New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Lev 18:1 Yahweh said to Moses,

Lev 18:2 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘I am Yahweh your God.
Lev 18:3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived; and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you; neither shall you walk according to their statutes.
Lev 18:4 You shall do My ordinances, and you shall keep My statutes, and walk in them: I am Yahweh your God-
The Hebrew mishpat, "ordinances", has a wide range of meaning. The idea is of judgment, as if God and His Angels gave these laws as their considered judgment after considering the human condition, and Israel were to abide by them. But the word also the idea of a right or privilege; and that is how we should see God's laws. They are only felt as a burden because of human hardness of neck towards God's ways. His laws are not of themselves burdensome, but rather a privilege and blessing. The law was indeed "holy, just and good" (Rom. 7:12), designed to inculcate a holy, just and good life (Tit. 1:8), a way in which a man should "walk" in daily life (Lev. 18:4), a culture of kindness and grace to others which reflected God's grace to man. If we dwell upon the idea of "rights" carried within the word mishpat, we note that the law begins in Ex. 21:1,2 (also Dt. 15:12-18) with the rights of a slave- those considered to have no rights in the society of that day. The "rights" to be afforded by us to others are the essence of God's rightness / justice.  

Lev 18:5 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My ordinances; which if a man does, he shall live in them: I am Yahweh-
Rom. 7:10 “unto life” presumably implies that perfect keeping of the law would have resulted in a person living the life of God, the kind of life which will be lived in the eternal life (which might also be implied in Lev. 18:5 cp. Rom. 10:5; Ps. 19:7-10; Ez. 20:11; Lk. 20:28). Death for such a person would therefore be necessary because of their relation with Adam, but would in another sense be unjust, in that they had not sinned. The perfect obedience of the Lord Jesus therefore required His resurrection. His eternal life wasn’t given to Him by grace, but He was entitled to it by obedience. He had no pre-existent eternal life; He was given eternal life because of His obedience. And His life is counted to us who are “in Him” by grace. See on Rom. 7:12.

If a man does, he shall live in them- Quoted in Gal. 3:12 to prove that life with God was possible by complete obedience to the Law of Moses. The Law could not give life in practice only in that people broke it (Gal. 3:21). Paul’s point in Galatians is that eternal life therefore cannot be given on the basis of doing the Law- because we all break it. But Jesus completely kept the Law, and therefore deserved to have eternal life; but He died for us. Because of His perfect obedience to it, it wasn’t therefore possible for Him to remain dead, He had to be raised from the dead (Acts 2:24). The principle that life was possible for those who lived in perfect obedience to the Law would have driven every humble, sensitive, Godly minded person to wonder how he or she could attain to eternal life; they would’ve so wished to find a person who was completely obedient to the Law whose righteousness could as it were be counted to them. In this sense, the Law was a household servant which led people to perceive their need for Christ (Gal. 3:24).

Lev 18:6 None of you shall approach anyone who are his close relatives, to uncover their nakedness: I am Yahweh-

Who God is becomes the motive for obedience; our core desire to be like Him, rather than a legalistic, literalistic desire to keep commandments, is what will help us in practice to be like Him.

Lev 18:7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, nor the nakedness of your mother: she is your mother. You shall not uncover her nakedness.
Lev 18:8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife: it is your father’s nakedness.
Lev 18:9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father, or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home, or born abroad-

These laws teach that nakedness should only be uncovered before your wife or husband. Uncovering nakedness is an idiom for the sexual act. The allusion is to Adam and Eve having their nakedness uncovered; we have to accept the situation we are in as a result of the curse, rather than having sexual relations with who we like, as if uncovering nakedness is nothing shameful. Our hope is for the curse put on us in Eden to be lifted at Christ’s return; we can’t lift it in this life, as our own ever insistent mortality reminds us.

Lev 18:10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter, or of your daughter’s daughter, even their nakedness: for theirs is your own nakedness.
Lev 18:11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, conceived by your father, since she is your sister.
Lev 18:12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister: she is your father’s near kinswoman.
Lev 18:13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister: for she is your mother’s near kinswoman.
Lev 18:14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother, you shall not approach his wife: she is your aunt.
Lev 18:15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law: she is your son’s wife. You shall not uncover her nakedness.
Lev 18:16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife: it is your brother’s nakedness.
Lev 18:17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter. You shall not take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness: they are near kinswomen: it is wickedness.
Lev 18:18 You shall not marry your wife’s sister, to be a rival, to uncover her nakedness, while her sister is yet alive-

Jacob broke this principle by taking Rachel and Leah, and his sad family life afterwards was recorded as a testimony to how if we break God’s principles, we may remain His people as Jacob did, but we will suffer the consequences. David likewise took the wives of Saul and also Saul’s daughter- and likewise his breaking of the Law in this didn’t lead to happiness, even though he remained God’s man. There seems another connection to David in :20- for Bathsheba lived in the house next door to David’s, and his taking of his neighbour’s wife resulted in the destruction of his own family and, ultimately, his kingdom.

Lev 18:19 You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is impure by her uncleanness.
Lev 18:20 You shall not lie carnally with your neighbour’s wife, and defile yourself with her.
Lev 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to sacrifice to Molech; neither shall you profane the name of your God: I am Yahweh-

We carry God’s Name too, in that we are baptized into the Name. Our behaviour must therefore be appropriate to the Name we bear (James 2:7).

Lev 18:22 You shall not lie with a man, as with a woman. That is detestable-

God found homosexuality “detestable”; although the Law of Moses has been abrogated, His basic moral principles remain unchanged. When Christ died on the cross, God didn’t suddenly change His mind and decide upon a new morality.

Lev 18:23 You shall not lie with any animal to defile yourself with it; neither shall any woman give herself to an animal, to lie down with it: it is a perversion.
Lev 18:24 Don’t defile yourselves in any of these things; for in all these the nations which I am casting out before you were defiled.
Lev 18:25 The land was defiled; therefore I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out her inhabitants.
Lev 18:26 You therefore shall keep my statutes and my ordinances, and shall not do any of these abominations; neither the native-born, nor the stranger who lives as a foreigner among you;
Lev 18:27 (for all these abominations have the men of the land done that were before you, and the land became defiled);
Lev 18:28 that the land not vomit you out also, when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.
Lev 18:29 For whoever shall do any of these abominations, even the souls that do them shall be cut off from among their people.
Lev 18:30 Therefore you shall keep My requirements, that you do not practise any of these abominable customs, which were practised before you, and that you do not defile yourselves with them: I am Yahweh your God’.