19. Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.
19. Quisquis concubuerit cum animali, morte moriatur.
We learn from these passages that the people were not only prohibited from adultery, but also from all sins2 which are repugnant to the modesty of nature itself. In order that all impurity may be the more detestable, He enumerates two species of unnatural lust, from whence it is evident that when men indulge themselves in this respect, they are carried away by an impulse, which is more than beastly, to defile themselves by shameful wickedness. The beasts are satisfied with natural connection; it is therefore a gross enormity that this distinction should be confounded by man endowed with reason; for what is the use of our judgment and intelligent faculties if it be not that greater self-restraint should exist in us than in the brute animals? It is plain, therefore, that they must be blinded in a horrible manner who so shamefully defile themselves, as Paul says. (Romans 1:28.) The madness of lust has, however, invented several monstrous vices, whose names it would be better to bury, if God had not chosen that these shameful monuments should exist, to inspire us with fear and horror. It has at length advanced to such excesses, that men created in God's image, both male and female, have had connection with brutes.
Leviticus 18:24. Defile not yourselves in any of these things. An old proverb3 says, that good laws have sprung from evil habits; and God reminds us that for this reason He has been induced expressly to advert to these disgusting and wicked things; for the monstrosities which He mentions would have been concealed in eternal silence had not necessity compelled Him to bring them to light. But since the Canaanitish nations had advanced to such a pitch of licentiousness, that the prodigious sins, which else would have been better concealed, had been but too familiarly known from their wicked habits, God warns His people to beware of their fatal examples. First, when He says that these abominations prevailed amongst the Gentiles, He indicates that evil habits by no means avail as an excuse; nay, that public consent is in vain alleged in defense of vice. But the better to deter them from imitating them, He sets before their eyes the vengeance He is about to take. It is true, indeed, that the nations of Canaan were destroyed for other reasons, but it is not without cause that He sets forth this amongst the rest, for undoubtedly God was offended by such pollutions.
26. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes. He here contrasts His Law with the abominations of the Gentiles. The exhibition of His severity, which He had referred to, might indeed have sufficed for the instruction of His people; but in order to influence them more strongly, He at the same time adduces the way pointed out to them in the Law, which would not suffer them to go astray, if only they refused not to follow God. For that the Gentiles, who were destitute of light, should have been drawn aside in every direction was not surprising; but whilst they thus proved their blindness, it behooved true believers, on the contrary, to testify that they were not children of darkness, but of light. And to this Paul seems to allude, when he exhorts believers not to walk, like the Gentiles, "in the vanity of their mind." (Ephesians 4:17.) On this account God not only commends to them His precepts and statutes, but also His ordinances (custodias,) because He had omitted nothing in the Law which would be useful for the direction of men's lives. The sum is, that unless they order themselves constantly by the doctrine which enlightens them, the same destruction awaited them also which was about to overwhelm the (Canaanitish) nations.