Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Idolatry forbidden, Lev 26:1. The Sabbath to be sanctified, Lev 26:2-3. Promises to obedience, of fruitful fields, plentiful harvests, and vintage, Lev 26:4-5. Of peace and security, Lev 26:6. Discomfiture of their enemies, Lev 26:7-9. Of abundance, Lev 26:10. Of the divine presence, Lev 26:11-13. Threatenings against the disobedient, Lev 26:14-15. Of terror and dismay, Lev 26:16. Their enemies shall prevail against them, Lev 26:17-18. Of barrenness, Lev 26:19-20. Of desolation by wild beasts, Lev 26:21-22. And if not humbled and reformed, worse evils shall be inflicted upon them, Lev 26:23-24. Their enemies shall prevail, and they shall be wasted by the pestilence, Lev 26:25-26. If they should still continue refractory, they shall be yet more sorely punished, Lev 26:27-28. The famine shall so increase that they shall be obliged to eat their own children, Lev 26:29. Their carcasses shall be cast upon the carcasses of their idols, Lev 26:30. Their cities shall be wasted, and the sanctuary desolated, Lev 26:31; the land destroyed, Lev 26:32; themselves scattered among their enemies, and pursued with utter confusion and distress, Lev 26:33-39. If under these judgments they confess their sin and return to God, He will remember them in mercy, Lev 26:40-43; visit them even in the land of their enemies, Lev 26:44; and remember His covenant with their fathers, Lev 26:45. The conclusion, stating these to be the judgments and laws which the Lord made between himself and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai, Lev 26:46.
Ye shall make you no idols - See note on Exo 20:4, and see the note on Gen 28:18-19 (note), concerning consecrated stones. Not only idolatry in general is forbidden here, but also the superstitious use of innocent and lawful things. Probably the stones or pillars which were first set up, and anointed by holy men in commemoration of signal interposition of God in their behalf, were afterward abused to idolatrous and superstitious purposes, and therefore prohibited. This we know was the case with the brazen serpent, Kg2 18:4.
If ye walk in my statutes - For the meaning of this and similar words used in the law, See the note on Lev 26:15.
Rain in due season - What in Scripture is called the early and the latter rain. The first fell in Palestine at the commencement of spring, and the latter in autumn - Calmet.
Your threshing shall reach unto the vintage - According to Pliny, Hist. Nat., l. xviii., c. 18, the Egyptians reaped their barley six months, and their oats seven months, after seed time; for they sowed all their grain about the end of summer, when the overflowings of the Nile had ceased. It was nearly the same in Judaea: they sowed their corn and barley towards the end of autumn, and about the month of October; and they began their barley-harvest after the passover, about the middle of March; and in one month or six weeks after, about pentecost, they began that of their wheat. After their wheat-harvest their vintage commenced. Moses here leads the Hebrews to hope, if they continued faithful to God, that between their harvest and vintage, and between their vintage and seed-time, there should be no interval, so great should the abundance be; and these promises would appear to them the more impressive, as they had just now come out of a country where the inhabitants were obliged to remain for nearly three months shut up within their cities, because the Nile had then inundated the whole country. See Calmet. "This is a nervous and beautiful promise of such entire plenty of corn and wine, that before they could have reaped and threshed out their corn the vintage should be ready, and before they could have pressed out their wine it would be time to sow again. The Prophet Amos, Amo 9:13 expresses the same blessing in the same manner: The ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who soweth seed." - Dodd.
I will set my tabernacle among you - This and the following verse contain the grand promise of the Gospel dispensation, viz. the presence, manifestation, and indwelling of God in human nature, and his constant in dwelling in the souls of his followers. So Joh 1:14 the Word was made flesh, και εσκηνωσεν εν ἡμιν, and Made His Tabernacle among us. And to this promise of the law St. Paul evidently refers, Co2 6:16-18 and Co2 7:1
If ye shall despise my statutes - abhor my judgments - As these words, and others of a similar import, which point out different properties of the revelation of God, are frequently occurring, I Judge it best to take a general view of them, once for all, in this place, and show how they differ among themselves, and what property of the Divine law each points out.
1. Statutes. חקת chukkoth, from חק chak, to mark out, define, etc. This term seems to signify the things which God has defined, marked, and traced out, that men might have a perfect copy of pure conduct always before their eyes, to teach them how they might walk so as to please him in all things, which they could not do without such instruction as God gives in his word, and the help which he affords by his Spirit.
2. Judgments. שפטים shephatim, from שפט shaphat, to distinguish, regulate, and determine; meaning those things which God has determined that men shall pursue, by which their whole conduct shall be regulated, making the proper distinction between virtue and vice, good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice; in a word, between what is proper to be done, and what is proper to be left undone.
3. Commandments. מצות mitsvoth, from צוה tsavah, to command, ordain, and appoint, as a legislator. This term is properly applied to those parts of the law which contain the obligation the people are under to act according to the statutes, judgments, etc., already established, and which prohibit them by penal sanctions from acting contrary to the laws.
4. Covenant. ברית berith, from בר bar, to clear, cleanse, or purify; because the covenant, the whole system of revelation given to the Jews, was intended to separate them from all the people of the earth, and to make them holy. Berith also signifies the covenant-sacrifice, which prefigured the atonement made by Christ for the sin of the world, by which he purifies believers unto himself, and makes them a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Besides those four, we may add the following, from other places of Scripture.
5. Testimonies. עדות edoth, from עד ad, beyond, farther, besides; because the whole ritual law referred to something farther on or beyond the Jewish dispensation, even to that sacrifice which in the fullness of time was to be offered for the sins of men. Thus all the sacrifices, etc., of the Mosaic law referred to Christ, and bore testimony to him who was to come.
6. Ordinances. משמרות mishmaroth, from שמר shamar, to guard, keep safe, watch over; those parts of Divine revelation which exhorted men to watch their ways, keep their hearts, and promised them, in consequence, the continual protection and blessing of God their Maker.
7. Precepts. פקודים pikkudim, from פקד pakad, to overlook, take care or notice of, to visit; a very expressive character of the Divine testimonies, the overseers of a man's conduct, those who stand by and look on to see whether he acts according to the commands of his Master; also the visitors, because God's precepts are suited to all the circumstances of human life; some are applicable in adversity, others in prosperity; some in times of temptation and sadness, others in seasons of spiritual joy and exultation, etc., etc. Thus they may be said to overlook and visit man in all times, places, and circumstances.
8. Truth. אמת emeth, from אם am, to support, sustain, confirm; because God is immutable who has promised, threatened, commanded, and therefore all his promises, threatenings, commandments, etc., are unalterable and eternal. Error and falsity promise to direct and sustain, but they fail. God's word is supported by his own faithfulness, and it supports and confirms them who conscientiously believe it.
9. Righteousness. צדקה tsedakah, from צדק which, though not used as a verb in the Hebrew Bible, seems to convey, from its use as a noun, the idea of giving just weight or good measure, see Lev 19:36. This is one of the characters which is attributed to the revelation God makes of himself; (see Psa 119:137-144); and by this the impartiality of the Divine testimonies is pointed out. God gives to all their due, and his word distributes to every man according to his state, circumstances, talents, graces, etc.; to none too much, to none too little, to all enough.
10. Word Of Jehovah. דבר יהוה debar Yehovah, from דבר, dabar, to drive, lead, bring forward, hence to bring forward, or utter one's sentiments; so the word of God is what God has brought forth to man from his own mind and counsel; it is a perfect similitude of his own righteousness, holiness, goodness, and truth. This Divine law is sometimes expressed by: -
11. אמרה imrah, speech or word, variously modified from אמר amar, to branch out, because of the interesting details into which the word of God enters in order to instruct man and make him wise unto salvation, or, as the apostle expresses it, "God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake unto the fathers by the prophets," πολυμερως και πολυτροπως, in many distinct parcels, and by various tropes or figures; a curious and elegant description of Divine revelation; Heb 1:1.
12. All these collectively are termed the Law תורה torah, or תורת יהוה torath Yehovah, the law of the Lord, from ירה yarah, to direct, set straight and true, as stones in a building, to teach and instruct, because this whole system of Divine revelation is calculated to direct men to the attainment of present and eternal felicity, to set them right in their notions concerning the supreme God, to order and adjust them in the several departments of civil and religious society, and thus to teach and instruct them in the knowledge of themselves, and in the true knowledge of God. Thus those who receive the truth become the city of the living God - the temple of the Most High, built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit. To complete this description of the word law, See the note on Exo 12:49, where other properties of the law of God are specified.
I will even appoint over you terror, etc. - How dreadful is this curse! A whole train of evils are here personified and appointed to be the governors of a disobedient people. Terror is to be one of their keepers. How awful a state! to be continually under the influence of dismay, feeling indescribable evils, and fearing worse! Consumption, שחפת shachepheth, generally allowed to be some kind of atrophy or marasmus, by which the flesh was consumed, and the whole body dried up by raging fever through lack of sustenance. See the note on Lev 11:16. How circumstantially were all these threatenings fulfilled in this disobedient and rebellious people! Let a deist read over this chapter and compare it with the state of the Jews since the days of Vespasian, and then let him doubt the authenticity of this word if he can.
I will also send wild beasts among you - God fulfilled these threatenings at different times. He sent fiery Serpents among them, Num 21:6; Lions, Kg2 17:25; Bears, Kg2 2:24, and threatened them with total desolation, so that their land should be overrun with wild beasts, etc., see Eze 5:17. "Spiritually," says Mr. Ainsworth, "these are wicked rulers and tyrants that kill and spoil, Pro 28:15; Dan 7:3-6; Psa 80:13; and false prophets that devour souls, Mat 7:15; Rev 13:1, etc. So the prophet, speaking of their punishment by tyrants, says: A Lion out of the forest shall slay them; a Wolf of the evening shall spoil them; a Leopard shall watch over their cities; every one that goeth out thence shall be torn to pieces, because their transgressions be many. And of their prophets it is said: O Israel, thy prophets are like Foxes in the deserts, Eze 13:4; Jer 8:17; Jer 15:3."
Ten women shall bake your bread in one oven - Though in general every family in the East bakes its own bread, yet there are some public bakehouses where the bread of several families is baked at a certain price. Moses here foretells that the desolation should be so great and the want so pressing that there should be many idle hands to be employed, many mouths to be fed, and very little for each: Ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, etc.
Ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, etc. - This was literally fulfilled at the siege of Jerusalem. Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book vii., chap. ii., gives us a particular instance in dreadful detail of a woman named Mary, who, in the extremity of the famine during the siege, killed her sucking child, roasted, and had eaten part of it when discovered by the soldiers! See this threatened, Jer 19:9 (note).
Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths - This Houbigant observes to be a historical truth - "From Saul to the Babylonish captivity are numbered about four hundred and ninety years, during which period there were seventy Sabbaths of years; for 7, multiplied by 70, make 490. Now the Babylonish captivity lasted seventy years, and during that time the land of Israel rested. Therefore the land rested just as many years in the Babylonish captivity, as it should have rested Sabbaths if the Jews had observed the laws relative to the Sabbaths of the land." This is a most remarkable fact, and deserves to be particularly noticed, as a most literal fulfillment of the prophetic declaration in this verse: Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land. May it not be argued from this that the law concerning the Sabbatical year was observed till Saul's time, as it is only after this period the land enjoyed its rest in the seventy years' captivity? And if that breach of the law was thus punished, may it not be presumed it had been fulfilled till then, or else the captivity would have lasted longer, i. e., till the land had enjoyed all its rests, of which it had ever been thus deprived?
The land of your enemies shall eat you up - Does this refer to the total loss of the ten tribes? These are so completely swallowed up in some enemies' land, that nothing concerning their existence or place of residence remains but mere conjecture.
Neither will I abhor them to destroy them utterly - Though God has literally fulfilled all his threatenings upon this people in dispossessing them of their land, destroying their polity, overturning their city, demolishing their temple, and scattering themselves over the face of the whole earth; yet he has, in his providence, strangely preserved them as a distinct people, and in very considerable numbers also. He still remembers the covenant of their ancestors, and in his providence and grace he has some very important design in their favor. All Israel shall yet be saved, and, with the Gentiles, they shall all be restored to his favor; and under Christ Jesus, the great Shepherd; become, with them, one grand everlasting fold.
These are the statutes, and judgments, etc. - See on Lev 26:15 (note). This verse appears to be the proper concluding verse of the whole book; and I rather think that the 27th chapter originally followed the 25th. As the law was anciently written upon skins of parchment, sheep or goat skins, pasted or stitched together, and all rolled up in one roll, the matter being written in columns, one of those columns might have been very easily displaced, and thus whole chapters might have been readily interchanged - It is likely that this might have been the case in the present instance. Others endeavor to solve this difficulty, by supposing that the 27th chapter was added after the book had been finished; and therefore there is apparently a double conclusion, one at the end of the 26th and the other at the end of the 27th chapter. However the above may have been, all the ancient versions agree in concluding both the chapters in nearly the same way; yet the 26th chapter must be allowed to be by far the most natural conclusion of the book. The most important points in this chapter have already been particularly noticed in the notes; and to those on the 15th, 34th, and 44th verses, the reader is especially referred. How unwilling is God to cast off his people! and yet how sure is their rejection if they refuse to obey and live to him! No nation has ever been so signally elected as the Jews; and yet no nation has ever been so signally and so awfully reprobated. O Britain, be not high-minded, but fear! Behold here the goodness and severity of God!