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Leviticus 19-21 Listen
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.
3 Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.
4 Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God.
5 And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will.
6 It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be burnt in the fire.
7 And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is abominable; it shall not be accepted.
8 Therefore every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the hallowed thing of the LORD: and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
9 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.
10 And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.
11 Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.
12 And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
13 Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.
14 Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.
15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.
16 Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.
17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
19 Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.
20 And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.
21 And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering.
22 And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.
23 And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.
24 But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the LORD withal.
25 And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the LORD your God.
26 Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.
27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
29 Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.
30 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
31 Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
32 Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.
33 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
35 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.
36 Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.
37 Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the LORD.
Many Believers simply do not understand the magnitude of what it means to keep the Law of Moses. They think that simply keeping the Ten Commandments is sufficient to meet the requirements. Ironically, however, virtually all who hold that belief keep only 9 of the 10 of the Ten Commandments, declining to observe the Sabbath (commandment #4). Click here to read more about keeping the sabbath day. The New Testament scriptures are very clear; the New Testament Believer IS NOT BOUND by the Law of Moses; it was clearly given to the Jews and NOT Gentile Believers, a point clearly asserted at the conclusion of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 (see notes). This chapter of Leviticus is oozing with additional requirements for the Jews.
Take a look at the string of laws found in chapter 19 alone which are equally as binding:
Notice how exhaustive the Law of Moses is. It is way more than just a handful of universally accepted laws of righteousness. Orthodox Jews today typically count 613 commandments - not just the Ten Commandments most people are accustomed to seeing. However, I should point out that many of the commandments given here would receive resounding cheers among Believers today. Read the list in Leviticus 19 and pick out some that you would fully embrace. But why not all of them?
An important mission of mine as I comment on the Old Testament is to help New Testament Believers acquire a perspective on the mandates God gave the Hebrews. This perspective seems to be lacking with many Christians today. On the one hand, they believe that they are responsible to embrace and practice God's commands in the Old Testament as evidence of their love for God, but on the other hand, they will dismiss most of the mandates of chapters like Leviticus 19 as being irrelevant today. Here's the problem: How do you decide, while picking through the mandates of Old Testament law, which are relevant and which are irrelevant? Most would agree that Leviticus 19 addresses some particular cultural problems that faced the Hebrews then, which, for the most part, don't exist today. However, mixed in with these laws are some ever-enduring principles that seem culturally independent. So what's the answer?
I generally start at the same point in this discussion, the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 (see notes) and Deuteronomy 5 (see notes). Virtually all Christians who lack a perspective on the Mosaic Law agree that today's Christians are at least responsible for keeping the Ten Commandments. Therefore, this provides a nice starting place for our discussion. However, immediately Commandment number 4 begins to cause problems for today's Believers. Let's look at both passages regarding this commandment:
Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Exodus 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
Exodus 20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
Exodus 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Deuteronomy 5:12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.
Deuteronomy 5:13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:
Deuteronomy 5:14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.
Deuteronomy 5:15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
Whoa! Look at how many verses are devoted to just one of the Ten Commandments! As a matter of fact, there are over three dozen references to sabbath observance in just the first 5 books of the Bible.
So, to what extent did God command Israel to enforce this particular commandment regarding the sacred nature of Saturday? Just look at Numbers 15:32-36 (see notes). A man was observed gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. They caught him and locked him up pending God's counsel on what to do with the man. God gave them specific instructions to stone him to death. So here's my question: If you believe that Christians today are responsible for keeping the Ten Commandments as God gave them, why have you spent your whole life disregarding Commandment #4, a commandment taken so seriously in Israel as to result in one's execution?
The Mosaic Law constituted the government of the Nation of Israel. It was neither intended to provide a way to salvation, nor a way of staying righteous after salvation.
Many preachers today feel they need a hammer like the Ten Commandments to keep folks from evil. But contrariwise, it's just really important that Believers understand the grace bestowed upon New Testament Christians. Romans 8:2 (see notes) says that our law is written in our hearts today because God dwells in saved people (I Corinthians 3:16-17, see notes; I Corinthians 6:19-20, see notes), not buildings like in the Old Testament. Because we have the Holy Spirit inside, James 4:17 (see notes) becomes our benchmark for sin, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." In other words, WE ARE NOT MADE OR KEPT RIGHTEOUS BY KEEPING ANY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT COMMANDMENTS. We are made righteous before God by our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. We abstain from sin by responding to the Holy Spirit's leadership in our lives, not by complying with external commandments. Jesus himself told us in Matthew 5:17-18 (see notes) that he had come to "fulfill the law." Paul completely developed this concept and specifically mentions the implications of Christ's death on the cross when he tells us in II Corinthians 3:7,11 (see notes) that, with regard to Believers, the law has been "done away." The Greek word there is a present passive participle that literally means it was being made of no effect. Colossians 2:14 (see notes) says, "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;"
The secret of success in the Christian walk is not the Ten Commandments; it's the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.
Maybe you're still not convinced. Consider this: Gentiles were not required to keep the Law of Moses as far back as Acts 15 (see notes) as stated in a decree from the Council of Jerusalem. When Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem to defend their teaching that Gentile Believers are not obligated to the Law of Moses (including the Ten Commandments), the church at Jerusalem issued a decree at the end of their meeting. To summarize, here's what the decree from the Apostles in the early church stated: GENTILE BELIEVERS DO NOT NEED TO OBSERVE THE LAW OF MOSES. I don't make the news; I just report it. How can something stated so clearly still be so widely misunderstood by Believers who attend church every week? I suspect that somebody is not studying scripture in context.
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.
3 And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.
4 And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not:
5 Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people.
6 And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.
7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.
8 And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you.
9 For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.
10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
11 And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
12 And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.
13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
14 And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.
15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.
16 And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
17 And if a man shall take his sister, his father’s daughter, or his mother’s daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister’s nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.
18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.
19 And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister, nor of thy father’s sister: for he uncovereth his near kin: they shall bear their iniquity.
20 And if a man shall lie with his uncle’s wife, he hath uncovered his uncle’s nakedness: they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.
21 And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.
22 Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.
23 And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.
24 But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.
25 Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean.
26 And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.
27 A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.
Chapter 20 is much like what we saw in Leviticus 18 (see notes). However, the punishments for violations were not specified in chapter 18 for most of these offenses. In this chapter, they are.
Notice these provisions of the Law of Moses found in chapter 20:
It is not clear exactly what "cut off" means in verses 17-18. Sometimes the context of other passages using this term in the Old Testament demonstrates that it means execution, but other occurrences would seem to indicate exile from the nation.
God identifies these pagan practices as reasons why he destroyed or would destroy heathen nations who were heavily involved in these practices of sexual atrocities and human sacrifice (Molech). Molech gets the first 5 verses of this chapter. It is worth noting that Solomon allowed the worship of pagan gods to creep back into the life of Israel. As a matter of fact, Solomon even built an altar to this god (Molech) for one or more of his pagan-worshipping wives. I Kings 11:6 (see notes) sums it up when it says, "And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father." The road to the split of Israel into two kingdoms was paved by the disobedience of Solomon inasmuch as he facilitated the worship of false gods in Israel. Associated with this are witchcraft ("familiar spirits") and "wizards" in verse 6. Israel was to have nothing to do with these.
Notice verse 9, "For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him." Whoa! That certainly seems harsh! Respect for one's elders was a foundational principle among God's people. As a matter of fact, remember commandment #5 in Exodus 20:12 (see notes), "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee."
Verses 10-21 repeat the sexual taboos of Leviticus 18:6-23 (see notes). Note that God judged against these nations for this abhorrent conduct even though they had not been given the Law of Moses. Some things are just contrary to natural practices...period! Because of this disregard by the nations living within Canaan, God states that he will cast those people out of their land and receive Israel in their place: Leviticus 20:23, "And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them." The same promises are found in Leviticus 18 (see notes). In both listings of abhorrent sexual conduct we find incest, adultery, homosexuality and bestiality. As a matter of fact, Moses repeats this assertion 38+ years later regarding why these Canaanites must be displaced in Deuteronomy 9:4 (see notes), "Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee."
Question: Since God obliterated nations who tolerated abhorrent sexual practices in the past, might he still do so today?
It is also worth noting the provisions of verse 27, "A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them." Sorcery was absolutely forbidden as completely incompatible with God's Law. And...if you're wondering, it gets thumbs down in the New Testament as well in Galatians 5:20 (see notes).
1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them, There shall none be defiled for the dead among his people:
2 But for his kin, that is near unto him, that is, for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother,
3 And for his sister a virgin, that is nigh unto him, which hath had no husband; for her may he be defiled.
4 But he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself.
5 They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.
6 They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy.
7 They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God.
8 Thou shalt sanctify him therefore; for he offereth the bread of thy God: he shall be holy unto thee: for I the LORD, which sanctify you, am holy.
9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.
10 And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes;
11 Neither shall he go in to any dead body, nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother;
12 Neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the crown of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the LORD.
13 And he shall take a wife in her virginity.
14 A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.
15 Neither shall he profane his seed among his people: for I the LORD do sanctify him.
16 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
17 Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.
18 For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous,
19 Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded,
20 Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken;
21 No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.
22 He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy.
23 Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them.
24 And Moses told it unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel.
This chapter contains some special laws for priests. Contact with the dead was limited, as seen in verses 1-4 and 11. There were also certain grooming rules by which they had to abide (verses 5-6). Notice that they had some restrictions on them with regard to whom they could marry that regular ol' Hebrew men didn't have (verse 7). The standard of marriage for the high priest was even more stringent (verse 13) - a virgin who was a naturally-born Hebrew. And the priests' daughters were held to a higher standard also (verse 9), or they faced a horrible execution by fire. Certain physical characteristics prevented a man from becoming a priest (verses 17-24). Those described here could support the tabernacle as Levites, but not as actual priests. The actual priests were from the descendants of Aaron only, a very small subset of the Levites who would become those responsible for the implementation of Israel's religious life in Numbers 3 (see notes).
Pay particular attention to Leviticus 21:10, "And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes;" Also, notice the specific instructions given to Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar after the untimely deaths of their immediate family members in Leviticus 10:6 (see notes), "And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled."
Now, move forward 1,500 years and look at the actions of the High Priest on the day that Jesus was crucified in Matthew 26:65 (see notes), "Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy." It certainly seems plausible that God probably brought on that outburst by the High Priest that day to formally mark the end of the Aaronic Priesthood. From that day forward Jesus Christ would represent the righteousness of God through the priesthood of Melchizedek. For more on Melchizedek, see the box to the right of this screen.