Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Lev. 19:19, 23-25, 27, 28
19. Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.
19. Statuta mea observabitis. Animal tuum non facies coire cum altero semine. Agrum tuum non seres diverso semine, et vestis contexta ex lana et lino non ascendet super te.
23. And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.
23. Quum ingressi fueritis terram, et plantaveritis omnis generis arborem fructiferam, tune praeputia-tum ducetis praeputium ejus, fructum ejus: tribus annis erit vobis incircumcisa: non comedetis ejus fructus.
24. But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall he holy to praise the LORD withal.
24. Quarto autem anno erit omnis fructus ejus sanctitas laudum Jehovae.
25. And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the LORD your God.
25. Anno vero quinto comedetis fructum ejus, ut multiplicet vobis fructum suum. Ego Jehova Deus vester.
27. Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
27. Non attondebitis cornare ca-pitis vestri in circuitu, nec radetis extrema barbie.
28. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
28. Incisionera pro mortuo non facietis in carne vestra, neque sculp-turam notse tacietis in vobis: ego Jellova.
23. And when ye shall come. There seems to me no question but that the circumcision of trees as well as of men appertains to the First Commandment, not only that the Jews might see a symbol of their own adoption in the very trees, but that they might learn that it was permitted to none but the children of God to feed on their fruit; and also that whatsoever the earth produces is in a manner profane, until it is purified. For surely by this ceremony was set forth what Paul teaches, that all things are “sanctified by the word of God, and prayer,” (1Ti 4:5;) not that anything is in itself impure, but because the earth has contracted pollution from the corruption of man, it is just, as regards us, that the harmless fruits also should be accounted to be in uncircumcision. In sum, God would raise up a wall whereby He might separate His people from the Gentiles, and at the same time admonish them that a legitimate use of those things which the earth produced could not be made by the sons of Adam, except by special privilege. But the similitude of uncircumcision, until the year appointed for their being circumcised, was a very appropriate one, that they might acknowledge the fruits of their trees to be pure for them by the same right whereby they were consecrated as God’s peculiar people. But, lest the three years’ unproductiveness should press heavily upon them, he promises them compensation from the future blessing of God; for, if they should abstain from eating the unclean fruit, a larger produce was to be expected in future.
27. Ye shall not round the corners. It clearly appears that God had no other object than by the interposition of this obstacle to sever His people from heathen nations. For there is nothing to which men are more prone than to conform themselves to the customs of others; and hence it arises, that they mutually communicate each other’s vices. Wherefore care was especially to be taken lest the people of Israel should adopt foreign habits, and by this pliableness should fall away from the true worship of God; from whence too the ordinary phrase has arisen, that the word “common” should be used for “unclean.” God then strictly forbids them from declining to the habits of the Gentiles, and confounding the distinction which He had Himself placed between them. There is no doubt but that it was usual for the Gentiles, out of superstition, to cut marks 31
"All the castes of the Hindoos bear on their foreheads, or elsewhere, what are called sectarian marks, which not only distinguish them in a civil, but in a religious point of view, from each other."
"Herodotus observes that the Arabs shave, or cut their hair round, in honor of Bacchus; (lib. 3. ch. 8). He says, also, that the Macians, a people of Lybia, cut their hair round, so as to leave a tuft on the top of the head; (lib. 4. ch. 175."
"That the ancients were very violent in their grief, tearing the hair and face, beating the breast, etc., is well known. Virgil represents the sister of Dido: — Unguibus ora — foedans, et pectora pugnis. AEn. iv. 672.” — Adam Clarke, in loco.} upon their faces, to trim the hair in certain steps or circles, and in their mourning to lacerate their flesh, or to disfigure it with marks. It is well known that the priests of Cybele 32 made gashes in their flesh with knives and razors, and covered themselves all over with wounds, for the sake of shewing their zeal. The same thing was also commonly practiced by others; inasmuch as the world is easily deceived by external ceremonies. But though this were a thing in itself indifferent, yet God would not allow His people to be at liberty to practice it, that, like children, they might learn from these slight rudiments, that they would not be acceptable with God, unless they were altogether different from uncircumcised foreigners, and as far as possible from following their examples; and especially that they should avoid all ceremonies whereby their religion was testified. For experience teaches how greatly the true worship of God is obscured by anything adscititious, and how easily foul superstitions creep in, when the comments of men are tacked on to the word of God. Doubtless that part, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead,” etc., might be expounded as a correction of immoderate grief; because we know how intemperately men set themselves against God when they give the reins to their sorrow; but since the object of the Gentiles was to pay what was due to the dead, and to celebrate their funeral obsequies 33 as a kind of propitiation, it is probable, and more suitable, that by the whole context those preposterous gestures are condemned, which were proofs of piety among the Gentiles, but which would have been defilements to the people of God.
The same thing appears more clearly from the passage in Deuteronomy, which next follows, wherein Moses condemns cutting themselves, and making themselves bald for the dead in connection with each other, as if they were one thing; and confirms the law by a general argument, that they might withdraw themselves from every pollution as the children of God; since they were chosen to be His peculiar people; as much as to say, that God’s grace would be altogether frustrated, if they did not differ at all from foreign nations. As to his saying that they were chosen out of all the nations, it does not a little illustrate the gratuitous mercy of God, wherewith He honored them alone, by calling them to the hope of eternal salvation, and passing by the Gentiles; for there was no nobility found in them, nor did they exceed others either in number or in any other superiority, on account of which He should prefer them to the whole world. But the design of Moses in magnifying the extraordinary goodness of God, was that they might the more abhor that impure cornmixture, which, by bringing them on a par with the Gentiles, degraded them from this high honor.
“Most of the barbarous nations lately discovered have their faces, arms:, breasts, etc., curiously carved or tattooed, probably for superstitious purposes. Ancient writers abound with accounts of marks made on the faces, arms, etc., in honor of different idols; and to this the inspired penman alludes, (Rev. 13:16, Rev. 14:9, etc.), where false worshippers are represented as receiving in their hands, and in their forehead, the marks of the beast. These were called στίγματα among the Greeks, and to these St. Paul refers when he says, “I bear about in my body the marks (στίγματα) of the Lord Jesus.".(Ga 6:17
The authorities for this practice of the Galli, or Priests of Cybele, are too numerous to mention. The following extract from a curious description given by Apuleius, of the religious dance of her worshippers, may suffice: “Die sequenti variis coloribus indusiati, et deformiter quisque formarti, facie coenoso pigmento delita, et oculis obunctis graphice, prodeunt; mitellis, et crocotis, et carbasinis, et bombycinis injecti. Quidam tunicas albas, in modum lanciolarum quoquoversum fluente purpura depictas, cingulo subligati, pedes luteis induti calceis, Deamque serico contectam amiculo mihi gerendam imponunt: brachiisque suis humero tenus renudatis, attollentes immanes gladios ac secures, evantes exsiliunt, incitante tibiae cantu lymphaticum tripudium.
"Nec paucis pererratis casulis, ad quandam villam possessoris beati perveniunt, et ab ingressu primo statim absonis ululatibus constrepentes, fanatice pervolant. Diuque capite demisso, cervices lubricis intorquentes motibus, crinesque pendulos rotantes in circulum, et nonnunquam morsibus suos incursantes musculos, ad postremum ancipiti ferro, quod gerebant, sua quisque brachia dissecant.” — Metam. (lib. 8, Edit). (Bipont. 1. 184-185)
“Et user de satisfactions pour racheter leurs ames;” and to offer satisfactions for the redemption of their souls. — Fr.