New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

Lev 20:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

Lev 20:2 Moreover, you shall tell the children of Israel, ‘Anyone of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who live as foreigners in Israel, who gives any of his descendants to Molech; he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones.
Lev 20:3 I also will set My face against that person, and will cut him off from among his people because he has given of his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary, and to profane My holy name-
Our attitude to our children is our attitude to God’s Name. We need to ask ourselves how in our context we might be giving our children to Molech? ‘Giving’ children to Molech may not only have referred to child sacrifices but also dedicating children to the service of Molech. Our children are to be dedicated to God and nobody and nothing else.

Lev 20:4 If the people of the land all hide their eyes from that person, when he gives of his seed to Molech, and don’t put him to death-
Acting as if we didn’t notice something is a sin of omission just as bad as a sin of commission.

Lev 20:5 then I will set My face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all who play the prostitute after him, to play the prostitute with Molech, from among their people-

Israel is so often set up as the bride of God (Is. 54:5; 61:10; 62:4,5; Jer. 2:2; 3:14; Hos. 2:19,20). This is why any infidelity to God is spoken of as adultery (Mal. 2:11; Lev. 17:7; 20:5,6; Dt. 31:16; Jud. 2:17; 8:27,33; Hos. 9:1). The language of Israel 'selling themselves to do iniquity' uses the image of prostitution. This is how God feels our even temporary and fleeting acts and thoughts of unfaithfulness. This is why God is jealous for us (Ex. 20:15; 34:14; Dt. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15)- because His undivided love for us is so exclusive. He expects us to be totally His. Just as Israel were not to be like the Egyptians they were leaving, nor like the Canaanites into whose land they were going (Lev. 18:1-5; 20:23,24). We are to be a people separated unto Him.

The seriousness of sin is partly in the influence it has upon others. To give children to Molech encouraged others to sin by the example set. The power of our example upon others is far greater than we realize. Verse 14 likewise teaches that sexual perversion in one case could easily lead to wickedness being practiced amongst the whole congregation.

Lev 20:6 The person that turns to those who are mediums, and to the wizards, to play the prostitute after them, I will even set My face against that person, and will cut him off from among his people-

Being "cut off from Israel" may not mean that the person must be slain. For then the phrase "cut off from the earth" would have been used (as in Prov. 2:22 and often). The idea is that the person who ate leaven (Ex. 12:15) or was not circumcised (Gen. 17:14) was excluded from the community of God's people because they had broken or despised the covenant which made them His people. But there is no record of Israel keeping a list of 'cut off from Israel' Israelites and excluding them from keeping the feasts. So we conclude this means that God would consider such persons as cut off from His people. He would do the cutting off, and not men. In His book, they were "cut off". But there was no legal nor practical mechanism provided to Israel to manage the 'cutting off from Israel' of those who despised the covenant. The cutting off was done in God's eyes, in Heaven's record, and the Israelites were intended to continue to fellowship with such persons at the feasts. This is a strong argument for an open table, and for not seeking to make church excommunication the equivalent of this cutting off of the disobedient from the people of Israel. This explains why being "cut off from Israel" is the punishment stated for doing things which man could not see and judge- secretly breaking the Sabbath (Ex. 31:14), eating peace offerings whilst being unclean (Lev. 7:20- for how were others to know whether someone had touched the unclean, or was experiencing an unclean bodily emission), eating meat with blood still in it (Lev. 17:10,14), not adequately humbling the soul (Lev. 23:29), not keeping Passover (Num. 9:13), being presumptuous (Num. 15:30,31- only God can judge that), not washing after touching a dead body (Num. 19:13,20). This is why Lev. 20:6 makes it explicit that "I [Yahweh personally] will set My face against that person, and will cut him off from among his people". It is Yahweh who does the cutting off and not men (also 1 Sam. 2:33).

Lev 20:7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am Yahweh your God.
Lev 20:8 You shall keep My statutes, and do them. I am Yahweh who sanctifies you.
Lev 20:9 For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death: he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him’.

Lev 20:10 ’The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, even he who commits adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death-

Another man’s wife, even... his neighbour’s wife- This definition suggests that every man in the community was to be treated as one’s neighbour. Hence in the New Testament, loving our neighbour is interpreted as meaning loving all others within the community of God’s people (Gal. 5:13,14). We shouldn’t think that because someone is unknown to us or distant from us in whatever sense, that we can act differently to them than we would to the one living next door to us.

Lev 20:11 The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death: their blood shall be upon them.
Lev 20:12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have committed a perversion; their blood shall be upon them.
Lev 20:13 If a man lies with a male, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
Lev 20:14 If a man takes a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burned with fire, both he and they; that there may be no wickedness among you-
They shall be burnt with fire- This punishment appears different to that stipulated in the other legislation, where we read simply that the sinners "shall surely be put to death". However, the idea isn't that in this case of a man taking a wife and her mother, they were to be burnt to death. Rather does it mean that the corpses were to be burnt with fire. Achan likewise was stoned to death, and then his corpse burnt with fire (Josh. 7:25). The idea seems to be that the sin was so gross that there was to be a public lesson made out of it. We read of the smoke arising from the burning of Babylon and other enemies of the Lord's people (e.g. Rev. 18:9,18). The idea was that there was to be a warning to others from this; and that surely was the intention here in Lev. 20:14.

Lev 20:15 If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death; and you shall kill the animal.
Lev 20:16 If a woman approaches any animal, and lies down with it, you shall kill the woman, and the animal: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
Lev 20:17 If a man takes his sister, his father’s daughter, or his mother’s daughter, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness; it is a shameful thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people: he has uncovered his sister’s nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.
Lev 20:18 If a man lies with a woman having her monthly period, and uncovers her nakedness; he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.
Lev 20:19 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, nor of your father’s sister; for he has made naked his close relative: they shall bear their iniquity.
Lev 20:20 If a man lies with his uncle’s wife, he has uncovered his uncle’s nakedness: they shall bear their sin: they shall die childless.
Lev 20:21 If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is an impurity: he has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.

Lev 20:22 You shall therefore keep all My statutes, and all My ordinances, and do them; that the land, where I am bringing you to dwell, may not vomit you out-

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 20:23 You shall not walk in the customs of the nation, which I am casting out before you: for they did all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.
Lev 20:24 But I have said to you, You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess it, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am Yahweh your God, Who has separated you from the peoples.
Lev 20:25 You shall therefore make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves abominable by animal, or by bird, or by anything with which the ground teems, which I have separated from you as unclean for you-

You shall therefore make a distinction – The fact God had separated His people from this world (:24) was the reason for the commandments about them making a distinction between clean and unclean. There is nothing unclean of itself, the commands were given as a mechanism for teaching and reminding Israel in their daily lives of their separation from uncleanness. Those animals designated by God as “unclean” were “unclean for you”- not that they were in themselves.

Lev 20:26 You shall be holy to me; for I, Yahweh, am holy, and have set you apart from the peoples, that you should be Mine.
Lev 20:27 A man or a woman that is a medium, or is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones; their blood shall be upon them’-
AV "a familiar spirit" is misleading, and many of the modern versions give something like "witch" or [ESV, GNB] "a medium". LXX has "a divining spirit". It doesn't mean she did actually have any such spirit; but that she was considered as having this. Such people were thought to be able to be possessed by the spirit of dead people, and to therefore speak in their name. But the Bible clearly teaches that the "spirit returns to God" (Ps. 146:4; Ecc. 12:7), and that death is unconsciousness. The spirit of dead persons don't enter other people. I would go so far as to say that the record of the witch at Endor, who supposedly had a "familiar spirit", is deconstructing this belief. For Samuel himself appears, and speaks directly to Saul, and not through the "medium". The woman therefore screamed in shock when Samuel actually appeared. He was resurrected, briefly, in order to give God's final message to Saul. The people claiming to have "familiar spirits" lay on the ground and mumbled hard to understand words in a voice seeking to imitate the dead person (Is. 29:4) but Samuel appeared in person and spoke clearly to Saul, directly. We also note that Samuel appeared to Saul standing upright, because Saul bowed before him: "Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and showed respect" (1 Sam. 28:14). This was quite different to how the mediums lay on the ground and mumbled words into the dust.