Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 3. Sabbaths. Both those which occur every week, and extraordinary ones, ver. 30.
Ver. 4. Idols. Hebrew, “vain things.” (Calmet) — Molten, or any other sort of workmanship. (Menochius)
Ver. 7. Profane. Hebrew, “it shall be defiled.” Septuagint, “improper for sacrifice.” Aquila, “It shall be rejected.” (Calmet) — So that the person who had offered it, shall become more guilty. (Menochius)
Ver. 9. Ground. Hebrew and Septuagint, “the extremity of thy field.” The Rabbins say, a sixtieth part of all the products of the earth, was to be left for the poor. (Selden, Jur. vi. 6.) Thus God teaches his people to exercise themselves in the acts of mercy. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 10. Strangers. Septuagint and Syriac, “proselytes,” who might dwell in the country. As the soil did not belong to them, great compassion was requisite: otherwise they must have perished, or become slaves. — Lord; the sole proprietor. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. Lie. “When no injury is done to another, it is a great question whether a lie can ever be justified. The case would perhaps be easily decided, if we considered the commandments alone, and not the examples,” of those holy men who seem to have sometimes thought it lawful. (St. Augustine, q. 68) But is it not better to allow that these were under an inculpable mistake, than to defend one fault, because it is not attended with the guilt of another, by hurting others? Even lies of jest and of excuse, are contrary to the gravity and open-dealing of a Christian; and God never speaks of lying without marks of disapprobation. (Haydock) — Hebrew, “you shall not deny, or extenuate yourselves,” pretending that you cannot give alms. (Oleaster)
Ver. 12. Profane. No greater indignity can be offered to God, than to solicit Him, as it were, to assist us in doing evil, by attesting falsehood. (Philo)
Ver. 13. Morning. Pay what is due to the labourer, immediately, if he desire it. (Haydock) — It was customary among the Jews to pay their workmen in the evening, Matthew xx. 8.
Ver. 14. Deaf. The word Kophos, used by the Septuagint, means also the dumb, as these defects are generally found in the same person. Nothing can be more base, than to attack those who are unable to defend themselves. Solon forbids anyone “to speak ill of the dead,” though he may receive an injury from his children. Those who undermine and ruin the reputation of the absent, are no less to be condemned.
Ver. 16. Detracter, whisperer. Hebrew rakil, stands for both these terms. Some translate a parasite, a merchant, vilifying the goods of others to enhance the price of his own; or a spy, seeking to discover and laugh at others’ faults. — Neighbour; accusing him wrongfully, to the danger of his life; or lying in wait for him like an assassin. But strive rather to rescue those who are attacked. Those who neglect this duty, are responsible for the consequences, according to the Jews, (Selden, Jur. iv. 3,) and the laws of the Egyptians. (Diodorus 1.)
Ver. 17. Openly, is not in the Hebrew or other versions. Instead of bearing malice at the heart, we are authorized to demand our right in a legal manner, or to correct in a fraternal matter, the person who may have injured us, lest we incur sin for our neglect, and the offender continue impenitent. Jesus Christ instructs us to do this with as little disturbance as possible, Matthew xviii. 15. Yet public sins must undergo a public correction, 1 Timothy v. 20. (St. Augustine, ser. 82.) Love should regulate our complaints. (St. Augustine, q. 70.)
Ver. 18. Revenge, by private authority, or out of passion, which the pagans themselves acknowledged was more becoming a brute than a man, feræ est. (Musonias, Sen. de ira ii. 32.) — Citizens. Hebrew, “observe or lie not in wait.” Septuagint, “act not with fury against the son of thy people.” (Calmet) — Hebrew notor, means to upbraid when doing a kindness. — Thy friend. Hebrew rehaka, may denote thy neighbour, or any one with whom we have any thing to do. Thus God orders us to love strangers as ourselves, (ver. 34,) and to help our enemy, Exodus xxiii. 4. The false insinuations of the Jews are fully exploded by Jesus Christ, Matthew xxii. 39. We must love the offender, but detest the offence. (St. Augustine, contra Faust. xix. 24.) If God required his people to exterminate the Chanaanites, he did not authorized them to entertain any personal animosity against their persons, but they were to act as ministers of his justice. “O Lord, (said Philo very justly) we do not rejoice at the misfortune of our enemy, (Flaccus) having learnt from thy holy laws to compassionate the distress of others. But we thank thee for….delivering us from our afflictions.” (Calmet)
Ver. 19. Kind. Mules were therefore either brought from other countries, (3 Kings x. 28,) or they were produced by some of the same species, as, good authors assert, is frequently the case in Syria, Cappadocia, &c. (Pliny, [Natural History?] viii. 44.; Pineda) (Tirinus) — Spencer (Leg. ii. 20,) says, without any proof, that this law had a reference to the impure conjunctions of animals, in honour of Venus and of Priapus. — Different seeds, &c. This law tends to recommend simplicity and plain-dealing in all things; and to teach the people not to join any false worship or heresy with the worship of the true God. (Challoner) — Draw not the yoke with infidels, 2 Corinthians vi. (Theodoret, q. 27.) These different colours were not in themselves evil, since they were used in the priests’ vestments. They insinuate, that we must avoid schisms. (Worthington) — The sowing of different seeds tends to impoverish the soil. (Pliny, xviii. 10.) The Egyptians sowed various seeds on a board, covered with fine mould; and, observing which sort was destroyed by the heat of the sun in the dog-days, superstitiously refrained, that year, from sowing any of it, lest it should produce no crop. (Palladius) — Sorts. The Rabbins say of linen and wool, as Deuteronomy xxii. 11. They allow other sorts. Josephus ([Aniquities?] iv. 8,) supposes, that garments of the former description were thus reserved for the priests alone. The Flamen, among the Romans, could not wear a woollen garment sowed with thread, without committing a sin; piaculum erat, says Servius. These precepts were to be literally observed, though they concealed a moral instruction of the greatest consequence, importing that all unnatural intercourse was to be avoided. Pythagoras conveyed his instructions under similar enigmatical expressions, saying, “we must not stir up the fire with a sword,” &c., as Solomon does likewise. (Proverbs xxx. 15 and Ecclesiasticus xii. 3, 6.) (Calmet)
Ver. 20. Marriageable. Hebrew, “promised, or given in marriage.” Septuagint, “reserved for another….she shall,” &c. Onkelos and the Arabic version suppose also, that the woman alone was to be scourged with leather thongs; a punishment to which the Samaritan copy condemns only the man. The Rabbins agree with the Septuagint. Others translate, “there shall be an enquiry made, or they shall be set free, and shall not die.”
Ver. 22. Pray. Hebrew and Septuagint, “shall atone for him with the ram of the sin-offering, before the Lord, for his sin.”
Ver. 23. The first-fruits. Præputia, literally their fore-skins: it alludes to circumcision, and signifies that for the first three years the trees were to be as uncircumcised, and their fruit unclean; till the fourth year their increase was sanctified and given to the Lord, that is, to the priests. (Challoner) — In some countries, people take off the buds to strengthen the tree. (Calmet) — The fruit, during the three first years, is not esteemed so good or wholesome; and therefore, it could not with propriety be presented to God. (Philo de Creatione.) — Unclean. Hebrew, “three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you; it shall not be eaten.” (Haydock)
Ver. 24. Lord. It was to be brought to the holy city, and offered with the other tithes, out of which a feast was made for the poor, &c. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] iv. 8.) Besides the first-fruits for the priests, and the tithes for the Levites, out of which they again paid tithes to the priests, there was an annual tithe prescribed, (Deuteronomy xii. 12,) to supply a feast for the indigent, &c., at Jerusalem, along with this fruit; and another, every third year, designed for the poor alone (Deuteronomy xiv. 28,) at the place of each one’s abode. (Tirinus)
Ver. 26. Blood. The flesh of any animal. The blood must belong to God. The members of the Sanhedrim eat nothing on the day that a criminal is executed, supposing that this is the meaning of the precept. The Septuagint read erim, “on the mountains;” and another version has, “on the roof,” as if the worship of idols on high places were forbidden. (Haydock) — Divine. Perhaps by means of “serpents,” or “plates of brass,” as the Hebrew néss, may insinuate. These methods were known to the ancients. (Horace, Ode iii. 37.; Pliny xxx. 2.) (Calmet) — Dreams. Hebrew, times. See Galatians iv. 10. (Haydock)
Ver. 27. Cut your hair, &c. This, and other such like things, of themselves indifferent, were forbidden by God, that they might not imitate the Egyptians or other infidels, who practised these things out of superstition, in honour of their false deities. (Challoner) — The pagans consecrated locks of hair, and their beard, when it was first cut, to Apollo, the river gods, the hours, Esculapius, &c. Some, at Rome, hung the hair on a tree. (Tirinus) — The Arabians and Macæ left only a tuft of hair at the top of their head, in imitation of Bacchus. (Herodotus iii. 8.; iv. 175.) This tuft is called sisoe by the Septuagint who seem to have alluded o the Hebrew term tsitsith. See Ezechiel viii. 3. The ancient scholiast says, this was left in honour of Saturn. It resembled a crown. The same custom was observed by the Syrians, (Lucian) Idumeans, &c. (Jeremias ix. 25.) — Beard. Hebrew, “the angle, or extremity of your beard.” These regulations would seem beneath the attention of a lawgiver. But they were made in opposition to some profane customs of the surrounding nations. The Jews still observe this direction, and leave the beard from the ear to the chin, (where they let it grow pretty long) and also two mustaches, or whiskers, on the top lip. The Egyptian mummies have only the beard on the chin. The eyebrows and other hair of the gods and inhabitants of Egypt, were entirely cut off. In mourning the chin was also shaved. God forbids his people to imitate them. (Calmet) — But heretics need not hence infer, that the tonsure of priests and monks is reprehensible. (Radulph.) — Superstition and affected delicacy in curling, &c., are to be avoided. (Tirinus)
Ver. 28. Dead. Adonis or Osiris; as if you were mourning for them, in which sense the former verse may be explained. At funerals it was customary to cut off the hair. Achilles and his soldiers did so at the death of Patroclus. (Homer) — The Persians also cut the manes of their horses, to shew their grief for the loss of Masistius, (Herodotus ix. 24,) as Alexander did when Hephæstion died. (Plutarch) — The Egyptians, Assyrians, &c., cut their hair on the like occasions, and the Hebrews did so too; whether they neglected this law, or it was rather designed only to hinder them from joining in a superstitious lamentation for some idol. They also cut their bodies, Genesis l, and Jeremias xli. 5. The pagans did so, intending thereby to appease the anger of the infernal deities: ut sanguine….inferis satisfaciant, (Varro, Servius): or to please the deceased. (Plutarch, de consol.) Thus Virgil represents Anna, Æneid iv.: Unguibus ora soror fædans & pectora pugnis. The Roman and Athenian laws restrained this cruelty of women towards themselves. But in Persia, the children and servants of great men still make an incision upon their arms, when their father or master dies. The women in Greece also observe a solemn mourning, with loud lamentations, tearing their cheeks and hair, and reciting the memorable actions of the deceased. The Christians and Jews of Syria inflict still more dangerous wounds upon themselves. The latter have always esteemed it lawful to adopt the customs of the nations with whom they lived, provided they were not attended with superstition; which makes us conclude, that what Moses here forbids, was done in honour of some idol. — Marks, made with a hot iron, representing false gods, as if to declare that they would serve them for ever. (Philo) — The Assyrians had generally such characters upon their bodies. Philopator ordered the converts from the Jewish religion to be marked with ivy, in honour of Bacchus. (3 Macchabees) Theodoret (q. 18,) mentions, that the pagans were accustomed to cut their cheeks, and to prick themselves with needles, infusing some black matter, out of respect for the dead, and for demons. Allusion is made to these customs, Apocalypse xiii. 16, and Isaias xlix. 15. Christians have sometimes marked their arms with the cross, or name of Jesus. (Procopius in Isai. xliv. 5.) (Calmet) — As St. Jane Frances de Chantal did her breast. (Breviary, August 21.) Nomen pectori insculpsit. St. Paul says, I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body, Galatians vi. 17. The Church historians relate, that St. Francis and St. Catharine received miraculously the prints of his wounds. (Haydock)
Ver. 29. Strumpet, which was done formerly in the honour of idols. “They gave to Venus the prostitutions of their daughters.” (St. Augustine, City of God xviii. 5.) “In Cyprus they lead the unmarried women to the sea-shore, in order to acquire a dowry by these means on certain stated days, as a libation to Venus.” (Justin.) — Such things were common in the East. See Lucian de dea Syr.; Strabo xvi. — Joel (iii. 3,) reproaches the Jews with prostituting their sons and daughters for bread; for there were also effeminate men among them. (3 Kings xiv. 24 and 4 Kings xxiii. 7.) See Baruch vi. 42 and Osee iv. 14. (Calmet)
Ver. 31. Wizards. Hebrew oboth, denotes familiar spirits, (1 Kings viii.[xxviii.?] 7,) which gave answers from the belly or breast, as from a bottle; whence such wizards are called by the Greeks, engastrimuthoi; and by Sophocles, sternomanteis. (Calmet) — Soothsayers, are properly those who judge what will happen by inspecting victims. (Menochius) — Hebrew yiddehonim, means connoisseurs, intelligent people, gnostics, or those who pretend that they can penetrate the secrets naturally impenetrable to the mind of man. Septuagint epaoidoi, “enchanters,” who undertake to keep off all misfortunes. “Surely, (says Pliny, xxx. 1,) to learn this art, (of magic) Pythagoras….and Plato undertook long voyages by sea, or rather went into banishment. This they extolled at their return; this they kept as a secret. Hanc in arcanis habuere.“
Ver. 32. Aged man. Such are supposed to be possessed of wisdom and experience. The Egyptians and Lacedemonians rose up out of respect to an old man. (Herodotus ii. 80.) The Rabbins pretend that a person ought to rise up when the old man is four cubits distant, provided he be, as he ought, a man of wisdom; for otherwise he is entitled to no honour. But this would be making inferiors judges of their merit. The Chaldean, Philo, &c., comprise those “learned in the law,” under the name of old men.
Ver. 35. Rule; Hebrew, “taking dimensions” with a yard, tape, &c.
Ver. 36. Weights. Hebrew, “stones of justice,” for stone weights were formerly used, Proverbs xvi. 11. — Bushel, &c. Hebrew, “a just epha, and a just hin.” (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Divers ordinances, partly moral, partly ceremonial or judicial.
1 The Lord spoke to Moses, *saying:
2 Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them:* Be ye holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
3 Let every one fear his father and his mother. Keep my sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.
4 Turn ye not to idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods. I am the Lord your God.
5 If ye offer in sacrifice a peace-offering to the Lord, that he may be favourable,
6 You shall eat it on the same day it was offered, and the next day: and whatsoever shall be left until the third day, you shall burn with fire.
7 If after two days any man eat thereof, he shall be profane and guilty of impiety:
8 And shall bear his iniquity, because he hath defiled the holy thing of the Lord, and that soul shall perish from among his people.
9 *When thou reapest the corn of thy land, thou shalt not cut down all that is on the face of the earth to the very ground: nor shalt thou gather the ears that remain.
10 Neither shalt thou gather the bunches and grapes that fall down in thy vineyard, but shalt leave them to the poor and the strangers to take. I am the Lord your God.
11 You shall not steal. You shall not lie, neither shall any man deceive his neighbour.
12 *Thou shalt not swear falsely by my name, nor profane the name of thy God. I am the Lord.
13 *Thou shalt not calumniate thy neighbour, nor oppress him by violence. *The wages of him that hath been hired by thee, shall not abide with thee until the morning.
14 Thou shalt not speak evil of the deaf, nor put a stumbling-block before the blind: but thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, because I am the Lord.
15 Thou shalt not do that which is unjust, nor judge unjustly. *Respect not the person of the poor, nor honour the countenance of the mighty. But judge thy neighbour according to justice.
16 Thou shalt not be a detractor nor a whisperer among people. Thou shalt not stand against the blood of thy neighbour. I am the Lord.
17 *Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart,** but reprove him openly, lest thou incur sin through him.
18 Seek not revenge, nor be mindful of the injury of thy citizens. *Thou shalt love thy friend as thyself. I am the Lord.
19 Keep ye my laws. Thou shalt not make thy cattle to gender with beasts of any other kind. Thou shalt not sow thy field with different seeds. Thou shalt not wear a garment that is woven of two sorts.
20 If a man carnally lie with a woman that is a bond-servant and marriageable, and yet not redeemed with a price, nor made free: they both shall be scourged, and they shall not be put to death, because she was not a free woman.
21 And for his trespass he shall offer a ram to the Lord, at the door of the tabernacle of the testimony:
22 And the priest shall pray for him, and for his sin, before the Lord, and he shall have mercy on him, and the sin shall be forgiven.
23 When you shall be come into the land, and shall have planted in it fruit-trees, you shall take away the first-fruits of them: the fruit that comes forth shall be unclean to you, neither shall you eat of them.
24 But in the fourth year, all their fruit shall be sanctified, to the praise of the Lord.
25 And in the fifth year you shall eat the fruits thereof, gathering the increase thereof. I am the Lord your God.
26 You shall not eat with blood. You shall not divine nor observe dreams.
27 Nor shall you cut your hair round-wise: nor shave your beard.
28 You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh, for the dead, neither shall you make in yourselves any figures or marks: I am the Lord.
29 Make not thy daughter a common strumpet, lest the land be defiled, and filled with wickedness.
30 Keep ye my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary. I am the Lord.
31 Go not aside after wizards, neither ask any thing of soothsayers, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.
32 Rise up before the hoary head, and honour the person of the aged man: and fear the Lord thy God. I am the Lord.
33 *If a stranger dwell in your land, and abide among you, do not upbraid him :
34 But let him be among you as one of the same country: and you shall love him as yourselves: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
35 Do not any unjust thing in judgment, in rule, in weight, or in measure.
36 Let the balance be just, and the weights equal, the bushel just, and the sextary equal. I am the Lord your God, that brought you out of the land of Egypt.
37 Keep all my precepts, and all my judgments, and do them. I am the Lord.
1: Year of the World 2514.
2: Leviticus xi. 44.; 1 Peter i. 16.
9: Leviticus xxiii. 22.
12: Exodus xx. 7.
13: Ecclesiasticus x. 6. — ** Deuteronomy xxiv. 14.; Tobias xiv. 15.
15: Deuteronomy i. 17. and xvi. 19.; Proverbs xxiv. 23.; Ecclesiasticus xlii. 1.; James ii. 2.
17: 1 John ii. 11. and iii. 14. — ** Ecclesiasticus xix. 13.; Matthew xviii. 5.; Luke xvii. 3.
18: Matthew v. 43. and xxii. 39.; Luke vi. 27.; Romans xiii. 9.
33: Exodus xxii. 21.