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Adam Clarke Commentary

Leviticus 20

Introduction

Of giving seed to Molech, and the punishment of this crime, Leviticus 20:1 -5. Of consulting wizards, etc., Leviticus 20:6 -8. Of disrespect to parents, Leviticus 20:9 . Of adultery, Leviticus 20:10 . Of incestuous mixtures, Leviticus 20:11 , Leviticus 20:12 . Bestiality, Leviticus 20:13 -16. Different cases of incest and uncleanness, Leviticus 20:17 -21. Exhortations and promises, Leviticus 20:22 -24. The difference between clean and unclean animals to be carefully observed, Leviticus 20:25 . The Israelites are separated from other nations, that they may be holy, Leviticus 20:26 . A repetition of the law against wizards and them that have familiar spirits, Leviticus 20:27 .

Verse 2

That giveth any of his seed unto Molech - To what has been said in the note on Leviticus 18:21 (note), we may add, that the rabbins describe this idol, who was probably a representative or emblematical personification of the solar influence, as made of brass, in the form of a man, with the head of an ox; that a fire was kindled in the inside, and the child to be sacrificed to him was put in his arms, and roasted to death. Others say that the idol, which was hollow, was divided into seven compartments within; in one of which they put flour, in the second turtle-doves, in the third a ewe, in the fourth a ram, in the fifth a calf, in the sixth an ox, and in the seventh a child, which, by heating the statue on the outside, were all burnt alive together. I question the whole truth of these statements, whether from Jewish or Christian rabbins. There is no evidence of all this in the sacred writings. And there is but presumptive proof, and that not very strong, that human sacrifices were at all offered to Molech by the Jews. The passing through the fire, so frequently spoken of, might mean no more than a simple rite of consecration to the service of this idol. Probably a kind of ordeal was meant, the persons passing suddenly through the flame of a large fire, by which, though they might be burnt or scorched, yet they were neither killed nor consumed. Or they might have passed between two large fires, as a sort of purification. See the notes on Leviticus 20:14 ; See the notes on Leviticus 18:21 . Caesar, in his history of the Gallic war, lib. vi., c. 16, mentions a custom of the Druids similar to this. They made an image of wickerwork, enclosed those in it whom they had adjudged to death, and, setting the whole on fire, all were consumed together.

Verse 6

Familiar spirits - See the notes on Leviticus 19:31 ; and Exodus 22:18 (note).

Verse 9

Curseth his father or his mother - See the notes on Genesis 48:12 , and Exodus 20:12 (note). He who conscientiously keeps the fifth commandment can be in no danger of this judgment. The term יקלל yekallel signifies, not only to curse, but to speak of a person contemptuously and disrespectfully, to make light of; so that all speeches which have a tendency to lessen our parents in the eyes of others, or to render their judgment, piety, etc., suspected and contemptible, may be here included; though the act of cursing, or of treating the parent with injurious and opprobrious language, is that which is particularly intended.

Verse 10

Committeth adultery - To what has been said in the note on See Exodus 20:14 (note), we may add, that the word adultery comes from the Latin adulterium, which is compounded of ad, to or with, and alter, another, or, according to Minshieu, of ad alterius forum, he that approaches to another man's bed.

Verse 12

They have wrought confusion - See Leviticus 18, and especially the note on Leviticus 18:6 (note).

Verse 14

They shall be burnt with fire - As there are worse crimes mentioned here, (see Leviticus 20:11 and Leviticus 20:17 , where the delinquent is ordered simply to be put to death, or to be cut off, it is very likely that the crime mentioned in this verse was not punished by burning alive, but by some kind of branding, by which they were ever after rendered infamous. I need not add that the original, באש ישרפו baesh yishrephu, may, without violence to its grammatical meaning, be understood as above, though in other places it is certainly used to signify a consuming by fire. But the case in question requires some explanation; it is this: a man marries a wife, and afterward takes his mother-in-law or wife's mother to wife also: now for this offense the text says all three shall be burnt with fire, and this is understood as signifying that they shall be burnt alive. Now the first wife, we may safely presume, was completely innocent, and was legally married: for a man may take to wife the daughter if single, or the mother if a widow, and in neither of these cases can any blame attach to the man or the party he marries; the crime therefore lies in taking both. Either, therefore, they were all branded as infamous persons, and this certainly was severe enough in the case of the first wife; or the man and the woman taken last were burnt: but the text says, both he and they; therefore, we should seek for another interpretation of they shall be burnt with fire, than that which is commonly given. Branding with a hot iron would certainly accomplish every desirable end both for punishment and prevention of the crime; and because the Mosaic laws are so generally distinguished by humanity, it seems to be necessary to limit the meaning of the words as above.

Verse 16

If a woman approach unto any beast - We have the authority of one of the most eminent historians in the world, Herodotus, to say that this was a crime not unknown in Egypt; yea, that a case of this nature actually took place while he was there. Εγενετο δ' εν τῳ νο μῳ τουτῳ επ' εμευ τουτο το τερας, Γυναικι Τραγος εμισγετο αναφανδον. Τουτο ες επιδειξιν ανθρωπων απικετο. - Herod. in Euterp., p. 108. Edit. Gale, Lond. 1679.

Verse 22

The land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out - See this energetic prosopopoeia explained in the note on Leviticus 18:25 (note). From this we learn that the cup of the iniquities of the Canaanitish nations was full; and that, consistently with Divine justice, they could be no longer spared.

Verse 24

A land that floweth with milk and honey - See this explained Exodus 3:8 (note).

Verse 25

Between clean beasts and unclean - See the notes on Leviticus 11 (note).

Verse 27

A familiar spirit - A spirit or demon, which, by magical rites, is supposed to be bound to appear at the call of his employer. See the notes on Genesis 41:8 ; Exodus 7:11 (note), Exodus 7:22 (note), Exodus 7:25 (note); and Leviticus 19:31 (note). From the accounts we have of the abominations both of Egypt and Canaan, we may blush for human nature; for wherever it is without cultivation, and without the revelation of God, it is every thing that is vile in principle and detestable in practice. Nor would any part of the habitable globe materially differ from Egypt and Canaan, had they not that rule of righteousness, the revealed Law of God, and had not life and immortality been brought to light by the Gospel among them. From these accounts, for which we could easily find parallels in ancient Greece and Italy, we may see the absolute need of a Divine revelation, without which man, even in his best estate, differs little from the brute.

Leviticus 20


  1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
  2 Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.
  3 And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.
  4 And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not:
  5 Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people.
  6 And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.
  7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.
  8 And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you.
  9 For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.
  10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
  11 And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
  12 And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.
  13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
  14 And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.
  15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.
  16 And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
  17 And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister's nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.
  18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.
  19 And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister, nor of thy father's sister: for he uncovereth his near kin: they shall bear their iniquity.
  20 And if a man shall lie with his uncle's wife, he hath uncovered his uncle's nakedness: they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.
  21 And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless.
  22 Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.
  23 And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.
  24 But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.
  25 Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean.
  26 And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.
  27 A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.

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