THE PENTATEUCH PART III: LEVITICUS
Lesson 9 Chapters 19:19-21:24
The Holiness Code Continued: Part II
Holy and eternal Lord,
You have consecrated us to be Your holy people. We are called "the Church Militant" because it is our destiny to combat evil in all its forms and to carry out the mission Your Son gave us to spread the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth before the He returns. Give us the strength to persevere in holiness and to be effective warriors for the faith despite what at times seems to be insurmountable odds. Give us the confidence to know that the battle against sin and death has been won by our Savior, and all we have to do is to continue to boldly advance against the enemy and declare the victory. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+ + +
Long before Christ it had been said, "You shall not covet"; long before it had been said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," a phrase which, as the apostle says, expresses the fulfillment of the whole law. And as no one loves himself unless he loves God, the Lord says that the whole Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments. St. Augustine, Letter 177
Even the daughters
of priests, who are of no significance for the priestly office, incur a far
more severe penalty than do others for the same sins, because of their father's
dignity. The offense is the same (it is prostitution in both cases) when
committed by them and the daughters of ordinary people, but their punishment is
far greater. You see how thoroughly God proves to you that he demands much
more punishment of the ruler than of the subjects.
St. John Chrysostom (344/354-407), On the Priesthood 6.16
The Holiness Laws continued:
Moses was commanded to assemble the entire community of Israel, including the priests, to instruct them in Yahweh's divine commands and prohibitions on living in holiness within and without the camp that surrounds Yahweh's Sacred Sanctuary. Instruction began in chapter 17 with the laws pertaining to acceptable worship and sacrifice at Yahweh's one altar and in Yahweh's one Sanctuary. In the first half of chapter nineteen God addressed laws pertaining to sexual prohibitions intended to protect God's gift of human sexuality and fertility. The instruction in holiness continues in part two of chapter nineteen with moral and religious regulations.
Leviticus 19:19-37 contains twenty-one (seven times three) statutes and judgments that were laws for Israel to live by both in their wilderness years and when living in the Promised Land. Like the previous section, there are also seven statements that group the twenty-one laws in which God declares: "I am Yahweh your God/I am Yahweh."
"I am Yahweh your God"
"I am Yahweh "
"I am Yahweh "
"I am Yahweh your God"
"I am Yahweh"
"I am Yahweh your God"
"I am Yahweh your God"
|Adapted from Sailhamer's chart in The Pentateuch as Narrative, page 361|
Topics of commands and prohibitions in Lev 19:19-37
|1. Mixed breeding||8. Magic/sorcery/the occult||15. Sabbath obligation|
|2. Mixed sowing||9. Cutting side locks||16. Reverence for the Sanctuary|
|3. Mixed weaving||10. Trimming beards||17. Mediums/magicians|
|4. Sexual conduct with another man's female slave||11. Skin gashing||18. Respect for the elderly|
|5. Planting of fruit trees||12. Tattooing||19. Fear of/reverence for God|
|6. Eating blood||13. Prostituting a daughter||20. Respect for immigrants|
|7. Divination||14. Prostitution/incest in the Promised Land||21. Honesty in weights and measures|
|Adapted from Sailhamer's chart in The Pentateuch as Narrative, page 361.|
The declarations "I am Yahweh/I am Yahweh your God" have been underlined for emphasis.
Please read Leviticus 19:19-37: Holiness Statutes and
19:19"You will keep my laws
This statement introduces the intention of the series of laws that follows.
Law #1: You will not mate your cattle with those of
Species were not to be mixed-God created the different species and man was not to interfere with the created order.(2) Other kinds of mixtures were also forbidden; for example, in the Deuteronomic Code it was also forbidden to plough with an ox and a donkey harnessed together (Dt 22:10); the unequal size and strengths of the animals would be a cruel burden for the donkey.
Law #2: you will not sow two kinds of grain in your
The Deuteronomic Code stipulated: You must not sow any other crop in your vineyard, or the whole yield may become forfeit, both the crop you have sown and the yield of your vines (Dt 22:9).
Law #3: you will not wear a garment made from two kinds
The Deuteronomic Code forbids the wearing of clothing woven of part wool and part linen, a mixture of part animal and part plant products (Dt 22:11). Mishnah: Kilayim addresses the specifics of rabbinic law on the subject of forbidden crossing of species and of other mixtures.
20If someone has intercourse with a woman who is the concubine slave of a man from whom she has not been redeemed and she has not been given her freedom, he will be liable for a fine, but they will not incur death, since she was not a free woman.
21He will bring a sacrifice of reparation for Yahweh to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. This will be a ram of reparation,
22and with the ram of reparation the priest will perform the rite of expiation for him before Yahweh for the sin committed; and the sin he has committed will be forgiven.
The violation of sleeping with a slave who belongs to another man is a violation of property rights in which a payment is imposed on the offending party as a sin of reparation (see Lev 5:23-26/4-7). Also see Exodus 21:7-11 where a master was required to provide for a slave girl raised in his household by marrying her himself, designating her as his son's future wife, or allow her to be redeemed by another Israelite.
23Once you have entered the country and planted any kind of fruit tree, you will regard its fruit as uncircumcised. For three years you will count it as uncircumcised and it will not be eaten;
24in the fourth year, all its fruit will be consecrated to Yahweh in a feast of praise;
25and in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, so that it may yield you even more. I am Yahweh your God.
This command is a projection into the future when the tribes of Israel occupy the new Eden of the Holy Land-the Promised Land of Canaan. Fruit trees are first mention in the Creation event on the third day (Gen 1:12). The trees God planted in the garden Sanctuary in Eden were fruit trees that were food for Adam and Eve (Gen 2:8-9). In the Promised Land fruit trees were to be allowed to fully mature before the fruit could be harvested. Until that time the fruit trees were to be regarded as "uncircumcised" or untouchable until the tree was four years old. The first harvest of the fruit in the fourth year became the first-fruits consecrated to Yahweh. The "feast of Jubilation" probably refers to the future Feast of Tabernacles/Sukkot, also called the "Feast of Ingathering" since it was celebrated during the fruit harvest (Ex 23:16; 34:22; Lev 23:39-42; Num 29:12-38) when the people joyfully lived in huts for a week that were made from the branches of trees, including the branches of fruit trees. It wasn't until the fifth year that the covenant people could eat the fruit of the tree.
The law for harvesting fruit trees will not take effect until the Israelites live in the Promised Land, which is to be the "new Eden" in which Yahweh's holy Sanctuary will reside.
Question: We have already seen the connection between
the events in the Book of Genesis and the instruction of the Law in Leviticus. What
is the connection with the law concerning the planting of fruit trees and the
eating of the fruit and the Book of Genesis?
Answer: In the pattern of the first chapter of Genesis, the days associated with the creation and eating of the fruit trees in Eden correspond to the years for growing, harvesting, and eating the fruit trees in the "new Eden" of the Promised Land.
In the Creation event, the fruit trees were created on the third day(Gen 1:12). Three days later, on the sixth day when God created Adam and Eve, He placed them in Eden in the garden Sanctuary planted with fruit trees (Gen 2:8-9, 16). The third day on which the fruit trees were created corresponds to the first year a fruit tree was planted in the Promised Land. The sixth day of Creation, when the fruit trees were in the garden Sanctuary with man, corresponds to fourth year in the Promised Land when the fruit tree's bounty was brought to God's Sanctuary. The fifth year when the fruit of the tree could be eaten corresponds to the seventh day when Adam and Eve were given permission to eat of the trees in the garden, with the exception of the fruit of the one tree (Gen 2:16-17). The prohibition is perhaps a reminder of all the good fruit God provided for Adam and Eve in the garden Sanctuary and yet they rebelled against God's law and ate the fruit of the only tree that was forbidden. This ordinance is a similar test in obedience.
The years of planting and harvesting fruit trees in the Promised Land corresponds to the days of Creation in Genesis and the fruit trees in Eden:
|Creation:||Day 3||Day 4||Day 5||Day 6||Day 7|
|Fruit trees:||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Year 5|
|Creation in Genesis chapters 1-3||
Fruit trees created
(no humans to touch)
(no humans to touch)
(no humans to touch)
Man in garden
w/ fruit trees
Adam and Eve
ate the fruit
|Fruit trees in the Promised Land||Fruit tree planted(untouchable)||
|For three years untouchable*||All fruit for God in Sanctuary||
Eating of fruit
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
*the ancients counted a sequence of days or years with the first day or year in the sequence as day #1 (i.e., Jesus was in the tomb three days as the ancients counted from Friday to Sunday).
Law #6: 26You will eat nothing with blood in it.
Verses 26-28 address prohibitions that were common practices of the Canaanites. This is the sixth time the blood prohibition has been mentioned in the Pentateuch: Gen 9:4; Lev 3:17; 7:23; 17:10, 14; 19:26; Dt 12:16, 23; 15:23. It is a prohibition that is also found in 1 Samuel 14:32-34 and Ezekiel 33:25 where the wording is the same as in this verse.
Law #7: You will not practice divination
Divination or soothsaying was common among the Canaanites. The destiny of man is God's prerogative and only He knows man's future.
Law #8: or magic.
The practice of divination and magic seeks to know, foretell, or control events apart from God. God is in control of the destiny of men and women. According to the Book of the Covenant, the penalty for practicing witchcraft was death (Ex 22:18), and according to the Deuteronomic Code such people were as detestable to God and were not to be tolerated in the community (Dt 18:10-12). 1 Samuel 15:23 equated rebellion against God with the sin of sorcery.
Law #9: 27You will
not round off your hair at the edges
The literal Hebrew is "side-growth;" it is the same word used in verse 9 to designate the corners of a field. The shaving of the side of the head was a practice of some of the desert tribes (Jer 9:25), and the Israelites are to look distinctively different from their pagan neighbors. Today Ultra-Orthodox Jews where their side-locks curled.(3)
Law #10: or trim the edges of your beard.
Tearing out the hair of one's beard and head hair was a custom associated with mourning the dead (Lev 21:5; Dt 14:1; Is 15:2; 22:12; Jer 16:6; Amos 8:10). But this command could be referring to the rounding of the beard like the Assyrians and other peoples of Mesopotamia and the Levant. The Israelites are to look distinctly different from their neighbors and they must also behave differently-they are to be holy as God is holy and separate from the profane world.
Law #11: 28You
will not gash your bodies when someone dies,
Another practice associated with mourning, but the three practices in verses 27-28 might also be associated with pagan priests. Priests of Yahweh are forbidden to do all three: They will not make tonsures on their heads, shave the edges of their beards, or gash their bodies. They will be consecrated to their God and will not profane the name of their God. For their function is to offer the food burnt for Yahweh, the food of their God, and so they must be holy (Lev 21:5-6).
Law #12: and you will not tattoo yourselves. I am
Tattooing was another common pagan practice. Man was created in God's image and likeness and to alter that likeness was an affront to God.
Law #13: 29Do not
profane your daughter by making her a prostitute
Prostitution was a violation of holiness and a defilement of the first blessing of sexuality and fertility God gave men and women (Gen 1:28; also see Dt 23:18-19/17-18).
Law #14: or the country itself with become prostituted
and filled with incest.
Another way to translate this verse is "least the land fall into harlotry and the land be filled with depravity." In Biblical idiom "land" may connote the "people of the land" as is probably the intent here. Sin is contagious and what effects one family can end up defiling the whole community.
Law #15: 30You
will keep my Sabbaths
The command to observe the Sabbath obligation is given within eight different sections of the Law in the Pentateuch:
Law #16: and revere my Sanctuary. I am Yahweh.
The Sanctuary is the other "sign" of the covenant: the Sabbath obligation is the "sign" in sacred time and the Sanctuary the "sign" in sacred space. This command will be restated in Leviticus 26:2.
Law #17: 31Do not
have recourse to spirits of the dead or to magicians; they will defile you. I,
Yahweh, am your God.
In the Deuteronomic Code this is among those practices that are detestable to God and one of the reasons He will drive the Canaanites off the land (Dt 18:11-12). King Saul, having been rejected by God, turned to a medium to advise him (2 Sam 28:3ff). To have contact with such magical practices or people who profess to have powers apart from God renders one ritually impure and unfit to offer sacrifice or worship in Yahweh's Sanctuary.
Law #18: 32You
will stand up in the presence of grey hair, you will honor the person of the
The covenant people are obligated to show deference to the elderly. Respect for the elder and the protection of the young and the vulnerable is a sign of a decent and honorable society.
Law #19: you will fear God. I am Yahweh.
This same admonition was given in verse 14 in the command to respect the deaf and the blind. The deaf, blind and the elderly may not be able to defend themselves but God sees and hears everything, and He will punish those who persecute them.
Law #20: 33If you have resident aliens in your country, you will not molest them.
34You will treat resident aliens as though they were native-born and love them as yourself-for you yourselves were once aliens in Egypt. I am Yahweh your God.
This command is a restatement of the command in the Book of the Covenant (Ex 22:20). The Israelites are to treat the foreigner living among them as fairly as a covenant kinsman. The Israelites should have empathy for the foreigner because of the memory of their experiences of unfair treatment when they lived in Egypt.
Law #21: 35You
will not be unjust in administering justice as regards measures of length,
weight or capacity. 36You will
have just scales, just weights, a just ephah and a just hin. I am Yahweh
your God who brought you out of Egypt;
To falsify measures is to commit injustice by robbing a person of the rightful amount of a commodity or a fair price. The same admonition occurs in the Deuteronomic Code (Dt 25:14-15). The statement "I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of Egypt" recalls the introductory statement at the beginning of the Ten Commandments: I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you lived as slaves (Ex 20:1-2). The Israelites lived with injustice in Egypt but they are not to treat others as they were treated. This phrase will be repeated four times in the Holiness Code (Lev 19:36; 22:33; 25:38; 26:13).
37hence you are to
keep all my laws and all my customs and put them into practice. I am Yahweh."'
The concluding statement to this section of laws carries the full force of God's requirement for Israel to be obedient to the divine commands of the Law-laws that emanate from the very kavod, the holiness, of Yahweh God. This is the sixteenth statement "I am Yahweh" since the beginning of chapter nineteen, eight times as "I am Yahweh your God."
Chapter Twenty: Laws Concerning Judgments for Religious Offenses
This section of the Holiness Code consists of fourteen (seven times two) prohibitions and judgments for the violators dealing with moral offenses against the families of Israel that were prohibited in chapter eighteen and offense against God. It also reflects some of the abuses listed in chapter nineteen. A chart at the end of this section lists the prohibitions in chapters eighteen and nineteen and the penalties imposed under the Law in chapter twenty for violation of those prohibitions.
This section reaffirms Yahweh's appeal for holiness (20:7) after the second law and concludes with Yahweh's extended appeal for Israel to live in holiness when they take possession of the Promised Land (20:22-26). These laws are not only moral laws but are religious laws with judgments that, in the majority of cases, impose the death penalty or exile. When these laws are violated, the implication is that the violator isn't just immoral but he ceases to be holy as God is holy and in three cases the violators is rejecting God in favor of false gods or spirits.
Two religious laws
(sins against God):
laws #1 - #2
Eleven laws that
are sins against the family:
laws # 3 - #13
One religious law
(sin against God):
|Fourteen laws that are offenses against God and the family|
Topics of the fourteen (seven times two) commands and judgments of Leviticus chapter 20:
|1. Child sacrifice||8. Marriage to a woman and her daughter|
|2. Seeking out mediums and spiritualists||9. Bestiality (male and female)|
|3. Cursing parents||10. Sex with a sister|
|4. Adultery||11. Sex with a woman during her period|
|5. Sex with a father's wife||12. Sex with an aunt|
|6. Sex with a daughter-in-law||13. Marriage to a sister-in-law|
|7. Homosexuality||14. Penalty for occult practices|
|Adapted from a chart from Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, page 353|
Please read Leviticus 20:1-6: Penalties for Violations of
Religious Law that are Offenses against the Holiness of the People
Note: the word translated "intercourse" in the English translation is literally "to uncover the nakedness" in the Hebrew translation.
20:1Yahweh spoke to Moses and said: 2'Say to the Israelites:
What follows is addressed to the entire covenant community. The JPS Commentary notes that Yahweh's command to Moses begins with the initial prefixed vav, "and;" therefore His command should be translated: "And say to the Israelites," suggesting that the provisions in this section of the Holiness Code are additions to the previous commands and prohibitions (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 136).
Law #1: 2b"Anyone, be he Israelite or alien resident in Israel, who gives any of his children to Molech, will be put to death. The people of the country must stone him,
3and I shall set my face against that man and outlaw him from his people; for by giving a child of his to Molech he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name.
4If the people of the country choose to close their eyes to the man's action when he gives a child of his to Molech, and do not put him to death,
5I myself shall turn my face against that man and his clan. I shall outlaw them from their people, both him and all those after him who prostitute themselves by following Molech.
See the commentary on Leviticus 18:21 in the previous lesson and footnote #3 for a review of information of the meaning of "Molech." Now the law is expanded to include the death penalty for anyone, Israelite or resident alien, who offers human sacrifice (see 2 Kng 23:10; Jer 32:35). Sacrificing to any god other than Yahweh was spiritual adultery-the act defiled Yahweh's sacred relationship with the covenant member who "prostituted" himself to the false god.
Question: To whom is the command/prohibition
Answer: To all the Israelites and all non-Israelites living among them.(1)
The phrase I shall set my face against that man in Hebrew expresses the intent to punish (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 136).
Question: How is the death penalty to be imposed and
what is the significance of the way in which it is carried out?
Answer: The violator is to be publically stoned. The whole community is to take a stand against the crime in a very personal act of justice on behalf of the murdered child.
The Deuteronomic Code (Dt 17:2-7) records that the person convicted of worshiping other gods was to be stoned after there had been a trial with at least two witnesses who observed the violation of the Law. After the person was convicted on the evidence presented, the witnesses were to cast the first stones that began the execution. This was also the procedure in other death penalty cases like blasphemy and adultery. In the case of the woman the Pharisees brought to Jesus who was accused of adultery, Jesus asked which man in the crowd, who was without sin, was willing to cast the first stone. Jesus' challenge to the crowd was not only in asking were there men who were willing to condemn the woman to death who were innocent themselves of the same sin, but which of them were the two witnesses who, under the Law, had seen the adultery take place and stood as witnesses at her trial. He knew, of course, that there had been no trial. The crowd disbursed because there were no legal witnesses and as for being innocent of the same sin-those adulterers' names may have been what Jesus wrote in the sand (Jn 8:3-11).
The crime of child murder is a crime against God Himself: for by giving a child of his to Molech he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. A central doctrine of the Law of the Covenant is that any pagan worship rendered the people, and through them, made the Sanctuary impure. God's "name" is profaned in the sense that a "name" expressed the full essence of a person or in the case of God, the essence of God Himself. Profanation of God's "name" occurred as a result of false oaths, as a result of improper sacrifice, in the neglect of the purity rites, and in the practice of idolatry. Worshiping false gods was an act of rebellion against the One True God and was the most extreme affront to God's "name." On the other hand, obedience to the Law sanctified God's name.
Question: What was the penalty if someone's family or
clan attempted to cover up the crime of child sacrifice or if the country as a
whole did not enforce the law against the violators of child murder? See Lev
Answer: If the community/nation neglects to enforce the Law or if the person's family of clan tries to hide the crime, God will hold the entire community/nation/family responsible.
The observance of the Law and the enforced obedience to the Law is both an individual and a corporate covenant responsibility. For those who cover up the crime or for the clan that fails to enforce the Law, Yahweh states: I shall outlaw them from their people- the literal phrase in Hebrew is to be "cut off" from the people (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 137; The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page 313). To be "cut off" from the covenant people is an expression that first appeared in Leviticus in chapter 7 (vs. 20-21, 25-27). The expression means more that to be excommunicated or exiled. It means the memory of the person is to be blotted out as though he never existed and his name is never to be mentioned again (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 241). Observance of the Law was an individual and a corporate responsibility; the community was to never neglect taking action against a grievous sin.
In light of God's pronouncement on the crime of child murder, we might consider what the implications are for families/nations that condone child murder through abortion.
Law #2: 6If anyone
has recourse to the spirits of the dead or to magicians, to prostitute himself
by following them, I shall set my face against him and outlaw him from his people.
This law imposes the penalty for the prohibition against the covenant people who seek out spiritualists/mediums (see Lev 19:4). Verse 27 includes the penalty for those who practice the forbidden occult "arts." The reason the penalty for participation is separated from the penalty of practice is emphasis. Repetition in Scripture is like underlining; it is a declaration of importance.
Question: What is the penalty for this offense in
participation and practice? Also see 20:27.
Answer: The penalty is excommunication/exile from the covenant people for those who seek out spiritualists/mediums, but the penalty for the spiritualist/medium/occultist is death by stoning.
Any form of communication with the dead is forbidden. The Israelites will encounter such practices among the inhabitants of Canaan. The Canaanites like the Egyptians practiced a form of ancestor worship in ritualistically furnishing their dead with food and objects in the afterlife in shrines to the dead.
Blaspheming the name of God is another stoning penalty (Lev 24:10-16). Stoning as a form of capital punishment is also mentioned in Numbers and Deuteronomy ( Num 15:32-35; Dt 13:10; 17:5; 21:21; 22:21, 24). Public executions were meant to deter serious sins that could defile the entire covenant community. The whole purpose was to restrain evil and maintain the welfare of the people.
Question: How do the first two laws address sins
Answer: In both cases (child sacrifice and seeking the advice of a medium) the person is turning to false gods and turning away from Yahweh as the only true God. Both acts are violations of the first commandment.
Please read Leviticus 20:7-21: Penalties for Offenses against
Note: as in previous chapters the word "intercourse" is in the literal Hebrew "uncover the nakedness of..."
20:7Sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am Yahweh your God.
This exhortation to holiness followed by the command to keep God's Laws begins the next section of laws and penalties that address sexual offenses against the sanctity of the family. The command to sanctify and be holy is similar to the statement commanding holiness in Leviticus 19:2 and it will be repeated in 20:26.
Law #3: 9Anyone who curses father or mother will be
put to death. Having cursed father or mother, the blood will be on that
person's own head.
The death penalty is imposed for violation of the law in 19:14 and also the Decalogue; it is a penalty the perpetrator of the crime has brought upon himself for his vile treatment of those who gave him life. Also see Deuteronomy 18:18.
Law #4: 10The man who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife will be put to death, he and the woman.
Question: How does this violation constitute a double
crime? What is the penalty?
Answer: It is a crime against the man's family and the family of the married woman with whom he committed adultery. The penalty is death for both of them (see Lev 18:20).
Law #5: 11The man who has intercourse with his
father's wife has infringed his father's sexual prerogative. Both of them will
be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
The literal Hebrew is: And a man who lies with his father's wife, it is the nakedness of his father that he has uncovered; the two shall be put to death, their blood-guilt is upon them (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page 314). This death penalty offense presupposed the complicity of the father's wife; there are other laws associated with rape. The word "bloodguilt" in association with the death penalty is repeated seven times in this chapter (Lev 20:9, 11, 12, 13, 16, 18, and 27). It means the shedding of blood that is profane as opposed to the holy shedding of sacrificial blood in Yahweh's Sanctuary. Their death is "upon them" because they are responsible for the penalty of their deaths-they knew the Law. The wording in the Hebrew text: "it is the nakedness of his father that he has uncovered," may cast light on what happened when Ham "uncovered his father's nakedness" in Genesis 9:22.
Law #6: 12The man
who has intercourse with his daughter-in-law; both of them will be put to death;
they have violated nature, their blood will be on their own heads.
See the prohibition in Leviticus 18:15. It is assumed the daughter-in-law in this case was a willing partner. The penalty is death.
Law #7: 13The man who has intercourse with a man in
the same way as with a woman: they have done a hateful thing together; they
will be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
See the prohibition in Leviticus 18:22. The penalty is death for both men.
Law #8: 14The man
who marries a woman and her mother; this is incest. They will be burnt alive,
he and they; you will not tolerate incest.
The prohibition is in Leviticus 18:17. The judgment is to be burnt alive for the crime of incest against a daughter, whether a step-daughter of a man's own daughter. This severe form of public execution is only found for this crime against the family and for the prostitution of a high priest's daughter (Lev 21:9)
Law #9: 15The man
who has intercourse with an animal will be put to death; you will kill the
animal too. 16The woman who
approaches any animal to have intercourse with it: you will kill the woman and
the animal. They will be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
See Leviticus 18:23 where the law was also directed to men and women.
Law #10: 17The man
who marries his father's or his mother's daughter: if they have intercourse
together, this is an outrage. They will be executed in public, for the man has
had intercourse with his sister; he will bear the consequences of his guilt.
Compare the penalty with the laws in Leviticus 18:9, 11 and Deuteronomy 27:22.
Law #11: 18The
man who has intercourse with a woman during her monthly periods and exposes her
nakedness: he has laid bare the source of her blood, and she has exposed the
source of her blood, and both of them will be outlawed from their people.
The penalty is excommunication/exile for a prohibition recorded in 15:24 and 18:19. They have abused God's gift of fertility and polluted the holy act of sexual intimacy with blood.
Law #12: 19You will
not have intercourse with your mother's sister or your father's sister.
Whoever does so has had intercourse with a close relation; they will bear the
consequences of their guilt. 20The
man who has intercourse with the wife of his paternal uncle has infringed his
uncle's sexual prerogative; they will bear the consequences of their guilt and
Compare with 18:6, 13-14. To die "childless" doesn't necessarily mean they will have not children but that any children born from the incestuous relationship will not be listed among the covenant people. King Jehoiachin was written down as childless, meaning no descendant was recorded among the children of Israel, even though his line continued (Jer 22:30; 1 Chr 3:17-18).
Law #13: 21The man
who marries his brother's wife: this is pollution; he has infringed his
brother's sexual prerogative; they will die childless."
Compare with 18:13-14.
Question: Who orchestrated the death of St. John the Baptist and for what reason?
See Mt 14:3-12; Mk 6:17-29; Lk 3:19-20.
Answer: Herodias, granddaughter of Herod the Great, divorced her husband-uncle Philip to marry his half-brother, her uncle Herod Antipas, who repudiated his wife to marry her. It was Herodias who orchestrated the death of St. John the Baptist because he condemned her as an adulteress.(4)
Please read Leviticus 20:22-26: Exhortation and Law #14
20:22"You will keep all my laws, all my decision, and put them into practice, so that the country where I am taking you to live will not vomit you out. 23You will not follow the laws of the nations whom I am driving out before you; they practice all these things, which is why I detested them. 24As I have already told you, you will take possession of their soil, I myself shall give you possession of it; a country flowing with milk and honey. 25Since I, Yahweh your God, have set you apart from these peoples, you for your part will make a distinction between clean animals and unclean ones and between unclean birds and clean ones, and will not make yourselves detestable with any animal or bird of reptile, which I have set apart from you as unclean. 26Be consecrated to me, for I, Yahweh, am holy, and I shall set you apart from all these peoples, for you to be mine.
The language in the exhortation and warning in verses 22-26 recalls a similar exhortation and admonition in 18:24-28.
The description of the Promised Land as a country flowing with milk and honey is a description that characterizes the Promised Land as plentiful in milk-producing domesticated herds and flocks and rich in fruit trees-trees that were abundant in Eden. The Hebrew word devash, translated here as "honey," usually refers to the nectar of fruit trees (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 139). This description of the Promised Land is repeated fourteen (seven times two) times in the Pentateuch ( Ex 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3; Num 13:27; 14:8; 16:13, 14; Dt 6:3; 11:9; 26:9, 15; 27:3; 31:20).(5)
Verses 25-26 reaffirm the major Biblical theme that God actively "separates" out His faithful remnant from the other peoples of the earth who choose not to belong to Him.
Question: What does the "separateness" of Israel have to do with the observance of the Law?
Answer: Israel's duty of live differently from the other world nations is the stated reason for the requirement to live in obedience to the sacrificial rites and the dietary, purity, and religious laws which are the subject of Leviticus.
Law #14: 27Any
man or woman of yours who is a necromancer or magician will be put to death;
they will be stoned to death; their blood will be on their own heads."'
The penalty for seeking out a medium or spiritualist was given in verse 6, but law #14 addresses the penalty of death that is to be imposed on those who actively practice the occult, thereby drawing others into their sin. Verses 6 and 27 are repeated in the Deuteronomic Code (Dt 18:14-22). To practice the occult or to seek out advice from such people is an affront to God:
Topics of prohibitions for sexual relations within families and other prohibitions in chapters 18-19 compared with the penalties for breaking the law in chapter 20:
|Prohibitions in chapters 18-19||Commands and judgments in chapter 20|
|Reject sexual immorality of Egyptians and Canaanites (18:3-4)||Reject laws and practices of other nations (20:23)|
|Keep the Law; life in the Law (18:5)||Keep God's laws (20:22)|
|No sex with close relatives (18:6)||Bear the guilt (20:19)|
|No sex with mother (18:7)||Death (20:11)|
|No sex with your father's wives (18:8)||Death for both (20:11)|
|No sex with a sister (18:9)||Public execution (20:17)|
|No sex with granddaughters; understood to include daughters (18:10)||Burnt alive (20:14)|
|No sex with half-sisters (18:11)||Public execution (20:17)|
|No sex with a father's sister (18:12)||Bear the guilt (20:19)|
|No sex with a mother's sister (18:13)||Bear the guilt (20:19)|
|No sex with an uncle's wife (18:14)||Bear the guild; die childless (20:20)|
|No sex with a daughter-in-law (18:15)||Death for both (20:12)|
|No sex with a sister-in-law (18:16)||Die childless (20:21)|
|No sex with step-daughters or step-granddaughters (18:17)||Burnt alive (20:14)|
|No sex with a living wife's sister (18:18)||Die childless (20:21)|
|No sex with a menstruating woman (18:19)||Exile (20:18)|
|Adultery forbidden (18:20)||Death (20:10)|
|Child sacrifice to Molech (18:21)||Death (20:2); family exiled if knew (20:5)|
|Homosexuality forbidden (18:22)||Death (20:13)|
|Bestiality forbidden (18:23)||Death (20:15-16)|
|If you make the country unclean it will vomit you out (18:28)||Keep my laws so that the country will not vomit you out (20:23)|
|No recourse to spirits of the dead or to magicians (19:31)||
Anyone who has recourse to spirits of the dead or
magicians to be exiled (20:6).
Death for those who practice the occult by public stoning (vs. 27)
|Be holy (19:2)||Be holy (20:7, 26)|
|Respect father and mother (19:3)||Death for cursing father and mother (20:9)|
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
Chapter 21: The Holiness Laws for the Aaronic Priesthood
...they must wear linen vestments; they must wear no wool when they serve inside the gates of the inner court and in the Temple. They must wear linen caps on their heads and linen breeches on their loins; they may not wear anything round their waists that makes them sweat. [..]. They may neither shave their heads nor let their hair grow long, but must cut their hair carefully. No priest may drink wine on the day he enters the inner court. They may not marry widows or divorced women, but only virgins of the race of Israel; they may, however, marry a widow if she is the widow of a priest. They must teach my people the difference between what is clean and what is unclean. They must be judges in law-suits; they must judge in the spirit of my judgments; they must follow my laws and ordinances at all my feasts and keep my Sabbaths holy. They may not go near a dead person in case they become unclean, except in these permissible cases, that is, for father, mother, daughter, son, brother or unmarried sister. Ezekiel 44:17-25
Chapter twenty-one lays out the part of the Holiness Code that applied directly to the priesthood. The chapter is divided into two sections of fourteen laws, beginning and divided by the statements: "Yahweh said to Moses: speak to Aaron" and ending with "Moses spoke to Aaron" (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 316-18).
Yahweh said to
'Speak to Aaron'
Pt. I: fourteen
(seven times two) laws for the priests
""Yahweh said to
'Speak to Aaron'
|Pt. II: fourteen (seven times two) laws of impediments to the priesthood (21:17b-23)||
spoke to Aaron"
Part I of the fourteen (seven times two) laws for priests/high priests: verses 1-15:b
|1. A priest may become ritually unclean for the death of a close relative||8. A priest's daughter may not be a prostitute|
|2. He is not permitted to become unclean for a relative by marriage||9. The high priest may not let his hair be disheveled nor tear his clothes|
|3. Priests may not shave their heads||10. The high priest may not enter a place where there is a corpse|
|4. Priests may not shave the edges of their beards||11. The high priest may not leave the Sanctuary or desecrate it during a service|
|5. Priests may not incise/gash their bodies||12. The high priest must marry a virgin|
|6. Priests may not marry a prostitute||13. The high priest may not marry a widow, divorcee, or prostitute but a virgin from his own people|
|7. A priest may not marry a divorcee||14. The high priest must not have children with non-covenant or non-Levite women|
|Adapted from a chart from Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, page 354|
Please read Leviticus 21:1-15: Holiness Laws for Priests
21:1Yahweh said to
Moses: 'Speak to the priests descended from Aaron and say:
Unlike the instructions of the Holiness Code that began in chapter 17, these laws are only addressed to Aaron and his descendants. The first part of this section of laws pertains to all priests but laws 9-14 are addressed specifically to the High Priest:
Law #1: 21:1b"None of them must make himself unclean by touching the corpse of one of his people, 2unless it be of one of his closest relations [except for his flesh who are close to him]-father, mother, son, daughter, brother, 3or virgin sister, since she being unmarried is still his close relation: he can make himself unclean for her
Question: How does Law #1 define the nuclear family?
Answer: Father, mother, son, daughter, brother and virgin sister.
The same provisions occur in Ezekiel 44:25. The wife of a priest is not mentioned. The JPS Commentary says it has been disputed whether or not a priest was permitted to prepare his own wife for burial or to attend her funeral. Those rabbis who believe a wife was considered to be among those relatives related by "flesh" point out that the wife is included since in marriage they have become "one flesh" (Gen 2:23-24; JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 142-43). The priest Ezekiel is told by Yahweh not to mourn the death of his wife, but this was apparently unusual since Ezekiel explained to the people that God forbid him to mourn because it was a prophetic sign for the "death" of the Jerusalem Temple (Ez 24:15-24).
Law #2: 4but for a close female relation who is married he will not make himself unclean; he would profane himself.
Question: Why is a married sister no longer
considered a "close" relation?
Answer: A married sister was no longer considered a close relation because all her loyalty was transferred to her husband and his family when she married.
Restrictions placed on priests in association with defilement through contact with the dead are also found in Ezekiel 44:25: They may not go near a dead person in case they become unclean, except in these permissible cases, that is, for father, mother, daughter, son, brother or unmarried sister.
Law #3: 5They will
not make tonsures on their heads,
This same prohibition was repeated in Ezekiel 44:20: They may neither shave their heads nor let their hair grow long, but must cut their hair carefully. The JPS Commentary records that the Hebrew wording derives from the noun meaning 'baldness/bald spot" and an adjective meaning "bald," which connotes the removal of all hair from the pate or from a section of it (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 143). Deuteronomy 14:1 forbids all Israelites to shave their heads: You are children of Yahweh your God. You must not gash yourselves or shave your foreheads for the dead. The shaving of heads was probably a Canaanite ritual in association with rites of mourning in observing the annual death of Baal, whose death was commemorated in the beginning of summer (see Dt 26:14; 1 Kng 18:28; Ez 8:14).
Law #4: shave the edges of their beards,
This is a repeat of the prohibition in 19:27.
Law #5: or gash their bodies.
This is a repeat of the prohibition in 19:28. Bloodletting was a ritual practice among the Canaanites. The prophets of Baal, in their contest with the prophet Ezekiel, gashed their bodies (1 Kng 18:28).
6They will be
consecrated to their God and will not profane the name of their God. For their
function is to offer the food burnt for Yahweh, the food of their God, and so
they must be holy.
In Scripture the sacrificial offerings to Yahweh are often called "food."
Law #6: 7They will
not marry a woman profaned by prostitution,
Prostitution was an abuse of the gift of sexuality and fertility in marriage.
Law #7: or one divorced by her husband, for the priest is
consecrated to his God.
In the Deuteronomic Code it is stipulated that a man may divorce his wife if he discovered "some matter that was sexually improper," which is understood to mean divorce on the grounds of adultery. This is probably why the two laws pertaining to a woman who is a prostitute and a divorcée are associated together.
8You will treat him
as holy, for he offers the food of your God. For you, he will be a holy
person, for I, Yahweh, who sanctify you am holy.
This verse and verse 6 provide the reason for the ritual purity requirements under which the priests must live.
Question: According to verses 6 and 8, what are two reasons for the high standards that the priest must meet as Yahweh's representatives to the people?
Law #8: 9If a
priest's daughter profanes herself by prostitution, she profanes her father and
will be burnt alive.
The Hebrew verb literally means "to perform a degrading act, to cause defilement" (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 145), which suggests not necessarily prostitution but harlotry in the form of promiscuous sexual behavior.
Question: Why is the punishment so severe?
Answer: The behavior of a priest's daughter reflects on her father's sacred office as God's representative to His people. Her scandalous behavior impacts her father's ability to effectively serve God and the people.
This was not a practice limited to the Sinai Covenant for sexually disgraced women.
Question: When in Genesis was a woman in the family
of Judah, who was believed to be guilty of becoming pregnant by being sexually
promiscuous, condemned to be burned alive?
Answer: When Tamar was believed to be pregnant by harlotry, Judah condemned her to be burned alive until he discovered that he was the father (Gen 38:24).
Law #9: 10The
priest who is pre-eminent over his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil
has been poured, and who, robed in the sacred vestments, has received
investiture, will not disorder his hair or tear his clothes;
The Hebrew translation is ha-kohen ha-gadol, "the priest-the great," and refers to the anointed High Priest.
Question: This verse identifies the status of the
High Priest as deriving from two factors that separates him from the other chief
priests. What are they?
Question: What two things is the high priest ordered
not to do in verse 10? Note: in the Hebrew text the passage can also be
translated: "shall not bare his head or tear his vestments" (JPS Commentary:
Leviticus, page 144). Also see Ez 44:20 where a similar prohibition is
See the list of the eight vestments of the High Priest in the "Charts" section.
Law #10: 11he will
not go near any corpse or make himself unclean even for his father or mother.
While the other chief priests are permitted to mourn their mothers and fathers (verse 2) the High Priest is not. A single priest may have his assigned duties in the Sanctuary replaced by another priest, but there is only one High Priest.
Law #11: 12He will not leave the holy place in such a way as to profane the sanctuary of his God; for he bears the consecration of the anointing oil of his God. I am Yahweh.
Question: What did Moses tell Aaron and his younger
sons about leaving the Sanctuary after the deaths of Moses' two elder sons? See
Answer: They were forbidden to disorder their hair or to tear their clothes (signs of mourning), nor were they to leave the Sanctuary so as not to incur death since Yahweh's anointing oil was on them and they were consecrated to His service above all other things or actions.
Leaving the Sanctuary to attend to a dead relative rendered the ordinary priest unfit for service for seven days (Num 19:11-16), but the High Priest could never purify himself to the extend so as to avoid contaminating the Holy of Holies, which he must enter once a year on the Feast of Atonement to expiate the sins of the entire community.
Law #12: 13He will
marry a woman who is still a virgin.
Great value was placed on a girl maintaining her virginity prior to marriage (Ex 22:6-17). The High Priest must marry a virtuous virgin, preferably from a priestly family, but Ezekiel 44:22 permits the High Priest to marry and virgin "from the race of Israel."
Law #13: 14He will
not marry a woman who has been widowed or divorced or profaned by prostitution,
but will marry a virgin from his own people:
The exception to this prohibition is found in Ezekiel 44:22 where marriage to a widow of a priest was permitted. The prohibition can be understood to mean he must marry a virgin from a priestly family or any virgin from the seed of Israel (Ez 44:22).
Law #14: 15He must
not make his own children profane, for I Yahweh, have sanctified him."'
If the High Priest was to marry outside the covenant people, he would profane his offspring among his kinsmen, and they would be unfit to serve as priests to the covenant people.
Part II of the fourteen (seven times two) laws that impede priestly service in the Sanctuary in 21:16-23:
|1. A priest shall not be blind||8. A priest shall not be dwarfed or have deformed legs|
|2. A priest shall not be lame||9. A priest shall not have infected eyes|
|3. A priest shall not be disfigured||10. A priest shall not have infected sores|
|4. A priest shall not be deformed||11. A priest shall not have running sores|
|5. A priest shall not have a crippled foot||12. A priest shall not have deformed or missing genitals|
|6. A priest shall not have a crippled hand or arm||13. A priest with an infirmity cannot serve at the Altar of Sacrifice in the Sanctuary|
|7. A priest shall not be hunchbacked||14. A priest with an infirmity can eat holy food but he cannot enter the Tabernacle|
|Adapted from a chart from Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, page 355|
Since the priests serve in the new Eden of the Sanctuary, they serve in the image of man as he was created without sin and defect. Even though a disfigured priest could not officiate at the altar or enter the Sanctuary Holy Place, he was not denied his priestly endowments. The same requirement for soundness was to be observed for the animals offered in sacrifice on Yahweh's altar:
Also see Lev 22:18-23.
The next series of fourteen (seven times two) laws pertain to conditions that prohibit a descendant of Aaron from serving at the altar or within the Holy Place of the Sanctuary.
Please read Leviticus 21:16-24: Laws Listing Impediments
to the Priesthood
21:16Yahweh spoke to Moses and said: 17'Speak to Aaron and say: 18"None of your descendants, for all time, may come forward to offer the food of his God if he has any infirmity, for none may come forward if he has an infirmity
Law #1: 19be he blind
Law #2: or lame
Law #3: disfigured (a limb too long or too short)
Law #4: or deformed,
Law #5: 19or with an injured foot
Law #6: or arm,
Law #7: 20or a hunchback,
Law #8: someone with rickets
Law #9: or ophthalmia (tumor in the eyes)
Law #10: or the scab (boil scar)
Law #11: or running sores (scurvy),
Law #12: or a eunuch (crushed testes).
Law #13: 21No
descendant of the priest Aaron may come forward to offer the food burnt for
Yahweh if he has any infirmity; if he has an infirmity, he will not come
forward to offer the food of his God.
The physically defective priest was prohibited from officiating at Yahweh's altar.
Law #14: 22He may
eat the food of his God, things especially holy and things holy,
23but he will not go near the curtain or
approach the altar, since he has an infirmity and must not profane my holy
things; for I, Yahweh, have sanctified them."' And Moses promulgated this to Aaron, to his sons, and to
all the Israelites.
He was still permitted the other prerogatives of the priesthood including eating holy food, but in addition to not officiating at the altar he was not permitted to serve inside the Holy Place of the Tabernacle or approach the curtain that covered the Holy of Holies. "The curtain" is mentioned seven times in Leviticus (Lev 4:6, 17; 16:2, 12, 15; 21:23; 24:3).
promulgated this [spoke] to Aaron, to his sons, and to all the Israelites.
Not only were these laws announced to the priests, but they were announced within the hearing of all the Israelites who depend on the priestly service in the Sanctuary.
Questions for group discussion:
Question: God abhorred child sacrifice (Lev 18:21; 20:2-5). It was a defilement of His gift of fertility to mankind (Gen 1:28). Pagan peoples sacrificed their children in order to influence the gods to give them economic and personal advantages. Today men and women approve of abortions for many of the same reasons-sacrificing unborn babies to the false gods of economic convenience and self-interest. The murder of innocent children was one of the reasons God expelled the Canaanites from the land. What will be the consequences for our nation if we fund abortion at the national level? What can we, as individuals, do the fight this evil?
Question: Today our politicians tell us that the Church has no business interfering with the nation's judicial judgments on social morality. Do you agree with this position? What do you think God's position is on this matter? Remember, He is the Creator and Ruler of the entire earth and kings/world leaders rule and nations exist according to His plan for humanity. Where does your allegiance lie-with the secular government or with God? God told the Old Covenant Church: For you are a people consecrated to Yahweh your God, and Yahweh has chosen you to be his own people from all the peoples on the earth (Dt 14:2). This same divine commission applies to the New Covenant people of God (1 Pt 2:9-10) who, by belonging to Christ, have gained the divine prerogatives and responsibilities which once belonged to the Old Covenant Church of Israel (1 Pt 2:4-8)?
Question: Belief in occultism and spiritualism is gaining a stronger foothold in American society and in the world, and these practices are being promoted by public figures like Oprah Winfrey. Read CCC 2115-2117. What do you think about such practices as reading one's daily horoscope in the newspaper or on-line? It this just a meaningless entertainment for Christians or is there an inherent danger to Christians engaged in such practices? Are there many different pathways to salvation as people like Ms. Winfrey believe or is there only one? See Acts 4:12 and CCC 432.
1. The death penalty for this offense includes Israelites and aliens. There are over twenty-five references to the aliens living among Israelites in Leviticus (16:29; 17:8, 10, 12, 13, 15; 18:26; 19:10, 33, 34; 20:2; 22:18; 23:22; 24:16, 22; 25:6, 35, 45, 47).
2. For example, in obedience to the Law there was no cross-breeding between horses and asses; therefore, mules had to be imported from pagan nations. Like most expensive imported items, riding a mule became a sign of prestige for the owner. The kings of Israel and their sons rode mules (2 Sam 18:9; 1 Kng 1:33, 38, 44). Solomon riding a mule into Jerusalem on his coronation day imperfectly fulfills the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah in Gen 49:11 (also prophesied in Zec 9:9), but the prophecy was perfectly fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth riding into Jerusalem a the donkey, the foal of an ass in the spring of 30 AD (Mt 21:1-9; Mk 11:1-11; Lk 19:28-38; Jn 12:12-15).
4. Herod Antipas and Herodias had no children. She had a daughter name Salome from her marriage to Herod Philip (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.5.4). It was Salome who danced for her step-father on his birthday and at her mother's urging asked for the head of John the Baptist as her reward (Mt 14:6-11).
6. At the end of Jesus' trial in Matthew 26:65, the High Priest Josephus Caiaphas tore his clothes, announced that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy and deserved to die. However, these were not the high priest's vestments that he tore but his own clothing. The vestments of the priests were not to be worn outside of the Sanctuary (Ez 44:19). According to the Mishnah, when the sentence of death is passed, the judges tear their clothing as a sign that the condemned man has been ripped out of the covenant people. Caiaphas sentenced Jesus for blaspheming God as the presiding judge at Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin. Mishnah: Sanhedrin 7:5 states if a man is condemned to death for blaspheming the name of God then the judges stand on their feet and tear their clothing, and never sew them back up (Mishnah: Sanhedrin 7:5E).
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson:
Lev 20:6, 27
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.