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.
Verse 1. - 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. The word idols (elilim) means the "nothings" which the heathen substituted for the Lord God. The graven image (here meaning a carved wooden image), the standing image (meaning a sacred pillar), and the image of stone (that is, a sculptured stone idol), are the three forms of images under which adoration was paid, whether to the true God or to a false doily. The expression, to bow down unto (or towards) it, forbids worshipping before an image as well as worshipping an image.
Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
Verse 2. - Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. These words are repeated textually from chapter Leviticus 19:30.
If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;
Verse 3. - If ye walk in my statutes. The free will of man is recognized equally with God's controlling power.
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.
Verses 4-6. - These verses appear to have been in the mind, not of Joel only, as already pointed out, but of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 34:20-31). In Leviticus we find, Then I will give you rain in due season; in Ezekiel, "And I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing." In Leviticus, And the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit; in Ezekiel, "And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth her increase." In Leviticus, Ye shall dwell in your land safely; in Ezekiel, "They shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods." In Leviticus, And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land; in Ezekiel, "And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land.... And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid." The promise, Your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time, is similar to that in the prophet Amos, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed" (Amos 9:13).
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.
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.
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.
Verse 8. - And five of you shall chase an hundred. Cf. Joshua 23:10, "One man of you shall chase a thousand." For examples, see Judges 3:31; Judges 15:15; 1 Samuel 14:6-16; 2 Samuel 23:8.
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.
Verse 10. - Ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new. The provisions of the past year would be so abundant that they would have to be removed to make place for the new stores.
And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.
Verse 11. - And I will set my tabernacle among you. This was fulfilled, spiritually, as shown to St. John in his vision of the new Jerusalem: "I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Revelation 21:3). And my soul shall not abhor you. The result of God's abhorrence being his rejection of those whom he abhors (see Leviticus 20:23).
And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.
Verse 12. - And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. These words are quoted by St. Paul as a ground of the holiness required of God's people (2 Corinthians 6:16).
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.
Verse 13. - And I have broken the bands of your yoke. This expression, used also in the parallel passage of Ezekiel above referred to (Ezekiel 34:27), and Jeremiah 27:2 receives an illustration from the ancient method of harnessing oxen, still kept up in the East and South. The band means the straight piece of wood laid across the necks of the oxen, by which their heads are fastened together to keep them level with each other, and by which they are attached to the pole of the wagon. The single collars worn by horses in more northern countries have not the same oppressive effect.
But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;
Verses 14-17. - Punishment in its first degree. Terror, consumption, - that is, wasting - and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: - a proverbial expression for great distress (see 1 Samuel 2:33) - and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it (see Jeremiah 5:17, and Micah 6:15, "Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil")... and ye shall be slain before your enemies (as took place often in their after history, see Judges 2:14; Judges 3:8; Judges 4:2); they that hate you shall reign - that is, rule - over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.
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.
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.
Verses 18-20. - Punishment in its second degree. I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass; the result of no rain in a land scorched by the fiery Eastern sun. Your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the tress of the land yield their fruits. Cf. 1 Kings 8:35; Haggai 1:10, 11.
And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
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.
Verses 21, 22. - Punishment in its third degree. 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. So in the case of the Assyrians transported to Palestine, "At the beginning of their dwelling there, they feared not the Lord: therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which slew some of them" (2 Kings 17:25) - and your high ways shall be desolate. Cf. Judges 5:6, "In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travelers walked through byways."
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;
Verses 23-26. - Punishment in its fourth degree. I will bring a sword upon yon, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant:... I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy - that is, ye shall go into captivity... and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied. Cf. Ezekiel 5:12, "A third part of thee shall die with pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee: and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee; and I will scatter a third part into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them." The famine that is to come upon them is described as making ten women bake bread in one oven, - whereas in ordinary times one oven was only sufficient for one woman's baking - and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight; that is, the quantity baked will have to be weighed out in rations, before any one is allowed to take it. See 2 Kings 6:25; Isaiah 3:1; Jeremiah 14:18; and as illustrative of the last point, Ezekiel 4:16, "Behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat bread by weight, and with care; and they shall drink water by measure, and with astonishment."
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.
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.
And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me;
Verses 27-33. - Punishment in the fifth degree. Ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. We find that this threat was fulfilled in Samaria (2 Kings 6:28), and in Jerusalem at the time both of the earlier siege by the Chaldaeans, and of the later siege by the Romans (see Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 4:10; Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 5:09, 3; and the terrible case of Mary daughter of Eleazar. Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.' 6:03, 4). And I will destroy your high places. By high places is meant the tops of hills or eminences chosen for worship, whether of Jehovah (see Judges 6:26; 1 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 12:3; 1 Chronicles 21:26), or of false gods. The high places intended here are the spots where the "sun-images" were erected (see 2 Chronicles 14:5; Isaiah 17:8; Ezekiel 6:4) - and cut down your images, and cast your carcasses upon the carcasses of your idols - that is, they should roll in the dust together. And I will make your cities waste - as Samaria and Jerusalem - and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, - by the sanctuaries, which are to be desolated, is meant all the consecrated things: the holy of holies, the holy place, the court, the ark, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt sacrifice - and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours - so in Jeremiah 6:20, "To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet" (cf. Isaiah 1:11-15). And I will bring the land into desolation (cf. Jeremiah 9:11): and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it (cf. Ezekiel 5:15). And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you. See Jeremiah 9:16, "I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them."
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.
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.
And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.
And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.
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.
Verses 34, 35. - The land had not participated in the sins of its inhabitants. The latter had thought that, by the neglect of the sabbatical years, they had enriched themselves by the fruits of those years which would otherwise have been wasted. The result was that they lost the land altogether for a period equal to that during which it ought to have kept sabbath, and the land "as long as she lay desolate kept sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years" (2 Chronicles 36:21). From the entrance into the holy land until the Babylonish Captivity there elapsed eight hundred and sixty-three years, in which time there ought to have been kept one hundred and twenty-three sabbatical years. As only seventy are made up by the duration of the Captivity, it may be concluded that fifty-three sabbatical years were observed by the Israelites; but this conclusion is very doubtful. It is more likely that seventy, being a multiple of the sacred number seven, was regarded as sufficient to purge all previous neglects, whatever they might have been.
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.
Verses 36-39. - The final punishment. Upon them that are left, that is, the surviving captives and exiles, I will send a faintness into their hearts, - so Ezekiel 21:7, "And every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water" -... and the sound of a shaken (or driven) leaf shall chase them;... and they shall fall,... 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. This is the concluding threat. It is conditional in its nature, and the condition having been fulfilled, we may say with reverence that it has been accomplished. Those of the ten tribes who did not find their way to Babylon, and so became absorbed in the body which returned to Jerusalem, have been eaten up by the land of their enemies, and have pined away in their enemies' lands. Neither they nor their descendants are to be found in any part of the globe, however much investigation may employ itself in searching for them. They have been absorbed by the populations among which they were scattered.
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.
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;
Verses 40-45. - God's pardon will, even yet, as always, follow upon confession of sin and genuine repentance. They must recognize not only that they have sinned, but that their sufferings have been a punishment for those sins at God's hand. This will work in them humble acquiescence in God's doings, and then he will remember his covenant with Jacob, and also his covenant with Isaac, and also his covenant with Abraham, and for the sake of the covenant of their ancestors, he will not east them away, neither will he abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break his covenant with them. Whether Jewish repentance has been or ever will be so full as to obtain this blessing, cannot be decided now. Perhaps it may be the case that all the blessings promised by Moses and by future prophets to repentant and restored Israel are to find their accomplishment in the spiritual Israel, the children of Abraham who is "the father of all them that believe" (Romans 4:11), seeing that "God is able of stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Matthew 3:9).
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:
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.
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.
Verse 46. - This is the closing paragraph of the Book of Leviticus; to which another chapter has been added, in the form of an appendix, on the subject of vows.