Leviticus 19–27: A Law of Performances and Ordinances, Part 3: Laws of Mercy and Righteousness

“Leviticus 19–27: A Law of Performances and Ordinances, Part 3: Laws of Mercy and Righteousness,” Old Testament Student Manual Genesis-2 Samuel (1980), 184–191

“Leviticus 19–27,” Old Testament Student Manual, 184–191


Leviticus 19–27

A Law of Performances and Ordinances, Part 3: Laws of Mercy and Righteousness

(16-1) Introduction

In this assignment you will read what has been termed “the heart of the ethics of the book of Leviticus” (Rasmussen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1:105). These ethics are the heart not only of Leviticus, but also of the entire Old and New Testaments. Recorded here for the first time is the revelation of the one principle that governed all the laws dealing with proper social relationships: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). Thus viewed, it is easy to see that all the other laws were merely the application of the law of love under various circumstances. This law, being both timeless and of universal application, is the seamless fabric on which not only the Old and New Testaments are richly embroidered but our own modern scriptures as well.

Notes and Commentary on Leviticus 19–27

(16-2) Leviticus 19:2–18. “Ye Shall Be Holy: For I the Lord Your God Am Holy”

The last chapter examined in some detail the laws of cleanliness and uncleanliness in both their physical and spiritual senses. The closing chapters of Leviticus focus on laws that defined how one under the Mosaic law lived righteously and in a manner pleasing to God. Leviticus ends with essentially the same message with which it began, namely, the all-important admonition that men are to be holy, even as God is holy. The laws that follow this commandment may seem at first to be without logical arrangement or interconnection, but they are unified when one considers them in light of the injunction to be holy given in verse 2. Note also the strong relationship to the Ten Commandments in what immediately follows (see vv. 3–12). The fifth commandment (honoring parents) and the fourth commandment (keeping the Sabbath day holy) are joined in verse 3, followed immediately by the second commandment (no graven images). In verse 11 the eighth commandment (stealing) is joined with the ninth (bearing false witness), and then again is immediately connected to the third commandment (taking God’s name in vain) in verse 12. By this means the Lord seems to indicate that what follows the commandment to be holy is directly related to these fundamental principles of righteousness. The specific laws that follow the commandments define principles of righteousness that follow naturally from the Ten Commandments. For example, the commandment is not to steal, but these laws show that the commandment means far more than not robbing a man or burglarizing his home. One can steal through fraud or by withholding wages from a laborer (v. 13). The commandment is to honor one’s parents, but here the Lord used the word “fear” (v. 3), which connotes a deep respect, reverence, and awe, the same feelings one should have for God Himself. The example of the gossiping “talebearer” (v. 16) shows that there are ways to bear false witness other than under oath in court. And the concluding principle summarizes the whole purpose of the law. If one is truly holy, as God is holy, then he will love his neighbor as himself (see v. 18).


Moses the Lawgiver

(16-3) Leviticus 19:18. What Commandments Underlie All Others?

During His earthly ministry, the Master was asked by a scribe which of all the commandments was the greatest. The Savior’s reply is well known: Love God and love your neighbor. Then He said: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40; see also vv. 35–39). Or, to put it another way, those two principles are the foundation for all the writings of the Old Testament. All principles and commandments stem either from the need to love God or to love our neighbor.

Both of the laws cited by Jesus are found in the Old Testament, but not together. The first is found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and the second in Leviticus 19:18. The wording of the second commandment is instructive. The statement that one is to love his neighbor as himself moves the idea of love in this case from a state of emotion to one of will. Love is that emotion which one naturally feels for oneself. Simply expressed, it is a desire one has for his own good. To love or care for oneself is natural and good, but in addition, one must feel this same emotion for others. Each must desire the good of others as well as his own. This desire is not innate but comes through a conscious act of will or agency. The commandment thus implies that one should work both for his own good and the good of others. He should not aggrandize himself at another’s expense. This commandment is at the heart of all social interaction and becomes the standard by which every act can be judged.

Any person who truly understands the implications for daily living that are part of the commandment to love God with all his heart, might, mind, and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, can function well with no additional laws. One does not need to warn a person who loves God properly about idolatry, for any act of worship not devoted to God would be naturally offensive to him. The prohibitions against stealing, adultery, murder, and so on are not required if a person truly loves his neighbor as himself, for to injure his neighbor in such ways would be unthinkable. But, of course, the vast majority of men fail to understand and keep these two commandments, and so the Lord has revealed many additional laws and rules to show specifically what the commandments require. But truly, all such commandments do nothing more than define and support the two basic principles: all the law and the prophets are summarized in the two great commandments.

(16-4) Leviticus 19:23–25. What Is “Uncircumcised” Fruit?

“The metaphorical use of circumcision is thus explained by the text itself: it denotes the fruit as disqualified or unfit. In [Leviticus 26:41] the same metaphor is used for the heart which is stubborn or not ripe to listen to the Divine admonitions. And in other passages of Scripture it is used with reference to lips [Exodus 6:12, 30] and ears [Jeremiah 6:10] which do not perform their proper functions.” (C. D. Ginsburg, in Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, pp. 147–48.)

Exactly why the fruit produced for the first three years of the tree was to be treated as unfit is not clear, but in this context of laws of righteousness and sanctification, this prohibition could suggest that until the first-fruits of the tree were dedicated to God, just as the firstborn of animals and men were (see Exodus 13:1–2), the tree was not viewed as sanctified, or set apart, for use by God’s people. Because the ground had been cursed for man’s sake when Adam fell (see Genesis 3:17), this law could have served as a simple reminder that until dedicated to God and His purposes, all things remained unfit for use by God’s holy people.

(16-5) Leviticus 19:26–31. Setting Israel Apart from the World

At first, the laws found in these verses may seem to have little application for the modern Saint, and may even seem puzzling as requirements for ancient Israel. What, for example, would the cutting of one’s hair and beard have to do with righteousness? But in the cultural surroundings of ancient Israel, these specific prohibitions taught a powerful lesson related to the practices of Israel’s heathen neighbors.

For example, the Hebrew word nachash, translated as “enchantment” (v. 26), meant “to practice divination,” and the phrase “observe times” (v. 26) comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to observe clouds” (Wilson, Old Testament Word Studies, s.v. “enchantment,” p. 144). In the ancient world, sorcerers and necromancers often claimed to read the future through various omens or objects. Their methods included watching the stars (astrology), observing the movements of clouds and certain animals, tying knots, casting lots, tossing arrows into the air and then reading the pattern of how they fell, and so on. (See Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “magic, divination, and sorcery,” pp. 566–70.) Thus, verse 26 forbade any use of the occult to read the future.

Another Bible scholar gave an important insight about why cutting the hair and beard was forbidden.

“[Leviticus 19:27] and the following verse evidently refer to customs which must have existed among the Egyptians when the Israelites sojourned in Egypt; and what they were it is now difficult, even with any probability, to conjecture. Herodotus observes that the Arabs shave or cut their hair round, in honour of Bacchus [the god of wine] who, they say, had his hair cut in this way. … He says also that the Macians, a people of Libya, cut their hair round, so as to leave a tuft on the top of the head. … In this manner the Chinese cut their hair to the present day. This might have been in honour of some idol, and therefore forbidden to the Israelites.

“The hair was much used in divination among the ancients, and for purposes of religious superstition among the Greeks; and particularly about the time of the giving of this law, as this is supposed to have been the era of the Trojan war. We learn from Homer that it was customary for parents to dedicate the hair of their children to some god; which, when they came to manhood, they cut off and consecrated to the deity. Achilles, at the funeral of Patroclus, cut off his golden locks which his father had dedicated to the river god Sperchius, and threw them into the flood. …

“If the hair was rounded, and dedicated for purposes of this kind, it will at once account for the prohibition in this verse.” (Clarke, Bible Commentary, 1:575.)

In forbidding the cutting of the flesh and the tattooing of marks in the flesh, the Lord again clearly signaled that Israel was to be different from their heathen neighbors. Wounds were self-inflicted in times of grief for the dead and during worship (see 1 Kings 18:28). Also, “it was a very ancient and a very general custom to carry marks on the body in honour of the object of their worship. All the castes of the Hindoos bear on their foreheads or elsewhere what are called the sectarian marks, which distinguish them, not only in a civil but also in a religious point of view, from each other.

“Most of the barbarous nations lately discovered have their faces, arms, breasts, &c., curiously carved or tatooed, probably for superstitious purposes. Ancient writers abound with accounts of marks made on the face, arms, &c., in honour of different idols; and to this the inspired penman alludes [Revelation 13:16–17; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4], where false worshippers are represented as receiving in their hands and in their forehead the marks of the beast.” (Clarke, Bible Commentary, 1:575.)

Sacred prostitution was a common practice among heathen worshipers, and often priestesses in the temples to such goddesses of love as Venus or Aphrodite were there only to satisfy and give religious sanction to immoral sexual desires. God strictly forbade these practices.

“Familiar spirits” (Leviticus 19:31) connoted those who today would be called spiritualists, or spirit mediums. They supposedly had the power to communicate through a seance with departed spirits. The Hebrew word for familiar spirit means “ventriloquist,” suggesting in the very name itself the fraudulent character of such people (see Wilson, Old Testament Word Studies, s.v. “ventriloquist,” p. 157).

Clearly, the laws prohibiting such idolatrous practices were designed to set Israel apart from the world and its false worship. And therein is an important lesson for modern Saints. The world has not changed, although the specific practices of evil and debauchery may be different. Today the Lord still directs His people through living prophets to avoid the customs and practices of the world. It should be no surprise, then, that prophets speak out against certain hair styles, fashions in clothing, passing fads, or such practices as sensitivity groups, gambling, couples living together without marriage, and so on.

(16-6) Leviticus 19:35–36. What Are “Meteyards,” “Ephahs,” and “Hins”?

A meteyard signified such Hebrew measures of length as the reed, the span, and the cubit, while the ephah and the hin were measures of volume. By specifying both kinds of measures, the Lord clearly taught that honesty in all transactions was required. (See Bible Dictionary, s.v. “weights and measures”.)

(16-7) Leviticus 20

This chapter specifies some of the sins so serious that they were worthy of death. (For an explanation of what it means to give one’s seed to Molech, see Reading 15-11.) The Lord clearly stated again and again that the purpose of these laws was to separate Israel from other people so that they could be sanctified and become holy unto God (see vv. 7–8, 24, 26).

(16-8) Leviticus 20:22–24. “Ye Shall Not Walk in the Manners of the Nation, Which I Cast Out”

When the Jaredites were brought to the land of promise, the Lord warned them that if they did not worship the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, they would be “swept off” (Ether 2:10). Lehi’s colony was also warned that they would occupy the promised land only on condition of obedience; otherwise, they too would be “cut off” (1 Nephi 2:21; see also v. 20). The Israelites were warned that if they were not willing to separate themselves from the world, the land would “spue” them out (Leviticus 20:22).

Nephi told his brothers that the only reason Israel was given the land and the Canaanites driven out was that the Canaanites “had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity” (1 Nephi 17:35). Because of their extreme wickedness God required Israel to “utterly destroy them” (Deuteronomy 7:2; for further discussion about why God required the Canaanites to be destroyed, see Reading 19-15). Nephi asked, “Do you suppose that our fathers [the Israelites] would have been more choice than they [the Canaanites] if they had been righteous? I say unto you, Nay.” (1 Nephi 17:34.) The same message was clearly revealed to Israel. The Canaanites were cast out because of their wickedness. Either Israel would remain separated from that wickedness, or they would suffer the same consequence.

(16-9) Leviticus 21–22. The Laws of Cleanliness for the Priesthood

In these two chapters are special rules and requirements for the Levitical Priesthood, especially the high priest. Here, for the first time, the title “high priest” was used (Leviticus 21:10). The Hebrew literally means “the Priest, the great one.” As the chief priest, he was the representative of Jehovah among the people. As such, he was required to guard against all defilement of his holy office. (The Old Testament high priest was an office in the Aaronic Priesthood, not an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood as it is today. The high priest was the presiding priest, or head, of the Aaronic Priesthood. Today the presiding bishop holds that position.) All members of the priesthood had to marry virgins of their own people. Prostitutes, adulterous women, or even divorced women, were excluded, thus avoiding the least doubt about personal purity. The priests could not marry “profane” women (non-Israelites; v. 7), be defiled by contact with a dead person other than close relatives (see vv. 1–3), or allow a daughter to be a prostitute (see v. 9).

In other words, all of Israel was called to a special life of separation and holiness, but the priests who served as God’s authorized representatives to the people had to maintain an even higher level of separation and sanctification. The high priest, who was a symbol or type of Jesus, “the great high priest,” had to meet a still stricter code (Hebrews 4:14). In addition to meeting the requirements of the regular priesthood for marriage and defilement, he had to be without any physical defects (see Leviticus 21:16–21). Such strictness was to remind the people that Christ, the true Mediator between God and His children, was perfect in every respect.

(16-10) Leviticus 23

In this chapter the Lord indicated five holy days or feasts that were to be observed by all Israel. These were the Sabbath (see vv. 1–3), the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread (see vv. 4–14), the feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, as it was called in the New Testament (see vv. 15–23), the day of Atonement (see vv. 26–32), and the feast of Tabernacles (see vv. 33–44).

The sabbaths, of course, were weekly; the others are listed in the order in which they occurred. Passover was in late March or early April (corresponding to Easter), and Pentecost followed seven weeks later in May. The day of Atonement, which occurred in late September or early October, was followed five days later by the feast of Tabernacles, or feast of Booths. (For more details on the feasts and festivals, see Enrichment Section D and the Hebrew calendar in Maps and Charts.)

(16-11) Leviticus 23:27

To afflict the soul means to be humble or submissive to the Lord. The Hebrew term carries with it the idea of discipline. Therefore, on these days, Israelites were to devote themselves completely to the Lord in fasting and prayer.

(16-12) Leviticus 23:37

The offerings specified for the feast days were all voluntary. These were the times to celebrate and freely show one’s gratitude to the Lord.

(16-13) Leviticus 24:17–22. Was the Law of Moses Really an Eye for an Eye?

This passage has come to be regarded by many as the substance and summary of the Mosaic law: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (v. 20). This misunderstanding is unfortunate because it makes the law appear cold, unbending, and revengeful. This misconception has resulted from a failure to distinguish between the social law and the criminal law. The social law was based on love and concern for one’s neighbor (see Leviticus 19:18). The criminal law was not outside that love, but was made to stress absolute justice. Even then, however, three things must be noted about this eye-for-an-eye application:

“First, it was intended to be a law of exact justice, not of revenge. Secondly, it was not private vengeance, but public justice. Thirdly, by excluding murder from the crimes for which ransom is permissible (Nu. 35:31f.) it makes it probable that compensation for injuries was often or usually allowed to take the form of a fine.” (Guthrie and Motyer, Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 164.)

The same law that required just retribution and payment also required a farmer to leave portions of his field unharvested so the poor could glean therein (see Leviticus 19:9–10; 23:22), demanded that the employer pay his hired labor at nightfall rather than wait even until the next day (see 19:13), commanded men, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart” (19:17), and summarized the ideal by saying, “Be ye holy” (20:7).

(16-14) Leviticus 25. The Sabbatical and Jubilee Year

Many today look upon the law of Moses as a primitive, lesser law designed for a spiritually illiterate and immature people. This chapter illustrates the commitment of faith and trust in God that was required of one who truly followed the law. The Israelite was told that once in every seven years he was to trust wholly in God rather than in the fruits of his own labor for sustenance. The land, too, was to have its sabbath rest, and no plowing, sowing, reaping, or harvesting was to take place. Further, once each fifty years the land would have a double rest. The seventh sabbatical year (the forty-ninth year) was to be followed by a jubilee year. God had delivered Israel from the bondage of Egypt, forgiven their numerous debts to Him, and given them an inheritance in the land of promise. To demonstrate their love of God and fellow men, Israel was to follow that example during the jubilee year. Slaves or servants were to be freed, the land returned to its original owner, and debts forgiven (see vv. 10, 13, 35–36).

Modern followers of the higher gospel law would do well to assess their own commitment to God and their own love of neighbor by asking themselves if they could live such a law. Is their faith sufficient to trust in the Lord for three years’ sustenance as was asked of Israel? (Note vv. 18–22.)

One Bible scholar suggested two important ideas symbolized in the requirements of the jubilee year:

“The jubilee seems to have been typical, 1. Of the great time of release, the Gospel dispensation, when all who believe in Christ Jesus are redeemed from the bondage of sin—repossess the favour and image of God, the only inheritance of the human soul, having all debts cancelled, and the right of inheritance restored. To this the prophet Isaiah seems to allude [Isaiah 26:13], and particularly [61:1–3]. 2. Of the general resurrection. ‘It is,’ says Mr. Parkhurst, ‘a lively prefiguration of the grand consummation of time, which will be introduced in like manner by the trump of God [1 Corinthians 15:52], when the children and heirs of God shall be delivered from all their forfeitures, and restored to the eternal inheritance allotted to them by their Father; and thenceforth rest from their labours, and be supported in life and happiness by what the field of God shall supply.’

“It is worthy of remark that the jubilee was not proclaimed till the tenth day of the seventh month, on the very day when the great annual atonement was made for the sins of the people; and does not this prove that the great liberty or redemption from thraldom, published under the Gospel, could not take place till the great Atonement, the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, had been offered up?” (Clarke, Bible Commentary, p. 1:592.)

Or, as C. D. Ginsburg put it: “On the close of the great Day of Atonement, when the Hebrews realised that they had peace of mind, that their heavenly Father had annulled their sins, and that they had become re-united to Him through His forgiving mercy, every Israelite was called upon to proclaim throughout the land, by nine blasts of the cornet, that he too had given the soil rest, that he had freed every encumbered family estate, and that he had given liberty to every slave, who was now to rejoin his kindred. Inasmuch as God has forgiven his debts, he also is to forgive his debtors.” (In Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 141.)

(16-15) Leviticus 26. Blessings or Cursings: An Option for Israel

Leviticus 26 is one of the most powerful chapters in the Old Testament. The Lord put the options facing Israel so clearly that they could not be misunderstood. If Israel was obedient, they would be blessed with the bounties of the earth, safety and security, peace and protection from enemies. Even more important, the Lord promised: “My soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” (vv. 11–12) Those promises could be summarized in one word: Zion. If Israel was obedient, she would achieve a Zion condition.

If Israel refused “to hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments” (v. 14), however, then the blessings would be withdrawn, and sorrow, hunger, war, disease, exile, tragedy, and abandonment would result.

Modern Israel has been given the same options.

In the winter of 1976–77, the western United States faced a serious drought. A living prophet saw in that and other natural phenomena a warning related to that given in the Old Testament.

“Early this year when drouth conditions seemed to be developing in the West, the cold and hardships in the East, with varying weather situations all over the world, we felt to ask the members of the Church to join in fasting and prayer, asking the Lord for moisture where it was so vital and for a cessation of the difficult conditions elsewhere.

“Perhaps we may have been unworthy in asking for these greatest blessings, but we do not wish to frantically approach the matter but merely call it to the attention of our Lord and then spend our energy to put our lives in harmony.

“One prophet said:

“‘When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them:

“‘Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.’ (1 Kings 8:35–36.)

“The Lord uses the weather sometimes to discipline his people for the violation of his laws. He said to the children of Israel: [Leviticus 26:3–6.]

“With the great worry and suffering in the East and threats of drouth here in the West and elsewhere, we asked the people to join in a solemn prayer circle for moisture where needed. Quite immediately our prayers were answered, and we were grateful beyond expression. We are still in need and hope that the Lord may see fit to answer our continued prayers in this matter. …

“Perhaps the day has come when we should take stock of ourselves and see if we are worthy to ask or if we have been breaking the commandments, making ourselves unworthy of receiving the blessings.

“The Lord gave strict commandments: ‘Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.’ (Lev. 19:30.)

“Innumerous times we have quoted this, asking our people not to profane the Sabbath; and yet we see numerous cars lined up at merchandise stores on the Sabbath day, and places of amusement crowded, and we wonder. …

“… The Lord makes definite promises. He says:

“‘Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.’ (Lev. 26:4.)

“God does what he promises, and many of us continue to defile the Sabbath day. He then continues:

“‘And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.’ (Lev. 26:5.)

“These promises are dependable. …

“The Lord … warns: [Leviticus 26:14–17, 19–20.]

“The Lord goes further and says:

“‘I will … destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.’ (Lev. 26:22.)

“Can you think how the highways could be made desolate? When fuel and power are limited, when there is none to use, when men will walk instead of ride?

“Have you ever thought, my good folks, that the matter of peace is in the hands of the Lord who says:

“‘And I will bring a sword upon you …’ (Lev. 26:25.)

“Would that be difficult? Do you read the papers? Are you acquainted with the hatreds in the world? What guarantee have you for permanent peace?

“‘… and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.’ (Lev. 26:25.)

“Are there enemies who could and would afflict us? Have you thought of that?

“‘And I will make your cities waste,’ he says, ‘and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation. …

“‘Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.

“‘As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest [when it could] in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.’ (Lev. 26:31, 34–35.)

“Those are difficult and very serious situations, but they are possible.

“And the Lord concludes:

“‘These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the Lord made between him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.’ (Lev. 26:46.)

“This applies to you and me.

“Would this be a good time to deeply concern ourselves with these matters? Is this a time when we should return to our homes, our families, our children? Is this the time we should remember our tithes and our offerings, a time when we should desist from our abortions, our divorces, our Sabbath breaking, our eagerness to make the holy day a holiday?

“Is this a time to repent of our sins, our immoralities, our doctrines of devils?

“Is this a time for all of us to make holy our marriages, live in joy and happiness, rear our families in righteousness?

“Certainly many of us know better than we do. Is this a time to terminate adultery and homosexual and lesbian activities, and return to faith and worthiness? Is this a time to end our heedless pornographies?

“Is this the time to set our face firmly against unholy and profane things, and whoredoms, irregularities, and related matters?

“Is this the time to enter new life?” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Lord Expects His Saints to Follow the Commandments,” Ensign, May 1977, pp. 4–6.)

Spencer W. Kimball

President Spencer W. Kimball warned that Leviticus applies to Latter-day Saints.

(16-16) Leviticus 26:34–35, 43

To see how this prophecy was fulfilled, see Jeremiah 25:9, 11–12; 29:10; 2 Chronicles 36:21.

(16-17) Leviticus 27:1–34. What Is Meant by a Man Making a “Singular Vow”?

Special vows were a part of the Mosaic law. In that day it was possible for a man or woman to dedicate a person to the Lord, for example, Jephthah’s daughter or the child Samuel (see Judges 11:30–31; 1 Samuel 1:11). Here the Lord was saying that when a man made such a vow, the persons involved had to be reckoned as the Lord’s and could not be taken by another. A person could also vow (that is, dedicate to the Lord) his personal property. These laws governed the making of such vows.

(16-18) Leviticus 27:32. “Whatsoever Passeth under the Rod”

“The signification of this verse is well given by the rabbins: ‘When a man was to give the tithe of his sheep or calves to God, he was to shut up the whole flock in one fold, in which there was one narrow door capable of letting out one at a time. The owner, about to give the tenth to the Lord, stood by the door with a rod in his hand, the end of which was dipped in vermilion or red ochre. The mothers of those lambs or calves stood without: the door being opened, the young ones ran out to join themselves to their dams; and as they passed out the owner stood with his rod over them, and counted one, two, three, four, five, &c., and when the tenth came, he touched it with the coloured rod, by which it was distinguished to be the tithe calf, sheep, &c., and whether poor or lean, perfect or blemished, that was received as the legitimate tithe.’ It seems to be in reference to this custom that the Prophet Ezekiel, speaking to Israel, says: I will cause you to pass under the rod, and will bring you into the bond of the covenant—you shall be once more claimed as the Lord’s property, and be in all things devoted to his service, being marked or ascertained, by especial providences and manifestations of his kindness, to be his peculiar people.” (Clarke, Bible Commentary, 1:604.)

Points to Ponder

(16-19) Pause for a moment to read Psalm 24:3–5 and Leviticus 26:11–12. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What did God want for Israel?

  2. What qualities are necessary for you to enjoy a close personal association with the Lord?

Notice that two of the qualifications are cleanliness and purity. The use of these two words is important. Pure connotes that which is unpolluted and consistent throughout. In and of itself, however, it does not imply that which is wholly good. For example, there are poisons which are pure. The idea of cleanliness must be added to purity. The term clean indicates that which is free from contamination and defilement, or, in a spiritual sense, freedom from worldliness and sin.

Using the law as a schoolmaster, the Lord symbolically stressed the importance of purity and cleanliness. Consider the following performances in this light: the breeding of cattle, the planting of trees, the sowing of seeds, the texture of garments, the manner of worship, the making of contracts, and betrothal and marriage. Can you see that God’s demands move the idea of cleanliness and purity from a merely religious setting to a part of everyday life? Can you see that in this way God is telling both ancient and modern Israel that consistency, in every phase of life, is a key to developing a strong and enduring relationship with the Master?

(16-20) The heart of Leviticus, and of much of the Mosaic law, is the commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18).

To illustrate this concept, read the following Mosaic requirements and then, in the space provided, write the gospel principle taught by the law. The first two are completed as an example.

The Law

The Principle

  1. Exodus 21:33–34; 22:6

I have a responsibility to avoid harming

my neighbor through negligence or neglect

  1. Exodus 23:4–5

I should have as much regard for my neighbor’s

property and valuables as my own.

  1. Leviticus 19:13

  1. Leviticus 19:15

  1. Leviticus 19:33–34

  1. Deuteronomy 19:16–20

  1. Deuteronomy 22:1–3

  1. Deuteronomy 22:8

  1. Deuteronomy 23:24–25

  1. Deuteronomy 24:6, 10–13