And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them,…
As man is made after the image of God, so is the outward and sensible world constituted as a kind of apographa to represent the spiritual world which is the subject of faith (Romans 1:20). The key to unlock the mysteries of this system is to be found in the Scriptures of truth; and animals, according to it, are to be viewed as representing men.
I. THE LAW DISTRIBUTES THEM INTO TWO CLASSES.
1. The clean. The marks of cleanness are:
(1) That they "divide the hoof." By the division of the hoof, as in the ox and sheep, the animal is able so to order its steps as not to throw up the mud upon itself, as the horse does whose hoof is not cloven.
(2) They "chew the cud." So their food is more perfectly prepared for digestion. The manner in which this is done, while the creature rests, is so suggestive of thoughtfulness and meditation that it is described as ruminating.
(3) The clean animals were therefore chosen to represent the Israelites, who were a holy nation. They were ceremonially holy:
(a) So walking in the ways of God's commandments as not to be polluted with the abominations of idolatry.
(b) So meditating upon the Law as inwardly to digest it to their nourishment (see Psalm 1:2; 1 Timothy 4:13-15).
(c) Thus also they became morally greatly superior to the nations around them.
2. The unclean.
(1) The Gentiles in contrast to the Jews were so, ceremonially, and were therefore shut out from communion with the Jews. But it was competent to them to be made holy by becoming proselytes.
(2) They were in general idolaters, and so morally abominable. It was mainly to keep the Israelites from being contaminated with the idolatries of their neighbours, that these laws were instituted (see verse 45; 20:23-25; Deuteronomy 14:1-3).
3. There are but two classes of men.
(1) Though some animals divide the hoof, they are not clean unless they also chew the cud. The hog is of this order, and is filthy to a proverb (2 Peter 1:22). So it does not make men clean to have the faculty for walking cleanly when their disposition otherwise leads them to wallow in the mire of sin.
(2) Though some chew the cud, yet if they divide not the hoof they are unclean. The "camel," the "coney," and the "hare," or whatever creature, the word ארנבת may describe, are of this order. For what good is the semblance of meditation and repentance, if the walk of the life be not clean (James 1:20)?
(3) As there are varieties of clean and also of unclean animals, so are there varieties and degrees of goodness, on the one hand, and of wickedness on the other, amongst men. Still the classes are but two. The one is led by Christ, the other by Satan (Matthew 12:30; Matthew 25:2, 32, 33). To which class do you belong?
II. THE LAW IN THE LETTER IS NOW CHANGED.
1. The gospel is freely preached to the Gentiles.
(1) They are not now under obligation to be proselyted to Judaism. This subject was debated in the early Church, and settled at the Council of Jerusalem.
(2) The same decision, which was at the instance of Peter to whom the Lord had assigned that distinction (see Matthew 16:19), released the Jews also from the yoke of the Law (see Acts 15).
2. This was according to prophetic indication.
(1) Under the figure of the unclean wolf dwelling with the lamb, etc., (Isaiah 11) describes the Gentile and Jew as to be wonderfully reconciled in the days of Messiah.
(2) To show that the Jew must have no fellowship with the Gentile, the Law forbade the yoking together of the clean ox with the unclean ass (Deuteronomy 22:10). But prophecy anticipates the blessedness of the time when the seed, viz. of the gospel, should be sewn beside all waters - not those of Judea only, but of the wide world; and that in this business the ox and the ass - the Jew and the Gentile - should become fellow-workers (see Isaiah 32:20; comp. also Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9-11; 1 Timothy 5:18).
3. Peter's vision instructed him that this lime was come.
(1) The animals contained in the sheet were those described as unclean in the Law, and represented the Gentiles. Peter, therefore, when commanded to kill and eat, hesitated, for that he "had never eaten anything that was common or unclean." He therefore held that "it was an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company or come unto one of another nation."
(2) But the linen sheet which enclosed the animals was the emblem of purity; and they were thrice lifted into the heavens. To these symbols agreed also the voice which said, "What God hath cleansed that call not thou common."
(3) When therefore Peter had all this corroborated by the counter-vision of Cornelius, he was convinced that henceforth he "should not call any man common or unclean." For the universality of the mercy of the gospel had been testified in that the sheet was knit at the four corners, showing that the Gentiles were to be gathered together from the four quarters of the world.
III. THE LAW IN ITS SPIRIT STILL ABIDES.
1. For the gospel is that spirit.
(1) The glory on the face of Moses was veiled to the Jews. So concerned were they with the letter that they could not steadfastly look upon the true glory of their own Law. Moses therefore put a vail upon his face, viz. the vail of the letter. This vail is still upon their hearts, and must so remain until they turn to the Lord, or become converted to Christ.
(2) When Moses turned to the Lord, from whom he derived his glory, he took off the vail; and it is the same glory which falls upon us. The only difference is that in the spirit of the Law we see the glory of the Lord reflected from the face of Moses; but in the spirit of the gospel we see the same glory as Moses himself saw it, immediately, in the face of Jesus.
(3) Thus passing from the Law to the gospel, a spiritual person is changed from glory to glory. This brightening transfiguration is effected "by the Spirit of the Lord," or, as the margin construes it, "by the Lord who is the Spirit," viz. of the Law. The Spirit of the Lord is the Spirit of the Law.
2. The gospel insists upon moral purity.
(1) We have seen that the law of yoking together the ox and the ass is repealed under the gospel. This was as to the letter. But we shall find it still insisted upon, viz. as to the spirit. For Paul clearly refers to it (2 Corinthians 6:14) when he forbids the unequal yoking together of Christians and infidels.
(2) In the spirit of it Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfill, the Law, and that to the jot and tittle (Matthew 5:17-20). What a rebuke is here to the antinomian! What a stumbling-block to the Jew is the antinomianism in false theories of Christianity! Christians who neglect the study of the Law miss the benefit of many glorious views of precious gospel truth. How just is the remark of Augustine, that "the Old Testament, when rightly understood, is one great prophecy of the Sew"! - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,