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(MT versing)
Blessings for Obedience Promise of Blessing and Retribution The Two Ways Blessings for Obedience Summary: Conclusion
26:1-13 26:1-2
26:1-2 26:1-2 26:1-2
26:3-13 26:3-5 26:3-5
26:6-13 26:6-8
Penalties of Disobedience Punishment for Disobedience Curses
26:14-20 26:14-17
26:14-20 26:14-17 26:14-16a
26:18-20 26:18-20
26:21-22 26:21-22
26:21-22 26:21-22 26:21-22
26:23-26 26:23-26
26:23-26 26:23-26 26:23-26
26:27-33 26:27-35
26:27-33 26:27-35 26:27-39
26:34-39 26:34-39
26:40-45 26:40-45
26:40-45 26:40-45 26:40
26:46 26:46 26:46 26:46 26:46

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. Leviticus 26 seems to reflect the structure of Hittite Suzerain treaties of the second millennium B.C. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HITTITE (SUZERAIN) TREATIES. The same type of pattern can be seen in the book of Deuteronomy and Joshua 24. The outline of chapter 26 is as follows:
    1. the blessings, Lev. 26:1-13
    2. the cursings, Lev. 26:14-39
    3. the possibility of restitution, Lev. 26:40-46
    Blessings and curses connected to law codes were common in the second millennium B.C., but not in the first millennium B.C. This is evidence for the historicity of Moses' authorship. See SPECIAL TOPIC: MOSES' AUTHORSHIP OF THE PENTATEUCH.

  2. The "blessing" and "cursing" pattern is also repeated in Deuteronomy 27-28. Remember, the Mosaic Covenant is a conditional covenant (cf. Exod. 19:5-6; 23:22; see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT). Blessing follows obedience (see SPECIAL TOPIC: KEEP). However, disobedience brings judgment. Actions have consequences in time and eternity (i.e., the Two Ways of Wisdom Literature, cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1; Gal. 6:7).

  3. For an ANE historical perspective on treaty conditions, see D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks, chapter 4, "How Does the Language of Destruction and Blessing Work?" pp. 73-128.

  4. Chapter 26 seems to conclude the book of Leviticus, while chapter 27 is a miscellaneous appendix on vows.


1"'You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God. 2You shall keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am the Lord. 3If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, 4then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. 5Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land. 6I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. 7But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword; 8five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword. 9So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you. 10You will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new. 11Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. 12I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. 13I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.'"

26:1 "idols" This verse lists four kinds of idolatry.

  1. idols (BDB 47, cf. Lev. 19:4)
  2. image (BDB 820, cf. Exod. 20:4)
  3. sacred pillar (BDB 663, cf. Exod. 23:24; 34:13)
  4. figured stones (BDB 67 CONSTRUCT BDB 967, found only here; see PLURAL in Num. 33:52)

The very fact that all of these different types of idolatry are mentioned shows that Israel had been affected by her neighbors even at this early stage. This chapter reflects part of the Ten Commandments (cf. Exod. 20:3-6). They must worship YHWH alone!

▣ "I am the Lord your God" This is covenant language, found so often in the Pentateuch. It has the two most common names for Israel's Deity.

  2. God = Elohim, see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, C

In this chapter it is repeated in vv. 1, 2, 13, 44, 45.

26:2 "keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary" This relates to Exod. 20:7-11. Taking God's name in vain involved worship at the sanctuary. The VERB "keep" is IMPERFECT but used in an IMPERATIVE sense. See SPECIAL TOPIC: KEEP.

26:3 "if. . ." This section shows the conditional and unconditional elements of every Old Testament covenant. God always comes to man with unconditional promises but man is expected to respond in covenant terms (cf. Deuteronomy 27; 28; Joshua 8; 24). It is interesting that the "if. . .then" section of vv. 1-13 is followed by "if you do not. . ." in vv. 14ff. See SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT.

▣ "statutes. . .commandments" See SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION.

26:4-13 This is the "blessing" component of the Mosaic Covenant.

  1. rain in its season for abundant crops, Lev. 26:4-5,10; Deut. 28:12
  2. security in your land, Lev. 26:5-6
    1. invaders, Lev. 26:7-8
    2. wild beasts
  3. health and growth of the people, Lev. 26:9
  4. security with YHWH's presence, Lev. 26:11-13
    1. YHWH will dwell with them, Lev. 26:11a
    2. YHWH will not reject them, Lev. 26:11b
    3. YHWH will walk among them, Lev. 26:12
  5. YHWH's past acts reveal
    1. His character is gracious
    2. His power is unstoppable
    3. His promises are sure

26:4 "I will give you rains in their seasons" YHWH was always the giver of agricultural blessings but somehow the Israelis began worshiping Ba'al as the source of fertility. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FERTILITY WORSHIP OF THE ANE.

26:5 This verse is imagery to express an abundant crop. Before one harvest time is finished another will start.

26:6 "peace" See SPECIAL TOPIC: PEACE (shalom).

26:8 "five" This is not normally a symbolic number. See NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 190-191.

26:9 "I will confirm My covenant with you" The VERB (BDB 877, KB 1086, Hiphil PERFECT with waw) basically means "to arise," "to stand up," but in the Hiphil it takes on the meaning "to establish" or "to ratify" (cf. Gen. 6:18; 9:9,11; 17:19,21; Exod. 6:4; Ezek. 16:62).

26:11 "I will make My dwelling among you. . .I will also walk among you" The greatest promise that God can give is His presence (cf. Exod. 25:8). This was symbolically represented by the Tabernacle and particularly the ark of the covenant. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ARK OF THE COVENANT.

The uncial MS B and the LXX have "covenant" instead of "tabernacle with" or "dwelling place."

NASB, NJB  "reject"
NKJV, NRSV, LXX, Peshitta  "abhor"
TEV  "turn away from"
JPSOA, REB  "spurn"

The MT has the VERB "abhor" or "loathe" (BDB 171, KB 199, Qal IMPERFECT). This word occurs several times in this chapter.

  1. YHWH's rejection of His people, Lev. 26:11,30,44
  2. Israel's rejection of Him, Lev. 26:15,43

The Hebrew root can denote (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 883):

  1. consider something or someone as "dung"
  2. consider something or someone as "spoiled food"; the same imagery (i.e., different root, BDB 596, KB 628) is found twice in Lev. 26:39 (i.e., "rot")

▣ "My soul" This is nephesh (BDB 659). See full note online at Ezek. 18:4.

26:12 "I will walk among you" This is literally "walk to and fro" (BDB 229, KB 246, Hithpael PERFECT with waw).

This idiom is also found in this same form in Gen. 3:8, for God's presence in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve before the fall.

The VERB "walk" is also found in the Qal stem several times (Lev. 26:3, 21, 23, 24, 27, 28, 40, 41).

  1. "walk" as lifestyle obedience, Lev. 26:3 (used of the Patriarch's walk of faith in Gen. 5:22,24; 6:9; 17:1; 24:40; 48:15)
  2. "walk" as imagery of YHWH's presence (i.e., Gen. 3:8), Lev. 26:12 (cf. Deut. 23:4)
  3. act with hostility toward YHWH, Lev. 26:21, 23, 24, 27, 28, 40, 41

▣ "and be your God, and you shall be My people" This is covenant terminology (cf. Gen. 17:7; 26:24; Exod. 6:7; Jer. 7:23; 11:4). Israel was YHWH's special people (cf. Exod. 19:5-6; 1 Kgs. 8:51-53).

26:13 "who brought you out of the land of Egypt" This is a regular part of Hittite Suzerain treaties where the historical acts were given of the king who was making the covenant. The exodus was God's great act of grace to the Hebrew people (cf. Gen. 15:12-22). See SPECIAL TOPIC: HITTITE (SUZERAIN) TREATIES.

▣ "made you walk erect" This is an idiom for slaves walking with heads up, as free people. No longer are they bent over under the yoke of slavery.

14"'But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, 15if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, 16I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that will waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up. 17I will set My face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you. 18If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. 19I will also break down your pride of power; I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze. 20Your strength will be spent uselessly, for your land will not yield its produce and the trees of the land will not yield their fruit.'"

26:14-39 These are the negative consequences related to covenant disobedience (i.e., Lev. 26:14-15).

  1. YHWH will give them
    1. sudden terror (cf. Ps. 78:33; Isa. 65:23; Jer. 15:8)
    2. consumption (only here and Deut. 28:22)
    3. fever (only here and Deut. 28:22)
      (1) affect the eyes
      (2) cause the soul to pine away
  2. their enemies will occupy their land and eat their crops (cf. Deut. 28:22,27)
  3. they will be struck down by their enemies
  4. YHWH uses the idiom of "punish you seven times more for your sins" (cf. Lev. 26:18,21,24,25; see SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE, #4)
  5. YHWH will destroy their pride
    1. no rain, Lev. 26:19 (cf. Deut. 28:12,23-24)
    2. no crops, Lev. 26:20
  6. YHWH sends a plague, Lev. 26:21 (cf. Deut. 28:61)
  7. YHWH will loose the wild beasts, Lev. 26:22 (opposite of Ps. 107:38)
    1. kill children
    2. kill livestock
  8. the land given to them by YHWH will be taken by invaders
  9. Israeli cities will be besieged and pestilence will result (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 915, suggests "bubonic plague" because of 1 Samuel 5-6)
  10. YHWH will take away their agricultural blessing
  11. Israelis besieged in cities will eat their own children, Lev. 26:29 (cf. Deut. 28:53-57)
  12. Israeli idolatry (Lev. 26:1) will be completely destroyed, Lev. 26:30-32
  13. Israelis will be taken into captivity, Lev. 26:33 (cf. Deut. 28:36-37, 63-64)
  14. the few who remain
    1. YHWH brings weakness to their hearts, Lev. 26:36
    2. they are terrified and skittish
    3. they will "rot away" (BDB 596, KB 628, twice)

26:18, 21, 23, 27 "If also after these things" The judgments listed here which would fall upon God's people were meant to be disciplinary, not just punitive (cf. Heb. 12:5ff). He wants them to repent and return (cf. Lev. 26:40-45).

NKJV, Peshitta  "heavens"

This is the Hebrew word "heavens" (BDB 1029). It was viewed as a hard dome over the earth. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN (OT). It had windows to let out rain or to store it up.

A good parallel to this imagery is Deut. 28:23; no rain, no plowing.

21"'If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins. 22I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which will bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted.'"

26:21 "act" (literally in Hebrew: “walk”) This is biblical imagery for lifestyle attitudes and actions (cf. Lev. 26:21, 23, 24, 27, 28, 40, 41).

23"'And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, 24then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. 25I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands. 26When I break your staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied.'"

26:23 This verse clearly shows that the purpose of YHWH's judgments is restoration. YHWH desires a people who reflect His character to a pagan world.

26:25-26 In the OT there are three things that YHWH sends as judgment (i.e., 1 Chr. 21:11-12; 2 Chr. 20:9).

  1. the sword (i.e., warfare, invasion)
  2. pestilence (i.e., disease normally from a siege)
  3. famine (no stored foodstuffs, nor growing crops, cf. Ps. 105:16)

Often the "wild beasts" are mentioned as returning!

26:26 "staff of bread" In the OT, this Hebrew NOUN (BDB 641), which means a part of a tree from which a staff, rod, or scepter is made, has several meanings.

  1. a way of referring to a tribe
  2. Moses' shepherd staff or rod, which was a symbol of YHWH's power
  3. Aaron's tribal banner pole
  4. a metaphor for that which the outstretched arm gives; here it refers to bread rations (cf. Ps. 105:16; Ezek. 4:16; 5:16; 14:13)
  5. scepter (cf. Ezek. 19:11)
  6. wooden carrier of bread (NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 38)

27"'Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, 28then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins. 29Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat. 30I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you. 31I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas. 32I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it. 33You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.'"

26:29 "you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters" This refers to siege warfare where cannibalism and disease were rampant (cf. 2 Kgs. 6:28-29; Lam. 2:20).

26:30 "high places" This is the characteristic place of Ba'al worship (cf. Hos. 4:11-14; Jer. 3:6-10). Connected with the uplifted stone, which was the symbol of Ba'al, was also either a live, planted tree or a carved stake which was a symbol of Ashtoreth (cf. Deut. 7:5; 12:3; 16:21). We also learn from this chapter about the incense altars which were connected with the Ba'al altars (cf. 2 Chr. 34:4,7). See SPECIAL TOPIC: FERTILITY WORSHIP IN THE ANE.

▣ "My soul shall abhor you" This chapter must be viewed in anthropomorphic terms. The author is attributing human emotions to Deity. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ANTHROPOMORPHIC LANGUAGE TO DESCRIBE DEITY.

Notice the number of "I's" in this chapter (similar to Ezek. 36:22-36).

26:31 "I will not smell your soothing aromas" This is a metaphor of God receiving their sacrifices. As the smoke from the altar arose it went symbolically before God. See SPECIAL TOPIC: A SOOTHING AROMA.

26:32-33 This is a specific reference to the exile, which would occur if they practiced the same abomination as the Canaanites did (cf. Gen. 15:12-22). We know from history that this is exactly what happened to the northern ten tribes by Assyria in 722 B.C. and to Judah by Babylon in 586 B.C.

26:32 One VERB (BDB 1030, KB 1663) is used in two senses.

  1. Hiphil = "be desolate"
  2. Qal = "be appalled"

34"'Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it. 36As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall. 37They will therefore stumble over each other as if running from the sword, although no one is pursuing; and you will have no strength to stand up before your enemies. 38But you will perish among the nations, and your enemies' land will consume you. 39So those of you who may be left will rot away because of their iniquity in the lands of your enemies; and also because of the iniquities of their forefathers they will rot away with them.'"

26:34-35 Notice the personification of the land of Canaan. It will enjoy the sabbaths promised it in chapter 25.

26:36-37 There are two possible groups: (1) those who remained in the land and (2) those who remain alive in exile.

26:39 There are two very specific reasons why exile and fear will come upon the people of God.

  1. because of their iniquity
  2. because of their fathers' iniquity

This same dichotomy is also represented in Lev. 26:40. Confession will involve personal sin as well as corporate sin.

40"'If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me— 41I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, 42then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. 43For the land will be abandoned by them, and will make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes. 44Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. 45But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am the Lord.'"

26:40 "If" The Hebrew text does not have the conditional textual marker (but there is, in 26:41), but there is an obvious contrast between Lev. 26:14-39 and 26:40-45.

However, the JPSOA starts a new paragraph at verse 39 (Lev. 26:39-42). It assumes the necessary repentance is expected, not conditional.

▣ "confess" This VERB (BDB 392, KB 389, Hithpael PERFECT with waw) has two connotations in this stem.

  1. confess sin
    1. connected to guilt offering, Lev. 5:5; Num. 5:2
    2. High Priest on the Day of Atonement, Lev. 16:2
    3. leaders confess corporate sin
      (1) Hezekiah (without using this stem) ‒ 2 Chronicles 29
      (2) Daniel ‒ Dan. 9:3,4,20
      (3) Ezra ‒ Ezra 10:1
      (4) Nehemiah ‒ Neh. 9:2
  2. give thanks ‒ 2 Chr. 30:22

The Hiphil stem is used in Solomon's great prayer for the dedication of the Temple in 1 Kgs. 8:33,35; 2 Chr. 6:24,26; also note Ps. 32:5. Here, this confession of sin is a prerequisite for forgiveness and restoration.


NASB, NKJV  "unfaithfulness"
NRSV, REB  "treachery"
TEV  "rebelled against"
NJB  "infidelities"
JPSOA  "trespassed"

This is the Hebrew NOUN "unfaithful" or "treacherous act" (BDB 591 I; cf. Josh. 22:22; 1 Chr. 9:1; 2 Chr. 29:19; 23:19; Ezra 9:2,4; 10:6). YHWH's great love and mercy toward Israel magnifies their rebellion against Him! They were a "stiff-necked" people (cf. Exod. 32:9; 33:3,5; 34:9; Deut. 9:6,13; Acts 7:51).

26:41 "if their uncircumcised heart" Circumcision became a symbol for that which is dedicated to God, therefore, in the Old Testament, there is the uncircumcised heart (cf. Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4), lip (cf. Exod. 6:12,20), and ear (cf. Jer. 6:10). Here, it became a metaphor for humbleness and openness toward God (i.e., 2 Chr. 7:14).

26:42 "I will remember My covenant with Jacob" Here we have an affirmation of God going back to His original covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12 (cf. Lev. 26:45). It was the original covenant whose stipulations guided God's dealing with the people of God. When God speaks His words can be trusted. His promises are unconditional (i.e., His redemption plan for all humans), but they are conditional on every individual and generation responding to them appropriately. See SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT PROMISES TO PATRIARCHS.

26:45 "in the sight of the nations" It must be remembered that Israel was to be a kingdom of priests to bring all of the world to God (cf. Exod. 19:4-5). The people of the world knew of God from Israel but the problem was that when Israel sinned, God was revealed only in judgment and not in love and blessing. See SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH'S ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN.

46These are the statutes and ordinances and laws which the Lord established between Himself and the sons of Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai.

26:46 The covenant originated with a sovereign God, but it was a conditional covenant!


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. How does Lev. 26:1 reflect Exodus 20?
  2. Why was Israel's idolatry so theologically significant?
  3. Explain the significance of the four "My's" in Lev. 26:2-3.
  4. How is Leviticus 26 related to Hittite treaties? How does this help us date Moses' writings?
  5. Explain the theological significance of the VERB in Lev. 26:11a.
  6. Explain why the "if's" in this chapter are so significant.
  7. Can humans break YHWH's covenant? (Lev. 26:15)
  8. Explain the idiom "My face" in Lev. 26:17.
  9. Do the prophets use the material in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28?
  10. What does "the land will enjoy its sabbaths" mean? (Lev. 26:34)
  11. To whom does Lev. 26:36 refer?
  12. Why is Lev. 26:40-45 so theologically significant?
  13. How does Lev. 26:42 relate to Genesis?

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