Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Leviticus 24". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ leviticus-24.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Leviticus 24". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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A connection between Leviticus 23:1-44, and Le Leviticus 24:1-9 is found by Keil in the fact that the oil for the holy lamps and the shewbread were offerings of the people, a sacrificial gift with which Israel was to serve the Lord continually. "The offering of oil, therefore, for the preparation of the candlestick, and that of fine flour for making the loaves to be placed before Jehovah, formed part of the service in which Israel sanctified its life and labour to the Lord its God, not only at the appointed festal periods, but every day; and the law is very appropriately appended to the sanctification of the sabbaths and feast days prescribed in Leviticus 23:1-44." But it is better to consider the whole chapter parenthetical between Leviticus 23:1-44, and Leviticus 25:1-55, the first part having been suggested by the list of days on which holy convocations were to be held, because it is connected with the temple or tabernacle service; the second part (the blasphemer's death) being inserted because it chronologically happened shortly after the law as to holy convocations and festivals had been pronounced.
The ordinance on the lamps contained in the first three verses is repeated from Exodus 27:20. The oil to be used for the lamps was to be pure oil olive, that is, oil made of picked berries, without any intermixture of dust or twigs; and it was to be beaten instead of "pressed," because when the berries were crushed in the olive-press, small portions of them became mixed with and discoloured the oil, which was, therefore, less pure than when the fruit was simply beaten and then left to drain. The lamps were to burn continually; that is, from evening to morning every night. Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation; that is, in the holy place, as distinct from the holy of holies. Aaron, either personally or by his sons (see Exodus 27:21), was to dress the lamps every morning, and light them every evening (Exodus 30:7). The lamps were upon the seven-branched candlestick, which is called the pure candlestick, because made of gold. The light of the seven-branched candlestick symbolized the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, which should illumine God's Church (Zechariah 4:2-6; Revelation 1:12, Revelation 1:20).
The shewbread, or bread of the face, that is, of the presence, was to be made of fine flour, that is, of wheat, and to consist of twelve cakes or loaves, to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, each loaf containing upward of six pounds of flour. The loaves were placed upon the pure table before the Lord; that is, on the golden table of shewbread within the sanctuary—which stood not far from the vail which partitioned off the holy of holies—toward the north, as the candlestick was toward the south. The loaves were set, not, probably, in two rows, six on a row, as they could have hardly stood in that position on so small a table as the table of shewbread (which was only three feet by one foot and a half), but in piles, six in a pile. Upon them, or more probably between the two piles, were placed two vials or cups filled with frankincense (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 3.7, 6). The shewbread was renewed every sabbath day, with much ceremony. "Four priests," says the Mishna, "enter, two of them carrying the piles of bread, and two of them the cups of incense. Four priests had gone in before them, two to take off the two old piles of shrewbread, and two to take off the cups of incense. Those who brought in the new stood at the north side facing southwards; those who took away the old, at the south side, facing northwards. One party lifted off and the other put on, the hands of one being over against the hands of the other, as it is written, Thou shalt set upon the table bread of the Passover always before me" ('Men.,' 11.7). The loaves that were removed were delivered to the priests for their consumption within the tabernacle, the whole quantity amounting to seventy-five pounds of bread per week. It was this bread which, in the pressure of necessity, Abimelech gave to David and his men (1 Samuel 21:4-6). At the same time that the old loaves were changed, the frankincense was burned on the golden altar of incense for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. There is nothing in Scripture to prove whether the loaves were leavened or unleavened. As being the meat offering of the tabernacle, we should expect them to be unleavened, like the meat offering of the court, but there was a reason why the meat offering of the court should be unleavened, which did not operate in the case of the shewbread. A part of the ordinary meat offering had to be burnt on the altar of burnt sacrifice; therefore it could not be leavened, because no leaven might be burned on the altar; but the shewbread was not burnt on any altar, and consequently it need not for that reason be unleavened. The two Pentecostal loaves, which were offered to the Lord by waving instead of burning, were leavened. The probabilities derived from Scripture appear to be equally strong on either side. Josephus states that they were unleavened ('Ant.,' Leviticus 3:6, Leviticus 3:6; Leviticus 10:1-20, Leviticus 7:1-38).
The lamps of the seven-branched candlestick burnt throughout the whole night in the tabernacle; and the shewbread was constantly set forth upon the golden table. They may be taken to symbolize:
1. The constant illumination vouchsafed by God to his Church through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
2. The spiritual food constantly supplied by him in his Church to those who come in faith to have their wants supplied.
1. I. ILLUMINATION BY THE SPIRIT WAS PROMISED BY CHRIST. "The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26). "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.… When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:7-13).
II. THE FULFILMENT OF THE PROMISE COMMENCED ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST. "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, add having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear" (Acts 2:33).
III. THE ILLUMINATION IS PERMANENT THROUGH THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF A PERMANENT MINISTRY. "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.… And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:8-12).
IV. CHRIST ABIDES BY HIS SPIRIT IN THE MIDST OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN CANDLESTICKS.
"I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man" (Revelation 1:12, Revelation 1:13). "These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks" (Revelation 2:1).
V. ANY BRANCH OF THE CANDLESTICK WHOSE LIGHT IS EXTINGUISHED WILL BE REMOVED. "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" (Revelation 2:5).
2. I. CHRIST IS THE SPIRITUAL FOOD OF HIS CHURCH. "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true Bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.… The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the Bread which came down from heaven Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves I am the living Bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:32-51).
II. CHRIST'S SACRIFICE UPON THE CROSS SUPPLIES THE FOOD ON WHICH BY FAITH WE ARE TO FEED. " We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle" (Hebrews 13:10).
III. ONE MEANS OF OUR THUS FEEDING UPON HIM IS THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD'S SUPPER. "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:26-28).
IV. HE SUPPLIES THE NEEDS OF THOSE THAT THIRST AS WELL AS OF THOSE THAT HUNGER. "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely" (Revelation 21:6). "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17).
V. HE FEEDS HIS PEOPLE NOT ONLY BY SACRAMENTS BUT BY THE WORD OF GOD PREACHED BY HIS MINISTERS. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). "Take heed therefore unto yourselves" (the Ephesian elders), "and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God" (Acts 20:28). "He gave some, pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11). "He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.… He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.… Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17). "The elders which are among you.… I exhort Feed the flock of God which is among you" (1 Peter 5:1, 1 Peter 5:2).
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
cf. Revelation 1:12-20; also Psalms 43:3. The holy place, like the most holy, had no windows, and consequently required illumination. This was secured by the golden candlestick, with its seven lamps. These were to be always emitting some light. If all the seven lamps were not lit during the daytime, one or two of them were. The idea carried out was that there should be in God's sanctuary everlasting light.
That the candlestick was taken as the symbol of God's truth is evident from Psalms 43:3, "Oh send out thy light, even thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles." In fact, God's essential nature as light was exhibited by the Shechinah in the holy of holies; then in the golden candlestick, we have the light mediated in the holy place in such a way as would suffice for the illumination of the ordinary priests at their sacred ministries. God's arrangement, therefore, for the dissemination of truth in this dark world of ours is what the golden candlestick is intended to convey. Revelation 1:12-20 throws clear light on the symbol. The Churches established in the world by God are the lamps (λυχνίαι) which he intends to shine till the dawn of the eternal day.
I. NOTICE THE UNITY OF ALL TRUE CHURCHES. For the seven lamps were united in the one candlestick, just as all true Churches are one in Christ. There is no incorporation necessarily implied, but this is also to be encouraged by every legitimate means. If unity in Christ be a real thing, it will show itself in some way or another before men.
II. THE OIL FOR THE LIGHT WAS TO BE BEATEN. The olives were to be placed in a mortar and beaten, and then the oil which flowed off without further pressure, the purest possible, was to be used for the light. God's truth is communicated to men in such a form that they must diligently cooperate with God before the benefit is obtained. No careless handling of truth will suffice. We must beat the olives well before we get the needful oil. Ministers must be diligent in their preparations, Christians of all classes must "search the Scriptures," if the requisite oil for the light is to be obtained. God might rain down oil from heaven, and save us a heap of trouble, but he would rather put it into the olive berries, and ask us to pound it out from these. Similarly, he has put in his Word "things hard to be understood," as well as things that are simple, to the end that we should diligently study it and get the sacred oil.
III. THE WICK HAD TO BE CAREFULLY TRIMMED, AND WHEN NEEDFUL SNUFFED. It was the high priest's special duty, in which, however, the other priests assisted. And is this not to indicate the work undertaken by Jesus Christ, who as High Priest walked among the golden lamps? (Revelation 1:12). A beautiful parallel passage is presented in Matthew 12:20, where it is said, "smoking flax [i.e; 'a wick'—λίνον] shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory." There may be pain in the process often by which our High Priest gets his wicks trimmed and luminous, but there is also mercy and tenderness ineffable. How often does he hold his hands around the expiring wick, and blow it gently into a flame again! Blessed are his dealings, when as the result his people, and especially his ministers, are made to shine as "lights in the world." Regarding the snuffers in this connection, we may quote an old and quaint writer. "The Lord," says Weemse, "commanded to make snuffers of pure gold for the snuffing of the lamps, and snuff-dishes to receive the snuff; he would have the snuff taken from the light, to signify that he would have the Word kept in sincerity and purity; and he would have the snuffers of gold, to teach them to be blameless and holy, who are censurers and correctors of others; and he would have the snuff-dishes of gold, to teach them that the covering of the offenses of their brethren was a most excellent thing."
IV. THE LAMPS WERE LIT FROM THE ALTAR. That is to say, it was Divine fire which made the oil luminous. God is light, from him cometh all real illumination. So it is only when the Saviour baptizes men with fire, it is only when the Holy Ghost lights up the sacred page, it is only when the Spirit cooperates with the Word, that the truth appears in its brightness unto men. An earnest ministry is that which gives itself to prayer and to the ministry of the Word, prayer calling down the Divine fire which makes the entrance of the Word give light. Then may the lamps be expected to burn brightly and to light up the night of the world till the day dawns.—R.M.E.
The weekly offering.
cf. 1Co 16:2; 1 Timothy 5:17, 1 Timothy 5:18. Along with the everlasting light from the golden candlestick, there was to be in the holy place a presentation of bread, which was made on the sabbath and lay before the Lord on the prescribed table all the week, becoming the property and support of the priests when they brought the fresh loaves on the succeeding sabbath. The loaves were to be twelve in number, to correspond to the tribes of Israel; they were arranged in two piles, upon the top of which there was placed a little incense, which was duly fired and thus ascended to heaven. The incense sanctified the offering. Now this "bread of the face," as it was called, bread intended for the Divine presence, was the dedication on the part of the people of the staple of life, first to God, and secondly to the support of his priests. As previously observed, it was the perpetual meat offering. Here it is interesting to notice it as a "weekly offering" prescribed in the Old Testament economy. What Paul urges on the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:2), "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come," is the exact counterpart of the shewbread. The Lord's day is to be the time for a weekly offering for the support of his cause.
I. WE ARE SURELY TAUGHT HERE HOW SYSTEMATIC OUR OFFERINGS SHOULD BE. There should be a regularity about them like the return of the holy day. It is only when this periodicity characterizes them that the Lord's cause is likely to be properly supported. A weekly offering is much more likely to be successful than a monthly, or quarterly, or annual offering. Liberality is to be a weekly exercise, like the ordinances of our holy religion.
II. OUR OFFERINGS SHOULD BE SANCTIFIED BY THE INCENSE OF PRAYER. This is only to say that liberality should be a religious act, part of our religious service. Then are we likely to be conscientious in discharging our obligations, when we carry our gifts into the presence of God. As Jesus stood over against the treasury in the temple, and saw the extraordinary liberality connected with the widow's two mites, so is he watching our offerings at his shrine, noticing whether they are generous and cheerful or given with a Nudge, observing whether they are perfumed with incense or rendered obnoxious by worldliness and ostentation. It will tend to purify our liberality to envelop it in prayer.
III. GOD'S OFFICERS SHOULD BE REGARDED AS RECEIVING THEIR SUPPORT FROM HIS TABLE. That is to say, they are to be regarded as receiving their support from God, not directly from the people. It is this element of sanctity in the service of liberality which saves the dignity of the Lord's officers, and prevents them from being beggarly dependents upon the people. Conscientious people lay their offerings before God, and then God's officers receive their portion as from their Master in heaven. "And it shall be Aaron's and his sons';" and they shall eat it in the holy place.
IV. THE WEEKLY OFFERING SHOULD BE THE OUTCOME OF AN EVERLASTING ENGAGEMENT WITH GOD. "Every sabbath (the priest) shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant." That is, liberality is to be no spasmodic outburst, but a steady outcome of an engagement that is perpetual. God has laid his people under such obligation by his rich provision in the gospel, that we feel we can never adequately discharge it. Hence week by week our offerings are laid upon his altar, and we recognize the arrangement as a lasting one.
Amid all the changes of times and of Churches, here have we sound principles of Church finance. It is to the religious spirit of the people we must ultimately commit the interests of God's cause. When they bring regularly, prayerfully, perpetually, and at the same time realize that the Church officers are God's servants and depend upon God's altar, then is there no fear of any failure. God will stand between his servants and his people, and secure the interests of both.—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
The lighting of the sanctuary.
The face of Moses is glorious in the light of the gospel.
I. THE CANDLESTICK WAS AN EMBLEM OF THE CHURCH OF GOD. (See Revelation 1:20.)
1. The candlestick in the holy place was one.
(1) So is the Church of God a unity. Christ has not two mystical bodies (Colossians 1:18). He has not two brides (Ephesians 5:23). It comprehends the whole body of the faithful.
(2) It is unscriptural as well as invidious for any denomination to style itself "The Church." Denominations are not even "Churches," though often so misnamed; they are, at best, but divisions of the grand army of the saints.
2. It carried seven lamps.
(1) These are called "candlesticks" (Revelation 1:20). The reason is that visible Christian corporations, which are called "Churches "in the plural (see Acts 9:31; Acts 15:41; Acts 16:5), are types of the more perfect unity.
(2) "Seven" is a definite, put for an indefinite, number. It is the numeral for perfection, and likewise stands for many (see 1 Samuel 2:5). So the seven Churches of Asia, to which the candlestick is compared, are to be taken as representing the multitude of the Churches of Christendom. These are, indeed, countless, if, as Chrysostom says, "where two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus there is a Church."
3. The candlestick was of pure gold. This was to express the preciousness of the saints.
(1) They are precious to God. He has redeemed them with the blood of Christ. He has prepared for them a heaven of inconceivable magnificence.
(2) They are precious to the world. They are its light. They are its salt. The light in them, like salt, is purifying and preserving, as well as illuminating (Matthew 5:13-16.)
II. THE LIGHT IN THE CHURCHES IS THE WORD OF GOD. This may be taken in kindred senses.
1. God's Word written.
(1) This is no uncertain light, as that of mere reason is.
(2) It is no false light, as that of tradition often is. For, however pure it may have been at its source, it soon becomes corrupted in transmission.
2. The personal Word of God.
(1) The presence of a personal Teacher in the living Spirit of Christ is a priceless blessing.
(2) Such an Interpreter is infinitely better than popes or Councils.
(3) Christians are still the disciples of the personal Jesus. They should cultivate in prayerfulness the simplicity and docility becoming such (see John 7:17).
III. THE OIL THAT SUSTAINS THE LIGHT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT'S GRACE. No wonder it must be "pure oil olive beaten for the light."
1. Jesus had the Spirit without measure.
(1) The fullness of the Godhead bodily was in him. So was he anointed with the oil of gladness immeasurably above his fellows.
(2) Thus was he constituted the Christ, or Anointed One.
2. Of his fullness we receive grace.
(1) Christians, therefore, with propriety have their name from Christ. Those who first gave that name in derision little knew its propriety (see 2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27).
(2) This anointing is illuminating. So we learn in these references from John. It enlightens the Christian himself. It enables him to illumine others.
IV. THE OIL WAS FURNISHED BY THE WORSHIPPERS.
1. There is a sense in which believers bring the Holy Ghost.
(1) They do this by their faith. When the faith of the people is constant, the lamps of the Churches "burn continually." What an honour to the faithful!
(2) Through unfaithfulness the candlestick (or lamp) may be removed (see Revelation 2:5; also Matthew 21:43). How great is the responsibility of professors!
2. The Holy Ghost is nevertheless the Gift of God.
(1) This is true of his type. Who but God could put oil into the olive?
(2) So of the Antitype. Accordingly, in Zechariah 4:2, Zechariah 4:3, the oil is represented as feeding the candlestick immediately from the olive. The figure is explained thus, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 4:6).
V. AARON AMONG THE LIGHTS REPRESENTED CHRIST AMONG HIS CHURCHES,
1. This we have from the nature of the case. The high priest was, generally, a type of Christ. So in this particular.
2. We have it also by special revelation (see Revelation 1:13).
VI. THE CANDLESTICK WAS WITHOUT THE VAIL.
1. The Churches shine in this world.
(1) The sanctuary was the type of the kingdom of the heavens upon the earth. Here the candlestick was placed.
(2) Every Church member should realize that he has his light from God that he may diffuse it (Matthew 5:14-16).
2. The Shechinah was within the vail.
(1) There is no need of a candle in that bright Presence (see Isaiah 60:19, Isaiah 60:20; Revelation 21:10, Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5).
(2) The seven Churches are there lost in the one Church, which flames with the glory of God. If there are before the throne "seven lamps of fire," they are explained to be the "seven Spirits of God," or Holy Spirit, whose light is "sevenfold" or perfect (Revelation 4:5; Isaiah 30:26).—J.A.M.
The bread of the presence.
As there was light on the candlestick in God's house, so was there bread on his table. It was called the "shewbread," literally, "bread of faces," or of the presence, viz. of Jehovah. Let us consider—
I. ITS DESCRIPTION.
1. It was composed of fine flour.
(1) Christ is compared to a corn of wheat, viz. before it is ground, and while the life is whole in it.
(2) So is he compared to bread. This is corn whose life is sacrificed in the treatment to which it is subjected. Jesus calls himself the Bread who gives his life unto the world (John 6:33).
(3) The very manner in which corn loses its life to become nourishment, it being bruised and burnt, describes the sufferings of Christ in body and spirit from the hands of man and of God.
(4) Bread is the staple in food. As without it there is no feast, so without Christ there is no true joy. As with it there is no hunger, so have we in him a satisfying portion.
2. It was measured in tenths.
(1) Ten is the number for riches; and Christ, as the Rich One, is called a Tenth (see Isaiah 6:13). All the holy bread was measured in tenth-deals, to point to the "measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:7, Ephesians 4:13). The riches of eternity are ours in him (see Homily on the Feast of Expiation).
(2) But why two tenth-deals to each cake? Perhaps light may be let in upon this by noting that, on the sixth day, two omers, or tenths, of manna were gathered to prepare for the sabbath (Exodus 16:22). It was on the sabbath that the bread of the presence was replaced.
(3) This correspondence further identifies the typical import of the presence-bread with that of the manna. Note in addition that, as the manna came from God out of heaven, this bread is distinguished as that which comes from the Divine presence; and the true Bread of Life came from heaven (John 6:33, John 6:38, John 6:40, John 6:50, John 6:51, John 6:58).
3. The number of the loaves was twelve.
(1) Here was a loaf for every son of Israel. "There is bread enough in our Father's house."
(2) This number was continued after the revolt of the ten tribes (2 Chronicles 13:11). This fact suggests that the number is also typical in relation to the spiritual Israel; a view confirmed by the application of the number twelve to the New Testament Church. Thus upon the head of the sun-clothed woman is a coronet of twelve stars, obviously in allusion to the twelve apostles of the Lamb, who are described as twelve angels at the twelve gates of the mystical city, and whose names are inscribed upon its twelve foundations (Revelation 12:1; Revelation 21:12, Revelation 21:14, Revelation 21:21).
(3) Twelve also is the number of the Lamb himself. He is the true Tree of Life, having twelve manner of fruits, corresponding to the twelve months in the year (Revelation 22:2). So the one Bread of the Presence is distributed into twelve loaves. And "we being many are one bread" in him (see 1 Corinthians 10:17).
(4) This association of the months with the loaves opens a very interesting field of investigation. Is there not a great year of the world to be measured by soil-lunar time (see Genesis 1:14)? King, in his 'Morsels of Criticism,' has a dissertation concerning the sabbath and a sabbatical era, in which he unfolds from the sabbatical intercalation of the Levitical system a more perfect adjustment of lunar to solar time than the Gregorian. Intercalations on the principle of the Jewish sabbatic period will in 400 years adjust the solar and lunar time within one hour and forty minutes. In fifteen such periods, or 6000 years, the adjustment will leave only one hour to be accounted for. But every 144,000 years, which is the square of 12 in thousands, and a number very remarkable in the measures of the New Jerusalem, things are brought right to a second (see Revelation 7:1-17; Revelation 14:3, Revelation 14:4; Revelation 21:17).
II. WHAT WAS DONE WITH IT.
1. It was placed upon the table before the Lord.
(1) It was "before the Lord," for the Shechinah was separated from it only by the vail. The glory sometimes streamed out through the vail, as it did through the flesh of Christ on the mount of transfiguration.
(2) it was then set in two rows of six over against each other. The purpose seems to have been to show how the tribes of the spiritual Israel will feast together in the fellowship of heaven.
(3) It was in a sense there "continually," for it was replaced with new every sabbath. The Jews say, "The hands of those priests that put on were mixed with those that took off, that the table might be never empty."
2. A memorial of it was burnt.
(1) It was "an offering made by fire unto the Lord." But how? Was it not eaten by the priests? When the cakes were removed the frankincense was burnt. This was the memorial of the whole; in this the whole was accepted as a burnt offering (comp. Le Leviticus 2:2). This will explain the expression in the words of the angel to Cornelius, "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God" (Acts 10:4).
(2) But was this memorial burnt upon the table? We have no reason to think so. It was probably burnt upon the golden altar, which was the altar of incense. Note: the communion table ought never to be spoken of as an altar. It was from the table, not from the altar, that the priests ate the bread of the presence.
(3) The spiritual priesthood alone have a right to partake of the true Bread of the Presence, and feast in fellowship with God.—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Ourselves as lights.
There can be no doubt that the seven-branched candlestick in the holy place was typical of the Hebrew Church as the source of heavenly light. We therefore reach the subject of—
I. LIGHT DIVINELY KINDLED. All light must be of God, who himself is light (1 John 1:5). He has sought to illumine the human world in more ways than one.
1. He has given us the light of our spiritual nature—our reason, our conscience; "the spirit of man is the candle (lamp) of the Lord" (Proverbs 20:27).
2. This should have sufficed to us, but it did not; and God gave the revelation of himself in his Law. Amid the surrounding darkness there was light in Israel. The brightly burning lamp in the holy place represented the holy nation, the instructed people, with whom were the oracles of God, into whose minds the truth of heaven was shining.
3. Yet this did not suffice, and God gave the Light of the world, his only begotten Son. "That was the true light which, coming into the world, enlighteneth every one."
4. And he came that he might leave in the world the light of the Christian Church; those to whom and of whom he could say, "We are the light of the world." "As he was, so are we in this world," sources of heavenly illumination, of inward purity, of Divine wisdom.
II. ITS TRUE CHARACTERISTICS. These are:
1. Purity: they were to bring "pure oil olive beaten." The light which is to shine in our words and from our character is to be such that there shall be the least possible admixture of error and corruption.
2. Fullness: we read of "the lamps" (plural), and we know that there were seven of these (Exodus 25:31, Exodus 25:32)—a complete, perfect number. The truth we are to make manifest is not only to be pure, but full. We must declare the "whole counsel of God ;" the severe as well as the gracious, the less pleasant as well as the more acceptable, the deeper as well as the more superficial, the ethical as well as the doctrinal, aspects of the truth of God.
3. Constancy: they were "to cause the lamps to burn continually" (Leviticus 24:2), "from the evening unto the morning before the Lord continually" (Leviticus 24:3). Whether all day and all night long, or only (as seems more probable) through the night, the lamps were to burn all the appointed time without ceasing to shine; there was to be no fitfulness or unsteadiness about the light which shone "before the Lord." So our words and our deeds are to be continually reflecting the light of heavenly truth. In our work and in our play, in things sacred and in things secular, at home and from home, consciously and unconsciously, we are to be "bearing witness unto the truth," we are to be "shining as lights in the world."
III. ITS MAINTENANCE. "Aaron shall order it." "He shall order the lamps." The Jewish priest was to take every care that the lamps burnt brightly and continually.
1. The Christian minister has to see that he does his part in "ordering the lamps." He must preach such truth and give such counsel as shall feed the fires of the soul most effectively.
2. Each Christian man must do his part also. Every one of us must
(1) watch to see when the light is low;
(2) replenish the spirit with sacred truth, that truth which nourishes and sustains the soul in the life of God;
(3) seek from heaven those Divine influences which shall be as oil to the flame and make it
" … to his glory burn
With inextinguishable blaze."
The lesson of the loaves.
In this act of worship the Jews made weekly acknowledgment of the goodness of God to them and of their dependence on him; they presented to him a suitable offering of those things he had given them; and they silently pleaded for God's continued remembrance of them and their necessities. The lesson of these loaves, of this "bread of presence," is therefore—
I. THAT GOD'S GIFTS TO US ARE SUCH AS TO DEMAND OUR CONTINUAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT. The Hebrew priest was to place before the Lord bread, the source of strength (Psalms 104:15); wine, the source of gladness (Psalms 104:15); and frankincense (Leviticus 24:7), the source of sweetness. He was to renew these presentations every sabbath day "continually" (Leviticus 24:8), and the table was never to be without them. This was a constant acknowledgment by the nation, through the act of the priesthood, of its dependence on God for all the good gifts received at his hand. We also, in our way, are to make continual acknowledgment every sabbath day in the sanctuary, every day at the family altar, and in the chamber of devotion, of our absolute dependence on God, for
(1) our strength,—all things that minister to our health and vigour of body, mind, spirit, being due to his providing love; for
(2) our gladness,—all those comforts and enjoyments, all those happy memories and inspiring hopes which make the music of our life, which infuse joyousness and elasticity into our nature, coming from his bountiful hand; and for
(3) the sweetness of our life,—all the tender affections, the delicate delights which belong to pure and holy love, being the gift of his kindness also.
II. THAT WITH OUR SENSE OF WHAT WE OWE TO GOD IT IS SUITABLE THAT WE PRESENT SOME OFFERING TO HIM. Of that which made Israel strong, the priest presented bread; of that which made it glad, wine; of that which was sweet, frankincense.
1. Our strength is in mental power, knowledge, gift of speech, bodily vigour, wealth; of these we should give a goodly share to the cause and kingdom of Jesus Christ.
2. Of our joy and gladness we should give to God our offering in gratitude, in thankful thoughts and in the voice of praise.
3. Of the affection which constitutes the sweetness of our life we are to give a large measure of love to him whom we have not seen, but whom we know as our Divine Redeemer and unchanging Friend.
III. THAT, SO DOING, WE MAY EXPECT RESPONSIVE BLESSINGS FROM HIM. This was to be done "for a memorial" (Leviticus 24:7), i.e; a "bringing to remembrance of the worshipper for his good." Jehovah was "continually" reminded of the devoutness of his people by the "bread of presence." He was thus continually appealed to, by that silent prayer, to "remember them for good." And as long as that act of worship in the holy place truly represented the spirit of the people, as long as it was their act, through the priests, of acknowledgment and consecration; so long was the Divine Sovereign well pleased with his subjects, so long was he ready to enrich and bless them. As long as we, instead of ascribing to ourselves the strength, joy, and sweetness of our lives, are honouring our God and Saviour for his goodness and grace therein, as long as we are cheerfully and generously giving to him and to his cause of that which he has given us; so long may we reckon on his gracious smile and look for his abundant blessing.—C.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The lights in the sanctuary.
Pure oil furnished by the people. The high priest responsible for the maintenance of the lamps. Pure oil, pure lamps, pure candlestick, before the Lord continually. The main lessons are these—
I. PROGRESSIVE, CONTINUAL SANCTIFICATION of God's people provided for by his grace.
1. By the supply of the Spirit, the pure oil.
2. In and through the lamps that is, the individual and positive manifestation of the spiritual life.
3. In connection with the golden candlestick, and in dependence on the ministry of the high priest; that is, by means of the Church and its ordinances, in so far as the manifestation and public maintenance of the light of life are concerned. Yet, as the people themselves provided the pure oil, we are reminded that personal sanctification is not dependent solely on public ordinances; but the Spirit worketh as he will (John 3:8).
II. DIVINE FAITHFULNESS AND LONG-SUFFERING in the midst of the true Church. While the night is over them, the light still burns. While outside the temple there is gloom, within the sanctuary there is hope and promise.
III. TYPICALLY, THE PRESSED OIL AND BEATEN GOLD of the candlestick point to the connection of the work of the Spirit with the sacrificial work of Christ. The light of sanctification proceeds from the death of Christ, and is maintained by the priesthood of Christ.—R.
The shewbread, or bread of the Presence.
Corresponding with the number of the tribes, and representing them; a national offering; a meat offering, with frankincense, drink offering, and salt. Taken from the people, eaten by the priests, every sabbath, for a memorial, by an everlasting covenant; "furnishing a striking figure of Israel's condition in the view of Jehovah, whatever might be their outward aspect. The twelve tribes are ever before him. Their memorial can never perish. They are ranged in Divine order in the sanctuary, covered with the fragrant incense of Christ, and reflected from the pure table whereon they rest beneath the bright beams of that golden tamp which shines, with undimmed luster, through the darkest hour of the nation's moral night."
I. The perfect UNITY and completeness of the Church as before God.
1. As compared with the broken, external, visible unity.
2. As maintained by the Spirit and merit of Christ.
3. As hereafter to be manifested when there shall be no more temple, but the glory of God and of the Lamb are the temple of the heavenly Jerusalem.
II. The SAFETY and blessedness of God's people. Their memorial is before him.
1. Proceeding from the sanctuary, i.e; all blessedness the outcome of spiritual blessedness.
2. Committed to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head of the true Israel, the Lord of the temple, in whom "all the promises are Yea and Amen."
3. Appealing to faith. The loaves were there to represent the continued life of the people; faith alone saw the reality.—R.
To many the regulations of Leviticus seem a cryptograph to which they have no key. To others, an inscription of old date with no reference to present concerns. Yet, dull-eyed must we be if we can discern no lessons for ourselves in the construction of the tabernacle and its furniture. The Hebrew can be translated into modern English, the Law stated in terms of the gospel. The tabernacle was the meeting-place of God with his people. It was his house, where his servants ministered and his guests were entertained. Light was needful therein,—the great requisite of life, without which men grow pale and plants sickly, work ceases, and festivity is impossible. Let us consider the candlestick with its light.
I. AS SETTING FORTH THE CHARACTER AND ATTRIBUTES OF GOD.
1. The characteristics of light.
(1) Its beauty. Naught excels it; it is splendour itself, and invests other objects with radiance. "God is light." What a combination of hues constitutes the pure white ray!
(2) An emblem of knowledge. "Thy Word is a light unto my path." "To the Law and to the testimony: if they … no light in them." Light is the revealer—indicates our position and prospects. The wisdom of God is infinite; an inscrutable blaze that baffles the strongest vision. He devises plans for every emergency. Whilst men argue concerning the possibility of some works, he calmly does them; yea, whilst they prove (!) that no God exists, he is occupied in balancing the worlds, directing the course of the ages, hastening the day when all shall perforce know him.
(3) Typical of joy. "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Illuminations are a worldwide method of rejoicing. The notions some hold concerning God as a hard Taskmaster, a Judge of severe countenance, a Father who never smiles, are not Biblical representations. We read of "the glorious gospel of the blessed (happy) God." Joy is an emotion that loves to communicate itself to others, and from the throne of God issues a stream of untainted happiness to enrich the lives of his children.
2. The burning lamps showed the constant wakefulness of God. The people retired to their couches for repose, darkness brooded over the camp, bat the holy place was unaffected by the shadows of the night. God never slumbers nor sleeps. It may not have occurred to the Israelites that God heard prayer from o'er the compass of the globe; but, in order to be the God of the whole earth and to listen to the petitions of all its inhabitants, it follows of necessity that God has no couch in his sanctuary, for he resteth not. Whilst the day is closing in the one hemisphere it is beginning to dawn in the other. "In him is no darkness at all."
3. The candlestick indicated perpetual existence. "A statue for ever in your generations.'' Aaron might pass away, but the candlestick continued to give light in the tabernacle. Men die, God survives. As we behold the same sun and moon that gladdened the eyes of our forefathers, so it is the same God that hears our prayers and blesses us with the light of his countenance.
II. As SETTING FORTH THE RELATIONSHIP AND FUNCTIONS OF THE PEOPLE.
1. Their privileged condition as favoured with a special revelation of the being and character of God. They were the only nation to possess such a candlestick made "after the pattern showed in the mount." All the heathen constructed deities and images of Deity according to their own judgment, taste, and caprice. The night during which the lamp burned was a fit emblem of the moral state of the world lying outside Israel. The Israelites were blessed with the light of the Law; "to them were committed the oracles of God." In the symbols of the Law was taught the way of salvation, to be completed by a coming Mediator. So in Jesus Christ we have "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God." At the Feast of Tabernacles, when according to custom large golden lamps were lit at dark in the temple court, our Lord termed himself "the Light of the world." We have the Spirit of God to illumine our consciences, to show unto us the things of Christ. We read in the Revelation of the seven burning lamps before the throne, which are the sevenfold Spirit of God. In Zechariah's vision of the candlestick he saw the bowls supplied with oil from two olive trees, representing the continued grace furnished by the Spirit of God, keeping alight the knowledge of God in days of the Church's decline. And we have the Word of God, "a light shining in a dark place." Let not this light condemn us as did the sacred candlestick removed to Belshazzar's palace, where its rays revealed the fingers of a man's hand writing the monarch's doom. "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."
2. Their duty to minister to the glory of God. The people were permitted, yea, expected, to bring the oil for the lamps, as they had previously offered the gold for the candlestick itself. They were to keep the light of God burning in the world. It is incumbent on Christians to support the ministry and the operations of the Church, that there may be a continual testimony to the existence and majesty of the Eternal. God requires us to render the best service at our command. It must be pure. The candlestick was of gold, as were the tongs and snuff-dishes, and the oil was of finest quality, free from dust, not crushed, but beaten. If preparing a meal for one we lightly esteem, little trouble is taken, but where we delight to honour our guest, what anxiety is displayed in all that concerns the banquet! Our devotion must be regular. The lamps were lit each evening, trimmed and dressed every morning. That the full light did not shine during the day is evident from 1 Samuel 3:3. Josephus, however, says that three of the lamps burnt all day long. The lamp is said to "ascend," it rises to heaven as a tribute of adoration to God. We may think of him as viewing his world, and expecting light to arise from different quarters where his children dwell. But how often must disappointment accrue! No morning perusal of his Word, no evening worship. A mother on her birthday delights to turn over the letters from her children, that greet her upon her plate, but if one familiar handwriting be missed, what a shadow darkens her joy! The chill that creeps over her heart seems to nullify the gladness which the tokens of remembrance cause. Let not God have to sigh over our neglect. All is accepted through the priesthood. No Levite or layman must enter the holy precincts, the priests represent and are supported by the people. Jesus Christ is our means of access to the Father; through him our service is acceptable. To venture to draw nigh in our name is presumption; it sets at naught the solemn regulations of the Most High, and it will receive the rebuke it merits. The Son of man must walk in the midst of our golden candlesticks, or else we know not that they are in accordance with the Divine mind; and only thus can we hear the exhortations that shall prevent the candlestick from being removed out of its place because of failure to discharge its proper functions.—S.R.A.
The furniture and ministry of the tabernacle are most clearly understood in import, if it be remembered that they have a double reference. Like the clouds of the sky, one aspect is towards heaven, the other towards earth. In the ordinance of the shewbread, we may see imaged truths relating to God, and truths with more immediate reference to the position and duties of his people.
I. GOD AS THE PRESERVER OF LIFE. Food was essential to the conception of the tabernacle as the house of God. Unless he minister to the needs of his servants, they perish for lack of sustenance. "My Father giveth you the true Bread from heaven." The shewbread is literally the "bread of my face," or presence. Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, appears continually before the presence of God. God is never unprovided with entertainment for his guests. He is able also to supply the wants of all his people. Twelve loaves indicate that every tribe is remembered. As we think of the shewbread, let it point us to him who pointed to the Bread upon the table of the last Supper and said, "This is my body." He was truly of the finest of the wheat, no corruption marred his perfection. He was prepared to be the Bread of the world by many sufferings, just as the flour of the shewbread underwent numerous poundings and bruisings.
II. THE PEOPLE CONTRIBUTING THE BREAD OF GOD. A parent bestows an allowance upon his children, and is none the less pleased when they devote a portion of it to purchasing some offering of regard to present to him. So from God do we derive all we possess; it is really his, and yet he graciously accepts as our gift to him what we consecrate to his service. This shewbread represented the result of toil in tilling, sowing, and reaping. The Israelites were expected to offer of the best of their property. Only fine wheaten flour is accepted to be placed upon the table. Love should secure this attention if naught else suffices. All the people are bound to be represented before God. The twelve cakes testified that God was reverenced and served by all the tribes. The duty one of perpetual and unceasing obligation. It recurred every week, and devolved on each succeeding generation. The continual observance of God's statutes is the token of the covenant. The shewbread perfumed with incense. The loaves were accepted indirectly by God, being consumed by his consecrated servants, but the incense was burned as God's special memorial. Prayer hallows every offering, without it our deeds and gifts lack the religious spirit that is the real honouring of God. And prayer should ever be in the Name of Christ, whose merits impart fragrance to our unworthy presentations. We must not rest satisfied with our former religious deeds. The offering of last week needs to be repeated, else it will grow stale and be offensive to God. With every day, in fact, should come a rededication. As our physical frame is in constant flux, so is it with our thoughts and emotions; they are really new, and must in their turn be laid before God.—S.R.A.
The reason why the narrative of the blasphemer's death (Leviticus 24:10-23) is introduced in its present connection, is simply that it took place at the point of time which followed the promulgation of the last law. It serves, however, to vindicate by a memorable example the principle which is at the foundation of every Mosaic law. "I am the Lord" is the often-repeated sanction, whether of a moral law or of a ceremonial regulation. But this bastard Israelite, one of the mixed multitude that had followed in the flight from Egypt (Exodus 12:38), blasphemed the Name of the Lord. If such blasphemy were to go unpunished, the obligation of law was dissolved. For, as Lange has said, "A community which suffers the reviling of the principle of their community without reaction, is morally fallen to pieces." He was brought, therefore, to Moses, and so solemn was the occasion, that Moses reserved the case, for which no provision had yet been made, for the special decision of God. The specific judgment on the man is that he shall die by stoning at the hands of the congregation, after the witnesses of his sin had laid their hands upon his head; and a general law is founded on the special case.
The son of an Israelitish woman. This is the only place where the adjective Israelitish is found; and the word "Israelite" only occurs in 2 Samuel 17:25. Whose father was an Egyptian. The man could not, therefore, be a member of the congregation, as, according to the subsequently promulgated law (Deuteronomy 23:8), the descendant of an Egyptian could not be admitted till the third generation. He seems to have committed two offenses which led up to his great crime. First, he went out among the children of Israel, that is, he did not confine himself to his own part of the encampment, where the mixed multitude lived, but he intruded into the part set aside for pure Israelites; and next, having thus put himself already in the wrong, this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp. According to Jewish tradition, the cause of quarrel was a claim set up by the Egypto-Israelite to encamp in the Danite quarters, on the ground that his mother was a Danite—a claim which he insisted on enforcing, although the judges gave a decision against him.
In the course of the straggle the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed. The word nakav is here rightly translated blasphemeth (cf. Leviticus 24:14, Leviticus 24:16, Leviticus 24:23), but the words of the Lord should be omitted, as they are not found in the original, and are not required. The LXX. have rendered nakav by a word meaning pronounced, and on this misunderstanding, adopted by the Jews, has been founded the Jewish precept forbidding the utterance of the Divine Name. Owing to that prohibition, the true pronunciation of the word written and called "Jehovah" has been lost. Wherever the Name occurred in Scripture, that of Adonai, meaning Lord, was substituted for it in public reading, the consonants only of the original name, Y H V H, being preserved in the written text, and the vowels of Adonai, namely a o a, being written underneath them in lieu of the original vowels. From the consonants Y H V H and the vowels a o a would be formed Yahovah or Jahovah, but the laws of the Hebrew language required the first a to be changed into e, and hence the name Jehovah. It is almost certain that the original vowels were a and e, which would form the name Yahveh, the Samaritans having always so pronounced it, according to the testimony of Theodoret. It is said that the high priest continued to utter the very name Yahveh on the Day of Atonement long after it had ceased to be used in the reading of the Scriptures, and that when he did so, those who heard it prostrated themselves, saying, "Blessed be the Name!" After a time, however, he ceased to pronounce it aloud on that day also, lest it should be learnt and used for magical purposes. In consequence, perhaps, of the substitution of Adonai for Yahveh, the Septuagint version always reads for Yahveh, Κύριος: and the English version the LORD. In French and other versions the name is represented by the Eternal, and it has been proposed to substitute the latter rendering for the Loud in our own version. But it is more than doubtful whether we should then come nearer to the true sense of the original Yahveh, although at first sight it appears that this would be the case. For the word Yahveh is part of the causative form of the verb havah, or hayah, to be; but this verb is not used to express unchangeable or absolute existence, but rather an occurrence: its causative form, therefore, would signify that which brings about events; and the substantive derived from that causative form would signify, not one that eternally exists, but one that providentially governs. For an induction of instances for the further proof of the above meaning of the word Yahveh, we refer the reader to Sir William Martin's essay 'On the Divine Name' ('Semitic Languages,' part 2), from which we transcribe the concluding paragraph. "This view of the Divine Name, to which we are led by the evidence of the Hebrew language itself, is in full conformity with the general religious teaching of the Old Testament, which is practical and moral; setting forth in form readily intelligible, the character of God in his relations to man. It does not concern itself with those problems which philosophy has ever been seeking to solve. It addresses itself to human needs and human duties, and not to abstract inquiries. Not that the highest abstract truths were unknown or untaught. Lawgiver and prophet and psalmist set before the people the greatness and the eternity of God in language most clear and impressive. Yet the Name whereby he was put before them as the object of their daily worship, was not one which would exalt him to the utmost above the frail and changeful and transitory lives of his worshippers, and thereby remove him far away from them into the height of a Being beyond man's search or comprehension; but rather a Name which should bring him nigh to them, as One ever mindful of them, ever carrying forward his great purpose for their good, working for their deliverance in every time of need; as One 'whose providence ordereth all things in heaven and on earth.' If this Name did convey to the mind of a Hebrew hearer the thought above expressed, it follows that the old rendering Adonai, Κύριος, or Lord, is to be preferred to that which has of late been substituted for it." And they brought the blasphemer unto Moses. This was in accordance with the counsel of Jethro, accepted by Moses (Exodus 18:13-26): "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: and let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge:… and they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves."
And they put him in ward. The same course was followed in the case of the man found gathering sticks upon the sabbath day: "And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him" (Numbers 15:34). The same penalty was awarded in both cases.
Leviticus 24:13, Leviticus 24:14
Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp;—lest the camp should become polluted by his death—and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head. The ceremony of laying on of hands in all cases set apart the person or thing on whom or on which they were laid for some special purpose. Its further signification was determined by the particular circumstances of the case. Here it probably returned back on the head of the blasphemer the guilt which otherwise would have adhered to the witnesses from the fact of their hearing his blasphemy, and appearing to acquiesce in it.
Leviticus 24:15, Leviticus 24:16
In accordance with the judicial decision on the man is framed the general law against blasphemy and its penalty. It runs as follows: Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him. It has been questioned whether two offenses or one are here contemplated, whether cursing his God is one offense, bearing his sin being its punishment, and blaspheming the Name of the Lord another and greater offense, for which the punishment is stoning; or whether the latter offense and punishment are a more specific statement of the offense and punishment which had only generally been described before. Those who take the first view point out that the present offender was an Egyptian, and urge that had he cursed his God, that is, the Egyptian god or gods, he would only have had to bear his sin; but that as he had blasphemed the Name of Israel's God, Jehovah, he was to be stoned. The second explanation, however, is the truer one. The Scriptures recognize but one God, and he is the Lord Jehovah. Whoever curses him shall bear his sin, that is, shall be guilty in such a way that his sin must be purged either by punishment or by sacrifice, and it is then further declared that this particular sin can be purged only by the death of the offender at the hand of the congregation.
In close connection with the command to slay the blasphemer is repeated the prohibition of murder, and the injunction that the murderer shall surely be put to death. Thus a distinction is sharply drawn between the judicial sentence carried out by the congregation, and the unsanctioned smiting the life of a man by another, and a warning is given against any man fanatically taking the law into his own hands, even in the case of a blasphemer.
A summary of the law respecting minor injuries is added to that respecting murder. He that killeth a man, he shall be put to death, but he that killeth a beast shall make it good; and this lex talionis shall apply to all damage done to another, breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth (see Matthew 5:38).
As it had been a stranger who had on this occasion been the offender, the law, Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country, with the sanction, I am the Lord your God, is emphatically repeated (see Leviticus 19:34).
The penalty is inflicted on the offender solemnly as an act of the Law, not of mob fury. So it was by a judicial or semi-judicial proceeding that St. Stephen was stoned: "They brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the Law" (Acts 6:12, Acts 6:13). And in spite of the violence exhibited, there was still some form of law, according to Jewish practice, observed in his stoning (Acts 7:58). In the case of our Lord, on the other hand. when they regarded him as guilty of blasphemy on his saying, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58), and "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30), the Jews "took up stones to cast at him," not waiting for a judicial condemnation, but, as they supposed, taking the law into their own hands. Had his death been by Jewish hands, it would at the last have been by stoning under this law. But the power of life and death had been taken away from the Jews by the Romans, "that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die" (John 18:32).
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The crime of blasphemy.
cf. 2 Chronicles 26:10-23; Daniel 5:1-4, Daniel 5:30. The sanctity of the Name of God is distinctly declared in the third commandment. There the Lord declared that he would not hold the blasphemer "guiltless." But it was not till the incident now before us that God showed his sense of the enormity of the crime. He here puts it into the category of capital crimes, and decrees the death of every blasphemer, whether he be a stranger or one born in the land.
Now, when we inquire, we find that he calls it "this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD" (Deuteronomy 28:58). So glorious is it that inanimate things, when his Name is put upon them, cannot be desecrated with impunity. Thus his tabernacle could not be treated even by a king according to his capricious pleasure, but Uzziah, for presuming to burn incense within it, is doomed to leprosy and exile all his life (2 Chronicles 26:16-23). Belshazzar too paid the penalty of his life for desecrating the vessels belonging to the tabernacle (Daniel 5:1-4, Daniel 5:30).
The case before us was one of pure blasphemy. This reckless youth, the son of an Egyptian father, had blasphemed "the Name," and for this he was stoned to death after those who heard the blasphemy had laid their hands on his head.
I. LET US START WITH THE FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH THAT THE NAME OF GOD IS THE REVELATION OF HIS CHARACTER IN WORD. Hence to take up the Name of God lightly is to treat his character lightly. It is, in fact, to despise the Person, and is nothing less than treason against the Supreme King. The individual who blasphemes "the Name" would take up arms against the Person, and so must be treated as a rebel. When, therefore, we bear in mind that God makes known his Name that men may trust in him (cf. Psalms 9:10), the blaspheming of his holy Name is really the rejection of his appeal for trust, the rejection of his merciful manifestation, and deserves the penalty attached to it.
II. MAN'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS GOD'S NAME DETERMINES HIS CHARACTER. In other words, the Name of God is the touchstone of human character. The person who curseth the holy Name, as this reckless youth did, is thereby judged. He has voluntarily set himself against the Almighty, he has become a rebel not in heart only but openly, and if the Most High is to exercise his authority, the blasphemer should die. It is, moreover, a mistake to imagine, because sentence is not now executed so speedily against blasphemers, that their awful sin has become less heinous in the lapse of ages. The shortsighted individual who defies the Almighty will find eventually how hard are the bosses of his buckler.
III. THE PENALTY ATTACHED TO BLASPHEMY IS TO BE ACQUIESCED IN BY THE PEOPLE OF THE LOUD. The whole congregation in this case is called upon to repudiate the awful crime. Those who heard it are required to lay their hands on the blasphemer's head, to indicate that the guilt must be his own. They will not share it, and then the whole congregation are to be the executioners of the Divine decree. Now we are bound to entertain a similar and holy abhorrence of such a crime. We are most assuredly sinking in character if, through association with careless men, we come to regard blasphemy when indulged in as a light thing. The truth is, if we are making spiritual progress, we shall be advancing in the fear of his Name. Greater awe, not greater familiarity, will characterize us, until at length we shall see it to be just and right, if treason towards mere potentates on earth is regarded as a capital offense, much more ought treason against "the blessed and only Potentate" to be visited with death.
IV. LET US IN CONSEQUENCE ALL BOW AT THE NAME OF JESUS. To him hath the Father given a Name that is above every name, that at it every knee should bow (Philippians 2:9, Philippians 2:10). Submitting reverently to him, we shall find in his Name that marvelous significance which was heralded before his birth (Matthew 1:21). As our Saviour from sin, he will show us how reasonable is the exhortation, "Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2 Timothy 2:19). Baptized in his Name, as well as in the Name of the Father and of the Holy Ghost, we shall look to him for the fulfillment of the covenant promise therein implied. £ Under the shadow of the Name and in the light of the face of God revealed in Jesus Christ, we shall be enabled to pass on reverently and peacefully towards our everlasting rest.—R.M.E.
Public justice secured by the law of retaliation.
cf. Matthew 5:38-48; Romans 12:19-21. There is here presented to us, as a law upon which Israel was to act, the principle of retaliation. And yet we have seen in the moralities of Leviticus 19:17, Leviticus 19:18, an express denunciation of revenge. How are we to reconcile this retaliation commanded with the revenge which is forbidden? Evidently the retaliation is to be deliberate, in cool blood, without the fever-heat of vengeance.
Now, when we bear in mind the early age to which this law of retaliation was given, an age when the institution of public justice was rudimentary in character, then we can understand how very important a check it was on the lawlessness to which men are naturally tempted. Of course, when public justice has developed itself into a wide and vigilant system, the necessity for each man taking the law into his own hand ceases. Then it becomes a crime against law to usurp its functions; it only increases lawlessness to attempt for one's self what the organized state willingly undertakes for you.
But in rude ages it is eminently desirable that savage spirits should contemplate as a dead certainty getting as much as they give. £ Let us notice one or two points.
I. THE LAW OF RETALIATION; ADMINISTERED IN A JUDICIAL SPIRIT, WAS IN THE INTERESTS OF JUSTICE AND ORDER. Its principle is a sound one. The criminal is to get exactly what he gave. It is only in this way that the nature of a crime can be driven home to a rude and tyrannical nature. If he has been cruel to a neighbour, let him taste the effect himself of the same amount of cruelty. A man who victimizes his neighbours will cease doing so if he finds that he is to be victimized in exactly the same fashion by public law. In fact, he comes to consider his own case as bound up most intimately with his neighbours', and, instead of indulging in cruelty, he by his better conduct ensures his personal peace.
And a distinct corollary of this law of retaliation is the penalty of murder (Romans 12:17, Romans 12:21). If a man deliberately puts his brother out of life, it is an injury which admits of no repair, and so death becomes its just penalty.
II. THE LAW OF RETALIATION IS IN ONE RESPECT A PREPARATION FOB THE GOLDEN RULE. For the golden rule runs parallel to it. It is, so to speak, its glorious issue. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the Law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12). Yes, this very law of retaliation suggests to every thoughtful mind whether it would not be better to try the opposite plan, and do to others, not what we should be afraid they would do to us, but what we would like them to do to us. In other words, let us wisely win the good services of others, if we are to receive what we give, by doing all to them and. for them that we would welcome ourselves.
And indeed, the reason why the golden rule does not prevail as widely as it might, is because immediate justice is not now executed as in the case of a law of retaliation it is. The return of kindness is often impeded by ingratitude, and men may do good to others for a long lifetime without receiving much thanks. But such an arrangement gives a field for faith and courage, such as a government of instantaneous justice could not secure. In truth, we should become mere mercenaries if the golden rule involved instantaneous returns. Now, however, we must rely on the wide range of providence, and believe that in the end it will prove wisest and best to have treated our neighbour as we would like to be treated ourselves.
III. IN CULTIVATING THE SPIRIT OF LOVE TOWARDS EVEN OUR ENEMIES, WE ARE BUT FOLLOWING THE FOOTSTEPS OF OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN. For while re-enforcing the courage of his people in rude ages by commanding retaliation, he was himself at the same time making his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sending rain upon the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45). He was not dealing with men after their sins, nor rewarding them according to their iniquities (Psalms 103:10). Not only in Nature, with its dignified refusal to be a respecter of persons, but also in his sacrificial worship, was God dealing with his enemies so as to make them his friends. He was pursuing even then the policy of overcoming evil by good (Romans 12:21). Such laws as retaliation, resting on inexorable justice, did something to check sin; but only love and goodness can overcome it. Hence the spirit of the old dispensation, while hostile to sin, as the outcome of a holy God must be, had an undertone of love and mercy. God, in fact, was practicing all the time his own golden rule. He was doing by men what he wanted men to do by him. In some cases this succeeded, for this is the substance of the Divine appeal in the gospel of Christ, as it was the undertone of the preliminary law; in some cases it failed through the waywardness of men. Still, the golden rule is the spirit of the Divine administration, and will be till the present dispensation is finished. Then must the great Governor deal with the impenitent in the way of strictest justice, since they will not yield to his dying love. The rhythm of the ages will be maintained; if the wrath of man is not turned to praise by the exercise of love, it must be restrained by the exercise of the cool and deliberate infliction of deserved wrath.—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
Here a narrative is introduced into the midst of a code of laws; but this is done as a preamble to enactments of whose publication the case was the occasion. We notice—
I. THE CRIME OF THIS SON OF SHELOMITH.
1. It was blaspheming the God of Israel.
(1) We are not distinctly informed as to the particular form of this blasphemy. We are, however, told that this man, whose name is not given, was "the son of an Israelitish woman," that his father was an Egyptian, and that in striving with a man of Israel he blasphemed the sacred Name. It may hence be concluded that he angrily reflected upon the Divine equity in favouring the seed of Jacob. Anger is certainly implied in the words, "blasphemed the Name, and cursed."
(2) Here was the very spirit of Satan, whose rebellion against God was probably excited by the honour he had put upon man. "Is thine eye evil because I am good?"
(3) Is not that hatred to God which is in the carnal mind of the very essence of this blasphemy? Though the manifestations be restrained, the venom is still there. Let us beware how we entertain hard thoughts of God.
2. Strife was its occasion.
(1) How little do men dream, when they enter into strife, where they may be carried by their passions (see Proverbs 17:14)! The moral, therefore, is that it should be carefully avoided.
(2) But how is this to be done? We must "give none offense." We must be willing to suffer wrong. The spirit (or temper) of Christ is gained through the indwelling of his (Divine) Spirit.
3. Race was the origin of the strife.
(1) It appears to have been a contention between a pure Israelite and a mongrel. The father of Shelomith's son was probably one of the mixed multitude that came up with the Hebrews from Egypt.
(2) Traced back another step, we find the origin in the marriage of Shelomith. Mixed marriages have ever been prolific in mischief. Of these sprang the monsters, viz. not so much in stature as in iniquity, who provoked the Deluge.
(3) Even Dibri, the father of Shelomith, was, remotely, responsible for the blasphemy of her son, by consenting to her marriage with an alien. How careful we should be never to commit a wrong, since no man can tell how prolific it may be in mischief! The day of judgment will declare it.
II. THE IMPEACHMENT OF THE BLASPHEMER.
1. His witnesses arrested him.
(1) They were bound to do so. Had they allowed him to escape they would have been accomplices in his crime. They might have brought down the wrath of God upon the nation. Witness how Achan troubled Israel (Joshua 7:1), and how David also brought down a plague upon his people (2 Samuel 24:15-17).
(2) Happy is the nation whose sons are jealous for the honour of God (see Psalms 69:9). Happy is the nation whose sons are guardians of its morality. This is public spirit in perfection.
2. They kept him in ward for the judgment of God.
(1) They brought his case before Moses (Leviticus 24:11). This was in accordance with Divine direction (see Exodus 18:22). They might have wreaked a summary vengeance, but they chose the more excellent way. "Judgment is of God" (Deuteronomy 1:17); therefore judgment should be deliberate.
(2) Moses accordingly appealed to God. Every cause must come ultimately before him. This should never be forgotten.
III. THE JUDGMENT OF THE LORD.
1. This had respect to the particular offender.
(1) He was to be carried without the camp, as an outcast from society and a person excommunicated from the Church.
(2) There he was to die for his sin. The witnesses put their hands on his head. This was to clear themselves of all complicity in his guilt. His blood then ostensibly was upon his own head.
(3) Stoning him was to be the mode of his punishment. The witnesses cast the first stone, and the congregation, by their representatives, followed, until he perished. Dins, as Henry says, in allusion to Psalms 64:8, The tongue of the blasphemer fell heavily (see Deuteronomy 17:7; John 8:7).
2. It had also respect to the community.
(1) This judgment was now made a law in Israel, as well for the stranger as for him that is born in the land.
(2) It was also enacted that murder must be visited with death (verses 17, 20). This was the incorporation in the Levitical code of the Noachian precept recorded in Genesis 9:6.
(3) The principle of compensation and retaliation was asserted (Genesis 9:19, Genesis 9:20). In things judicial this principle still holds, though in matters of private wrong the gospel direction is that evil be suffered rather than revenged (see Matthew 5:38, Matthew 5:39; Matthew 7:1, Matthew 7:2).—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Leviticus 24:10-16, Leviticus 24:23
A suggestive episode.
We have an affecting illustration in these verses of the truth that "The Law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient,… for unholy and profane" (1 Timothy 1:9). The announcement of the Law is broken by the account of this transgression, and the transgression itself gives occasion for the enactment of other statutes (Leviticus 24:15-22). The story and the statutes suggest—
I. WHAT LASTING EVIL MAY ACCRUE FROM AN UNHOLY ALLIANCE. Had the Israelitish woman not married an Egyptian (Leviticus 24:10), it is morally certain that she would not have been called upon to part with her son under these tragic and terrible circumstances. She consulted her own fancy rather than the known will of Jehovah, and, long years afterwards, she bore her penalty in maternal grief. There is nothing fraught with more grave and enduring evils than an unwise, unholy alliance.
II. HOW LIKELY ONE FOLLY IS TO END IN ANOTHER. This son of the Israelitish woman strove with a man of Israel in the camp, and their strife led to blasphemy and cursing on the part of one of them. Strife led to profanity. Similarly, carelessness often ends in fraud, fraud in falsehood, indelicacy in impurity, occasional excess in habitual intemperance, anger in murder, etc.
III. HOW SERIOUS SIN MAY RESIDE IN A FEW WRONG WORDS. (Leviticus 24:16.) Probably the words in which Shelomith's son blasphemed were few in number. Words are but breath, impressions made on the air, we may say. Yet, simple though they be, they may
(1) reveal a most foul and guilty state of soul,
(2) work terrible mischief to other souls,
(3) be heard with deep abhorrence by God and the good.
IV. HOW WISE A COURSE IS THE PATIENT ADMINISTRATION OF LAW. Had the crowd that gathered at the strife between these two men inflicted condign punishment on the transgressor, the event would have been regarded as an ordinary disturbance, and no moral effect would have been produced. Possibly the guilty man would have been pitied as a victim of the violence of a mob. But by the patient course pursued (Leviticus 24:11-15, Leviticus 24:23) it was clearly seen by all that the man died because he had committed a grievous sin, and that whosoever followed him in his guilt must expect to suffer the same penalty he endured. Thus that which might have seemed nothing better than fatal exasperation was made to wear the true aspect of righteous vindication of law. It is always best to be patient in the infliction of punishment. Here as everywhere, but here especially, calmness is strength, passion is weakness. By restraining ourselves from hasty action we may restrain many others from the commission of sin.
V. HOW SAD A SERVICE SOME MEN ARE COMPELLED TO RENDER THEIR RACE. Some men serve their fellows involuntarily. They become beacons to warn all who approach from the danger they are running. Shelomith's son, by this evil deed of his, caused the enactment of Leviticus 24:16; and this weighty law, together with the impressive circumstance out of which it grew, undoubtedly produced a very deep and permanent impression on Israel. It materially contributed to the very striking result that no nation has been more reverent in its tone and spirit than the Jews. It is a sad reflection that a man should serve his race by suffering death as the penalty of his sin. We may be compelled, by overruling Omniscience, so to serve others. How much rather would the heavenly Father accept our willing service, and make use of our devout endeavour to bless our kind!—C.
The holy Law of God.
These enactments, occasioned by the sin of the son of Shelomith, contain certain principles on which God founded his Law, and which he would have us introduce into our dealings and regulations now. These are—
I. THE SACREDNESS OF HUMAN LIFE. "He that killeth any man shall surely be put to death" (Leviticus 24:17). This is significantly repeated (Leviticus 24:21) We can hardly be said to have learnt this lesson yet, after eighteen centuries of Christian legislation. Here, however, is a statute which unmistakably and emphatically asserts it.
II. EQUITY. There is to be careful discrimination in awarding penalty (Leviticus 24:18-20). A man must suffer according to the injury he has done. Nothing is more destructive of the main purpose of law than undistinguishing, and therefore unrighteous, retribution, whether at the national tribunal, or in the school, or in the home; nothing more salutary than the calm, regulated equity which estimates degrees of guilt, and determines the fair penalty therefrom.
III. CONSIDERATENESS. Law is obliged to regard the general good, the welfare of the community at large, the result of action and of permission in the end and upon the whole. It therefore often bears severely on individual men. But it must not be inconsiderate. Where it can right one man that has been wronged it must do so. "He that killeth a beast, he shall restore it" (Leviticus 24:21).
IV. IMPARTIALITY. (Leviticus 24:22.)
V. INSTRUCTIVENESS. Law should not only decide individual cases, and bring down appropriate penalty on individual transgressors; it should also, by its embodiment of Divine principles, be a most effective teacher of truth, a constant instructor in righteousness. The law of the land should be daily leading the nation to true conceptions of what is upright, moral, estimable. These few statutes contain that vital principle, the supreme value of human (as compared with animal) nature. If a man killed his fellow-man, he must die; if he killed a beast, he must restore it (Leviticus 24:17, Leviticus 24:18, Leviticus 24:21). There are too many who
(1) treat themselves or
(2) treat others as if there were nothing more in human nature than in the "beasts that perish."
How much is a man better than a sheep? He is better by the immeasurable height of his intelligent, responsible, spiritual, immortal nature. Let us estimate our own worth, and recognize the preciousness, before God, of the meanest soul that walks by our side along the path of human life. We may add that we see here—
VI. ROOM FOR FURTHER REVELATION. Righteous law, applicable to all, vindicated by just administrators, without a trace of personal resentment, says," an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." But beside this righteous law, consistent with it while high above it, is the spirit of individual, generous forgiveness. Where duty to society does not demand it, let the spirit of retaliation, so natural to unrenewed humanity, give place to the spirit of magnanimity,—the spirit of Jesus Christ, the Great Teacher (Matthew 5:38-41), the Divine Exemplar (Luke 23:34).—C.
HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE
A blasphemer punished.
An incident is here inserted that explains part of the Law by pointing to its origin. It is a practical illustration that throws lurid light upon the possibility and consequences of transgression.
I. THE SIN. It is described as blasphemy.
1. A sin of the tongue. Not the light matter some deem it. The tongue can cut like a sword. We need to take heed to our ways, lest we sin with the tongue. The prayer befits us, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth." A word quickly spoken may have lasting results. What a power for good or evil is placed within our reach!
2. Its criminal character. The Name of God is to be had in reverence. This man sinned against the third commandment. If it be treason to speak ill of the ruler, how much more to utter with contempt the Name of the King of kings! Lost to all sense of propriety must he be who can curse God. Far from this, his Name should not even be jestingly or frivolously mentioned, nor should he be called to witness in our casual remarks.
II. ITS CAUSES.
1. The immediate cause was strife. This rouses angry passions and leads to worse sin. The beginning of strife is as the letting out of water; none can foretell how far it will spread. Little, perhaps, did this man suspect that the quarrel would end in his speedy death. Let the rivulet of contention be checked, ere it develop into a torrent! Men heated by a dispute will give utterance to sentiments of which in calmer moments they would be ashamed.
2. The remote cause was marriage with an unbeliever. This man's mother had espoused an Egyptian, and the son would appear to have followed the religion of his father, for, wishing to taunt an Israelite, he reviled the Name of Israel's God. Imprudent alliances are a source of continual grief and disappointment. The mother had the pain of beholding her son put to death with every mark of ignominy. The advice of the Apostle Paul with respect to marrying an ungodly person is based on religious principle, and its worth is confirmed by the dictates of common sense and the facts of experience. It is not desirable that there should be a difference of opinion on matters of religion between the husband and the wife. The loss of the children is great when they are not trained in ways of piety by the hearty cooperation of their parents.
III. THE PUNISHMENT. It is not surprising that the people should have been so astounded at such wickedness that they requested Jehovah to instruct them concerning the penalty adequate to the offense. The punishment made known and inflicted was severe, revealing God's estimate of the enormity of the sin; swift, lest the conscience of the people now aroused should have time to slumber, and lest hope of a reprieve should in alter-days lead to license of language. It was inflicted by the whole congregation, to rid themselves of any guilt of tacit participation in the crime; the nation must avenge the insult perpetrated upon its covenant Head. The penalty was not averted by extenuating pleas of race or passion. It gave occasion for the enactment of the law of retribution. The lex talionis has a rude justice about it which appeals to the sentiment of uncivilized nations. King Bezek acknowledged its force (Judges 1:7). This retribution was allowed at first because of the hardness of men's hearts, but being permitted to run side by side with the law of love to one's neighbour and the stranger, the way was prepared for the Christian rule by which the waters of the former current are merged in the strength and beauty of the stream of love. Even under this dispensation, however, the law of love has its equitable as well as forgiving aspects.—S.R.A.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The law of death.
Blasphemy, murder, willful injury, whether by Israelite or stranger, judged and punished on the principle of compensation without mercy (cf. Isaiah 12:1-6; Romans 11:1-36).
I. Here is the evil of a fallen nature and an apostate people set forth (see Romans 1:1-32, Romans 2:1-29). "All have sinned." Israel itself is defiled.
II. The contrast suggested between the law of death and the law of life (cf. Sermon on the Mount and Romans 7:1-25, Romans 8:1-39). The true glory to the Name of Jehovah is not the death of the blasphemer, but the life of God's people. What the Law could not do, i.e; restore the injured, heal the wound, give back the life, is done by the grace of the gospel.
III. Historical illustrations of the insufficiency of the Law in the hands of a fallen race. Jesus accused of blasphemy. Stephen stoned. Paul treated as violator of the Law. Through the Jews and their defection the Name of Jehovah blasphemed in the world. The lex talionis no real protection either of the individual or society.—R.