Leviticus 20

Chapter 20[a]

Consequences of Forbidden Behavior. 1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say again to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever among you sacrifices his child to Molech, whether he be of the children of Israel or of the aliens dwelling in your land, must be put to death. The people of the land will stone him.[b] 3 I will set my face against that man, and cut him off from among his people, for he has sacrificed his child to Molech, defiling my sanctuary and profaning my holy name. 4 If the people of the land ignore the fact that a man has sacrificed his child to Molech, and they do not kill him, 5 then I will set my face against that man and against his people, and I will cut him off, and I will cut off from their people all who go whoring after him, all those who whore after Molech.

6 “ ‘I will turn my face against that person who consults mediums and wizards, and I will cut him off from among his people. 7 Consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am the Lord, your God. 8 You shall observe my statutes and obey them. I am the Lord who consecrates you.

9 “ ‘Everyone who curses his father or his mother must be put to death. He who curses his father or his mother[c] is guilty of his blood. 10 When a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. 11 The man who sleeps with his father’s wife has uncovered the nakedness of his father. They must be put to death; their blood is upon their own heads. 12 If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be put to death. They have done something perverse and their blood is upon their own heads. 13 If a man has sex with another man, like one would have sex with a woman, both of them must be put to death. Their blood is upon their own heads. 14 It is lewd for a man to marry a woman and her mother. Both he and they are to be burned with fire so that there might not be any lewdness among you. 15 If a man has sex with an animal, he must die. You shall also slay the animal. 16 If a woman approaches an animal to have sex with it, you shall kill both the woman and the animal. They must be put to death, for their blood is upon their own heads. 17 If a man marries his sister, his father’s daughter or his mother’s daughter, and he sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is shameful. They shall be cut off from their people, for he uncovered his sister’s nakedness and he shall bear his guilt.[d]

18 “ ‘If a man has sex with a woman during her menstrual time, they shall have uncovered her flow of blood, and they shall both be cut off from among their people. 19 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister or your father’s sister, for someone who uncovers a close relation shall bear his guilt. 20 A man shall not have sex with his uncle’s wife, for he shall have laid bare his uncle’s nakedness. They shall bear their guilt and die childless. 21 It is unclean for a man to marry his brother’s wife for he shall have uncovered his brother’s nakedness. They shall be childless.

22 “ ‘You shall therefore observe all of my statutes and ordinances and obey them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to dwell in will not vomit you out. 23 You shall not follow the ways of the nations that I cast out before you for having done all these things that I abhorred. 24 But I have said to you, “You will inherit their land. I will give it to you to be your own, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord, your God, who chose you from among all people.” 25 You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, so that you shall not make yourselves detestable by any animal or bird or anything that creeps on the ground that I indicated as being unclean. 26 You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, am holy. I have chosen you from among all people that you shall be mine.

27 “ ‘A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard must be put to death. You will stone them with stones, for their blood is upon their heads.’ ”

Footnotes

  1. Leviticus 20:1 Those who disobeyed the prohibitions mandated by the law (many of these are listed in chapter 18) were severely punished: either condemned to death or expelled from the community. The severity is explained by the ways of that time; it shows how deeply rooted in the cultural environment of that period was the demand that drove Israel to protect itself from the pagan customs with which it was in constant contact: the holy God wanted his chosen people to be holy. Despite the conclusion (vv. 22-24), this legislation supposes that the Hebrews were already settled in the land of Canaan.
  2. Leviticus 20:2 Such pagan practices as sacrificing children to Molech had found their way into Israel (2 Ki 16:3).
  3. Leviticus 20:9 Curses his father or his mother: a death penalty for cursing a parent seems extreme, even under Levitical law. It is probable that this would be intended for serious and repeated offenses as described in Deut 21:20-21.
  4. Leviticus 20:17 This is the only instance of public punishment.

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