Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Deuteronomy 12:4-14, 17, 18, 26, 27
4. Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.
4. Non facietis sic Jehovae Deo vestro.
5. But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come:
5. Sed locum quem elegerit Jehova Deus vester e cunctis tribubus vestris, ut ponat illic nomen suum ad habitandum, quaretis, veniesque illuc.
6. And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks:
6. Et afferetis illuc holocausta vestra, sacrificia vestra, decimas vestras, levationem manus vestrae, vota vestra, spontaneas oblationes vestras, primogenita armentorum vestrorum, et pecudum vestrarum.
7. And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.
7. Comedetisque in conspectu Jehovae Dei vestri, et laetabimini in omni applicatione manus vestrae, vos et domus vestrae quibus benedixerit Jehova Deus tuus.
8. Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.
8. Non facietis secundum omnia quae nos hodie hic facimus, unusquisque quod rectum est in oculis suis.
9. For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance which the LORD your God giveth you.
9. Quia non venistis adhuc ad requiem et haereditatem quam Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi.
10. But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety;
10. Quum vero transieritis Jordanem, et habitabitis in terra quam Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi possiden-dam, et requiem dederit vobis ab omnibus inimicis vestris in cireuitu, et habitabitis secure.
11. Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD:
11. Tune ad locum quem elegerit Jehova Deus vester, ut in eo habitare faciat nomen suum, adducetis omnia quae ego praecipio vobis, holo-causta vestra, sacrificia vestra, decimas vestras, elevationem manus vestrae, et omnem delectum votorum vestrorum quae vovebitis.
12. And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you.
12. Et laetabimini coram Jehova Deo vestro, vos et filii vestri, et filiae vestrae, servi vestri et ancillae vestrae: Levita quoque qui erit intra portas vestras: quia non habebit partem et haereditatem vobis-cum.
13. Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest:
13. Cave tibi ne forte offeras holocausta tua in quovis loco quem conspexeris:
14. But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.
14. Sed in loco quem elegerit Jehova in una tribuum tuarum, illic offeres holocausta tua, et illic facies quae ego praecipio tibi.
17. Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand:
17. Non poteris comedere in portis tuis decimam frumenti tui, vini tui, et olei tui, neque primogenita armentorum tuorum et pecudum tuarum, et onmia vota tua quae voveris, et spontanea tua, et elevationem manus tuae.
18. But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto.
18. Sed coram Jehova Deo tuo comedes illa in loco quem elegerit Jehova Deus tuus, tu et filius tuus, et filia tua, servus tuus, et ancilla tua, et Levita qui erit intra portas tuas: laetaberisque coram Jehova Deo tuo in omni applicatione manuum tuarum.
26. Only thy holy things which thou hast, and thy vows, thou shalt take, and go unto the place which the LORD shall choose.
26. Sanctificata tua quae fuerint tibi et vota tua tolles, ut venias ad locum quem elegerit Jehova:
27. And thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, upon the altar of the LORD thy God: and the blood of thy sacrifices shall be poured out upon the altar of the LORD thy God, and thou shalt eat the flesh.
27. Et facies holocausta tua ex carne et sanguine super altare Jehovae Dei tui, sanguis autem sacrificiorum tuorum fundetur super altare Dei tui, carnes vero comedes.
4 Ye shall not do so unto the Lord your God. The principal distinction, as far as regards the external exercises of devotion, is here laid down between the legitimate worship of God, and all the fictitious rites which the Gentiles have invented; viz., that God would have but one sanctuary and one altar, which might be a symbol of the difference between Himself and all idols; and thus that true religion should have no affinity to superstitions. To this refers the prohibition, that the Israelites should not conduct themselves towards God as the Gentiles did towards their idols; but that a barrier should be raised, which would separate 103 them from the whole world. The whole external profession of God’s worship is fitly annexed to the Second Commandment, because upon that it depends, and has no other object than its due observation. But when I begin to speak of the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the sacrifices, I am entering on a deep and vast ocean, in which many interpreters, whilst indulging their curiosity, have pursued a wild and wandering course. Admonished, therefore, by their example, I will take in my sails, and only touch upon a few points which tend to edification in the faith. But my readers must now be requested, not only to pardon me for abstaining from subtle speculations, but also themselves willingly to keep within the bounds of simplicity. Many have itching ears; and in our natural vanity, most men are more delighted by foolish allegories, than by solid erudition. But let those who shall desire to profit in God’s school, learn to restrain this perverse desire of knowing more than is good for them, although it may tickle their minds. Now let us consider the words of Moses.
5 But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose. It is asked why God would have sacrifices offered to Him only on one altar? Besides the reason which I have lately advanced, it is not to be doubted but that He in this way had regard to believers, that He might cherish in them an agreement in the unity of the faith. This place, then, was like a standard to gather together the people, lest their religion should be torn by divisions, and lest any diversities should insinuate themselves. Moreover, God, by claiming His right and authority to choose the place, commends obedience, on which also the purity of worship depends. But, again, another question arises; because, before the time of David, the Ark had nowhere a fixed resting-place, but traveled about, as it were, to various lodgings, therefore, if the chosen place is understood to be Mount Zion, the people were free in the intermediate time to perform the sacrifices wherever they pleased. I reply, that the place was not, chosen until the Ark was placed in Zion; for not till then was fulfilled what is said in the Psalm,
"I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord;
our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem,”
in which words the Prophet intimates that there was before no resting-place, because God had not yet pointed out the place in which He would be worshipped. Therefore it is expressly said, “out of all your tribes,” or “in one of your tribes,” whereby a special privilege is referred to, which was to be conferred on one of their tribes, to the exclusion of the others. And to this relates what is said in another Psalm,
"Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion which he loved: and he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth, which he hath established for ever.”
(Ps 78:67-69 )
To the same effect the faithful elsewhere congratulate themselves, after the Ark was deposited with David, “We will go into his tabernacles, we will worship at his footstool;” and, on the other hand, the Spirit declares,
"The Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it ” (Ps 132:13-14.)
Similar statements everywhere occur, confirming the opinion that the Ark never rested in its true home until it was deposited on Zion; and God, in my judgment, in order that He might keep the hope of His people in suspense, promised, although the Ark changed its place from time to time, that He had still determined on a perpetual abode in which it should rest. Yet it does not therefore follow that, up to that period, a free permission was given to the people to sacrifice wherever they would. For, wherever the sanctuary was, there was also a temporary choice of the place, until the legitimate resting-place was shewn them. Therefore God, chastising by Jeremiah the foolish confidence by which the Jews were puffed up, said,
"Go ye now unto my place, which was in Shiloh,
and see what I did to it,” etc., (Jer 7:12;)
in which words he implies that Shiloh had been highly honored for a season, but had now been deprived of its honor, because the sacrifices had there been unworthily polluted.
Although, then, there is a special promise here concerning Zion, still there is no doubt but that God in the meantime confines the Jews to His sanctuary, lest any one should erect a private altar for himself, or build for himself other cities and other temples. The phrase is worthy of observation, “to put his name there;” and again, “his habitation.” The gross imaginations of men are thus obviated, lest the people should enclose God within walls, as they are wont to circumscribe His infinite essence, or to draw Him down from heaven, and to place Him beneath the elements of the world. But God’s name is said to inhabit a place, not in His own nature, but with reference to man; whilst, in deference to their ignorance, He sets before their eyes a visible symbol of His presence. Thus He is often said to “come down,” not as if He, who fills heaven and earth, actually moved, but because the familiar knowledge of Him brings Him near to men. But although He allows Himself to be invoked on earth, yet He would not have the minds of men rest there, but rather lifts them up on high as if by steps. Therefore, by Isaiah, He harshly chides them, because, although enwrapped in their sins, they still thought that He was under obligation to them because His temple was in their sight, (Isa 66:1,) whereas it is our business to approach Him by faith and with serious feelings when He extends His hand to us. The Ark of the Covenant indeed is often called “His face;” but, lest men should form any gross or earthly conceptions of Him, the sanctuary is also called “His footstool."
The various kinds of oblations which are here enumerated will be hereafter more clearly explained. I will only briefly remind you that the burnt-offerings are included in the sacrifices, as a part is taken for the whole. The Hebrew word, which we have translated “the elevating of the hand,” is, תרומה, therumah, 104 to which another word, תנופה, thenuphah, is often added; but, although both are derived from the act of elevating, still they seem to differ, and those skilled in the language thus distinguish them, viz., that תרומה, therumah, is to be lifted up, and then brought down; and, תנופה, thanuphah, to be turned at the same time to the right and left, although others think it means to be turned round to the four quarters of the globe. There is a difference between vows and freewill-offerings; for although a vow is at first freely made, yet we may offer things which we have not vowed. I have already spoken of the firstlings.
7 And there shall ye eat. We see that the sanctuary in which God manifested Himself is called His face; 105 for, although believers are taught that always, wherever they dwell, they walk before God; yet they placed themselves nearer, and in some special manner in His sight, when they approached His sanctuary. By this mode of speaking God also stimulates the laziness or tardiness of the people, lest it should be irksome to them to come to the Ark of the Covenant for the purpose of sacrificing, inasmuch as this inestimable benefit would compensate for the labor and expense of the journey. I have elsewhere shewn that, when men are said to feast before the Lord, sacred feasts are thus distinguished from our daily meals. For this was as it were an accessory to the sacrifices, to eat what remained of the victims; and in this way the guests were made partakers of the offering, which custom even heathen nations imitated, though improperly. Again, God kindly invites them when He says, “ye shall rejoice in all that thou puttest thine hands unto,” for which some translate it, “in everything to which you shall have sent your hand;” literally it is, “in the sending forth of the land.” There is no ambiguity in the sense, for it refers to those works which require the motion and application of the hands. A little below, where I have translated it, “which he hath blessed,” (quibus benedixerit,) some insert the proposition in, and supply the pronoun you, (i.e., in which he hath blessed you;) but it is quite appropriate to say, that God blesses their works, although it may be understood of their families also. As to the command that the tithes should be eaten in the holy place, I do not extend it to tithes in general, 106 for it was hardly probable that the food of those who were dispersed through various cities should be transferred to another place, so that they would perish (at home) 107 from hunger; but I understand it of the second tithes, which the Levites separated to be a special and peculiar oblation; for we shall see elsewhere that what remained over passed into the nature of ordinary produce, as if the Levites ate of the fruits of their own possessions.
8 Ye shall not do after all. Even then they observed the rite of sacrifice handed down to them from the fathers; but since as yet they were wandering in the desert, it was lawful for them to build altars anywhere, until an end should be put to their journeyings. And this Moses expressly declares, adding the reason, viz., that they had not yet entered into the rest which the Lord had promised them. He shews them, then, that when they shall have attained the tranquil possession of the land, there would be no further room for excuse if they should sacrifice wheresoever it pleased them. When, therefore, it is said that they then did “every man whatsoever was right in his own eyes,” it does not extend to any of the inventions which men devise for themselves in the worship of God, but only points out a freer system and form in the exercise of devotion, before the place was shewn them in which they must stay their foot. 108
10. But when ye go over Jordan. This verse confirms what I have before said, that the Jews were constrained to a certain rule as soon as they should have reached the promised land; and yet that the place in which the Ark was perpetually to rest, would not be immediately manifested to them; for what is declared at the end of the verse, that God would give them rest round about, so that they should dwell in safety, was not in fact perfectly exhibited before the time of David. Still God would have them, as soon as they were in enjoyment of the land, come together even from their remotest boundaries to the sanctuary. He omits certain kinds of offerings of which he had lately spoken, and puts, instead of “vows,” 109 “the choice vows,” which some translate “very choice vows,” or “the chief things in your vows.” I do not reject this; but the other sense is more simple, that all the vows were comprised which every one had made of his own free judgment and choice. Soon afterwards he more fully expresses his meaning, when he prohibits them from offering sacrifices of their own accord in any places that might please them; for, “to see a place,” here, is equivalent to being carried away by the sight, so as to connect religion and holiness with elegance and beauty.
26 Only thy holy things. This passage more clearly explains what was meant by the foregoing precepts, viz., that but one place was set apart for the performance of their sacred rites, lest, if each should offer wherever it pleased him, religion should be corrupted, and by degrees the various altars should beget as many gods. He therefore commands that all the victims should be sacrificed on one altar, with a provision that the blood should be poured out.
תרומה, the heaving or elevating; תנופה, the heaving or vibrating. C.’s translation of the first word is that of S.M.; and his note on both is extracted from a note of S.M. on Ex 25:2, where תרומה occurs, and is rendered offering in the text of A.V., but heave-offering in its margin. — W
לפני, Heb.; in conspectu, Lat; before, A.V
“Ne s’estend pas en general a la nourriture des Levites;” does not extend generally to the maintenance of the Levites. — Fr.
Added from Fr.
“Ou seroit le sanctuaire;” where the sanctuary should be. — Fr.
A.V., Your choice vows; margin, the choice of your vows. Ainsworth in loco, “i.e., the best, or fairest, as the Chaldee translateth."