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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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LEVITICUS 24

In the chapter just discussed, there were seven feasts mentioned. And it is one of the features of Leviticus that there are many recurrences of "seven's." Arthur E. Smith compiled this list of "Sevens in Leviticus":

Seven days from sabbath to sabbath.

Seven years between sabbatical years.

Seven sabbatical years led to the Jubilee.

Seven days of life before a lamb could be taken from its mother.

Seven times the blood was sprinkled on the great Day of Atonement.

Seven places where the blood was sprinkled:

(a) the mercy-seat;

(b) before the mercy-seat;

(c) before the veil;

(d) upon the horns of the altar of incense;

(e) "round about upon the altar";

(f) on the horns of the bronze altar; and

(g) at the base of the bronze altar.

Seven feasts in Lev. 23.

Seven mentioned forty times in Leviticus.

Seven days in the feast of Passover.

Seven days in the feast of Pentecost.

Seven days in the feast of Tabernacles.

Seven examples of forgiveness of sins and appropriate trespass-offerings.

Seven is mentioned fourteen times in both chapters on leprosy.

Seven days were required for purification.

Seven days were required for consecration.F1

Some scholars, failing to understand the author's purpose in this chapter, have considered it "an interpolation," but Keil pointed out that when "rightly understood," Lev. 24 loses "all appearance of an interpolation."F2 It is the people themselves in this chapter who were to be involved continually in the worship of God. They were to bring the fine oil for the candlestick and the fine flour for the showbread every week. Not merely upon the great national feast just elaborated in Lev. 23, but at all times, continually, all Israel was to be employed in God's worship. Even in those particulars where the duties of the priests are given, their typical nature applicable to the entire totality of Christian believers in the New Covenant makes even those priestly instructions for the benefit of the whole congregation of God's people; and, therefore it is incorrect to view this chapter as a "misplaced" or "interpolated" addition to the priestly duties already mentioned. We may outline this chapter thus:

I. Introduction (Leviticus 24:1).

II. Certain Duties of the People

A. In service of the candlestick (lampstand) (Leviticus 24:2-4)

B. In service of the showbread (Leviticus 24:5-9)

III. A Case of Blasphemy

A. The offense (Leviticus 24:10-12)

B. The Judgment of God (Leviticus 24:13-22)

C. Blasphemer Executed by the People (Leviticus 24:23)

"Leviticus is essentially a narrative work."F3 The reason for the injection at this point of the story of the blasphemer probably came about from the fact that the occasion for this law arose while Moses was giving instructions about the oil and the fine flour. "The laws were given at specific times and places to meet particular situations."F4 It appears likely that Moses was in the process of writing the Pentateuch throughout nearly all of the forty years of his leadership of Israel. If that is the way it was done, then, of course, it would account for the strange arrangement of much of what he wrote.


 
Verses 1-4
And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually. Without the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, shall Aaron keep it in order from evening to morning before Jehovah continually: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations. He shall keep in order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before Jehovah continually.

Jehovah spake unto Moses…
The constant repetition of words such as these must be accounted the most important thing in the Pentateuch. It is God Himself who authored the instructions and commandments of the Bible.

Pure olive oil…
Coleman tells how they made this:

"To obtain this oil, they first pounded the olives or pressed them to squeeze out the juice. Then they strained the juice to remove the pulp. Then, when the oil rose to the surface of the juice, they skimmed it off."F5

A lamp to burn continually…
Based upon such passages as 1 Sam. 3:3, Allis and other dependable scholars limited this to mean burn continually every night.F6 Orlinsky supported this view rendering regularly instead of continually, declaring that continually is misleading.F7 William Tyndale, however, rendered the word which appears repeatedly in Lev. 24:2; Lev. 24:3; and Lev. 24:4, as allwaye ... allwayes ... perpetually.F8 Certainly our ASV can hardly mean anything else except perpetually, day and night. Josephus flatly declared that the lights burned all of the time, day and night. They were also to keep oil already purified for the lamps; three of which were to give light all day long upon the sacred candlestick from God, and the rest were to be lighted at evening.F9 Simeon cited Exo. 30:7; 2 Chr. 13:11; and 1 Sam. 3:3 as the basis for the doubts of some that the lights burned continually, but we agree with him that, The word continually is plain and that Josephus could not but know the practice of his day.F10 To us it appears absolutely necessary that the lights should have burned both day and night because: (1) there was no other source of light in the Holy Place; and (2) the thing typified by the candlestick (lampstand), whether Christ, or the Church, or the Word of God, or all three would have absolutely required their burning CONTINUALLY, without any intermission whatever.

As to the ultimate reality typified by the candlestick (lampstand) and its perpetual light, Unger identified it as "Israel."F11 Seiss called it, "A beautiful picture of the Church of Jesus."F12 McGee called it, "The most accurate and beautiful picture of Christ in the whole tabernacle."F13 And in my commentary on Hebrews it was presented as the perfect type of the Word of God (See my commentary on Heb. 9:2). These views are not contradictory, for the candlestick (lampstand) typified all of these. Christ is the true Israel, so is the Church, and the Church is the spiritual body of Christ, and Christ himself is the Word!


 
Verses 5-9
And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth parts [of an ephah] shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before Jehovah. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be to the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto Jehovah. Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before Jehovah continually; it is on the behalf of the children of Israel, an everlasting covenant. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons; and they shall eat it in a holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of Jehovah made by fire by a perpetual statute.

The typical nature of this weekly changing of showbread in which the old loaves were eaten by the priest and new ones provided is pointed squarely at the weekly communion of the saints in Christ at the Lord's Table in his kingdom. Note that it was not to be skipped, but observed continually on a WEEKLY basis. It was vitally a part of the covenant (Leviticus 24:8). Unger noted this as follows:

The frankincense was burned at the end of each week (instead of the loaves) in order that Aaron's sons might feast on the loaves, as we do memorially of Christ's death and second coming in the Lord's Supper.F14

This showbread was referred to in the O.T., not only as the "shewbread," but also as "bread of the Presence," from being laid up before Jehovah (Leviticus 24:8), "bread of the pile" (or "bread of the arrangement") because of the placement of it in two rows (Leviticus 24:6), and as the "continual bread," as lying continually before God (Numbers 4:7).F15 This showbread was a constant, daily reminder for Israel and a ceremonial confession upon their behalf that, "all her temporal blessings came from God."F16 This was a flat denial and contradiction of the ancient pagan superstitions that their deities needed to be fed. The invariable teaching of the Law and the Prophets revealed that it was God who fed His people and that the people did not feed their God! Meyrick described how the loaves each sabbath were replaced by the fresh loaves:

"Four priests went in ... two to take off ... two to put on ... they faced each other two and two. Those with the new loaves stood on the north side, those who took off the old on the south side. They acted in unison so that always there were loaves on the table."F17

It is difficult indeed to believe that any less caution was observed in the maintenance of the perpetual light as an inextinguishable blaze.

The type of the Lord's Day collection also appears in this passage. This Bread of the Presence was given and prepared each week, a procedure involving both the priests and all of God's people. "It was a weekly offering definitely and emphatically prescribed in the O.T. This is exactly what Paul urged on the Corinthians: `Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by in store, as God has prospered him!' (1 Corinthians 16:2)."F18


 
Verses 10-12
And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and the son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp: and the son of the Israelitish woman blasphemed the Name, and cursed; and they brought him unto Moses. And his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. And they put him in ward, that it might be declared unto them at the mouth of Jehovah.

Went out among the children of Israel…
This identifies the woman and her son as part of the mixed multitude that went up with Moses out of Egypt. It may be surmised that the offender's father had chosen to remain in Egypt. The paganism of the father, however, was continued IN the son, and, alas, this is the tragic pattern that usually appears in the lives of Christian women who marry unbelievers. This must surely be one of the reasons God why commanded that Believers should not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers (whether men or women). It is wrong for a believer to marry an unbeliever. God says that. I would never have known it was wrong unless God had said it (2 Corinthians 6:14).F19

(He) blasphemed the Name…
The Hebrew word for blasphemed has a double meaning, and from this, one of the great tragedies of history developed. It can mean simply, pronounced;F20 and another meaning is to revile,F21 this being without any doubt the meaning of the word here. However, the translators of the Septuagint (LXX) made it mean pronounced,F22 thus initiating the superstition that it was sinful even to PRONOUNCE the sacred Name. The Jews accepted this superstitious reverence of the Name, refusing to pronounce it at all, and substituting for it the name [~'Adonay] (which means Lord). Scholars in these times suppose that Jehovah or Yahweh must have been the Sacred Name, but the simple truth is that the pronunciation is unknown. The Samaritans who did NOT follow that superstition continued to pronounce the Name; from their usage, Meyrick concluded that the word was almost certainly [~Yahweh].F23

From the most ancient times, the nature of the reviling done by angry and sinful men has taken the form of slander directed against the victim's mother, or against his God. It was the latter pattern followed here.

The reason for the appearance of this episode exactly here in the Mosaic narrative was in all probability due to this event's being "historical,"F24 being dealt with by Moses at the time it occurred. The reason the people did not know what to do with the offender derived from his being Egyptian. After the handling of his crime here, no one was ever able afterward to plead freedom from the penalties of Mosaic law on the basis of his being non-Israelite. Until this time, there had been uncertainty, and so they confined him until God Himself should decide the matter.

Concerning the vice of profane swearing, which is blasphemy, it has only one source from which it could issue, that being a malignity in man's spirit against God Himself. It gratifies no lust, satisfies no appetite, and affords no profit of any kind whatever to those who indulge in it. It is a violation of the second Commandment of the Decalogue and was designated as a capital offense by God Himself. Men, of course, do not agree with this, but what else is new?


 
Verses 13-16
And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of Jehovah, he shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the sojourner, as the home-born, when he blasphemeth the name [of Jehovah], shall be put to death.

God's concern here was to remove a spot of deadly infection from the body of the Chosen People. Harford called it a "purgative" action.F25 If not eradicated, a cancerous condition of the kind associated with profane cursing would indeed have destroyed the whole nation. Men are no longer much concerned about such things, but the growth of the cancer has already corrupted a major portion of our present society.

As well the sojourner, as the home-born…
This event therefore became the occasion of making all who dwelt with Israel to be subject to the laws of Israel regardless of their parentage or national origin. This was also the occasion of the promulgation of the Lex Talionis, the Law of Retaliation so much criticized by Biblical enemies who fail to see the hand of God in it.

"LEX TALIONIS"


 
Verses 17-21
And he that smiteth any man mortally shall surely be put to death. And he that smiteth a beast mortally shall make it good, life for life. And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbor; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him: breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be rendered unto him. And he that killeth a beast shall make it good: and he that killeth a man shall be put to death.

The principles enunciated here were basic to Biblical and Near Eastern Law throughout history. This doctrine is given three times in the O.T. -- here, Exo. 21:23-25, and in Deut. 19:21. Inherent in this are some factors that appear to be forgotten in a large degree today.

(1) Violence against people deserves punishment.

(2) The punishment should be proportional to the injuries inflicted upon others.

(3) The rehabilitation of the criminal was not in view at all.

(4) The death penalty alone was the option for society's dealing with murderers.

(5) As a deterrent to further crime, this was the best system ever known.

It can hardly be imagined that one who had blinded a neighbor in one eye, and having suffered the loss of one of his own, would have then blinded another neighbor. Criticism of these laws should be evaluated in the context of a careful analysis of the way it is in modern societies, in which crime is RARELY punished at all, and in which the CRIMINAL, not the VICTIM, enjoys all of the protection and most of the concern from society, and even after prison sentences are meted out to criminals, every possible effort is made to insure the criminal's comfort, health, entertainment, and even happiness during his confinement! Those who believe that human beings have improved upon GOD'S LAW should take a closer look!

Furthermore, as this law was understood and enforced in ancient Israel, it was done as mercifully as possible. The true meaning of the law was that compensation to the loss incurred was required. Thus, if one killed his neighbor's ox, he was required to provide enough money for the neighbor to buy him another one. If a slave master caused the loss of a slave's eye, or tooth, or finger, etc., the slave was given his freedom (Exodus 21:26). Wenham was of the opinion that, in general, monetary compensation was substituted for personal injuries requiring punishment. "Only in the case of premeditated murder was such compensation forbidden (Num. 35:16ff). Then, the principle of life for life must be literally enforced, because man is made in the image of God."F26

The false notion that Jesus Christ took away all severe penalties for sin and crime is refuted dogmatically by one of his parables in which Christ himself is represented as saying: "These mine enemies, that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay before me!" (Luke 19:27),

The "Lex Talionis" was not a law of personal revenge, but of public justice. It was a severe limitation of all punishment in that it could not exceed the injury which a crime had inflicted. Criticism of what God commanded here is totally blind and unjustified. As a matter of fact, this law was the greatest protection of ordinary citizens ever devised. "It built a fence around their lives to protect them from violence and death."F27


 
Verse 22
Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the sojourner, as for the home-born: for I am Jehovah your God.

This verse reveals the reason for mentioning all of the offenses just enumerated, making all of them applicable to sojourners and home-born alike. It was with a view to averting disaster for all Israel that death was inflicted upon the blasphemer. "Disaster must descend upon the land where the Name is cursed, the lordship of the living God is repudiated, no matter whether the offender is a native Israelite or a resident foreigner."F28


 
Verse 23
And Moses spake to the children of Israel; and they brought forth him that had cursed out of the camp, and stoned him with stones. And the children of Israel did as Jehovah commanded Moses.

In current society throughout many lands, the execution of so severe a penalty for such an offense would be considered a grave injustice, and this shows how far humanity has drifted away from the conception of the supreme authority and holiness of Almighty God. And is it a fact that violators of the law in evidence here shall escape all penalty for disobedience? We cannot believe that they shall escape!

God has reserved unto Himself the right of execution against sinners and criminals the penalties which men themselves through weakness and rebellion are unwilling to execute. We shall conclude this chapter with a quotation from the New Testament:

"A man that hath set at naught Moses' law dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace? For we know him that said, Vengeance is mine, I will recompense. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:28-31).


Footnotes for Leviticus 24
1: Arthur E. Smith, Leviticus for Lambs (A privately-printed volume from the Library of Burt Pauley, Barstow, California), p. 1.
2: C. F. Keil, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 451.
3: Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), p. 309.
4: Ibid.
5: Robert O. Coleman, Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Leviticus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1972), p. 104.
6: Oswald T. Allis, New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1970), p. 163.
7: Harry M. Orlinsky, Notes on the New Translation of the Torah (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1969), p. 219.
8: William Tyndale, The Five Books of Moses Called the Pentateuch, being a verbatim reprint of the edition of 1530, (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967), p. 368.
9: Flavius Josephus, Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, translated by William Whiston (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston), p. 103.
10: Charles Simeon, Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1956), p. 657.
11: Merrill F. Unger, Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament, Leviticus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), p. 175.
12: Joseph A. Seiss, The Gospel in Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, reprint of an 1860 publication), p. 368.
13: J. Vernon McGee, Through the Bible with J. Vernon McGee (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981), p. 433.
14: Merrill F. Unger, op. cit., p. 175.
15: J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 98.
16: Oswalt T. Allis, op. cit., p. 164.
17: F. Meyrick, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 2, Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 373.
18: R. M. Edgar, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 2, Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 375.
19: J. Vernon McGee, op. cit., p. 435.
20: Harry M. Orlinsky, op. cit., p. 219.
21: S. H. Kellogg, Leviticus (Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham), p. 482.
22: F. Meyrick, op. cit., p. 383.
23: Ibid., p. 383.
24: Ronald E. Clements, Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, Leviticus (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972), p. 64.
25: George Harford, Peake's Commentary on the Bible, Leviticus (London: T. C. and E. C. Jack, Ltd., 1924), p. 210.
26: Gordon J. Wenham, op. cit., p. 312.
27: Merrill F. Unger, op. cit., p. 176.
28: Nathaniel Micklem, Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 2 (New York: Abingdon Press, 1953), p. 119.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Leviticus 24". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=le&chapter=024>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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