Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.
1. Quum autem anima peccaverit audiendo vocem juramenti, et ipsc sit testis, quod aut videtit, aut sciverit: nisi renuntitaverit, feret poenam iniquitatis suae.
2. Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.
2. Aut si anima tetigerit aliquam remimmundam, sive cadaver ferae immundae, sive cadaver animalis immundi, sive cadaver reptilis immundi, idque latuerit eam, tum ipsc immundus erit, et deliquit.-
3. Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever uncleanness it be that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty.
3. Aut si tetigerit immunditiam hominis in omni immunditia ejus qua polluitur, et latuerit eum, et ipse cognoverit postea, deliquit.
4. Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.
4. Aut anima si juraverit, proferendo labiis se malefacturam, aut benefacturam, et secundum omne quod profert homo juramento, et id latuerit eum, et ipse postea cognoverit: tunc delinquet in uno ex istis.
5. And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing:
5. Erit autem quum deliquerit in uno ex istis, et confessus fuerit id super quo peccavit.
6. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.
6. Adducet oblationem pro delicto suo Jehovae, pro peccato suo quod peccaverit, foeminam de grege, agnam, aut capellam caprarum pro peccato: et expiabit eum sacerdos a peccato suo.
7. And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.
7. Quod si facultas afferendae peendis defuerit ei, tunc adducet oblationem pro delicto suo quod peccavit, duos turtures, aut duos pullos columbae Jehovae, unum in hostiam pro peccato, et alterum in hostism holocausti.
8. And he shall bring them unto the priest, who shall offer that which is for the sin offering first, and wring off his head from his neck, but shall not divide it asunder:
8. Afferetque illos ad sacerdotem, et offeret eum qui est in hostism pro peccato, priorem: et ungue secabit caput ipsius e regione cervicis ejus, et non separabit.
9. And he shall sprinkle of the blood of the sin offering upon the side of the altar; and the rest of the blood shall be wrung out at the bottom of the altar: it is a sin offering.
9. Aspergetque de sanguine hostiae pro peccato super parietem altaris, et quod superest de sanguine exprimetur in basin ipsius altaris: oblatio pro peccato est.
10. And he shall offer the second for a burnt offering, according to the manner: and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.
10. Alterum autem faciet holocaustum juxta morem: atque its expiabit eum sacerdos a peccato suo quod peccavit, et remittetur ei.
11. But if he be not able to bring two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering.
11. Si vero non fuerit ei facultas offerendi duos turtures, aut duos pullos columbae, tunc afferet oblationem suam qui peccaverit, decimam partem epha similae in oblationem pro peccato: non ponet super eam oleum, neque ponet super cam thus, quia oblatio pro peccato est.
12. Then shall he bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it, even a memorial thereof, and burn it on the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: it is a sin offering.
12. Afferet illam inquam ad sacerdotem: tune sacerdos accipiet ex ea plenum pugilium suum odorem ejus, et adolebit super altare ultra oblationes ignitas Jehovae: oblatio pro peccato est.
13. And the priest shall make an atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him: and the remnant shall be the priest’s, as a meat offering.
13. Et expiabit eum sacerdos a peccato suo quod peccavit in uno de istis: et remittetur el, et erit sacerdoti sicut minha.
1. And if a soul sin. The three kinds of offense, to which Moses refers in the beginning of the chapter, seem to differ much from each other; for the first, when a person concealed a matter which he knew, could not arise from error, yet I include this concealment of which he treats under the head of error, by supposing it to have been when a person should be induced by shame or fear to connive at any crime or offense respecting which he might be interrogated, and so, without any design of perjuring himself, but by blinding himself, should withhold what he would have said, if he had duly examined the matter. Yet these words must be more narrowly discussed, respecting the meaning of which men are not well agreed. Some think that the word אלה, 266 alah, is put for “execration,” as though it were said, if any shall have heard a misdoing or detestable crime worthy of execration; yet their gloss is contradicted by what immediately follows, “Whether he hath seen or known it.” Others indeed interpret it to mean an oath, yet improperly confine it to perjury, as if Moses stated that he was guilty who had heard a man perjuring himself, and had not opposed him, but had rather covered the perjury by his own connivance or silence. I rather subscribe, then, to their opinion who expound it as meaning “adjuration;” for the words will thus combine very well, “If any one, being summoned as a witness, shall have heard the voice of adjuration, whereby he shall be required in God’s name to answer truly as to the matter proposed, and from favor, or good nature, or any other false pretext, as if he were enveloped in a cloud of error, shall conceal what, if he had paid diligent attention, he well knew, he shall be guilty.” We must then here render the disjunctive particle as the conditional. Literally it is, “If any shall have heard the voice of adjuration, and (is) himself a witness.” But wherefore should he say, “if he hath been a witness,” and then add, “or have known it,” as if he referred to different things? What I have said squares very well, that a person becomes himself guilty, who, when summoned as a witness, does not answer to a matter of which he is cognizant. Now, what does hearing the voice of adjuration mean, unless you understand that he is adjured by the mouth of a judge? We must observe, too, that the three kinds of sin which are first enumerated have a connection with each other, since they speak of sinners who are infected by the uncleanness of others; for, after Moses had commanded generally that offenses committed in error should be expiated, he now adds what had not been stated explicitly enough, that those also required atonement who had been polluted by the defilements of others. Thus this first will accord very well with the other two, i.e., that if any should make himself an accomplice in the offense of another, by indirect perjury, he should be unclean until he had offered a propitiation; for this is what the expression “bear his iniquity” conveys; as if Moses had said that he contracts guilt who shall have concealed a crime, respecting which he had been interrogated as a witness.
2. Or if a soul touch any unclean thing. This precept seems not only to be superfluous but also absurd; for Moses had already shewn sufficiently how uncleanness contracted by touching a dead body, or any other unclean thing, was to be purged, and had prescribed an easy and inexpensive mode of purification. This repetition appears, therefore, to be useless. But to impose a heavier punishment on an offense which is extenuated by the pretext of error, than where there is no allusion to error, is unjust. But we must remember that not only is the uncleanness itself here punished, but; the inadvertence, from whence it arose that he who was polluted omitted the purification. For it may be that those who thus lie torpid in their sins pollute for a season the service of God. No wonder, then, that a heavier punishment is inflicted, where error, springing from supine and gross security, begets still more sins, that thus believers may be aroused to greater vigilance. Let the reader, therefore, recollect that the offense which is now adverted to did not consist in the mere touching of a dead body, but in the thoughtlessness itself; for if all would diligently meditate on the Law of God, forgetfulness would not so easily steal over them, whereby the distinction between right and wrong is lost. The same is the reason for the following ordinance, where Moses subjects to the same punishment any one who shall have touched an unclean or defiled man: thus the very contact of a woman at a particular period produces pollution.
4. Or if a soul shall swear. The Gulf is also ascribed to error and ignorance, when a person does inconsiderately what he has promised not to do; for the oath is not in that case violated, which would be criminal; 267 but in this very carelessness there is enough of wrong, because sound religion would renew the recollection of the vow. Consequently, where no anxiety (to fulfill it) is shewn, there is no serious desire to do so. But this commandment was necessary, because it might often happen that men who had pledged their faith in a vow, and had broken it in thoughtlessness, would deem themselves released from every, and would in future give themselves up to indulgence, whereas they who arrive at such a pitch of licentiousness, harden themselves more and more, until at length they throw off all reverence for God. God would therefore have vows kept faithfully, lest those who despised them should thus rush into impiety. If then any one had thoughtlessly broken faith, he is commanded to make atonement to God; not on account of his levity, as some think, as if he had rashly promised what he might not, but on account of his neglect, because he had not given diligence to remember the vow at the proper time. Now if the Papists stupidly wrest this text after their custom, in order to establish the obligation of all kinds of vows, their confutation is easy; viz., that God requires this stedfastness only with respect to lawful vows duly made. We have already understood from the teaching of Moses, what is the rule of pious vow-making; whence we gather, that those which profane God’s name are by no means to be kept; for if we set out with doing wrong, obstinacy in it is doubly wicked. In this passage, therefore, “to do evil” is not to perform any improper action, but to undertake something which would otherwise be disagreeable and burdensome to the flesh; such as to diminish domestic expenditure, or to deprive one’s self of luxuries, or to determine upon abstinence from something which would gratify or profit us.
6. And he shall bring his trespass-offering. He proceeds with what we have already been considering, as to the removal of guilt by sacrifice; but he begins to make a distinction between the poor and the rich, which distinction applies also to what has gone before; hence it appears that the order is not exactly observed by Moses, since the cases which he inserts seem to interrupt the thread of his discourse; yet the fact remains clear, that whosoever have fallen through error are unclean until they have offered an atonement. But what had been before omitted is here inserted, that the poor and needy are not to be pressed beyond the extent of their means; nay, the different grades of offering are appointed, so that he to whom it was not convenient to offer two turtle-doves, or pigeons, might be quit for a small measure of flour. Hence we infer that God’s only design was to shew the one true means of reconciliation to the people, that they might have recourse to the Mediator and His sacrifice; for the poor are here commanded to offer either two turtle-doves, or a small quantity of meal, which would propitiate God towards them, just as much as would the victim required of the rich. The citation, 268 however, which our interpreters make from the poet is a lame one; viz., “Whoever shall have brought integrity of mind into the temples, makes a sacrifice of corn;” since this blind man did not see what was the object of sacrifices, and thus despised all kinds of propitiations, as if purity and innocency alone recommended men to God. We must remember, then, that the victims of themselves were of no importance, and yet that the ancient people were exercised in these ceremonies, to teach them that God can only be appeased by the payment of a ransom.
It was in S. M. that C. found it mentioned that some took אלה to mean execration, blasphemy, or perjury; but S. M. himself held it to be equivalent to שבועה, adjuration, and explains the passage as meaning, “If any person shall be adjured, and will not declare the truth, etc.” — W
“Ce qui seroit repute a crime enorme;” which would be accounted an enormous crime. — Fr.
“Un poete payen a dit, ‘que celuy qui offrira un grain d’encens, ou un espi de ble en integritd de coeur, appaisera Dieu autant que s’il tuoit une centaine de bestes.’ Or, Il n’a parle qu’a demi, et m’esbahi comment les Chrestiens osent alleguer ceste sentence comme vraye;” a heathen poet has said, that he who shall offer a grain of incense, or an ear of corn in integrity of heart, will appease God as much as if he had killed a hundred beasts. Now he only spoke by halves; and I am astonished how Christians dare to allege this sentence, as if it were true. — Fr.
The reference is probably to Persius, Sat 2, in finem —
"Composttum jus, fasque animi, sanctosque recessus
Mentis, et incoctum generoso pectus honesto,
Hoc cedo ut admoveam templis, etfarre litabo."
Horace has nearly the same idea, Od. 3:23, 17-20 —
"Immunis aram si tetigit manus,
Non sumptuosa blandior hostia
Mollivit aversos Penates
Farre pio, et saliente mica."