You are the children of the LORD your God: you shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Ye are the children of Jehovah.—This fact is made the foundation of all the laws of ceremonial and moral holiness in the Pentateuch, more especially in the Book of Leviticus, where these laws are chiefly to be found.
Ye shall not cut yourselves.—The precept is repeated with little variation from Leviticus 19:28.
Any baldness between your eyes—i.e., apparently, “on your foreheads.” The word for baldness in this place is generally used for baldness on the back of the head.Deuteronomy 14:1. Ye are the children of the Lord your God — Ye are not only the creatures, and the offspring, but the peculiar people, the worshippers, the servants, and those of you that are truly pious, the adopted children of Jehovah, the one living and true God, who is your God in covenant; and therefore you should not dishonour him, your heavenly Father, nor disparage yourselves, by unworthy or unbecoming practices, such as here follow; and whom you must not disobey. Ye shall not cut yourselves — This was the practice of idolaters, both in the worship of their idols and in their funerals, as also upon occasion of public calamities. For the dead — Through excessive sorrow for your dead friends, as if you had no hope of their happiness after death, 1 Thessalonians 4:13. See on Leviticus 19:28. These furious expressions of mourning for the dead subsist at this day in some of the eastern countries: see on Genesis 50:10. But nothing surely can be more unbecoming the sons of God and heirs of immortality than thus to sorrow like those who expect no life after this. Nor make any baldness between your eyes — On the fore part of your heads, (Leviticus 21:5,) just over the space that is between your eyes.1 Kings 18:28) would be inconsistent in those who as children of a heavenly Father had prospects beyond this world, but also because these usages themselves arose out of idolatrous notions.
De 14:1, 2. God's People Must Not Disfigure Themselves in Mourning.
1. ye shall not cut yourselves … for the dead—It was a common practice of idolaters, both on ceremonious occasions of their worship (1Ki 18:28), and at funerals (compare Jer 16:6; 41:5), to make ghastly incisions on their faces and other parts of their persons with their finger nails or sharp instruments. The making a large bare space between the eyebrows was another heathen custom in honor of the dead (see on Le 19:27, 28; Le 21:5). Such indecorous and degrading usages, being extravagant and unnatural expressions of hopeless sorrow (1Th 4:13), were to be carefully avoided by the Israelites, as derogatory to the character, and inconsistent with the position, of those who were the people of God [De 14:2].Heathenish rites of mourning prohibited, Deu 14:1,2; and the eating of any abominable thing, Deu 14:3. All unclean beasts, Deu 14:4-8, fish, Deu 14:9,10, and birds, prohibited, Deu 14:11-20. True tithing commanded, Deu 14:22; and where it was to be eaten, Deu 14:23-27. A command about the third year’s tithing, Deu 14:28; and who should eat it, Deu 14:29.
ye shall not cut yourselves; for the dead, as appears from the next clause, as the Heathens did, who not only tore their garments, but their flesh in several parts of their bodies, in their mouths, cheeks, breasts, &c. (r); and used other extravagant signs of mourning, which the apostle cautions against, 1 Thessalonians 4:13 and were condemned by the Heathens themselves (s). Though some think this refers to incisions the Heathens made in their flesh to the honour of their gods, cutting the names of them therein to whom they devoted themselves; or lashing their bodies at the worship of them, as the worshippers of Baal did when they called upon him, 1 Kings 18:28 and so the Jerusalem Targum,"make not marks, marks,''that is, here and there, in many places, or bruises black and blue by striping and beating themselves, for strange worship, or at it, in honour of their gods; but the former sense seems best to agree with what follows; see Leviticus 19:28,
nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead; by shaving the forepart of their head or their eyebrows, or both, which used to be done in lamentations for the dead; see Jeremiah 16:6 if this could be thought to have any respect to rites and ceremonies used in the worship of dead and lifeless idols, the customs of the Egyptians might be referred to, who are said to shave their heads and their eyebrows in their sacred rites to Isis (t).
(r) Vid. Virgil. Aeneid. 12. ver. 870, 871. and Servium in Aeneid. 1. ver. 78. and in l. 12. (s) Vid. Cicero de Leg. l. 2. c. 23. and Tusculan. Quaest. l. 3. c. 27. (t) Ambros. Epist. l. 4. c. 30. p. 259.Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
No parallel in JE; but one in H, Leviticus 19:28 a.
1. Sons are ye to Jehovah your God] The order of the EVV. misses the emphasis. Note not merely the change to the Pl. address but its cause, the conception of individual Israelites as the sons of Jehovah: not elsewhere in D. In the discourses in D Israel, the nation, is as the son of Jehovah, Deuteronomy 1:31, Deuteronomy 8:5 and so more definitely in J, Exodus 4:22 f., Hosea 11:1, and Jeremiah 31:20. The transition from this conception to the statement of Jehovah’s fatherhood of Israelites as individuals was natural; the two conceptions occur together in the Song Deuteronomy 32:5-6 and in Hosea and Jeremiah. The latter is already found in the 8th century, Hosea 1:10, Isaiah 1:2. But as we advance through the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, with their strong individualism, to the exilic and post-exilic writings we find a great increase of references to Israelites as the sons of Jehovah, Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 3:19; Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 4:22, Ezek. (Ezekiel 2:4?), Ezekiel 20:21, Isaiah 63:8; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8 (cp. Isaiah 57:4), Malachi 2:10, Deuteronomy 32:5, Psalm 73:15; Psalm 82:6. This is contemporary with the breaking up of the Jewish state and the destruction of the national worship. While then it is clear that one cannot take sons of Jehovah in this law as by itself proof of an exilic or post-exilic date, we can say that if it does not add to, it at least agrees with, the evidence in that direction adduced in the note below.
Many ancient nations believed in their descent from gods or demigods; and among them the Semitic peoples, e.g. the Moabites are called sons and daughters of Kemosh, Numbers 21:29. But the relation was conceived physically. In the O.T. God’s fatherhood and Israel’s sonship are historical and ethical, based not on physical generation, but on an act of love on God’s part, on His choice or adoption (cp. Romans 9:4) of the people, and on His deliverance of them from Egypt; and it is carried out by His providence of love and moral chastisement (see the references above and cp. Amos 3), which is nowhere more tenderly described than in this Book. But when all the O.T. references to God as the Father whether of Israel or Israelites and to them as His children have been reckoned up, how few are they in comparison to the number of times that sons, and children, of God occur in the N.T. God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying Abba Father (Galatians 4:6); joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
ye shall not cut or gash yourselves] So of the priests of Ba‘al (1 Kings 18:28) and in Ar. one form of the vb. is used of mutilations of animals, Leviticus 19:28 : you shall put no incision on your flesh (cp. Deuteronomy 21:5) nor any tattooing upon you.
nor set a baldness between your eyes] Leviticus 21:5 : not make a baldness on their head neither shave off the corner of their beard.
for the dead] That these customs were not practised merely from excess of grief, nor only as testifying to the continuance of the mourner’s blood-covenant with the dead, but also in acknowledgement of the divinity of the latter and as the mourners’ consecration to them, is implied in the reason given in Deuteronomy 14:2 for Israel’s abstention from such things. Jehovah’s people are holy and sacred to Himself alone. Hence, too, the inclusion of this law among those against the worship of strange gods. Moreover Jeremiah 16:7 describes a communion feast as part of the same rites. May not also the choice of the expression sons are ye to Jehovah be due to this cause, as if such rites implied an ancestor worship? For the worship of their ancestors by Arab tribes who bring offerings and sacrifice at their graves see Musil, Ethn. Ber. 329.
For the prevalence, among many ancient nations, particularly the Semitic, as well as among modern peoples, of these customs of gashing the flesh and shaving part of the hair or beard, apparently always with a religious implication, see W. R. Smith, Rel. Sem. 302 ff. Gashing, both of face and body called ‘Tashrit’ (cp. Heb.) was explained to Burton in Mekka as a sign ‘that the scarred was the servant of Allah’s House.’ (Pilgrimage, etc. ii. 234.) Mohammed expressly forbad the practice. The O.T. confirms it for Moab (Isaiah 15:2) and the Philistines (Jeremiah 47:5), and states that both customs were practised in Israel not only as usual and natural in mourning (equally so with the wearing of sackcloth), but as even sanctioned by Israel’s God (Amos 8:10; Isaiah 22:12): he calls to weeping … and baldness; Jeremiah 16:6 : as His punishment of an evil generation, the usual rites of mourning for its dead, including gashing and baldness, shall not be observed; Jeremiah 41:5 : men come from Shechem to the house of Jehovah with shaven heads and having gashed themselves; Ezekiel 7:18. Note, too, the absence from the earlier legislation of a law against these practices. The law first appears here and in H, Leviticus 19:28, Lev 21:25.
Unknown to Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and to those Shechem Jews who, in obedience to the central law of D, brought their offerings to the Temple, this law cannot have formed part of the original code of D; but is an exilic or post-exilic addition.Verse 1. - Ye are the children of Jehovah your God (cf. Exodus 4:22, etc.). As his children, it behooved them to avoid all that would be offensive to him or indicate distrust in him. Ye shall not cut yourselves, etc. (cf. Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 48:36, 37; Ezekiel 7:18; Ezekiel 27:31). ("Ex hac opinions sunt ilia varia et detestabilia genera lugendi, paedores, muliebres lacerationes genarum, pectoris, feminum, capitis percussiones." Cicero, 'Tusc. Quaest.,' 3:26; see also ' De Legibus,' 2:25.) Job 26:14. The thought is not that they would hear in one city about another, as though one city had the oversight over another; but there is an inversion in the sentence, "if thou hear, that in one of thy cities...worthless men have risen up, and led the inhabitants astray to serve strange gods." לאמר introduces the substance of what is heard, which follows in Deuteronomy 13:14. יצא merely signifies to rise up, to go forth. מקּרבּך, out of the midst of the people.
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