“Do not hate your brother in your heart, but rebuke your neighbor frankly, so that you won’t carry sin because of him. Don’t take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people; rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am YHVH.”-Leviticus 19:17-18
Verses 17 and 18 go together and should be treated as one set.
In the command to not hate our “brother”, who exactly is the “brother” being referred to here?
The Hebrew word for brother is ACH and is also sometimes translated as “countrymen” or “kinsfolk”.
ACH is a general word and can be referring to one’s own flesh-and-blood brother, a close or distant family member or even a good friend.
However, except in very rare cases, any general meaning that ACH may have is ALWAYS limited to a fellow Israelite.
It doesn’t matter whether that fellow Israelite is a native born Hebrew or a foreigner who has been grafted into Israel.
If he dwells as a citizen within the camp of Israel, he is an ACH.
In the latter half of verse 18, we are told to rebuke our “neighbor”.
The Hebrew word being used here for “neighbor” is AMITH.
While ACH carries the idea of a person who has some kind of familial relationship with you whether near or distant, AMITH refers to pretty much any person you know who you are in contact with on a regular basis.
It would be equivalent to us saying “friend” or “acquaintance” today.
Given the cold state of affairs in our contemporary American society today, the word “neighbor” probably isn’t an accurate rendering of AMITH because nowadays its pretty normal to live next door to someone and never ever talk to them let alone know their name.
That would not have been the case 30 or 40 years ago and I’ve been told that such a thing would NEVER occur in Israeli society today.
Just understand that when the Bible says “neighbor”, it’s predicated on the assumption that you know this person and have some kind of a regular relationship with them.
Now what does verse 17 really mean when it says to “rebuke your neighbor frankly, so that you won’t carry sin because of him”?
The idea being expressed is that if we are upset or angry with someone, we shouldn’t let it fester in our hearts.
We should confront the other person and in a loving manner let him know what’s on our minds.
Verse 18 follows up by telling us that we are NOT to seek vengeance nor allow bitterness to grow in our hearts towards someone.
Any negative feelings should be nipped in the bud before they get out of control.
Instead of seeking revenge, we are instead told to “love our neighbor as ourself”.
Wait a minute.
I thought the precept “To love your neighbor as yourself” was a concept invented in the New Testament.
Turns out no such thing.
It is a TORAH command.
In fact, when Yeshua repeated this same command 13 centuries later, He made it clear that He was expounding on the TORAH.
And you may be surprised to know that this commandment has always been one of the central pillars of Judaism.
In the writings of a Jewish sage named Rabbi Akiba who was also a contemporary of Yeshua, we find the following quote:
“Love your neighbor as yourself,
is the central principle in the Torah”
Yeshua wasn’t proposing some revolutionary new idea.
He was just reiterating what was simply mainstream Jewish thought of that day and actually for centuries before that as well.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
He told him,
“‘You are to love Adonai your God
with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your strength.’
This is the greatest and most important mitzvah.
And a second is similar to it,
‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’
All of the Torah and the Prophets
are dependent on these two mitzvot.”