Leviticus 19:23 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
(23) And when ye shall come.—Rather, And when ye be come, as the Authorised Version renders the same phrase in Lev. 14:34. This is one of the four instances in Leviticus of a law being given prospectively having no immediate bearing on the condition of the people of Israel (viz., Lev. 14:34; Lev. 19:23; Lev. 23:10; Lev. 25:2), and though all the four enactments are introduced by the same phrase, they are translated in three different ways in the Authorised Version:—“When ye be come into the land,” in Lev. 14:34; Lev. 23:10; “When ye shall come into the land,” in Lev. 19:23; and “When ye come into the land,” in Lev. 25:2; thus giving the impression as if the phrases in the original were different in the different passages. In legislative formulae it is of importance to exhibit uniformly the same phraseology in a translation.
Shall have planted all manner of trees for food.—From this declaration the administrators of the law during the second Temple inferred that the trees planted by the inhabitants of Canaan before the Israelites took possession of it, were exempt from this law, and that it only applies to fruit-trees intended for food, such as citron-trees, olive-trees, fig-trees, vines, &c. Trees which bore fruit unfit for human food, which grew up by themselves, or which were planted for hedges or timber, did not come under this law.
Then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised.—Literally, then shall ye circumcise its uncircumcision, its fruit, that is, cut off or pinch off its uncircumcision, which the text itself explains as “its fruit.” The metaphorical use of circumcision is thus explained by the text itself: it denotes the fruit as disqualified or unfit. In Lev. 26:41 the same metaphor is used for the heart which is stubborn or not ripe to listen to the Divine admonitions. And in other passages of Scripture it is used with reference to lips (Exo. 6:12; Exo. 6:30) and ears (Jer. 6:10) which do not perform their proper functions.
Three years shall it be.—The cutting off of the fruit is to be repeated every year during three successive years. As the produce of the earliest year when let to grow upon the trees is both stunted and tasteless, and, moreover, as by plucking off the fruit or pinching off the blossom the trees will thrive better and bear more abundantly afterwards, the Lawgiver enacts here as law that which was in vogue amongst careful husbandmen from time immemorial, thus debarring greedy owners from acting in a way which would ultimately be to their own material injury.
It shall not be eaten.—According to the authorities in the time of Christ, this interdict extended to any and every advantage to be derived from the first three years’ produce. The fruits must not be sold, but must either be burnt, or buried in the ground; and if any one eat as much as an olive he received forty stripes save one.
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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.