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Pagan Practices Forbidden


You are children of the Lord your God. You must not lacerate yourselves or shave your forelocks for the dead. 2For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; it is you the Lord has chosen out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

Clean and Unclean Foods

3 You shall not eat any abhorrent thing. 4These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain-sheep. 6Any animal that divides the hoof and has the hoof cleft in two, and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. 7Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cleft you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not divide the hoof; they are unclean for you. 8And the pig, because it divides the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. You shall not eat their meat, and you shall not touch their carcasses.

9 Of all that live in water you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat. 10And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.

11 You may eat any clean birds. 12But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey, 13the buzzard, the kite of any kind; 14every raven of any kind; 15the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind; 16the little owl and the great owl, the water hen 17and the desert owl, the carrion vulture and the cormorant, 18the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat. 19And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. 20You may eat any clean winged creature.

21 You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to aliens residing in your towns for them to eat, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.

You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

Regulations concerning Tithes

22 Set apart a tithe of all the yield of your seed that is brought in yearly from the field. 23In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24But if, when the Lord your God has blessed you, the distance is so great that you are unable to transport it, because the place where the Lord your God will choose to set his name is too far away from you, 25then you may turn it into money. With the money secure in hand, go to the place that the Lord your God will choose; 26spend the money for whatever you wish—oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together. 27As for the Levites resident in your towns, do not neglect them, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you.

28 Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; 29the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake.

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18. When thou shalt hearken. Although this sentence depends on something else, (as may be seen by referring to it,) yet is it general, and extends to the commendation of the whole Law. Moses teaches first, that the rule of a holy life must be sought from the mouth of God; and then adds that He must be obeyed not partially, but universally. He confirms also what I have said respecting obedience, for men only please God when they listen to His voice. Moreover, the expression is worth our notice, wherein Moses only assumes for himself the character of a minister, and claims power for God alone; for he says that he commands, but expressly explains that the commandments which he sets before them are God’s.


Deuteronomy 4:5-14

5. Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.

5. Videte, docui vos statuta et judicia, sicut praecepit mihi Jehova Deus mens, ut sic faciatis in medio terrae, ad quam vos ingredimini ut possideatis eam.

6. Keep therefore, and do them: for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.

6. Custodietis itaque, et facietis: quia haec est sapientia vestra et intelligentia vestra coram populis: qui dum audierint omnia statuta haec, dicent, Certe populus hic sapiens et intelligens est gens haec magna.

7. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?

7. Quae enim gens tam magna est cui sic appropinquent dii, sicut Jehova Deus noster in quibuscunque invocamus eum?

8. And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

8. Et quae gens est tam magna cui sint statuta et judicia justa, sicut est universa haec lex, quam ego proporno hodie coram oculis vestris?

9. Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons:

9. Veruntamen cave tibi, et custodi animam tuam sollicite, ne obliviscaris rerum quas viderunt oculi tui, neve recedant e corde tuo cunctis diebus vitro tuae, et doceas ea filios tuos et filios filiorum tuorum.

10. Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.

10. Die quo stetisti coram Jehova Deo tuo in Horeb, quum diceret Jehova mihi, Congrega mihi populum, ut recenseam illis verba mea, quae discent, ut timeant me omnibus diebus quibus vixerint super terram, et filios suos doceant.

11. And ye came near, and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.

11. Itaque accessistis, et stetistis sub monte: (mons autem ille ardebat igni usque ad medium coeli, tenebrae, nubes, et caligo.)

12. And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.

12. Et loquutus est Jehova ad vose medio ignis: vocem verborum vos audiebatis, at imaginem ullam non videbatis praeter vocem.

13. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.

13. Et renuntiavit vobis pactum suum quod praecepit vobis, ut faceretis, decem verba, et scripsit illa in duabus tabulis lapideis.

14. And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.

14. Mihi quoque praecepit Jehova eodem tempore ut docerem vos statuta et indicia, ut faceretis ea in terra ad quam transitis ut possideatis eam.

Deuteronomy 14:21. Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself. The eating of any carcase, or of flesh torn by wild beasts, is reckoned among the causes of defilement; but we must understand it to be the carcase of an animal which has died of hunger or disease, for, from the nature of its death, it contracted impurity, although in itself it were otherwise pure. The end of the precept is gathered from the reason which is immediately subjoined, “for thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God,” and from the ablution which is prescribed in the passage from Leviticus. The same thing is, secondly, enjoined respecting flesh that has been torn, as before with regard to the carcase, for the deformity of its laceration is counted as uncleanness. The holiness of the people is again referred to, that they may more diligently beware of defilements. Hence it follows that those were contaminated who should eat of torn flesh. Therefore, in the third passage, he confirms it that the Jews were to abstain, and were prohibited from the eating of a carcase or the flesh of an animal torn by beasts, lest they should pollute themselves. Nor is it an objection that the eating of carrion and of blood are here prohibited in conjunction with each other; for we know that Moses does not always arrange his precepts in order, but promiscuously adduces such as appertain to different classes. Therefore, I have thought it well to separate these two prohibitions which have distinct objects, and whose dissimilarity manifestly appears from the difference of their punishment. He who shall have eaten blood shall be cut off from the people; whereas he who shall have eaten carrion, shall wash himself and be unclean till the evening. A question might again arise respecting torn or lacerated flesh; but it seems in my judgment to be plain enough from the context, that flesh torn by beasts is counted amongst unclean meats; for the reason of the law is expressed, viz., because those who were chosen to be a holy people should keep themselves pure and incorrupt. Nor would God command that meat intended for man should be thrown to dogs, unless it were infected with a contagion, which would pollute His holy ones. As to the command, in the first passage, to give it to a stranger, or to sell it to an alien, that he might eat it, it does not appear reasonable, since that would be to supply the materials for sin, as though one should offer a sword to a madman, or transfer illicit goods to others. But the solution of this difficulty is easy: for the Gentiles were permitted to eat indifferently of all sorts of food, since no distinctions were placed between them; but the prohibition of certain meats was a mark of separation between them and the elect people of God. A more difficult question arises from a kind of contradiction, because Moses in another passage binds both the stranger and the home-born by the same law, and declares them to be alike unclean if they shall have tasted of carrion. But we must bear in mind that he sometimes calls those strangers who, although born of heathen parents, had embraced the Law. Circumcision, therefore, connected them with God, just as if they had derived their origin from Abraham; whilst there were other strangers, whom uncircumcision separated from the children of Abraham as profane and excomnmnicate. The sum is, that whosoever allege God’s name, and boast themselves to be His people, are called to cultivate holiness, and to keep themselves pure from every stain.

22. Thou shalt truly tithe. He repeats in general terms the law before enacted, whereby he claims for God the tithe of all the fruit. He does not, however, immediately declare to whom they are to be paid, but inserts some provisions respecting other offerings, which I have elsewhere explained. But when, soon afterwards, in verse 27, he recommends the Levites to them, he shews what is the proper use to which they are to be applied. He signifies that it would be cruel to defraud the Levites of them, 217217     “S’ils soustrayent et desrobbent a leurs freres ce qui est assigne pour leur nouristure:” if they withheld and stole from their brethren what was assigned them for their maintenance. — Fr. and that they would be wicked and unjust if they were grudgingly to pay them the tithes, which were theirs by hereditary right, since their tribe possessed no inheritance in land.

23. And thou shalt eat before the Lord. He again commands the victims to be brought into the place of the sanctuary; although by the place which God shall choose, he designates Jerusalem, as has been said in the above commentary on chap. 12; for the Ark of the Covenant had no settled resting-place until the time of David, but was received as it were in temporary lodgings. Moses, therefore, now commands, that when God shall have so greatly honored a particular place, and shall have chosen a perpetual rest, in which His name shall dwell, thither are the offerings to be brought. But we know that this place was Jerusalem; and all the oblations were restricted to this one place, lest any corruption should creep in to destroy the unity of the faith. For all strange inventions, as has already been sufficiently seen, are so many profanations of God’s worship. But, whereas in chap. 12, Moses had promiscuously joined the tithes with the firstlings, and had made the same appointment with respect to both, he now relaxes the stringency of that law, by adding an exception, viz, that if the way should be too long, a commutation might be made, and money might be paid instead of corn. He does not, indeed, speak only of the tithes, but unites with them the vows and free-gifts; nay, he refers properly to these alone. But, since as to the latter there is no question, let us only consider whether it was consistent that the tithes should be paid in one place alone. They were given to the Levites for their maintenance, who, as is well known, were dispersed throughout the whole land; either then their residence must have been fixed at Jerusalem, or they must not be deprived of their subsistence, wherever they might dwell. The command, therefore, appears to be absurd, that all the tithes of the whole land should be brought to Jerusalem, for that would have amounted to nothing less than to destroy the poor Levites by famine. This absurdity has compelled the commentators to fabricate a doubtful conjecture; viz., that the people voluntarily set apart certain tithes, which they might carry to Jerusalem at the festivals; but it is not probable that so heavy a burden was imposed upon them, 110110     “De redoubler ainsi les dismes les unes sur les autres;” thus to redouble their tithes one upon another. — Fr. as that they should only keep at home what remained of the fifth part. But a nearer approach to probability would be, that the tithes of the neighboring country, as convenience offered, were carried to Jerusalem; whilst those which were collected in more distant places were set aside there; but that they were accounted for at Jerusalem, so that upon a calculation of the number of their families, an equal distribution might be made to the Levites. Certainly it is by no means probable that the respective tillers of the soil carried up to Jerusalem what the Levites, having received there, were compelled to take back again for the maintenance of their families; for what would have been the advantage of all this expense and trouble of carrying them backwards and forwards? Besides, it would have been useless to command the Levites, and that too with the addition of severe threats, to pay the priests faithfully, if the tithes had been first deposited with the priests themselves, who might easily have provided against all deception, since they had the whole quantity of corn in their own hands. I have, therefore, no doubt but that the Levites collected the tithes each in their own neighborhood, but that another tithing, of which mention will be made presently, was carried up to the sanctuary as a sacred offering, and a profession of service to God. For we have lately seen, that after that part had been withdrawn, the nine parts which remained were assigned to the Levites, as if they had been grown on their own ground. But because it was a subject which might cause complaints, that the first-fruits and other tithes should be collected into one place, God would anticipate this by showing the advantage of it to the whole people, in that there might be food enough for all who should come to the celebration of the festivals; for this is the meaning of the words, “thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God;” as if it had been said, that the place should be sacred to God, to which the worshippers of God might come from the whole land. Yet He commands, in the meanwhile, the pure observation of His worship; lest a diversity of places might draw away the people in various directions to false superstitions.

24 And if the way be too long. I am prevented from understanding this restriction as having reference to the tithes, by the ordinance which is elsewhere made, that whosoever would redeem them by a money-payment, (Leviticus 27:31,) should add a fifth part, and this is omitted here; and, again, by the explanation which is soon after added, that they should bring money with them instead of their offerings, and buy with it oxen and sheep, wine, and strong drink, as they pleased. The sum is, that if it were too burdensome for them to bring from their distant homes victims and other gifts, they were permitted to buy at Jerusalem whatever they chose to offer, provided they made no offerings elsewhere.

28. At the end of three years. Those are mistaken, in my opinion, who think that another kind of tithe is here referred to. It is rather a correction or interpretation of the Law, lest the priests and Levites alone should consume all the tithes, without applying a part to the relief of the poor, of strangers, and widows. In order to make this clearer, we must first observe, that not every third year is here prescribed, 218218     “Que l’annec troisieme ne se prend pas d’une suite continuelle.” — Fr. but that the years are counted from the Sabbatical year; for we shall elsewhere see that on every seventh year the land was to rest, so that there was no sowing nor reaping. After two harvests, therefore, the tithes of the third year were not the entire property of the Levites, but were shared also by the poor, the orphans, and widows, and strangers. This may easily be seen by calculating the years; for otherwise the third year would have often fallen on the Sabbatical one, in which all agriculture was at a stand-still. Now, this was a most equitable arrangement, that the priests and Levites having been well provided for during two years, should admit their poor brethren and strangers to a share. Some part was thus withdrawn from their abundance, lest they should give themselves up to luxurious habits; and thus it was brought about that not more than a twelfth portion every year should remain to them. In sum, there was one peculiar year in every seven in which the Levites did not alone receive the tithes for their own proper use, but shared them with the orphans, and widows, and strangers, and the rest of the poor. “They shall eat (He says) and be satisfied,” who would otherwise have to suffer hunger, “that the Lord may bless thee,” (verse 29;) by which promise He encourages them to be liberal.