Sacred Texts  Christianity  Calvin  Index  Previous  Next 

Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Leviticus 22

Leviticus 22:17-25

17. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

17. Loquutus est praeterea Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

18. Speak unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them, Whatsoever he be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, that will offer his oblation for all his vows, and for all his freewill offerings, which they will offer unto the LORD for a burnt offering;

18. Alloquere Aharon et filios ejus, et omnes filios Israel et dicas illis, Quit. unque e domo Israelis, et e peregrinis Israel obtulerit oblationem suam pro omnibus votis suis, et pro omnibus oblationibus spontaneis suis, quae obtulerit Jehovae in holocaustum;

19. Ye shall offer at your own will a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats.

19. In acceptationem vestri offeretis immaculatum masculum ex bobus, ex agnis, et ex capris.

20. But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you.

20. Omne in quo fuerit macula non offeretis: quia non erit in acceptationem pro vobis.

21. And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein.

21. Vir autem quum obtulerit sacrificium prosperitatum Jehovae, ad solvendum votum, vel ad voluntarie offerendum, ex bobus, vel ex ovibus immaculatum erit in aeceptationem, nullum vitium erit in eo.

22. Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto the LORD.

22. Caecum aut fractum, aut concisum labiis, aut verrucatum, vel scabiosum, vel impetiginosum, non offeretis ista Jehovae: neque oblationem ignitam dabitis ex his super altare Jehovae.

23. Either a bullock or a lamb that hath anything superfluous or lacking in his parts, that mayest thou offer for a freewill offering; but for a vow it shall not be accepted.

23. Bovem quidem et pecus superfluum aut diminutum, pro oblatione voluntaria facies: at pro voto non placebit.

24. Ye shall not offer unto the LORD that which is bruised,or crushed, or broken, or cut; neither shall ye make any offering thereof in your land.

24. Concussum et contusum, ruptum et excisum non offeretis Jehovae: in terra vestra non facietis.

25. Neither from a stranger’s hand shall ye offer the bread of your God of any of these; because their corruption is in them, and blemishes be in them: they shall not be accepted for you.

25. De mann autem alienigenae non offeretis panem Dei vestri, ex omnibus istis: quia corruptio eorum est in ipsis: macula est in els: non acccpta erunt pro vobis.


Deuteronomy 17

Deuteronomy 17:1

1. Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the LORD thy God any bullock or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evilfavouredness: for that is an abomination unto the LORD thy God.

1. Non sacrificabis Jehovae Deo tuo bovem, aut agnum, in quo fuerit macula, aut quidpiam vitii, quia abominatio Jehovae Dei tui est.


Leviticus 22:17. And the Lord spake. He now more clearly teaches and more copiously inculcates what he has frequently adverted to heretofore, that it is sinful to offer to God a maimed, or weak, or otherwise imperfect animal. Now this external soundness admonished the ancient people that God is served amiss when He is served by halves, since He abominates a double heart.  292 (Pr 11:20.) At the same time, in this symbol was shewn forth the perfect purity of that victim by which God was at length to be reconciled. We know in how great liberties the world indulges itself in the service of God; for whilst it lightly and contemptuously obtrudes mere trifling upon Him as if He were a child, it still fancies that its duty is properly discharged. Hence it is that it claims reward for any rubbish (sordibus,) and exults in mere mockeries of God, as if it were laying Him under obligation. A notable example of this stupid security is seen now-a-days in the Papacy, when they mock God with no less audacity than as if they were dealing with a block of wood. To omit innumerable other cases, what can be more monstrous than this arrogance of theirs, when, as they mutter their prayers, their minds wander not only into frivolous but even into unholy imaginations, and yet they pretend that the final intention, as they call it, is meritorious and approved by God?  293 Suppose a priest (sacrificus) shall have proposed to recite the godly prayers of his breviary, and, when scarcely three words have been said, his mind shall be occupied with dishes, shall run away now to his cups, now to dicing, or other pastimes, still, as if his task were performed, he will boast that he has offered worship to God. In order, therefore, to obviate this fault, God commands that sacrifices free from all blemish should be presented to Him. Hence that sharp expostulation of His in Mal. 1:7, 8, because the Jews polluted His altar and thought His table contemptible, when they said that their blind, and lame, and sick victims were not evil. “Offer it now (he says) to thy governor, will he — accept thy person?” not because God cared for the fatness or the juiciness of the animals, but because it thus was made plain that true piety was neglected, nay, altogether despised. We perceive, then, that all defective sacrifices were rejected, that the Israelites might learn sincerely and seriously to consecrate themselves entirely to God, and not to play childishly with Him, as is often the case. Elsewhere we have seen indeed that all uncleanness is repudiated by God; but we must remember that two things are required for legitimate worship; first, that he who approaches God should be purged from every stain, and secondly, that he should offer nothing except what is pure and free from all imperfection. What Solomon says, that “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,” (Pr 15:8,) is true, although it be fat and splendid. But in order that the things which are offered by the good should be pleasing to God, another point must also be attended to, viz., that the offering should not be poor, and stingy, and deficient; and again, by this symbol, as I have already said, they were directed to Christ, besides whom no integrity will anywhere be found which will satisfy God.

19. “Unto your acceptance.”  294 Some indeed translate this “at your own will,” but the context forbids it; for Moses sometimes uses the word רצה, ratseh, which means “accepted,” in the same sense, and sometimes רצון, ratson, which can only be referred to God’s favor, which is commonly called His “good pleasure.” Again, as he here uses the compound word לרצנכם; leretsoncem, so he soon afterwards adds לרצון לכם, leretson lecem, where he declares that a blemished sacrifice would not be “unto their acceptance,” because it would be rejected by God. The sum therefore is, that if they desire their oblations to be approved by God, they must beware that there be no defect in them. Still, if any one chooses to think that God’s gratuitous favor is expressed by the word “good pleasure,” I willingly admit it, since our services only please God in so far as in His paternal indulgence He deigns to award to them the value of which they are by no means worthy. Nevertheless let us learn meanwhile that we must not play with God, but that He must be so worshipped in integrity and sincerity of heart as that our sacrifices may correspond with His good pleasure. For hence arises the careless profanation of His worship, because we do not sufficiently consider what is due to His perfection. It is indeed certain that nothing can proceed from us which is pure in every respect; but let us at least aspire at what befits us, and let us mourn that our desires fall so far short of their aim, in order that Christ may by His grace supply what is wanting in US; for it is unquestionable that, provided our sacrifices are the fruits of true regeneration, He washes out their blemishes with His own blood.

22. Either a bullock, or a lamb, that hath anything superfluous. An exception is here stated as to free-will-offerings; for in them God does not refuse a diminutive animal, or one which has a member either contracted, or of excessive size. And doubtless a greater license ought to be given, when a person is not under the obligation either of a vow or any other necessity. Still we must remember that no victim is acceptable to God, which labors under any notable defect.

25. Neither from a stranger’s hand. God here forbids that victims of this sort should be offered to Him, although they might be purchased from foreigners. The Hebrews, however, has invented a different meaning, viz., that not even from foreigners were such sacrifices to be received, as it was unlawful for the children of the Church themselves to offer. But inasmuch as the Law altogether prohibited the unclean nations from making sacred oblations, another solution of this difficulty was still to be discovered.  295 They suppose, therefore, that those are called “strangers,” who observe the precepts of the children of Noah, i.e., who honor God, and do not pollute themselves by incest, abstain from the effusion of human blood, and from theft, and who do not worship idols. But the context does not accord with this, for Moses adds at the end that this kind of sacrifice would not be accepted by God from the Jews themselves, which will not agree with their being offered by the Gentiles. This, then, seems to me to be a confirmation of the previous injunction, introduced by way of precaution; for it might have seemed that the offering would have been permissible, if they had purchased the animal, even though it were defective; whereas God declares that what they were not allowed to present from their own stalls, was no more approved of by Him, if it had been purchased, because defectiveness is always displeasing to Him. Nor do I restrict this, as they do, to the foregoing clause, as if it only referred to castrated animals, and such as were wounded in the testicles, but I include with it also warts and eruptions, and other blemishes. In order that the prohibition may have more weight, he again calls the sacrificesthe bread of God,” not because God, who is the fountain of life, has need of food, or eats of corruptible meat, since He is the eternal Spirit; but that men may more diligently take care duly to perform their sacred rites, wherein they familiarly draw nigh to God. Now, if no one would dare to present stale or corrupted food to an earthly prince, much less tolerable is it to contaminate God’s table with anything blemished.



A. V., “They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the Lord.” The word עקש, however, says Cocceius, quoted in Taylor’s Concordance, “expresseth the character of a man who walketh in a double way,” etc.


“Wherefore the schoolmen grossly err when they lay it down that actual attention, as they call it, is not required in our prayers, but that it is sufficient for us to give virtual attention, as they say, since our hearts, they affirm, are not in our own power; and hence it is enough if, at the commencement, we resolve to wish to pray to God.” — Petr. Mart. Loci Com. C1. 3 chap. 13:11.

Luther ridicules this mode of praying in his “Simplex Orandi Modus,” (Witteb. 1558,) vol. 7:132: “Quemadmodum sacrificulus ille rurestris ipsis periculis (precibus?) subinde aliena miscebat, ad hunc modum, Deus in adjutorium meum intende; (Heus, serve, deme helcia equis.) Domine ad adjuvandum me festina; (Vade, famula, mulge vaccas.) Gloria Patri, etc.; (Etiam cessas, puer? Dii te perdant, etc.) Tales preculas audivi sub Papatu quamplurimas, atque omnes adeo eorum orationes fere ejusmodi fuere."


A.V. “At your own will,” vide supra, p. 370.


This is S.M.’s solution; and after him Fonseca. Willet. “Some understand this (says Bonar) as forbidding them to let a stranger supply them with animals for sacrifices, q. d., take it not out of a stranger’s flock or herd: But this is contrary to practice approved of in after days; as when Cyrus gave, and Darius ordered others to supply. But the true meaning is evidently that the same rule shall hold in regard to a strangers offering as in regard to their own. ‘The stranger’ may be a proselyte, as Le 22:18; or he may be such an one as Cyrus."

Next: Deuteronomy 23:18