Leviticus 19:16 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
(16) Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer.—Better, Thou shalt not go about slandering, as the Authorised Version has it in Jer. 6:28; Jer. 9:4; Eze. 22:9, Margin. Whilst giving just evidence in a court of justice is demanded by the law, it prohibits the circulation of slanderous reports about our neighbours. This dangerous habit, which has ruined the character and destroyed the life of many an innocent person (1Sa. 22:9; 1Sa. 22:18; Eze. 22:9, &c.), was denounced by the spiritual authorities in the time of Christ as the greatest sin. Three things they declared remove a man from this world, and deprive him of happiness in the world to come—idolatry, incest, and murder, but slander surpasses them all. It kills three persons with one act, the person who slanders, the person who is slandered, and the person who listens to the slander. Hence the ancient Chaldee Version of Jonathan translates this clause: “Thou shalt not follow the thrice accursed tongue, for it is more fatal than the double-edged devouring sword.” (Comp. also Sir. 28:14)
Neither shalt thou stand against the blood.—This part of the verse is evidently designed to express another line of conduct whereby our neighbour’s life might be endangered. In the former clause, “the going about” with slanderous reports imperilled the life of the slandered person, here “the standing still” is prohibited when it involves fatal consequences. The administrators of the law during the second Temple translating this clause literally, thou shalt not stand still by the blood, &c, interpreted it to mean that if we see any one in danger of his life, i.e., drowning, attacked by robbers or wild beasts, &c., we are not to stand still by it whilst his blood is being shed, but are to render him assistance at the peril of our own life. Or if we know that a man has shed the blood of his fellow creature, we are not to stand silently by whilst the cause is before the tribunal. Hence the Chaldee Version of Jonathan renders it, “Thou shalt not keep silent the blood of thy neighbour when thou knowest the truth in judgment.” Others, however, take it to denote to come forward, and try to obtain a false sentence of blood against our neighbours, so that this phrase is similar in import to Exo. 23:1; Exo. 23:7.
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Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
Charles John Ellicott (1819 - 1905) was a distinguished English Christian theologian, academic and churchman. He briefly served as Dean of Exeter, then Bishop of the united see of Gloucester and Bristol.
His works include:
- An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1897. (Editor)
- A New Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1878.