I. A general law against all conformity to the corrupt usages of the
II. Particular laws,
1. Against incest,
2. Against beastly lusts, and barbarous idolatries,
III. The enforcement of these laws from the ruin of the Canaanites,
|Cautions against Idolatrous Practices.
||B. C. 1490.|
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am
the LORD your God.
3 After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt,
shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan,
whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in
4 Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk
therein: I am the LORD your God.
5 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which
if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.
After divers ceremonial institutions, God here returns to the
enforcement of moral precepts. The former are still of use to us as
types, the latter still binding as laws. We have here,
1. The sacred authority by which these laws are enacted: I am the
Lord your God
and I am the Lord,
"The Lord, who has a right to rule all; your God, who has a peculiar
right to rule you." Jehovah is the fountain of being, and therefore the
fountain of power, whose we are, whom we are bound to serve, and who is
able to punish all disobedience. "Your God to whom you have consented,
in whom you are happy, to whom you lie under the highest obligations
imaginable, and to whom you are accountable."
2. A strict caution to take heed of retaining the relics of the
idolatries of Egypt, where they had dwelt, and of receiving the
infection of the idolatries of Canaan, whither they were now going,
Now that God was by Moses teaching them his ordinances there was
aliquid dediscendum--something to be unlearned, which they had
sucked in with their milk in Egypt, a country noted for idolatry:
You shall not do after the doings of the land of Egypt. It would
be the greatest absurdity in itself to retain such an affection for
their house of bondage as to be governed in their devotions by the
usages of it, and the greatest ingratitude to God, who had so
wonderfully and graciously delivered them. Nay, as if governed by a
spirit of contradiction, they would be in danger, even after they had
received these ordinances of God, of admitting the wicked usages of the
Canaanites and of inheriting their vices with their land. Of this
danger they are here warned, You shall not walk in their
ordinances. Such a tyrant is custom that their practices are called
ordinances, and they became rivals even with God's ordinances,
and God's professing people were in danger of receiving law from them.
3. A solemn charge to them to keep God's judgments, statutes, and
To this charge, and many similar ones, David seems to refer in the many
prayers and professions he makes relating to God's laws in the
(1.) The great rule of our obedience--God's statutes and judgments.
These we must keep to walk therein. We must keep them in our
books, and keep them in our hands, that we may practise them in our
hearts and lives. Remember God's commandments to do them,
We must keep in them as our way to travel in, keep to them as our rule
to work by, keep them as our treasure, as the apple of our eye, with
the utmost care and value.
(2.) The great advantage of our obedience: Which if a man do, he
shall live in them, that is, "he shall be happy here and
hereafter." We have reason to thank God,
[1.] That this is still in force as a promise, with a very favourable
construction of the condition. If we keep God's commandments in
sincerity, though we come short of sinless perfection, we shall find
that the way of duty is the way of comfort, and will be the way to
happiness. Godliness has the promise of life,
1 Timothy 4:8.
Wisdom has said, Keep my commandments and live: and if
through the Spirit we mortify the deeds of the body (which are to
us as the usages of Egypt were to Israel) we shall live.
[2.] That it is not so in force in the nature of a covenant as that the
least transgression shall for ever exclude us from this life. The
apostle quotes this twice as opposite to the faith which the gospel
reveals. It is the description of the righteousness which is by the
law, the man that doeth them shall live en
and is urged to prove that the law is not of faith,
The alteration which the gospel has made is in the last word: still
the man that does them shall live, but not live in them;
for the law could not give life, because we could not perfectly keep
it; it was weak through the flesh, not in itself; but now the
man that does them shall live by the faith of the Son of
God. He shall owe his life to the grace of Christ, and not to the
merit of his own works; see
The just shall live, but they shall live by faith, by
virtue of their union with Christ, who is their life.
|Incest Defined and Forbidden; Against Marrying Near Relations.
||B. C. 1490.|
6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him,
to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD.
7 The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother,
shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not
uncover her nakedness.
8 The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it
is thy father's nakedness.
9 The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or
daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born
abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.
10 The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's
daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for
theirs is thine own nakedness.
11 The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of
thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her
12 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister:
she is thy father's near kinswoman.
13 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister:
for she is thy mother's near kinswoman.
14 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's
brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine
15 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law:
she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
16 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife:
it is thy brother's nakedness.
17 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her
daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her
daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are
her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.
18 Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her,
to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.
These laws relate to the seventh commandment, and, no doubt, are
obligatory on us under the gospel, for they are consonant to the very
light and law of nature: one of the articles, that of a man's having
his father's wife, the apostle speaks of as a sin not so much as
named among the Gentiles,
1 Corinthians 5:1.
Though some of the incests here forbidden were practised by some
particular persons among the heathen, yet they were disallowed and
detested, unless among those nations who had become barbarous, and were
quite given up to vile affections. Observe,
I. That which is forbidden as to the relations here specified is
approaching to them to uncover their nakedness,
1. It is chiefly intended to forbid the marrying of any of these
relations. Marriage is a divine institution; this and the sabbath, the
eldest of all, of equal standing with man upon the earth: it is
intended for the comfort of human life, and the decent and honourable
propagation of the human race, such as became the dignity of man's
nature above that of the beasts. It is honourable in all, and
these laws are for the support of the honour of it. It was requisite
that a divine ordinance should be subject to divine rules and
restraints, especially because it concerns a thing wherein the corrupt
nature of man is as apt as in any thing to be wilful and impetuous in
its desires, and impatient of check. Yet these prohibitions, besides
their being enacted by an incontestable authority, are in themselves
highly reasonable and equitable.
(1.) By marriage two were to become one flesh, therefore those that
before were in a sense one flesh by nature could not, without the
greatest absurdity, become one flesh by institution; for the
institution was designed to unite those who before were not united.
(2.) Marriage puts an equality between husband and wife. "Is she not
thy companion taken out of thy side?" Therefore, if those who before
were superior and inferior should intermarry (which is the case in most
of the instances here laid down), the order of nature would be taken
away by a positive institution, which must by no means be allowed. The
inequality between master and servant, noble and ignoble, is founded in
consent and custom, and there is no harm done if that be taken away by
the equality of marriage; but the inequality between parents and
children, uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, either by blood or
marriage, is founded in nature, and is therefore perpetual, and cannot
without confusion be taken away by the equality of marriage, the
institution of which, though ancient, is subsequent to the order of
(3.) No relations that are equals are forbidden, except brothers and
sisters, by the whole blood or half blood, or by marriage; and in this
there is not the same natural absurdity as in the former, for Adam's
sons must of necessity have married their own sisters; but it was
requisite that it should be made by a positive law unlawful and
detestable, for the preventing of sinful familiarities between those
that in the days of their youth are supposed to live in a house
together, and yet cannot intermarry without defeating one of the
intentions of marriage, which is the enlargement of friendship and
interest. If every man married his own sister (as they would be apt to
do from generation to generation if it were lawful), each family would
be a world to itself, and it would be forgotten that we are members
one of another. It is certain that this has always been looked upon
by the more sober heathen as a most infamous and abominable thing; and
those who had not this law yet were herein a law to themselves. The
making use of the ordinance of marriage for the patronizing of
incestuous mixtures is so far from justifying them, or extenuating
their guilt, that it adds the guilt of profaning an ordinance of God,
and prostituting that to the vilest of purposes which was instituted
for the noblest ends. But,
2. Uncleanness, committed with any of these relations out of marriage,
is likewise, without doubt, forbidden here, and no less intended than
the former: as also all lascivious carriage, wanton dalliance, and
every thing that has the appearance of this evil. Relations must love
one another, and are to have free and familiar converse with each
other, but it must be with all purity; and the less it is suspected of
evil by others the more care ought the persons themselves to take that
Satan do not get advantage against them, for he is a very subtle
enemy, and seeks all occasions against us.
II. The relations forbidden are most of them plainly described; and it
is generally laid down as a rule that what relations of a man's own he
is bound up from marrying the same relations of his wife he is likewise
forbidden to marry, for they two are one. That law which forbids
marrying a brother's wife
had an exception peculiar to the Jewish state, that, if a man died
without issue, his brother or next of kin should marry the widow, and
raise up seed to the deceased
for reasons which held good only in that commonwealth; and therefore
now that those reasons have ceased the exception ceases, and the law is
in force, that a man must in no case marry his brother's widow. That
which forbids a man to take a wife to her sister supposes a
connivance at polygamy, as some other laws then did
but forbids a man's marrying two sisters, as Jacob did, because between
those who had before been equal there would be apt to arise greater
jealousies and animosities than between wives that were not so nearly
related. If the sister of the wife be taken for the concubine, or
secondary wife, nothing can be more vexing in her life, or as long as
|Laws against Iniquity.
||B. C. 1490.|
19 Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her
nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.
20 Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's
wife, to defile thyself with her.
21 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the
fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God:
I am the LORD.
22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is
23 Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself
therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie
down thereto: it is confusion.
24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all
these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity
thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her
26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and
shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of
your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done,
which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
28 That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as
it spued out the nations that were before you.
29 For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even
the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their
30 Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not
any one of these abominable customs, which were committed
before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the
LORD your God.
I. A law to preserve the honour of the marriage-bed, that it should not
be unseasonably used
nor invaded by an adulterer,
II. A law against that which was the most unnatural idolatry, causing
their children to pass through the fire to Moloch,
Moloch (as some think) was the idol in and by which they worshipped the
sun, that great fire of the world; and therefore in the worship of it
they made their own children either sacrifices to this idol, burning
them to death before it, or devotees to it, causing them to pass
between two fires, as some think, or to be thrown through one, to the
honour of this pretended deity, imagining that the consecrating of but
one of their children in this manner to Moloch would procure good
fortune for all the rest of their children. Did idolaters thus give
their own children to false gods, and shall we think any thing too dear
to be dedicated to, or to be parted with for, the true God? See how
this sin of Israel (which they were afterwards guilty of,
notwithstanding this law) is aggravated by the relation which they and
their children stood in to God.
Thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne
unto me, and these thou hast sacrificed. Therefore it is here
called profaning the name of their God; for it looked as if they
thought they were under greater obligations to Moloch than to Jehovah;
for to him they offered their cattle only, but to Moloch their
III. A law against unnatural lusts, sodomy and bestiality, sins not to
be named nor thought of without the utmost abhorrence imaginable,
Other sins level men with the beasts, but these sink them much lower.
That ever there should have been occasion for the making of these laws,
and that since they are published they should ever have been broken, is
the perpetual reproach and scandal of human nature; and the giving of
men up to these vile affections was frequently the punishment of their
idolatries; so the apostle shows,
IV. Arguments against these and the like abominable wickednesses. He
that has an indisputable right to command us, yet because he will deal
with us as men, and draw with the cords of a man, condescends to
reason with us.
1. Sinners defile themselves with these abominations: Defile not
yourselves in any of these things,
All sin is defiling to the conscience, but these are sins that have a
peculiar turpitude in them. Our heavenly Father, in kindness to us,
requires of us that we keep ourselves clean, and do not wallow in the
2. The souls that commit them shall be cut off,
And justly; for, if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God
1 Corinthians 3:17.
Fleshly lusts war against the soul, and will certainly be the ruin of
it if God's mercy and grace prevent not.
3. The land is defiled,
If such wickednesses as these be practised and connived at, the land is
thereby made unfit to have God's tabernacle in it, and the pure and
holy God will withdraw the tokens of his gracious presence from it. It
is also rendered unwholesome to the inhabitants, who are hereby
infected with sin and exposed to plagues and it is really nauseous and
loathsome to all good men in it, as the wickedness of Sodom was to the
soul of righteous Lot.
4. These have been the abominations of the former inhabitants,
Therefore it was necessary that these laws should be made, as antidotes
and preservatives from the plague are necessary when we go into an
infected place. And therefore they should not practise any such things,
because the nations that had practised them now lay under the curse of
God, and were shortly to fall by the sword of Israel. They could not
but be sensible how odious those people had made themselves who
wallowed in this mire, and how they stank in the nostrils of all good
men; and shall a people sanctified and dignified as Israel was make
themselves thus vile? When we observe how ill sin looks in others we
should use this as an argument with ourselves with the utmost care and
caution to preserve our purity.
5. For these and the like sins the Canaanites were to be destroyed;
these filled the measure of the Amorites' iniquity
and brought down that destruction of so many populous kingdoms which
the Israelites were now shortly to be not only the spectators, but the
instruments of: Therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon
Note, The tremendous judgments of God, executed on those that are
daringly profane and atheistical, are intended as warnings to those who
profess religion to take heed of every thing that has the least
appearance of, or tendency towards, profaneness or atheism. Even the
ruin of the Canaanites is an admonition to the Israelites not to do
like them. Nay, to show that not only the Creator is provoked, but the
creation burdened, by such abominations as these, it is added
The land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. The very ground
they went upon did, as it were, groan under them, and was sick of them,
and not easy till it had discharged itself of these enemies of the
This bespeaks the extreme loathsomeness of sin; sinful man indeed
drinks in iniquity like water, but the harmless part of the
creation even heaves at it, and rises against it. Many a house and
many a town have spued out the wicked inhabitants, as it were, with
Therefore take heed, saith God, that the land spue not you out
It was secured to them, and entailed upon them, and yet they must
expect that, if they made the vices of the Canaanites their own, with
their land their fate would be the same. Note, Wicked Israelites are as
abominable to God as wicked Canaanites, and more so, and will be as
soon spued out, or sooner. Such a warning as was here given to the
Israelites is given by the apostle to the Gentile converts, with
reference to the rejected Jews, in whose room they were substituted
&c.); they must take heed of falling after the same example of
Apply it more generally; and let it deter us effectually from all
sinful courses to consider how many they have been the ruin of. Lay the
ear of faith to the gates of the bottomless pit, and hear the doleful
shrieks and outcries of damned sinners, whom earth has spued out and
hell has swallowed, that find themselves undone, for ever undone, by
sin; and tremble lest this be your portion at last. God's threatenings
and judgments should frighten us from sin.
V. The chapter concludes with a sovereign antidote against this
infection: Therefore you shall keep my ordinance that you commit not
any one of these abominable customs,
This is the remedy prescribed. Note,
1. Sinful customs are abominable customs, and their being common and
fashionable does not make them at all the less abominable nor should we
the less abominate them, but the more; because the more customary they
are the more dangerous they are.
2. It is of pernicious consequence to admit and allow of any one sinful
custom, because one will make way for many, Uno absurdo dato, mille
sequuntur--Admit but a single absurdity, you invite a thousand. The
way of sin is downhill.
3. A close and constant adherence to God's ordinances is the most
effectual preservative from the infection of gross sin. The more we
taste of the sweetness and feel of the power of holy ordinances the
less inclination we shall have to the forbidden pleasures of sinners'
abominable customs. It is the grace of God only that will secure us,
and that grace is to be expected only in the use of the means of grace.
Nor does God ever leave any to their own hearts' lusts till they have
first left him and his institutions.