The laws which before were made are in this chapter repeated and
penalties annexed to them, that those who would not be deterred from
sin by the fear of God might be deterred from it by the fear of
punishment. If we will not avoid such and such practices because the
law has made them sin (and it is most acceptable when we go on that
principle of religion), surely we shall avoid them when the law has
made them death, from a principle of self-preservation. In this chapter
I. Many particular crimes that are made capital. I. Giving their
children to Moloch,
2. Consulting witches,
3. Cursing parents,
6. Unnatural lusts,
II. General commands given to be holy,
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
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.
Moses is here directed to say that again to the children of Israel
which he had in effect said before,
We are sure it was no vain repetition, but very necessary, that they
might give the more earnest heed to the things that were spoken,
and might believe them to be of great consequence, being so often
inculcated. God speaketh once, yea, twice, and what he orders to
be said again we must be willing to hear again, because for us it is
I. Three sins are in these verses threatened with death:--
1. Parents abusing their children, by sacrificing them to Moloch,
There is the grossest absurdity that can be in all the rites of
idolatry, and they are all a great reproach to men's reason; but none
trampled upon all the honours of human nature as this did, the burning
of children in the fire to the honour of a dunghill-god. It was a plain
evidence that their gods were devils, who desired and delighted in the
misery and ruin of mankind, and that the worshippers were worse than
the beasts that perish, perfectly stripped, not only of reason, but of
natural affection. Abraham's offering Isaac could not give countenance,
much less could it give rise to this barbarous practice, since, though
that was commanded, it was immediately countermanded. Yet such was the
power of the god of this world over the children of disobedience that
this monstrous piece of inhumanity was generally practised; and even
the Israelites were in danger of being drawn into it, which made it
necessary that this severe law should be made against it. It was not
enough to tell them they might spare their children (the fruit of their
body should never be accepted for the sin of their soul), but they must
(1.) That the criminal himself should be put to death as a murderer:
The people of the land shall stone him with stones
which was looked upon as the worst of capital punishments among the
Jews. If the children were sacrificed to the malice of the devil, the
parents must be sacrificed to the justice of God. And, if either the
fact could not be proved or the magistrates did not do their duty, God
would take the work into his own hands: I will cut him off,
Note, Those that escape punishment from men, yet shall not escape the
righteous judgments of God; so wretchedly do those deceive themselves
that promise themselves impunity in sin. How can those escape against
whom God sets his face, that is, whom he frowns upon, meets as an
enemy, and fights against? The heinousness of the crime is here set
forth to justify the doom: it defiles the sanctuary, and
profanes the holy name of God, for the honour of both which he
is jealous. Observe, The malignity of the sin is laid upon that in it
which was peculiar to Israel. When the Gentiles sacrificed their
children they were guilty of murder and idolatry; but, if the
Israelites did it, they incurred the additional guilt of defiling the
sanctuary (which they attended upon even when they lay under this
guilt, as if there might be an agreement between the temple of God and
idols), and of profaning the holy name of God, by which they
were called, as if he allowed his worshippers to do such things,
(2.) That all his aiders and abetters should be cut off likewise by the
righteous hand of God. If his neighbours concealed him, and would not
come in as witnesses against him,--if the magistrates connived at him,
and would not pass sentence upon him, rather pitying his folly than
hating his impiety,--God himself would reckon with them,
Misprision of idolatry is a crime cognizable in the court of heaven,
and which shall not go unpunished: I will set my face against that
man (that magistrate,
and against his family. Note,
[1.] The wickedness of the master of a family often brings ruin upon a
family; and he that should be the house-keeper proves the
[2.] If magistrates will not do justice upon offenders, God will do
justice upon them, because there is danger that many will go a
whoring after those who do but countenance sin by winking at it.
And, if the sins of leaders be leading sins, it is fit that their
punishments should be exemplary punishments.
2. Children's abusing their parents, by cursing them,
If children should speak ill of their parents, or wish ill to them, or
carry it scornfully or spitefully towards them, it was an iniquity to
be punished by the judges, who were employed as conservators both of
God's honour and of the public peace, which were both attacked by this
unnatural insolence. See
The eye that mocks at his father the ravens of the valley shall pick
out, which intimates that such wicked children were in a fair way
to be not only hanged, but hanged in chains. This law of Moses Christ
quotes and confirms
for it is as direct a breach of the fifth commandment as wilful murder
is of the sixth. The same law which requires parents to be tender of
their children requires children to be respectful to their parents. He
that despitefully uses his parents, the instruments of his being, flies
in the face of God himself, the author of his being, who will not see
the paternal dignity and authority insulted and trampled upon.
3. Persons abusing themselves by consulting such as have familiar
By this, as much as any thing, a man diminishes, disparages, and
deceives himself, and so abuses himself. What greater madness can there
be than for a man to go to a liar for information, and to an enemy for
advice? Those do so who turn after those that deal in the black art,
and know the depths of Satan. This is spiritual adultery as much as
idolatry is, giving that honour to the devil which is due to God only;
and the jealous God will give a bill of divorce to those that thus
go a whoring from him, and will cut them off, they having
first cut themselves off from him.
II. In the midst of these particular laws comes in that general charge,
where we have,
1. The duties required; and they are two:--
(1.) That in our principles, affections, and aims, we be holy:
Sanctify yourselves and be you holy. We must cleanse ourselves
from all the pollutions of sin, consecrate ourselves to the service and
honour of God, and conform ourselves in every thing to his holy will
and image: this is to sanctify ourselves.
(2.) That in all our actions, and in the whole course of our
conversation, we be obedient to the laws of God: You shall keep my
statutes. By this only can we make it to appear that we have
sanctified ourselves and are holy, even by our keeping God's
commandments; the tree is known by its fruit. Nor can we keep
God's statutes, as we ought, unless we first sanctify ourselves,
and be holy. Make the tree good, and the fruit will be good.
2. The reasons to enforce these duties.
(1.) "I am the Lord your God; therefore be holy, that you may
resemble him whose people you are, and may be pleasing to him. Holiness
becomes his house and household."
(2.) I am the Lord who sanctifieth you. God sanctified them by
peculiar privileges, laws, and favours, which distinguished them from
all other nations, and dignified them as a people set apart for God. He
gave them his word and ordinances to be means of their sanctification,
and his good Spirit to instruct them; therefore they must be holy, else
they received the grace of God herein in vain. Note,
[1.] God's people are, and must be, persons of distinction. God has
distinguished them by his holy covenant, and therefore they ought to
distinguish themselves by their holy conversation.
[2.] God's sanctifying us is a good reason why we should sanctify
ourselves, that we may comply with the designs of his grace, and not
walk contrary to them. If it be the Lord that sanctifies us, we may
hope the work shall be done, though it be difficult: the manner of
expression is like that,
2 Corinthians 5:5,
He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God. And his
grace is so far from superseding our care and endeavour that it most
strongly engages and encourages them. Work out your salvation, for
it is God that worketh in you.
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
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.
Sins against the seventh commandment are here ordered to be severely
punished. These are sins which, of all others, fools are most apt to
make a mock at; but God would teach those the heinousness of the guilt
by the extremity of the punishment that would not otherwise be taught
I. Lying with another man's wife was made a capital crime. The
adulterer and the adulteress that had joined in the sin must fall alike
under the sentence: they shall both be put to death,
Long before this, even in Job's time, this was reputed a heinous
crime and an iniquity to be punished by the judges,
It is a presumptuous contempt of an ordinance of God, and a violation
of his covenant,
It is an irreparable wrong to the injured husband, and debauches the
mind and conscience of both the offenders as much as any thing. It is a
sin which headstrong and unbridled lusts hurry men violently to, and
therefore it needs such a powerful restraint as this. It is a sin which
defiles a land and brings down God's judgments upon it, which disquiets
families, and tends to the ruin of all virtue and religion, and
therefore is fit to be animadverted upon by the conservators of the
public peace: but see
II. Incestuous connections, whether by marriage or not.
1. Some of them were to be punished with death, as a man's lying
with his father's wife,
Reuben would have been put to death for his crime
if this law had been then made. It was the sin of the incestuous
Corinthian, for which he was to be delivered unto Satan,
1 Corinthians 5:1,5.
A man's debauching his daughter-in-law, or his mother-in-law, or his
sister, was likewise to be punished with death,
2. Others of them God would punish with the curse of barrenness, as a
man's defiling his aunt, or his brother's wife
They shall die childless. Those that keep not within the divine
rules of marriage forfeit the blessings of marriage: They shall
commit whoredom, and shall not increase,
Nay it is said, They shall bear their iniquity, that is, though
they be not immediately cut off by the hand either of God or man for
this sin, yet the guilt of it shall lie upon them, to be reckoned for
another day, and not be purged with sacrifice or offering.
III. The unnatural lusts of sodomy and bestiality (sins not to be
mentioned without horror) were to be punished with death, as they are
at this day by our law,
Even the beast that was thus abused was to be killed with the sinner,
who was thereby openly put to the greater shame: and the villany was
thus represented as in the highest degree execrable and abominable, all
occasions of the remembrance or mention of it being to be taken away.
Even the unseasonable use of the marriage, if presumptuous, and in
contempt of the law, would expose the offenders to the just judgment of
God: they shall be cut off,
For this is the will of God, that every man should possess his
vessel (and the wife is called the weaker vessel) in
sanctification and honour, as becomes saints.
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.
The last verse is a particular law, which comes in after the general
conclusion, as if omitted in its proper place: it is for the putting of
those to death that dealt with familiar spirits,
It would be an affront to God and to his lively oracles, a scandal to
the country, and a temptation to ignorant bad people, to consult them,
if such were known and suffered to live among them. Those that are in
league with the devil have in effect made a covenant with death and an
agreement with hell, and so shall their doom be.
The rest of these verses repeat and inculcate what had been said
before; for to that unthinking forgetful people it was requisite that
there should be line upon line, and that general rules, with their
reasons, should be frequently insisted on, for the enforcement of
particular laws, and making them more effectual. Three things we are
here reminded of:--
I. Their dignity.
1. They had the Lord for their God,
They were his, his care, his choice, his treasure, his jewels, his
kingdom of priests
That you should be mine. Happy the people, and truly great, that
are in such a case.
2. Their God was a holy God
infinitely advanced above all others. His holiness is his glory, and it
was their honour to be related to him, while their neighbours were the
infamous worshippers of impure and filthy spirits.
3. The great God had separated them from other people
Other nations were the common; they were the enclosure, beautified and
enriched with peculiar privileges, and designed for peculiar honours;
let them therefore value themselves accordingly, preserve their honour,
and not lay it in the dust, by walking in the way of the heathen.
II. Their duty; this is inferred from their dignity. God had done more
for them than for others, and therefore expected more from them than
from others. And what is it that the Lord their God requires, in
consideration of the great things done and designed?
1. You shall keep all my statutes
and there was all the reason in the world that they should, for the
statutes were their honour, and obedience to them would be their
2. You shall not walk in the manners of nations,
Being separated from them, they must not associate with them, nor learn
their ways. The manners of the nations were bad enough in them, but
would be much worse in God's people.
3. You shall put a difference between clean and unclean,
This is holiness, to discern between things that differ, not to live at
large, as if we might say and do any thing, but to speak and act with
4. You shall not make your souls abominable,
Our constant care must be to preserve the honour, by preserving the
purity, of our own souls, and never to do any thing to make them
abominable to God and to our own consciences.
III. Their danger.
1. They were going into an infected place
You shall inherit their land, a land flowing with milk and
honey, which they would have the comfort of if they kept their
integrity; but, withal, it was a land full of idols, idolatries, and
superstitious usages, which they would be apt to fall in love with,
having brought from Egypt with them a strange disposition to take that
2. If they took the infection, it would be of pernicious consequence
to them. The Canaanites were to be expelled for these very sins:
They committed all these things, therefore I abhorred them,
See what an evil thing sin is; it provokes God to abhor his own
creatures, whereas otherwise he delights in the work of his hands.
And, if the Israelites trod in the steps of their impiety, they must
expect that the land would spue them out
as he had told them before,
If God spared not the natural branches, but broke them off, neither
would he spare those who were grafted in, if they degenerated. Thus the
rejection of the Jews stands for a warning to all Christian churches to
take heed lest the kingdom of God be taken from them. Those that sin
like others must expect to smart like them; and their profession of
relation to God will be no security to them.