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wist it not;" and again, “ he hath certainly trespassed against the Lord;" though men would have been ready to treat it as a light matter.
Israel was thus shut up to the solemn duty of inquiring into the Lord's revealed will. By treating ignorance as a sin of such magnitude, the Lord made provision among his people for securing a thorough and continual search into his mind and will; and thus, no doubt, family instruction was universal in every tent in the wilderness, and the nation were an intelligent as well as a peculiar people.
Ver. 1. “ And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying." There was silence again in the holy place, until Moses had recorded the above precepts bearing on Jehovah's own special worship. And when these trespasses against the first table of the law had been declared and marked, the voice of the Lord was again heard. We may recognize the same voice that spoke on the mountain of Galilee; for here is the same principle of broad, holy exactness in applying the law as in Matt. v. The mind of the Father and of his Son is one and the same as to the extent of the law, even as it is alike in love to the transgressor.
Vers. 2, 3. “If a soul sin and commit a trespass against the Lord, and
lie unto his neighbor in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbor; or hath found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein.”
Here is a specimen selected of the common forms in which defrauding others may occur. There is first a temptation mentioned, to which friends are exposed with one another in private intercourse. A man asks his friend to keep something for him; or in the wider acceptation of the original term, po gives a neighbor a trust to manage for him of any kind, or commits to his care for the time, any article. The Sept. have used the word “ tapaOnxn," which, in 2 Tim. i. 12, is rendered, " what I have committed to him." Anything lent to another is included; a tool, like the Prophet's borrowed axe (2 Kings vi. 5), or a sum of money left in a neighbor's keeping (Exod. xxii. 7); in short, any “stuff” (Exod. xxii. 7), or articles (2). A lent book, or borrowed umbrella, would come under this law; and how few have the sincere honesty of that son of the prophets, in 2 Kings vi. 5, vexed because the thing injured in their hands was a borrowed thing !-"Alas! my master, for it was borrowed !” The Lord expects, in such case, complete disinterestedness; the man is to do to others as he would have others do to him. Any denial of having received the thing, any appropriation of it to himself, any carelessness in the keeping of it, is a trespass in the eye of God. You have wronged God in wronging your neighbor.
The case of " fellowship,” or partnership, refers to the transactions of public life; not, however, to openly unlawful acts, but to acts lawful in appearance, while selfish in reality. This points specially to business-transactions, where there ought to be the utmost disinterestedness, one partner giving more scrupulous attention to the interests of the other than to his own, mortifying his jealous self-love by his regard to his partner's concerns.
This is the generous morality of the God of Israel. The same head would include the conscientious observances of government regulations or commercial laws, as to taxes on goods. These regulations being understood principles on which trade is carried on, are really of the nature of " fellowship.” So, also, .bargains in trade. But, alas! not many are so jealous as Abraham in Gen. xxiii., to avoid even the appearance of wronging others. Most are as Prov. xx. 14.
"A thing taken by violence," includes cases of oppression or hardship, where mere power deals with weakness. Such was Naboth's case, 1 Kings xxi. 2; such was Isaac's, Gen. xxvi. 4.
6 Or hath deceived his neighbor.” The word pwp is rightly rendered, in the Septuagint, adıx70e. It speaks of another form of oppression—"hath deceitfully oppressed." There are cases of strong, but secret terror, as when a landlord uses his pecuniary superiority to constrain a tenant's vote, or force a dependent to attend a particular place of worship. It exists, too, where a mistress thoughtlessly gives too much work to her servants, or where a farmer exacts unceasing labor, from morning to night, at the hands of his ploughmen, or where a shopkeeper's business is carried on at such a rate that his apprentices have no calm rest of body or soul. In another shape, a Jew was guilty of this trespass if, in using the permission (Deut. xxiii. 24, 25) to pluck grapes, or ears of corn, as he passed his neighbor's grounds, he took more than he would have done had he been in his own vineyard or corn-fields.
“ Or hath found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it.” Unconcerned at the anxiety it may have given to the loser, the man refuses to part with what he has found. This is surely selfishness in the extreme. But it is so, also, if the finder is not willing to hear of an owner, glad only at his own advantage, and saying, . “ The owner may never miss it-God has thrown it into my hands.” The Lord teaches us not to build up our joy on the loss or sorrow of others.
Such is the kind care of the God of Israel. Is he not still “ the eagle” over them, stirring up her nest and fluttering over her young ? He teaches his family to be full of love—superiors, inferiors, equals. He would infuse the holy feelings of heaven into the camp of Israel. Truly, society regulated by the Lord is blessed society, for his own love flows through it all, and is the very joints and bands. Hence it is that a sin against a neighbor, in one of these points, is a "trespass against the Lord.” (ver. 1.) The selfish man is an unholy man, altogether unlike God. Yet earth is full of such. When men are happy themselves they take no thought of others' misery. When at ease, they disregard the pain of others. Some even relieve distress out of subtle selfishness, seeking thereby to be free to indulge themselves with less compunction. Not so the Lord. The Eternal Son comes forth from the bosom of the blessed, and for the sake of the vilest dives into the depths of misery. “ He restored what he took not away," and "delivered him that without cause was his enemy." And in proportion as we feel much of this love of God to us, we shall feel much love to him, and to our brother also. (1 John iv. 20.)
Vers. 4, 5. “Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty,
that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, or all that about which
he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass-offering.”
Patrick renders ver. 4, "If he sin and acknowledge his guilt;" for if his case were one where witnesses convicted him, then Exod. xxii. 7-9, held good. The case of Zaccheus, on the day of his coming to Jesus (" the day of his trespass-offering” surely), illustrates this restitution as an attendant upon forgiveness. When the Lord forgave him, the same Lord also inclined him to restore what he had unjustly taken, and to give back far more than he had taken.
The fifth part is given, in addition to the principal, just as in the case of holy things being fraudulently withheld. It is a double tithe (two tenths) and so is equivalent to a double acknowledgment of the person's right to the thing, of which he had been, for a time, unjustly deprived. See chap. v. 15, 16.
No doubt this exceeding jealousy on the part of God in maintaining the rights of men, and exhibiting such strict equity, was intended to display to the world what his own holy character is. The most impartial and extensive justice is here exhibited. And his demand for restitution shows that the Lord will maintain his violated rights to the uttermost. It further proves, that while he requires (as John did, Luke iii. 8, 10–14) repentance and amendment, still it is not these that in any degree satisfy the Lord; for there is, in addition to the restoring of the principal, a new demand by the law, for the very act of attempting to defraud it—one fifth part beyond the former demand! Thus was Israel prepared for an awful enforcement of Divine claims in the person of Immanuel; and thus were they shown what