Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. These. Having inculcated the general precepts, and the obligation of loving God above all things, Moses now descends to particular duties. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Tree. See Genesis xxi. 33. All the monuments of idolatry must be destroyed. The very names of the idols must be abhorred and obliterated, (Exodus xxiii. 13,) to shew that they have lost possession of the country. So (ver. 5,) to put his name there, means to take possession of a place.
Ver. 3. Statues. The most ancient idols were not finely carved, but only rough stones. The Phrygian goddess, sent to Rome by Attalus, was a small dark-coloured stone of this nature. (Arnob., contra Gentes. 8.) — The Venus of the Arabs was but a stone in the form of a pyramid. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. It, where the ark was to be kept. (Haydock) — Before the building of the temple, it was removed from one tribe or place to another. Jerusalem was thenceforward styled the city of the great king, Psalm xlvii. 1, 9.
Ver. 6. Hands, which you have procured by your industry, (Menochius) or what you are able to present to the Lord, Leviticus v. 11.
Ver. 7. You. In gratitude, you shall therefore offer your victims. (Haydock) — The Jews were accustomed to make a feast thrice a year in the holy city. They might also eat some parts of the peace-offerings. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Himself. Some confine this to the sacrifices, which each person might offer, where he thought proper, till the ark was fixed at Silo. But many other parts of the ceremonial law, seem not to have been in force till the Hebrews crossed the Jordan, Amos v. 25. Circumcision was omitted, as well as most of the festivals. Several laws were, however, designed for the people during their sojournment, such as those which regard the order of judgment, the cleanness of the camp, the purification of women, and of those who had touched a dead body, &c., Exodus xviii. 25., Numbers v. 2., and Leviticus xv. 31. It was not left to their option to observe or to neglect the sabbath, (Numbers xv. 32,) the loaves of proposition, or the perpetual fire, &c., Numbers iv. 7, 13. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. Therein. While you are performing your duty to God, you need not fear the incursions of your enemies; or, according to the Hebrew, Septuagint, and Chaldean, “There shall be a place which….Thither,” &c. (Menochius) — Hands. Aquila, &c., have, “your voluntary oblations.” — Gifts. Hebrew, “your choice-vows.” (Calmet)
Ver. 12. You. The Levite hath no portion of the land like the rest. He and all people in distress shall be invited to these feasts, chap. xvi. 11. (Menochius)
Ver. 13. See. On the high places, &c., as the heathens did, (ver. 2,) or in any other place but that which God appointed.
Ver. 15. But. Hebrew, “Yet thou mayst kill and eat the flesh which thy soul desireth in all thy gates, with which the Lord thy God hath blessed thee, the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roe buck,” &c. (Haydock) — The Vulgate translates ver. 22 in this sense, intimating that these meats did not contract any such peculiar sanctity, as to exclude those who were unclean, ver. 20., and Leviticus xvii. 3. Fagius pretends, that only the clean were allowed as yet to eat of such meats, though the unclean might eat in the promised land what was lawful, without bringing the beast to be slain before the tabernacle. But this opinion seems to have no solid foundation. Unclean beasts could never be eaten. (Calmet) — But those which had any defect, were excluded from being sacrificed, Leviticus xxii. 22. (Menochius)
Ver. 16. Water, without any ceremony. It was afterwards to be covered, Leviticus xvii. 13.
Ver. 17. Tithes. These were of an extraordinary nature, destined for feasts, chap. xiv. 22., and Leviticus xxvii. 30. The usual tithes belonged entirely to the Levitical tribe. (Calmet) — First-born, or the most excellent, ver. 11., and Exodus xii. 11, 12. The first-born, if it proved to be without defect, and a male, was given to the priests, Numbers xviii. 15. — Voluntarily. If the thing was vowed to the Lord without restriction, it fell to the share of the priests alone: but if the person specified that he intended it for a peace-offering, &c., the priest could only claim what was allotted to him by the law. (Calmet) — Hands. The fruits of trees, in the fourth year, may be insinuated. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] iv. 8.) (Menochius)
Ver. 18. Hand, in all thy undertakings and labours, (Haydock) and in all thy goods. (Menochius)
Ver. 21. Far off. Hence many conclude, that those who lived near the tabernacle, were bound to bring the animals which they designed for their own use, to be slain there, as they did in the desert. Others suppose that all were under the same predicament, and are hereby authorized to follow the same regulations, and to eat the flesh, whether they be clean or otherwise, provided they abstain from the blood. See Leviticus xvii. 3. (Calmet) — The custom of bringing the beasts to be slain before the door of the tabernacle, was to be no longer obligatory. (Menochius)
Ver. 22. Alike. This must be understood of those who had contracted only a smaller stain, which did not communicate the uncleanness to others, but debarred people from approaching to sacred things. (Calmet) — Those who had touched the dead, &c., were not allowed to eat with people, who were not under any such legal uncleanness. (Menochius)
Ver. 23. Soul. See Genesis ix. 4. Blood maintains the life of animals, and it would seem cruel to begin to eat them before they were perfectly dead. But the obligation of this positive law has long ago ceased, as it was intended chiefly for the Jews.
Ver. 27. Oblations. Hebrew, “holocausts….and the blood of the sacrifices,” of peace. Parts of the latter were eaten by the offerer, but the former victims were entirely burnt. (Haydock)
Ver. 30. Imitate. Hebrew, “be ensnared by imitation them.” The example of the wicked, is one of the most dangerous snares which the devil can place in our way. Notwithstanding these repeated admonitions of God, we see how prone the Hebrews were to adopt the superstitious customs of these nations, whose destruction ought surely to have warned them to keep at a distance. (Haydock)
Ver. 31. Fire. See Leviticus xviii. 21.
Ver. 32. That only do thou, &c. They are forbid here to follow the ceremonies of the heathens, or to make any alterations in the divine ordinances. (Challoner) — To adopt fresh regulations, in the same spirit, was not forbidden. Thus David ordered those who had kept the baggage, to share equally with the soldiers who had gone into battle; (1 Kings xxx.) and our Saviour approved, by his presence, the feast of the dedication of the temple, instituted long after Moses, 1 Machabees iv., and John x. (Worthington) — He perfected the law by the precepts of the gospel, Matthew v. 17. Jospehus (contra Apion ii.) says, “During so many years, no one has dared to retrench any thing from, (the sacred books) or to make any addition to them. We look upon them as of divine authority,….and we would lay down our lives, if necessary, to defend them. (Calmet) Among us, who believe that the law was first given by the will of God, nothing is pious but the exact observance of it. For who can introduce any change, or invent any thing better?” (Chap. iv. 2.) Christ is full of grace and truth, John i. He has fulfilled the law and the prophets. (Haydock) St. Augustine, contra Faustus xvii. 2, and xix. 9.—“Grace, says he, pertains to the fulness of charity, truth to the completion of the prophecies.” (Du Hamel)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
All idolatry must be extirpated: sacrifices, tithes, and first-fruits, must be offered in only one place: all eating of blood is prohibited.
1 These* are the precepts and judgments, that you must do in the land, which the Lord the God of thy fathers will give thee, to possess it all the days that thou shalt walk upon the earth.
2 Destroy all the places, in which the nations that you shall possess, worshipped their gods upon high mountains, and hills, and under every shady tree.
3 *Overthrow their altars, and break down their statues, burn their groves with fire, and break their idols in pieces: destroy their names out of those places.
4 You shall not do so to the Lord your God:
5 But you shall come to the place, which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes, to put his name there, and to dwell in it:
6 And you shall offer in that place your holocausts and victims, the tithes and first-fruits of your hands, and your vows and gifts, the first-born of your herds and your sheep.
7 And you shall eat there in the sight of the Lord your God: and you shall rejoice in all things, whereunto you shall put your hand, you and your houses, wherein the Lord your God hath blessed you.
8 You shall not do there the things we do here this day, every man that which seemeth good to himself.
9 For until this present time you are not come to rest, and to the possession, which the Lord your God will give you.
10 You shall pass over the Jordan, and shall dwell in the land, which the Lord your God will give you, that you may have rest from all enemies round about: and may dwell without any fear,
11 In the place, which the Lord your God shall choose, that his name may be therein. Thither shall you bring all the things that I command you, holocausts, and victims, and tithes, and the first-fruits of your hands: and whatsoever is the choicest in the gifts, which you shall vow to the Lord.
12 There shall you feast before the Lord your God, you, and your sons, and your daughters, your men-servants, and maid-servants, and the Levite that dwelleth in your cities. For he hath no other part and possession among you.
13 Beware lest thou offer thy holocausts in every place that thou shalt see:
14 But in the place, which the Lord shall choose, in one of thy tribes, shalt thou offer sacrifices, and shalt do all that I command thee.
15 But if thou desirest to eat, and the eating of flesh delight thee, kill, and eat according to the blessing of the Lord thy God, which he hath given thee, in thy cities: whether it be unclean, that is to say, having blemish or defect: or clean, that is to say, sound and without blemish, such as may be offered, as the roe, and the hart, shalt thou eat it:
16 Only the blood thou shalt not eat, but thou shalt pour it out upon the earth as water.
17 Thou mayst not eat in thy towns the tithes of thy corn, and thy wine, and thy oil, the first-born of thy herds and thy cattle, nor any thing that thou vowest, and that thou wilt offer voluntarily, and the first-fruits of thy hands:
18 But thou shalt eat them before the Lord thy God in the place, which the Lord thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man-servant, and maid-servant, and the Levite that dwelleth in thy cities: and thou shalt rejoice and be refreshed before the Lord thy God in all things, whereunto thou shalt put thy hand.
19 Take heed thou forsake not the Levite all the time that thou livest in the land.
20 *When the Lord thy God shall have enlarged thy borders, as he hath spoken to thee, and thou wilt eat the flesh that thy soul desireth:
21 And if the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, that his name should be there, be far off, thou shalt kill of thy herds, and of thy flocks, as I have commanded thee, and shalt eat in thy towns, as it pleaseth thee.
22 Even as the roe and the hart is eaten, so shalt thou eat them: both the clean and unclean shall eat of them alike.
23 Only beware of this, that thou eat not the blood, for the blood is for the soul: and therefore thou must not eat the soul with the flesh:
24 But thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water,
25 That it may be well with thee and thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is pleasing in the sight of the Lord.
26 But the things which thou hast sanctified, and vowed to the Lord, thou shalt take, and shalt come to the place which the Lord shall choose:
27 And shalt offer thy oblations, the flesh and the blood upon the altar of the Lord thy God: the blood of thy victims thou shalt pour on the altar: and the flesh thou thyself shalt eat.
28 Observe and hear all the things that I command thee, that it may be well with thee and thy children after thee for ever, when thou shalt do what is good and pleasing in the sight of the Lord thy God.
29 *When the Lord thy God shall have destroyed before thy face the nations, which thou shalt go in to possess, and when thou shalt possess them, and dwell in their land,
30 Beware lest thou imitate them, after they are destroyed at thy coming in, and lest thou seek after their ceremonies, saying: As these nations have worshipped their gods, so will I also worship.
31 Thou shalt not do in like manner to the Lord thy God. For they have done to their gods, all the abominations which the Lord abhorreth, offering their sons and daughters, and burning them with fire.
32 What I command thee, that only do thou to the Lord: neither add any thing, nor diminish.
1: Year of the World 2553.
3: Deuteronomy vii. 25.; 2 Machabees xii. 40.
20: Genesis xxviii. 14.; Exodus xxxiv. 24.; Deuteronomy xix. 8.
29: Deuteronomy xix. 8.