Leviticus 24 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Leviticus 24
Pulpit Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Verses 1-4. - The ordinance on the lamps contained in the first three verses is repeated from Exodus 27:20. The oil to be used for the lamps was to be pure oil olive, that is, oil made of picked berries, without any intermixture of dust or twigs; and it was to be beaten instead of "pressed," because when the berries were crushed in the olive-press, small portions of them became mixed with and discoloured the oil, which was, therefore, less pure than when the fruit was simply beaten and then left to drain. The lamps were to burn continually; that is, from evening to morning every night. Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation; that is, in the holy place, as distinct from the holy of holies. Aaron, either personally or by his sons (see Exodus 27:21), was to dress the lamps every morning, and light them every evening (Exodus 30:7). The lamps were upon the seven-branched candlestick, which is called the pure candlestick, because made of gold. The light of the seven-branched candlestick symbolized the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, which should illumine God's Church (Zechariah 4:2-6; Revelation 1:12, 20).
Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually.
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.
He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the LORD continually.
And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake.
Verses 5-9. - The shewbread, or bread of the face, that is, of the presence, was to be made of fine flour, that is, of wheat, and to consist of twelve cakes or loaves, to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, each loaf containing upward of six pounds of flour. The loaves were placed upon the pure table before the Lord; that is, on the golden table of shewbread within the sanctuary - which stood not far from the vail which partitioned off the holy of holies - toward the north, as the candlestick was toward the south. The loaves were set, not, probably, in two rows, six on a row, as they could have hardly stood in that position on so small a table as the table of shewbread (which was only three feet by one foot and a half), but in piles, six in a pile. Upon them, or more probably between the two piles, were placed two vials or cups filled with frankincense (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 3:07, 6). The shewbread was renewed every sabbath day, with much ceremony. "Four priests," says the Mishna, "enter, two of them carrying the piles of bread, and two of them the cups of incense. Four priests had gone in before them, two to take off the two old piles of shrewbread, and two to take off the cups of incense. Those who brought in the new stood at the north side facing southwards; those who took away the old, at the south side, facing northwards. One party lifted off and the other put on, the hands of one being over against the hands of the other, as it is written, Thou shalt set upon the table bread of the Passover always before me" ('Men.,' 11:7). The loaves that were removed were delivered to the priests for their consumption within the tabernacle, the whole quantity amounting to seventy-five pounds of bread per week. It was this bread which, in the pressure of necessity, Abimelech gave to David and his men (1 Samuel 21:4-6). At the same time that the old loaves were changed, the frankincense was burned on the golden altar of incense for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. There is nothing in Scripture to prove whether the loaves were leavened or unleavened. As being the meat offering of the tabernacle, we should expect them to be unleavened, like the meat offering of the court, but there was a reason why the meat offering of the court should be unleavened, which did not operate in the case of the shewbread. A part of the ordinary meat offering had to be burnt on the altar of burnt sacrifice; therefore it could not be leavened, because no leaven might be burned on the altar; but the shewbread was not burnt on any altar, and consequently it need not for that reason be unleavened. The two Pentecostal loaves, which were offered to the Lord by waving instead of burning, were leavened. The probabilities derived from Scripture appear to be equally strong on either side. Josephus states that they were unleavened ('Ant.,' 3:06, 6; 10, 7).

CHAPTER 24:10-23 The reason why the narrative of the blasphemer's death (verses 10-23) is introduced in its present connection, is simply that it took place at the point of time which followed the promulgation of the last law. It serves, however, to vindicate by a memorable example the principle which is at the foundation of every Mosaic law. "I am the Lord" is the often-repeated sanction, whether of a moral law or of a ceremonial regulation. But this bastard Israelite, one of the mixed multitude that had followed in the flight from Egypt (Exodus 12:38), blasphemed the Name of the Lord. If such blasphemy were to go unpunished, the obligation of law was dissolved. For, as Lange has said, "A community which suffers the reviling of the principle of their community without reaction, is morally fallen to pieces." He was brought, therefore, to Moses, and so solemn was the occasion, that Moses reserved the case, for which no provision had yet been made, for the special decision of God. The specific judgment on the man is that he shall die by stoning at the hands of the congregation, after the witnesses of his sin had laid their hands upon his head; and a general law is founded on the special case.
And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the LORD.
And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant.
And it shall be Aaron's and his sons'; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the LORD made by fire by a perpetual statute.
And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp;
Verse 10. - The son of an Israelitish woman. This is the only place where the adjective Israelitish is found; and the word "Israelite" only occurs in 2 Samuel 17:25. Whose father was an Egyptian. The man could not, therefore, be a member of the congregation, as, according to the subsequently promulgated law (Deuteronomy 23:8), the descendant of an Egyptian could not be admitted till the third generation. He seems to have committed two offenses which led up to his great crime. First, he went out among the children of Israel, that is, he did not confine himself to his own part of the encampment, where the mixed multitude lived, but he intruded into the part set aside for pure Israelites; and next, having thus put himself already in the wrong, this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp. According to Jewish tradition, the cause of quarrel was a claim set up by the Egypto-Israelite to encamp in the Danite quarters, on the ground that his mother was a Danite - a claim which he insisted on enforcing, although the judges gave a decision against him.
And the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:)
Verse 11. - In the course of the straggle the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed. The word nakav is here rightly translated blasphemeth (cf. verses 14, 16, 23), but the words of the Lord should be omitted, as they are not found in the original, and are not required. The LXX. have rendered nakav by a word meaning pronounced, and on this misunderstanding, adopted by the Jews, has been founded the Jewish precept forbidding the utterance of the Divine Name. Owing to that prohibition, the true pronunciation of the word written and called "Jehovah" has been lost. Wherever the Name occurred in Scripture, that of Adoring, meaning Lord, was substituted for it in public reading, the consonants only of the original name, Y H V H, being preserved in the written text, and the vowels of Adonai, namely a o a, being written underneath them in lieu of the original vowels. From the consonants Y H Y H and the vowels a o a would be formed Yahovah or Jahovah, but the laws of the Hebrew language required the first a to be changed into e, and hence the name Jehovah. It is almost certain that the original vowels were a and e, which would form the name Yahveh, the Samaritans having always so pronounced it, according to the testimony of Theodoret. It is said that the high priest continued to utter the very name Yahveh on the Day of Atonement long after it had ceased to be used in the reading of the Scriptures, and that when he did so, those who heard it prostrated themselves, saying, "Blessed be the Name!" After a time, however, he ceased to pronounce it aloud on that day also, lest it should be learnt and used for magical purposes. In consequence, perhaps, of the substitution of Adonai for Yahveh, the Septuagint version always reads for Yahveh, Κύριος: and the English version the LORD. In French and other versions the name is represented by the Eternal, and it has been proposed to substitute the latter rendering for the Loud in our own version. But it is more than doubtful whether we should then come nearer to the true sense of the original Yahveh, although at first sight it appears that this would be the case. For the word Yahveh is part of the causative form of the verb havah, or hayah, to be; but this verb is not used to express unchangeable or absolute existence, but rather an occurrence: its causative form, therefore, would signify that which brings about events; and the substantive derived from that causative form would signify, not one that eternally exists, but one that providentially governs. For an induction of instances for the further proof of the above meaning of the word Yahveh, we refer the reader to Sir William Martin's essay 'On the Divine Name' ('Semitic Languages,' part 2), from which we transcribe the concluding paragraph. "This view of the Divine Name, to which we are led by the evidence of the Hebrew language itself, is in full conformity with the general religious teaching of the Old Testament, which is practical and moral; setting forth in form readily intelligible, the character of God in his relations to man. It does not concern itself with those problems which philosophy has ever been seeking to solve. It addresses itself to human needs and human duties, and not to abstract inquiries. Not that the highest abstract truths were unknown or untaught. Lawgiver and prophet and psalmist set before the people the greatness and the eternity of God in language most clear and impressive. Yet the Name whereby he was put before them as the object of their daily worship, was not one which would exalt him to the utmost above the frail and changeful and transitory lives of his worshippers, and thereby remove him far away from them into the height of a Being beyond man's search or comprehension; but rather a Name which should bring him nigh to them, as One ever mindful of them, ever carrying forward his great purpose for their good, working for their deliverance in every time of need; as One 'whose providence ordereth all things in heaven and on earth.' If this Name did convey to the mind of a Hebrew hearer the thought above expressed, it follows that the old rendering Adonai, Κύριος, or Lord, is to be preferred to that which has of late been substituted for it." And they brought the blasphemer unto Moses. This was in accordance with the counsel of Jethro, accepted by Moses (Exodus 18:13-26): "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: and let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge:... and they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves."
And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them.
Verse 12. - And they put him in ward. The same course was followed in the case of the man found gathering sticks upon the sabbath day: "And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him" (Numbers 15:34). The same penalty was awarded in both cases.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Verses 13, 14. - Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; - lest the camp should become polluted by his death - and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head. The ceremony of laying on of hands in all cases set apart the person or thing on whom or on which they were laid for some special purpose. Its further signification was determined by the particular circumstances of the case. Here it probably returned back on the head of the blasphemer the guilt which otherwise would have adhered to the witnesses from the fact of their hearing his blasphemy, and appearing to acquiesce in it.
Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.
Verses 15, 16. - In accordance with the judicial decision on the man is framed the general law against blasphemy and its penalty. It runs as follows: Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him. It has been questioned whether two offenses or one are here contemplated, whether cursing his God is one offense, bearing his sin being its punishment, and blaspheming the Name of the Lord another and greater offense, for which the punishment is stoning; or whether the latter offense and punishment are a more specific statement of the offense and punishment which had only generally been described before. Those who take the first view point out that the present offender was an Egyptian, and urge that had he cursed his God, that is, the Egyptian god or gods, he would only have had to bear his sin; but that as he had blasphemed the Name of Israel's God, Jehovah, he was to be stoned. The second explanation, however, is the truer one. The Scriptures recognize but one God, and he is the Lord Jehovah. Whoever curses him shall bear his sin, that is, shall be guilty in such a way that his sin must be purged either by punishment or by sacrifice, and it is then further declared that this particular sin can be purged only by the death of the offender at the hand of the congregation.
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.
And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.
Verse 17. - In close connection with the command to slay the blasphemer is repeated the prohibition of murder, and the injunction that the murderer shall surely be put to death. Thus a distinction is sharply drawn between the judicial sentence carried out by the congregation, and the unsanctioned smiting the life of a man by another, and a warning is given against any man fanatically taking the law into his own hands, even in the case of a blasphemer.
And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast.
Verses 18-21. - A summary of the law respecting minor injuries is added to that respecting murder. He that killeth a man, he shall be put to death, but he that killeth a beast shall make it good; and this lex talionis shall apply to all damage done to another, breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth (see Matthew 5:38).
And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him;
Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.
And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.
Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.
Verse 22. - As it had been a stranger who had on this occasion been the offender, the law, Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country, with the sanction, I am the Lord your God, is emphatically repeated (see chapter Leviticus 19:34).
And Moses spake to the children of Israel, that they should bring forth him that had cursed out of the camp, and stone him with stones. And the children of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.
Verse 23. - The penalty is inflicted on the offender solemnly as an act of the Law, not of mob fury. So it was by a judicial or semi-judicial proceeding that St. Stephen was stoned: "They brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the Law" (Acts 6:12, 13). And in spite of the violence exhibited, there was still some form of law, according to Jewish practice, observed in his stoning (Acts 7:58). In the case of our Lord, on the other hand. when they regarded him as guilty of blasphemy on his saying, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58), and "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30), the Jews "took up stones to cast at him," not waiting for a judicial condemnation, but, as they supposed, taking the law into their own hands. Had his death been by Jewish hands, it would at the last have been by stoning under this law. But the power of life and death had been taken away from the Jews by the Romans, "that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die" (John 18:32).

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