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The Second Pair of Tablets
At that time the Lord said to me, “Carve out two tablets of stone like the former ones, and come up to me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood. 2I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you smashed, and you shall put them in the ark.” 3So I made an ark of acacia wood, cut two tablets of stone like the former ones, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. 4Then he wrote on the tablets the same words as before, the ten commandments that the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them to me. 5So I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tablets in the ark that I had made; and there they are, as the Lord commanded me.
6 (The Israelites journeyed from Beeroth-bene-jaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died, and there he was buried; his son Eleazar succeeded him as priest. 7From there they journeyed to Gudgodah, and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land with flowing streams. 8At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister to him, and to bless in his name, to this day. 9Therefore Levi has no allotment or inheritance with his kindred; the Lord is his inheritance, as the Lord your God promised him.)
10 I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights, as I had done the first time. And once again the Lord listened to me. The Lord was unwilling to destroy you. 11The Lord said to me, “Get up, go on your journey at the head of the people, that they may go in and occupy the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.”
The Essence of the Law
12 So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. 14Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, 15yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. 16Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. 17For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. 19You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. 21He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. 22Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.
18. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
18. Diliges proximum tuum sicut to ipsum.
18. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. What every man’s mind ought to be towards his neighbor, could not be better expressed in many pages that in this one sentence. We are all of us not only inclined to love ourselves more than we should, but all our powers hurry us away in this direction; nay, φιλαυτία (self-love) blinds us so much as to be the parent of all iniquities. Since, therefore, whilst we are too much given to love ourselves, we forget and neglect our brethren, God could only bring us back to charity by plucking from our hearts that vicious passion which is born with us and dwells deeply in us; nor, again, could this be done except by transferring elsewhere the love which exists within us. On this point no less has the dishonesty betrayed itself than the ignorance and folly of those 185185 “Les docteurs Papistes.” — Fr. See ante on Leviticus 19:18, p. 23. who would have the love of ourselves come first: “The rule (say they) is superior to the thing regulated by it; and according to God’s commandment, the charity which we should exercise towards others is formed upon the love of ourselves as its rule.” As if it were God’s purpose to stir up the fire which already burns too fiercely. Naturally, as I have said, we are blinded by our immoderate self-love; and God, in order to turn us away from this, has substituted our neighbors, whom we are to love no less than ourselves; nor will any one ever perform what Paul teaches us to be a part of charity, viz., that she “seeketh not her own,” (1 Corinthians 13:5,) until he shall have renounced himself.
Not only those with whom we have some connection are called our neighbors, but all without exception; for the whole human race forms one body, of which all are members, and consequently should be bound together by mutual ties; for we must bear in mind that even those who are most alienated from us, should be cherished and aided even as our own flesh; since we have 186186 On Leviticus 19:33, ante p. 118. seen elsewhere that sojourners and strangers are placed in the same category (with our relations; 187187 Added from Fr. ) and Christ sufficiently confirms this in the case of the Samaritan. (Luke 10:30.)
14. Behold the heaven. He again enforces upon them the grace, on account of which we have seen that the people were under obligation to God; because this was the most effectual observation for moving them to submit themselves to their deliverer, to whom they were reminded that they owed altogether themselves and all that they had. First, then, he admonishes them that they differed from others, not by their personal dignity, nor the excellency of their race, but because it pleased God to prefer them, when He ruled equally over all. Literally it is, “Jehovah coveted to love your fathers,” by which expression, as may be gathered from many passages, the feeling of inclination to love them is undoubtedly marked. Jerome, therefore, has not aptly used the word “adhere.”230230 Conglutinatus est. — V. Now, this desire, whereby God was freely and liberally induced, Moses opposes to all other causes, lest Israel should arrogate anything to themselves or their fathers. We must also remark the comparison between the less and the greater; for this was inestimable condescension, that he should in a manner pass by the heaven and earth with all their beauty and abundance, and set His heart upon a few obscure men. To this the limitation refers, that of all people He chose the seed of Abraham alone; for the word רק, rak, is here used exclusively, therefore, I have translated it “tantummodo,” only; unless it should be thought better to render it “But,” or “And yet.” The meaning, however, is clear, that God, having disregarded all the nations of the earth, had gratuitously adopted Abraham and his race. For he says that not only were their fathers loved, but all their descendants in their persons; since otherwise the exhortation which follows would not be suitable.
16. Circumcise, therefore. From this inference it appears wherefore mention was made of this adoption,. viz., that the Jews should more earnestly and solemnly serve God, whom they had known from experience to be so gracious. He requires, then, a reciprocal love; for nothing could be more base than not to testify their gratitude by a pious and righteous life. But, because men are by no means inclined or disposed to obey God, Moses exhorts them to self-renunciation, and to subdue and correct their carnal affections; for to circumcise the heart is equivalent to cleansing it from wicked lusts. Meanwhile, he reproves their former perverseness, when he desires them to be no more stiff-necked; as much as to say, that now at last they should put off that depravity of mind, wherein they had too long hardened themselves. We now perceive the design of Moses. He would have his fellow-Israelites submissive and obedient to God, who, by His great goodness, had furnished them with the motive. But, because hitherto they had repaid His kindnesses with ingratitude, at the same time, he enjoins them to amend their conduct. In the first clause, he alludes to the rite appointed by the Law; for circumcision is, as it were, the solemn consecration, whereby the children of Abraham were initiated unto the worship of God and true piety, and at the same time were separated from heathen nations, to be His holy and peculiar people; and they were to be admitted to this elementary rite in their infancy, that by its visible sign they might learn that the defilements of the flesh and the world were to be renounced. There were also other objects in circumcision, but here reference is only made to newness of life, or repentance (resipiscentia). Wherefore, the conclusion is, that since God had chosen them as His people, and by an external sign had devoted them to the cultivation of holiness, they ought sincerely and really to prove that they differed from heathen nations, and that they were circumcised in spirit, no less than in the flesh. For Paul declares, that they alone are truly Jews who are circumcised “inwardly,” as he says, and not those who only have to boast of “the letter” of circumcision. (Romans 2:28, 29.) Wherefore, the Prophets frequently taunt the transgressors of the Law by calling them uncircumcised, although they bore the visible sign in their flesh. In fine, when he desires to exhort them to sanctify themselves to God, he reasons from the nature and use of the sign, whereby they professed themselves to be His chosen people. In the second clause, there is an elegant metaphor, of frequent occurrence, taken from oxen; for, since the oxen which quietly offer their necks to the yoke are easily subdued to obedience, those are said to be “stiff-necked” (durae cervicis) which are fierce and obstinate in their nature.
He confirms the foregoing decree by a reference to the nature of God Himself; for the vile and abject condition of those with whom we have to do, causes us to injure them the more wantonly, because they seem to be altogether deserted. But God declares that their unhappy lot is no 102102 The Fr. gives a different turn to this: “Or Dieu declare que leur pourete et misere n’empechera point de les secourir: d’autant qu’ils ne amusent point a la personne;” Now, God declares, that their poverty and misery shall not prevent their being succored; so that they should not be interested by their person. obstacle to His administering succor to them; inasmuch as He has no regard to persons. By the word person is meant either splendor, or obscurity, and outward appearance, as it is commonly called, as we gather from many passages. In short, God distinguishes Himself from men, who are carried away by outward appearance, to hold the rich in honor, and the poor in contempt; to favor the beautiful or the eloquent, and to despise the unseemly. Προσωποληψία is, therefore, an unjust judgment, which diverts us from the cause itself, when our minds are prejudiced by what ought not to be taken into account. Therefore Christ teaches us that a judgement is righteous, which is not founded upon the appearance, (John 7:23;) since truth and justice never prevail, except when we attend to the case itself. It follows that the contemptible are not afflicted with impunity, for although they may be destitute of human aid, God, who sitteth on high, “hath respect unto the lowly.” (Psalm 138:6.) As regards strangers, God proves that he cares for them, because He is gracious in preserving them and clothing them; and then a special reason is again adduced, that the Israelites, when they were formerly sojourners in Egypt, had need of the compassion of others.
21. He is thy praise. That he may the more easily persuade his countrymen that nothing is better, or more desirable for them than to devote themselves to God’s service, Moses reminds them that they have nothing to boast of out of Him; as if he had said, that they were happy in this one respect, that God had taken them under His charge; but that if this glory were to be taken away, they would be miserable and ruined. For God is called “the praise” of His people, as being their honor and their ornament. Consequently, if they desire to enjoy true and solid blessedness, they must take care to keep themselves under His guardianship; for, if they should be deprived of this, nothing would remain to them but ignominy and shame. To the same effect, he adds, that He is their God; because nothing can be more perverse and absurd than not to receive the Creator of the world Himself, when He freely offers Himself as our God. In proof of this, he subjoins, that He has exerted His power in many miracles for His people’s safety; and, in order that they might be rendered the more inexcusable, he cites their own eyes as witnesses of so many mighty acts which had been wrought in their favor. Thence he goes a step higher, (reminding them,252252 Added from the French. ) that their race had been wondrously increased in a short time; whence it was plain, that they had been thus incredibly multiplied by preternatural and divine influence. For assuredly the signal blessing of God was clearly manifested, in the procreation of seven hundred thousand men in less than two hundred and fifty years.253253 D’un si petit hombre des gens. — Fr. Those who then lived had not seen them with their own eyes; but Moses retraces God’s grace to the fountainhead, that they may more fully acknowledge, that whatever good they had experienced depended on that adoption, which had made them God’s people.