid it from the threshing-floor and the wine-press, (ver. 27;) as though it were said that they were no more exempted from the second tithes, than the people from the first. The precept is then still further extended, viz., that they should offer a part of all the offerings. Thirdly, sincere liberality is inculcated upon them, that they should not lay aside as the priests’ portion anything that was lean or out of condition, or in any respect of inferior quality, but that they should rather offer whatever was most choice; for this is what is meant by the word blj, cheleb, f224 which some translate adeps; the word pinguedo seemed more suitable, in which, however, there is a metaphor contained.

31. And ye shall eat it. Because the tithes were reckoned to be amongst the sacred oblations, a question might arise, whether it was lawful to eat them anywhere except in the sanctuary. God therefore declares, that when the Levites had separated the deuuterodeka>tav (the second tithes,) the residue passed into the nature and condition of ordinary meats; inasmuch as they might then eat in any place of the bread made of tithe-corn, like the produce of their own fields. The reason, which is subjoined, seems to be by no means appropriate; via, that it was the reward for the labor which they bestowed on the service of the tabernacle; for hence it was rather to be inferred, that this food was peculiarly destined for the ministers, whilst they were discharging their official duties, and keeping watch in the tabernacle, or killing the victims at the altar. But since by God’s command they were scattered over the whole land, and did not cease to be ministers of the tabernacle on account of the distance of their residence, it was justly permitted that, wherever they might be, they should eat of the meat appointed them by God. If it were allowable to take the particle yk, ki, f225 adversatively, the sense would be clearer. In the next verse he confirms the same declaration, i.e., that they should be free from all guilt when they had honestly paid the priests. Yet at the same time they are strictly admonished that they should not commit themselves by any fraud; for God declares that it would amount to sacrilege, if they should have thievishly embezzled any of it, and threatens them with capital punishment; for “to pollute the holy things” of the people, is equivalent to profaning whatever was consecrated in the name of the whole people.

Deuteronomy 18

Go To Deuteronomy 18: 1-8

1. The priests, the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi. This chapter contains three principal heads; for first, God shews that there was no reason why the Israelites should be aggrieved at paying tithes to the Levites, and at remitting the first-fruits and other oblations to the priests, since this tribe was deprived of their inheritance. Secondly, He obviates all quarrels, and prevents unlawful gains and pilferings, by assigning their just share to the priests and Levites. Thirdly, He defines how the oblations should be parted among them, and what part of the victims the priests were to take. As to the first clause, since God was as it were the lot of their inheritance, they justly claimed to themselves the right which he had transferred to them. If it were disagreeable to the people that their revenue should be tithed, God came as it were between, and declaring that it was His property in His right as King, appointed the Levites to be His stewards and collectors for receiving it. There was then no ground for any one to raise a dispute, unless he chose professedly to rob God. But this declaration often occurs; since it was of great importance that the people should be assured that God accounted as received by Himself what He had assigned to the Levites; not. only lest any portion should be withheld from them, but also that every one should willingly pay the lawful dues of God’s ministers; and again, lest any should wickedly murmur because the first-fruits and some portion of the sacrifices were appropriated for the subsistence of the priests. Another reason is also expressed, why the honor assigned to the priests should be paid without grudging; viz., because God had appointed them to be the ministers of His service; but “the laborer is worthy of his hire.”

3. And this shall be the priests’ due. It is not only for the sake of the priests that God enumerates what He would have them receive, that they may obtain what is their own without murmuring or dispute; but He also has regard to the people, lest the priests should basely and greedily take more than their due; which sacred history relates to have been done by the sons of Eli, (<090223>1 Samuel 2:23,) for they had advanced to such a degree of licentiousness, that, like robbers, they seized violently on whatever their lust desired. Lest therefore they should give way to this gross covetousness, God prescribes to them certain limits, to which they were to confine themselves, so that if they transgressed them, it was easy for any of the people to convict them of avarice.

6. And if a Levite come. This third head more clearly explains what is elsewhere more obscurely declared; for God seemed to curtail from the Levites whatever He gave to the priests. But He now more distinctly places the priests in the first rank, yet so that they should admit the Levites on the score of their labor’s to a share of the oblations. This is the sum of the law, that the Levites who remained at home, should be content with the tithes, and touch nothing of the other offerings; but that from whithersoever they should come to the sanctuary, they were to be accounted as ministers and take their proper place. By this law then, it was provided that none should be excluded on the ground of the intermission of their duties; and that the condition of those that dwelt elsewhere should not be worse than of those who lived at Jerusalem. For although they might reside in other cities, they did not altogether cease from their ministry, since they had other duties to perform besides that of sacrificing the victims. Yet those who entirely devoted themselves to the work of the sanctuary, were endowed by God with double honor; since it was by no means just that they should be defrauded of their maintenance, who bade adieu to domestic cares and labors, and occupied themselves totally in holy offices. That this distribution was not superfluous, will best appear from the narrative of Josephus, who relates that the f226 priests seized on the tithes by violence, and deprived the Levites of their subsistence by hostile measures.

The Sacred Oblations

Leviticus 24

Go To Leviticus 24: 5-9

We now come to the third part of the external service of God, which will bring us to the end of our exposition of the Second Commandment. We have, then, now to treat of the sacred oblations, the first place amongst which I have thought it best to give to the loaves, which had their peculiar table opposite the candlestick on the north side, as we saw in the construction of the Tabernacle; for although the mention of them will recur elsewhere, yet, since they were offered separately, and placed before the Ark of the Covenant, as it were in God’s sight, they must not be treated of apart from the sacrifices. I have already explained that this was no ordinary symbol of God’s favor, when He descended familiarly to them, as if He were their messmate. They were called “the bread of faces,” f227 because they were placed before the eyes of God; and thus He made known His special favor, as if coming to banquet with them. Nor can it be doubted but that He commanded them to be twelve in number, with reference to the twelve tribes, as if He would admit to His table the food offered by each of them. The “two tenths” make the fifth part of the epah. And it is plaia indeed that this rite was thus accurately prescribed by God, lest diversity in so serious a matter might gradually give birth to many corruptions. In the word “tenths,” He seems to allude to the tax which He had imposed on the people, that thus the holiness of the loaves might be enhanced. But why He required two “tenths” rather than one I know not, nor do I think it any use more curiously to inquire. I refer to the frankincense the words, “that it may be on the bread for a memorial:” as if it were said that the bread, seasoned by the smell of the incense, would renew the memory of the children of Israel, so that they should be of sweet savor before God. Others translate it “a monument” instead of “for a memorial,” but with the same meaning. But although some think that the bread itself is called a memorial, it is more applicable to the frankincense; for it is afterwards added, that the incense should be at the same time a burnt sacrifice, viz., because in it the bread was, as it were, offered in burnt sacrifice.


Exodus 29

Go To Exodus 29: 38-46

The custom of sacrificing has always been in use among all nations, and its origin is doubtless to be traced to the ancient Fathers; but after the whole world had fallen away into superstition, first of all, the rites themselves became degenerate, when every one invented something new for himself, and made an absurd mimicry of whatever remained having any similarity, since they no longer retained their proper end and use. All heathendom was ignorant of the reason why it was needful that God should be appeased by blood; and therefore they shed the blood of their victims unreasonably, inasmuch as they did not know themselves to be guilty before God, so as humbly to seek for pardon; and much less did they apply their minds to embrace the atonement, which was not only predestinated in God’s secret counsels, but likewise promised to men. Hence we infer that all the religious services of the Gentiles were rejected of God, (reprobatos,) since they were not based upon His word. Only let this be deemed sure, that, by the very custom of sacrifice, adulterated as it was, they were convicted of their own unworthiness, so that they should have acknowledged that God can only be propitiated towards the human race through the medium of a reconciliation. Foolish, then, was the philosophy of Pythagoras, which held that God’s name was contaminated by sacrifices; for thus does the Poet introduce him, inveighing against the eating of flesh, (eijv th<n sarkofagi>an)

“Nor will the sin itself their hearts content:
The very gods must share that guilty deed,
And He, they think, who reigns omnipotent,
Joys to behold the patient victim bleed.
Spotless it stands, of perfect form confess’d,

(Its beauty nerves the hand which else might spare,)
Before the shrine, with gold and fillets dress’d,
And all unconscious, hears its murderer’s prayer.
It sees the fruits itself has toiled to rear
Placed on its horned brow; and as the blow
Descends, perchance the blood-stained knives appear,
Mirror’d before it in the streamlet’s flow.” f228

 f229 He was pained that an innocent animal should be slain for man’s sin; but he might have considered, what it was gross ignorance not to feel, that men are but too impudently audacious and foolhardy if they come into God’s presence to ask His pardon, seeing that He is justly offended with them all. There is, therefore, nothing absurd in submitting to the eyes of sinners that judgment of death which they deserve, in order that, descending into themselves, they may begin seriously to abominate the sin in which they fondly indulged themselves. But this was the chief cause of the error of Pythagoras, that he knew not that God could not be reconciled without an expiation. Since, however, this is a thing which is beyond the reach of the human mind, let us, who have ever truly sought after God, learn, under the guidance and teaching of Scripture, that He has appointed the propitiation to be by blood; so that, before the delivery of the Law, religion was always sanctioned by sacrifices. Nor can it be doubted but that by the sacred inspiration of the Spirit, the holy fathers were directed to the Mediator, by whose death God was hereafter to be appeased; and surely if Christ be put out of sight, all the sacrifices that may be offered differ in no respect from mere profane butchery. But afterwards a clearer revelation was added in the Law; and since many modes of sacrificing were heaped together by the Gentiles, God left out no part of them at all which might afford a profitable exercise for believers, whether their piety was to be testified, or thanksgivings to be made, or zeal to be added to their prayers, or purification to be sought, or sins to be atoned for. Yet the twofold division of them is complete and clear when we say that some of them were expiatory, and others testimonies of gratitude. Thus, under the first head I include the rites of consecration, by which God would have the priests initiated, since purification was their main object. Moreover, since it is plain that God can listen to no prayers without the intercession of Christ, the constant morning and evening sacrifice was instituted to consecrate the prayers of the Church; and, even when they only celebrated the bounties of God, blood was shed, that they might know that not even their gratitude was acceptable to Him, except through the sacrifice of the Mediator; in a word, that nothing pure can proceed from men unless purged by blood.

38. Now this is that which thou shalt offer. I have thought it well to give the first place among the sacrifices to that daily one which is called the continual sacrifice; for God would have two lambs offered to Him every morning and evening, that the people might perpetually exercise themselves in the recollection of the future reconciliation. But, although the sacrifices were constantly repeated under the Law, inasmuch as their offering had no efficacy in expiating sin, yet it must be observed that, as the priest entered once every year into the holy of holies with blood, so it was profitable that another kind of victim should be daily set before the people’s eyes, in order that they might reflect that they had constant need of being reconciled to God. Propitiation was, therefore, daily made with two lambs, that the Israelites, being reminded of their guilt and condemnation, from the beginning to the end of the day, might learn to fly to God’s mercy. The lamb chosen for this sacrifice was spotless and entire, for the mention of its age (one year) implies its perfection or entireness. It was offered with a cake made with oil, and a libation of wine; and doubtless the ancients were reminded by these symbols that it is not lawful to offer anything tasteless to God. True that God was not gratified by their sweet savor, neither did He desire to accustom the priests to delicacies that they might be epicures under color of religion; for the scent of wine cannot in itself be pleasing to God; but the object of these seasonings was that the people should not rest in the bare and empty figures, but should acknowledge that something better and more excellent underlay them. The savor of the wine and oil, then, was nothing else than the spiritual truth; that the people, for their part., might bring to the sacrifices faith and repentance. And assuredly the external ceremony without the reality would have been mere folly. Even heathen nations partially imitated this rite; whence those words of Horace, —

“Utque sacerdotis fugitivus, liba recuso: ” f230
“And like a runaway from priests, cakes I refuse: ”

whereby he implies that cakes were universally offered to idols. But this was a mere blind mimicry, for they looked no higher, but thought that their gods took delight, like, human beings, in sweet and delicate foods; whilst, as I have above hinted, God’s intention was very different; for, by the, external savor, He desired to arouse His people, so that, being affected by a serious feeling of repentance, and by pure faith, they should seek for the remission of their sins, not in these lambs which they saw slain, but in the victim promised to them. They called it the “continual” sacrifice, because God commanded it to be offered continually through all generations; but it appears from Daniel that it was temporary, for it ceased at the coming of Christ; for so speaks the angel: Christ

“shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the continual sacrifice, and the oblation (minha) to cease.” f231 (<270927>Daniel 9:27.)

It is clear that he speaks of this kind of sacrifice. Hence we assuredly gather that by this sacrifice the minds of the people were directed to Christ. But if this was its use and object with the ancients, the profit of it now returns upon us, that we may know that whatever was then shewn under the figure was fulfilled in Christ. God promises that this sacrifice would be to Him “a savor of rest.” f232 We may not, therefore, doubt but that He has been altogether propitiated to us by the sacrifices of His only-begotten Son, and has remitted our sins. But although Christ was once offered, that by that one offering He might consecrate us for ever to God, yet by this daily sacrifice under the Law, we learn that by the benefit of His death pardon is always ready for us, as Paul says f233 that God continually reconciles Himself to the Church when He sets before it the sacrifice of Christ in the Gospel As to the word minha, f234 although it is derived from, hjn nachah, which means to offer, still we must consider it to be peculiarly applied to this oblation, which was a kind of appendix to the daily sacrifice. There are some, too, who restrict it to the evening sacrifice alone, but, when it is used in connection with victims, it is also extended generally to other offerings.

42. At the door of the tabernacle f235 of the congregation. This passage shews us in what sense the word d[wm mogned, is used, when it is employed in connection with the tabernacle. Some translate it “testimony:” others, “church:” others, “assembly,” (conventum;) others, “appointment,” (constitutum;) but its etymology is sufficiently shewn in this passage; for, when Moses gives the reason of its appellation, he uses the word dgy yagnad, from whence it is derived. What, then, is the tabernacle of the convention? God Himself answers, that it is the place which He has chosen and appointed unto His people, that they may there mutually come to agreement with each other. Some conceive its root to be, hd[ gnadah, which is to make protestation as by a solemn rite; but since this is opposed to grammar, I will take what is certain. The word d[y yagnad, in this construction, means to contract or agree with another, or at least to meet for the transaction of mutual business; no word, therefore, has appeared to me more nearly equivalent to it than convention; for the fact that God invited them to familiar colloquy, was of the greatest weight in preserving the modest reverence of the faithful towards the priests. In the next verse He repeats to them, addressing them in the third person, that whosoever shall desire to be reckoned among the Israelites, should not turn away or wander elsewhere; for a law is laid down for all the children of Israel, that they should seek God there. Another confirmation is subjoined, i.e., that this place ought to be sanctified, because God will there magnificently display His glory. In fine, from the whole passage, it appears that God’s design was to keep the people bound to Him by the tie of the Levitical priesthood; yet we must observe that it is God alone who sanctifies both the place and the offerings, as well as the men themselves. Wherefore frivolous is the boast of those who arrogate more than God has conferred upon them. If we believe the Pope, in him is the holiness of holiness; yet, since he does not produce God’s authority for this, but vaunts himself of titles invented without foundation, we may safely laugh at his stupid impudence. But from this and similar passages, our doctrine is taken that Christ ought not to be estimated humanly, but according to His heavenly and divine power. Hence, too, is refuted the boast of the Popish priests that they offer Christ; for we must always ask them, By what authority? since God claims for Himself alone this right of sanctifying those who exercise the lawful priesthood.

46. And they shall know that I am the Lord. In these words God signifies that He has not only been the deliverer of His people on one occasion, but with the object of presiding over their welfare, and of demonstrating practically that He dwells among them. He, moreover, appointed the sanctuary to be the symbol of His presence, and, as it were, its pledge; from whence He would have the rule of piety proceed, and be sought for by His worshippers.

Numbers 28

Go To Numbers 28: 1-15

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses. Moses, being about to speak again of the “continual” sacrifice, premises in general that the people should diligently follow in their offerings whatever God has enjoined; for by the word “observe,” (custodiendi,) not only diligence, but obedience is also expressed. But, in order that they should more earnestly beware of every transgression, God calls either that which was wont daily to be placed on the table, or that which was annexed to the burnt-offerings, His bread, as if He ate of it after the manner of men. It is indeed a hard expression, but the rudeness of His ancient people obliged Him to speak thus grossly, that, on the one hand, they might learn this rite to be acceptable to God, just as food is acceptable to man; and, on the other, that they might study to offer their sacrifices more purely and chastely.

3. And thou shalt say unto them. He repeats what we have seen in Exodus, that they should kill two lambs daily, one in the morning, and the other in the evening; but he speaks more fully of the concomitants of flour and wine, and also refers to the antiquity of this kind of sacrifice as its recommendation, because it began to be offered to God on Mount Sinai, and was a “savor of rest.” f236 The libation of wine, of which mention is made, was also in use among heathen nations; but, inasmuch as it was without the command and promise of God, it could not but be unmeaning (insipidum.)  f237 And it is probable (as we have seen elsewhere) that many of the heathen rites descended from the ancient fathers but as a false and empty imitation; for when they had forgotten the reason of them, all they did could only be a mere theatrical pageantry. But we have said that thus men were reminded always to have God before their eyes in their daily food; and therefore in every way to accustom themselves to cultivate holiness.

9. And on the Sabbath-day. What was omitted in the former passage is here supplied, i.e., that on the Sabbath the continual sacrifice was to be doubled, and two lambs offered instead of one; for it was reasonable that, as the seventh day was peculiarly dedicated to God, it should be exalted above other days by some extraordinary and distinctive mark. He also commands greater sacrifices to be offered at the beginning of the month or new moon, viz., two bullocks and one ram, and a goat for a sin-offering; for we know that the first day of every month was consecrated to God, that the people might more frequently have the remembrance of their religious duties renewed; and the goat for an atonement for sin was added, in order that every month they should present themselves as guilty before God to deprecate His wrath.

Numbers 28

Go To Numbers 28: 16-31

16. And in the fourteenth day. It is true that the instruction here given has some connection with the feast of the passover, but since the sacrifices are avowedly treated of, and no mention is made of its other observances, except in this place, I have connected it with the continual sacrifice, as its concomitant or part. Moses cursorily refers, indeed, to what we have already seen, i.e., that the people should abstain from leaven for seven days, and eat unleavened bread; but he afterwards descends to the main point of which he here proposed to treat, viz., that the people should slay two bullocks as a burnt-offering, a ram, and seven lambs, together with a goat for a sin-offering; and that this sacrifice should be repeated through the whole week. In order, then, that the reverence paid to the passover should be increased, this extraordinary sacrifice was added to the continual one, partly that they might thus be more and more stimulated to devote themselves to God; partly that they might acknowledge how familiarly He had embraced them with His favor, inasmuch as He took these offerings from their flocks and herds, and required the sacred feast to be prepared for Him out of their cellars and granaries also; partly, too, that professing themselves to be worthy of eternal death, they should fly to Him to ask for pardon, and at the same time should understand that there was but one way of reconciliation, i.e., when God should be propitiated by sacrifice.

26. Also in the day of thefirst-fruits. Moses delivers the same commandment as to another festival, viz., that on which they offered their first-fruits. Then, also, he instructs them, the continual sacrifice was to be increased by the addition of two bullocks, one ram, seven lambs, a goat for a sin-offering, together with the minha and a libation, with the object, of which I have already spoken. A perplexing difficulty here arises, because in Leviticus 23, one bullock is mentioned instead of two, and, on the contrary, two rams instead of one. f238 Some think that an option was left to the priests in this matter; but when I consider how precisely God’s commands were given in everything, I question whether such an alternative was left to their discretion. The notion that God had once been content with a single bullock, as some think, because they were not abundant in the desert, appears to me a subterfuge. I confess I do not know how to get out of this difficulty, unless perhaps we say, that inasmuch as sufficiently exact provision had been made, in all other particulars, that nothing should be done without reason, in this respect only they were reminded that God in Himself cares not for greater or less victims. Nor does any reverence prevent us from saying that, as it sometimes happens in minor matters, a wrong number may have crept in from the carelessness of scribes; f239 and this is probably the most natural solution. The more correct reading, in my opinion, is, that they should offer two bullocks and one ram; but since it is elsewhere explained why God appointed this day, he only briefly recites here: “When they bring the fainha with the first-fruits.”

Numbers 29

Go To Numbers 29: 1-39

1. And in the seventh month. I have already observed that the festivals are not here (generally) treated of, but only the sacrifices, by which their solemnization was to be graced. In the beginning of the seventh month was the memorial, as it was called, of the blowing of trumpets. Because it was a minor festival, Moses only commands one bullock to be killed; but the number was increased on other grounds, for we have already seen that on the first of every month two bullocks were sacrificed. This day, therefore, had three larger victims, whilst the number of the others was doubled, so that there were two rams and fourteen lambs. Thus, then, God consecrated this day doubly to Himself, so that one celebration diminished nothing of the other; else He might have seemed to have abrogated what He had once commanded. The memorial of trumpets was not, then, an abolition of the new-moon, but they kept both ordinances at the same time.

7. And ye shall have on the tenth day. This was the day of Atonement. For although they never came into God’s presence without supplication for pardon, they then in a special manner confessed their sins, because a fast was appointed in token of their guilt. For thus it is written in <032329>Leviticus 23:29,

“Whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.”

As to the sacrifices, one bullock only is required; the rest is as before, except that an exception is added, which was omitted in the former cases. For another propitiation is appointed besides the goat, to accord with the fact of their affliction. For the acknowledgment of guilt would have been a dreadful torment to their consciences without the hope of reconciliation. The reason of this sacrifice will be soon explained.

12. And on the fifteenth, day. Amongst their festivals this last was the chief f240 in which they dwelt in tabernacles for seven days; for whereas in the Passover they commemorated the night in which they came forth free from the plagues of Egypt, by dwelling in tabernacles they embraced the whole forty years in which their fathers in the desert experienced the constant and consummate bounty of God. That solemn convention, too, availed for another present purpose, i.e., of thanksgiving to God for the ingathering of the harvest. Hence it was that they offered sacrifices every day and in greater number: on the first day, thirteen bullocks, two rams, and fourteen lambs; on the second, twelve bullocks; on the third, eleven; on the fourth, ten; on the fifth, nine; on the sixth, eight; finally, on the seventh, seven; and on the eighth, one. Nor is it carelessly that Moses expends so many words on the recital; first, that nothing might be done except at God’s command; secondly, lest it should be disagreeable or onerous to be at such great expense, which they would have gladly avoided. Wherefore, that they might cheerfully obey God’s command, he diligently inculcates what victims God would have daily offered to Him. But why the distribution was so unequal, I confess, is not clear to me, and it is better to confess my ignorance than by too subtle speculations to vanish into mere smoke. f241 This notion, indeed, is neither curious nor to be rejected, i.e., that, by daily diminishing the number, they came at last on the seventh day to the number seven, which is the symbol of perfection; for the eighth was superadded, merely as a conclusion. Finally, Moses subjoins that in the continual sacrifice, as well as these extraordinary ones, they should hold fast to what God prescribes, so that nothing should be altered according to man’s fancy. The sacrifices which depend on the Commandments of the Second Table, I have designedly postponed to their proper place.

The GREAT yearly Atonement

Leviticus 16

Go To Leviticus 16: 1-34

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses. A copious description is here given of what we have recently adverted to cursorily, as it were, i.e., the solemn atonement which was yearly made in the seventh month; for when Moses was instructing them as to what sacrifices were to be offered on each of the festivals, he expressly excepted, though only in a single word, this sacrifice, where he spoke of the day of atonement itself, on which they afflicted their souls. Now, therefore, a clear and distinct exposition of it is separately given. For although at other seasons of the year also both their public and private sins were expiated, and for this purpose availed the daily sacrifices, still this more solemn rite was meant to arouse the people’s minds, that they might more earnestly apply themselves all the year through to the diligent seeking for pardon and remission. In order, then, that they might be more anxious to propitiate God, one atonement was performed at the end of the year which might ratify all the others. But, that they might more diligently observe what is commanded, Moses makes mention of the time in which the Law was given, viz., when Nadab and Abihu were put to death by God, after they had rashly defiled the altar by their negligence.

2. Speak unto Aaron. The sum of the law is, that the priest should not frequently enter the inner sanctuary, but only once a year, i.e., on the feast of the atonement, in the month of September. The cause of this was, lest a more frequent entrance of it should produce indifference; for if he had entered it promiscuously at every sacrifice, no small part of the reverence due to it would have been lost. The ordinary sprinkling of the altar was sufficient to testify the reconciliation; but this annual ceremony more greatly influenced the people’s minds. Again, by this sacrifice, which they saw only once at the end of the year, the one and perpetual sacrifice offered by God’s Son was more clearly represented. Therefore the Apostle elegantly alludes to this ceremony in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where it is said that by the annual entrance of the high priest the Holy Ghost signified,

“that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing,”
(<580908>Hebrews 9:8;)

and a little further on he adds, that after Christ the true Priest had come,

“he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (<580911>Hebrews 9:11, 12.)

Thus the year, in the ancient type, was a symbol of the one offering, so that believers might understand that the sacrifice, whereby God was to be propitiated, was not to be often repeated. That God may inspire greater fear, and preserve the priests from carelessness, He proclaims that His glory should appear in the cloud in that part of the sanctuary where was the mercy seat; for we know that the sign was given from hence to the Israelites, when the camp was to be moved, or when they were to remain stationary. But this testimony of God’s presence should have justly moved the priests to greater care and attention; and hence we may now learn, that the closer God’s majesty manifests itself, the more anxiously should we beware, lest through our thoughtlessness we should give any mark of contempt, but that we should testify our submission with becoming humility and modesty.

3. Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place. The rites and formality are now described; first, that Aaron should put on the holy garments, and wash his person; secondly, that he should offer a bullock and ram for a burnt-offering; thirdly, that he should take two goats from the people, one of which should be sent away alive, and the other slain in sacrifice. We have stated elsewhere why the priests were to be dressed in garments different from others, since he who is the mediator between God and men should be free from all impurity and stain; and since no mortal could truly supply this, a type was substituted in place of the reality, from whence believers might learn that another Mediator was to be expected; because the dignity of the sons of Aaron was only typical, and not true and substantial. For whenever the priest stripped himself of his own garments, and assumed those which were holy and separated from common use, it was equivalent to declaring openly that he represented another person. But if this symbol were not sufficient, the ablution again taught that none of the sons of Aaron was the genuine propitiator; for how could he purify others, who himself required purification, and made open confession of his uncleanness? A third symbol also was added; for he who by a sacrifice of his own atoned for himself and his house, how was he capable of meriting God’s favor for others? Thus then the holy fathers were reminded, that under the image of a mortal man, another Mediator was promised, who, for the reconciliation of the human race, should present Himself before God with perfect and more than angelical purity. Besides, in the person of the priest there was exhibited to the people a spectacle of the corruption whereby the whole human race is defiled, so as to be abominable to God; for if the priest, both chosen by God, and graced with the sacred unction, was still unworthy on the score of his uncleanness to come near the altar, what dignity could be discoverable in the people? And hence to us now-a-days also very useful instruction is derived; viz., that when the question arises how God is to be propitiated, we are not to look this way and that way; since out of Christ there is no purity and innocence which can satisfy the justice of God.

7. And he shall take the two goats. A twofold mode of expiation is here presented to us; for one of the two goats was offered in sacrifice according to the provisions of the Law, the other was sent away to be an outcast, or offscouring (ka>qarma vel peri>yhma. f242) The fulfillment of both figures, however, was manifested in Christ, since He was both the Lamb of God, whose offering blotted out the sins of the world, and, that He might be as an offscouring, (ka>qarma,) His comeliness was destroyed, and He was rejected of men. A more subtle speculation might indeed be advanced, viz., that after the goat was presented, its sending away was a type of the resurrection of Christ; as if the slaying of the one goat testified that the satisfaction for sins was to be sought in the death of Christ; whilst the preservation and dismissal of the other shewed, that after Christ had been offered for sin, and had borne the curse of men, He still remained alive. I embrace, however, what is more simple and certain, and am satisfied with that; i.e., that the goat which departed alive and free, was an atonement, f243 that by its departure and flight the people might be assured that their sins were put away and vanished. This was the only expiatory sacrifice in the Law without blood; nor does this contradict the statement of the Apostle, for since two goats were offered together, it was enough that the death of one should take place, and that its blood should be shed for expiation; for the lot was not cast until both goats had been brought to the door of the tabernacle; and thus although the priest presented one of them alive “to make an atonement with him,” as Moses expressly says, yet God was not propitiated without blood, since the efficacy of the expiation depended on the sacrifice of the other goat. As to the word Azazel, f244 although commentators differ, I doubt not but that it designates the place to which the scape-goat was driven. It is certainly a compound word, equivalent to “the departure of the goat,” which the Greeks have translated, whether properly or not I cannot say, ajpopompai~on. I am afraid that the expiation is decidedly too subtle which some interpreters give, that the goat was so called as “the repeller of evils,” just as the Gentiles f245 invented certain gods, called ajlexika>kouv. What I have said agrees best with the departure of the goat; although I differ from the Jews, who conceive that this place was contiguous to Mount Sinai; as if the lot for Azazel were not cast every year, when the people were very far away from Mount Sinai. Let it suffice, then, that some solitary and most uninhabitable spot was chosen whither the goat should be driven, lest the curse of God should rest upon the people.

12. And he shall take a censer full. Before he takes the blood into the sanctuary, (the priest) is commanded to offer incense. There was, as we have seen, an altar of incense, on which the priest burnt it, but without the veil; but now he is ordered to go within the veil, to make f246 an incense-offering in the very holy of holies. But it is worth noticing, that is said that the cloud of the incense should cover the mercy-seat — that the priest die not; for by this sign it was shewn how formidable is God’s majesty, the sight of which is fatal even to the priest; that all might learn to tremble at it, and to prostrate themselves as suppliants before Him; and again, that all audacity and temerity might be repressed. But it is uncertain whether he killed together the bullock for himself and the goat for the people, or whether, after he had sprinkled the sanctuary with his own offering, he killed the goat separately. Moses indeed seems to mark this distinct order in the words he uses; for after having spoken of the first sprinkling, he immediately adds, “Then shall he kill the goat of the sin-offering:” but since the narrative of Moses is not always consecutive, and it is a matter of little importance, let the reader choose which he pleases.

16. And he shall make an atonement for the holy place. The cleansing of the sanctuary might seem absurd, as if it were in man’s power to pollute what God Himself had consecrated; for we know that God remains true, although all’ the world be unholy, and consequently that whatever God has appointed changes not its nature through the sins of men. Yet, if no contagion from men’s sins had infected the tabernacle, this cleansing would have been superfluous. But although the sanctuary in itself may have contracted no defilement from the guilt of the people, still, in regard to the sin and guilt of the people themselves, it is justly accounted unclean. And thus sin is made more exceeding sinful, inasmuch as men, even though their intention be to serve God, profane His sacred name, if they do so carelessly or irreverently. It was at that time a detestable sacrilege in all to defile the altar and sanctuary of God; and Moses convicts the Israelites of this sacrilege when He commands the sanctuary to be cleansed. Moreover, let us learn that men may so contaminate the sacred things of God as that their nature should still remain unaltered and their dignity inviolate. Wherefore Moses expressly states that the sanctuary is cleansed not from its own uncleanness, but from that of the children of Israel. We must now apply the substance of this type to our own use. By Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, God appears to us in his only-begotten Son: these are the pledges of our holiness; yet such is our corruption that we never cease from profaning, as far as in us lies, these instruments of the Spirit whereby God sanctifies us. Since, however, we have now no victims to kill, we must mourn and humbly pray that Christ, by the sprinkling of His blood, may blot out and cleanse these defilements of ours, by which Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are polluted. The reason of the purification is also to be observed, viz., because the tabernacle “dwelleth among them in the midst of their uncleanness;” f247 by which words Moses signifies that men are so polluted and full of corruptions that they contaminate all that is holy without the intervention of a means of purification; for he takes it for granted that men cannot but bring some impurity with them. What he had said of the inner sanctuary he extends to the altar and the whole of the tabernacle.

17. And there shall be no man. The driving away of all men from approaching the tabernacle during the act of atonement is a sort of punishment by temporary banishment, that they may perceive themselves to be driven from God’s face, whilst the place is purified which had been defiled by their sins. This was a melancholy sight, when all these for whose sake it was erected were obliged to desert it; but in this way they were reminded that every part and particle of our salvation depends on God’s mercy only, when they saw themselves excluded from the remedy designed for obtaining pardon, unless a new pardon should come to their aid, since they had fallen away from the hope of reconciliation.

20. And when he hath made an end of reconciling. The mode of expiation with the other goat is now more clearly explained, viz., that it should be placed before God, and that the priest should lay his hands on its head, and confess the sins of the people, so that he may throw the curse on the goat itself. This, as I have said, was the only bloodless (ajnai>maton) sacrifice; yet it is expressly called an “offering,” f248 with reference, however, to the slaying of the former goat, and was, therefore, as to its efficacy for propitiation, by no means to be separated from it. It was by no means reasonable that an innocent animal should be substituted in the place of men, to be exposed to the curse of God, except that believers might learn that they were in no wise competent to bear His judgment, nor could be delivered from it otherwise than by the transfer of their guilt and crime. For, since men feel that they are altogether overwhelmed by the wrath of God, which impends over them all, they vainly endeavor to lighten or shake off in various ways this intolerable burden; for no absolution is to be hoped for save by the interposition of a satisfaction; and it is not lawful to obtrude this according to man’s fancy, or, in their foolish arrogance, to seek in themselves for the price whereby their sins may be compensated for. Another means, therefore, of making atonement to God was revealed when Christ, “being made a curse for us,” transferred to Himself the sins which alienated men from God. (<470519>2 Corinthians 5:19; <480313>Galatians 3:13.) The confession tended to humiliate the people, and thus acted as a stimulus to sincere repentance; since “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,” (<195117>Psalm 51:17;) nor is it fit that any but the prostrate should be lifted up by God’s mercy, nor that any but those who voluntarily condemn themselves should be absolved. The accumulation of words tends to this, “all the iniquities, all their transgressions, all their sins,” that believers may not lightly only and as, a mere act of duty acknowledge themselves guilty before God, but rather that they should groan under the weight, of their guilt. Since now in Christ no special day in the year is prescribed in which the Church should confess its sins in a solemn ceremony, let believers learn, whenever they meet together in God’s name, humbly to submit themselves to voluntary self-condemnation, and to pray for pardon, as if the Spirit of God dictated a formulary for them; and so let each in private: conform himself to this rule.

26. And he that let the goat go. Since this goat was the outcast (ka>qapma) of God’s wrath, and devoted to His curse, he who led it away is commanded to wash his person and his clothes, as if he were a partaker in its defilement. By this symbol the faithful were reminded how very detestable is their iniquity, so that they might, be affected with increasing dread, whenever they considered what they deserved. For when they saw a man forbidden to enter the camp because he was polluted by simply touching the goat, they must needs reflect how much wider was the alienation between God and themselves, when they bore upon them an uncleanness not contracted elsewhere, but procured by their own sin. The same may be said of him who burned the skin, the flesh, and the dung of the bullock and the goat. We have elsewhere seen that these remnants were carried out of the camp in token of abomination. And on this head Christ’s inestimable love towards us shines more brightly, who did not disdain to go out of the city that He might be made an outcast (rejectamentum) for us, and might undergo the curse due to us.

29. And this shall be a statute for ever. This day of public atonement is now finally mentioned in express terms, and the affliction of souls, of which fuller notice is taken in chap. 23, is touched upon, that they may more diligently exercise themselves in more serious penitential meditations, nor doubt that they are truly purged before God; and yet in a sacramental manner, viz., that the external ceremony might be a most unmistakable sign of that atonement, whereby, in the fullness of time, they were to be reconciled to God. Wherefore Moses states at some length that this was to be the peculiar office of the priest; and by this eulogy exalts the grace of the coming Mediator, so that He may direct the minds of believers to Him alone.

Leviticus 1

Go To Leviticus 1: 1-17

1. And the Lord called unto Moses. In these seven chapters Moses will treat generally of the sacrifices. But since we read of many things here, the use of which has passed away, and others, the grounds of which I do not understand, I intend to content myself with a brief summary, from whence, however, the reader may fully perceive that whatever has been left to us relative to the legal sacrifices is even now profitable, provided we are not too curious. Let those who choose to hunt for allegories receive the praise they covet; my object is only to profit my readers, and it will suffice briefly to sum up what I think useful to be known. Although in this chapter burnt-offerings only are treated of, yet the rule which is laid down respecting them has a more extensive application, since Moses teaches what animals God would have offered to Him, so as that they may be acceptable, and also by whom and with what ceremonies they are to be offered. He enumerates three kinds, of the herd, of the flocks, and of fowls; for the case of the red heifer, from which the ashes of atonement were made, was different and peculiar; and here the question is as to the ordinary sacrifices, by which private individuals used either to atone for their sins or to testify their piety. He commands, therefore, that the cattle as well as the lambs and kids should be males, and also perfect and free from all blemish. We see, then, that only clean animals were chosen for the sacrifices, and again that all clean animals did not please God, but only domestic ones, such as allow themselves to be directed by the hand and will of men. For, though deer and roes are sometimes tamed, yet God did not admit them to His altar. This, then, was the first rule of obedience, that men should not offer promiscuously this or that victim, but bulls or bull-calves of their herds, and male lambs or kids of their flocks. Freedom from blemish is required for two reasons; for, since the sacrifices were types of Christ, it behooved that in all of them should be represented that complete perfection of His whereby His heavenly Father was to be propitiated; and, secondly, the Israelites were reminded that all uncleanness was repudiated by God lest his service should be polluted by their impurity. But whilst God exhorted them to study true sincerity, so he abundantly taught them that unless they directed their faith to Christ, whatsoever came from them would be rejected; for neither would the purity of a brute animal have satisfied Him if it had not represented something better. In the second place, it is prescribed that whosoever presented a burnt-offering should lay his hand on its head, after he had come near the door of the tabernacle. This ceremony was not only a sign of consecration, but also of its being an atonement, f249 since it was substituted for the man, as is expressed in the words of Moses, “And it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.” (Ver. 4.) There is not, then, the least doubt but that they transferred their guilt and whatever penalties they had deserved to the victims, in order that they might be reconciled to God. Now, since this promise could not have been at all delusive, it must be concluded that in the ancient sacrifices there was a price of satisfaction which should release them from guilt and blame in the judgment of God; yet still not as though these brute animals availed in themselves unto expiation, except in so far as they were testimonies of the grace to be manifested by Christ. Thus the ancients were reconciled to God in a sacramental manner by the victims, just as we are now cleansed through baptism. Hence it follows that these symbols were useful only as they were exercises unto faith and repentance, so that the sinner might learn to fear God’s wrath, and to seek pardon in Christ.

5. And he shall kill the bullock. The ceremony of killing is subjoined, viz., that the priest should prepare the victim itself, and pour its blood upon the altar, for it was not allowable for a private person to kill the victim with his own hands, but what the priest did in their name was transferred to them. f250 But this is worth remarking, that although they brought the pledge of reconciliation from their home, yet that the ministers of expiation were to be sought elsewhere, since no one was competent for so illustrious an office, save he who was graced by the holy unction of God. It was, therefore, plainly manifested that all mortals are unworthy of coming near God to propitiate Him, and that the hands of all are in a manner polluted or profane except those which God himself has purged. For the honor of sacrificing came from nowhere else but from the grace of the Spirit, of which the external anointing was a pledge. We now understand how it was that individuals offered sacrifices to God, and yet that the priest alone performed this office. The altar was sprinkled with the blood, that the people might know that the blood poured from the victim did not fall on the ground, but was consecrated to God, and breathed, as it were, a sweet savor; just as now the blood of Christ appears before His face. I pass by the rest, since it does not seem worth while to enlarge on the third kind of offering, i.e., of the birds. Yet we must recollect that thus far Moses only speaks of the burnt-offerings, whose flesh was burned; for this was not the case with all, as we shall see hereafter. Although, then, it is twice said that “the priests shall lay the parts, the head and the fat,” etc., we must not understand it as if he only commanded the fat and the head to be burned, but that nothing was to be left the skin. Some think that rdp pheder, f251 is a dissevered head, nor do I reject their opinion, provided we do not exclude the fat. Whatever was filthy in the victim, God would have to be washed, that it might not contaminate it. The question now arises why it was burned either wholly or partially. My own opinion is, that by the fire the efficacy of the Spirit is represented, on which all the profit of the sacrifices depends; for unless Christ had suffered in the Spirit, He would not have been a propitiatory sacrifice. Fire, then, was as the condiment which gave their true savor to the sacrifices, because the blood of Christ was to be consecrated by the Spirit, that it might cleanse us from all the stains of our sins. This God would have more fully represented in the burnt-offerings, yet no victim was offered of which some part was not consumed by fire.

Leviticus 2

Go To Leviticus 2: 1-16

1. And when any will offer. In this chapter Moses prescribes the rules for those offerings to which the name of minha is peculiarly given. They were not bloody sacrifices, nor offerings of animals, but only of cakes and oil. If any one would offer plain flour, he is commanded to season it with frankincense and oil, and also to choose fine flour, that the oblation may not be defiled by the bran. Thus here, as in all the service of God, the rule is laid down that nothing but what is pure should be offered; besides, by the oil its savor is improved, and by the frankincense a fragrant odor is imparted to it. We know that God is not attracted either by sweetness of taste nor by pleasant scents; but it was useful to teach a rude people by these symbols, lest they should corrupt God’s service by their own foolish inventions. Moses afterwards commands, that whatever is consecrated to God should be delivered into the hand of the priest, as we have before seen that private persons were excluded from this honor so that Christ’s peculiar dignity should remain to Him, i.e., that by Him alone access should be sought to God, and that all men might know that no worship pleases God except what He sanctifies. The substance of this type is shewn by the words of the Apostle, when he says that “by him” we now “offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (<581315>Hebrews 13:15.) But when the priest had burnt a handful of the flour with the oil and frankincense, what remained was left for his own use; for, as we have elsewhere seen, the holy of holies of the burnt-offerings were given to the priests. Other kinds are then spoken of, viz., cakes, baken in the oven; then such as were fried in a pan; and thirdly, on a gridiron: for God would have the minha offered Him of every kind of cake, so that the Israelites might learn to look to Him in all their food, since nothing is clean to us except what He consecrates by His blessing. This is the reason why Moses accurately distinguishes between the cakes which were cooked either in the oven, or the frying-pan, or on the gridiron.

11. No meat-offering, which ye shall bring. God here forbids leavened cakes to be offered to Him, by which rite the ancients were taught that God’s service is corrupted if any strange invention be mingled with it. Nor can it be doubted but that. Christ alluded to this when He warned His disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” (<401611>Matthew 16:11;) understanding by that word the fictions whereby they had corrupted religion. The eating of leaven was forbidden in the Passover for another reason, viz., that they might remember their sudden departure, or rather flight, in which there had been no time to prepare provisions for their journey. Although Paul extends it even further, viz., that believers should abstain from all “leaven of malice and wickedness.” (<460508>1 Corinthians 5:8.) It is clear, however, that in this general rule all adventitious corruptions are condemned, whereby pure religion is polluted, as if it were said that no offerings would be approved by God except such as were genuine and free from all strange savor. With reference to the honey, the ground of its use is more obscure, for I know not whether there is much dependence to be placed on the subtle disquisitions of some respecting its nature. f252 But although I scarcely dare to make any assertion as to this, still I pass by conceits, and advance what seems to me more probable. Cooked honey immediately becomes sour, and causes the bread with which it is mixed to ferment; these two things, therefore, seem to be combined, that neither honey nor leaven should be offered in the fire. As to what Moses adds just afterwards, “Ye shall offer them among the first-fruits,” I know not whether it applies to the leaven, as some think; assuredly the exception seems to be more simple, that the first-fruits of honey would indeed be acceptable to God, provided it did not corrupt the offerings of the altar. But no doubt the ancients understood the meaning of this precept, else it would have been useless, and thus knew that nothing was legitimate in the sacrifices except what God appointed. But let us, since the use of the ceremony is abolished, learn not to intrude our own imaginations or inventions in God’s service, but to follow obediently the rule which he prescribes.

13. And every oblation of thy meat-offering. The reason for salting the victims was very similar, viz., that God’s service might not be without savor; but the true seasoning which gives grace to sacrifices is found nowhere except in God’s word. Hence it follows that all modes of worship fabricated by men are rejected as unsavory. For although they who profane God’s worship by superstitions think themselves very acute, yet all that most approves itself to them under the cloak of wisdom is mere fatuity. Nevertheless, Christ deduces an exhortation from this ceremony, viz., that believers, if they desire to please God, should patiently endure to be refined and purified. “Every one,” He says,

“shall be salted with fire,
and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” (<410949>Mark 9:49.)

In which words He signifies that, when we are searched and tried by fire, we shall be acceptable sacrifices to God, and that this is the seasoning of salt when our flesh with its affections shall have been well macerated. Meanwhile, let us firmly hold to this, that our service of God is not what it should be without, the savor which is to be sought in the word; since in all the brains of men not one particle of salt is to be found. I pass by other more subtle allegories, in which I see no other use than to gratify curious ears. “The salt of the covenant” is used in a different sense from “the covenant of salt,” viz., as the salt which is employed in the sacrifice according to the inviolable compact of God. Hence, too, is confirmed what I have said before, that the keeping of God’s covenant always occupies the first place in this service.

14. And if thou offer a meat-offering. This offering is different from that of the first-fruits, since it was voluntary, whereas the first-fruits were paid in obedience to the enactment of the Law. But if any one chose to add anything to the first-fruits of his new corn, Moses lays down the rule, that the ears should be dried in the fire, so that they might be more easily pounded, and so might be burnt mixed with oil and frankincense; for so I interpret his words, that he means the same thing by “ears of corn dried by the fire,” and “corn beaten out of full ears.” He requires full ears, that the people may select them, and not offer anything poor or stunted.

Leviticus 3

Go To Leviticus 3: 1-17

1. And if his oblation be a sacrifice. He now proceeds to a different class, viz., to the sacrifices, which were testimonies of gratitude in celebration of God’s blessings; part of which was burnt with fire, part was claimed by the priests, and the rest remained to the offerers themselves. As to the word yml, shelomim, I have briefly given my opinion elsewhere; f253 the common translation of it is certainly unsuitable, “the sacrifices of peace-offerings:” and the statement of others is far-fetched, that they are called “sacrifices of perfections,” because it was unlawful for the unclean to touch them. Since, however, the Hebrews include in the word “peace,” safety, and all good success, I have thought that its plural number might aptly be translated “prosperities:” on which account, David calls the libation which used to be made in this sacrifice, “the cup of salvations:” (<19B613>Psalm 116:13,) nor do I doubt but that by this outward sign he designates thanksgiving. I admit indeed that this sacrifice was not only offered in acknowledgment of gratitude, but also when they sought of God peace and good success; yet still the epithet will always admirably suit it, because they confessed by it that God was the author of all good things, so as to attribute all their prosperity to Him. First, however, he commands all the sacrifices to be brought to the tabernacle, which is what he means by “the face of God;” f254 else would altars have been everywhere erected in their cities and villages, and by this license God’s service would have been mangled, and religion undermined. Wherefore, in order to keep the people in the unity of the faith, he bids them all be content with a single altar. But He would be worshipped and honored in that place, which He had dedicated to Himself, lest they should be scattered abroad after strange gods; and then He prescribes the mode of offering, whether the victim were of the herd or the flock. That such exact injunctions should be given as to trifles, might seem to be an unnecessary particularity, and even a superfluous repetition, inasmuch as the same thing is often inculcated, in precisely similar words: if it were not that this earnestness reminded the people that something higher was enwrapped in the ceremonies, whilst it restrained them from allowing themselves wantonly to add or change the smallest point. This very scrupulous observance, then, ought to have led them by the hand, as it were, to the things signified; so that under the external image the spiritual truth might meet their eyes; secondly, it ought to have held them bound, as it were, to the word of God, lest they should do anything in sacred matters from the dictates of their own reason. But now, since the use of sacrifices has ceased, we are first taught that God’s blessings are profaned, unless we diligently exercise ourselves in manifesting our religion, as His infinite and constant liberality towards us deserves; secondly, that unless our devotion is unmixed and paid to Him alone, we impiously defraud Him of His right; thirdly, that as we pray in Christ’s name, so our vows are to be paid, and our thanksgivings to be rendered, through His hand; and fourthly, that God’s loving-kindness is not to be celebrated in a negligent or perfunctory manner, but that we must labor to do so, as in a matter of the utmost importance, with no common zeal and attention.

16. And the priest shall burn them. He justly assigns to the priest the main duties of sacrificing, i.e., to sprinkle the blood, and to cast the fat into the fire, since he alone was competent to make atonement. Moreover, although there is a harsh metaphor contained in the word “food,” yet it admirably expresses what the Holy Spirit would teach, that the legal service pleased God, just as the food which we eat is pleasing to us; whilst it at the same time marks God’s familiar communion with His people, as if He sat at the same table with them. It is indeed sure that God, who breathes life into all, and borrows nothing from any, does not want food; but His incomparable kindness could not be better shewn forth, than by deigning to make Himself, as it were, the messmate of His worshippers. In the same figure of speech the ingratitude of the people is reproved by Malachi, when he says,

“The table of the Lord is polluted, and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible,” (<390112>Malachi 1:12;)

not because God delighted in the fat of fed beasts, or in bread; but because it was a gross and intolerable act of impiety to neglect this extraordinary pledge of His grace. This similitude, however, ought to be referred to the truth it represents, viz., that the exercise of faith, and the proofs of our piety, are no less pleasing to God than as if He should be feasted delicately and sumptuously; wherefore we ought to take the greater care not to defraud Him of the things He takes delight in. It is not very clear to me why God claims for Himself the fat in all the sacrifices, and commands it to be burnt, unless that in this way He might accustom His servants to temperance. We have already seen that the fat is certainly accounted the most delicate part, where Moses applies this word to corn and wine; and this also is plain from <196305>Psalm 63:5, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness.” And when God declares (<230111>Isaiah 1:11,) that He does not desire “the fat,” He signifies that He does not require for His own sake the choicest part of animals, but that the Israelites might remember that they should partake soberly of all their food, as if they had consecrated the best and first-fruits of it. If any one desire a more distinct exposition of this, the offering of the fat taught them to pay more honor to the service of God; and secondly, it instructed them in abstinence. The allegories, suited only to tickle men’s ears, must be sought from others. f255 Isychius, after having pretended that the fat represented spiritual affections, soon afterwards metamorphoses it into gross appetites. Others suppose that Christ was designed by it. Others understand by it that the grossness or fatness of our flesh must be refined by the fire of the Spirit, that it may be mortified unto God. This simple meaning satisfies me, that, when the Law permitted them to eat the sacred meats, an exception was added, which left the best portion in God’s hands; secondly, that the part which might have been most attractive to the greedy, was consumed in the fire as a restraint upon their gluttony. The eating of blood is here prohibited, as also elsewhere, because it was consecrated to God in order to make expiation; but there was another and higher reason why it was forbidden, of which mention was made in Genesis 9, and which must be again handled in our exposition of the Sixth Commandment.

Leviticus 4

Go To leviticus 4: 1-35

After Moses had treated of the offerings and other sacrifices, which were testimonies of gratitude and exercises of piety, he now descends to the sin-offering (expiationem) which held the chief place amongst the sacrifices, inasmuch as, without reconciliation, there could never be any intercourse between men and God; for since He deservedly abominates the whole human race on account of the corruption of our nature, and because we all continually provoke His wrath, the whole hope of salvation must needs be founded on the remedies provided for propitiating Him. This principle, being established, we must remember that Moses will henceforth speak of the expiatory sacrifices which propitiate God to men by the removal of their guilt. He here shews how God is to be appeased, where a man shall have sinned through ignorance or inconsiderateness; wherein too a distinction is laid down between different persons, since one kind of victim is required of a king, another of the priests, and another of ordinary persons; whilst regard is had to the poor, that they may not be burdened by so great an expense as the rich. But, since it will appear from the context that all kinds of ignorance are not here included, we must see what the word hgg, shegagah, f256 means, which I have preferred rendering error rather than ignorance; for Moses does not refer to those transgressions into which we are ensnared, when we are led astray by the appearance of rectitude, so as to think ourselves without blame; but to those of which we take no heed, and whereby our minds are not pricked; or to those sudden falls, wherein the infirmity of the flesh so stifles the reason and the judgment as to blind the sinner. It is of such that Paul speaks when he bids us

“restore in the spirit of meekness those who
are overtaken in a fault,” (<480601>Galatians 6:1;)

for he does not mean those who are deceived by their good intentions (as they call it,) or rather by their foolish opinion, so as to be unconscious of their sin; but those who fall through the infirmity of their flesh, and whom Satan catches unawares in his snares; or who, at any rate, do not perceive the evil they have done, so as immediately to apply the remedy. This will be more clearly understood from <191912>Psalm 19:12, 13, where David, having asked pardon for his errors, seeks to be kept free from presumptuous sins. f257 The antithesis between twayg, shegioth, f258 and ydz, zedim, shews that those transgressions are called errors, in which there is no criminal pride against God. “If a soul shall sin — from all the commandments,” f259 is a harsh expression; and therefore some refer it to sins of omission, but I interpret it more simply, “If he sin by turning away from the commandments,” or “if he commit any thing opposed (alienum)to the commandments.”

3. If the priest that is anointed. He now distinguishes between different persons, and begins with the high priest, who alone bore the high distinction of the holy unction, unless it be thought better to apply it to the whole supreme class. f260 It is probable, however, that it only refers to one. The more illustrious was his dignity, the more diligently and zealously ought his life to be confirmed to the model of holiness; and therefore the infirmity which was more tolerable in others, was more exceedingly reprehensible in him. This is the reason why it was required that he should atone for himself with a greater victim. But this in some measure related to all the Levites, inasmuch as they were chosen to be of the sacred class; and it now extends to all the ministers and pastors of the Church, not that they should ransom themselves by the sacrifice of a calf, but that they should diligently beware of every sin, and be more intent in their endeavors after holiness. The clause “according to the sin of the people,” might be also rendered “unto the sin,” etc., as though Moses had said that the priest through sin corrupted the people by his bad example; for, since his life is the rule of holiness and righteousness, so his faults give occasion to the errors of others. The sense, however, that I have followed is simpler, i.e., that though the transgression of the priest may be an ordinary one, yet in consideration of his office it becomes more weighty, and deserving of greater punishment.

5. And the priest that is anointed shall take. It is well known that what is here prescribed as to the sprinkling of blood, and its pouring out, as well as to the burning of the fat and the kidneys, is the same as in the other sacrifices; and the comparison in the 10th verse sufficiently proves that, the ordinary forms were observed in other particulars. But inasmuch as it might seem absurd that the priest, who was himself guilty, should come before God to perform the office of reconciliation, it was necessary to prescribe the details more accurately, to obviate all doubt. Although, therefore, he was unworthy to approach God, yet, since the law of the priesthood was inviolable, he was admitted to the discharge of his duties; for it was not lawful that more mediators should be appointed. In order, then, that more reverence should be paid to the rites of the Law, and that men should seek after no other way of reconciliation, God extended His grace to the fault of the priest. The blood was sprinkled before the Lord, that the people might learn that through the sight of the sacrifice sins were hidden and buried, so as to come no more into remembrance before God; but the rest of the blood was poured before the altar, because it was holy, and therefore ought by no means to be cast elsewhere like anything profane.

13. And if the whole congregation. The very same sacrifice which was enjoined on the priest is required of the people; since he who went into the sanctuary in the name of all to present all the tribes before God, represented the whole body. It seems indeed that the kind of ignorance here spoken of is different from the former kind; since it was said “if the thing be hid;” yet I think that these infirmities are comprised, in which it often happens that men are blinded for a time. f261 For many do not search into themselves, and therefore slumber in their sins; whereas if they honestly examined their doings, their conscience would straightway smite them. It might, then, happen that the whole people should fail to be aware of their sin, whilst dealing with themselves too gently and indulgently. The meaning therefore is, that although no sense of sin should at first arouse them to repentance, yet, if afterwards they should be awakened so as to begin to acknowledge their crime, God must be propitiated by sacrifices; for otherwise the people might make a cloak for themselves of their error.

22. When a ruler hath sinned. A peculiar atonement is also appointed for the transgression of the rulers; and, although he speaks of the ruler in the singular number, yet inasmuch as the law was not yet enacted that one individual should bear rule, he undoubtedly designates the heads and governors generally, because they who bear rule do more injury by their bad example than private persons. If, then, any of the judges or governors had sinned through error, he might indeed be set free by a lesser victim than the priest or the whole people, yet there was individually this difference between them, that they were to offer she-goats or lambs, and the ruler a he-goat; and the object of this was that those in authority should more carefully keep themselves pure from every transgression, whereas otherwise they are wont to indulge themselves more freely, as if their rank and dignity allowed them greater license. Where we have given as our translation, “If (the sin) shall have become known,” (si innotuerit,) translators are not agreed. f262 The word used is properly a disjunctive particle Or; f263 but it is sometimes used for the conditional particle, as we shall see in the next chapter. Those who retain the primary and genuine meaning of the word do violence to the signification of the last word of the foregoing verse, and translate it, “shall have offended” instead of “shall have felt that he has offended;” but since it appears from many passages that wa, o, is equivalent to a, im, there is no need of wresting the words to an improper sense. The word [dwh, hodang, which they render transitively “to make known,” may fitly bear my translation, unless this is preferred, “if he shall have known,” (si cognoverit). The words which Moses continually repeats, “the priest shall make an atonement for him, and his; iniquity shall be forgiven him,” some coldly restrict to external and civil cleansing, as if Moses only removed his condemnation before men; but God rather offers pardon to sinners, and assures them that He will be favorable to them, lest fear or doubt should prevent them from freely calling upon Him. And assuredly those who do not acknowledge that the legal rites were sacraments, are not acquainted with the very rudiments of the faith. Now to all sacraments, at any rate to the common sacraments of the Church, a spiritual promise is annexed: it follows, therefore, that pardon was truly promised to the fathers, who reconciled themselves to God by the offering of sacrifices, not because the slaying of beasts expiated sins, but because it was a certain and infallible symbol, in which pious minds might acquiesce, so as to dare to come before God with tranquil confidence. In sum, as now in baptism sins are sacramentally washed away, so under the Law also the sacrifices were means of expiation, though in a different way; since baptism sets Christ before us as if He were present, whilst under the Law He was only obscurely typified. Figuratively indeed what applies to Christ only is transferred to the signs, for in Him alone was manifested to us the fulfillment of all spiritual blessings, and He at length blotted out sins by His one and perpetual sacrifice; but since the question here is not as to the value of the legal ceremonies in themselves, let it suffice that they truly testified of the grace of God, of which they were the types; and so let not that profane imagination be listened to, that the sacrifices only politically and as far as regarded men absolved those by whom they were offered from guilt and condemnation.

Numbers 15

Go To Numbers 15: 22-29

22. And if ye have erred. He teaches by what kind of sacrifice the sins of the whole people or of each individual are to be expiated, although he enumerates only two of the four classes which are mentioned in Leviticus; for a special atonement is there enjoined both on the priest and the ruler. But neither is the ceremony of sacrificing here described, since Moses only wished to refresh their memories by the way as to the manner in which, either publicly or privately, they were to be reconciled to God. This word “error,” f264 as we have said, extends to incogitancy, which partakes of contempt of God, and arises from too great security, when men inconsiderately fall into the sins to which their lusts invite them; for deliberate impiety is afterwards brought into contrast with error, when men designedly rush into violations of the law. But since nothing is more easy than for men to err, this remedy was most necessary, lest they who had sinned should fall into despair. Lest, then, the people or private individuals, when they saw their guilt, should despair of pardon and throw away the pursuit of holiness, God anticipates them, and shews them by what means He is to be propitiated, so that the sins which had occurred should not interrupt His service. Since, however, Moses here only repeats what has already been explained, there is no need of dwelling largely upon it, except that in one point he seems to deliver a law different from the former one; for he there commands two bullocks to be slain for the reconciliation of the people, f265 the one as a burnt-offering, the other as a sin-offering; yet, if the second were not easily obtained, the permission was given to substitute a goat. In Leviticus, therefore, the regular and perfect rite was delivered; the permissive alteration is only added here; nor does Moses contradict himself, though, for the sake of brevity, he only refers to one of the two modes. At the end a clearer explanation is subjoined, viz., that the same law should be common to all, since it was by no means expedient to introduce any diversity.

Leviticus 5

Go To Leviticus 5: 1-13

1. And if a soul sin. The three kinds of offense, to which Moses refers in the beginning of the chapter, seem to differ much from each other; for the first, when a person concealed a matter which he knew, could not arise from error, yet I include this concealment of which he treats under the head of error, by supposing it to have been when a person should be induced by shame or fear to connive at any crime or offense respecting which he might be interrogated, and so, without any design of perjuring himself, but by blinding himself, should withhold what he would have said, if he had duly examined the matter. Yet these words must be more narrowly discussed, respecting the meaning of which men are not well agreed. Some think that the word hla, f266 alah, is put for “execration,” as though it were said, if any shall have heard a misdoing or detestable crime worthy of execration; yet their gloss is contradicted by what immediately follows, “Whether he hath seen or known it.” Others indeed interpret it to mean an oath, yet improperly confine it to perjury, as if Moses stated that he was guilty who had heard a man perjuring himself, and had not opposed him, but had rather covered the perjury by his own connivance or silence. I rather subscribe, then, to their opinion who expound it as meaning “adjuration;” for the words will thus combine very well, “If any one, being summoned as a witness, shall have heard the voice of adjuration, whereby he shall be required in God’s name to answer truly as to the matter proposed, and from favor, or good nature, or any other false pretext, as if he were enveloped in a cloud of error, shall conceal what, if he had paid diligent attention, he well knew, he shall be guilty.” We must then here render the disjunctive particle as the conditional. Literally it is, “If any shall have heard the voice of adjuration, and (is) himself a witness.” But wherefore should he say, “if he hath been a witness,” and then add, “or have known it,” as if he referred to different things? What I have said squares very well, that a person becomes himself guilty, who, when summoned as a witness, does not answer to a matter of which he is cognizant. Now, what does hearing the voice of adjuration mean, unless you understand that he is adjured by the mouth of a judge? We must observe, too, that the three kinds of sin which are first enumerated have a connection with each other, since they speak of sinners who are infected by the uncleanness of others; for, after Moses had commanded generally that offenses committed in error should be expiated, he now adds what had not been stated explicitly enough, that those also required atonement who had been polluted by the defilements of others. Thus this first will accord very well with the other two, i.e., that if any should make himself an accomplice in the offense of another, by indirect perjury, he should be unclean until he had offered a propitiation; for this is what the expression “bear his iniquity” conveys; as if Moses had said that he contracts guilt who shall have concealed a crime, respecting which he had been interrogated as a witness.

2. Or if a soul touch any unclean thing. This precept seems not only to be superfluous but also absurd; for Moses had already shewn sufficiently how uncleanness contracted by touching a dead body, or any other unclean thing, was to be purged, and had prescribed an easy and inexpensive mode of purification. This repetition appears, therefore, to be useless. But to impose a heavier punishment on an offense which is extenuated by the pretext of error, than where there is no allusion to error, is unjust. But we must remember that not only is the uncleanness itself here punished, but; the inadvertence, from whence it arose that he who was polluted omitted the purification. For it may be that those who thus lie torpid in their sins pollute for a season the service of God. No wonder, then, that a heavier punishment is inflicted, where error, springing from supine and gross security, begets still more sins, that thus believers may be aroused to greater vigilance. Let the reader, therefore, recollect that the offense which is now adverted to did not consist in the mere touching of a dead body, but in the thoughtlessness itself; for if all would diligently meditate on the Law of God, forgetfulness would not so easily steal over them, whereby the distinction between right and wrong is lost. The same is the reason for the following ordinance, where Moses subjects to the same punishment any one who shall have touched an unclean or defiled man: thus the very contact of a woman at a particular period produces pollution.

4. Or if a soul shall swear. The Gulf is also ascribed to error and ignorance, when a person does inconsiderately what he has promised not to do; for the oath is not in that case violated, which would be criminal; f267 but in this very carelessness there is enough of wrong, because sound religion would renew the recollection of the vow. Consequently, where no anxiety (to fulfill it) is shewn, there is no serious desire to do so. But this commandment was necessary, because it might often happen that men who had pledged their faith in a vow, and had broken it in thoughtlessness, would deem themselves released from every, and would in future give themselves up to indulgence, whereas they who arrive at such a pitch of licentiousness, harden themselves more and more, until at length they throw off all reverence for God. God would therefore have vows kept faithfully, lest those who despised them should thus rush into impiety. If then any one had thoughtlessly broken faith, he is commanded to make atonement to God; not on account of his levity, as some think, as if he had rashly promised what he might not, but on account of his neglect, because he had not given diligence to remember the vow at the proper time. Now if the Papists stupidly wrest this text after their custom, in order to establish the obligation of all kinds of vows, their confutation is easy; viz., that God requires this stedfastness only with respect to lawful vows duly made. We have already understood from the teaching of Moses, what is the rule of pious vow-making; whence we gather, that those which profane God’s name are by no means to be kept; for if we set out with doing wrong, obstinacy in it is doubly wicked. In this passage, therefore, “to do evil” is not to perform any improper action, but to undertake something which would otherwise be disagreeable and burdensome to the flesh; such as to diminish domestic expenditure, or to deprive one’s self of luxuries, or to determine upon abstinence from something which would gratify or profit us.

6. And he shall bring his trespass-offering. He proceeds with what we have already been considering, as to the removal of guilt by sacrifice; but he begins to make a distinction between the poor and the rich, which distinction applies also to what has gone before; hence it appears that the order is not exactly observed by Moses, since the cases which he inserts seem to interrupt the thread of his discourse; yet the fact remains clear, that whosoever have fallen through error are unclean until they have offered an atonement. But what had been before omitted is here inserted, that the poor and needy are not to be pressed beyond the extent of their means; nay, the different grades of offering are appointed, so that he to whom it was not convenient to offer two turtle-doves, or pigeons, might be quit for a small measure of flour. Hence we infer that God’s only design was to shew the one true means of reconciliation to the people, that they might have recourse to the Mediator and His sacrifice; for the poor are here commanded to offer either two turtle-doves, or a small quantity of meal, which would propitiate God towards them, just as much as would the victim required of the rich. The citation, f268 however, which our interpreters make from the poet is a lame one; viz., “Whoever shall have brought integrity of mind into the temples, makes a sacrifice of corn;” since this blind man did not see what was the object of sacrifices, and thus despised all kinds of propitiations, as if purity and innocency alone recommended men to God. We must remember, then, that the victims of themselves were of no importance, and yet that the ancient people were exercised in these ceremonies, to teach them that God can only be appeased by the payment of a ransom.

Leviticus 5

Go To Leviticus 5: 14-19

14. And the Lord spake unto Moses. The difference of the victim clearly shews, that another kind of offense is here referred to; for God now requires a male instead of a female. Before, He had been contented with an ewe lamb or a female kid; but inasmuch as a ram is more valuable, it follows that punishment is now awarded to a heavier offense. The heinousness of the fault depends upon the quality of the act; i.e., when a person shall have wronged not a mortal man merely, but God Himself, nor shall have transgressed only one of the Commandments of the first Table, but shall not have paid a vow, or shall have offered a defective victim, or shall have defrauded God of His right in any oblation; since this is what is meant by the clause “in the holy things of the Lord.” In this expression Moses includes both vows voluntarily made, as well as the legitimate oblations, such as tithes, first-fruits, the offering of the first-born; since in all these things the Israelites were strictly charged to deal most faithfully with God. If by chance avarice had blinded any one, so that in pursuit of personal gain he paid God less than he ought, his recklessness justly received a heavier punishment. Yet it must be understood, that the offense here referred to is one in which no fraud or evil deceit had place; for if any one had designedly and craftily appropriated what was sacred, the impiety of this sacrilege was not so easily expiated. But inasmuch as it often happens that the covetous and grasping are too ready to spare themselves, God enjoins a sacrifice in such a case, where private advantage has through thoughtlessness prevailed over religious feeling. The words, “with thy estimation,” some refer to Moses, others to the priest; but I prefer taking it passively for the estimation prescribed by God; which is called the estimation of the people, because they were bound to acquiesce in the Law appointed by Him, and not arbitrarily to alter the value. Moses estimates the ram at two shekels of the sanctuary, equivalent to four common shekels, f269 amounting in French money to about twenty-eight sols, (asses.)

16. And he shall make amends for the harm. Hence it more plainly appears, as I have recently stated, that they, who withheld anything of God’s full right, are said to have sinned “in the holy thing;” since they are commanded to make restitution with the addition of a fifth part. Yet let my readers remember, that those who are compelled to make restitution, are not such as have fraudulently embezzled the sacred things, but those who under some vain pretext have flattered themselves for a time, so as to be unaffected by any conviction of their fault. The object therefore of this sacrifice, was to arouse the people to attention, so that postponing their private advantage, they should freely pay what was due to God.  f270 Theirs is but foolish trifling who think that Moses, having before spoken of sins (peccata), now prescribes the mode of making expiation for delinquencies (delicta), since he uses the same words indifferently on all occasions, and also designates all the victims by the same name. But to make out a delinquency to be greater than a sin is a piece of gross ignorance; nor does it need a long refutation, since it manifestly appears that in this passage a special rule is delivered as to the means of obtaining pardon when a person through thoughtlessness has not reflected that he has omitted to discharge in full either his vows or oblations.

17. And if soul sin. Although the expressions seem to be general, as if he briefly confirmed what he had said before, yet it is necessary to connect them with the last sentence, or at least to restrict them to certain cases. The former exposition appears to me to be the right one; nor is there any absurdity in the repetition, to cut off all occasion for subterfuge from the disobedient. Still I do not deny that the reason which is added at the end, applies to all the modes of expiation of which he has been treating; viz., that although he may pretend ignorance who has fallen into sin inconsiderately, or who has not intentionally sinned, or who through forgetfulness has contracted any defilement, still he is guilty before God until he makes reconciliation. When therefore he again commands that a ram without blemish, and of full value should be offered, he once more shews how they must purge themselves who have been too stingy in their oblations. Immediately after he adds a reason common to all the other errors; as if he had said, that they are not absolved before God who offer the excuse of ignorance as a cover for their fault.

Leviticus 6

Go To Leviticus 6: 1-7

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses. Moses now no longer treats of the means of expiating errors when the sinner is guilty through thoughtlessness; but he prescribes the mode of reconciliation, when any one shall have wilfully and designedly offended God. And this is well worthy of notice, lest those who may have been guilty of voluntary sin should doubt whether God will be propitiated towards them, provided they make application to the one sacrifice of Christ, in which consists the entire substance of the shadows of the Law. We must indeed beware lest we indulge ourselves under the cover of God’s clemency and readiness to pardon, — for the lust of the flesh provokes us to sin more than enough, without the addition of this snare, — nor is it less than a blasphemous insult to God to take occasion and license for sin, from the fact of His willingness to pardon. Let then the fear of God reign in us, which will repress our wicked desires like a rein, so that we should not wilfully fall into sin; and let His mercy rather engender the hatred and detestation of sin in our hearts, than incite us to audacity. Yet, at the same time, we must prudently take heed, lest if we imagine God to be inexorable to our voluntary sins, this excessive severity should overthrow the hope of salvation even in those who are the holiest. For even now-a-days there are some madmen who deny pardon to all who may have chanted to fall through the infirmity of the flesh, since to morose men this severity has its charms, and by this hallucination Novatus f271 greatly troubled the Church of old. But if we all honestly examine ourselves, it will plainly appear that those rigid censors, who affect the reputation of sanctity by immoderate asperity, are the grossest hypocrites. For if they would abandon their pride, and examine into their lives, which of them would find himself free from concupiscence? and whose conscience must not often smite him?

It is then monstrous blindness to exalt men, clothed in human flesh, to such a pitch of perfection, as that their conscience should not convict them of any fault or blame. And nothing is more pestilent than this imposture of the devil, excluding from the hope of pardon those who knowingly and willingly have sinned; since there is not one even of God’s best servants, in whom the corrupt affections of the flesh do not sometimes prevail; for although they be neither adulterers, nor thieves, nor murderers, yet there is none whom the last Commandment of the Law — “Thou shalt not covet,” — does not convict of sin. And assuredly the more advance one has made in endeavors after purity, the more he feels and acknowledges that he is still very far from reaching its goal. Therefore, unless we would purposely close the gate of salvation against us, we must hold that God is placable towards all, who trust that their sin is forgiven them by the sacrifice of Christ; for God is neither changed, nor is our condition worse than that of the fathers, whereas under the Law God appointed sacrifices for the expiation even of voluntary offenses. Hence it follows, that although we are convicted of voluntary sin, yet a remedy is set before us in the Gospel for procuring pardon: else would these ancient figures be more than delusive, which had no other object than to be testimonies and mirrors of the grace which was finally manifested to us in Christ. If there ought to be a mutual agreement between the external representation of grace under the Law, and the spiritual effect which Christ brought in, it plainly appears that sins are no less forgiven to us now, than to the ancient people; and thus that believers are reminded by this symbol, that they are not to despair of reconciliation, whilst they take no pleasure in their sins; but rather that they should boldly seek for pardon in the perpetual sacrifice which constantly renders God favorable to all the godly. And surely since repentance and faith are the sure pledges of God’s favor, it cannot be but that they should be received into His grace who are endued with these two gifts. Besides, the remission of sins is an inestimable treasure, which God has deposited in His Church, to be the peculiar blessing of His children; as the Confession of Faith declares, “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the forgiveness of sins.” Nor would what Paul proclaims concerning the embassy entrusted to him be consistent, unless Christ’s satisfaction daily propitiated God towards believers. (<470520>2 Corinthians 5:20.)

The question here is not about some trifling offense, but about the crime of unfaithfulness, doubled by the addition of perjury. It is true that perfidy, or deceit, or violence, are first mentioned, to mark the grossness of the sin; but the guilt lies chiefly in the profanation of God’s name when the injury done to man is sheltered under a false oath. At any rate, he is admitted to pardon who has both iniquitously deceived his brother and has impiously abused God’s name. Hence it appears that God spares wretched sinners although they may have contaminated themselves by faithlessness, and have aggravated the crime committed against men by sacrilege, having insulted God through their perjury. But although Moses only enumerates transgressions of the Eighth Commandment, still he teaches, according to his usual manner, by synecdoche what must be done in the case of other offenses also. If, then, anything shall have been taken away by violence, or by fraud, and perjury has been superadded, he commands not only that satisfaction should be made to the neighbor who is defrauded, but that the price of atonement should also be offered to God. And the reason for this is expressly given, because not only has a mortal man been injured, but God has also been offended, who would have men conduct themselves justly and reverently towards each other; and then the crime is carried to extremity by the violation of God’s sacred name. The sacrifice is not indeed required from a thief or robber, or from the denier of a deposit, or the appropriator of anything lost, unless they have also perjured themselves; yet the words of Moses are not without their weight: if any one, by the denial of a deposit, or by theft, or robbery, shall have “committed a trespass against the Lord;” whereby he signifies, that whenever an injury is inflicted on men, God in their person is offended, because every transgression of the Law violates and perverts His justice.

We shall elsewhere see more about the restitution to be made in case of theft or robbery, especially when a person has been found guilty. This point, however, is alone referred to directly in this passage, viz., that whoever injures or inflicts a loss upon his brother, incurs guilt and condemnation before God; but if he proceeds to such a pitch of obstinacy, as to cover his crime by falsely appealing to the sacred name of God, he is polluted by double iniquity, so that compensation of the damage is not sufficient, but he must also make atonement to God. But we must understand this of those who, having escaped from the fear of punishment, voluntarily repent. The notion of some commentators who alter the copula into the disjunctive particle, and consider perjury to be one of the various sins referred to, I reject as foreign to the meaning of Moses. Others explain it thus: “If any shall have committed robbery or theft, or shall have sworn falsely about a thing lawful in itself:” but I do not see why the words should be wrested thus; besides, their mistake is refitted by the context itself, in which restitution is coupled with the sacrifices, and this could not be applicable unless perjury were conjoined also with fraud or violence. Nor does the disjunctive particle which follows help them; for after he has commanded what was taken away by force or deceit to be restored, because all the various points could not be separately expressed, it is added, “Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely,” not as if the guilt of perjury had been contracted in any other matters, but that he might cut away all means of subterfuge, which the repetition also confirms; for, after having introduced the crime of swearing falsely, he again, as if more clearly explaining what he had said, commands the restitution of the principal, together with the fifth part. But what is it that he commands to be restored except what the deceiver had kept back under cover of his oath? Of this a clearer exposition will be found under the Eighth Commandment.

A satisfaction is therefore enjoined to be made towards men together with the offering. Nor is it without reason that God commands them to make up the loss on the day when the offering is made, lest hypocrites should promise themselves impunity after having enriched themselves by the property of another. It was indeed permitted them to restore their property to others before they propitiated God by the sacrifice; but God will not have His altar defiled, which would be the case if thieves or robbers offered victims belonging to others. He would, therefore, have the hands of those who sacrifice cleansed from pollution. And surely those who offer a victim to God out of spoils unjustly obtained, in some measure implicate Him as a participator in their crime. Hence may profitable instruction be drawn, viz., that hypocrites busy themselves in vain in reconciling God to themselves, unless they honestly restore what they have unjustly taken. Meanwhile we must observe the distinction in the words of Moses between the satisfaction made to men and the sin-offering which propitiates God; for we gather from hence, as I have said, that they obtain not pardon from God who desire to remain enriched by their stolen property; and yet that God is not appeased by anything but sacrifice. Clear proof of this latter point may be gathered from the whole Law, which prescribes but one means of reconciling God, i.e., when the sinner makes atonement for himself by offering a victim. Hence the diabolical figment as to satisfactions is refuted f272 by which the Papists imagine that they are redeemed from God’s judgment; for although God shall have remitted the guilt, they still think that the liability to punishment remains, until the sinner shall have delivered himself by his own works. To this end they have invented works of supererogation, to be meritorious in redeeming from punishment; hence, too, purgatory has come into existence. But when you have studied all the writings of Moses, and diligently weighed whatsoever is revealed in the Law as to the means of appeasing God, you will find that the Jews were everywhere brought back to sacrifices. Now, it is certain that whatever is attributed to sacrifices is so much taken away from men’s own works. But if it were not God’s intention to down His ancient people to outward ceremonies, it follows that it is only by the one Mediator, through the outpouring of His blood, that men are absolved from all liability either to guilt or punishment, so as to be restored to favor by God.

7. And the priest shall make an atonement. From this form of expression also, which frequently occurs, we must learn that the victim in itself was not the price of redemption, but that expiation was founded on the priesthood. For they have foolishly and falsely invented the notion that men work something themselves in the sacraments, f273 whereas their virtue and effect proceeds from quite another quarter. The offering, therefore, properly speaking, is passive rather than active as regards man. f274 The force of this will be more clearly understood from the delusion of the Papists. They are indeed compelled to acknowledge that in the sacraments men are passive, in so far as they receive the grace there offered to them; but they presently pervert this doctrine, by inventing their opus operatum, as they call it. But, lest the people should think that they bring from their own stores (domo) the price of their redemption, Moses constantly inculcates that it is the peculiar office of the priest, to appease God, and to blot out sin by expiation. It is also worthy of observation that he adds, “before the Lord,” for by this clause the profane notion is refuted, that men are purged by the legal sacrifices only civilly, as they say, i.e., before men, as if there were no spiritual promise included in them. Now, if this were so, the fathers would have been confirmed in the confidence of pardon by no external symbols, than which nothing can be more absurd; but by this one clause all ambiguity is removed, when Moses declares that they were absolved “before the Lord.”

Leviticus 6

Go To Leviticus 6: 8-15, 23-25, 30

9. Command Aaron and his sons. He more distinctly explains what might have appeared to be omitted; nor is it without reason that he carefully enters into these full details, for since God prefers obedience to all sacrifices, he was unwilling that anything should remain doubtful as to the external rites, which were not otherwise of great importance; that they might learn to observe precisely, and with the most exact care, whatever the Law commanded, and that they should not obtrude anything of themselves, inasmuch as the purity of the holy things was corrupted by the very smallest invention. He would, therefore, leave nothing to the people’s judgment, but directed them by a fixed rule even in the most trifling matters. As to the burnt-offerings, he commands that they should not be taken away from the altar till they were consumed by the fire; but after they were put on, he commands them to be burnt in a constant fire till the morrow. With this intent, he expressly says, that the fire should be kept alight on the altar all the night, since the sacrifices would not have been reduced to ashes without the application of fuel. Secondly, he commands the priest, clothed in the linen garment, and breeches, as he was wont to be in the performance of his sacred duties, to go to the altar, and to take away the ashes and put them by the side, or at some part of the altar; but when he shall have gone away from the altar, he bids him take off his holy garments, and carry the ashes out of the camp to a clean place. But what he had before briefly adverted to as to the supply of wood, he immediately declares more fully to be, lest the fire should go out. Again, he assigns to the priest the office of setting the wood in order every morning. But, because in the sacrifices f275 of prosperities the Law commanded the fat only to be burnt, Moses now adds, verse 12, that the fat was to be burnt on the same fire. It is worthy of particular observation, that he finally subjoins a precept as to so keeping up the fire that it may never go out.

The intent of this perpetuity was, that the offerings should be burnt with heavenly fire; for on the day that Aaron was consecrated, the sacrifice was reduced to ashes not by human means but miraculously, in token of approbation. True that God did not choose daily to exert this power; but He interposed the hand and labor of men in such a manner that the origin of the sacred fire should still be from heaven. The same thing afterwards happened at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, because that alteration of the divine decree demanded a sign (tesseram,) lest any should think that it was at the will of man that the splendor of the temple should outvie the tabernacle. Finally, the sacrifice of Elijah was graced by the same privilege when he restored the abolished legal service; and then also God upheld what He had ordained in His Law, in opposition to all corrupt and degenerate rites. Meanwhile, in order to prevent any adulterations, He chose to have the fire continually burning on the altar day and night, nor was it allowable to take it from elsewhere. There was, indeed, amongst the Persians f276 a perpetual fire, and at Rome also under the guardianship of the Vestal virgins; f277 and it may be, that in foolish mimicry they transferred to themselves the custom which they had heard of being observed by the Jews; for thus it is that, for the purpose of deceiving unbelievers, the devil often falsely makes a pretense of something divine, and imitates God just as an ape imitates man: but the purpose of God in rejecting strange fire was to retain the people in His own genuine ordinance prescribed by the Law, lest any inventions of men should insinuate themselves; for the prohibition of strange fire was tantamount to forbidding men to introduce anything of their own, or to add to the pure doctrine of the Law, or to decline from its rule. Meanwhile, since God had once testified, as if by stretching forth His hand from heaven (to receive them, f278) that the sacrifices were acceptable to Him, believers were confirmed in their confidence of this by the pledge of the perpetual fire.

14. And this is the Law of the meat-offering. We have already seen that there were various kinds of this offering; now, the cakes or wafers are omitted, f279 and mention is only made of uncooked flour, whereof God commands that the priest should burn on the altar as much as his hand could hold. But this law was necessary in order that believers might be fully assured that God was propitiated by the due offering of this part, and that none might complain because the greater portion remained with the priests. Lest, however, the dignity of the sacrifice should be impaired, it was only permitted to the priests to make unleavened bread of it, which they were to eat in the sanctuary, as we have seen elsewhere. The meat-offering of the priests is excepted, which I conceive to be for two reasons, — first, that the excellency and dignity of their gift, honored as it was by special privilege, might stimulate the priests to greater efforts of piety, so as not to exercise themselves in God’s service in a common and perfunctory manner; secondly, that they might be thus restrained from the affectation of offering it too frequently. For if it only cost them a little flour, a door was opened to vain ostentation; they would have never ceased offering their  f280 minha, the profit of which returned to themselves; perhaps they might even have made a trade of it, as we see the Popish sacrificers entice the simple populace to profuse expenditure in offerings by the pomp of their fictitious devotion. Lest, therefore, they should cause their immoderate oblations to minister both to their vainglory and avarice, God willed that their meat-offering should be entirely consumed.

25. Speak unto Aaron. We everywhere see how carefully God provided that the people should have no doubts about anything. And assuredly true religion is distinguished from false imaginations by this peculiar mark, that God Himself prescribes what is to be done. Nor can certainty, though religion ought to be based upon it, be derived elsewhere than from His own mouth. Now, because there was a difference between burnt-offerings and sin-offerings, it would have been natural to kill them separately in different, places, unless the error had been anticipated; but all doubt, is removed when God assigns the same place to them both. Whence, too, we gather that one law suffices for the proper worship of God, if men are not wise in their own conceits, but depend on His mouth. For how came it to pass that, whilst these two kinds of oblations differed from each other, the rule respecting them was the same on this point, except because it so pleased God? This passage, therefore, sufficiently reminds us with how great sober-mindedness and modesty it becomes us to follow what is pointed out to us in God’s word. A reason, however, is at the same time added, which may invite reverence to be paid to the sin-offerings, when especial sanctity is attributed to them, which, according to the idiom of the Hebrew language, is called “holiness of holinesses.” Moreover, Moses begins to distinguish between hafj, chateah, f281 and a, asham, which the Latins translate peccatum, and delictum, though he had before used them indifferently to express the same thing. What the difference was, I confess, I know not; I see the guesses of others, but nothing certain.

30. And no sin-offering. The exception is repeated both with reference to the sacrifices mentioned in the fourth chapter, and also to the solemn sacrifice, whereby the priest and the people were reconciled every year: for private persons individually atoned for their sins at less expense, and only the greater altar, which stood in the court, was sprinkled with blood; but if the priest reconciled God to the whole people, or to himself, in order that the intercession might be more efficacious, he entered the sanctuary to pour out blood on the opposite side of the veil. God now again commands that such victims should be entirely burnt. This passage, then, is nothing but a confirmation of the others in which a like command is given. Hence the Apostle, in an apt allusion, infers that the distinction of meats is abolished; for he says that the minor altar, which under the Law was hidden, is now laid open to us, (<581310>Hebrews 13:10,) and therefore we no longer eat of the legal sacrifices; yea, forasmuch as our One Priest has brought His blood into the sanctuary, it only remains for us to go forth with Him without the camp.

Leviticus 7

Go To Leviticus 7: 1-5

1. Likewise this is the law. I have just confessed that I do not sufficiently understand how these two words, hafj, chateah, and a, asham, differ from each other; and I have therefore followed the sense which is commonly received, and called them the sin and the trespass-offering, (hostiam pro peccato vel pro delicto.) Although in this second kind of offering he commands the same ceremony to be observed as in the former one, yet he mentions some things which he had before omitted, such as the sprinkling of blood around the altar, the offering of the fat, kidneys, etc., which had not been before expressed. The sum amounts to this, that they were to sacrifice in the same manner, and with the same rites for sin as for trespass, and make not the smallest alteration in the rule laid down for them.

Leviticus 7

Go To Leviticus 7: 11-18

Leviticus 22

<032229>Leviticus 22:29, 30

29. And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the Lord, offer it at your own will.

29. Quum vero sacrificaveritis sacrificium gratiarum actionis Jehovae, in acceptationem vestri sacrificabitis.

30. On the same day it shall be eaten up; ye shall leave none of it until the morrow: I am the Lord.

30 Die ipsa comedetur: non relinquetus usque mane ex eo; ego Jehova,

Leviticus 19

Go To Leviticus 19: 5-8

<030711>Leviticus 7:11. And this is the law of the sacrifice. I have elsewhere f282 stated my reasons for calling this kind of sacrifice “the sacrifice of prosperities.” That they were offered not only in token of gratitude, but when God’s aid was implored, is plain both from this and other passages; yet in all cases the Jews thus testified that they acknowledged God as the author of all good things, whether they returned thanks for some notable blessing, or sought by His aid to be delivered from dangers, or whether they professed in general their piety, or paid the vows which they had made simply and without condition; for the payment of a conditional vow was an act of thanksgiving. At any rate, since in all they honored God with His due service, they gave proof of their gratitude. Hence this name was justly given to these sacrifices, because in them they either besought good success of Him, or acknowledged that what they had already obtained was owing to His grace, or asked for relief in adversity, or congratulated themselves on their welfare and safety. Moses, however, distinguishes one kind, as it were, from the others:, i.e., the sacrifice of thanksgiving, whereby they professedly returned thanks for some notable deliverance, which was not; always offered. f283 In this case he commands unleavened cakes fried in oil, wafers seasoned with oil, and fine flour fried to be offered, together with leavened bread; and also commands that the flesh of the sacrifice should be eaten on the day of the oblation, so that none should be left. In vows and free-will-offerings greater liberty is conceded, viz., that they might eat the residue on the next day, provided they kept nothing till the third day. In the passage which I have inserted from chapter 22, the words I have translated “unto your acceptance,” might also be rendered “unto His good-will,” (in beneplacitum,) for the gratuitous favor of God is called ˆwxr, ratson. The meaning therefore is, if you would have your sacrifice accepted by God, take care that none of the flesh should remain to the following day. Others, however, understand it of man’s good-will, as if it were said, “at your own will,” or “as it shall please you.” And I admit, indeed, that the word ˆwxr, ratson, is sometimes used in this sense; but since in the same chapter f284 it can only be taken for God’s favor or acceptance, I have preferred avoiding a variation; yet I make no objection if any one likes the other reading better. But if my readers weigh well the antithesis, when it is presently added, that if the flesh should remain beyond the proper time f285 the sacrifice would not be pleasing to God, they will agree with me. There is, indeed, an apparent discrepancy here, since in this way Moses would command the voluntary sacrifice to be eaten on the same day, which, however, he does not do. If we prefer understanding it of the liberal feelings of men, he will exhort the people cheerfully to offer their victims in thanksgiving. I have, however, shewn the meaning which I approve of, and thus it will be easy to reconcile these things, for God’s goodwill does not require this similarity, f286 nor is it necessary to observe the same mode of offering that they may be grateful; but they are said to offer “unto their acceptance,” when they intermix no corruption, but offer purely and duly. If the cause of this distinction is asked, it is no clearer to me than is the variety between the bread and wafers or cakes. It is certain, indeed, that God had a reason for dealing more strictly or more indulgently; but to inquire now-a-days as to things unknown, and which conduce not at all to piety, is neither right nor expedient.

16. But if the sacrifice of his offering. I have observed a little above that it is not a conditional but a simple vow which is here meant; because, if a person were under the obligation of a vow, f287 his payment was an act of thanksgiving, and thus his sacrifice was comprised under the first head. But it would not be without absurdity that similar things should be distinguished as if they differed. But inasmuch as many made gratuitous vows, Moses combines this kind of sacrifice with the free-will-offering, as standing in the same rank. It has also been stated that the consecrated meats were not kept too long, lest they should become tainted or putrified, and thus religion should fall into contempt. Perhaps, too, vainglory was thus provided against; for if it had been allowable to eat the meats salted, many would have made ostentatious offerings without expense. God, therefore, imposed a restraint, that they might offer their sacrifices more sparingly and reverently. The penalty is added, that; the sacrifice would not be acceptable to God, but rather abominable; and hence all who ate of them would be guilty. Moreover, when Moses says that polluted sacrifices would not be “imputed,” we may infer that those which are duly offered come into account before God, so that He reckons them as things expended for Himself. Still we must not, imagine them to be merits which lay Him under obligation; but because He deigns to deal so liberally with us, that no duty which we pay Him is useless.

Leviticus 7

Go To Leviticus 7: 19-25, 28-31, 37, 38

19. And the flesh that toucheth. It was not indeed lawful to eat of any polluted flesh, but in the sacrifices there was a special reason for this, i.e., because the uncleanness involved sacrilege. On this account he commands it to be burnt, just like that which had not been consumed within the legitimate time; and the punishment is, f288 that if any unclean person shall have touched the consecrated meat, he should be cut off from the people. The cruelty or immoderate severity of this has induced some to think that to be “cut off” is nothing more than to be cast out of the camp. But it is not wonderful that God should have thus severely dealt with those who knowingly and wilfully contaminated what was holy; for if any one had sinned in error, he was not to receive this sentence, but only he who had betrayed his open contempt of God by impious profanation of sacred things.

23. Speak unto the children of Israel. Since in all sacrifices the fat was consecrated to God, and was burnt on the altar, God forbade His people to eat fat even in their ordinary meals, in order that they might cultivate piety even in their homes. For unquestionably this was an exercise of piety, that they who were far away from the temple should still accustom themselves in their daily meals to the service of God. Nor am I ignorant of the allegories f289 in which some interpreters indulge, but I willingly acquiesce in the reason which God reveals, viz., that the people was prohibited from eating fat, because He had assigned it to Himself. Nevertheless, the Law permits the fat of a carcase, f290 or of an animal torn (by beasts) to be applied to any use, provided they abstain from the fat of those animals which might be legally offered.

37. This is the law of the burnt-offering. In this conclusion Moses indicates that full provision had been made lest any addition should insinuate itself from man’s inventions to vitiate the sacrifices. In the day, he says, that God appointed the sacrifices to be offered to Him on Mount Sinai, He omitted nothing which was to be observed, lest men should dare to introduce anything except what He prescribed. And surely, when He had thus carefully embraced all the ceremonies, we may easily infer from hence how earnestly we should avoid all temerity and audacity in invention. The design, therefore, of Moses was in this brief admonition to exhort the people to soberness, lest they should transgress the limits placed by God.

Numbers 15

Go To Numbers 15: 1-16

1. And the Lord spake. He partly here adverts to those precepts of which he had treated more distinctly and fully in Leviticus, and partly gathers into one place what he had before spoken of in various places and more obscurely. For as yet he had delivered no certain regulations as to the accessories to the meat-offering of oil and wine; but what he had before appropriated to particular cases he now commands to be observed generally, and what he had treated of more accurately he now lightly passes over; for he does not enter into full particulars, but only forbids that sacrifices should be offered without flour, a libation of wine, and oil. We have seen elsewhere that in the sacrifices and oblations, wherein God consulted the rude condition of the people, He took as it were the character of a man, as if He feasted there familiarly with them. In this sense He elsewhere calls the sacrifices His meat, f291 not because He, who is the life in Himself and inspires the life of all, requires the supports of life, but because, unless He descends to men, He cannot lift up their minds to things above. Still, inasmuch as there was danger on the other side lest the people should introduce many inane and superfluous pomps, as we see that in their sacred feasts the Gentiles were foolishly and immoderately luxurious, as if their delicacies gave pleasure to God, the measure of each particular thing is prescribed, that they may not dare to invent anything arbitrarily. The conjecture is probable that what had been before delivered with sufficient clearness is here again recalled to their memory. But since this reason is not expressly given, it will be enough to hold fast what has been frequently stated, that although the ceremonies might be of trifling importance, still it was necessary that the lawful should be carefully distinguished from the unauthorized, in order that the licentiousness of men might be anticipated, who would otherwise have failed not to mingle their own leaven. The sum of this passage is, that both in the solemn sacrifices which the Law demands, as well as in the free-will-offerings, they should observe that proportion of which we have treated elsewhere.

14. And if a stranger sojourn with you. He does not mean all strangers, but only those who, descending from heathen nations, had professedly turned to God, and thus had been received into the body of the Church; for the uncleanness of those who remained in uncircumcision excluded them from the legal service. I conceive that there were two reasons why God would have one and the same form observed; first, that the proselytes who had been lately incorporated might more cheerfully devote themselves to the exercises of piety, when they saw themselves placed in the same position as the children of Abraham; and secondly, lest if any distinction should be made, corrupt mixtures should immediately creep in. Lest, therefore, the purity of God’s worship should be gradually corrupted by absurd imitation, the gate was shut against that variety which usually draws men aside in different directions.

Leviticus 22

Go To Leviticus 22: 17-25

Deuteronomy 17

<051701>Deuteronomy 17:1

1. Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the Lord thy God any bullock or sheep wherein is blemish, or any evil favoredness: for that is an abomination unto the Lord thy God.

1. Non sacrificabis Jehovae Deo tuo bovem, aut agnum, in quo fuerit macula, aut quidpiam vitii, quia abominatio Jehovae Dei tui est.


<032217>Leviticus 22:17. And the Lord spake. He now more clearly teaches and more copiously inculcates what he has frequently adverted to heretofore, that it is sinful to offer to God a maimed, or weak, or otherwise imperfect animal. Now this external soundness admonished the ancient people that God is served amiss when He is served by halves, since He abominates a double heart. f292 (<201120>Proverbs 11:20.) At the same time, in this symbol was shewn forth the perfect purity of that victim by which God was at length to be reconciled. We know in how great liberties the world indulges itself in the service of God; for whilst it lightly and contemptuously obtrudes mere trifling upon Him as if He were a child, it still fancies that its duty is properly discharged. Hence it is that it claims reward for any rubbish (sordibus,) and exults in mere mockeries of God, as if it were laying Him under obligation. A notable example of this stupid security is seen now-a-days in the Papacy, when they mock God with no less audacity than as if they were dealing with a block of wood. To omit innumerable other cases, what can be more monstrous than this arrogance of theirs, when, as they mutter their prayers, their minds wander not only into frivolous but even into unholy imaginations, and yet they pretend that the final intention, as they call it, is meritorious and approved by God? f293 Suppose a priest (sacrificus) shall have proposed to recite the godly prayers of his breviary, and, when scarcely three words have been said, his mind shall be occupied with dishes, shall run away now to his cups, now to dicing, or other pastimes, still, as if his task were performed, he will boast that he has offered worship to God. In order, therefore, to obviate this fault, God commands that sacrifices free from all blemish should be presented to Him. Hence that sharp expostulation of His in <390107>Malachi 1:7, 8, because the Jews polluted His altar and thought His table contemptible, when they said that their blind, and lame, and sick victims were not evil. “Offer it now (he says) to thy governor, will he — accept thy person?” not because God cared for the fatness or the juiciness of the animals, but because it thus was made plain that true piety was neglected, nay, altogether despised. We perceive, then, that all defective sacrifices were rejected, that the Israelites might learn sincerely and seriously to consecrate themselves entirely to God, and not to play childishly with Him, as is often the case. Elsewhere we have seen indeed that all uncleanness is repudiated by God; but we must remember that two things are required for legitimate worship; first, that he who approaches God should be purged from every stain, and secondly, that he should offer nothing except what is pure and free from all imperfection. What Solomon says, that “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,” (<201508>Proverbs 15:8,) is true, although it be fat and splendid. But in order that the things which are offered by the good should be pleasing to God, another point must also be attended to, viz., that the offering should not be poor, and stingy, and deficient; and again, by this symbol, as I have already said, they were directed to Christ, besides whom no integrity will anywhere be found which will satisfy God.

19. “Unto your acceptance.”  f294 Some indeed translate this “at your own will,” but the context forbids it; for Moses sometimes uses the word hxr, ratseh, which means “accepted,” in the same sense, and sometimes ˆwxr, ratson, which can only be referred to God’s favor, which is commonly called His “good pleasure.” Again, as he here uses the compound word knxrl; leretsoncem, so he soon afterwards adds kl ˆwxrl, leretson lecem, where he declares that a blemished sacrifice would not be “unto their acceptance,” because it would be rejected by God. The sum therefore is, that if they desire their oblations to be approved by God, they must beware that there be no defect in them. Still, if any one chooses to think that God’s gratuitous favor is expressed by the word “good pleasure,” I willingly admit it, since our services only please God in so far as in His paternal indulgence He deigns to award to them the value of which they are by no means worthy. Nevertheless let us learn meanwhile that we must not play with God, but that He must be so worshipped in integrity and sincerity of heart as that our sacrifices may correspond with His good pleasure. For hence arises the careless profanation of His worship, because we do not sufficiently consider what is due to His perfection. It is indeed certain that nothing can proceed from us which is pure in every respect; but let us at least aspire at what befits us, and let us mourn that our desires fall so far short of their aim, in order that Christ may by His grace supply what is wanting in US; for it is unquestionable that, provided our sacrifices are the fruits of true regeneration, He washes out their blemishes with His own blood.

22. Either a bullock, or a lamb, that hath anything superfluous. An exception is here stated as to free-will-offerings; for in them God does not refuse a diminutive animal, or one which has a member either contracted, or of excessive size. And doubtless a greater license ought to be given, when a person is not under the obligation either of a vow or any other necessity. Still we must remember that no victim is acceptable to God, which labors under any notable defect.

25. Neither from a stranger’s hand. God here forbids that victims of this sort should be offered to Him, although they might be purchased from foreigners. The Hebrews, however, has invented a different meaning, viz., that not even from foreigners were such sacrifices to be received, as it was unlawful for the children of the Church themselves to offer. But inasmuch as the Law altogether prohibited the unclean nations from making sacred oblations, another solution of this difficulty was still to be discovered. f295 They suppose, therefore, that those are called “strangers,” who observe the precepts of the children of Noah, i.e., who honor God, and do not pollute themselves by incest, abstain from the effusion of human blood, and from theft, and who do not worship idols. But the context does not accord with this, for Moses adds at the end that this kind of sacrifice would not be accepted by God from the Jews themselves, which will not agree with their being offered by the Gentiles. This, then, seems to me to be a confirmation of the previous injunction, introduced by way of precaution; for it might have seemed that the offering would have been permissible, if they had purchased the animal, even though it were defective; whereas God declares that what they were not allowed to present from their own stalls, was no more approved of by Him, if it had been purchased, because defectiveness is always displeasing to Him. Nor do I restrict this, as they do, to the foregoing clause, as if it only referred to castrated animals, and such as were wounded in the testicles, but I include with it also warts and eruptions, and other blemishes. In order that the prohibition may have more weight, he again calls the sacrifices “the bread of God,” not because God, who is the fountain of life, has need of food, or eats of corruptible meat, since He is the eternal Spirit; but that men may more diligently take care duly to perform their sacred rites, wherein they familiarly draw nigh to God. Now, if no one would dare to present stale or corrupted food to an earthly prince, much less tolerable is it to contaminate God’s table with anything blemished.

Deuteronomy 23

<052318>Deuteronomy 23:18

18. Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the Lord thy God for any vow; for even both these are abomination unto the Lord thy God.

18. Non offeres mercedem meretricis, nec pretium canis in domum Jehovae Dei tui, pro quocunque voto: quia abominatio Jehovae Dei tui utrumque est.


18. Thou shalt not bring the hire. This command has an affinity to the foregoing, for God, rejecting whatever is acquired by illicit and filthy traffic, teaches us that the utmost chastity is to be observed in sacred things; nor does He only refuse the hire of a whore, but also the price of a dog, lest the sanctity of the altar should be polluted by any impure oblation. Still the dog seems to be rejected in comparison with other animals out of contempt; for it was just as wrong to kill a pig as a dog, yet might the price of a pig be offered. The dog, therefore, is rejected not only as an unclean animal, but also as vile and contemptible. In sum, God would impress upon them the reverence due to His temple and altar.

Leviticus 22

<032226>Leviticus 22:26-28

26. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

26. Loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

27. When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under the dam; and from the eighth day and thenceforth it shall be accepted for an offering made by fire unto the Lord.

27. Bos, vel agnus, vel capra, quum natus fuerit, erit septem diebus sub matre sua, a die autem octavo et deinceps, placebit in oblationem sacrificii igniti Jehovae.

28. And whether it be cow or ewe, ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day.

28. Bovem autem, vel pecudem, et fillum ejus non mactabitis die una.

Exodus 22

<022230>Exodus 22:30

30. Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me.

30. Erit primogenitum animal septem diebus cum matre sua: die autem octavo dabitis illud mihi.

Exodus 34

<023426>Exodus 34:26

26. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.

26. Non coques hoedum in lacte matris suae.

Deuteronomy 14

<051421>Deuteronomy 14:21

21. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.

21. Non coques hoedum in lacte matris suae.


<032227>Leviticus 22:27. When a bullock or a sheep. God forbids the young to be taken from the womb to the altar, not only because this bad example was likely to be transferred from the sacrifices to the ordinary food, but also because the offering would have been a fraudulent one. We have seen that the sacrifices were called the bread of God, in order that men should be more liberal with respect to them, and not offer meagre victims; but to kill a young animal fresh from the womb would have been a sign of contempt; although regard was also had to humanity, lest, by eating of such sacrifices, they should grow accustomed to cruelty. The eighth day is appointed, on which the lawfulness of the offering should commence. I am afraid that the reason which some assign for this is too subtle, viz., that an animal is made perfect in seven days, because God completed the work of creation in seven days. Besides, on this ground the seventh day would be the fittest for sacrifice, because in six days God completed all His work, and the seventh was hallowed for His service. It is enough for me that regard was had to maturity of age, just as in the case of circumcision. f296

28. And whether it be a cow or ewe. Though cruelty was indeed condemned in this precept, still I make no doubt but that Moses speaks primarily of the sacrifices. I confess the word fj, shachat, which he uses, is a general one; but since throughout the chapter he is professedly treating of the sacrifices, and in connection with these words adds the conclusion respecting the hallowing of His holy name, ver. 32, the context requires that we should consider it to be an inculcation of purity in God’s service. If any prefer to extend it further, I will not contest the point; and thus this sentence will be a supplement to the Sixth Commandment. I have, however, followed what appears most probable, and the reader of sound judgment will, I hope, agree with me. Meanwhile, I confess that all barbarity and cruelty was thus prohibited in the sacrifices, and in them the rule was laid down, that men should not be cruel in reference to their daily food. It is a sight by no means pleasant to gentle minds to see the dam killed together with her young; and, if it were a common custom, men would easily grow callous as to blood-shedding in general. God would therefore not have the exercises of religion disconnected from the duties of humanity; and the tendency of the precept is, that God’s altar should not be a Cyclopean slaughter-house.

Exodus 23

<022319>Exodus 23:19

19. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.

19. Non coques hoedum in lacte matris suae.


19. Thou shalt not seethe a kid. The threefold repetition of the command reminds us that a serious matter is spoken of, whereas it would be a light and almost frivolous one, if, as some suppose, it is merely the prohibition of a somewhat unwholesome food. But the Jews, not considering its intent, and affecting sanctity, as they do, in trifling puerilities, dare not taste of cheese together with kid, or lamb’s flesh, until they have well cleaned their teeth. I have no doubt, however, but that this prohibition relates to the sacrifices, for in the first passage quoted, it is added in connection with the offering of the first-fruits; and in the second, we read as follows: “The first of the first-fruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God. Nor shalt thou seethe a kid in his mother’s milk;” and so also in the third passage: “Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself, etc., for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God; nor shalt thou seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” I allow indeed that Moses sometimes mixes together precepts respecting different things; but this running context shews that this precept is delivered among the ceremonies, and must therefore be reckoned to be a part of the legal service. Whence I conclude, that the people are not only interdicted from eating this sort of food, as if they were to partake of flesh steeped in blood; but that they should not pollute the sacrifices by the carnal mixture. It is however probable, that meat seasoned with milk was accounted a delicacy; but inasmuch as they might grow cruel, if they ate of a lamb or kid in its mother’s milk, God forbade to be offered to Himself, what was not allowable even in their common meals. The exposition of some, that kids were excluded from their tables until they were weaned, is not agreeable to reason; because they then begin to have a goatish flavor. But the reason is a very appropriate one, i.e., that God would not admit a monstrous thing in His sacrifices, that the flesh of the young should be cooked in its mother’s milk, and thus, as it were, in its own blood.

The civil Supplements to the Second Commandment

Exodus 23

<022324>Exodus 23:24

24. Thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.

24. Destruendo destrues eos, et confringendo confringes statuas eorum.

Deuteronomy 12

Go To Deuteronomy 12: 1-3

Exodus 34

<023413>Exodus 34:13

13. But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves.

13. Aras eorum diruetis, statues eorum confringetis, lucosque eorum succidetis.

Deuteronomy 7

<050705>Deuteronomy 7:5

5. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.

5. Sic facietis els, altaria eorum destruetis, et statues eorum confringetis, lucosque eorum succidetis, ac sculptilia eorum comburetis igni.

Numbers 33

<043352>Numbers 33:52

52. Destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places.

52. Destruite omnes statues earum, et omnes imagines confiatiles destruite, et omnes aras eorum dissipate.

Deuteronomy 16

<051621>Deuteronomy 16:21

21. Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the Lord thy God, which thou shalt make thee.

21. Non plantabis tibi lucum quarumvis arborum apud altare Jehovae Dei tui, quod facies tibi.


<022324>Exodus 23:24. Thou shalt utterly overthrow them. I allow indeed that these supplements would partly agree with, and be applicable to, the First Commandment; but since express mention is everywhere made in them of idols, this place seems to be better suited to them. After Moses has taught what was necessary to be observed, he adds a political law about breaking down altars and overthrowing images, in order that the people may take the more diligent heed. These passages, however, differ from the foregoing; for in condemning thus far the superstitions which are vicious in themselves, God prescribed what He would have observed even to the end of the world. He now confirms that instruction by temporary enactments, that He may keep His ancient people up to their duty. For we have now-a-days no scruples in retaining the temples, which have been polluted by idols, and applying them to a better use; since we are not bound by what was added consequently (propter consequentiam), as they say, to the Law. I admit indeed that whatever tends to foster superstition should be removed, provided we are not too rigorously superstitious in insisting peremptorily on what is in itself indifferent. The sum amounts to this, that to shew more clearly how greatly God detests idolatry, He would have the memory of all those things abolished which had once been dedicated to idols. The second passage more fully unfolds what Moses had briefly adverted to in the first; for under the word “image,” he included all those tokens of idolatry which he afterwards enumerates, and of which he commands the whole land to be so cleared that no relics of them should remain. From the words, when ye have come into the land “to possess it,” Augustin f297 sensibly infers, that there is no command for private individuals to destroy the instruments of idolatry; but that the people are armed and furnished with this authority to take the charge of regulating the public interests, when they have obtained possession of the land. The third passage is more brief, only enumerating three kinds; the fourth adds “graven images,” (sculptilia.) The fifth omits the groves, and puts in their place images or representations made of molten materials; and here we must observe what we have before adverted to, that the name of statue (statuoe) is sometimes taken in a good sense; and therefore the Jews think that what was permitted to the fathers before the Law is now forbidden. To us, however, it seems more probable, that the statues now condemned are not such as Jacob erected only as a monument, but such as they pretended to be a likeness of God. Some translate the word “titles,” f298 others “pictures,” with what propriety I leave to the judgment of my readers. He adds “image, f299 a word which, though not in itself sinful, is still deservedly rejected in connection with the worship of God. Man is the image of God; for Moses uses this same word, when relating the creation of man. But to represent God by any figure, before which He is worshipped, is nothing less than to corrupt His glory, and so to metamorphose Him. By speaking of molten images, he admits neither sculptures nor pictures; but since they are generally cast in the precious metals, the people were expressly to beware of keeping gods of gold or silver for ornament.

Deuteronomy 16

Go To Deuteronomy 16: 21

21. Thou shalt not plant there. It is plain from the end of this verse that it is part of the Second Commandment. We know f300 that amongst the heathen nations groves were sacred, so that with them no religious object would receive due reverence, except under the shade of trees. Wherefore lest conformity with this general custom should vitiate the pure worship of God, this distinction was made; and this then is the intent of the prohibition, that the Jews should fly from all strange rites, lest by too closely approaching the Gentiles, they should introduce a sinful medley. But how necessary this prohibition was, appears from their eager imitation (of the heathen), of which mention is constantly made in the sacred history. For there was scarcely any period in which they abstained from “high places.” Nor is it without reason that Isaiah and Jeremiah reprove them for “playing the harlot under every green tree.” (<235705>Isaiah 57:5; <240220>Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6.)

Exodus 34

Go To Exodus 34: 11, 12, 15, 16

Exodus 23

<022331>Exodus 23:31-33

31. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.

31. Dabo in manum vestram habitatores terrae, et expelles cos a facie tua.

32. Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.

32. Non percuties cum ipsis foedus, nec cum diis eorum.

33. They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me; for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.

33. Non habitabunt in terra tua: ne forte peccare faciant te contra me quando colueris deos eorum, quod erit tibi in offendiculum.


<023411>Exodus 34:11. Observe that which I command thee. Although these supplements belong alike to the First and Second Commandment, still it was fit to postpone them to this place; because in them God applied a remedy to all external and manifest superstitions, which might easily have insinuated themselves had they not been anticipated in good time. All will run eagerly into idolatry, even though there be none to impel us from without; but where the ungodly act upon us also like fans, and this must needs be the case, when the people of God entangle themselves in their society, this disease is increasingly inflamed. And truly the closer our familiarity is with them, it is like a yoke, whereby they draw others with them. In order then that the people, when they entered the land, might preserve themselves pure and thoroughly devoted to God, care must be taken lest they should contract pollution from other nations; and therefore God would have all the inhabitants of Canaan utterly destroyed, lest they should entice His elect people to their errors and the worship of false gods. He here interdicts two kinds of covenant with them, lest there should be any public or private alliance between them; and then commands that all should be slain without mercy. As regards the public covenant, it was forbidden for a special cause, that the sons of Abraham should mix themselves with the reprobate; because they would have thus deprived themselves of the lawful inheritance which God had destined for them; nor would the face of the land have been renewed by the removal of all defilements. Since then in His just judgment God had long ago determined to destroy these nations, it was not lawful for the children of Abraham to rescind the divine decree, or to make any alteration in it.

If therefore any one should insist too literally on this passage to prove the unlawfulness of making any contract with the ungodly, because God forbade it of old, he will not reason soundly, since God does not now command us to execute vengeance by putting all the wicked to death; nor is a certain country assigned to the Church in which it may dwell apart and have dominion. Still I do not deny that what was enjoined upon the ancient people, in some degree has reference to us; nay, we must carefully remark what I lately adverted to, that those, who voluntarily unite themselves with the ungodly, impose as it were a yoke on themselves to draw them to destruction. And in fact Paul embraced in this comparison all the grounds upon which unbelievers insinuate themselves into familiarity with us, to ensnare us by their corrupting influence. (<470614>2 Corinthians 6:14) As much as possible, therefore, must all ties of connection be rather broken, than that by union with God’s enemies f301 we should allow ourselves to be drawn away from Him by their allurements; for they will always be attempting, by all the artifices they can, to make a divorce between us and God. Besides, if we desire faithfully to serve God, there ought to be a perpetual quarrel between us and them. God then would have us not only separate ourselves from open communion with them, but since we are too much given to depravity, He also commands us to fly from all the snares which might gradually induce us to participate in their sins. But inasmuch as Paul justly reminds us, that if we are not permitted to have any dealings with unbelievers, we must “needs go out of the world,” (<460510>1 Corinthians 5:10,) it is proper for us to distinguish between the contracts which associate us with them and those which do not at all diminish our liberty.

As long as we live among unbelievers, we cannot escape those dealings with them which relate to the ordinary affairs of life; but if we approach nearer, so that a greater intimacy should arise, we open the door as it were to Satan. Such are alliances between kings and nations, and marriages amongst private persons; and therefore Moses laid down rules respecting them both for the ancient people. And although our condition now-a-days is more free, still we are warned that all temptations are to be avoided which might give occasion to this evil. It is notorious that men are too apt to be led away by the blandishments of their wives; and also, that men in their power compel their wives to obedience. Those, therefore, who mix with idolaters, knowingly and wilfully devote themselves to idols. The same thing happens as to alliances; for men are ashamed in them to betray any marks of disrespect. Thus, to please the king of Syria, Ahaz raised an altar in the temple like that at Damascus. (<121610>2 Kings 16:10.) Thus while the Jews desired to gratify the Assyrians, they imitated their superstitions. In a word, it, is a most uncommon case that the religion of those should remain unaffected who seek to curry favor with the ungodly. But that they may cleave more earnestly to their duty, the danger I have spoken of is declared; otherwise such rejoinders as these would have been straightway in their mouths: “Although my wife is altogether averse from true piety, still I will stand firm; although my husband is not subject to God, yet I will never decline from the true course; although religion is not dear to our allies, still it shall not cease to be sacredly held in honor amongst ourselves.” God f302 therefore interferes betimes, and declares that they will not be so magnanimous in resistance, when once they have opened the window to the evil. He adds, too, another evil, i.e., that the sacred land would be thus profaned; for, although the Israelites should be separated from the impieties of the Gentiles, still it was not excusable to allow them to have altars in that land in which God had chosen a sanctuary for Himself. Yet at the same time Moses warns them that it could scarcely be but that this association would involve the Israelites also. When he says, then, “lest they go a whoring after their gods, and one call thee,” he means that the Israelites would be like panders, if under cover of their covenant, and for the sake of preserving their good-will, they gave the Gentiles permission to exercise their superstitions; and also that this would be a snare to grosser sin; since whilst they feared to give offense, they would not refuse to go to their feasts, and thus would be partakers of their guilt. Literally, it is, “Lest perhaps thou strike a covenant, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and call thee,” which words may be thus paraphrased, so as to depend on the foregoing prohibition: “Lest it should happen, after you shall have made a covenant, that they should go a whoring,” etc.; or thus, “By no means make a covenant, because they will go a whoring after their idols, and when they shall offer sacrifices will call thee.” The meaning, however, will amount to the same; for he mentions the two worst results of their unlawful covenant, i.e., that these unbelieving nations will pollute the land, and under pretext of kindness will corrupt God’s people. But in order that they may be more earnest and courageous in their duty, the promise is added, that they shall be victorious over these nations. This was almost incredible, that wanderers and exiles as they were, they should easily and quickly be enabled to gain possession of so many lands; therefore God takes away all doubt, and thus commands the Israelites to obey His dominion at the end of this war, which they shall feel that they have waged successfully under His auspices. Wherefore he convicts them of ingratitude if they shall dare to relax any of that severity which He requires; as if He had said, Since these nations far excel you in numbers, and strength, and warlike equipments, it will plainly appear that you have not conquered them by your own power; it will therefore be more than iniquitous that the war, which shall be concluded under my guidance alone, and by my hand, should be finished in opposition to my will, and that you should be the disposers of that victory which I have gratuitously conferred upon you. The discrepancy is easily reconciled, that Moses should only enumerate six nations in Exodus, and add a seventh in Deuteronomy; for often he only names the Canaanites or Amorites, yet comprising by synecdoche all the rest.

Deuteronomy 7

Go To Deuteronomy 7: 1-4

2. Thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them. Those who think that there was cruelty in this command, usurp too great authority in respect to Him who is the judge of all. The objection is specious that the people of God were unreasonably imbued with inhumanity, so that, advancing with murderous atrocity, they should spare neither sex nor age. But we must first remember what we shall see hereafter, i.e., that when God had destined the land for His people, He was at liberty utterly to destroy the former inhabitants, so that its possession might be free for them. We must then go further, and say that He desired the just demonstration of His vengeance to appear upon these nations. Four hundred years before He had justly punished their many sins, yet had He suspended His sentence and patiently borne with them, if haply they might repent. That sentence f303 is well known, “The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (<011516>Genesis 15:16.) After God had shewn His mercy for four centuries, and this clemency had increased both their audacity and madness, so that they had not ceased to provoke His wrath, surely it was no act of cruelty to compensate for the delay by the grievousness of the punishment. And hence appears the foul and detestable perversity of the human intellect. We are indignant if He does not smile at once; if He delays punishment our zeal accuses Him of slackness and want of energy; yet, when He comes forth as the avenger of guilt, we either call Him cruel, or at least complain of His severity. Yet His justice will always absolve Him; and our calumnies and detractions will recoil upon our own heads. He commanded seven nations to be utterly destroyed; that is to say, after they had added sin to sin for 400 years, so that their accumulation was immense, and experience had taught that they were obstinate and incurable. It will therefore be said elsewhere, that the land “spewed them out,” (<031828>Leviticus 18:28,) as if it had eased itself, when burdened by their filthiness. If impiety is intolerable to the lifeless element, why should we wonder that God in His character of Judge exercised extreme severity? But if God’s wrath was just, He might surely choose whatever ministers and executioners of it He pleased; and when He had given this commission to His people, it was not unreasonable that He should forbid them to pity those whom He had appointed for destruction. For what can be more preposterous than for men to vie with God in clemency? and when it pleases the Master to be severe, for the servants to assume to themselves the right of shewing mercy? Therefore God often reproves the Israelites for being improperly merciful. And hence it came to pass that the people, whom they ought to have destroyed, became as thorns and briars to prick them. (<062313>Joshua 23:13, and throughout the book of Judges.) Away, then, with all temerity, whereby we would presumptuously restrict God’s power to the puny measure of our reason; and rather let us learn reverently to regard those works of His, whose cause is concealed from us, than wantonly criticise them. Especially when He declares to us the just grounds of His vengeance, let us learn to subscribe to His decrees with the humility and modesty that becomes us, rather than to oppose them in vain, and indeed to our own confusion.

Deuteronomy 7

Go To Deuteronomy 7: 16-26

16. And thou shalt consume all the people. It is plain from the second part of the verse wherefore He commands the people of Canaan to be destroyed, when He forbids their gods to be worshipped. This precept, therefore, corresponds with the others, where He dooms in like manner these nations to utter destruction. I now pass over what I have explained elsewhere, i.e., that the vengeance which God exercised against these obstinate and ten-times lost people cannot be ascribed to cruelty. For since 400 years ago it had been said to Abraham that their iniquity was not yet full, they could not be treated with severity equal to their deserts, when they had so licentiously and wickedly abused God’s long-suffering. But we must take notice of God’s design in so particularly enjoining on the Israelites utterly to destroy whatever should be found there; for besides that He had once doomed them all to the destruction they merited, He would have the land also, in which His name was to be invoked, purged from all pollutions. Now, if any of the old inhabitants had survived, they would soon have endeavored to revive their corruptions, and since the Israelites were otherwise more disposed than enough to superstition, they would easily have been attracted to the worship of idols. This, then, is the reason why God forbids them to shew these people any humanity or clemency, as I have reminded you to be clear from the context; for these things stand in connection, that they should not spare the nations nor worship their gods. The reason which is subjoined, “for it will be a snare or stumblingblock to you,” must be extended to the whole context, viz., that it would be fatal to the Jews if they should spare the nations which would allure them to impiety.

17. If thou shalt say in thine heart. Since it was a matter of great difficulty to destroy such a multitude of men, and despair itself would drive them to madness, so that it would be frivolous for the Israelites to cut off all hope of mercy, God anticipates their fear, and exhorts them to the strenuous execution of His sentence. From whence we gather some useful instruction; whenever God commands anything which exceeds our power, we must still obey and boldly break through whatever obstacles present themselves to impede us. In all arduous matters, therefore, let this doctrine come to our aid, that whatever is contrary to God’s will may easily be annihilated by His almighty power. But since terror, presented to our eyes, immediately so lays hold of all our senses that we lie as it were torpid, God recalls to the recollection of the Israelites what abundant grounds of confidence He had supplied them with. For all the miracles He had wrought were so many proofs of His invincible power; and hence they should conclude that nothing was to be dreaded, provided God should go before them, and that, therefore, being assured of victory, they should not descend to any treaties.

20. Moreover, the Lord thy God will send the hornet. Since the destruction of their enemies might seem long, if they were only to be slain by their hands and weapons, and again, because it was scarcely credible that, without defending themselves, they would voluntarily stretch forth their own throats, God promises that in another way also He would supply the means of their conquest. Therefore, lest the Israelites, imagining that their enemies would be prompt and vigorous in resistance, should be alarmed or affrighted, God declares that other forces should be at hand, for that hornets or other poisonous insects should destroy all the fugitives. The same declaration is found in <022301>Exodus 23; and what God had promised, Joshua relates that He performed. (<062412>Joshua 24:12.) But inasmuch as these nations were not to be destroyed in a moment, lest the people should therefore grow weary or become inactive, God anticipates this, and reminds them that this delay would be advantageous, for when all the inhabitants were exterminated, the wild beasts would occupy the empty land. The prolongation of the war, therefore, ought not to trouble them, for by it God provided for His people’s welfare, since, if the men were speedily destroyed, they should have to contend with wild beasts. But though the passage which I have quoted from Exodus is similar in terms, yet I have designedly placed it under another head; for God here refers to the extermination of the Gentile nations with another object, i.e., lest any of the ancient pollutions should remain in the land, and lest the Israelites should mingle with the ungodly, by whose arts they might at length be drawn away to spurious religions.

25. The graven images of their gods. He again impresses upon them the object of the destruction of the nations, but he goes further than before. He had before forbidden them to worship their gods. He now commands them to consume their graven images with fire, for since the people were prone to superstition, such snares might easily have alienated them from God’s pure worship. Nor does he command them merely to melt the gold and silver so as to alter its shape, but he altogether interdicts its use, since it would be a contagious plague; for he shews how greatly God abominates idols, inasmuch as whosoever should touch the materials of which they were molten, would contract pollution and become accursed. This great severity might indeed seem to condemn the metals which were created for man’s use, as if they were impure, and as if the perfectness of natural things was liable to be corrupted by man. But in this way idolaters would contaminate the sun and moon, when falsely regarding them as objects of corrupt worship; and it must be answered that the gold and silver itself was by no means polluted by this impious abuse; but that, although free from all stain in itself, it was polluted in respect to the people. Such was the uncleanness of animals, not that they had in themselves any pollution, but because God had interdicted their being eaten. The pollution therefore which is now mentioned arises from a similar prohibition; for otherwise the ignorant people could not be restrained, and hence God would have that to be abominable which in itself was pure. Still this was a political precept, and only given temporarily to the ancient people; yet we gather from it how detestable idolatry is, which even infects the works of God themselves with its own filthiness.

Deuteronomy 25

Go To Deuteronomy 25: 17-19

17. Remember what Amalek did unto thee. We have elsewhere seen how the Amalekites were the first who made a hostile attack upon the people, and endeavored to interrupt their journey; and Moses also related the sentence of God against them, the execution of which he now enjoins upon the people. God then swore that there should be perpetual war against them throughout all ages; and, that His threatening might not be frustrated, He appoints His people to take vengeance upon their great cruelty and impiety. For when the Israelites were inflicting no injury nor loss upon them, it was an act of injustice to make war upon peaceful persons proceeding, without doing any wrong, to another land. But humanity was still more grossly violated by them, inasmuch as they did not spare their own kindred, and thus cast away the feelings of nature. It is plain from <013612>Genesis 36:12, that the Amalekites were the descendants of Esau; and hence it follows that they were both sprung from the same ancestor, Isaac. It is true that this command seems but little in accordance with religion, that the people should retaliate an injury done to them. I reply, that they are not stimulated to vindictive feelings in these words, but that they are commanded to punish the sins of Amalek with the same severity as those of the other nations. God appears, indeed, to influence them by private motives when He recounts the cruelty shewn by the Amalekites; but we must judge of the intention of the Legislator with reference to His nature, for we know that no angry or hateful passions can be approved by God; and hence it is easy to conclude that the command was such as the people might obey with well-regulated zeal. The first origin of the crime is specified, viz., because they “feared not God,” for this must not be taken in its ordinary meaning, but as expressing that they rebelled against God as it were deliberately. For the promise given to Abraham and Isaac could not be unknown to them; but, since Esau, the founder of their race, had fallen from the right of primogeniture, it came to pass that they attempted to bring God’s covenant to nought out of wicked and sacrilegious jealousy; and this is the reason why He unites them with the reprobate nations unto the same destruction. The word bnz, zineb, which means to crop the tail, is equivalent to making an attack on the rear, where the baggage and invalids are wont to be placed. f304

Deuteronomy 23

Go To Deuteronomy 23: 3-8

3. An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter. As God has lately prohibited His people from all connection and alliance with the Canaanitish nations, so He now distinguishes between the aliens, and shews upon what conditions, and whom they might admit (into the Church. f305) The Moabites and Ammonites He altogether rejects; because they not only refused the common rites of humanity to the people, but also took arms against them, and even hired Balaam to curse them. They were the descendants of Lot, and ought to have embraced the children of Abraham as brethren. It was, then, inexcusable barbarity in them to make a violent attack upon those who had voluntarily offered them peace; who had promised by their messengers that they would make their way without injury or wrong; and who finally had besought that a passage might be granted them, provided they honestly paid the price of bread and water; although doubtless God took vengeance rather on their impiety than their cruelty, since they had not only endeavored to make His goodness of none effect, but also to annihilate His faithfulness. Since, therefore, it was not their fault that the Church did not perish, and the effect of His promise fail, whereon the salvation of man was based, and this they had done knowingly and wilfully, no wonder that they were excluded from the Church.

4. And because he hired. f306 Although there was a common reason why both nations should not be admitted, yet the number of the verb seems to be changed designedly, because Balac king of Moab hired Balaam; yet, inasmuch as they conspired together, the same crime is justly imputed to the Ammonites. Herein indeed their detestable impiety especially betrayed itself, that by hiring a mercenary man, to launch the thunders of his curse against the people, they sought to overwhelm God by magical incantations. Nor did they err through ignorance, since they obstinately persevered in their madness until Balaam was confounded from heaven. And on this ground it is expressly stated that he was not “hearkend unto,” but that rather his curses and prayers were “turned into a blessing.” Hence it appears how awful is the vengeance which awaits all who of deliberate malice oppose God’s grace and the welfare of the Church. Thus now-a-days no stone is left unturned by the defenders of the Papacy, whereby they may disturb the course of heavenly doctrine, nay, whereby they may altogether silence the Gospel if they could.

Since another reason for this rejection is plainly signified, it is foolish in some to attribute this sentence upon them to their origin, as if the Ammonites and Moabites were excluded from the Church because they sprang from an incestuous connection.

7. Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite. In order that the punishment denounced against the Moabites and Ammonites should be more strongly marked, he commands the Edomites and Egyptians to be admitted in the third generation; the former, because they derived their origin from the same ancestor, Isaac, since they were the descendants of Esau; the latter, because they had been their hosts. For hence it was manifest that the Ammonites and Moabites had been dis-honored on account of their guilt, when not even aliens were thus dealt with. Now, although Esau had cut himself off from the prerogative of believers, yet the door was again opened to his children, provided they returned to their source and origin, and in the humility of faith admitted the primogeniture of Jacob, who had been chosen when their father was passed by or degraded. But what is meant by this inequality of punishment, when the crime was identical? for Edom appeared in arms against Israel before Moab, and compelled them to take their journey by another way. It did not contend with hired imprecations for Israel’s destruction, but since, when humbly entreated on the score of their old relationship, it had not only refused them a passage, but had advanced against them with a great army, it should have been dealt with no less severity than Amalek or Ammon. Besides, being connected to them by a closer of blood, the Edomites were less excusable in their hostility. I find, then, no reason why God shewed greater clemency to them than the others whom He treated more severely; except that He wished to shew that it depends on His own will to chastise more lightly in some the same sins on which He takes more severe vengeance in others; and, inasmuch as all are deserving of utter destruction, He justly retains in His own hand the free right of sparing whom He will. We must here adore His judgments, into the depths of which we cannot penetrate. Nor is this inequality a ground for the noisy cavils of the ungodly, as if He were inconsistent with Himself, and acted in contradiction to the rules of His Law; since in so doing He does not judge in diverse ways, but, condemning all alike, indulges whom He pleases, or remits a part of their punishment. A question may also arise as to the Egyptians, why God lays His people under an obligation to them, because they sojourned in their land. For it was barbarous and inhospitable cruelty in them to oppress the wretched fugitives who had trusted to their good faith. But God here refers to their first reception; as in <235204>Isaiah 52:4, where, comparing the Egyptians with the Assyrians, He says that the latter oppressed them like robbers, whilst the former had ruled over them not without a cause, because the people had gone down thither of their own accord. Although, therefore, the Israelites had been unworthily oppressed by their fierce tyranny, still God would have their old kindness acknowledged; since their dearth and famine had been relieved, and the refugees were kindly received, when the inhabitants of Canaan were perishing of hunger.

Deuteronomy 17

Go To Deuteronomy 17: 2-5, 7

2. If there be found among you. The same punishment is here decreed against idolaters, to which apostates had been before condemned; and thus either transgression is declared a capital crime. Hence we gather that it is accounted before God no less weighty a sin to violate His worship by gross and impure superstitions, than openly and professedly to fall away from religion altogether. Thus in <262039>Ezekiel 20:39, He bids farewell to the Jews, and as it were emancipates them, that they may go every one after his idols, when they are no longer contented with Him alone. Whilst God, however, is so rigid an exactor of punishment, He would not have judgment pronounced precipitately. These are tokens of severity, that a woman as well as a man is to be slain; that the whole people should unite in stoning them; that the evil should be removed from the midst of the land, lest the abomination should continue unpunished. On the other hand moderation is to be observed, since diligent inquiry is to be made, nor is sentence to be pronounced unless the matter is fully proved; and again, that the trial may be lawful, the accusation of one man is not to convict the accused. God therefore would not have the judges, under pretext of zeal, shed blood inconsiderately; but only, after mature inquiry, the criminal was to be punished in proportion to his transgression. By synecdoche he speaks of their cities under the name of “gates,” and alludes to the land having been “given” them, that they might not shew their want of gratitude to God by profaning it. He marks too the heinous nature of the offense, by calling it the “transgressing of God’s covenant;” as much as to say that all who go aside unto idols are covenant-breakers. For the thief, and the fornicator, and the drunkard, and such like transgress the Law indeed, but still are not placed in this category. In fine, it is not simple impiety which is here punished, but the perfidy whereby true religion is forsaken, after men have devoted themselves to God, and professed themselves to be of the number of His people. The repetition of the words “that man or that woman,” more fully confirms what I have said, viz., that although the weakness of the female sex may extenuate their guilt, yet must they not be pardoned in such a case as this, where God’s worship is directly violated. Although mention is only made of the sun, and moon, and stars, the same thing applies to images also; nay, inasmuch as it is baser to transfer God’s honor to dead stones or stocks, than to those constellations in which something divine shines forth, so much more detestable are they who plunge themselves into such stupidity.

4. Then three shalt inquire  f307 diligently. Although this moderation here refers only to the present matter, yet should it always be maintained in judicial proceedings, lest innocent persons should be treated with undue severity. Again, we must remember what I have said elsewhere, that judges are here not only restrained from precipitate condemnation, but also stimulated to beware of passing over, in idleness or negligence, anything that was necessary to be known. For they often fail in their duty, because they wilfully connive at guilt; and thus that which would be manifest if they would be at the pains to make more diligent inquiry, does not come to light. God, then, would not have them slumber nor take no notice of sinister reports, but rather inquire diligently as to things which may have come to their cars, so that no crime may remain unpunished. The same is the case as to witnesses; for whilst it would be unjust to pronounce sentence on the testimony of one man, still, if two or three will not suffice, there would be no end to litigation. Fitly, then, has God prescribed to judges both that they shall not be rashly credulous, and yet that they shall be content with the lawful number of witnesses; but this point will be more largely treated of elsewhere in commenting both on the Sixth and Ninth Commandments.

7. The hands of the witnesses shall be first. It was not without reason that God would have criminals put to death by the hand of those by whose testimony they were condemned. The ancient people did not employ public executioners, that there might be more solemnity, modesty, and reverence in the infliction of punishments. This office he peculiarly enjoins upon the witnesses, because the tongue of many is too hasty, not to say worse of it, so that they do not hesitate to stab people verbally, when they would not dare to lay a finger upon them. This, then, was an excellent remedy for the repression of light accusations, not to admit the testimony of any, whose hand was not prepared to execute the sentence. Stoning was indeed a sad and horrible kind of punishment; but it is probable that God made choice of it because it required the application of many hands. If hanging had not been in use, God would have commanded in vain that the corpse of a man who had been hanged should be taken down from the tree before sunset. (<052123>Deuteronomy 21:23.) There were, therefore, other kinds of capital punishment; but when the land was to be purged, as by a propitiation, by the death of the sinner, he was to be stoned by the hands of the whole people, since it would have been cruel for him to be slain by a lingering death, which would have been the case if they had stoned him one after another. The reason why the people were commanded to cast the stones with one consent was, that they might give proof of their zeal, and manifest their great indignation that God’s worship had been violated.

The Third Commandment

Exodus 20

<022007>Exodus 20:7

7. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

7. Non sumes nomen Jehovae Dei tui in vanum: quia non absolvet eum Jehova qui nomen suum sumpserit in vanum.

its repetition

Deuteronomy 5

<050511>Deuteronomy 5:11

11. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

11. Non sumes nomen Jehovae Dei tui in vanum: quia non absolvet Jehova eum qui nomen suum sumpserit in vanum.


<022007>Exodus 20:7. Thou shalt not take the name. There is a manifest synecdoche in this Commandment; for in order that God may procure for His name its due reverence, He forbids its being taken in vain, especially in oaths. Whence we infer on the other hand an affirmative commandment, that every oath should be a testimony of true piety, whereby the majesty of God Himself should obtain its proper glory. Moreover, it is clear that not only when we swear by God, His name is to be reverently honored, but whenever mention of it is made. Thus in these words He maintains His holiness not only in His word, but also in His works, against all profane contempt of it. We shall soon see that to swear by God’s name is a species or part of religious worship, and this is manifest too from the words of <234523>Isaiah 45:23; for when he predicts that all nations shall devote themselves to pure religion, he thus speaks, “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall swear by me.” f308 Now, if the bowing of the knees be a token of adoration, this swearing which is connected with it is equivalent to an acknowledgment that He is God. Since, then, reason dictates that the species is put for the genus, we must see what is to be understood by God’s name, and by the adverb awl, leshav. It is silly and childish to restrict this to the name Jehovah, f309 as if God’s majesty were confined to letters or syllables; but, whereas His essence is invisible, His name is set before us as an image, in so far as God manifests Himself to us, and is distinctly made known to us by His own marks, just as men are each by his own name. On this ground Christ teaches that God’s name is comprehended in the heavens, the earth, the temple, the altar, (<400534>Matthew 5:34,) because His glory is conspicuous in them. Consequently, God’s name is profaned whenever any detraction is made from His supreme wisdom, infinite power, justice, truth, clemency, and rectitude. If a shorter definition be preferred, let us say that His name is what Paul calls to< gnwsto>n, “that which may be known” of Him. (<450119>Romans 1:19.)

God’s name, then, is taken in vain, not only when any one abuses it by perjury, but when it is lightly and disrespectfully adduced in proof of frivolous and trifling matters: I speak with respect to oaths. In this, however, man’s ingratitude is very gross, that when God grants them His name, as if at their entreaty, to put an end to their strifes and to be a pledge of their truth, still it flies promiscuously from their mouths not without manifest disrespect. God will again condemn perjury in the Fifth Commandment of the Second Table, viz., in so far as it offends against and violates charity by injuring our neighbors. The aim and object of this Commandment is different, i.e., that the honor due to God may be unsullied; that we should only speak of Him religiously; that becoming veneration of Him should be maintained among us. The word awl, leshau, might indeed be translated “for falsehood,” and in this sense we shall see it used elsewhere; but since it often is equivalent to nj, chinam, which means gratuitously, or in vain, this exposition seems to be most appropriate. In this, too, fuller and richer instruction is contained, viz., that men should not drag in His name in light matters, as in sport or derision of Him, which cannot be done without insulting and profaning it. And thus the holiness of God’s name, which preserves us in His fear and in true piety, is contrasted with the particle awl, leshau. But since nothing is more difficult than to restrain men’s licentiousness in this respect, and to excuse or at least diminish the sin, the slipperiness of the tongue is pleaded, its punishment is here denounced: that if God’s name is rashly exposed to reproach or contempt, He will avenge it. The more hardened, therefore, in their licentiousness they may be, the less will be their impunity; so far is depraved habit from diminishing the guilt.

The Exposition of the Third Commandment

Leviticus 19

<031912>Leviticus 19:12

12. And ye shall not, swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.

12. Non jurabitis per nomen meum mendaciter, nec profanabis nomen Dei tui: ego Jehova.

Deuteronomy 6

<050613>Deuteronomy 6:13

13. Shalt swear by his name.

13. Per nomen ejus jurabis.

Deuteronomy 10

<051020>Deuteronomy 10:20

20. Swear by his name.

20. In nomine ejus jurabis.


<031912>Leviticus 19:12. And ye shall not swear by my name falsely. Although Moses is treating of the duties of the Second Table, and had previously forbidden men to deal fraudulently with their neighbors, he still adds this sentence by way of confirmation. It may, however, be inferred from the second clause of the verse that He directly had regard to the glory of God when he says, “Thou shalt not profane the name of thy God.” For raging greediness after gain causes the avaricious and rapacious man not only to defraud men, but to become insolent to God Himself. Moses, therefore, although he is professedly condemning the falsehood and deceit whereby our neighbors are injured, at the same time takes occasion to introduce the declaration that we must beware lest, whilst covetousness impels us to do wrong, injury should be done not only to men but to God Himself also. The word used here, however, is not aw, shau, as before, but rq, sheker, which properly signifies deceitfulness; and therefore I have said that it enjoins us to beware lest any one by his perjury should do any injury to his neighbor; nevertheless, that this prohibition has direct reference to the Third Commandment, since Moses especially insists on this point, that God’s name is profaned by perjury, and thus he not only inculcates integrity, but also has regard to religion, that God’s majesty may not be violated. The expression is worthy of notice, “Thou shalt not pollute the name of God,” because God, who is eternal and immutable truth, cannot be more grossly insulted than by being summoned as a witness to falsehood, which is assuredly a shameful and wicked pollution. This was not regarded by the heathen, who, although they pretended to reverence God’s name in their oaths, yet made no scruple of deceiving, if he whom they had promised deserved it. Thyestes in the poet says, “I never have pledged my faith, nor do I pledge it to any faithless person;” f310 since his brother was a villain, he considered that he lay under no valid obligation to him. This is as if God’s majesty were dependent upon men’s deservings, so that it was allowable to call Him to witness whilst we deal deceitfully. Let this, then, be our firm conclusion, that in our oaths God is first to be regarded, whose holy name is more precious than a hundred worlds.

Exodus 23

<022313>Exodus 23:13

13. And make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.

13. Nomen deorum alienorum non memorabitis, non audietur in ore tuo.


13. Make no mention of the name of other gods. There is no sort of doubt but that this declaration should be connected with the Third Commandment. Moses explains that God’s name is taken in vain and abused, if men swear by other gods; for it is not lawful to refer the judgment of things unknown to any other than the one true God. Consequently, the glory of the Deity is transferred to those by whose name men swear. Therefore by the Prophet God pronounces a severe denunciation, that He will destroy all those that swear by His name, and also by Malcham, (<360105>Zephaniah 1:5,) since thus the Jews mixed Him up with their idol, and so profaned His holiness. In sum, since by swearing we profess that He is our God, whom we declare to be both the knower of our hearts and the judge of our souls, the true God justly claims this honor for Himself alone, inasmuch as the glory of His name is detracted from, not only if we speak less reverently than we should of Him, but also if we associate with Him such as may usurp a part of His rights. And this more clearly appears from the two passages which we have adduced from Deuteronomy, wherein the people are commanded to swear by the name of the one God, which is equivalent to rendering to His sacred name in our outward profession of service the unmixed reverence which it deserves. f311 Still God does not exhort the people to indulge themselves freely in oaths, as if by frequent oaths they exercised themselves in the duties of piety, but simply means that when there is occasion for it or necessity, and a just cause shall demand it, they must swear in no other way than by invoking Him alone as their witness and judge.

Deuteronomy 23

Go To Deuteronomy 23: 21-23

21. When thou shalt vow a vow. The rule of vowing also pertains to the keeping of the Third Commandment, since, by vowing, men exercise themselves in the sanctification of God’s name, and to promise anything to God is a kind of swearing. For what between men is called a covenant or agreement, with respect to God is a vow; and therefore it may be fitly called a sacred engagement, which not only is made with God as its witness, but which is contracted with God Himself. We have elsewhere cursorily touched upon certain oaths, such as that of the Nazarites; but since that consecration was a part of God’s worship, I have placed it under the First Commandment. Nor indeed did Moses there treat directly of the obligation itself of the vow, but of that exercise of piety which stimulated the people to the pursuit of purity, sanctity, and sobriety. I have followed the same course as to the free-will-offerings, which were certainly for the most part votive, but I have considered what was the main thing in them without much troubling myself as to what was accessory. But now under another head Moses confirms what he taught before, that God’s name was not to be taken in vain; therefore he commands them to pay their vows, by withholding which the glory of God’s name is diminished, whilst He is Himself defrauded of His right, and the promise ratified before Him is set at nought. Moreover, it is to be observed that all the vows which were ever acceptable to God were testimonies of gratitude, lest the recollection of His benefits should fail, forgetfulness of which is too apt to steal over us. When, therefore, the saints were conscious of tardiness or listlessness in proclaiming His goodness, they made use of this aid and spur, as it were, to correct their sloth. Thus, when they asked anything of importance from God, they were often accustomed to bind themselves by some promise as a manifestation of their thankfulness. Such are the vows which Moses commands to be solemnly and faithfully paid, that they might not cheat God when they had escaped from peril or had obtained what they wished, whereas in their anxiety they had been humbly suppliant. For we know with what facility or rather levity many are hurried into making vows, who afterwards, with the same fickleness, think little of breaking their promise.

On this point, then, God justly rescues His name from contempt, and to this end demands that what has been promised to Him should be paid. But inasmuch as superstitious persons apply this, or rather wrest it indiscriminately to all vows, their error must be refuted, so that we may understand the genuine meaning of Moses. The Papists would have all vows kept without exception, because it is written, “Thou shalt not slack to pay whatever hath passed your lips.” But a definition of vows must first be given, or at least we must see what vows are lawful and approved by God; for if all vows must be effectually kept, however rashly made, of old under the Law it would have been right to kill their sons and daughters, to erect altars to idols, and thus under this pretext the whole Law of God would have been entirely brought to nought. Wherefore a distinction between vows must be laid down, unless we wish to confound right and wrong. This then is the first point, that nothing can be properly vowed to God, except what we know to be pleasing to Him; for if “to obey is better than sacrifice,” (<091522>1 Samuel 15:22,) nothing surely can be more absurd than to indulge ourselves in the liberty of serving God, each according to his own fancy. If a Jew had vowed that he would sacrifice a dog, it would have been sacrilege to pay that vow, since it was forbidden by God’s Law. But inasmuch as there is an intermediate degree between that which God has expressly prescribed and forbidden, it might be objected that it was allowable to make a vow in respect to things which are called indifferent. My reply to this is, that since the principle ought always to be maintained by the godly, that nothing is to be done without faith, (<451423>Romans 14:23,)it must ever be considered whether a thing is agreeable to God’s word, otherwise our zeal is preposterous. f312

God formerly did not forbid many things which He still was not willing to have offered to Him in worship; and so now-a-days, although it would be lawful not to taste meat all our lifelong, still if any one should vow perpetual abstinence with respect to it, he would act superstitiously; since he would inconsiderately obtrude upon God what we gather from His word that He does not approve. Wherefore if all our vows are not reduced to this rule, there will be nothing in them right and sure. Another very gross error in the Papists may also be condemned, viz., that they foolishly promise God more than they can pay. Assuredly it is more than blind arrogance, nay, diabolical madness, that a mortal man should wish to present as if it were his, what he has not received; as if any one should vow that he would not eat during his whole life, or should renounce sleep and the necessary supports of life, by common consent he would be convicted of madness. No gift, then, can be acceptable to God, except what He in His goodness has conferred upon us. But what is done in the Papacy? Monks, and nuns, and priests, bind themselves to perpetual celibacy, and do not consider that continency is a special gift; and thus whilst none of them has regard to the measure of his ability, they wretchedly abandon themselves to ruin, or envelop themselves in deadly snares. Besides, every one should consider his vocation. A monk will vow himself to his abbot, and throw off the paternal yoke: another, who was adapted for the transaction of public business, will abandon his children under cover of the monastic vow, and thus acquire immunity, Hence it appears, that whether a vow should be kept or not, is to be estimated from the character of him that vows. But a more gross and more common error is committed in respect to the object of vows. I said above that the godly never made vows to God, except in testimony of gratitude; whereas almost all the vows of the superstitious are so many fictitious acts of worship, having no other aim than to propitiate God by the expiation of sin, or to acquire favor meritoriously. I will not pursue at length those more detestable hallucinations whereby they defile themselves and their vows, when they substitute their idols in God’s place; as for instance, when a man vows f313 an altar to Christopher or Barbara. To sanction this barbarous impiety, this passage of Moses is alleged, which certainly contains something quite different, viz., that those who vow to any other being, pervert the worship of God; and in which also Moses takes it for granted that a vow is not accounted legitimate, except what is made to God Himself in accordance with the rules of religion and the prescription of the Law. Thus in this exordium the doctrine is laid down, that guilt is incurred unless what is promised is paid.

22. But if thou shalt forbear to vow. He confirms what he said, that they would be guilty before God who have broken their promises to Him, because no necessity compelled them to promise, and consequently that their guilt was doubled, inasmuch as they chose rather to sin when it was at their option not to vow. Thus Peter, reproving the faithlessness of Ananias and Sapphira, says, f314

“Who hath compelled you to lie to the Holy Ghost? was not the field your own, which you might have retained? but now to defraud God of part of the price, is impious hypocrisy.” (<440504>Acts 5:4.)

Meanwhile God indirectly inculcates sobriety in vowing, when He discharges them from it as a duty; as if He had reminded them, that there was no reason why they should incur guilt by idly promising what He does not require. And surely nothing is wiser than to be very sparing of vows; since those who run into them inconsiderately, either presently repent of them, or else pay them in a servile manner, as if it were a task to which they are driven by force, and not without annoyance and disgust, and thus destroy the grace of the act. As to the words, “that which is gone out of thy lips,” they do not refer to the ceremony, on which the Jew’s as usual too unscrupulously insist; but He puts a restraint by them on vowing, to which we are of ourselves but too much inclined. Whence it is said in <196613>Psalm 66:13, 14,

“I will go into thy house with burnt-offerings; I will pay these my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble;”

although the Prophet intimates that in his sore straits he had always retained his composure and presence of mind, so as expressly to implore God’s help, and to manifest his constancy and confidence by making vows, still it is signified at the same time that he did not precipitately utter empty words, but spoke with serious reflection. And indeed since the tongue of many is too voluble, and goes before their heart, the main obligation of vows is not to be sought in the act of their utterance; but, to make them truly complete, a mutual agreement is required between the heart and tongue. The same expression will often occur again; and its repetition shews that it is meant to remove the scruples of the weak, lest f315 as soon as any desire to vow shall have entered their minds, they should fancy that it imposes a religious obligation. We know that among heathen nations, in the solemn dedication of their temples, a priest was appointed who should f316 first recite the words; by which ceremony they were reminded that nothing is duly offered to God except He Himself should dictate it, as it were. I allow that this reason was but little considered by them; nevertheless, by their example, God would condemn all levity, or inconsiderate fervor in sacred offerings.

Leviticus 27

Go To Leviticus 27: 1-25, 27-29

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses. In this chapter Moses shews in what manner and at what price what once has been offered is to be redeemed, supposing that the vows cannot be conveniently paid. Now it is to be observed, that among the ancient people there were two modes of consecration, the one by anathema, which the Hebrews call rj, cherem, the other for the use of the temple, and other exercises of religion. The anathema  f317 might be made of unclean animals, and other unholy things, as we may see in respect to the city of Jericho, and similar instances; but it was not properly allowable to make vows, except of a clean man or animal, or something else which might be appropriated in the service of God. Thus of their flocks they vowed goats and sheep; of their herds, oxen or calves, that they might experience God’s goodness in their fecundity. If a person was aggrieved at being without offspring, in asking it of God he offered in his vow his son, or daughter; on which ground Samuel, before he was conceived in the womb, was dedicated to God. (<090122>1 Samuel 1:22.) If any one had a weakly child born to him, or if one of his children was very ill, or if he himself was in any difficulty, it was customary to have resort to vows, that God might protect what was dedicated to Him. Nor can it be doubted but that many abused this and fell into foolish practices; but God tolerated these errors as long as they were not opposed to His Law. Moreover, since it often happens that those who are under the obligation of a vow change their minds, and are not very eager and ready to pay it, nay, discharge it with much pain and unwillingness; God permitted that what was promised might be redeemed at a certain price, in order that their offerings might be voluntary. By the imposition of this ransom, which was of the nature of a fine, rashness was punished, and future inconsideration prevented, so that they might consider well what they were about before they made their vow, and that it might not be disagreeable to them to stand by their promises. Besides, it is to be remarked, that these vows were confirmed, not because they were altogether pleasing to God, but lest the people should accustom themselves to impious contempt of Him, if the deceiver might with impunity refuse God what he had promised, Moses first treats of persons; and estimates a male at fifty shekels of the sanctuary from twenty-five years of age to sixty; since this is the best time of life in which a man’s work is profitable. A woman he estimates at thirty shekels; since for the most part less profit is made by a woman than a man; and although it might occur that some women would be much more valuable than men, since sometimes women are found to be industrious, prudent, discreet, and strong to labor, whilst men are idle, dull, lazy, and weak, still a general law must needs be given, for the examination would have been too difficult if each individual was to be estimated according to their good qualities. God then does not pay exact attention to the merits of each, but is contented with the common calculation. He then lays down rules as to an earlier age, viz., from five to twenty, and rates the male at twenty shekels, the female at ten. He afterwards descends to infants, and appoints the price of a male from one month to five years, at five shekels, and a female at three. Fourthly, he estimates those who are more than sixty, the male at fifteen shekels, the female at ten; since old age debilitates the vigor both of mind and body, and gradually destroys it. In the fifth place, an exception is made lest the poor should be burdened beyond their slender means, that the priest should diminish the price as much as he saw fit. Still this diminution had reference also to the rich, if the person to be redeemed was not worth the ordinary price, though it appears that God here especially makes a provision for the poor from the words, “according f318 to what the hand of him that vowed shall attain;” by which clause Moses f319 is wont to express poverty, or want, because the poor and needy are not supplied with sufficient for their desires.

11. And if it be any unclean beast. Moses now, in the second place, treats of brute animals; which God commands to be sacrificed to Him, if they are suitable for it, and does not suffer the vow to be altered. But if they be imperfect or unclean, He lays down the rule for their redemption. But the question here arises, How it can be allowable to vow what God had forbidden to be offered to Him, and so had prohibited from being brought into the temple, as being unclean? Surely if it had entered into any one’s mind to sacrifice an unclean animal, the superstition would be rejected, nay, there would be need of expiation. But here, in my opinion, another kind of offering is adverted to, which did not vitiate the sacrifices and service of God by being contrary to the injunctions of His Law. There was therefore nothing strange in His accepting such a vow, though He punishes its levity by a pecuniary fine. Besides, suppose a strong and well-tried horse was in danger, his master made a vow that if it were saved he would be bound to pay its price; and so also in the other cases. To vow was nothing else than to commit to God’s faithfulness and protection whatever they wished to be preserved. Hence the too great commonness of vows, which still it was necessary to discharge in some way, lest God’s sacred name should be exposed to ridicule. This estimation God left to the arbitration of the priest. But if an animal might be offered in sacrifice, no redemption was allowed; and if any one had substituted another animal, or paid the price of it, he was punished for his fraud, for both (i.e., the animal, and its substitute or price) were consecrated to God. The estimation, which is imposed upon one who had vowed, is irreversible, since God simply commands the Israelites to stand by the judgment of the priest, and to abide by the taxation, as it is called, enjoined upon them as a fixed rule; and, besides, they were to add a fifth part, as an additional fine, to the price appointed by the priest.

14. And when a man shall sanctify his house. A third kind of vows follows, viz., the consecration of houses and lands; under which head also an alternative is appointed, so that religion may not be despised, and still the just possessors should not be driven from their houses, or the lands be rendered useless from the want of cultivation. Those persons vowed their houses, who sought of God for themselves and families that they might inhabit them in health, and safety, and in general prosperity; and he who wished to obtain fertility for his fields, vowed one of ten or twenty acres. Undoubtedly superstitious prayers were sometimes mixed up with this exercise of piety, as if they might acquire favor for themselves by making a bargain with God. Still, inasmuch as the thing was not wrong in itself, God indulgently bore with the errors which could not be very easily corrected, lest, in His hatred of them, He might altogether abolish what was useful and laudable. Hence the redemption both of house and land was permitted. But if any one had committed fraud in selling a piece of land that was vowed, a heavier punishment is added, i.e., that he should go without it for ever. We shall speak more fully elsewhere of the year of jubilee. f320 At present this must be observed, that, lest the partition of land made by Joshua should ever be altered, since God had clearly shewn that it was done by His authority, God recalled each of the tribes every fiftieth year to their original share, and thus entirely restored the possessors whom poverty had driven out. In proportion, then, to the closeness or remoteness of that year, since possession would be so much the shorter or longer, land was cheap or dear. God does not here measure the fields by the pole or chain, but estimates them simply, as among a rude people, by the seed; viz., if a field in sowing takes a homer f321 of barley, it shall remain in the hands of its possessor if he pays fifty shekels of the sanctuary. We have elsewhere seen that these were double the ordinary shekel. But since vows were often made in the middle or towards the end of the jubilee, a distinction is stated; and God commands the priests to take the time into consideration, and the nearer the jubilee-year may be to diminish so much of the price. Where, however, a fraud had taken place, God would not have the honest purchaser ejected; but, when the jubilee was over, He assigned the field, which had been held for a time in sacrilege, to the priests for ever. Moses compares this consecration to an anathema, which the Hebrews call rj, cherem, f322 a word whose radical meaning is destroying or abolishing; for which reason the Latins take a “devoted” thing in a bad sense, as what is destined to final destruction. The law is then extended to lands which had been sold, and which, in the year of jubilee, returned to their former owners; because the first allotment of the land was then wholly restored. For these fields God commands a price to be paid, upon a calculation of the time, so that only the produce and not the fee should be taken into account.

Now, since people have improperly and in foolish mimicry imitated the vows which God permitted to the Jews under the Law, so the Pope, in providing for their redemption, has dared in his diabolical arrogance to rival God. The titulus  f323 is well-known in the Third Book of Decretals; “De voto, et ejus redemptione;” wherein its concocter, whoever he was, has so sought to impose upon the world with his shameless nonsense, as not to hesitate to heap together directly contradictory sentences; and even if there were no contradictions there, still nothing is laid down except how votive pilgrimages are to be redeemed, which plainly appear from Christ’s declaration to be wrong since the preaching of the gospel. (<430421>John 4:21.) And assuredly it was a marvellous fascination of the devil, that what was said under the Law as to the payment of vows at Jerusalem, should be transferred to Christians, when Christ had pronounced that the time had come when the true worshippers without distinction of place should worship God everywhere in spirit and in truth. If the hired wranglers f324 of the Pope object that the same rule obtains in the redemption of vows, since a remedy or mitigation must not be denied, if any should be too burdensome or grievous, I answer, that men act wickedly, when they wrest to themselves what God has reserved for His own discretion; for neither under the Law of old was it allowable for a mortal man to alter a vow, unless by His permission. If again they object, that the judgment was given to the priests, here their folly is twice refuted; since they cannot shew that they have been appointed judges; nor can they escape from the accusation of temerity, since without any command they pronounce as to this redemption of vows, whereas the priests of old advanced nothing except from God’s mouth, and according to the fixed rule here laid down.

The exception as to the firstlings and the tithes sufficiently proves that some vows were illicit, and such as God repudiates; and therefore that they must not be made indiscriminately, for it would have been a mere work of supererogation to vow to God what He had already made His own; as we have shewn elsewhere, f325 where I have inserted this passage. With respect to what is said of the anathema, it must not be understood generally, since it was not lawful to subject a man to it, unless he were worthy of death. This, then, must be restricted to their enemies, whom they were otherwise at liberty to destroy; a notorious example of which was the city of Jericho, with its inhabitants and spoils. Now, since whatever was brought under this anathema was devoted and accursed, God would have it destroyed, nor does He allow of any compensation. Wherefore they anathematized their fields I do not understand, unless perhaps they wished to expiate some crime whereby pollution was contracted.

Numbers 30

Go To Numbers 30: 1-16

1. And Moses spake. Moses teaches in this chapter that the vows which were made by persons who were not free, were not held good before God; and although no mention is made of male children, still, as their condition was the same, it seems that by synecdoche they must be included with the daughters and wives, unless perhaps God chose to pay regard to the weaker sex. But since He permits females, who were not under their father’s power, to make vows in spite of their sex, nor does He make it to be an excuse for levity or thoughtlessness, it seems that the object proposed was, that the right of the father over his children as well as of the husband over the wife, should be maintained inviolate.

2. If a man vow a vow. Wishing to modify the general law, lest any one should think that there was any contradiction in this exception, he begins by repeating the law itself, that every one should faithfully pay whatever he had vowed; as much as to say, that this stands good, but that he only refers to such as are their own masters; and that women or girls who are under the power of another, were not free to make vows without the concurrence of their fathers’ or husbands’ consent. This preface, however, must be understood, as I have already pointed out, of lawful vows, whereby neither is religion corrupted nor the holiness of God’s name profaned. And assuredly, unless what we offer is acceptable to God, there can be no obligation on the conscience. Moreover, since there is here a distinction made between males and females, it may be probably conjectured that boys of ten years old, although still united with their family, are bound by their promises; and therefore I will not pertinaciously contend about this, because it is better to leave undecided whatever is doubtful, and disputable, as it is commonly called, on either side.

3. If a woman also vow. He now proceeds to the point of which he proposed to treat, i.e., that vows made by persons who are not their own masters do not hold good; and he mentions two cases. For, in the first place, he teaches that if a daughter, whilst living with her father, has vowed anything without his knowledge, it is of no force. He lays down the same rule, if the father, hearing the vow, has disallowed it; but if he has held his peace, it is declared that his silence is equivalent to consent. Hence we gather that all those who are possessed of power do not do their duty unless they frankly and discreetly express their opposition whenever anything displeases them; since their connivance is a kind of tacit approbation. In the second place, he treats of married women, whose vows, made in the absence or with the disapproval of their husbands, he commands to be of none effect; but if the husbands have known of them, and been silent, he obliges their performance. For many deceptions might have thus arisen; since it is usual with many when they wish to gratify their wives, to conceal their opinion for the time, but, when the period of actual performance arrives, to elude what may have been promised. But unless they use their privilege in proper time, God would have them bear the punishment of their servile indulgence and dissimulation; but because women are often urged to deceive by their levity and inconstancy, this danger is also anticipated. It may also happen f326 that a woman, when subject to her husband, may make a vow in the precipitate fervor of her zeal, and when he is dead, may retract it under the specious pretext that she was not then free and her own mistress; the same thing may occur when a divorced woman shall bind herself, and then when she has married, shall appear to herself to be released. Since instances of this wicked change of mind are too frequent, no wonder that this special precaution should be added, to prevent frauds. Wherefore God declares that the period when the vow was made is to be considered, so that they are no less liable than as if their condition had remained the same. He therefore condemns to the performance of their vow those women who have been emancipated from their fathers’ authority by marriage, and also who have been set free by death or divorce; yet it appears from the last verse of the chapter, that two exceptions, modifying the general law, are here peculiarly treated of.

5. But if her father disallow her. The expression is remarkable, “And the Lord shall forgive her,” whereby Moses gently reproves the foolish thoughtlessness of the girl; and soon afterwards the same thing is spoken of married women. And surely their rashness is worthy of reprehension, if unmindful of their condition, they, as it were, shake off the yoke and hastily commit themselves. God therefore hints that they are not without blame; but lest they should be tormented by secret remorse, He removes every scruple, declaring that He will forgive, if the performance of the vow shall have been prevented in any other quarter. When the dissent of the father or the husband is required on the same day, it is tantamount to saying that what they have once approved of cannot be disallowed. Further, to “hold his peace” to a wife or daughter, signifies that he does not oppose, but give by silence a token of consent.

9. But every vow of a widow. I have stated why widows are expressly named, viz., lest a woman should think that by a second marriage she would escape, as being no longer free, and again under the yoke; since by such subtle excuses people often extricate themselves. No other subject is referred to down to the end of the last verse but one; for they have made a very gross mistake, who interpret it as applying to a family and its master. f327 The subject itself certainly does not admit of such an explanation; and the words of Moses forbid it: so that it is the more surprising that persons skilled in the Hebrew language have not seen the matter clearly.

Political Supplements to the Third Commandment

Leviticus 24

<032415>Leviticus 24:15, 16

15. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.

15. Ad filios Israel loqueris, dicendo: Homo qui maledixerit Dec sue, portabit scelus suum.

16. And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.

16. Et qui transfixerit nomen Jehovae, morte moriatur: lapidando lapidabit eum universus coetus, sive indigena fuerit, sive peregrinus, quum transfixerit nomen, moriatur.


15. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. Hence it now more clearly appears that the object of the Third Commandment was that God’s holy name should be honored with the respect and veneration which it deserves, since the insult whereby it is violated is condemned to capital punishment. By the expression “cursing,” Moses designates all profane and impure words which tend to brand it with dishonor; as if any one should accuse God either of injustice or cruelty; or should assail Him with blasphemies; or designedly detract from His glory either in anger or wantonness, since many, when exasperated, launch forth horrible blasphemies, whilst others make a parade of their audacity by scoffing at Him. The second verb, which is twice repeated in the next verse, bqn, nakab, f328 means in Hebrew to hollow out or perforate, and metaphorically to unfold, thus the Latins say that what is thoroughly brought out is “enucleated.” The source of the metaphor as applied to contumely is not very dissimilar. The translation “he who shall have expressed,” which some give, is lame; to me the word “transfix” seems to be very suitable in the present passage, nor are the Latin phrases proscindere or lacerate very different. As to the meaning there is tolerable agreement, i.e., that God would not have His holy name disrespectfully traduced; and assuredly it is insupportably impious when the tongue of mortal man, which was created to celebrate the praises of God, is employed in insulting Him. The kind of death is also appointed, when He commands the offender to be stoned by the whole people, so that all may learn from the sight that such a monster should be annihilated as contaminating the earth. God also would prove the zeal of His people, by calling them all forth in defense of His glory, and arming them for vengeance. Moreover, He did not subject to this punishment the Jews only, who professed to be His worshippers, but also strangers who were dwelling in the land in the exercise of their business; viz., that they might more severely punish the crime in His own servants who were less excusable.

The Fourth Commandment

Exodus 20

Go To Exodus 20: 8-15

its repetition

Deuteronomy 5

Go To Deuteronomy 5: 12-15

<022008>Exodus 20:8. Remember the Sabbath-day. The object of this Commandment is that believers should exercise themselves in the worship of God; for we know how prone men are to fall into indifference, unless they have some props to lean on or some stimulants to arouse them in maintaining their care and zeal for religion. Under the Second Commandment we have already indeed made some remarks on the outward profession of piety, and under the First also brief mention has been made of some festivals, inasmuch as in the passover and the offering of the first-fruits the people devoted themselves to God, as if by a solemn repetition of the covenant. Many also of the ceremonies which we have explained had an affinity to the Sabbath. Yet it is not without good cause that God has appointed a special place to the Sabbath as well as to the other festivals; and although there is a connection between the observance of the Sabbath and the tabernacle with its sacrifices, and the priesthood itself, still it was advisedly done that the festivals should be separately appointed, that by their aid the people might be the more encouraged to maintain the unity of the faith and to preserve the harmony of the Church. Meanwhile, the mutual connection between the sanctuary and the Sabbath is evident from what has been already said. God indeed would have it to be a notable symbol of distinction between the Jews and heathen nations. Whence, too, the devil, in order to asperse pure and holy religion with infamy, has often traduced the Jewish Sabbath through froward tongues. But the better to shew what there is peculiar in this Commandment, and what is its difference from the First, we must remember the spiritual substance of the type; for not only did God prescribe certain days for the holding of assemblies, in which the people might give attention to sacrifices, prayers, and the celebration of His praise; but He placed before their eyes as the perfection of sanctity that they should all cease from their works. Surely God has no delight in idleness and sloth, and therefore there was no importance in the simple cessation of the labors of their hands and feet; nay, it would have been a childish superstition to rest with no other view than to occupy their repose in the service of God. f329 Wherefore, lest we should make any mistake in the meaning of this Commandment, it is well to remember its analogy and conformity with the thing it signifies; i.e., that the Jews might know that their lives could not be approved by God unless, by ceasing from their own works, they should divest themselves of their reason, counsels, and all the feelings and affections of the flesh. For they were not forbidden without exception from the performance of every work, since they were required both to circumcise their children, and to bring the victims into the court, and to offer them in sacrifice on that day; but they were only called away from their own works, that, as if dead to themselves and to the world, they might wholly devote themselves to God. Wherefore, since God declares elsewhere by Moses, and again by Ezekiel, that the Sabbath is a sign between Him and the Jews that He sanctifies them, (<263113>Ezekiel 31:13; <262012>Ezekiel 20:12,) we must see what is the sum of this sanctification, viz., the death of the flesh, when men deny themselves and renounce their earthly nature, so that they may be ruled and guided by the Spirit of God.

Although this is sufficiently plain, still it will be worth while to confirm it by further statements. And first of all, that this was a ceremonial precept, Paul clearly teaches, calling it a shadow of these things, the body of which is only Christ. (<510217>Colossians 2:17.) But if the outward rest was nothing but a ceremony, the substance of which must be sought in Christ, it now remains to be considered how Christ actually exhibited what was then prefigured; and this the same Apostle declares, when he states that “our old man is crucified with Christ,” and that we are buried with Him, that His resurrection may be to us newness of life. (<450604>Romans 6:4.) It is to be gathered without doubt from many passages, that the keeping of the Sabbath was a serious matter, since God inculcates no other commandment more frequently, nor more strictly requires obedience to any; and again, when He complains that He is despised, and that the Jews have fallen into extreme ungodliness, He simply says that His “Sabbaths are polluted,” as if religion principally consisted in their observance. (<241724>Jeremiah 17:24; <262021>Ezekiel 20:21; 22:8; 23:38.) Moreover, if there had not been some peculiar excellency in the Sabbath, f330 it might have appeared to be an act of atrocious injustice to command a man to be put to death for cutting wood upon it. (<041532>Numbers 15:32.) Wherefore it must be concluded that the substance of the Sabbath, which Paul declares to be in Christ, must have been no ordinary good thing. Nor does its excellency require much eulogium, since spiritual rest is nothing else than the truly desirable and blessed death of man, which contains in it the life of God, even as Paul glories that he is as it were dead, because Christ liveth in him. (<480220>Galatians 2:20.) The Apostle in the epistle to the Hebrews argues more subtilely, that true rest is brought to us by the Gospel, and that it is rejected by unbelievers, (<580403>Hebrews 4:3;) for although he mixes up some allegorical matter with it, he still retains the genuine reason of the Commandment, viz., that we should rest from our works “even as God from His.” (<580410>Hebrews 4:10.) On this ground Isaiah, when he reproves the hypocrites for insisting only on the external ceremony of rest, accuses them of “finding their own pleasure” on the Sabbath, (<235813>Isaiah 58:13;) as much as to say, that the legitimate use of the Sabbath must be supposed to be self-renunciation, since he is in fact accounted to cease from his works who is not led by his own will nor indulges his own wishes, but who suffers himself to be directed by the Spirit of God. And this emptying out of self must proceed so far that the Sabbath is violated even by good works, so long as we regard them as our own; for rightly does Augustin remark in the last chapter of the 22d book, De Civitate Dei,  f331“For even our good works themselves, since they are understood to be rather His than ours, are thus imputed to us for the attaining of that Sabbath, when we are still and see that He is God;  f332 for, if we attribute them to ourselves, they will be servile, whereas we are told as to the Sabbath, Thou shalt not do any servile work in it.”

Next it is asked, why God rather assigned every seventh day to the Sabbath rather than the sixth or tenth. Because the number seven often represents perfection in Scripture, some have thought that believers were thus reminded that they must strive after perfect holiness with all their might, and not devote themselves to God by halves only. Others elicit a different meaning from it, although not a contrary one, that believers were taught that although they might be sanctified and laboring in all sincerity to cease from their own life, still some remainders of the flesh would continue in them, and therefore that through the whole course of their life they must aspire to that holiness which no mortal attains. I do not, however, doubt but that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, that He might give a manifestation of the perfect excellency of His works, and thus, proposing Himself as the model for our imitation, He signifies that He calls His own people to the true goal of felicity. Although a promise is included in this Commandment, yet will we observe upon it separately, and as if by the way. He promises indeed that as He blessed the seventh day and set it apart, so He will bless believers to sanctify them. But the main point is the command, and the recital of the blessing is equivalent to an exhortation to obedience, since otherwise it would be inappropriately placed here amongst the Commandments of the Law. When I said that the ordinance of rest was a type of a spiritual and far higher mystery, and hence that this Commandment must be accounted ceremonial, I must not be supposed to mean that it had no other different objects also. And certainly God took the seventh day for His own and hallowed it, when the creation of the world was finished, that He might keep His servants altogether free from every care, for the consideration of the beauty, excellence, and fitness of His works. There is indeed no moment which should be allowed to pass in which we are not attentive to the consideration of the wisdom, power, goodness, and justice of God in His admirable creation and government of the world; but, since our minds are fickle, and apt therefore to be forgetful or distracted, God, in His indulgence providing against our infirmities, separates one day from the rest, and commands that it should be free from all earthly business and cares, so that nothing may stand in the way of that holy occupation. On this ground He did not merely wish that people should rest at home, but that they should meet in the sanctuary, there to engage themselves in prayer and sacrifices, and to make progress in religious knowledge through the interpretation of the Law. In this respect we have an equal necessity for the Sabbath with the ancient people, so that on one day we may be free, and thus the better prepared to learn and to testify our faith. A third object of the Sabbath is also stated by Moses, but an accidental one as it were, viz., that it may be a day of relaxation for servants. Since this pertains to the rule of charity, it has not properly any place in the First Table, and is therefore added by Moses as an extrinsic advantage, as will be seen a little further on.

8. Remember the Sabbath-day. The word keep is used in Deuteronomy with the same meaning. Hence we infer that it is no trifling matter here in question, since God enforces the sanctity of the Sabbath by these two words, and exhorts the Jews to its scrupulous observance, thus condemning carelessness about it as a transgression. Moreover, when He says, “Six days shalt thou labor,” He indirectly reproves their ingratitude, if it should be irksome and disagreeable to them, to devote one day out of the seven to God, when He in His generosity gives up six to themselves. For he does not, as some have foolishly thought, make a demand here for six days’ labor; but by His very kindness entices them to obedience, since He only claims a seventh part (of their time) for Himself — as if He had said, Since you cannot be instant in seeking me with all your affection and attention, at any rate give up to me some little undistracted time. Therefore, He says, “all thy work,” whereby He signifies that they have plenty of time, exclusive of the Sabbath, for all their business.

10. Thou shalt not do any work. That is, whatever could have been finished yesterday, or postponed till to-morrow. (For instance, f333) it was not lawful for judges to give a hearing to two litigants; but if any one had violently assaulted his neighbor, it was allowable to prevent the injury, and to give relief to the unoffending person; because the necessity of the case admitted of no delay. It was not lawful to cook food for your guests; but if an ox or an ass had fallen into a pit it was to be taken out, because aid would have been too late on the morrow. For this reason Christ. declares that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” (<410227>Mark 2:27,) since God does not require more than was useful or necessary for keeping the people in the exercise of piety. Thus it would have been wicked to send out an ox to pasture; but if an ox that tossed had got out, it was right to bring it back to its stall, lest it should kill or injure those whom it met.

Thy man-servant and thy maid-servant. Although it is added in Deuteronomy that God had respect to equity, when He commands a relaxation from labor to be given to the men and maid-servants, and the Israelites are called upon to remember that they were once servants, that they may be more disposed to act humanely, still we must bear in mind what I have stated, that the direct object here was the honoring of the One God. We know that the whole race of Abraham were consecrated to God, and that their servants were a kind of adjunct to them, so that they were circumcised in common with themselves. And assuredly it is very absurd that a man should encourage a profane contempt of God in the family over which he presides, and in which he would be recognised as master. The case of “strangers” was different, who were obliged to rest on the Sabbath, although they remained uncircumcised; for he does not only refer to the foreigners, who had subscribed to the Law, but also to the uncircumcised. If any should object that they were improperly made partakers of the sacred sign whereby God had bound His elect people to Himself, the reply is easy, that this was not done for their sakes, but lest anything opposed to the Sabbath should happen beneath the eyes of the Israelites; as we may understand more clearly from the case of the oxen and asses. Surely God would never have required spiritual service of brute animals; yet He ordained their repose as a lesson, so that wherever the Israelites turned their eyes, they might be incited to the observation of the Sabbath. Nor can we wonder at this, when in the general mournings which were appointed for the deprecation of God’s wrath, a fast was imposed upon the brutes, that wretched men being admonished by the sight, might feel the burden of their guilt the more, and by their voluntary serf-accusation might prevent the judgment of God, and might be seriously dissatisfied with themselves on account of those sins, whose punishment they saw to be imposed to a certain degree upon innocent animals. Besides, if the very least liberty had been conceded to them, they would have done many things to evade the Law in their days of rest, by employing strangers and the cattle in their work.

11. For in six days the Lord made. From this passage it may be probably conjectured that the hallowing of the Sabbath was prior to the Law; and undoubtedly what Moses has before narrated, that they were forbidden to gather the manna on the seventh day, seems to have had its origin from a well-known and received custom; whilst it is not credible that the Observance of the Sabbath was omitted, when God revealed the rite of sacrifice to the holy (Fathers. f334) But what in the depravity of human nature was altogether extinct among heathen nations, and almost obsolete with the race of Abraham, God renewed in His Law: that the Sabbath should be honored by holy and inviolable observance; and this the impure dogs f335 accounted to be amongst the disgraces of the Jewish nation.

Passages having reference to the Exposition of the Fourth Commandment

Leviticus 19

<031930>Leviticus 19:30

30. Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

30. Sabbatha mea observabitis, et sanctuarium meum metuetis. Ego Jehova.

Leviticus 26

<032602>Leviticus 26:2

2. Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

2. Sabbatha mea custodite, et sanctuarium meum timete. Ego Jehova.

Leviticus 23

<032303>Leviticus 23:3

3. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

3. Sex diebus facietis opus, septimo die cessatio est quietis, celebritas sancta: nullum opus facietis in eo: Sabbathum eat Jehovae in cunctis habitationibus vestris.

Exodus 34

<023421>Exodus 34:21

21. Six days thou shalt work; but on the seventh da thou shalt rest: in eating-time and in harvest thou shalt rest.

21. Sex diebus operaberis, septimo die quiesces in aratione et messe.

Exodus 35

Go To Exodus 35: 1-3

Leviticus 19

<031903>Leviticus 19:3

3. Keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God.

3. Sabbatha mea servate: ego Jehova Deus vester.


<031930>Leviticus 19:30; 26:2. Ye shall keep my Sabbaths. From these two passages it is manifest that the service of the tabernacle was annexed to the Sabbath, and that the two things were not only connected by an indissoluble tie, but that the rest from labor had reference to the sacrifices; since it would have been a mere mockery to rest without any ulterior object; nay more, after Moses has spoken of the rest, he seems to subjoin the reverencing of the sanctuary, as if it were the generic ordinance; so that the people might understand that all impediments were removed which are wont to withdraw them from the service of God. The expression, “fear the sanctuary,” f336 is a figurative one; but is equivalent to this, that they should shew by their very reverence of the sanctuary how truly and sincerely they fear God, who had promised that He would be present there, whenever He should be invoked.

Exodus 23

<022312>Exodus 23:12

12. Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest; that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid and the stranger may be refreshed.

12. Sex diebus facies opera tua: die autem septimo quiesces, ut quiescat bos tuus, et asinus tuus, et respiret filius ancillae tuae, et peregrinus.


12. Six days thou shalt do thy work. In this passage the incidental use of the Sabbath is again referred to, although it is no inherent part of its original institution, viz., that by its means the family also and the cattle shall be benefited. There is no impropriety in reckoning this amongst the other blessings which enhance the value of the Sabbath, although it is a portion of the Second Table. And we know that this rude people required to be attracted by every possible means to present cheerfully to God the worship due to Him. The sum therefore is, that they were thus to testify not only their piety towards God, but also their kindness towards their servants. I have already shewn that their authority as masters was to be exercised in moderation by them, if they were mindful of their former condition:, since they also had been servants in Egypt. If any one should suppose that the argument does not hold good, because; they were oppressed by cruel and dreadful tyranny, the reply is easy, that so much the better could they determine from their own feelings how detestable and intolerable a thing cruelty is.

Exodus 31

Go To Exodus 31: 12-17

13. Speak thou also unto the children of Israel. He inculcates the same things as before, with the addition of a few words, such as “for it is holiness unto you;” f337 by which expression he exhorts them to observe this rite as most sacred and inviolable, since by its neglect religion would fall f338 And therefore he denounces capital punishment against any who should work on that day. Hence, again, we gather the dignity and excellency of the mystery, when God deemed an apparently light transgression of it worthy of death. Still this was an act of by no means excusable contempt, to overthrow professedly, as it were, what God would have to be a mark of distinction between His people and heathen nations. The passages which follow have the same tendency, which it would have been superfluous to repeat, unless because the people were thus reminded that it was a matter of the utmost importance. By prohibiting them from lighting a fire, He anticipates all the glosses which they would have been ready enough to invent; for they would have alleged that if the pot had been put on the fire the day before, the Sabbath would not have been violated by lighting the fire. What, then, would have been more allowable than anything else God excludes, viz., that they should not employ themselves in the preparation of their food, or undertake any other earthly work, however venial. When He calls it a “perpetual” or eternal “covenant,” the Jews rest on it as a ground of their obstinacy, and wantonly rave against Christ as a covenant-breaker, because He abrogated the Sabbath. I will not contend with them as to the word lwg, gnolam, which sometimes means a long time, and not perpetuity: I will simply insist on the thing itself. Whatever was spoken of under the Law as eternal, I maintain to have had reference to the new state of things which came to pass at the coming of Christ; and thus the eternity of the Law must not be extended beyond the fullness of time, when the truth of its shadows was manifested, and God’s covenant assumed a different form. If the Jews cry out that what is perpetual, and what is temporary, are contraries to each other, we must deny it in various respects, since assuredly what was peculiar to the Law could not continue to exist beyond the day of Jesus Christ. Besides, the Sabbath, although its external observation is not now in use, still remains eternal in its reality, like circumcision. Thus the stability of both was best confirmed by their abrogation; since, if God now required the same of Christians, it would be putting a veil over the death and resurrection of His Son; and hence the more carefully the Jews persevere in the keeping the festival, the more do they derogate from its sanctity. But they calumniate us falsely, as if we disregarded the Sabbath; because there is nothing which more completely confirms its reality and substance than the abolition of its external use. To this point also may my readers apply what I have written on Genesis 17, f339 lest I should weary them in vain by my prolixity; and again, in treating of the sacrifices, I have adverted to some things which relate to the same doctrine. When, in Exodus 34, God especially commands them to rest “in earing-time and harvest,” f340 it is not as if He would let loose the rein for the rest of the year; but He rather draws it tighter, since no necessity must interrupt this sacred observance. Else it might have seemed a just pretext, if, on account of continued rains, or other ungenial weather, ploughing should be difficult, husbandmen were to be released from the obligation of the law, lest their resting should have produced sterility. The same opinion might have prevailed as to the ingathering of the harvest, lest it should have been spoilt on the ground. God, however, allows of no dispensation; but the Sabbath is to be observed, though at the risk of general loss.

Supplements to the fourth Commandment

Exodus 23

<022310>Exodus 23:10, 11

10. And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof:

10. Sex annis seres terram tuam et congregabis fructus ejus:

11. But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard.

11. Anno autem septimo omittes eam, et quiescere sines, ut comedant pauperes populi tui, et residuum comedant bestiae agri. Ita facies vineae et oliveto tuo.


10. And six years shalt thou sow. Another Sabbatical institution (Sabbathismus) follows, viz., that of years, in reference to the cultivation of the land; for as men and cattle rested on every seventh day, so God prescribed that the earth should rest on the seventh year. According to the fertility or barrenness of the soil, fields are fallowed every third or fourth year, lest they should become altogether unproductive through exhaustion. Indeed a soil can hardly be found of such fecundity as to be fitted for continual productiveness. Some relaxation is therefore given, until the land recovers its vigor; but this only pertains to wheat, barley, pease, beans, and other pulse, and seeds. As to meadows and vineyards the state of things is different, since, when meadows are mown every year, the fertility of the soil is not weakened; whilst vines degenerate unless they are cultivated. It was a sign of extraordinary and exceeding fertility that the land of Canaan could bear six years’ sowing following, without being worn out. God honored it with this privilege in favor of His people; nor did He indeed ordain the rest from necessity, since on the sixth year He doubled the power of His blessing; but in order that the sanctity of the Sabbath might be everywhere conspicuous, and that thus the children of Israel, as they looked upon the land, might be the more encouraged to its observance. The nature of the rest was that they should not sow anything, nor prune their vineyards in the sacred year; and if anything should spring up from the scattered seeds of last harvest, it was the common property of the inhabitants of the land and strangers, although He peculiarly bestowed whatever grew of itself, whether corn or grapes, upon the poor, as a kind of gratuitous present for the relief of their wants. And this kindness and liberality was a kind of incidental adjunct to the performance of the religious duty. It was not indeed mainly or chiefly God’s purpose to give relief to the poor, but, as we said before, there was nothing strange in it that the offices of charity should be consequent upon God’s service.

If ungodly men should foolishly object that there is no connection between the senseless soil and a spiritual mystery, we have already answered, that although the Sabbath was deposited with believers only as a pledge of an inestimable blessing, still tokens of it appeared both in the flocks and herds, as well as in dead creatures, in order to renew the recollection of it, lest the people should grow cold, and their devotion should become languid. But if they mockingly persist that the Jews were finely dealt with, f341 when in their highest privilege they had asses and oxen, as well as the fields themselves, for companions; I answer, why do they not apply the same scoff to a commoner matter? For since the doctrine of salvation is committed to paper or parchment before it comes to us, why do they not laugh with all their might at the obedience of our faith? since in our silly credulity we embrace the promises transmitted to us by a stinking skin or some other filthy material? God would have the observation of the Sabbath engraved on all creatures, that wherever the Jews turned their eyes they might be kept up to it. Why, then, should not the earth be a conspicuous and impressive sign (character) for the rude inculcation of this doctrine? When it is said, “What they leave the beasts of the field shall eat,” the injunction does not extend to wild and noxious animals which they might drive away from their property; but God merely commands that whatever the earth produced should be exposed promiscuously for the food both of man and beast. And this affords an indirect answer to a question that might occur for God shews that the grass would not be lost, although there should be no hay-making; for the grass would be instead of hay for the beasts, so that they might feed abundantly in the fields and meadows.

Another question, however, arises from the passage in Leviticus, where God permits the owners of the land and their families to gather for food whatever shall then grow of itself. But there was nothing to prevent them, like the strangers, and anybody else, from eating of the fruits which were common to all, provided they did not defraud the poor by their covetousness. f342 The same thing is soon afterwards added in the description of the Jubilee; for although that year, which completed seven times seven years, was more holy than the rest, still God allows all to eat in it the fruits grown of themselves. He speaks more restrictedly in Exodus, in order to inculcate greater liberality upon them; but in Leviticus He shews that there is no danger of any of the produce of the land being lost, because permission is given both for themselves and their servants and cattle, besides the hireling and the stranger, to partake of it. Where He says, “that which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest,” I understand it of the land which they usually reaped; as also a little further on He calls their peculiar right of ownership in their vines “their separation.”  f343 Although, therefore, the possessor might boast that the property was his own, and consequently that the harvest should be left entirely to himself, God reminds them that its fruits were nevertheless common to all during the Sabbatical year. The word “harvest,” therefore, is applied to the land which was sown, and “separation” to the private vineyard, or its fruit. The old interpreter has translated them “the grapes of first-fruits.” If it is preferred to adopt this sense, Moses would expressly declare that no oblation of them conferred on the owners of the property a right to claim as their own what grew in their vineyard (during the year;) f344 else it would have been a good excuse to offer to God the first-fruits of the vintage, and under this pretext for the Jews to contend that they had consecrated the whole produce in the first-fruits. But God anticipates this gloss, by shewing that what was said respecting the ordinary cultivation was improperly turned aside to the extraordinary year of rest. But since the word ryzan, nazir, means “separation,” I do not see why we should change what accords very well. Still commentators differ as to the meaning of this word; some understand it “relinquishing,” because every owner resigned his private property, so that the vintage might be common. Others explain it as expressing that they had abstained from its cultivation for that year. My own opinion, however, as I have said, is simply that the peculiar right of the possessor is called his “separation;” so that it was not lawful for others to touch the vintage except in the Sabbatical year. Thus separation is opposed to common fields free to the public.

Leviticus 25

Go To Leviticus 25: 1-7, 20-22

20. And if ye shall say. Men will never be obedient to God’s precepts, unless their distrust of Him is corrected, and will be always ingenious in laying hold of pretexts for disobedience. The difficulty, however, in this matter was a specious excuse for the Jews; for famine might have destroyed them in these two years, since in the seventh year they neither sowed nor reaped; and for reaping they were obliged to wait till the end of the eighth year. Now, whence were they to get seed enough to sow after the land had rested for a whole year? It is not without reason, then, that God delivers them from this doubt, promising them that He will give such abundance in the sixth year as shall suffice for the two following ones. The phrase must be observed, that God would “command His blessing” in an especial manner, and beyond the usual course, so that the land should be twice or thrice more fertile. Hence is suggested to us no ordinary ground of confidence in asking for our daily bread. But this was a special promise, that food should not fail the Jews on account of the Sabbatical year; a manifestation of which God had already given in the desert, when supplied a double portion of manna to those who gathered it on the day before the Sabbath. Now-a-days this inconvenience is avoided by the industry of farmers, who so divide their acres that the land should never lie fallow altogether, but that one part should supply the deficiency of another. This distribution did not obtain with the Jews. Therefore God relieved them from the fear of famine down to the harvest of the eighth year; although He seems at the same time to accustom them to frugality, lest they should waste in intemperance and luxury what He afforded in sufficient abundance to last for two years. To this precept He alludes, when He declares by the Prophets that the land “enjoyed her Sabbaths,” when it had vomited forth its inhabitants, (<143621>2 Chronicles 36:21;) for since they had polluted it by violating the Sabbath, so that it groaned as if under a heavy burden, He says that it shall rest for a long continuous period, so as to compensate for the labor of many years.

The Year of Jubilee

Leviticus 25

Go To Leviticus 25: 8-13

8. And thou shalt number seven. The third kind of Sabbath follows, which was composed of forty-nine, or seven times seven years. This was the most illustrious Sabbath, since the state of the people, both as to their persons and their houses and property, was renewed; and although in this way God had regard to the public good, gave relief to the poor, so that their liberty should not be destroyed, and preserved also the order laid down by Himself; still there is no question but that He thus added an additional stimulus to incite the Jews to honor the Sabbath. For it was a kind of imposing memorial of the sacred rest, to see slaves emancipated and become suddenly free; houses and lands returning to their former possessors who had sold them; and in fine all things assuming a new face. They called this year Jobel, from the sound of the ram’s horn, whereby liberty and the restitution of property were proclaimed; but as I have said, its main feature was the solemnity which shewed them to be separated from other nations to be a peculiar and holy nation to God; nay, the renewal of all things had reference to this, that being redeemed anew in the great Sabbath, they might entirely devote themselves to God their Deliverer.

Leviticus 23

Go To Leviticus 23: 1-44

4. These are the feasts of the Lord. The other festivals which Moses here enumerates have an affinity to the Sabbath. In the first place the Passover is put, the mystery of which I have annexed, not without reason, to the First Commandment, for its institution was there explained, inasmuch as it acted as a restraint on the people from falling away to strange gods. In that rite they were initiated to the service of God, that they might abandon all the superstitions of the Gentiles, and acquiesce in the pure instruction of the Law. The Passover, therefore, in itself was a supplement to the First Commandment; yet the day recurring from year to year is fitly enumerated amongst the other festivals. And surely it is plain that the Fourth Commandment had no other object or use except to exercise the people in the service of God; but since the killing of the lamb represented the grace of adoption whereby God had bound them to Himself, it was necessary to annex it to the First Commandment. Let my readers therefore now be content with the other part, i.e., that its annual celebration was a help to the perpetual recollection by the Israelites of their redemption.

10. When ye be come to the land. Moses now lays down rules as to the second day of festival, which was dedicated to the offering of the first-fruits. The ceremony is described that they should deliver a handful into the hand of the priest; though some think that the measure is signified which was the tenth part of an Ephah. The word Omer  f345 means both. But in this passage the expression “handful” is most appropriate, since it represented in a lively manner the beginning of the harvest; inasmuch as it was not lawful to taste even of parched grain before the offering of the firstfruits. The priest lifted it up before the altar, but with a waving motion; for thus the Hebrews distinguish between the two modes, f346 hmwrt, therumah, which was lifted up, and hpwnt, thenuphah, which is mentioned here, and which was waved towards the four points of the compass, and then a sacrifice and libation were made. We know that heathen nations f347 thus invented gods and goddesses presiding over the fruits, so that the earth was the great and common mother of gods and men. Into this error the Jews would have straightway fallen, or would have gorged themselves without thinking about God, unless they had been reminded by this ceremony that the Father of their subsistence was in heaven, whose minister the earth was for providing their food. For since the whole harvest was consecrated in the single handful, it was as if they had shewn that whatever the earth produced altogether belonged to God. But thus the admirable goodness of God was conspicuous, when, in claiming what was His own, He did not at all diminish the food of the people; afterwards they received, as if from His hand, whatever each individual had stored at home, just as though it had come out of His sanctuary. Paul’s statement is well known, “For if the first-fruit be holy, the lump is also holy,” (<451116>Romans 11:16,) wherein he alludes to this ancient ceremony of the Law. The word which they translate “unto your acceptance,” f348 is the same which interpreters elsewhere render “good pleasure,” and refer to the people, as if it were said, “at your own will,” or “ad libitum,” as it is barbarously said. But I have before shewn that it must be understood of the favor and good-will of God, although it is transferred in a passive sense to the people, as in <19A604>Psalm 106:4, ˆwxr, ratson, or the favor of the chosen people, means the gratuitous love wherewith God regards His Church. But Moses signifies that the fruits of the earth cannot otherwise be eaten with a clear conscience, because they would not feel that God accepted them, and looked upon them with paternal affection. The ceremony, now abolished, still remains in full force amongst us as regards its substance, for nothing but the acknowledgment of God’s bounty, which springs from faith and thanksgiving, sanctifies whatever we receive of His hand.

Next to the first-fruits comes the feast of seven weeks, which the Greeks have rendered Pentecost, having reference to the same object; for after they had offered the first-fruits from the standing harvest, they added another token of gratitude in the shape of the loaves and the greater sacrifice. It must however be observed, that the two loaves are required of every family, and that they consist of two-tenths; but that the sacrifices of seven lambs, one bullock, and two rams, and also of a goat and two lambs, is enjoined upon the whole people. This is in fact the legitimate acknowledgment of God’s liberality, because the waving of the sheaf, as being performed in haste, was but a trifling one; since we have seen that before they touched the grain, God required that the first-fruits should be offered to Him, until at leisure and in a more convenient season they might more fully discharge their duty. Thus what we have above observed respecting the first-fruits, was only a preparation for the day of Pentecost, on which the holy oblation was not ears of wheat, but loaves made of the new wheat.

24. In the seventh month, in the first day of the month. I wonder how it ever entered the mind of the Jews f349 that in the feast of trumpets the deliverance of Isaac was commemorated, when a goat was substituted to be slain in his stead; f350 but they have invented this with their wonted audacity. Surely it is as baseless as it is unreasonable. Others more rightly suppose that it was a preparation for the approaching feast of atonement, on account of the slight interval of time; for since this day is distinguished by no peculiar mark, it is probable that it ought not to be separated from the other which follows soon afterwards, viz., on the tenth day. Unless, perhaps, it is more probable that they were thus called together once a year by the sound of trumpets, first of all, that they might learn that all their sacred assemblies were appointed by the voice of God; and secondly, that this His voice was thus renewed, that they might always be ready to obey Him. And this seems to signify by the expression, “a memorial of blowing of trumpets;” as if He had said that the trumpets sounded in their ears once a year, that they might be attentive to God’s voice throughout their lives, and ever willing to follow whithersoever He should command them to go. Others think that the trumpets sounded at the beginning of the month, that they might prepare themselves for the three festivals, and also because this month was remarkable both in the Sabbatical year and in the Jubilee. But what, if when God displaced this month from being the beginning of the year to stand seventh, He chose to leave it some traces of its original dignity? for by general consent it is admitted that, until the people came out of Egypt, this was the first month. Some even think that the world was created in it, which is not without probable show of reason. And the Jews now also, in political matters and in things which relate to this earthly life, retain this original computation in accordance with unbroken custom: it is only in sacred matters that they commence the year in March. This indeed seems to me the probable reason why, on the day now referred to, God renewed the memory of His dominion by a solemn proclamation, and assigned this seventh month both to the Jubilee and the Sabbatical year. f351 The solemnity was completed in one day, differing very little from an ordinary Sabbath, except by the trumpet-blowing and the sacrifice, as is described in <042901>Numbers 29. For Moses there speaks of more than he does here; he there enumerates a calf, a ram, seven lambs, a goat for a sin-offering, with its accompaniments, besides the burnt-offering of the new moon, and commands an offering to be made by fire of them all. Here he speaks generally in a single word.

27. Also on the tenth day of this seventh month. The word rpk, caphar, whence the noun yrpk, cephurim, signifies both to propitiate and to blot out guilt and accusation by means of expiation; yrpk, therefore, are atonements (libationes) for appeasing God; and the word is used in the plural number, because they were not under the imputation of a single kind of guilt, but had need of manifold reconciliations on account of their many and various transgressions. This was indeed done both publicly and privately throughout the rest of the year, for all the victims they offered were so many satisfactions in order to obtain pardon and to reconcile God. Still to these daily exercises was added also a yearly feast-day as a special memorial, and as a sharper spur to repentance: for it was fit that they should be stirred up to pious grief by solemn fasting and sacrifices, inasmuch as they had provoked God’s wrath against themselves through the whole year. Therefore on this feast-day they were cited before His tribunal, in order that, placing themselves there, they should acknowledge that they deserved this judgment, and yet prayed that they might escape punishment; and this was the object of the fast. Meanwhile they learnt from the sacrifices that they were restored to His favor, since simple confession would have been only a ground for despair. Thus, therefore, God required of them sorrow and other indications of penitence, that on His part He might testify that He was duly appeased so as to be propitious to them. The expression, “ye shall afflict your souls,” here refers to the fast, which was required as an outward profession of repentance. And assuredly there was no weight in the fast of itself, since God plainly shews through Isaiah that He makes no account of hypocrites, who trust that they appease him by fasting, (<235803>Isaiah 58:3;) but being withdrawn from mere luxurious food and all delicacies, they were reminded of their misery, so that being cast down by grief and humbled, they might more ardently and zealously seek for the remedy. For remission of sins is promised to none but those who, affected with serious sorrow, feel themselves to be lost and miserable, and acknowledge and confess what they have deserved. In this way a door is opened for imploring God’s mercy. Still it is not to be supposed that those who are thus dissatisfied with themselves deserve pardon by their preparation for it. f352 But since it would be contrary to God’s nature to embrace men with His favor who are plunged in their iniquities and obstinate in sin; and again, since it would be most unreasonable that by His clemency license to sin should be given under the pretext of impunity, it is needful that penitence should precede our reconciliation to God. Whence also it appears that He so pardons sinners as still to hate their sins, since He only absolves those who voluntarily condemn themselves, nor admits any into His favor except those who forsake their sins; not that any one perfectly renounces himself or his sins, but through indulgence that penitence is acceptable to God, f353 which might justly be rejected on the ground of its deficiencies. Whereby also what I have just said is confirmed, that it is not on account of the merit of our penitence that God acquits us of our sins; as if we redeemed ourselves from guilt and punishment by weeping, sorrowing, and confession, whereas in the best of us all penitence will always be found to be weak and imperfect. Wherefore the cause and the honor of our pardon must only be ascribed to the gratuitous goodness of God. Hence I have said that in their fast the Israelites professed their guilt and condemnation, whilst they were expiated by the sacrifice, since there is no other means of satisfaction.

29. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted. Hence let us learn how greatly the sacrifice of an afflicted and humbled heart pleases God; since He commands so severe a punishment to be inflicted for the contempt of this ceremony. And surely this would have been a proof of most gross indifference, if, when God was inspiring men with the dread of His wrath, and inviting them to tears, they should rest in security and ease, and give themselves up to luxuries. On this account He declares with a terrible oath in Isaiah, that will never pardon the Jews, to whom the hour of repentance never came, but, when he reprovingly called upon them by His prophets to make haste “to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth,” merrily feasted and drank together, and said, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” (<232212>Isaiah 22:12-14.) And no wonder, since this is the extreme height of impiety, to stupify our consciences in brutal contumacy, and to rob God of His judicial power. As long as the sinner is so far affected, and pricked by a sense of sins, as anxiously to sigh for a remedy, there is some hope of his recovery; whilst he who shakes off fear as well as shame, is in altogether a desperate state. Now, since it was not without reason that God exercised His ancient people under the Law with external rudiments, it was an act of profane and intolerable carelessness to omit what was so necessary; and of still greater hardness of heart purposely, as it were, to despise it, so that no one need wonder at the severity of the punishment. In <042901>Numbers 29 the number of the victims is stated; but I pass over this point, as not requiring to be expounded.

34. The fifteenth day of this seventh month. It is shewn in the end of the chapter why God instituted the Feast of Tabernacles, viz, that the children of Israel might remember that they dwelt in tents in the desert, when they had no certain dwelling-place, but, as it were, passed a wandering life. The Passover shewed how they were marvellously rescued from immediate death by the hand of God; but by this other day God magnified the continuous and daily flow of His grace; for it would not have been enough to acknowledge His power in their actual departure, and to give Him thanks for their momentary deliverance, unless they reflected altogether on the progress of their perfect deliverance, which they had experienced during forty years. In allusion to this the Prophet Zechariah, when he is speaking of the second redemption, enjoins upon all the nations which should be converted to God’s worship, that they should go up every year to celebrate this day. (<381416>Zechariah 14:16.) And why this rather than the other festivals? because their return from Babylon by a long and difficult journey, endangered by the violent assaults of enemies, would be equally memorable with the passage of the people from Egypt into the Promised Land. Hence we gather that, though the ceremony is now abolished, yet its use still exists in spirit and in truth, in order that the incomparable power and mercy of God should be constantly kept before our eyes, when He has delivered us from darkness and from the deep abyss of death, and has translated us into the heavenly life. But it behooved that the ancient people in their ignorance should be thus exercised, that all from youth to old age, going forth from their homes, should be brought, as it were, into the actual circumstances, and in that spectacle should perceive what would have else never sufficiently penetrated their minds; whilst at the same time they were instructed for the time to come, that even in the land of Canaan they were to be sojourners, since this is the condition prescribed to all the pious, and children of God, that they should be strangers on earth, if they desire to be inheritors of heaven. Especially, however, God would stir them up to gratitude, that they might more highly estimate their quiet occupation of the Promised Land, and the comfort of their houses, when they recollected that they were brought hither by His hand out of the desert, and from the most wretched destitution of all things.

36. Seven days ye shall offer. They only kept holiday on the first and eighth day, yet they dwelt in huts, and for seven successive days offered sacrifices, of which a fuller account was elsewhere given. What, therefore, Moses distinctly treats of in the book of Numbers, I have preferred to introduce in another place, where I have spoken of the sacrifices in general. All are not agreed about the word I have translated “solemnity.” f354 trx[, gnatsereth, is derived from rx[, gnatsar, which means both to restrain and to gather together. Some interpreters, therefore, preserve the first etymology, translating it, “it is the retaining or prohibition of God;” but since this meaning is somewhat obscure, I have not hesitated to take it, as in other passages, for a solemnity; for, without controversy, it sometimes means feast days, sometimes assemblies or conventions. Let my readers, however, make choice of whichever sense they prefer. After Moses has prescribed concerning the rest and the offerings, he adds a caution, that there should be no diminution of the ordinary service; for else they might, have transferred fraudulently the sacrifices, which they were already obliged to offer, to the feast days, and thus, as the saying is, have endeavored to whitewash two walls out of the same pot. Wherefore, at the beginning of verse 39, the particle ˚a, ac, seems to be taken adversatively;  f355 for there is an antithesis between the peculiar service of this solemnity and the common rites which were to be observed at other times; as if he had said, that when they had done all which the Law required every day, still they were not to fail in this observance; and hence, that they must comply severally with both the general and special command, if they would properly do their duty. Moreover, by reference to the time, he shews that they ought to be cheerful in its performance, because they would then incur but little loss, as the fruits would all be harvested; and this is what he refers to when he says, “when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land;” as if he had said, that he had regard to their convenience, since otherwise they would have been at leisure at home; and thus he takes away all excuse (for neglect.)

40. And ye shall take you on the first day. By this symbol the Jews were instructed that this day was to be celebrated with joy and gladness; for it was not only a memorial of the favor which He had graciously bestowed on their fathers in the desert, when they were exposed to all the vicissitudes of heaven, f356 and He cherished them under His wings as an eagle does her brood; but it was also an act of thanksgiving, because He had provided them so commodious a reception in the Promised Land; thus, by carrying the boughs, they proclaimed their joy and triumph as it were. Nor would it have been reasonable that they should go into the booths in sorrow and sadness, since they represented visibly to them both the former and present goodness of God, and at the same time gave them a foretaste of the life of heaven, inasmuch as they were but sojourners on earth. Some suppose rdh, hadar, f357 to be a proper name, but since it everywhere means “comeliness,” I have been unwilling to depart from its ordinary sense; nor do I curiously insist on the words, except so far as it is necessary to ascertain the actual substance.

Exodus 23

Go To Exodus 23: 14-17

Exodus 34

<023422>Exodus 34:22-24

22. And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat-harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.

22. Solennitatem hebdomadum facies tibi in primitiis messis triticeae, et festum collectionis in conversione anni.

23. Thrice in the year shall all your men-children appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.

23. Tribus vicibus in anno conspicietur onmis masculus tuus coram domino Jehova Deo Israel.

24. For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders; neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year.

24. Expellam enim gentes a faeie tua, et dilatabo terminum tuum, neque concupiscet quisquam terrain tuam dum ascendes ut conspiciaris coram Jehova tribus vicibus in anno.

Exodus 34

<023420>Exodus 34:20

20. None shall appear before me empty.

20. Non conspicientur coram me vacui.


<022314>Exodus 23:14. Three times shalt thou keep a feast. It is strange that Moses, who elsewhere enumerates several feast-days, should here only command them to appear in God’s presence thrice a year. Where then is the feast of trumpets and the day of atonement? for undoubtedly all were to be celebrated at Jerusalem. In the first place, it is to be observed that the principal ones, to which the greater honor appertained, are here mentioned. Secondly, because the three holidays in the seventh month were almost continuous, (it is probable f358) that some indulgence was given them, lest they should be absent from their homes the whole month; for at the beginning of the month the trumpets sounded, on the tenth day was the solemn fast, and on the fifteenth they began to dwell in the booths. If the necessity of remaining in Jerusalem had been imposed on all, so long a stay would have been burdensome. But, if they chose to be present from the beginning to the end, still there would have been only one journey, which is named after the most remarkable day. And certainly f359 the word ylgr, raglim, which Moses uses, means, metaphorically, rather journeys than times, although I allow that ym[p, phagnemim, which signifies times, is used in Deuteronomy in a similar sense. At any rate, it appears that God spared His people, when prescribed only three necessary convocations, lest the fathers of families and their children should be wearied by the expense and trouble of them, since he approves of no service which does not proceed from a cheerful heart.

Deuteronomy 16

Go To Deuteronomy 16: 1, 2, 5-17

1. Observe the month Abib. For what purpose God instituted the Passover, has already been shewn in the exposition of the First Commandment; for since it was a symbol of redemption, and in that ceremony the people exercised themselves in the pure worship of the One God, so as to acknowledge Him to be their only Father, and to distinguish Him from all idols, I thought that the actual slaying of the lamb should be introduced amongst the Supplements to the First Commandment. It only remains for us to speak here of what relates to the Sabbath. This then was the first solemn day, on which God would have His people rest and go up to Jerusalem, forsaking all their business. But mention is here made not only of the Paschal Lamb, but He also commands sheep and oxen to be slain in the place which He should choose. In these words He signifies that on that day a holy convocation was to be held; which is soon after more clearly expressed, for I have already given the two intermediate verses in the institution of the Passover itself, He therefore prohibits their slaying the Passover apart in their own cities, but would have them all meet in the same sanctuary. It has been elsewhere said that one altar was prescribed for them, as if God would gather them under one banner for the preservation of concord and the unity of the faith. What is added respecting the solemnity of the seventh day is very appropriate to this place.

9. Seven weeks shalt thou number. It must be observed that the Passover fell in a part of the year when the harvests were beginning to ripen; and consequently the first-fruits, of which I treated under the First Commandment, were then offered. Seven weeks afterwards they celebrated another feast-day, which was called Pentecost, i.e., the fiftieth, by the Greeks. There was just this number of days between the departure of the people and the publication of the Law. Another offering of first-fruits was then made, in which each one, according to his ability, and in proportion to the produce of the year, consecrated a gift to God of the harvested fruits. In order that they might be more ready and cheerful in their liberality, God’s blessing is set before them, as if Moses had commanded the people to testify their gratitude; since whatever springs from the earth, is the mere bounty of God Himself.

11. And thou shalt require. On another ground he exhorts and excites them to willingness, because the service of God brings this rejoicing; for there is nothing which ought more to stimulate us to obedience, that when we know that God rather consults our good than seeks to obtain any advantage from us. Ungodly men, indeed, rejoice also, nay, they are wanton and intemperate in their joy; but since that joy is not only transient, but their laughter is turned into weeping and gnashing of teeth, it is not without cause that Moses here magnifies it as a peculiar blessing, to rejoice before God; as if a father should invite his children to delight themselves together with him. But by this external exercise, believers were reminded that there is no real or desirable joy, unless in reference to God. And surely, however the wicked may exult in their pleasures, and abandon themselves to gratifcations, still, since tranquillity of conscience, which alone brings true rejoicing, is wanting to them, they do not enjoy the merriment into which they plunge themselves. Finally, Moses amplifies by a comparison the good which they enjoyed in the service of God, when he says, “And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt;” for that their present condition might be more pleasant to them, he heightened its sweetness by the recollection of their most miserable captivity. I have here neglected Cicero’s f360 very subtle distinction between the words gaudium and laetitia, for unless I take both of them in a good sense, I could not translate the Hebrew words, whereby God would express how indulgently He deals with His children. Meanwhile, this passage contains an exhortation to render thanks to God our deliverer.

13. Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles. Its first day was called the day of In-gathering, (collectionum,)because the produce of the whole year was then stored in their granaries f361 and provision cellars. Since, therefore, they then rested from their rural labors, it was a convenient time of year for the celebration of the festivals; for in order that they might more willingly go up to Jerusalem, it was arranged by God, that it should be done with but little expense and sacrifice of their domestic interests. Where our translation is, “When Jehovah shall have blessed thee,” it stands literally, “Because he shall bless thee,” f362 but the sense is nearly the same; for Moses assures them that, provided they devote their minds diligently and faithfully to the service of God, they shall never want grounds for rejoicing, since He will never interrupt the flow of His blessing. The end, therefore, of the fifteenth verse, is not a mere command, but also a promise; as if he had said, that, if they were not ungrateful, there was no fear but that God would continually supply new cause for gladness; and these two clauses are to be taken in connection, “God will bless thee, and, therefore, thou shalt only rejoice;” for in this passage I willingly interpret thus  f363 the particle ˚a, ak. It is indeed absurd to take it adversatively. It will not, therefore, be improper to explain it exclusively, as if he said, that, there should be no sorrow or anxiety, which should hinder them from the performance of their pious duty; those who render it “surely,” approach also to this meaning.

16. Three times in a year. We have previously said that although the other feast-days were not to be neglected, still, because God would make some allowance for the infirmity of His people, the necessity of going up to Jerusalem five times a year was not imposed upon them. Again, because only half of the seventh month contained three feast-days, i.e., from the first to the fifteenth, for the same reason it is only required of the males that they should leave their houses and celebrate the sacred convocations; for thus the females are spared, to whom traveling is not so convenient. Besides, through the fecundity promised them by God, they were almost always either pregnant or nursing. It is also certain that the boys and young men were excepted under the age of twenty, since God includes under the term males only those who were comprised in the census. If any object that in God’s spiritual worship there is no difference between males and females; the reply is easy, that the fathers of families presented themselves there in the names of their wives and children: so that the profession was extended to the other sex, and to those of tender age. To this David seems to allude, when he says: f364

“Thy people shall come with voluntary offerings in the day of thy assembly, in the beauties of holiness,” (<19B003>Psalm 110:3;)

for, speaking of the free-will-offerings of the people, he seeks an example of it, after the manner of the prophets, from the legal worship. Lest the Jews should object that there was danger of hostile invasion, if the land should be stripped of its defenses by the gathering together of all the men into one place, God anticipates this doubt in <023401>Exodus 34, promising that He will provide that no one shall desire to assail their forsaken homes; for to this the sentence refers: “I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders, so that no man shall desire thy land,” ver. 24. Whence also we gather, that God’s worship was not entirely established until all the neighboring nations were subdued, and He had placed His sanctuary in Mount Zion. Not that it was allowable for the people to omit the feast-days before that time; but that experience itself might teach them that God was wroth with them, whilst He deprived them of this special blessing; for fear and alarm arose only from their own fault. But let believers collect from hence the useful doctrine that, whenever they are following God, they will be safe under His protection, since it is in His power to repel the assaults of enemies, and everything that can harm them.

And they shall not appear before the Lord empty, f365 I know not how it could have entered the minds of some to suppose that God here promised that all should be rich who should present themselves three times (a-year) before His sanctuary: whereas it is plain from the words of Moses that He requires from every one some gift in token of their gratitude. And perhaps f366 what historians relate respecting the Persians, that none should dare to address the king without a gift, was a more ancient custom, and common to other nations. God would indeed have a gift presented Him by each individual, as a symbol or earnest of their subjection; and, although this legal rite has ceased, yet its substance is to be retained, viz., that those only are true servants of God who do not boastfully make a mere empty profession, but effectually testify that they acknowledge Him as their King.

tables of scripture

Another Supplement as to the Shutting
up of the Leprous

Leviticus 13

Go To Commentary on Leviticus 13: 1-59

<031301>Leviticus 13:1-59

1. And the Lord spake untoMoses and Aaron, saying,

1.Et loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen et Aharon, dicendo:

2. When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests.

2. Homo quum fuerit in cute carnis ejus tumor, vel scabies, vel alba macula, et in cute carnis ejus fuerit plaga leprae, ducetur ad Aharon sacerdotem, vel ad unum e filiis ejus sacerdotibus.

3. And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh: and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of leprosy and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean.

3. Tune videbit sacerdos plagam in cute carnis: quod si pilus in plaga versus fuerit in albedinem, et superficies plagae profundior fuerit cute carnis ejus, plaga leprae est, et postquam viderit eum sacerdos judicabit illum contaminatum, (vel, contaminabit illum.)

4. If the bright spot be white in the skin of his flesh, and in sight be not deeper than the skin, and the hair thereof be not turned white; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague seven days.

4. Quod si macula alba fuerit in cute carnis ejus, et profundior non fuerit aspectus ejus cute, nec pilus ejus versus fuerit in albedinem, includet sacerdos plagam septem diebus.

5. And the priest shall look on him the seventh day: and, behold, if the plague in his sight be at a stay, and the plague spread not in the skin; then the priest shall shut him up seven days more.

5. Posted videbit eum sacerdos die septimo et si plaga fuerit aequalis coram oculis ejus, nee creverit plaga in cute, includet eum sacerdos septem diebus secundo.

6. And the priest shall look on him again the seventh day: and, behold,if the plague be somewhat dark, and the prague spread not in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is but a scab: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean.

6. Tune inspiciet sacerdos ipsum die septimo itcrum, et si subnigra futerit plaga, (vel, obscurius contracta,) nec creverit plaga in cute, tune mundum declarabit (vel, mundabit) eum sacerdos: scabies est: et lavabit vir vestimenta sua, et mundus erit.

7. But if the scab spread much abroad in the skin, after that he hath been seen of the priest for his cleansing, he shall be seen of the priest again.

7. Quod si crescendo creverit scabies in cute postquam ostensus fuerit sacerdoti in purgatione ejus, inspi-cietur secundo a sacerdote.

8. And if the priest see that, behold, the scab spreadeth in the skin then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a leprosy.

8. Ubi autem viderit sacerdos; crescere scabiem in cute, immundum judicabit cum sacerdos, lepra est judicabit cum sacerdos, lepra est.

9.When the plague of leprosy is in a man, then he shall be brought unto the priest;,

9. Quoties plaga lepre fuerit in homine adducetur ad sacerdotem;

10. And the priest shall see him: and, behold, if the rising be white in the skin, and it have turned the hair white, and there be quick raw flesh in the rising,

10. Et aspiciet sacerdos, et si tumor albus fuerit in cute, et mutaverit pilum in albedinem, et ailmentum carnis vivae in tumore,

11. It is an old leprosy in the skin of his flesh: and the priest shall pronounce him unclean, and shall not shut him up; for he is unclean.

11. Lepra inveterate, est in cute carnis ejus: ideoque contaminabit eum sacerdos, quia immundus est.

12. And if a leprosy break out abroad in the skin, and the leprosy cover all the skin of him that hath the plague, from his head even to his foot, wheresoever the priest looketh

12. Sin germinando germinaverit lepra in cute, et operuerit lepra totam cutem plagae, a capite ejus, et totum aspectuum oculorum sacerdotis:

13. Then the priest shall consider: and, behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague; it is all turned white: he is clean.

13. Tunc inspiciet sacerdos, et si operuerit lepra totam carnem ejus, tunc mundam judicabit plagam: ubi tota versa est in albedinem, munda est, (vel, mundus.)

14. But when raw flesh appeareth in him, he shall be unclean.

14. Quo autem die visa fuerit in co cato viva, immundus erit.

15. And the priest shall see the raw flesh, and pronounce him to be unclean;for the raw flesh is unclean: it is a leprosy.

15. Et ubi viderit sacerdos carnem vivam, immundum judicabit ipsum, caro viva immunda est, lepra est.

16. Or if the raw flesh turn again, and be changed unto white, he shall come unto the priest;

16. Vel si reversa fuerit caro viva, et conversa in albedinem, tunc veniet ad sacerdotem:

17. And the priest shall see him: and, behold, if the plague be turned into white; then the priest shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: he is clean.

17. Et inspiciet sacerdos: et si versa fuerit plaga in albedinem, mundam judicabit sacerdos plagam illam: munda est.

18. The flesh also, in which, event in the skin thereof, was a bile, and is healed,

18. Et si fuerit in cute carnis alicujus ulcus, (vel, pustula ardens,) et illud sanatum fuerit.

19. And in the place of the bile there be a white rising, or a bright spot, white, and somewhat reddish, and it be shewed to the priest;

19. Et extiterit in loeo ulceris tumor albus, aut macula alba subrufa, ostendetur sacerdoti:

20. And if, when the priest seeth it, behold, it be in sight lower than the skin, and the hair thereof be turned white, the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague of leprosy broken out of the bile.

20. Et quum inspexerit sacerdos, si pilus profundior fuerit cute, et pilus conversus fuerit in albedinem, contaminabit eum sacerdos: quia plaga leprae est ex ulcere germinans.

21. But if the priest look on it, and, behold, there be no white hairs therein, and if it be not lower than the skin, but be somewhat dark; then the priest shall shut him up seven days.

21. Et si viderit cam sacerdos, et non fuerit in ea pilus albus, nec fuerit profundior cute, sed fuerit subobscura, tunc includet eum sacerdos septem diebus.

22. And if it spread much abroad in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague.

22. Si vero crescendo creverit per cutem, immundum judicabit eum sacerdos: plaga est.

23. But if the bright spot stay in his place, and spread not, it is a burning bile; and the priest shall pronounce him clean.

23. Si vero suo loco constiterit macula alba, nec ereverit, adustio ulceris est: mundum (vel, mundam) judicabit eum sacerdos.

24. Or if there be any flesh, in the skin whereof there is a hot burning, and the quick flesh that burneth have a white bright spot, somewhat reddish, or white;

24. Quum fuerit caro in cujus cute erit adustio ignis, et in viva carne adustionis macula alba subrufa, vel alba.

25. Then the priest shall look upon it: and, behold, if the hair in the bright spot be turned white, and it be in sight deeper than the skin, it is a leprosy broken out of the burning: wherefore the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is the plague of leprosy.

25. Inspiciet eum sacerdos: et, si versus fuerit pilus in albedinem in macula illa, et superficies ejus fuerit profundior cute, lepra est in adustione germinans: ideo immundam judicabit eam sacerdos, plaga leprae est.

26. But if the priest look on it, and, behold, there be no white hair in the bright spot, and it be no lower than the other skin, but be somewhat dark; then the priest shall shut him up seven days.

26. Quod si inspexerit eam sacerdos, et non fuerit in macula pilus albus, nec profundior cute, sed fuerit subnigra, includet eum sacerdos septem diebus.

27. And the priest shall look upon him the seventh day: and if it be spread much abroad in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is the plague of leprosy.

27. Postea inspiciet eum sacerdos die septimo: et si crescendo creverit in cute, immundam judicabit eam sacerdos, plaga leprae est.

28. And if the bright spot stay in his place, and spread not in the skin, but it be somewhat dark; it is a rising of the burning, and the priest shall pronounce him clean: for it is an inflammation of the burning’.

28. Quod si in loco suo steterit macula, nec creverit per cutem, et eadem fuerit contracta, (vel, subnigra,) tumor adustionis est: ideoque mundum judicabit eum sacerdos: quia ardor exustionis est.

29. If a man or woman have a plague upon the head or the beard;

29. Si viro aut mulieri exorta fuerit plga in capite, aut in barba.

30. Then the priest shall see the plague: and, behold, if it be in sight deeper than the skin, and there be in it a yellow thin hair; then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a dry scall, even a leprosy upon the head or beard.

30. Tune inspiciet sacerdos plugam: et si superficies ejus profundior erit cute, et fuerit in ea pilus flavus et tenuis, immundum judicabit sa-cerdos: macula nigra est, lepra capitis aut barbae est.

31. And if the priest look on tile plague of the scall, and, behold, it be not in sight deeper than the skin, and that there is no black hair in it; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague of the scall seven days.

31. Si autem inspexerit sacerdos plagam maculae nigrae, et superficies ejus non fuerit profundior cute, nee pilus niger in ea, includet sacerdos plagam maculae nigrae septem diebus.

32. And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the plague: and, behold, if the scull spread not, and there be in it no yellow hair, and the scall be not in sight deeper than the skin;

32. Et quum inspexerit sacerdos die septima, si non creverit macula illa nigra, nec in ea fuerit pilus, et aspectus maculae nigrae non fuerit profundior cute:

33. He shall be shaven, but the scall shall he not shave; and the priest shall shut up him that hath the scall seven days more.

33. Tune radetur, sed maculam nigram non radet, includetque sacerdos maeulam nigram septem diebus secundo.

34. And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the scall: and, behold, if the scall be not spread in the skin, nor be in sight deeper than the skin; then the priest shall pronounce him clean: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean.

34. Postea, inspiciet sacerdos maculam nigram die septima: et, si non creverit macula nigra in cute, nee superfides cjus profundior fuerit cute, mundum judicabit eum sacerdos: lavabitque vestimenta sua, et mundus erit.

35. But if the scall spread much in the skin after his cleansing;

35. Si autem crescendo creverit macula per cutera post purificationem suam,

36. Then the priest shall look on him: and, behold, if the scall be spread in the skin, the priest shall not seek for yellow hair; he is unclean.

36. Tune inspiciet cam sacerdos: et, si creverit macula illa in cute, non requiret ad examen sacerdos pilum flavum: immundus est.

37. But if the scall be in his sight at a stay, and that there is black hair grown up therein; the scall is healed, he is clean: and the priest shall pronounce him clean.

37. Quod si in oculis ejus constiterit macula, et pilus niger fuerit in ea, sanata est macula illa, mundus est, et mundum judicabit eum sacer-dos.

38. If a man also or a woman have in the skin of their flesh bright spots, even white bright spots;

38. Quum in cute carnis viri aut mulieris fuerint macu!ae, maculm inquam albae.

39. Then the priest shall look: and, behold, if the bright spots in the skin of their flesh be darkish white; it is a freckled spot that groweth in the skin: he is clean.

39. Inspiciet sacerdos, et, si in cute carnis corum fuerint maculae albae, subnigrae (vel, contractae,) macula alba est quod floret in cute, mundus est.

40. And the man whose hair is fallen off his head, he is bald; yet is he clean.

40. Vir quum depilatum fuerit caput ejus, calvus est, mundus est.

41. And he that hath his hair fallen off from the part of his head toward his face, he is forehead bald: yet is he clean.

41. Quod si ex parte faciei suae caput habuerit depilatum, recalvaster est, mundus est.

42. And if there be in the bald head, or bald forehead, a white reddish sore, it is a leprosy sprung up in his bald head, or his bald forehead.

42. Quod si in calvitio ejus aut parte depilata fuerit plaga alba, subrufa, lepra germinans est in calvitie, vel parte ejus depilata.

43. Then the priest shall look upon it: and, behold, if the rising of the sore be white reddish in his bald head, or in his bald forehead, as the leprosy appeareth in the skin of the flesh,

43. Aspiciet ergo eum sacerdos: et, si tumor plagae albus, rufus in calvitio ejus aut parte depilata, sicut species leprae in cute carnis,

44. He is a leprous man, he is unclean: the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean; his plague is in his head.

44. Vir leprosus est, immundus est: contaminando contaminabit illum sacerdos: in capite ejus est plaga ejus.

45. And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.

45. Leprosi autem in quo fuerit plaga illa, vestimenta erunt scissa, et caput ejus nudum, et pilum labri operiet, et Immundus, immundus sum clamabit.

46. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.

46. Cunctis diebus quibus fuerit plaga in eo, contaminabitur, immudus est: seorsum habitabit: extra castra mansio ejus erit.

47. The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment or a linen garment,

47. Si in veste fnerit plaga leprae, in veste lanea, aut in veste linea,

48. Whether it be in the warp or woof, of linen, or of woollen, whether in a skin, or in anything made of skin;

48. Aut in stamine, aut in subtegmine ex lino, aut ex lana, aut in pelle, aut in quovis opere pelliceo:

49. And if the plague be greenish or reddish in the garment, or in the skin, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin; it is a plague of leprosy, and shall be shewed unto the priest.

49. Et fuerit plaga illa viridis aut rufa in veste, aut in stamine, vel in subtegmine, vel in quovis opere pelliceo, plaga leprae est, ostendetur sacerdoti.

50. And the priest shall look upon the plague, and shut up it that hath the plague seven days.

50. Et inspiciet saccMos plagam, includetque plagam illam septera diebus.

51. And he shall look on the plague on the seventh day: if the plague be spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in a skin, or in any work that is made of skin, the plague is a fretting leprosy; it is unclean.

51. Postea inspiciet plagam illam die septimo: si creverlt plaga illa per vestera, vel per subtegmen, vel pellem in omni opere pelliceo, lepra corodentis plagae est, immunda est.

52. He shall therefore burn that garment, whether warp or woof, in woollen or in linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is: for it is a fretting leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire.

52. Comburetque vestem, vel stamen, vel subtegmen ex lana, vel ex lino, vel quodvis opus pelliceum in quo fuerit plaga illa: quia lepra corrodens est, igni comburetur.

53. And if the priest shall look, and, behold, the plague be not spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin;

53. Quod si, ubi inspexerit sacerdos, ecce non creverit plaga illa in veste, vel in stamine, vel in subtegmine, vel in quovis opere pelliceo.

54. Then the priest shall command that they wash the thing wherein the plague is, and he shall shut it up seven days more.

54. Tune praecipiet sacerdos, et lavabunt id in quo est plaga: et recludet illud septem diebus secundo.

55. And the priest shall look on the plague, after that it is washed: and, behold, if the plague have not changed his color, and the plague be not spread, it is unclean; thou shalt burn it in the fire: it is fret inward, whether it be bare within or without.

55. Inspiciet vero sacerdos, postquam lotum fuerit, plagam illam: et, si non mutaverit plaga illa colorem suum, nee plaga creverit, immunda est, igni combures illud: corrosio est in calvitio ejus vel in parte ejus depilata.

56. And if the priest look, and, behold, the plague be somewhat dark after the washing of it; then he shall rend it out of the garment, or out of the skin, or out of the warp, or out of the woof.

56. Quod si dum inspexerit sacerdos, ecce, subobscura fuerit plaga postquam lota fuit, abscindet eam e veste, vel epelle, vel e stamine, vel e subtegmine

57. And if it appear still in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin, it is spreading plague: thou shalt burn that wherein the plague is with fire.

57. Quod si comspecta fureit ultra in veste, vel in stamine, vel in subtegmine, vel in quovis opere pelliceo lepra germinans est, igni combures illud in quo fuerit, lavabitur secundo, et mundum erit.

58. And the garment, either warp or woof, or whatsoever thing of skin it be, which thou shalt wash, if the plague be departed from them, then it shall be washed the second time, and shall be clean.

58. Vestis autem, sive stamen, sive, sbtegment, aut quodivis opus pelliceum quod laveris, si recesserit ab eis plagra, lavabitur secundo, et mundum erit.

59. This is the law of the plague of leprosy in a garment of wollen or linen, either in the warp or woof, or any thing of skins, to pronounce it clean, or to pronounce it unclean.

59. Haec est lex leprae vestimenti lanei, vel linei, vel staminis, vel subtegminis, vel cujusvis operis pellicei ad judicandum illud mundum vel immundum.


Of the Purifying of the Lepers

Leviticus 14

Go To Commentary on Leviticus 14: 1-57

<031401>Leviticus 14:1-57

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

1. Et loquuntus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

2. This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: he shall be brought unto the priest.

2. Hace erit lex leprosi die pugationis suae, nempe adducetur ad sacerdtem.

3. And the priest shall go forth out of the camp: and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;

3. Et egredietur sacerdos foras extra castra, dg inspiciet sacerdos: et su sanata fuerit lepra a leproso;

4. Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar-wood, and scarlet, and hyssop.

4. Tunc praecipiet scerdos ut tollantur ei qui mundatur dae aves vivae, mundae, et lignum cedrinum, et coccus vermiculi, et hyssopus.

5. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water.

5. Et praecipiet sacerdos ut mactetur avis una super vas fictile super aquas vivas.

6. As for the living bird, he shall take, and the cedar-wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:

6. Avem vivam tollet, et lignum cedrinum, et cuccum vermiculi, et hyssopum: et tinget illa, et avem vivam in sanguine avis mactatae super aquas vivas.

7. And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field.

7. Et sparget super eum qui mundatur a lepra septem vicibus, mundabitque emu: et emitet avem vivam in superficiem agri.

8. And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean; and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days.

8. Et lavabit qui emundatur vestimenta sua, et radet omnem ilum suum, lavabitque se aqua, et mundus erit: postea ingredietur castra, habitabitque extra tabernaculum suum septem diebus.

9. But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head, and his beard, and his eye-brows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his cloathes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.

9. Die autem septimo radet omnem pilum suum, caput suum, et barbam suam, et supercilia oculorum suorum, atque omnem reliquum pilum summ radet: lavbit quoque vestimenta sua, postquam laverit carnem suam aqua, et purificabit se.

10. And on the eighth day he shall take two he-lambs without blemish, and one ewe-lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth-deals of fine flour for a meat-offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil;

10. Die autem octavo tallet duos agnos immaculatos, et agnam unam anniculam immaculatam, et tres decimas mixturae minha mixta oleao, et sextarium unum olei.

11. And the priest that maketh him clean shall present the man that is to be made clean, and those things, before the Lord, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

11. Statuetque sacerdos qui mundat virum mundandum, et illa coram Jehova ad ostium tabernaculi conventionis.

12. And the priest shall take one he-lamb, and offer him for a trespass-offering, and the log of oil, and wave them for a wave-offering before the Lord.

12. Tolletque sacerdos agnum unum quem offert in sacrificium pro delicto, et sextarium olei, et agitabit ea agitatione coram Jehova.

13. And he shall slay the lamb in the place where he shall kill the sin-offering and the burnt-offering, in the holy place: for as the sin-offering is the priest’s, so is the trespass-offering; it is most holy.

13. Mactabitque agmnu in loco in quo mactare solet oblationem pro peccato, et holocaustum nempe in loco sanctitatis: quia sicut hostia pro peccato, ita oblatio pro delicto, est sacerdotis, sanctitas sanctitatum est.

14. And the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass-offering, and the priest shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot.

14. Accipietque sacerdos de sanguine oblationis pro delicto, et ponet super tenerum auris mundandi dextrae, et super pollicem manus ejus dextrae, et super pollicem pedis ejus dextri.

15. And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand:

15. Accipiet praeterea sacerdos de sextario olei, et fundet in manum suam sinistram.

16. And the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before the Lord.

16. Tingetque ipse digitum suum dextrum in oleum quod est in manu sua sinistra, spargetque de oleo digito suo septem vicibus coram Jehova.

17. And of the rest of the oil that is in his hand shall the priest put upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the blood of the trespass-offering.

17. De residuo vero olei quod in manu sua ponet sacerdos super tenerum auris mundandi dextrae, et super pollicem manus ejus dextrae, et super pollicem pedis ejus dextri, ultra sanguinem oblationis pro delicto.

18. And the remnant of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall pour upon the head of him that is to be cleansed: and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord.

18. Quod autem superest de oleo quod est in manu ejus, ponet super caput mundandi: expiabitque eum sacerdos coram Jehova.

19. And the priest shall offer the sin-offering, and make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed from his uncleanness; and afterward he shall kill the burnt-offering.

19. Faciet item sacerdos oblationem pro peccato, emundabitque mundandum ab immunditia sua, et postea mactabit holocaustum.

20. And the priest shall offer the burnt-offering and the meat-offering upon the altar: and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and he shall be clean.

20. Et ascendere faciet sacerdos holocaustum et minham super altare expiabitque eum sacerdos, et mundus erit.

21. And if he be poor, and cannot get so much; then he shall take one lamb for a trespass-offering to be waved, to make an atonement for him, and one tenth-deal of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat-offering, and a log of oil;

21. Si autem pauper fuerit, et manus ejus non possit assequi, tum accipiet agnum unum in hostiam pro delicto in elevationem ad expiandum illum, et decimam partem similae unam permistam oleo pro minha, sextariumque olei.

22. And two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, such as he is able to get; and the one shall be a sin.offering, and the other a burnt-offering.

22. Duos praeterea turtures, aut duos filios columbae, quodcunque apprehendere poterit manus ejus: eritque unus in hostiam pro pecccato, et alter pro holocausto.

23. And he shall bring them on the eighth day for his cleansing unto the priest, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, before the Lord.

23. Afferetque ea octavo die purificationis suae ad sacerdotem, ad ostium tabernaculi conventionis coram Jehova.

24. And the priest shall take the lamb of the trespass-offering, and the log of oil; and the priest shall wave them for a wave-offering before the Lord.

24. Suscipietque sacerdos agnum oblationis pro delicto, et sextarium olei, atque agitabit ea sacerdos elevationem coram Jehova.

25. And he shall kill the lamb of the trespass-offering, and the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass-offering, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot.

25. Mactabitque agnum oblationis pro delicto, ac tollet sacerdos de sanguine oblationis pro delicto, ponetque super tenerum auris mundandi dextrin, et super pollicem manus ejus dextrae, et super pollicem pedis ejus dextri.

26. And the priest shall pour of the oil into the palm of his own left hand.

26. De oleo quoque fundet sacerdos in manum suam sinistram.

27. And the priest shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the Lord.

27. Spargetque sacerdos digito suo dextro de oleo quod est in manu sua sinistra septem vicibus coram Jehova.

28. And the priest shall put of the oil that is in his hand upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the place of the blood of the trespass-offering.

28. Ponet quoque sacerdos de oleo quod est in manu sua super tenerum auris emundandi dextrae, et super pollicem manus ejus dextrae, et super pollicem pedis ejus dextri, in loco sanguinis oblationis pro delicto.

29. And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put upon the head of him that is to be cleansed, to make an atonement for him before the Lord.

29. Quod autem superest de oleo quod est in manu sacerdotis, ponet super caput emundandi ad emun-dandum illum coram Jehova.

30. And he shall offer the one of the turtle-doves, or of the young pigeons, such as he can get;

30. Faciet item unum de turturibus, vel ex pullis columbarum, ex iis quae apprehenderit manus ejus.

31. Even such as he is able to get, the one for a sin-offering, and the other. for a burnt-offering, with the meat-offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed before the Lord.

31. Quod inquam apprehenderit manus ejus, faciet unum pro peccato, et alterum in holocaustum cum minha, emundabitque sacerdos mundaudum coram Jehova.

32. This is the law of him in whom is the plague of leprosy, whose hand is not able to get that which pertaineth to his cleansing.

32. Ita est lex ejus in quo fuerat plaga leprae, cujus manus non poterat apprehendere mundationem sui.

33. And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,

33. Et loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen et Aharon, dicendo:

34. When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession;

34. Quum ingressi fueritis terram Chanaan, quam ego do vobis in possessionem, et posuero plagam leprae in domo terrae possessionis vestrae:

35. And he that owneth the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, It seemeth to me there is as it were a plague in the house:

35. Veniet ille cujus erit domus, renuuntiabitque sacerdoti, dicendo,. Tanquam plaga leprae visa est mihi in domo.

36. Then the priest shall command that they empty file house, before the priest go into it to see the plague, that all that is in the house be not made unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to see the house.

36. Tunc praecipiet sacerdos, et expurgabunt domum antequam ingrediatur sacerdos, ut dispiciat plagam, ne polluatur quicquam quod sit in ea domo: et postea ingredietur sacerdos ad contemplandam domum

37. And he shall look on the plague: and, behold, if the plague be in the walls of the house with hollow strakes, greenish or reddish, which in sight are lower than the wall;

37. Tunc considerabit plagam ipsam: et siquidem in plaga quae est in parietibus domus, fuerint nigredines, flavedines, vel rubedines: et aspectus eorum fuerit depressior reliquo pariete:

38. Then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days.

38. Egredietur sacerdos e domo ad ostium domus, et claudet domum septem diebus.

39. And the priest Shall come again the seventh day, and shall look: and, behold, if the plague be spread in the walls of the house;

39. Postea revertetur sacerdos die septimo, et contemplabitur: et siquidem creverit plaga in parietibus domus,

40. Then the priest shall command that they take away the stones in which the plague is, and they shall cast them into an unclean place without the city.

40. Tunc praecipiet sacerdos, et eruent lapides in quibus fuerit plaga illa, projicientque illos extra civitatem in locum immundum:

41. And he shall cause the house to be scraped within round about, and they shall pour out the dust that they scrape off without the city into all unclean place.

41. Domum autem radere jubebit intrinsecus per circuitum, et effundent pulveremquem abraserint extra civitatem in 1.ocum immundum.

42. And they shall take other stones, and put them in the place of those stones; and he shall take other mortar, and shall plaster the house.

42. Et accipient lapides altos quos reponent loco lapidum illorum, et latum aliud capient, et complanabunt domum.

43. And if the plague come again, and break out in the house, after that he hath taken away the stones, and after he hath scraped the house, and after it is plastered;

43. Quod si reversa fuerit plaga, et effloreat in illa domo postquam erui fecit lapides, et abradi domum, et posteaquam obducta fuit:

44. Then the priest shall come and look, and, behold, if the plague be spread in the house, it is a fretting leprosy in the house; it is unclean.

44. Tunc ingredietur sacerdos, et considerabit: et siquidem creverit plaga in domo, lepra corrodens est ipsa in domo, immunda est.

45. And he shall break down the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the mortar of the house; and he shall carry them forth out of the city into an unclean place.

45. Destruetque domum, et lapides ejus, et ligna ejus, atque universum lutum domus, educetque extra civitatem in locum immundum.

46. Moreover, he that goeth into the house all the while that it is shut up shall be unclean until the even.

46. Qui autem ingressus fuerit domum illam omnibus diebus quibus jusserit earn claudi, immundus erit usque ad vesperam.

47. And he that lieth in the house shall wash his clothes; and he that eateth in the house shall wash his clothes.

47. Et qui dormierit in ea domo, lavabit vestimenta sua: quique comederit in domo, lavabit vestimenta sua.

48. And if the priest shall come in, and look upon it, and, behold, the plague hath not spread in the house, after the house was plastered; then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, because the plague is healed.

48. Si autem ingrediendo ingressus fuerit sacerdos: contemplatusque viderit non crevisse plagam in ipsa domo, postquam ipsa obducta fuit: mundam judicabit sacerdos domum, quia sanata sit plaga illa.

49. And he shall take to cleanse the house two birds, and cedar-wood, and scarlet, and hyssop.

49. Tollet itaque ad purificandam domum duos passeres, et lignum cedrinum, et coccum vermiculi, ct hyssopum.

50. And he shall kill the one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water.

50. Mactabitque passerera unum super vas fictile, super aquas vivas.

51. And he shall take the cedar-wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times.

51. Capietque lignum cedrinum, et hyssopum, et coccum vermiculi, et passerem vivum, et tinget illa in sanguine passeris mactati, et in aqua vivente: aspergetque domum septem vicibus.

52. And he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar-wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet.

52. Purificabitque domum illam sanguine passeris, et aqua viva, et passere vivo, lignoque cedrino, et hyssopo, et cocco vermiculi.

53. But he shall let go the