Leviticus 26
Benson Commentary
Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 26:1-2. The substance of their religious laws are here recapitulated in two chief articles, on which all the rest very much depended; and God, by Moses, inculcates upon them, 1st, A careful abhorrence of all idolatrous worship, especially that of image-worship of every kind, which had often been forbidden before; and, 2d, An exact celebration of the sabbath, and all other religious festivals; and a punctual regard to God’s worship, according to the stated ordinances to be observed in the tabernacle service; and all this as a means to preserve them from the corruptions and superstitions of the rest of the world.

Ye shall make no idols — Hebrew, אלילם elilim, things of naught; the same word which occurs Leviticus 19:4. Nor graven image — פסל, phesel; which signifies any image hewn out of wood or stone. These images, being consecrated by certain ceremonies, were conceived to be shrines or mansions of some deity, and upon that account were worshipped by the Gentiles. A standing image — These were a kind of rude stones or pillars which the heathen erected to their gods, and to which they paid divine honours. Any image of stone — אבן משׁכית, Eben mashchith; stone of figure, device, or portraiture; or figured stone, or stone of picture, as we read in the margin; like those in use among the Egyptians, which were full of hieroglyphics, expressing some fancied perfections of their gods. Some, without any authority from the original, would render the words, a stone set up. The simply setting up pillars, or even images, was not prohibited; but only the setting them up to worship them.

Reverence my sanctuary — By purging and preserving it from all uncleanness, by approaching to it, and managing all the services of it with reverence, and in such manner only as God hath appointed.

Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;
Leviticus 26:3-4. If ye walk in my statutes, &c. — In reward of their obedience, God promises them temporal prosperity in every instance that could render a nation happy. And, first, he assures them they should have fruitful seasons, here expressed by giving them rain in due time — Because, in Canaan and Syria, they were wont to have hardly any rain but at two stated seasons; in the end of autumn, at seed-time; and in spring, before harvest; termed the former and latter rain, Jeremiah 5:24; without which, the year was quite barren. For God did not place his people in a land where there were such rivers as the Nile to water it, and render it fruitful; but in a land which depended wholly upon the rain of heaven, the key whereof God kept in his own hand, that so he might the more effectually oblige them to obedience, in which their happiness consisted.

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.
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.
Leviticus 26:5. Threshing shall reach unto the vintage, &c. — That is, you shall have such plenty of corn, that before you shall have reaped and threshed it out, the vintage will be ready; and before you shall have pressed out your wine it will be time to sow again. Thus they should scarcely have time enough to receive one blessing before another came upon them. A similar promise is made Amos 9:13; The ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed.

And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.
Leviticus 26:6. I will give peace in the land, &c. — As God promises to bless them with plenty, so also to protect them in the secure enjoyment of it. None shall make you afraid — You shall be kept from the invasions of enemies from abroad, and from the annoyance of man and beast at home. A very beautiful and striking picture this of national tranquillity.

And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.
And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
Leviticus 26:8-9. Five of you shall chase a hundred — A proverbial expression, signifying that a small number of them should be an over-match for many of their enemies. I will establish my covenant — Will actually perform all that I have promised in my covenant made with you.

For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.
And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new.
And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.
Leviticus 26:11-13. I will set my tabernacle among you — To crown all their blessings, God promises that his special presence, whereof the tabernacle was a symbol, should abide with them. I will walk among you — As I have hitherto done, both by my pillar of cloud and fire, and by my tabernacle, which have walked or gone along with you in all your journeys, and stayed among you in all your stations, to protect, conduct, instruct, and comfort you. And I will own you for that peculiar people which I have singled out of mankind, to bless you here, and to save you hereafter. Made you go upright — With heads lifted up, not pressed down with a yoke. It denotes their liberty, security, confidence, and glory.

And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.
I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright.
But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;
Leviticus 26:14. If ye will not hearken, &c. — If, notwithstanding these great promises, which were designed to work upon their gratitude and obedience, they should generally become transgressors of his laws, God threatens that they should be visited with as extraordinary plagues; with poverty and vexation at home, and alarms of war and destruction from foreign enemies, such as would dispirit and rob them of all true comfort, even in the land of promise.

And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant:
Leviticus 26:15. Break my covenant — That is, your part of the covenant made between me and you, and thereby discharge me from giving you the blessings promised on my part.

I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.
Leviticus 26:16. I will appoint over you terror — The original word, בהלה, behalah, properly signifies a sudden and grievous consternation, and may be intended to denote that slavish fear, pusillanimity, and dejection which are consequent on the loss of confidence in God, and the testimony of a good conscience. Consumption — The word שׁחפת, shachpeth, thus rendered here, and Deuteronomy 28:22, is of very uncertain signification. In the Septuagint it is translated ψωραν, psoran, a scab, scall, the itch, or some cutaneous eruption, perhaps the small pox, or some such grievous complaint. The burning ague (or fever, as the word קדחת, kaddachath evidently signifies) that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart — Two remarkable effects of this distemper, when it continues long. It eminently weakens the sight, and sinks the spirits. All chronical diseases are here included in the consumption, all acute in the burning ague or fever.

And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.
And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.
And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
Leviticus 26:19-20. The pride of your power — That is, your strength, of which you are proud, your numerous and united forces, your kingdom, yea, your ark and sanctuary. I will make your heaven as iron — The heavens shall yield you no rain, nor the earth, fruits. Your strength shall be spent in vain — In ploughing, and sowing, and tilling the ground.

And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.
And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins.
Leviticus 26:21. If ye walk contrary to me — Hebrews קרי, keri, from קרה, karah, it happened. If ye walk with me by accident, or chance, or, as it happens. The ancient versions, however, favour our translation: according to which rendering, the word implies contumacy, or continuing to rebel against God after he should chastise them for their sins, Job 15:25. The Jews follow the other sense, and expound it of those who, when they are afflicted by God, look on their sufferings as casual and contingent things, rather than as divine chastisements, to correct, amend, and bring them to repentance. Seven times more plagues — I will visit your obstinate impenitence with new and more grievous plagues.

I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.
And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me;
Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.
Leviticus 26:24. I will walk contrary to you — Hebrews I will walk with you by chance; an Hebraism, importing that God would seem to leave their affairs in apparent disorder, as if they were no more the objects of his providential care. To those who regard not the operation of God’s hands, he appears unconcerned about human affairs; but those who have spiritual discernment, and understand the secret ways of providence, will see reason to believe that there is a spirit within, full of eyes, which guides and directs the wheels of that vast machine, even where others discern nothing but irregularity and confusion.

And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.
Leviticus 26:25. To avenge the quarrel of my covenant — That is, my quarrel with you for your breach of your covenant made with me. When you are gathered — Hebrews And ye shall be gathered into your cities, &c.; that is, you shall not dare to abide in the country, but shall be forced to flee from the sword of your enemies into your fortified towns, and leave your villages a prey to them.

And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied.
Leviticus 26:26. When I have broken the staff of your bread — By sending a famine, or scarcity of bread, which is the staff and support of man’s present life. Ten women — That is, ten or many families, for the women took care for the bread and food of all the family. By weight — This is a sign and consequence both of a famine, and of the baking of the bread of several families together in one oven, wherein each family took care to weigh their bread, and to receive the same proportion which they put in.

And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me;
Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.
Leviticus 26:28. I will walk contrary to you in fury, &c. — Your obstinate contempt of my laws shall be punished with new and more grievous plagues; which was fulfilled in their captivity in the days of Manasseh, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah. For these latter calamities were at least seven times greater, both for extent and duration, than the former which they suffered from the Philistines and neighbouring nations.

And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.
Leviticus 26:29. Ye shall eat the flesh of your sons — Through extreme hunger. This is the very utmost calamity that could come upon a people. See it described at large, and in the most lively colours, Deuteronomy 28:53-57. It was fulfilled, first in the siege of Samaria, 2 Kings 6:29; next in the siege of Jerusalem before the Babylonish captivity, Lamentations 4:10; and finally, in the last destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.
Leviticus 26:30. Your high places — In which you will sacrifice after the manner of the heathen. And cut down your images — חמניכם, chamanechem; some would translate this, your temples of the sun; from חמה, chammah, heat, or the sun. But although they worshipped the host of heaven, 2

Kings Leviticus 17:16; and 2 Chronicles 33:3-5; and we read of altars dedicated to them, and of horses and chariots of the sun, 2 Kings 23:11; it does not appear that they ever had any temples dedicated to the sun, unless the chariots of the sun might be so called, which some have understood to be domus vel sacella facta instar curruum, little chapels made after the form of chariots. Buxtorf renders the word, translated images in this verse, subdiales statuæ, statues placed in the open air, and exposed to the sun; and quotes R. Salomon as describing them to be images which they placed on the roofs of their houses, and termed חמנים, chammanim. Carcasses of your idols — Hebrews your dung-hill idols, from גללgalal, dung. Le Clerc understands it of those animals which the Israelites had worshipped, in imitation of the Egyptians; and is of opinion, that God here threatens, that if ever they relapsed into that beastly idolatry, their carcasses should be shamefully exposed in the streets with the carcasses of their idols. But the word carcasses may signify the ruins of their idols in general; the broken pieces of their images. Or this word may be made use of to signify that their idols, how specious soever, or glorious in their eyes, were in truth but lifeless and contemptible carcasses, and should be so far from helping them, that they should be thrown down and broken with them, and both should lie together in a forlorn and loathsome state. See a similar threatening, Ezekiel 6:4-13; and Jeremiah 8:1-2. It was in part fulfilled by Josiah, 2 Chronicles 34:5; and 2 Kings 23:20.

And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.
Leviticus 26:31. Your sanctuaries into desolation — The sanctuary of God, though but one, is expressed in the plural number here, as it is also Psalm 73:17; and Psalm 84:7; Jeremiah 51:51; and Ezekiel 28:18; because there were divers apartments in it, each of which was a sanctuary, or holy place. God vouchsafes not to call it his own, but theirs, to show that by their wickedness it would be polluted and rendered unworthy of him, and that therefore he would disown and abhor it, and all the services which they should perform in it; which was most awfully fulfilled. The savour of your sweet odours — The incense made of several sweet spices, which was daily offered to God in the sanctuary. These, though when offered to God with faith and obedience they were sweet and acceptable to him, he here threatens he will not smell, or accept, as being presented in hypocrisy and unbelief. The expression is metaphorical, and signifies that neither their prayers nor sacrifices should be accepted.

And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.
Leviticus 26:32-33. Your enemies which dwell therein — Having driven you out, and possessed your places; shall be astonished at it — A strong expression, to denote the dreadfulness of their calamity, at which their very enemies should stand amazed. A sword after you — The sword shall follow you into strange lands, and you shall have no rest there.

And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.
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.
Leviticus 26:34. The land shall enjoy her sabbaths — It shall enjoy those sabbatical years of rest from tillage, which you, through covetousness, would not give it: a most seasonable warning this. Jeremiah complains, that in his time they had contemned the ordinance of God respecting the septennial sabbaths, and had not given their servants liberty, (Jeremiah 34:17,) and gives this as one cause of their being delivered to slavery, Lamentations 1:3. And this is expressly mentioned as a principal reason of their seventy years captivity, 2 Chronicles 36:21.

As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.
And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.
Leviticus 26:36. The sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them — A very significant phrase, importing that they should sink into a state of the most slavish fear and despicable cowardice.

And they shall fall one upon another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth: and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies.
And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.
And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies' lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.
Leviticus 26:39. Shall pine away — Shall languish out the remainder of their days in bitter grief, and sad reflections upon the miseries which their own and their fathers’ complicated guilt has brought upon them; and hereby shall be consumed and melt away.

If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me;
And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:
Leviticus 26:41. If they accept of — The meaning is, if they sincerely acknowledge the righteousness of God and their own wickedness, and patiently submit to his correcting hand; if, with David, they are ready to say, It is good for us that we are afflicted, that we may learn God’s statutes — And yield obedience to them for the future, which is a good evidence of true repentance.

Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.
Leviticus 26:42. I will remember my covenant — So as to make good all that I have promised in it. For words of knowledge or remembrance, in Scripture, commonly denote affection and kindness. I will remember the land — Which now seems to be forgotten and despised, as if I had never chosen it to be the peculiar place of my presence and blessing.

The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes.
And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God.
Leviticus 26:44. For I am the Lord their God — Therefore neither the desperateness of their condition, nor the greatness of their sins, shall cause me wholly to make void my covenant with them and their ancestors, but I will in due time remember them for good, and for my covenant’s sake return to them in mercy. From this place the Jews take great comfort, and assure themselves of deliverance out of their present servitude and misery. And from this, and such other places, St. Paul concludes that the Israelitish nation, though then rejected and ruined, should be gathered again and restored.

But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.
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.
Leviticus 26:46. These are the statutes, &c. — This may reasonably refer to the whole body of laws contained in the preceding history from Exodus 20. And then the sense will be, that from that period to this, we have a complete detail of all the laws, with the promises and threatenings annexed to them, that were at that time delivered from God to the Israelites, at mount Sinai, by the ministry of Moses. Between him and the children of Israel — Hereby his communion with his church is kept up. He manifests not only his dominion over them, but his favour to them, by giving them his law. And they manifest not only their holy fear, but their holy love, by the observance of it. And thus it is made between them rather as a covenant than as a law: for he draws them with the cords of a man.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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