Notes on Leviticus 19

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Published 26 April 2021


Scripture Text: The Scripture text of this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison based on the Westminster Leningrad Codex found at The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Hebraic character of the author and writing. Other Bible versions may be quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions.

Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:

LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online.

Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.

MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century. Online.

Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.

Targums: The targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary: Targum Jerusalem (1st c. AD), Targum Neofiti (1st c. AD), Targum Onkelos (c. 35–120 AD) and Targum Jonathan (2nd c. AD). See an index of Targum texts here.

Special Terms: In order to emphasize the Hebraic nature of Scripture I use the terms ADONAI (for 'LORD' when quoting a Tanakh source), Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus) and Messiah (Christ).

Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). Parsing data for Hebrew terms is taken from John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament (1989). The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online. An explanation of Hebrew verbs and grammatical construction can be found at

Parashah Qedoshim: Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:1–20:27.

17 'You shall not hate your kinsman in your heart; you shall surely reprove your neighbor, but you shall not bear a sin because of him.

Wenham notes that the instruction in verses 17-18 would enable the Israelites to avoid resorting to the law courts (verses 15-16) to resolve disputes (268).

You shall not: Heb. lo, neg. particle. The negative particle occurs 42 times in this chapter and in this context is used to prohibit specific behavior as inimical to loving God and to loving one's neighbor. hate: Heb. sane, Qal impf., to hate, to have animosity toward someone. The Qal stem denotes simple action and the imperfect tense denotes a continuing activity. The Hebrew word often indicates an emotional impulse to despise that can result in an action to turn against (e.g., Joseph's brothers, Gen 37:2–8).

Hatred in Scripture also refers to the hostility shown by an enemy (Gen 24:60; Ex 1:10; Num 10:35; Deut 30:7; Luke 1:71). Wisdom teaches that hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses (Prov 10:12). The Hebrew word is also used in a comparative sense of loving less (e.g., Jacob loved Leah less than Rachel, Gen 29:30; cf. Deut 21:15-17). Thus, to hate parents (Luke 14:26) means to love them less than God.

your kinsman: Heb. ach, 2p-m.s., brother, a male sibling born of the same mother and father (Gen 4:2); also half-siblings (Gen 20:5); a male relative of the same tribe (Gen 13:8; Num 16:10) or a member of the people of Israel (Ex 2:11; 4:18). in your heart: Heb. lebab, 2p-m.s., inner man, mind, will, heart. The Rabbis reasoned that had the prohibition said simply, "You shall not hate your brother," one might have believed that one should simply not smite, slap, or curse him; therefore ADONAI states "in your heart" to cover intentions as well as actions (Arachin 16b).

There are those of the Left who are presently promoting an ideology of hate based on skin color and ethnic origin, not unlike the antisemitic hate of white supremacists. It's called critical race theory and its being taught to government employees and to youth in educational institutions. This philosophy is a license to hate. Dr. Jerry Newcombe offers this analysis of one particular disturbing example.

"Now comes word from Not the Bee of a new 'devotional' by a professor, Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes, from a once Baptist college. This 'devotional,' a book geared toward helping its readers walk with God, is sold at a major retailer. It includes a 'Prayer of a Weary Black Woman,' supplicating, "Dear God, please help me to hate white people. Or at least to want to hate them…. I want to stop caring about their misguided, racist souls, to stop believing that they can be better, that they can stop being racist." She also prays that she won't just hate the Trump supporters and Fox News viewers.

"This is wokeness on steroids – promoting hatred instead of love – in the name of God, no less, as long as it's hatred promoting the right kind of racism. Is there a right kind of racism? Of course not. Jesus said that we should love those who hate us and pray for those who persecute us. To whom is this "theologian" praying? It is certainly not the God of the Bible." (Jerry Newcombe, Commentary)

you shall surely: Heb. yakach, Hiphil inf. absolute, to decide, adjudge, prove. reprove: Heb. yakach, Hiphil impf., 2p-m.s., to correct, rebuke, reprove, presumptively with evidence. The Hiphil stem denotes causative action. The repetition of the verb gives emphasis to the action. your neighbor: Heb. amith, 2p-m.s., an associate, fellow, relation. The Rabbis deduced from this command that one is obliged to reprove a neighbor whom one observes doing something wrong. And they deduced from the emphatic words "you shall surely rebuke" that if one has rebuked one's neighbor and the neighbor does not accept the rebuke, then one must rebuke the neighbor again (Arachin 16b).

Wenham points out Abraham's confrontation with Abimelech (Gen 21:25) as an example of reproving a neighbor (268). Rabbi Jose ben Rabbi Hanina taught that reproof leads to love, as Proverbs 9:8 says, "Reprove a wise man, and he will love you." Rabbi Jose ben Hanina said that love unaccompanied by reproof is not love. And Resh Lakish taught that reproof leads to peace, and thus (as Genesis 21:25 reports) "Abraham reproved Abimelech." Resh Lakish said that peace unaccompanied by reproof is not peace (Genesis Rabbah 54:3).

Yeshua repeated this admonition to his disciples,

"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother." (Matt 18:15 NASB)

Biblical confrontation is based on a factual story, not a repetition of assumptions and hearsay (i.e., gossip). See my article Reconciling a Broken Relationship.

"If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4 NASB)

As Yeshua plainly declared the going to the neighbor to rebuke him for a sin implies the readiness to forgive. But, since resentment is a stumbling block to reconciliation, you cannot go unless you are willing to forgive. Therein lies a problem, because the flesh does not want to forgive. C.S. Lewis once said, "Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive" (Mere Christianity).

In the Luke passage the disciples respond with "increase our faith," which meant that God would have to enable them to trust someone that repeatedly sins. Yeshua then rebuked them with a parable to point out that they were unworthy servants that owed obedience to their Lord. The issue is not whether you can trust someone regarding their future behavior but whether you are willing to obey the clear instructions of God. Refusing to forgive when somebody repents is a sin.

but you shall not: Heb. lo, conj.w adv. neg. particle. bear: Heb. nasa, Qal impf., 2p-m.s., to lift, carry, take. a sin: Heb. chet, sin, a violation of the admonitions or prohibitions of Torah that wrong another person or offend the holiness of God. Chet may also refer to the guilt and the punishment incurred by the offense. In ancient Israel sin was tantamount to rejecting God's covenant. The LXX renders chet with Grk. hamartia, which also refers to the action itself, as well as its result, every departure from the way of righteousness, both human and divine. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh.

The usage of chet and hamartia in the Bible in no way incorporate the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity ("falling short of the glory," Rom 3:23), but behavior that violates the clear instructions of God. The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Keil says that the prohibition of bearing a sin does not mean to atone for a sin of the neighbor, but to avoid incurring a sin upon oneself by disobeying the command (cf. Num 18:22, 32).

because of him: Heb. al, prep., 3p-m.s., upon, above, over. Rashi interpreted this prohibition to mean that one should not rebuke a neighbor in public and cause the neighbor's embarrassment. Wenham suggests that whoever rebukes a man and stops him from sinning is freed from the guilt of that man's sin (269). At the same time, by open rebuke the aggrieved party may save his own feelings from overflowing into sinful action as Cain (Genesis 4).

Not considered by commentators is that silence about a sin of which one has personal knowledge can make one an accessory to the crime that had been committed and therefore deserving of punishment. In common law failure to report a crime of which one has personal knowledge is called misprision. The silent one becomes guilty under God’s Law and deserving of the same punishment as the actual perpetrator (cf. Lev 5:1; Luke 12:47; Jas 4:17).

Another consideration is that the sin being borne is unforgiveness. Yeshua said,

"14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." (Matt 6:14-15)

"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you." (Mark 11:25)

Yeshua's declaration was not new.

"Forgive your neighbor the hurt that he has done to you, so shall your sins also be forgiven when you pray." (Sirach 38:2)

Unforgiveness or resentment not only risks divine displeasure, but it is also bad for your health. Medical research has documented that many physical maladies are caused or aggravated by feelings of resentment or hostility against another person. Dr. James A. Stringham, a Christian psychiatrist and medical missionary to India documented the physical effects of resentment. In an article "Resentment (Bitterness, Hostility and Hate) - Symptoms and Treatment," published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry (1969, Vol. 11, 15-22) Dr. Stringham chronicled the results of many clinical studies which linked resentment, hostility and suppressed aggression to hypertension, coronary disorders, stomach ulcers, psychosomatic pain, arthritis and rheumatic conditions, alcoholism and accidents.

Stringham also developed an instrument called "Spiritual Checkup," which he administered to many Christian groups. The Checkup revealed the presence of resentment, unforgiveness, bitterness or hostility in about half the members of every tested group. Dr. Stringham states forthrightly in the introduction to his article that "the human personality is so constituted that it is unable to contain, over prolonged periods of time, hatred, bitterness or resentment and remain healthy."

In the recent book, "What the Bible Says About Healthy Living" (Regal Books, 1996), Dr. Rex Russell states in similar fashion, "The only personality trait that has been shown to be detrimental to health is hostility or bitterness" (p. 249). C.S. Lewis once said, "Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive" (Mere Christianity). Yet, forgiveness is the means of freedom.

18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am ADONAI.

You shall not: Heb. lo, neg. particle. take vengeance: Heb. naqam, Qal Impf., 2ms, to avenge, take vengeance. nor: Heb. lo. bear any grudge: Heb. natar, may mean (1) keep, maintain (that is, wrath); or (2) keep, guard a vineyard. The first meaning is intended here. against: Heb. eth, direct object marker of the accusative case. the sons: Heb. ben, masc. pl. construct; son, a male child or descendant. of your people: Heb. am, 2p-masc. sing. construct; people. Rashi interpreted these two prohibitions with a practical example:

"You shall neither take revenge: [For example:] He says to him, "Lend me your sickle," and he [the latter] replies, "No!" The next day, he [the latter] says to him, "Lend me your ax." [If] he says to him, "I will not lend it to you, just as you did not lend to me!" this constitutes revenge.

"And what constitutes "bearing a grudge?" [For example:] he says to him, "Lend me your ax," and he [the latter] replies, "No!" Then the next day, he [the latter] says to him, "Lend me your sickle." [Now, if] he says to him, "Here it is for you; I am not like you, who did not lend me!" this constitutes "bearing a grudge," for he keeps the hatred in his heart, even though he does not take revenge." — [Torath Kohanim 19:44; Yoma 23a]

Feinberg relates a story from the Talmud of a man who accidentally chopped off his own hand while cutting meat (125). He observed that no one would imagine that he would be tempted to take revenge upon his right hand for having cut off his left. Nursing hatred, whether actively (as a desire for revenge) or passively (in bearing a grudge) is contrary to the principle of judging with righteousness (verse 15). See my article Overcoming Resentment.

but you shall love: Heb. aheb, Qal conjunctive perf., love as opposed to hate. The intensity of aheb can range from fondness, to affection to devotion. The verb appears in the Tanakh for loving a child (Gen 22:2), although never of child to parent, but mother-in-law (Ruth 4:15); love of wife (Gen 24:67), woman's love of a man (1Sam 18:20), sexual desire (1Kgs 11:1), love of slave to master (Ex 21:5); inferior to superior (1Sam 18:22); love of friend to friend (1Sam 16:21); love of food (Gen 27:4); love of sleep (Prov 20:13); love of various virtues (Prov 4:6; 8:17, 21; 12:1; 22:11; 29:3; Amos 5:15; Mic 6:8); love of God (Ex 20:6); love to Jerusalem (Isa 66:10; Ps 122:6); divine love (a) to individual men (Deut 4:37; 2Sam 12:24); (b) to people Israel (Deut 7:8,13; 23:6).

In the LXX aheb is translated here with agapaō, which means to treat respectfully, to welcome, to be pleased with. The verb is singular in form. It is generally devoid of strong emotion, although it can mean to be fond of. It contains the idea of devotion for the sake of another. In the Besekh that devotion is often portrayed in sacrificial terms.

your neighbor: Heb. rea (ray'-ah), 2p-m.s., friend, intimate, companion, fellow-citizen, even another person with whom one stands in reciprocal relations. In verse 34 love is to be extended to the stranger or Gentile. The neighbor can also include an enemy, since Yeshua said "love your enemies" (Matt 5:44). This was not a brand new commandment. The Torah affirms the same expectation.

"If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him." (Ex 23:4-5)

The Torah requires decent treatment of animals (Deut 22:6) and a bad relationship with a neighbor should not undermine this care.

as yourself: Heb. kemo, prep., 2p-m.s., like, as, when. This qualification is intended to invite self-examination. Yeshua said that the command to 'love your neighbor as yourself' is the second greatest commandment (Mark 12:31). In this Chapter verses 9 to 18 and verses 33-34 especially concern personal relationships with neighbors, fellow Israelites and Gentiles living in the land. In this section ADONAI sets forth what it means to love your neighbor, primarily by telling us what we must not do. In fact there are 14 negative commands in this section versus five positive commands. Hillel summarized the negative commands by saying, "Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor" (Shabbat 31a).

The counsel from many self-help sources assures us that this command actually encourages self-love. In light of Sha'ul's prophecy that one of the marks of the last days is that people will be lovers of themselves (2Tim 3:2), this popular interpretation warrants examination. The most frequently cited reason for self-love is that God supposedly commands it based on this biblical injunction, which Yeshua repeated (Matt 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27), as well as Sha'ul (Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14) and Jacob, the Lord's brother (Jas 2:8).

The object of the imperative verb, "love" is the neighbor, not self. Indeed there is no verb in the command directing love toward self. Some point to the word "as" for proof of a divine expectation of self-love. However, he word "as" (Heb. kemo; Grk. hōs) is an adverb, not a verb. With this adverb the command focuses on the idea of a pattern or model. In other words, "as" presumes that self-love already exists.

Many counselors seem to believe there is a large segment of society with little or no self-love. Yet Sha'ul said, "No one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it" (Eph 5:29 NIV). We spend a considerable amount of time on our personal well-being and pleasing ourselves. We do love ourselves. The plan of God is that we would die to ourselves that Messiah may live in us. To love as Yeshua did on the cross without promise of being loved in return would be agony to the cheap self-love of our culture.

The qualification "as yourself" implies many practical actions that would benefit the neighbor. The command is not limited to actions you would do for yourself or things you would want done for yourself. The expectation is also not to "love your neighbor as others do." Love is particularly devoted to brothers. Those of the household of faith in need have a claim on our generosity. Since self-love is oriented to meeting personal needs and desires, then the question to ask is, "what does the neighbor need?" And then, "How can I serve that need?" Sha'ul said,

"3 Do nothing according to self-interest nor according to self-conceit, but in humility be esteeming one another as surpassing yourselves. 4 not each considering the interests of themselves, but also each the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in yourselves, which also was in Messiah Yeshua." (Php 2:3-5 BR)

Yeshua referred to the commandment to love one's neighbor as the second greatest commandment (Matt 22:39; Mark 12:31), the first being to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He said that these two commandments fulfill the Torah. We should keep in mind that the Torah cannot be canceled if love of God and neighbor fulfill it.

I am: Heb. ani, first person pronoun. ADONAI: Heb. YHVH, the tetragrammaton of the God of Israel, referred to in Judaism as either ADONAI (Lord) or Hashem (the Name). YHVH dominates in the Tanakh, first occurring in Genesis 2:4. While not reflected in Bible translations YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8). The usage of "the LORD" in Christian versions does not actually translate YHVH. See my web article The Blessed Name for more discussion on this subject.

The phrase "I am ADONAI" occurs 49 times in Leviticus, the most of any book in the Torah; 16 times in this chapter. The divine exclamation emphasizes not only the divine expectation but implies divine accountability for disobedience. The command is not a suggestion.

Works Cited

Biblos: Biblos Interlinear Bible, 2004-2013. Leviticus 19. Online.

BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.

Feinberg: Jeffrey Enoch Feinberg, Walk Leviticus!. Messianic Jewish Publishers, 2001.

HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at

Keil: C.F. Keil (1807-1888), The Pentateuch: Leviticus. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006. [C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 vols., 1866-1891]

Midrash: Midrash Rabbah: Vol. 1, Genesis. Trans. by Rabbi Dr. Harry Freedman. Soncino Press, 1939. Online.

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Iitzhaki (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.

TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Moody Press, 1980.

Wenham: G.J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1979. [New International Commentary on the Old Testament]

Copyright © 2021 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.