1. And the Lord spoke unto Moses. I have not introduced this declaration amongst other similar ones, which had for their object the preparation of their minds for the reverent reception of the Law, because, whatever conformity there may be in the words themselves, in their substance there is a great difference; for they were general, whereas this is specially confined to a single point. For it was not God’s intention here merely to exhort the people to the study of the Law, but the address respecting the keeping of His statutes is directed to the present cause, since He does not refer indifferently to all the statutes of Himself and of the Gentiles, but restricts Himself to the subject-matter, as it is called; and thus, by the statutes of the Gentiles, He means those corruptions whereby they had perverted His pure institution as to holy matrimony. First, however, tie forbids them from following the customs of the Egyptians, and then includes all the Canaanitish nations. For, since all the Orientals are libidinous, they never had any scruple in polluting themselves by incestuous marriages; whilst it is abundantly proved by history, how great were the excesses of the Egyptians in this respect. A brother had no abhorrence against marrying his uterine sister, nor a paternal or maternal uncle his niece; in a word, they were so dead to. shame that they were carried away by their lusts to trample upon all the laws of nature. This is the reason why God here enumerates the kinds of incest of which the mention would else have been superfluous.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
I am the Lord your God — This renewed mention of the divine sovereignty over the Israelites was intended to bear particularly on some laws that were widely different from the social customs that obtained both in Egypt and Canaan; for the enormities, which the laws enumerated in this chapter were intended to put down, were freely practiced or publicly sanctioned in both of those countries; and, indeed, the extermination of the ancient Canaanites is described as owing to the abominations with which they had polluted the land.
I am, the Lord your God – The frequent repetition of this formula in these parts of the Law may be intended to keep the Israelites in mind of their covenant with Yahweh in connection with the common affairs of life, in which they might be tempted to look at legal restrictions in a mere secular light.
The doings of the land of Egypt – the land of Canaan – The worshipping of demons, beasts, etc., as mentioned in the preceding chapter, Lev_17:7, and the abominations mentioned in this chapter from Lev_18:21-23.
4. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments. Because it is no less difficult to correct vices, to which men have been long accustomed, than to cure diseases of long standing, especially because people in general so pertinaciously cleave to bad examples, God adduces His statutes, in order to recall the people from the errors of their evil habits into the right way. For nothing is more absurd than for us to fix our minds on the actions of men, and not on God’s word, in which is to be found the rule of a holy life. It is, therefore, just as if God would overthrow whatever had been received from long custom, and abolish the universal consent of the world by the authority of His doctrine. With this object He commands His Law to be regarded not once only, as we have already seen, lest the Israelites should abandon themselves to filthy lusts; but He diligently inculcates upon them, that they should turn away from all abuses, and keep themselves within the bounds and ordinances of His Law. And to this refers the expression, “I am the Lord your God;” containing a comparison between Himself and the heathen nations, between whom and His people He had interposed, as it were, a wall of partition.
Lev 18:4 Ye shall do my judgments,…. Which are just and right, and according to the rules of justice and equity; these are things, as Jarchi observes, which are said in the law with judgment, or are laws framed with the highest reason, even by the judgment of God himself, whose judgment is always according to truth: Aben Ezra thinks, these are the judicial laws in Exo_21:1; but though they may include them, they have more particular respect to the following laws:
and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: which he had ordained and appointed of his own will and pleasure, which Jarchi calls the decree of the king, or which he decreed and determined as a king, having absolute power over his subjects to enact and enjoin what he pleased; wherefore some think these refer to ceremonial laws, which depended upon the will of the lawgiver, and were not founded in any natural sense or reason, wherefore it follows:
I am the Lord your God: who had a right to make what laws he pleased, being their Sovereign, and which they in gratitude as well as in justice ought to obey, he being their God, their covenant God, who had done great and good things for them.
5. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes. Although Moses introduces this passage, where he exhorts the Israelites to cultivate chastity in respect to marriage, and not to fall into the incestuous pollutions of the Gentiles, yet, as it is a remarkable one, and contains general instruction, from whence Paul derives his definition of the righteousness of the Law, (Rom_10:5,) it seems to me to come in very appropriately here, inasmuch as it sanctions and confirms the Law by the promise of reward. The hope of eternal life is, therefore, given to all who keep the Law; for those who expound the passage as referring to this earthly and transitory life are mistaken. The cause of this error was, because they feared that thus the righteousness of faith might be subverted, and salvation grounded on the merit of works. But Scripture does not therefore deny that men are justified by works, because the Law itself is imperfect, or does not give instructions for perfect righteousness; but because the promise is made of none effect by our corruption and sin. Paul, therefore, as I have just said, when he teaches that righteousness is to be sought for in the grace of Christ by faith, (Rom_10:4,) proves his statement by this argument, that none is justified who has not fulfilled what the Law commands. Elsewhere also he reasons by contrast, where he contends that the Law does not accord with faith as regards the cause of justification, because the Law requires works for the attainment of salvation, whilst faith directs us to Christ, that we may be delivered from the curse of the Law. Foolishly, then, do some reject as an absurdity the statement, that if a man fulfills the Law he attains to righteousness; for the defect does not arise from the doctrine of the Law, but from the infirmity of men, as is plain from another testimony given by Paul. (Rom_8:3.) We must observe, however, that salvation is not to be expected from the Law unless its precepts be in every respect complied with; for life is not promised to one who shall have done this thing, or that thing, but, by the plural word, full obedience is required of us. The pratings of the Popish theologians about partial righteousness are frivolous and silly, since God embraces at once all the commandments; and who is there that can boast of having thoroughly fulfilled them? If, then, none was ever clear of transgression, or ever will be, although God by no means deceives us, yet the promise becomes ineffectual, because we do not perform our part of the agreement.
He shall live in them; not only happily here, but also eternally hereafter, as it is expounded Mat_19:17 Rom_10:5. This is added as a powerful argument why they should follow God’s commands rather than men’s examples, because their life and happiness depends upon the one, not the other. And though in strictness, and according to the law or covenant of works, they could not challenge life for doing, except their obedience was universal, perfect, constant, and perpetual, and therefore no man since the fall could be justified by the law, as the apostle affirms and proves, Ro 4 Ga 3; yet by the covenant of grace this life is promised to all that obey God’s commands sincerely, though not perfectly, 1Ti_4:8.
If a man keeps the “statutes” (i. e. the ordinances of Lev_18:4) and “judgments” of the divine law, he shall not be “cut off from his people” (compare Lev_18:29), he shall gain true life, the life which connects him with Yahweh through his obedience. See the margin reference and Luk_10:28; Rom_10:5; Gal_3:12.
The object of this passage is the same as that of the foregoing ones. For, whilst all fornication pollutes a man, there is grosser impurity in adultery, because the sanctity of marriage is violated, and by the commingling of seed a spurious and illegitimate offspring is derived. Wherefore, God has justly enumerated this crime amongst the abominations of the Gentiles, as may be more clearly seen from the exordium of the chapter from whence this passage is taken.
Lev 18:20 Moreover, thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s wife,…. Which is adultery, and a breach of the seventh command, Exo_20:14,
to defile thyself with her; not only adultery is a defiling a man’s wife, as it is sometimes called, but the adulterer defiles himself: all sin is of a defiling nature, but especially this, which defiles a man both in soul and body, and brings a blot and stain upon his character, which shall not be wiped off, Pro_6:32.
18:21.Thou shalt not let any of thy seed.In these three precepts Moses more lightly touches on what we have lately seen set forth at greater length in Deuteronomy; for there he condemns impious offerings, as well as the responses of familiar spirits, magical arts, and enchantments. He now in the first place adverts to adulterous sacrifices, especially to that impure and detestable service of consecrating their children to Moloch, as they called him, the idol of the Gentiles; and then adds a prohibition, that they should give no heed to false revelations. But in these two passages of Leviticus he only enumerates two classes, viz., to use auguries and divinations, and to seek responses from familiar spirits, and to consult magicians or enchanters; yet he includes all the others of which we have previously spoken. And, lest they should think the crime a light one, he says that all they are “defiled” who devote themselves to this kind of curiosity. The confirmation, which is added at the end of both clauses, has relation to the sum of the First Commandment; for when God declares Himself to be “Jehovah, and the God of Israel,” he both claims the worship which is due to Him alone, and also condemns all the superstitions whereby pure religion is adulterated. There is also an antithesis implied, in which God contrasts Himself with all fictitious idols; and therefore the words may be thus paraphrased, — Since I am the eternal God, and separated from all others which the Gentiles foolishly make to themselves, and since I have chosen you to myself as my peculiar people, I would have you, as you ought to be, pure and separated from all defilements.
Lev 18:21 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech,…. The name of an image or idol, according to Aben Ezra, who observes, that their wise men interpret it as a general name for everyone whom they made to reign over them; and it is right, he says, that it is the abomination of the children of Ammon, and so the same with Milcom, 1Ki_11:5; and with Baal, as appears from Jer_32:35; and they are both of much the same signification, the one signifies a king, the other a lord; and perhaps is the same with the Melicarthus of Sanchoniatho (y), who is also Hercules; to whom Pliny says (z) that the Phoenicians offered human sacrifices every year: of Molech; see Gill on Jer_7:31, Amo_1:13; by “seed” is meant children and offspring; and because the word “fire” is not in the original text, some, as Aben Ezra observes, explain the phrase, “let to pass through”, of their causing them to pass from the law of God to the religion of Molech, or of devoting them to his service and worship; but the word “fire” is rightly supplied, as it may be from Deu_18:10; and the same writer says, the phrase to pass through is the same as to burn; but though this they sometimes did, even burn their infants, and sacrificed them to idols, 2Ch_28:3; yet this seems to be something short of that, and to be done in the manner, as Jarchi and other Jewish writers (a) relate; who say, the father delivered his son to the priests (of Molech) and they made two great fires, and caused the son to pass on foot between the two fires, which was a kind of a lustration, and so of a dedication of them to the idol; though it must be owned that both were done; yea, that both the phrases of passing through the fire, and of burning, are used promiscuously of the same, see 2Ki_16:3; compared with 2Ch_28:3 and also Eze_16:20; and they might be both done at different times, or the one previous and in order to the other; and perhaps they might cause the child so often and so long to pass through the fire, as that at last it was burnt and destroyed:
neither shall thou profane the name of thy God; who had given them children, and to whom they ought to have devoted them, and in whose service they should have trained them up to the honour of his name; but instead of that profaned it, by the above idolatrous and cruel usages:
I am the Lord; who would avenge such a profanation of his name.
(y) Apud, Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 1. p. 38. (z) Nat. Hist. l. 36. c. 5. (a) Ben Melech in loc. Kimchii Sepher Shorash. rad. מלך.
Pass through the fire to Molech – The name of this idol is mentioned for the first time in this place. As the word מלח molech or melech signifies king or governor, it is very likely that this idol represented the sun; and more particularly as the fire appears to have been so much employed in his worship. There are several opinions concerning the meaning of passing through the fire to Molech.
1. Some think that the semen humanum was offered on the fire to this idol.
2. Others think that the children were actually made a burnt-offering to him.
3. But others suppose the children were not burnt, but only passed through the fire, or between two fires, by way of consecration to him.
That some were actually burnt alive to this idol several scriptures, according to the opinion of commentators, seem strongly to intimate; see among others, Psa_106:38; Jer_7:31, and Eze_23:37-39. That others were only consecrated to his service by passing between two fires the rabbins strongly assert; and if Ahaz had but one son, Hezekiah, (though it is probable he had others, see 2Ch_28:3), he is said to have passed through the fire to Molech, 2Ki_16:3, yet he succeeded his father in the kingdom, 2Ki_18:1, therefore this could only be a consecration, his idolatrous father intending thereby to initiate him early into the service of this demon. See Clarke’s note on Lev_20:2.
1. The Name:
The name of a heathen divinity whose worship figures largely in the later history of the kingdom of Judah. As the national god of the Ammonites, he is known as “Milcom” (1Ki_11:5, 1Ki_11:7), or “Malcam” (“Malcan” is an alternative reading in 2Sa_12:30, 2Sa_12:31; compare Jer_49:1, Jer_49:3; Zep_1:5, where the Revised Version margin reads “their king”). The use of βασιλευς, basileus, and αρχων, archon, as a translation of the name by the Septuagint suggests that it may have been originally the Hebrew word for “king,” melekh. Molech is obtained from melekh by the substitution of the vowel points of Hebrew bosheth, signifying “shame.” From the obscure and difficult passage, Amo_5:26, the Revised Version (British and American) has removed “your Moloch” and given “your king,” but Septuagint had here translated “Moloch,” and from the Septuagint it found its way into the Acts (Act_7:43), the only occurrence of the name in the New Testament.
2. The Worship in Old Testament History:
In the Levitical ordinances delivered to the Israelites by Moses there are stern prohibitions of Molech-worship (Lev_18:21; Lev_20:2-5). Parallel to these prohibitions, although the name of the god is not mentioned, are those of the Deuteronomic Code where the abominations of the Canaanites are forbidden, and the burning of their sons and daughters in the fire (to Molech) is condemned as the climax of their wickedness (Deu_12:31; Deu_18:10-13). The references to Malcam, and to David’s causing the inhabitants of Rabbath Ammon to pass through the brick kiln (2Sa_12:30, 2Sa_12:31), are not sufficiently clear to found upon, because of the uncertainty of the readings. Solomon, under the influence of his idolatrous wives, built high places for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom, the abomination of the children of Ammon. Because of this apostasy it was intimated by the prophet Ahijah, that the kingdom was to be rent out of the hand of Solomon, and ten tribes given to Jeroboam (1Ki_11:31-33). These high places survived to the time of Josiah, who, among his other works of religious reformation, destroyed and defiled them, filling their places with the bones of men (2Ki_23:12-14). Molech-worship had evidently received a great impulse from Ahaz, who, like Ahab of Israel, was a supporter of foreign religions (2Ki_16:12 ff). He also “made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations, whom Yahweh cast out from before the children of Israel” (2Ki_16:3). His grandson Manasseh, so far from following in the footsteps of his father Hezekiah, who had made great reforms in the worship, reared altars for Baal, and besides other abominations which he practiced, made his son to pass through the fire (2Ki_21:6). The chief site of this worship, of which Ahaz and Manasseh were the promoters, was Topheth in the Valley of Hinnom, or, as it is also called, the Valley of the Children, or of the Son of Hinnom, lying to the Southwest of Jerusalem. Of Josiah’s reformation it is said that “he defiled Topheth … that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech” (2Ki_23:10).
3. The Worship in the Prophets:
Even Josiah’s thorough reformation failed to extirpate the Molech-worship, and it revived and continued till the destruction of Jerusalem, as we learn from the prophets of the time. From the beginning, the prophets maintained against it a loud and persistent protest. The testimony of Amos (Amo_1:15; Amo_5:26) is ambiguous, but most of the ancient versions for malkam, “their king,” in the former passage, read milkom, the national god of Ammon (see Davidson, in the place cited.). Isaiah was acquainted with Topheth and its abominations (Isa_30:33; Isa_57:5). Over against his beautiful and lofty description of spiritual religion, Micah sets the exaggerated zeal of those who ask in the spirit of the Molech-worshipper: “Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Mic_6:6 ff). That Molech-worship had increased in the interval may account for the frequency and the clearness of the references to it in tile later Prophets. In Jeremiah we find the passing of sons and daughters through the fire to Molech associated with the building of “the high places of Baal, which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom” (Jer_32:35; compare Jer_7:31 ff; Jer_19:5 ff). In his oracle against the children of Ammon, the same prophet, denouncing evil against their land, predicts (almost in the very words of Amos above) that Malcam shall go into captivity, his priests and his princes together (Jer_49:1, Jer_49:3). Ezekiel, speaking to the exiles in Babylon, refers to the practice of causing children to pass through the fire to heathen divinities as long established, and proclaims the wrath of God against it (Eze_16:20 f; Eze_20:26, Eze_20:31; Eze_23:37). That this prophet regarded the practice as among the “statutes that were not good, and ordinances wherein they should not live” (Eze_20:25) given by God to His people, by way of deception and judicial punishment, as some hold, is highly improbable and inconsistent with the whole prophetic attitude toward it. Zephaniah, who prophesied to the men who saw the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah, denounces God’s judgments upon the worshippers of false gods (Zep_1:5 f). He does not directly charge his countrymen with having forsaken Yahweh for Malcam, but blames them, because worshipping Him they also swear to Malcam, like those Assyrian colonists in Samaria who feared Yahweh and served their own gods, or like those of whom Ezekiel elsewhere speaks who, the same day on which they had slain their children to their idols, entered the sanctuary of Yahweh to profane it (Eze_23:39). The captivity in Babylon put an end to Molech-worship, since it weaned the people from all their idolatries. We do not hear of it in the post-exilic Prophets, and, in the great historical psalm of Israel’s rebelliousness and God’s deliverances (Ps 106), it is only referred to in retrospect (Psa_106:37, Psa_106:38).
4. The Nature of the Worship:
When we come to consider the nature of this worship it is remarkable how few details are given regarding it in Scripture. The place where it was practiced from the days of Ahaz and Manasseh was the Valley of Hinnom where Topheth stood, a huge altar-pyre for the burning of the sacrificial victims. There is no evidence connecting the worship with the temple in Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s vision of sun-worshippers in the temple is purely ideal (Ezek 8). A priesthood is spoken of as attached to the services (Jer_49:3; compare Zep_1:4, Zep_1:5). The victims offered to the divinity were not burnt alive, but were killed as sacrifices, and then presented as burnt offerings. “To pass through the fire” has been taken to mean a lustration or purification of the child by fire, not involving death. But the prophets clearly speak of slaughter and sacrifice, and of high places built to burn the children in the fire as burnt offerings (Jer_19:5; Eze_16:20, Eze_16:21).
The popular conception, molded for English readers largely by Milton’s “Moloch, horrid king” as described in Paradise Lost, Book I, is derived from the accounts given in late Latin and Greek writers, especially the account which Diodorus Siculus gives in his History of the Carthaginian Kronos or Moloch. The image of Moloch was a human figure with a bull’s head and outstretched arms, ready to receive the children destined for sacrifice. The image of metal was heated red hot by a fire kindled within, and the children laid on its arms rolled off into the fiery pit below. In order to drown the cries of the victims, flutes were played, and drums were beaten; and mothers stood by without tears or sobs, to give the impression of the voluntary character of the offering (see Rawlinson’s Phoenicia, 113 f, for fuller details).
On the question of the origin of this worship there is great variety of views. Of a non-Sem origin there is no evidence; and there is no trace of human sacrifices in the old Babylonian religion. That it prevailed widely among Semitic peoples is clear.
5. Origin and Extent of the Worship:
While Milcom or Malcam is peculiarly the national god of the Ammonites, as is Chemosh of the Moabites, the name Molech or Melech was recognized among the Phoenicians, the Philistines, the Arameans, and other Semitic peoples, as a name for the divinity they worshipped from a very early time. That it was common among the Canaanites when the Israelites entered the land is evident from the fact that it was among the abominations from which they were to keep themselves free. That it was identical at first with the worship of Yahweh, or that the prophets and the best men of the nation ever regarded it as the national worship of Israel, is a modern theory which does not appear to the present writer to have been substantiated. It has been inferred from Abraham’s readiness to offer up Isaac at the command of God, from the story of Jephthah and his daughter, and even from the sacrifice of Hiel the Bethelite (1Ki_16:34), that human sacrifice to Yahweh was an original custom in Israel, and that therefore the God of Israel was no other than Moloch, or at all events a deity of similar character. But these incidents are surely too slender a foundation to support such a theory. “The fundamental idea of the heathen rite was the same as that which lay at the foundation of Hebrew ordinance: the best to God; but by presenting to us this story of the offering of Isaac, and by presenting it in this precise form, the writer simply teaches the truth, taught by all the prophets, that to obey is better than sacrifice – in other words that the God worshipped in Abraham’s time was a God who did not delight in destroying life, but in saving and sanctifying it” (Robertson, Early Religion of Israel, 254). While there is no ground for identifying Yahweh with Moloch, there are good grounds for seeing a community of origin between Moloch and Baal. The name, the worship, and the general characteristics are so similar that it is natural to assign them a common place of origin in Phoenicia. The fact that Moloch-worship reached the climax of its abominable cruelty in the Phoenician colonies of which Carthage was the center shows that it had found among that people a soil suited to its peculiar genius.
We learn from these passages that the people were not only prohibited from adultery, but also from all sins which are repugnant to the modesty of nature itself. In order that all impurity may be the more detestable, He enumerates two species of unnatural lust, from whence it is evident that when men indulge themselves in this respect, they are carried away by an impulse, which is more than beastly, to defile themselves by shameful wickedness. The beasts are satisfied with natural connection; it is therefore a gross enormity that this distinction should be confounded by man endowed with reason; for what is the use of our judgment and intelligent faculties if it be not that greater self-restraint should exist in us than in the brute animals? It is plain, therefore, that they must be blinded in a horrible manner who so shamefully defile themselves, as Paul says. (Rom_1:28.) The madness of lust has, however, invented several monstrous vices, whose names it would be better to bury, if God had not chosen that these shameful monuments should exist, to inspire us with fear and horror. It has at length advanced to such excesses, that men created in God’s image, both male and female, have had connection with brutes.
Lev 18:23 Neither shall thou lie with any beast, to defile thyself therewith,…. A female one, as Aben Ezra notes, as a mare, cow, or ewe, or any other beast, small or great, as Ben Gersom, or whether tame or wild, as Maimonides (b); and even fowls are comprehended, as the same writers observe:
neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: that is, stand before a beast, and by a lascivious and obscene behaviour solicit the beast to a congress with her, and then lie down after the manner of four-footed beasts, as the word signifies, that it may have carnal copulation with her: for a man to lie with a beast is most shocking and detestable, but for a woman to solicit such an unnatural mixture is most horrible and astonishing: perhaps reference may be had to a most shocking practice among the Egyptians, from among whom the Israelites were lately come, and whose doings they were not to imitate, Lev_18:3; and which may account for this law, as Bishop Patrick observes: at Mendes, in Egypt, a goat was worshipped, as has been remarked Lev_18:7; and where the women used to lie with such creatures, as Strabo (c) and Aelianus (d) from Pindar have related; yea, Herodotus (e) reports, of his own knowledge, that a goat had carnal copulation with a woman openly, in the view of all, in his time; and though that creature is a most lascivious and lustful one, yet, as Bochart (f) from Plutarch has observed, when it is provoked by many and beautiful women, is not inclined and ready to come into their embraces, but shows some abhorrence of it: nature in brutes, as that learned man observes, is often more prevalent in them than in mankind:
it is confusion; a mixing of the seed of man and beast together, a blending of different kinds of creatures, a perverting the order of nature, and introducing the utmost confusion of beings, from whence monsters in nature may arise.
(b) Hilchot Issure Biah, c. 1. sect. 16. (c) Geograph. l. 17. p. 551. (d) De Animal. l. 7. c. 19. (e) Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 46. (f) Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 2. c. 53. col. 642.
Defile not yourselves in any of these things. An old proverb says, that good laws have sprung from evil habits; and God reminds us that for this reason He has been induced expressly to advert to these disgusting and wicked things; for the monstrosities which He mentions would have been concealed in eternal silence had not necessity compelled Him to bring them to light. But since the Canaanitish nations had advanced to such a pitch of licentiousness, that the prodigious sins, which else would have been better concealed, had been but too familiarly known from their wicked habits, God warns His people to beware of their fatal examples. First, when He says that these abominations prevailed amongst the Gentiles, He indicates that evil habits by no means avail as an excuse; nay, that public consent is in vain alleged in defense of vice. But the better to deter them from imitating them, He sets before their eyes the vengeance He is about to take. It is true, indeed, that the nations of Canaan were destroyed for other reasons, but it is not without cause that He sets forth this amongst the rest, for undoubtedly God was offended by such pollutions.
The land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants – This is a very nervous prosopopoeia or personification; a figure by which any part of inanimate nature may be represented as possessing the passions and reason of man. Here the land is represented as an intelligent being, with a deep and refined sense of moral good and evil: information concerning the abominations of the people is brought to this personified land, with which it is so deeply affected that a nausea is produced, and it vomits out its abominable and accursed inhabitants. It was natural for the inspired penman to make use of such a figure, as the description he was obliged to give of so many and enormous abominations must have affected him nearly in the same way in which he represents the land to be affected.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it; and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants — The Canaanites, as enormous and incorrigible sinners, were to be exterminated; and this extermination was manifestly a judicial punishment inflicted by a ruler whose laws had been grossly and perseveringly outraged. But before a law can be disobeyed, it must have been previously in existence; and hence a law, prohibiting all the horrid crimes enumerated above – a law obligatory upon the Canaanites as well as other nations – was already known and in force before the Levitical law of incest was promulgated. Some general law, then, prohibiting these crimes must have been published to mankind at a very early period of the world’s history; and that law must either have been the moral law, originally written on the human heart, or a law on the institution of marriage revealed to Adam and known to the Canaanites and others by tradition or otherwise.
26. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes He here contrasts His Law with the abominations of the Gentiles. The exhibition of His severity, which He had referred to, might indeed have sufficed for the instruction of His people; but in order to influence them more strongly, He at the same time adduces the way pointed out to them in the Law, which would not suffer them to go astray, if only they refused not to follow God. For that the Gentiles, who were destitute of light, should have been drawn aside in every direction was not surprising; but whilst they thus proved their blindness, it behooved true believers, on the contrary, to testify that they were not children of darkness, but of light. And to this Paul seems to allude, when he exhorts believers not to walk, like the Gentiles, “in the vanity of their mind.” (Eph_4:17.) On this account God not only commends to them His precepts and statutes, but also His ordinances (custodias,) because He had omitted nothing in the Law which would be useful for the direction of men’s lives. The sum is, that unless they order themselves constantly by the doctrine which enlightens them, the same destruction awaited them also which was about to overwhelm the (Canaanitish) nations.
Lev 20:6 The soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits,…. The man or woman that has respect unto them, seeks after them, and inquires of them, in order to get knowledge of things:
and after wizards who pretend to tell fortunes, and discover lost and stolen goods; see Gill on Lev_19:31,
to go a whoring after them; for to consult them is to forsake the Lord, and have recourse to Satan and his instruments; to relinquish their trust in God, and put confidence in them, and attribute such things to them as only belong to God, even the knowledge of things future; and this is to commit idolatry, which is spiritual adultery:
I will even set my face against that soul; show like resentment and indignation as at him that gives his seed to Molech:
and will cut him off from among his people; in case his people do not bear witness against him, but hide their eyes, and wink at his crimes, or the civil magistrate does not condemn and punish him; the Targum of Jonathan is,”I will destroy him by the pestilence.”
Jamieson,Fausset, and Brown
Regard not them that have familiar spirits — The Hebrew word, rendered “familiar spirit,” signifies the belly, and sometimes a leathern bottle, from its similarity to the belly. It was applied in the sense of this passage to ventriloquists, who pretended to have communication with the invisible world. The Hebrews were strictly forbidden to consult them as the vain but high pretensions of those impostors were derogatory to the honor of God and subversive of their covenant relations with Him as His people.
A familiar spirit – A spirit or demon, which, by magical rites, is supposed to be bound to appear at the call of his employer. See the notes on Gen_41:8; Exo_7:11 (note), Exo_7:22 (note), Exo_7:25 (note); and Lev_19:31 (note). From the accounts we have of the abominations both of Egypt and Canaan, we may blush for human nature; for wherever it is without cultivation, and without the revelation of God, it is every thing that is vile in principle and detestable in practice. Nor would any part of the habitable globe materially differ from Egypt and Canaan, had they not that rule of righteousness, the revealed Law of God, and had not life and immortality been brought to light by the Gospel among them. From these accounts, for which we could easily find parallels in ancient Greece and Italy, we may see the absolute need of a Divine revelation, without which man, even in his best estate, differs little from the brute.
Keil and Delitzsch
For the Israelites were to sanctify themselves, i.e., to keep themselves pure from all idolatrous abominations, to be holy because Jehovah was holy (Lev_11:44; Lev_19:2), and to keep the statutes of their God who sanctified them (Exo_31:13).