Some ceremonial precepts there are in this chapter, but most of them
are moral. One would wonder that when some of the lighter matters of
the law are greatly enlarged upon (witness two long chapters concerning
the leprosy) many of the weightier matters are put into a little
compass: divers of the single verses of this chapter contain whole laws
concerning judgment and mercy; for these are things which are manifest
in every man's conscience; men's own thoughts are able to explain
these, and to comment upon them.
I. The laws of this chapter, which were peculiar to the Jews, are,
1. Concerning their peace-offerings,
2. Concerning the gleanings of their fields,
3. Against mixtures of their cattle, seed, and cloth,
4. Concerning their trees,
5. Against some superstitious usages,
II. Most of these precepts are binding on us, for they are expositions
of most of the ten commandments.
1. Here is the preface to the ten commandments, "I am the Lord,"
repeated fifteen times.
2. A sum of the ten commandments. All the first table in this, "Be you
All the second table in this, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour"
and an answer to the question, "Who is my neighbour?"
3. Something of each commandment.
(1.) The first commandment implied in that which is often repeated
here, "I am your God." And here is a prohibition of enchantment
which make a god of the devil.
(2.) Idolatry, against the second commandment, is forbidden,
(3.) Profanation of God's name, against the third,
(4.) Sabbath-sanctification is pressed,
(5.) Children are required to honour their parents
and the aged,
(6.) Hatred and revenge are here forbidden, against the sixth
(8.) Justice is here required in judgment
fraud and withholding dues
and false weights,
Tale-bearing, and false-witness bearing,
(10.) The tenth commandment laying a restraint upon the heart, so does
"Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart." And here is a solemn
charge to observe all these statutes,
Now these are things which need not much help for the understanding of
them, but require constant care and watchfulness for the observing of
them. "A good understanding have all those that do these
|Ceremonial and Moral Laws.
||B. C. 1490.|
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel,
and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am
3 Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep
my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.
4 Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I
am the LORD your God.
5 And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD,
ye shall offer it at your own will.
6 It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the
morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be
burnt in the fire.
7 And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is
abominable; it shall not be accepted.
8 Therefore every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity,
because he hath profaned the hallowed thing of the LORD: and that
soul shall be cut off from among his people.
9 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not
wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather
the gleanings of thy harvest.
10 And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou
gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for
the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.
Moses is ordered to deliver the summary of the laws to all the
congregation of the children of Israel
not to Aaron and his sons only, but to all the people, for they were
all concerned to know their duty. Even in the darker ages of the law,
that religion could not be of God which boasted of ignorance as its
mother. Moses must make known God's statutes to all the congregation,
and proclaim them through the camp. These laws, it is probable, he
delivered himself to as many of the people as could be within hearing
at once, and so by degrees at several times to them all. Many of the
precepts here given they had received before, but it was requisite that
they should be repeated, that they might be remembered. Precept must be
upon precept, and line upon line, and all little enough. In these
I. It is required that Israel be a holy people, because the God of
Israel is a holy God,
Their being distinguished from all other people by peculiar laws and
customs was intended to teach them a real separation from the world and
the flesh, and an entire devotedness to God. And this is now the law of
Christ (the Lord bring every thought within us into obedience to it!)
You shall be holy, for I am holy,
1 Peter 1:15,16.
We are the followers of the holy Jesus, and therefore must be,
according to our capacity, consecrated to God's honour, and conformed
to his nature and will. Israel was sanctified by the types and shadows
but we are sanctified by the truth, or substance of all those
II. That children be obedient to their parents: "You shall fear
every man his mother and his father,
1. The fear here required is the same with the honour commanded by the
fifth commandment; see
It includes inward reverence and esteem, outward expressions of
respect, obedience to the lawful commands of parents, care and
endeavour to please them and make them easy, and to avoid every thing
that may offend and grieve them, and incur their displeasure. The
Jewish doctors ask, "What is this fear that is owing to a father?" And
they answer, "It is not to stand in his way nor to sit in his place,
not to contradict what he says nor to carp at it, not to call him by
his name, either living or dead, but 'My Father,' or 'Sir;' it is to
provide for him if he be poor, and the like."
2. Children, when they grow up to be men, must not think themselves
discharged from this duty: every man, though he be a wise man, and a
great man, yet must reverence his parents, because they are his
3. The mother is put first, which is not usual, to show that the duty
is equally owing to both; if the mother survive the father, still she
must be reverenced and obeyed.
4. It is added, and keep my sabbaths. If God provides by his law
for the preserving of the honour of parents, parents must use their
authority over their children for the preserving of the honour of God,
particularly the honour of his sabbaths, the custody of which is very
much committed to parents by the fourth commandment, Thou, and thy
son, and thy daughter. The ruin of young people has often been
observed to begin in the contempt of their parents and the profanation
of the sabbath day. Fitly therefore are these two precepts here put
together in the beginning of this abridgment of the statutes: "You
shall fear, every man, his mother and his father, and keep my
sabbaths. Those are hopeful children, and likely to do well, that
make conscience of honouring their parents and keeping holy the sabbath
5. The reason added to both these precepts is, "I am the Lord your
God; the Lord of the sabbath and the God of your parents."
III. That God only be worshipped, and not by images
"Turn you not to idols, to Elilim, to vanities, things of
no power, no value, gods that are no gods. Turn not from the true God
to false ones, from the mighty God to impotent ones, from the God that
will make you holy and happy to those that will deceive you, debauch
you, ruin you, and make you for ever miserable. Turn not your eye to
them, much less your heart. Make not to yourselves gods, the
creatures of your own fancy, nor think to worship the Creator by molten
gods. You are the work of God's hands, be not so absurd as to worship
gods the work of your own hands." Molten gods are specified for
the sake of the molten calf.
IV. That the sacrifices of their peace-offerings should always be
offered, and eaten, according to the law,
There was some particular reason, it is likely, for the repetition of
this law rather than any other relating to the sacrifices. The eating
of the peace-offerings was the people's part, and was done from under
the eye of the priests, and perhaps some of them had kept the cold meat
of their peace-offerings, as they had done the manna
longer than was appointed, which occasioned this caution; see the law
God will have his own work done in his own time. Though the sacrifice
was offered according to the law, if it was not eaten according to the
law, it was not accepted. Though ministers do their part, what the
better if people do not theirs? There is work to be done after our
spiritual sacrifices, in a due improvement of them; and, if this be
neglected, all is in vain.
V. That they should leave the gleanings of their harvest and vintage
for the poor,
Note, Works of piety must be always attended with works of charity,
according as our ability is. When they gathered in their corn, they
must leave some standing in the corner of the field; the Jewish doctors
say, "It should be a sixtieth part of the field;" and they must also
leave the gleanings and the small clusters of their grapes, which at
first were overlooked. This law, though not binding now in the letter
of it, yet teaches us,
1. That we must not be covetous and griping, and greedy of every thing
we can lay any claim to; nor insist upon our right in things small and
2. That we must be well pleased to see the poor supplied and refreshed
with the fruit of our labours. We must not think every thing lost that
goes beside ourselves, nor any thing wasted that goes to the poor.
3. That times of joy, such as harvest-time is, are proper times for
charity; that, when we rejoice, the poor may rejoice with us, and when
our hearts are blessing God their loins may bless us.
11 Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to
12 And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt
thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
13 Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the
wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night
until the morning.
14 Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block
before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.
15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not
respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the
mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.
16 Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy
people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy
neighbour: I am the LORD.
17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt
in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the
children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself: I am the LORD.
We are taught here,
I. To be honest and true in all our dealings,
God, who has appointed every man's property by his providence, forbids
by his law the invading of that appointment, either by downright theft,
You shall not steal, or by fraudulent dealing, "You shall not
cheat, or deal falsely." Whatever we have in the world, we must see to
it that it be honestly come by, for we cannot be truly rich, nor long
rich, with that which is not. The God of truth, who requires truth in
requires it also in the tongue: Neither lie one to another,
either in bargaining or common converse. This is one of the laws of
Lie not one to another. Those that do not speak truth do not
deserve to be told truth; those that sin by lying justly suffer by it;
therefore we are forbidden to lie one to another; for, if we lie
to others, we teach them to lie to us.
II. To maintain a very reverent regard to the sacred name of God
and not to call him to be witness either,
1. To a lie: You shall not swear falsely. It is bad to tell a
lie, but it is much worse to swear it. Or,
2. To a trifle, and every impertinence: Neither shalt thou profane
the name of thy God, by alienating it to any other purpose than
that for which it is to be religiously used.
III. Neither to take nor keep any one's right from him,
We must not take that which is none of our own, either by fraud or
robbery; nor detain that which belongs to another, particularly the
wages of the hireling, let it not abide with thee all
night. Let the day-labourer have his wages as soon as he has done
his day's work, if he desire it. It is a great sin to deny the payment
of it, nay, to defer it, to his damage, a sin that cries to heaven for
IV. To be particularly tender of the credit and safety of those that
cannot help themselves,
1. The credit of the deaf: Thou shalt not curse the deaf; that
is, not only those that are naturally deaf, that cannot hear at all,
but also those that are absent, and at present out of hearing of the
curse, and so cannot show their resentment, return the affront, nor
right themselves, and those that are patient, that seem as if they
heard not, and are not willing to take notice of it, as David,
Do not injure any because they are unwilling, or unable, to avenge
themselves, for God sees and hears, though they do not.
2. The safety of the blind we must likewise be tender of, and not put a
stumbling-block before them; for this is to add affliction to the
afflicted, and to make God's providence a servant to our malice. This
prohibition implies a precept to help the blind, and remove
stumbling-blocks out of their way. The Jewish writers, thinking it
impossible that any should be so barbarous as to put a
stumbling-block in the way of the blind, understood it
figuratively, that it forbids giving bad counsel to those that are
simple and easily imposed upon, by which they may be led to do
something to their own prejudice. We ought to take heed of doing any
thing which may occasion our weak brother to fall,
It is added, as a preservative from these sins, but fear thou
God. "Thou dost not fear the deaf and blind, they cannot right
themselves; but remember it is the glory of God to help the helpless,
and he will plead their cause." Note, The fear of God will restrain us
from doing that which will not expose us to men's resentments.
V. Judges and all in authority are here commanded to give verdict and
judgment without partiality
whether they were constituted judges by commission or made so in a
particular case by the consent of both parties, as referees or
arbitrators, they must do no wrong to either side, but, to the utmost
of their skill, must go according to the rules of equity, having
respect purely to the merits of the cause, and not to the characters of
the person. Justice must never be perverted, either,
1. In pity to the poor: Thou shalt not respect the person of the
Whatever may be given to a poor man as an alms, yet let nothing be
awarded him as his right but what he is legally entitled to, nor let
his poverty excuse him from any just punishment for a fault. Or,
2. In veneration or fear of the mighty, in whose favour judges would be
most frequently biased. The Jews say, "Judges were obliged by this law
to be so impartial as not to let one of the contending parties sit
while the other stood, nor permit one to say what he pleased and bid
the other be short; see
VI. We are all forbidden to do any thing injurious to our neighbour's
1. In common conversation: Thou shalt not go up and down as a
tale-bearer. It is as bad an office as a man can put himself into
to be the publisher of every man's faults, divulging what was secret,
aggravating crimes, and making the worst of every thing that was amiss,
with design to blast and ruin men's reputation, and to sow discord
among neighbours. The word used for a tale-bearer signifies a
pedlar, or petty chapman, the interlopers of trade; for
tale-bearers pick up ill-natured stories at one house and utter them at
another, and commonly barter slanders by way of exchange. See this sin
Jer. ix. 4, 5; Ezek. xxii. 9.
2, In witness-bearing: Neither shalt thou stand as a witness
against the blood of thy neighbour, if his blood be innocent,
nor join in confederacy with such bloody men as those described,"
The Jewish doctors put this further sense upon it: "Thou shalt not
stand by and see thy brother in danger, but thou shalt come in to his
relief and succour, though it be with the peril of thy own life or
limb;" they add, "He that can by his testimony clear one that is
accused is obliged by this law to do it;" see
VII. We are commanded to rebuke our neighbour in love
Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour.
1. Rather rebuke him than hate him for an injury done to thyself. If we
apprehend that our neighbour has any way wronged us, we must not
conceive a secret grudge against him, and estrange ourselves from him,
speaking to him neither bad nor good, as the manner of some is, who
have the art of concealing their displeasure till they have an
opportunity of a full revenge
(2 Samuel 13:22);
but we must rather give vent to our resentments with the meekness of
wisdom, endeavour to convince our brother of the injury, reason the
case fairly with him, and so put an end to the disgust conceived: this
is the rule our Saviour gives in this case,
2. Therefore rebuke him for his sin against God, because thou lovest
him; endeavour to bring him to repentance, that his sin may be
pardoned, and he may turn from it, and it may not be suffered to lie
upon him. Note, Friendly reproof is a duty we owe to one another, and
we ought both to give it and take it in love. Let the righteous
smite me, and it shall be a kindness,
Faithful and useful are those wounds of a friend,
It is here strictly commanded, "Thou shalt in any wise do it,
and not omit it under any pretence." Consider,
(1.) The guilt we incur by not reproving: it is construed here into a
hating of our brother. We are ready to argue thus, "Such a one is a
friend I love, therefore I will not make him uneasy by telling him of
his faults;" but we should rather say, "therefore I will do him the
kindness to tell him of them." Love covers sin from others, but not
from the sinner himself.
(2.) The mischief we do by not reproving: we suffer sin upon
him. Must we help the ass of an enemy that has fallen under his
burden, and shall we not help the soul of a friend?
And by suffering sin upon him we are in danger of bearing sin
for him, as the margin reads it. If we reprove not the
unfruitful works of darkness, we have fellowship with them, and
become accessaries ex post facto--after the fact,
It is thy brother, thy neighbour, that is concerned; and he was a Cain
that said, Am I my brother's keeper?
VIII. We are here required to put off all malice, and to put on
1. We must be ill-affected to none: Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear
any grudge; to the same purport with that
Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; for malice is
murder begun. If our brother has done us an injury, we must not return
it upon him, that is avenging; we must not upon every occasion upbraid
him with it, that is bearing a grudge; but we must both forgive it and
forget it, for thus we are forgiven of God. It is a most ill-natured
thing, and the bane of friendship, to retain the resentment of affronts
and injuries, and to let that word devour for ever.
2. We must be well-affected to all: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself. We often wrong ourselves, but we soon forgive ourselves
those wrongs, and they do not at all lessen our love to ourselves; and
in like manner we should love our neighbour. Our Saviour has made this
the second great commandment of the law
and the apostle shows how it is the summary of all the laws of the
We must love our neighbour as truly as we love ourselves, and without
dissimulation; we must evidence our love to our neighbour in the same
way as that by which we evidence our love to ourselves, preventing his
hurt, and procuring his good, to the utmost of our power. We must do to
our neighbour as we would be done to ourselves
putting our souls into his soul's stead,
Nay, we must in many cases deny ourselves for the good of our
neighbour, as Paul,
1 Corinthians 9:19,
&c. Herein the gospel goes beyond even that excellent precept of the
law; for Christ, by laying down his life for us, has taught us even to
lay down our lives for the brethren, in some cases
(1 John 3:16),
and so to love our neighbour better than ourselves.
19 Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle
gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with
mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and
woollen come upon thee.
20 And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a
bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor
freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put
to death, because she was not free.
21 And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, unto
the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for
a trespass offering.
22 And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram
of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he
hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.
23 And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted
all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit
thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as
uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.
24 But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy
to praise the LORD withal.
25 And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof,
that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the LORD
26 Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall
ye use enchantment, nor observe times.
27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt
thou mar the corners of thy beard.
28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead,
nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
29 Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore;
lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of
I. A law against mixtures,
God in the beginning made the cattle after their kind
and we must acquiesce in the order of nature God hath established,
believing that is best and sufficient, and not covet monsters. Add
thou not unto his works, lest he reprove thee; for it is the
excellency of the work of God that nothing can, without making it
worse, be either put to it or taken from it,
As what God has joined we must not separate, so what he has separated
we must not join. The sowing of mingled corn and the wearing of
linsey-woolsey garments are forbidden, either as superstitious customs
of the heathen or to intimate how careful they should be not to mingle
themselves with the heathen nor to weave any of the usages of the
Gentiles into God's ordinances. Ainsworth suggests that it was to lead
Israel to the simplicity and sincerity of religion, and to all the
parts and doctrines of the law and gospel in their distinct kinds. As
faith is necessary, good works are necessary, but to mingle these
together in the cause of our justification before God is forbidden,
II. A law for punishing adultery committed with one that was a bondmaid
that was espoused,
If she had not been espoused, the law appointed no punishment at all;
being espoused, if she had not been a bondmaid, the punishment had been
no less than death: but, being as yet a bondmaid (though before the
completing of her espousals she must have been made free), the capital
punishment is remitted, and they shall both be scourged; or, as some
think, the woman only, and the man was to bring a sacrifice. It was for
the honour of marriage, though but begun by betrothing, that the crime
should be punished; but it was for the honour of freedom that it should
not be punished as the debauching of a free woman was, so great was the
difference then made between bond and free
but the gospel of Christ knows no such distinction,
III. A law concerning fruit-trees, that for the first three years after
they were planted, if they should happen to be so forward as to bear in
that time, yet no use should be made of the fruit,
It was therefore the practice of the Jews to pluck off the fruit, as
soon as they perceived it knit, from their young trees, as gardeners do
sometimes, because their early bearing hinders their growing. If any
did come to perfection, it was not to be used in the service either of
God or man; but what they bore the fourth year was to be holy to the
Lord, either given to the priests, or eaten before the Lord with joy,
as their second tithe was, and thenceforward it was all their own. Now,
1. Some think this taught them not to follow the custom of the heathen,
who, they say, consecrated the very first products of their fruit-trees
to their idols, saying that otherwise all the fruits would be blasted.
2. This law in the case of fruit-trees seems to be parallel with that
in the case of animals, that no creature should be accepted as an
offering till it was past eight days old, nor till that day were
children to be circumcised; see
God would have the first-fruits of their trees, but, because for the
first three years they were as inconsiderable as a lamb or a calf under
eight days old, therefore God would not have them, for it is fit he
should have every thing at its best; and yet he would not allow them to
be used, because his first-fruits were not as yet offered: they must
therefore be accounted as uncircumcised, that is, as an animal under
eight days' old, not fit for any use.
3. We are hereby taught not to be over-hasty in catching at any
comfort, but to be willing with patience to wait the time for the
enjoyment of it, and particularly to acknowledge ourselves unworthy of
the increase of the earth, our right to the fruits of which was
forfeited by our first parents eating forbidden fruit, and we are
restored to it only by the word of God and prayer,
1 Timothy 4:5.
IV. A law against the superstitious usages of the heathen,
1. Eating upon the blood, as the Gentiles did, who gathered the blood
of their sacrifices into a vessel for their demons (as they fancied) to
drink, and then sat about it, eating the flesh themselves, signifying
their communion with devils by their feasting with them. Let not this
custom be used, for the blood of God's sacrifices was to be sprinkled
on the altar, and then poured at the foot of it, and conveyed away.
2. Enchantment and divination, and a superstitious observation of the
times, some days and hours lucky and others unlucky. Curious arts of
this kind, it is likely, had been of late invented by the Egyptian
priests, to amuse the people, and support their own credit. The
Israelites had seen them practised, but must by no means imitate them.
It would be unpardonable in those to whom were committed the oracles
of God to ask counsel of the devil, and yet worse in Christians, to
whom the Son of God is manifested, who has destroyed the
works of the devil. For Christians to have their nativities cast,
and their fortunes told them, to use spells and charms for the cure of
diseases and the driving away of evil spirits, to be affected with the
falling of the salt, a hare crossing the way, cross days, or the like,
is an intolerable affront to the Lord Jesus, a support of paganism and
idolatry, and a reproach both to themselves and to that worthy name by
which they are called: and those must be grossly ignorant, both of the
law and the gospel, that ask, "What harm is there in these things?" Is
it no harm for those that have fellowship with Christ to have
fellowship with devils, or to learn the ways of those that have? Surely
we have not so learned Christ.
3. There was a superstition even in trimming themselves used by the
heathen, which must not be imitated by the people of God: You shall
not round the corners of your heads. Those that worshipped the
hosts of heaven, in honour of them, cut their hair so as that their
heads might resemble the celestial globe; but, as the custom was
foolish itself, so, being done with respect to their false gods, it was
4. The rites and ceremonies by which they expressed their sorrow at
their funerals must not be imitated,
They must not make cuts or prints in their flesh for the dead; for the
heathen did so to pacify the infernal deities they dreamt of, and to
render them propitious to their deceased friends. Christ by his
sufferings has altered the property of death, and made it a true friend
to every true Israelite; and now, as there needs nothing to make death
propitious to us (for, if God be so, death is so of course), so we
sorrow not as those that have no hope. Those whom the God of Israel had
set apart for himself must not receive the image and superscription of
these dunghill deities. Lastly, The prostituting of their
daughters to uncleanness, which is here forbidden
seems to have been practised by the heathen in their idolatrous
worships, for with such abominations those unclean spirits which they
worshipped were well pleased. And when lewdness obtained as a religious
rite, and was committed in their temples, no marvel that the land
became full of that wickedness, which, when it entered at the
temple-doors, overspread the land like a mighty torrent, and bore down
all the fences of virtue and modesty. The devil himself could not have
brought such abominations into their lives if he had not first brought
them into their worships. And justly were those given up to vile
affections who forsook the holy God, and gave divine honours to impure
spirits. Those that dishonour God are thus suffered to dishonour
themselves and their families.
30 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I
am the LORD.
31 Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek
after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
32 Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the
face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.
33 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall
not vex him.
34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you
as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye
were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
35 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in
weight, or in measure.
36 Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin,
shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of
the land of Egypt.
37 Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my
judgments, and do them: I am the LORD.
I. A law for the preserving of the honour of the time and place
appropriated to the service of God,
This would be a means to secure them both from the idolatries and
superstitions of the heathen and from all immoralities in conversation.
1. Sabbaths must be religiously observed, and not those times mentioned
to which the heathen had a superstitious regard.
2. The sanctuary must be reverenced: great care must be taken to
approach the tabernacle with that purity and preparation which the law
required, and to attend there with that humility, decency, and
closeness of application which became them in the immediate presence of
such an awful majesty. Though now there is no place holy by divine
institution, as the tabernacle and temple then were, yet this law
obliges us to respect the solemn assemblies of Christians for religious
worship, as being held under a promise of Christ's special presence in
them, and to carry ourselves with a due decorum while in those
assemblies we attend the administration of holy ordinances,
II. A caution against all communion with witches, and those that were
in league with familiar spirits: "Regard them not, seek not after
them, be not in fear of any evil from them nor in hopes of any good
from them. Regard not their threatenings, or promises, or predictions;
seek not to them for discovery or advice, for, if you do, you are
defiled by it, and rendered abominable both to God and your own
consciences." This was the sin that completed Saul's wickedness, for
which he was rejected of God,
1 Chronicles 10:13.
III. A charge to young people to show respect to the aged: Thou
shall rise up before the hoary head,
Age is honourable, and he that is the Ancient of days requires that
honour be paid to it. The hoary head is a crown of glory. Those
whom God has honoured with the common blessing of long life we ought to
honour with the distinguishing expressions of civility; and those who
in age are wise and good are worthy of double honour: more respect is
owing to such old men than merely to rise up before them; their credit
and comfort must be carefully consulted, their experience and
observations improved, and their counsels asked and hearkened to,
Some, by the old man whose face or presence is to be honoured,
understand the elder in office, as by the hoary head the elder in age;
both ought to be respected as fathers, and in the fear of God, who has
put some of his honour upon both. Note, Religion teaches good manners,
and obliges us to give honour to those to whom honour is due. It is an
instance of great degeneracy and disorder in a land when the child
behaves himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the
It becomes the aged to receive this honour, and the younger to give it;
for it is the ornament as well as duty of their youth to order
themselves lowly and reverently to all their betters.
IV. A charge to the Israelites to be very tender of strangers,
Both the law of God and his providence had vastly dignified Israel
above any other people, yet they must not therefore think themselves
authorized to trample upon all mankind but those of their own nation,
and to insult them at their pleasure; no, "Thou shall not vex a
stranger, but love him as thyself, and as one of thy own people."
It is supposed that this stranger was not an idolater, but a worshipper
of the God of Israel, though not circumcised, a proselyte of the gate
at least, though not a proselyte of righteousness: if such a one
sojourned among them, they must not vex him, nor oppress, nor
over-reach him in a bargain, taking advantage of his ignorance of their
laws and customs; they must reckon it as great a sin to cheat a
stranger as to cheat an Israelite; "nay" (say the Jewish doctors) "they
must not so much as upbraid him with his being a stranger, and his
having been formerly an idolater." Strangers are God's particular care,
as the widow and the fatherless are, because it is his honour to help
It is therefore at our peril if we do them any wrong, or put any
hardships upon them. Strangers shall be welcome to God's grace, and
therefore we should do what we can to invite them to it, and to
recommend religion to their good opinion. It argues a generous
disposition, and a pious regard to God, as a common Father, to be kind
to strangers; for those of different countries, customs, and languages,
are all made of one blood. But here is a reason added peculiar to the
Jews: "For you were strangers in the land of Egypt. God then
favoured you, therefore do you now favour the strangers, and do to them
as you then wished to be done to. You were strangers, and yet are now
thus highly advanced; therefore you know not what these strangers may
come to, whom you are apt to despise."
V. Justice in weights and measures is here commanded. That there should
be no cheat in them,
That they should be very exact,
In weighing and measuring, we pretend a design to give all those their
own whom we deal with; but, if the weights and measures be false, it is
like a corruption in judgment, it cheats under colour of justice; and
thus to deceive a man to his damage is worse than picking his pocket or
robbing him on the highway. He that sells is bound to give the full of
the commodity, and he that buys the full of the price agreed upon,
which cannot be done without just balances, weights, and measures.
Let no man go beyond or defraud his brother, for, though it be
hidden from man, it will be found that God is the avenger of all
VI. The chapter concludes with a general command
You shall observe all my statutes, and do them. Note,
1. We are not likely to do God's statutes, unless we observe them with
great care and consideration.
2. Yet it is not enough barely to observe God's precepts, but we must
make conscience of obeying them. What will it avail us to be critical
in our notions, if we be not conscientious in our conversations?
3. An upright heart has respect to all God's commandments,
Though in many instances the hand fails in doing what should be done,
yet the eye observes all God's statutes. We are not allowed to pick and
choose our duty, but must aim at standing complete in all the will of