LEVITICUS 19 and 20
Some of the things I write today may shock you, offend you or cause you to examine your own lifestyle. Let me first say that my aim is to attempt to explain and interpret what the Word of God says and not to give my own opinion, which is really irrelevant and distracting. In these notes, I am attempting exegesis (to ‘draw out’) which is essentially to ask the question: ‘What did the passage mean to those is was originally written for?’; this is followed by a further question: ‘How does that original meaning apply to the present day?’. From these thoughts, it is up to the reader to draw his/her own opinion in accordance with their conscience.
The aim of today’s three chapters in Leviticus (19, 20, 21) is spelt out in 19:2 – “Be holy, because I the Lord your God, am holy”. We are to live as imitators of God (see also Ephesians 5:1). This reaches as far as our thought life: “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart.” (19:17) and demonstrates that the Old Covenant is just as deep and holy in its expectations as the New.
Social justice is held in pole position: “Leave the gleanings of your harvest and grapes for the poor and the foreigner” (19:9-10). The New Covenant church was no more passionate in its care of the poor and needy than Israel was, according to God’s expectations. Similarly, the proper administration of justice and the avoidance of favouritism in court was an absolute (neither to rich nor poor). The requirement to respect the elderly (standing up in their presence!) and to treat immigrants as equal to the native-born was another level of respect that every person was expected to demonstrate all their lives. It went without saying that fraud, dishonest business, and mistreatment of the weak were regarded by the Lord as totally unacceptable.
Dabbling in the occult and demonic, emulating the revolting and chilling idolatrous practices of the current residents of Canaan, and mutilating one’s body in any way were all outlawed. Allowing yourself to be tattooed was a particular affectation of the Canaanite demon worshipers and was a ritual that went more than ‘skin deep’! Consulting mediums and spiritists inevitably led to deception by the source of their so-called wisdom – to the throne of Death itself!
Molech was probably another name for Baal, the resident male deity of the Canaanites, the Ammonites and Phoenicians. Worshiping this demonic construct was a demanding and degrading lifestyle, costly of life and limb and dignity. As well as receiving degrading sexual services from worshipers of both sexes, Molech also demanded child sacrifices in return for prosperous harvests and increased human fertility. Ancient writings describe a huge hollow bronze statue of a man, topped with a bull’s head; fires were lit underneath it until every part of this accursed statue glowed red hot. Then their priests would place newborn babies – willingly supplied – in the open arms of the idol, where they quickly burned to death! This was the kind of people that Israel was expected to displace from the land and, when you understand the depths of cruelty and depravity that the locals had plumbed, it makes the Laws of the Lord seem more reasonable, sensible, humane, and compassionate – which they were. Never, ever, were the sons of Jacob allowed to emulate their behaviour and their lifestyles – although sadly they slowly slipped into it.
If idolatry is spiritual adultery, then the physical version was also condemned. Chapter 20 (as in Chapter 18) lists those sexual relationships outside of legitimate marriage that the Lord strongly disapproved of. These included another man’s wife, close relatives, homosexual relations, and bestiality. In the same way that idolatry was a distortion of the worship of the true God, these sexual sins described above were condemned as similar distortions of the true concept of marriage that the Lord had originally instituted. It is poor bible interpretation to simply take one passage of scripture and build an entire doctrine on it and a more complete study is needed. However, two points do stand out: 1. The sin was in the acts of unauthorised sexual relationship, not in the desires or temptations or tendencies. 2. The New Testament makes it clear that sexual sin is not the unforgivable sin, and that it is not especially worse than the generality of sins that people commit. Furthermore, there is healing, cleansing and forgiveness found in coming to Christ and in confessing to the Father. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is well worth in-depth study and sincere action. We all need washing and justifying from all manner of sinful actions, word, and thoughts; let’s not dwell on who is less holy than the next man but let us go boldly to the Throne of Grace and receive the forgiveness that we all require.