Leviticus 26
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Leviticus 26:1-46. A Concluding Exhortation, embodying Promises and Warnings (H, except 1, 2, 46 Rp[73])

[73] A Reviser, who, probably after that collection had been combined with the Priestly Code, introduced further elements from that Code.

This ch., closing as it does the collection called the ‘Law of Holiness’ (17–26), bears all the characteristics of H, and is evidently the work of the compiler of that document. Accordingly it views the land and agriculture as fundamentally connected with religious observances (cp. chs. 19, 23, 25). Its one command (apart from Leviticus 26:1-2, see below) is to let the land lie fallow in the seventh year (Leviticus 26:34). It begins and ends with characteristic expressions of the ‘Law of Holiness,’ ‘If ye walk in my statutes’ (Leviticus 26:3), ‘I am the Lord’ (Leviticus 26:45). For an examination of the remarkable amount of coincidences in language between this ch. and Ezekiel see Intr. to Pent. (p. 240), and for discussion of the dates of the two see App. III, pp. 177 ff. in this volume.

The ch. may be analysed as follows:

(1) Leviticus 26:1-2, idolatry forbidden, and the sabbath to be observed;

(2) Leviticus 26:3-45, concluding exhortation; (3) Leviticus 26:46, conclusion.

When we compare this ch. with the similar exhortations and warnings in Exodus 23:20 ff.; Deuteronomy 28, it will seem probable that such was the recognised method of concluding a collection of laws prepared for promulgation.

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.
1. a pillar] maẓẓçbâh, an upright stone, frequently mentioned in connexion with local worship. See for illustrations of those discovered at Gezer, Driver’s Schweich Lectures, p. 63.

any figured stone] i.e. with some idolatrous representation carved on it.

1, 2. These two vv. contain only repetitions of the precepts already given (Leviticus 19:3-4; Leviticus 19:30); in fact, the direction to observe the sabbath appears here for the third time. The redactor of H attached great importance to these vv., and accordingly closed his legislation with them. Their position, however, at the commencement of this ch. is unsuitable and may be owing to accident. Still their importance, as corresponding to the first four Commandments, may account for their insertion.

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;
3–13. The blessing that shall follow upon obedience. (Cp. Deuteronomy 28:1-11.)

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.
5. Such shall be the abundant yield of cereals and wine that the ingathering will be continuous from the commencement of harvest till the time arrives for sowing the next crop. Cp. Amos 9:13.

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.
6. none shall make you afraid] a familiar expression in the prophetical books (Isaiah 17:2; Micah 4:4; Nahum 2:11), found also in Job (Leviticus 11:19, etc.).

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.
For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.
9. will establish] rather, will carry out. The Heb. expression means, to fulfil the promises of an older covenant. Cp. Genesis 26:3, ‘I will establish [to Isaac] the oath which I sware unto Abraham’; Deuteronomy 9:5, to ‘establish the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers.’ So Jeremiah 34:18 of the inhabitants of Jerusalem who did not carry out the words of the covenant which they had made.

And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new.
10. because of the new] better as mg. from before the new. The meaning is that the yield shall be so great that what has been gathered in an earlier year must be carried out of the storehouses or barns to make way for the fresh produce.

And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.
And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.
12. I will walk among you] Cp. Genesis 3:8.

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.
13. the bars] with which the yoke was fastened to the animal’s neck.

But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;
14–39. The penalties that shall ensue, if Israel prove disobedient (Cp. Deuteronomy 28:15 ff.)

They are arranged in five groups, viz. (a) Leviticus 26:16-18, (b) Leviticus 26:19-20, (c) Leviticus 26:21; Leviticus 26:32, (d) Leviticus 26:23-26, (e) Leviticus 26:27-39, overthrow and exile of the nation.

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:
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.
16. terror] i.e. terrible things, viz. those that follow.

the soul] your life.

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.
17. ye shall flee when none pursueth you] Cp. Leviticus 26:36; Proverbs 28:1; also Psalm 53:5.

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:
19. the pride of your power] the pride with which ye rely upon your prosperity and the fruitfulness of your land. The expression is found elsewhere only in Ezekiel, where in Ezekiel 7:24 LXX., Ezekiel 24:21, Ezekiel 33:28 it refers to the fall of the nation and the destruction of Jerusalem; in Ezekiel 30:6; Ezekiel 30:18, the phrase is applied to Egypt.

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.
21. plagues] See on Leviticus 13:2.

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.
22. the beast of the field] savage animals. Cp. 2 Kings 17:25.

And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me;
23. be reformed unto] rather, be disciplined by. See mg.

Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.
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.
25. execute the vengeance of the covenant] exact retribution from you for disregarding My covenant with you.

ye shall be gathered together within your cities] for shelter. Cp. Jeremiah 4:5; Jeremiah 35:11.

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.
26. your staff of bread] the bread which sustains life. For the expression see Psalm 105:16; Ezekiel 4:16; Ezekiel 5:16; Ezekiel 14:13, and cp. Isaiah 3:1. The rest of the v. means that the amount available for baking, and therefore the frequency with which the oven is used, will be so limited that one oven will be sufficient to serve ten families. Moreover, instead of the bread being brought home from the oven in such an abundant quantity that there is no need of weighing it, as there is obviously enough for all comers, it will then be needful to weigh it with the utmost precision, that the scanty supply may be measured out carefully to each, lest any should get more than their share.

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.
And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.
29. Cp. Deuteronomy 28:53; Jeremiah 19:9, and, for the fulfilment of the prophet’s words, Lamentations 4:10.

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.
30. high places] places on which the Israelites anciently practised their worship, and often carried on idolatrous rites in connexion with it. They at first used hills or mountains, and afterwards mounds or platforms. Such idolatrous high places were destroyed by Josiah (2 Kings 23:5-20), but the worship of Jehovah on them (1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 15:35) continued till the Exile.

sun-images] rather, sun-pillars, probably emblems of a Phoenician deity, Baal-Ḥammân, ‘Lord of the sun’s heat.’ See Skinner (C.B.) on Isaiah 17:8.

idols] The Heb. word is a favourite one with Ezekiel (Ezekiel 6:5, etc.). It is a term of contempt, probably meaning blocks, shapeless things.

And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.
31. I will not smell, etc.] Cp. Isaiah 1:11 ff.; Amos 5:21 f.

And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.
32. shall be astonished] Cp. Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 19:8.

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.
33. will draw out the sword] For this expression, as implying the hot pursuit of fugitives, see Ezekiel 5:2; Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 12:14.

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.
34. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths] The verb râẓâh has for its general meaning in Ḳal. ‘to accept,’ ‘to be satisfied with,’ and so ‘to enjoy,’ the land being regarded as having been long deprived of its rights, which are now restored. Accordingly the Hiph. (as the causative voice), occurring only in 34 b, may perhaps mean ‘cause [God] to accept’ her sabbaths, and so virtually ‘pay back’ those which had been disregarded and were due to God. The same verb is rendered ‘accept’ in Leviticus 26:41; Leviticus 26:43. See on Leviticus 26:41.

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.
36. the sound of driven leaf] Cp. Leviticus 26:17; Proverbs 28:1.

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.
39. in the iniquities of their fathers] in the guilt to which their fathers have contributed.

with them] meaning either, as they have done, or, as holding fast by their fathers’ iniquities.

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;
40–45. Repentance shall bring restoration

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:
41. accept of] acknowledge that the punishment was deserved and has had its remedial effect.

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.
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.
43, 44. These vv. have rather the air of a later insertion.

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.
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.
46. the statutes and judgements and laws] This wording shews that the v. forms the conclusion not merely of this ch. but of the whole ‘Law of Holiness’ (Leviticus 26:17-26).

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