Leviticus 18

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Leviticus 18 almost entirely decrees various laws on sexual relations, primarily as concerns illicit partners. The human author of Leviticus is evidenced herein as being Moses (Lv. 1:1; 7:37-38; 14:1-2; 27:34), and it provides covenantal “statutes and judgments and laws, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai given in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses” (Lv 26:46). Such statements oppose the Documentary Hypothesis of authorship.[1] Yet as the pagan nations were judged for disobeying the moral laws contained herein, (Lv. 18:24,27,28) and as the actions and laws of God established both the superior God and standard, (Dt. 4:7,8) the moral laws are seen as universally applying.


Leviticus as a whole is basically divided into three basic sections. The first of which is often called the Priestly Code (1-16,25 ) in which are given ordinances regarding the Aaronic priesthood and its consecration and duties, laws of sacrifices and liturgical seasons, diet, and cleanliness. The second section is usually termed The Holiness Code (18-26), which first deals with both basic moral laws such as deal with forbid idolatry and illicit sexual partners. Such laws most foundationally correctly define how to "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Lev. 19:18) In addition are various culturally applied civil and judicial laws, which are based up foundational moral principals but which usually require the particular culture of Israel at that time for their full literal obedience, though laws based upon their principals are seen to be in force today.[2]

Both Jews and Christians generally recognize the separation of law into moral, civil/judicial and ceremonial categories. Orthodox Jews in particular consider latter to be binding, where possible, and as interpreted, but the moral law is usually regarded by religious Jews as being universally applicable and the more emphasized. Typically, “Whenever Judaism entered into relations with other nations and religions, the moral laws were accentuated, and the ceremonial laws were put into the background.”[3] The most prevalent Christian position is that literal obedience to the ceremonial laws is not enjoined, though faith and works in accordance with their principal is, (1Cor. 5:7; 2Cor. 7:1), while literal obedience to basic moral laws is required, as well as to behavior in accordance to principals behind civil and judicial laws, as understood under the New Testament.

Cultural factors

Much controversy has relatively recent become manifest as regards cultural factors in interpreting Lev. 18, as concerns their scope and transcendence. Cultural factors are to be considered in examining laws, the influence of which may be observed to have has affected the institution of Levitical laws in all its categorizes, as well as laws given elsewhere. Israel was surrounded by idolatry, and for both practical and illustrative purposes their negative examples were often invoked as an example of how not to be, and of the punishment that such iniquities incurred.

While collectively all Old Testament laws established a higher standard that made Israel distinctive, and certain laws directly target specific pagan practices, the often repeated admonition to the people of God not to be like pagans is usually in the immediate context of moral laws, or violations thereof, even in the New Testament (Lv. 18:24,27,28; 20:22,23; Dt. 6:14-18; 8:19,20; 11:28; 12:31; 18:9-12; 1Ki. 14:24; 2Ki. 16:3, 2Ki. 16:3; 17:8-12; 21:2; 1Chrn. 5.25; 2Chrn. 36:14; Jer. 7:6,9; Ezek. 16:50; 23:49; Eph. 4:17-19; 1Pet. 4:3,4). The predominate laws in this moral category are against formal idolatry and sexual immorality, and include certain practices referred to in the second category of derivative culturally applied laws, such as against killing children as an offering to their false gods, or against temple prostitution.

Basic moral laws

This category deals with basic moral actions and attitudes, based upon foundation moral laws and principals, and their moral separation. (Gn. 4:8-16). Such laws are never abrogated, yet the exact penalties may be culture dependent. Though the institution of many or most of these laws may have been occasioned by contemporary pagan idolatry, the proscribed practices in this section were a direct expression of idolatry by nature, not simply a mere accompaniment, and both the practices and their prohibitions are universal, and literally applicable to all cultures. Idolatry is the worship of any false god in any culture, fathers and mothers are to be overall honored (and act honorably), murder is murder, and the injunctions against sex with an illicit partner are univeersal and transcendent from the time of their enactment. Laws against such things as child sacrifice are not simply restricted to the deity of the culture that occasioned it, but apply to any false god. A thorough examination of laws in Lev. 18 yields only v. 19 (laying with one's wife during menstruation) as the only law that might belong outside purely moral laws.

Culturally applied laws

A second category is termed judicial or civil laws, or “culturally applied laws,”[4] which are also part of moral separation. These contain moral civil laws and judicial penalties, but require the context of a certain type of culture for their literal application, and their penalties may be specifically mandated only for the theocracy of Israel. However, these are usually easily modified in accordance with their intent to be applicable today. A society may not have flat roofs where people regularly sleep and thus need fences, but they may have apartment building which require fire escapes. Or it may not need laws penalizing being gored by an ox, but it may need such for being struck by a snowmobile. In addition to such just laws by contemporary authorities, (Rm. :13-17; 1Pt. 2:13,16) obedience in accordance with the principal behind them is enjoined today (i.e., you may not need to help your brother lift up his donkey, (Dt. 3:4,5) but you should help him change his tire)

Ceremonial laws

In contrast to laws regarding such things as illicit sexual partners, are laws in the third section termed ceremonial laws, which may be seen as based upon the principle of separation. (Gn. 1:6) These laws deal with the sacrificial system, and priestly garments, the liturgical calender, or merely touching, tasting, or handling unclean things or persons and related washings. (Lv. 11-15; Col. 2:16,17,21) As a class these find their fulfillment in Christ. Literal obedience to these is not enjoined upon Christians, except as the spiritual principal behind them constrains. Christians do not need to use unleavened bread in the Lord's supper, but are exhorted to eliminate the “leaven of the Pharisees. (Lk. 12:1; 1Cor. 5:8)

More categorically controversial are certain laws which are mostly found in Lev. 19, which forbid cutting or printing marks on one's flesh, or strange haircuts (Lev. 19:26,27) Also included would be not building the temple near a grove of trees. (Dt. 16:21)

In comparison, while idolatry or murder, sex with the wrong person (first category) is unconditionally wrong in any context, regardless of motive, and using a flat roof as a living room without a fence (second category) can be seen as immoral (like driving recklessly today), yet a grove of trees near a church (third category), or how one shaves his beard, or eating pork are essentially amoral practices, only conditionally wrong as part of idolatry, even though certain things like unnecessary mutilation of one's flesh (Lv. 19:28) may be a sign of demonic influence. For Christians this aspect of ceremonial law falls into the area of "Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1Thes. 5:22) While mud on one's forehead is not a sin in itself, the practice of wearing the Hindu Tilaka would be for Christians in India. Some make the same argument regarding holidays like Halloween.[5]

Chapter 18

Laws in this chapter are prefaced with the admonition, "After the doings [H4639] of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings [H4639] of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. [H2708] " (Lv. 18:3) Also Lev 18:30: "Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, [H2708] that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs [H2708], which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God." And in Lev 20:23: "And ye shall not walk in the manners [H2708] of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them."

The word for “doings” ma‛ăśeh [H4639] here is unique to Leviticus, and refers to works, as in Ps. 106:35, and additionally Israel is forbidden to follow after pagan ordinances (chûqqâh [H2708]), these being laws or statutes, indicating both general as well as religious practices are in view, the latter being made obvious as child sacrifice to Molech (v. 21), this being contrary to foundational law prohibiting murder.

This chapter begins with “The LORD spake unto Moses”, which usually prefaces the beginning of a chapter and sometimes a subsection, as a fuller outline will show. This is not said again until Lv. 19:1. In addition, Lv. 18:24-30 closes this chapter with a uniquely repetitious series of solemn warnings, being given directly after it's list of sins, stating that these “abominations” (tô‛êbah,” the “abominable” word used more often to denote violations of immutable rather than ceremonial laws) are what caused the terminal judgment upon the inhabitants whom Israel was to conquer. Though not as extensive, such warnings or statements are also seen in such texts as Lv. 20:22,23; Dt. 9:4,5; 12:30,31; 18:12; 1Kg. 14:24; 16:3, 2Ki_17:34 Lev_18:30, Jer_10:3, but which are not directly seen after laws simply regarding unclean foods and ritual uncleanness.

  • 18:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
  • 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the LORD your God.
  • 3 After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.
  • 4 Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God.
  • 5 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.
  • 6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD.
  • 7 The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
  • 8 The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness.
  • 9 The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.
  • 10 The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness.
  • 11 The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
  • 12 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman.
  • 13 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister; for she is thy mother's near kinswoman.
  • 14 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.
  • 15 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
  • 16 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness.
  • 17 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.
  • 18 Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.
  • 19 Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.
  • 20 Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.
  • 21 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
  • 22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
  • 23 Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.
  • 24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
  • 25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.
  • 26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
  • 27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
  • 28 That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.
  • 29 For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.
  • 30 Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.

Illicit sexual unions

"None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD." (v. 6)

To "uncover the nakedness" of someone is usually a euphemism for sexual relations (Ezek. 16:8), as it is for "lay with" (as H7901 with H854) someone (Gn. 19:33,34; 26:10; Lv. 18:22; 19:10; 20:11-13,18,20; Num. 5:13,19; Ezek. 23:8), and laws forbidding illicit sexual unions make up most of this chapter, which as a class and sometimes individually find confirmation in the rest of Scripture, from the time of their enactment and sometimes before, as literal sins, including in the New Testament (Mt. 5:32; Mk. 7:21; 1Cor. 5:1,9-11; 6:9,13,18; 7:2; 10:8; 2Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1Ths. 4:3; 1Tim. 1:10; Heb. 12:16; 13:4; Jude 1:7; Rv. 21:8; 22:15).

Incest; verses 7-17

The primary type of illicit sex unions was that of incest, the prohibited degrees of which are specified from the 7th to the 17th verse. It is noted that incest was used and allowed in more ancient times, as God blessed Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) while he was married to Sarah, his half-sister. Adam Clarke comments, "i.e., his sister by his father, but by a different mother. Some suppose Sarai was the daughter of Haran, and consequently the grand-daughter of Terah: this opinion seems to be founded on Gen_11:29, where Iscah is thought to be the same with Sarai, but the supposition has not a sufficiency of probability to support it." Even if this was the case, as with Eve being “the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20), then their immediate offspring would have married each other and had offspring. In addition, in accordance with Genesis 9:1, Noah and his three sons and their wives repopulated the entire world following the great Flood,

The most warranted explanation for this allowance during the Patriarchal age was that the effects of the Fall of man (Gn. 3) were progressive, and the deleterious genetic effects which are often a result of intermarriage between close kin were not realized until much later. In addition, the great ages of the antediluvian peoples enabled a greater age difference between offspring and longer time of marriageability, thus likely reducing other possible negative aspects of such intermarriage. All of which served to greatly increase population, and to provide greater family security. However, as generations reproduced, and solar and cosmic radiation increased after the Noahic Flood (Genesis 6-9), a realization and or increase of chemical and viral mutagens, and DNA replication errors would have resulted in manifest genetic disorders. As the laws of God, who is said to need nothing (Acts 17:25), but who loves righteousness (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9) are to our benefit, then God is seen as protecting His people by enacting universal injunctions against incestuous marriages under Moses.[6](conservative est. 1500 years).

Keil and Deitzch comment,

"Sexual intercourse is called uncovering the nakedness of another (Eze_16:36; Eze_23:18). The prohibition relates to both married and unmarried intercourse, though the reference is chiefly to the former (see Lev_18:18; Lev_20:14, Lev_20:17, Lev_20:21)

Intercourse is forbidden (1) with a mother, (2) with a step-mother, (3) with a sister or half-sister, (4) with a granddaughter, the daughter of either son or daughter, (5) with the daughter of a step-mother, (6) with an aunt, the sister of either father or mother, (7) with the wife of an uncle on the father's side, (8) with a daughter-in-law, (9) with a sister-in-law, or brother's wife, (10) with a woman and her daughter, or a woman and her granddaughter, and (11) with two sisters at the same time. No special reference is made to sexual intercourse with (a) a daughter, (b) a full sister, (c) a mother-in-law; the last, however, which is mentioned in Deu_27:23 as an accursed crime, is included here in No. 10, and the second in No. 3, whilst the first, like parricide in Exo_21:15, is not expressly noticed, simply because the crime was regarded as one that never could occur."

It is also noted that "The marriage laws and customs were much more lax among the Gentiles. With the Egyptians it was lawful to marry sisters and half-sisters (Diod. Sic. i. 27), and the licentiousness of the women was very great among them (see at Gen_39:6.).

Versus 18: marriage to wife's sister

A wife to her sister - Thou shalt not marry two sisters at the same time, as Jacob did Rachel and Leah; but there is nothing in this law that rendered it illegal to marry a sister-in-law when her sister was dead; therefore the text says, Thou shalt not take her in her life time, to vex her, alluding probably to the case of the jealousies and vexations which subsisted between Leah and Rachel, and by which the family peace was so often disturbed. Some think that the text may be so understood as also to forbid polygamy.[7]

It is to be noted that Jacob did not plan to marry Rachel, but in an example of poetic justice, he was the victim of a "bait and switch" plan by cunning uncle Laban,(Gn. 29) brother to Jacob's mother, which indicates such cunning deceit ran in the family, though with Jacob it was to be weeded out.

Versus 19: sexual relations during menstruation

Sexual intercourse with a women possibly after child birth (Lev. 12:2-7) or during her period is forbidden, and the latter is specifically revealed to be a capital crime in Lv. 20:18 (if "cut off" is what is meant, versus "put to death"). In Lev. 15:34 the penalty for laying "with her at all" was only seven days separation, but that "laying" might signify simply sleeping with her, as the previous verses are only concerned with contact with a women having an issue of blood (for which no means of stoppage was indicated).

In any case, the man is held chiefly responsible, as to him this is primarily directed, and would serve to proctect the women. And consistent with other laws,(Dt. 22:23-29) the punishment here presumes consent by both parties.

Clarke comments Lv. 20:13 versus 15:34, "Moses speaks of the act when both the man and woman were acquainted with the situation: in the latter, he speaks of a case where the circumstance was not known till afterwards; at least, so it appears these two places should be understood, so as to be reconciled."[8]

The related controversial aspect of this law is whether it falls into the class of ceremonial laws, and thus is no longer binding for Christians, or whether it belongs to the same class of transcendent moral laws which precede it. In favor of it belonging to the class of ceremonial laws is the nature of the proscribed acts, as unlike other sexual laws in this chapter laws, v. 19 does not deal with forbidden sexual partners, but the condition of the wife. Besides protecting the wife, the key aspect seems to that of touching blood, and in this regard v. 19 would be akin to other ceremonial laws regarding touching something.

Leaning towards moral law is the fact that the sanctity of blood precedes the Mosiac ceremonial dietary laws, as immediately after the flood, while God sanctioned the eating of all meat (Gen 9:3; cf. 1:29), eating it with the blood not drained was strictly forbidden. This was later abundantly confirmed in Leviticus. (Lv. 3:17; 7:26; 17:10-14; 19:26) As the purpose of the law is to save life and not destroy them (cf. Mk. 3:4), such a restriction would not forbid the ingestion of pure blood is such dire circumstances. However, it is a matter of controversy whether blood (as in mainly blood or blood products) is considered a food that would place it in the area of liberty for Christians, (1Tim. 4:3-5) or whether it is forbidden due to it's inherent sanctity, perhaps with Acts 15:20 being upheld as part of the Jewish Halakha,[9] in addition to causing a possible offense to others.(1Cor. 8,10)[10]

Applying this sanctity of blood as relates to Lv. 18:19, many Christians hold that Heb. 13:4 sanctifies all benevolent sexual intercourse between man and wife (male and female), or as affirming their sexual relations in contrast to those which forbid sex in marriage[11](1Tim. 3:5) Others may disagree, seeing this as while seeing Lev. 18:19 as still applicable, sometimes out of regard for the procreative process.[Citation Needed]

Lev. 18:20: Adultery

"Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her."

This is a basic and universally immutable moral law, which is is condemned as far back as Gn. 20.

Lev. 18:21: Child sacrifice to false gods

"And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD."

While the name of the false god may be culture specific, this is clearly an immutable universal moral law, as idols represent anything a person lives for, ultimately finds their security in, or sets their chief affection on. To sacrifice one's offspring to any false god, including a lifestyle, is sin. Spiritual speaking, all Christians are called to forsake the foolish and live, (Prv. 9:6) to be dead tot he word and alive to Christ, (Gal. 2:20; 6:14) to surrender themselves entirely as living sacrifices to God, to be made more like Christ. (Rm. 12:1,2; 2Cor. 4)

As for literally sacrificing children, this was a practice by certain pagan cultures contemporary with Israel. (2Chr. 28:3; 2Ki. 16:3; Jer. 7:31; Ezek. 23:39) While in Gn. 22 Abraham was tested by God to literally sacrifice his son, his only real son of promise (and which may indicate a cultural practice then existed), that was God's prerogative, who prevented it from happening. (Abraham, for his part, reasoned that as God supernaturally enabled the birth of Issac, so He was able to raise him up again: Heb. 11:17-19.) The vow of Jephthah (Judg. 11) is controversial, not only its utterance, but whether it was most literally carried out. In any case, simple historical narratives do not necessarily confer sanction.

Lev. 18:22 and 20:13: Male homosex

For a more detailed treatment, see Homosexual misinterpretation.

(Lev 18:22) "Thou shalt not lie [shâkab] with mankind [zâkâr], as with womankind: it is abomination [tô‛êbah] ."

(Lev 20:13) "If a man ['îysh] also lie [shâkab] with mankind [zâkâr], as he lieth [mishkâb] with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination [tô‛êbah]: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

While these explicitly condemn male homosex and are presented as general commands, and given to all Israel, these commands have relatively recently become the subject of intense attack by prohomosex polemicists. While most admit that sexual moral codes are transcultural and transhistorical, attempts are made to find grammatical, categorical and cultural aspects that would disallow the injunctions which prohibited homosex.

Most of these prohomosex writers usually first assert that the Hebrew word tōʻēḇā for abomination, which describes male sex with men here, does not usually signify something inherently evil, like adultery or theft, but something which is ceremonially unclean for Jews, such as the dietary laws. (Lv. 11).[12] [13][14]Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag, rather being a universal and transcedent injunction such as the other laws against illicit partners are.

In the aforementioned attempts, many also seek to create a division between Lv. 18:20, which prohibits adultery, and the next verse, which forbids child sacrifice to Molech, which is supposed to render the next law (v. 22) as only forbidding homosex in the that type of idolatrous context.

Examining these claims first manifests that the usual initial basis for this argument is not substantiated by the original language, as the Hebrew word tōʻēḇā is actually not used in Leviticus for dietary violations, and is only used 2 or 3 times elsewhere to refer to such things as abominable for Israel, (Dt. 14:3; Jer. 16:18) while it is the word most often used denoting to grave moral abominations, including clearly universally sinful practices, (Dt. 7:25; 18:9-12 13, 2Kg. 21:2-7; 2Chr. 33:2,3; Is. 1:13; 44:19; Jer. 7:10; 32:35) which includes illicit sexual unions. (Dt. 24:2-4; 1Kg. 14:24; 2Ki. 16:3; 21:2,11; Ezek. 16:22,58; 18:10-13; 22:11; 33:26) As such, it is also used for all the sins of Lv. 18 + 20 collectively. (Lv. 18:27-30) In contrast, the word most used, and only used for ceremonial violations, is “sheqets” (Leviticus 7:21; 11:10-13,20,23,41,42; Is. 66:17; Ezek. 8:10), and then “shâqats,” from which it is derived, which is only used in Leviticus for dietary violations (Leviticus 11:11,13,43; 20:25; Dt. 7:26; Prv. 22:24).

As regards zimmâh, unlike tōʻēḇā, this word is not not often used for specific sexual sins, but is generally seen in reference to sexual "lewdness," (Jdg. 20:6; Jer.13:27, Eze. 16:43, 58; 22:9; 23:21,27,29,35,48-49; Eze. 24:13; Hos. 6:9). It often is another word to describe the vile nature of many clearly universally sins which are also categorized as tōʻēḇā, (Lv. 18:17; 19:29; Jer. 13:27; Ezek. 22:11: adultery=tōʻēḇā, incest= zimmâh ). Yet is not always used for all universal sexual sins, and the absence of zimmâh in relation to a sexual sin cannot necessarily negate the intrinsic evil of it's nature, while sins which tōʻēḇā refers to include such.

In addition, ceremonial dietary and ritual cleansing laws overall do not target pagan cultic activity. However, there practices which evidently are a direct expression of idolatry - formal or of the heart - such as sex with illicit partners, versus amoral things which merely accompany idolatry activity, such as a grove of trees in worship (Dt. 16:21). The Bible makes these categories discernible, with unlawful sex between outlawed partners or outside marriage being prohibited as a class under the N.T. (Mat. 5:32; 15:19; 19:9; Mk. 7:21; Jn. 8:41; Acts 15:20; 15:29; 21:25; Rom. 1:29; 1Co_5:1; 1Co. 6:9,13, 18; 7:2; 2Co. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1Ths. 4:3; Heb. 12:16; 13:4; 1Pet. 4:3; Rev. 9:21; 14:8, 17:2, 4; 18:3; 19:2) The prohibitions against homosex clearly fit in this category by type, while accompaniments such as simply where to worship or eat would only be contextually wrong. (1Cor. 8)

Secondly, neither the grammar nor any categorical division or cultural context warrants relegating these Levitical commands to merely being prohibitory of idolatrous temple homosex, and belonging to the class of ceremonial laws, which (they delight to point out) Christians do not typically keep.[15] Rather, the reasons why literal obedience to these is not enjoined now is the very reason why the laws against homosex are upheld, as just as the New Testament clearly defines the class of laws which were ceremonial/typological, it just as clearly upholds laws against illicit sexual partners as a class. While literal obedience to the former is not mandated under the New Covenant, sex with illicit partners and any possible mentions of homosex only find unconditional condemnation therein.

As part of extensive substantive documentation the prohibitions against homosex are immutable and universal, the most noted scholar on this subject, Robert A. H. Gagnon, provides seven reasons for their contemporary relevance of the Leviticus 18:22.

  • Part of an interconnected Old Testament witness
  • Grouped with incest, adultery, and bestiality. There is no evidence to suggest that ancient Israelite society, acting in fidelity to Yahweh, would ever have approved of any form of homosexual practice.
  • A first-tier sexual offense. Male homosexual practice is listed among first- tier sexual offenses in Lev 20:10-16, which incur a capital sentence.
  • Framed absolutely. Like the prohibitions of incest and adultery, it takes in all acts of intercourse of the type specified, not merely intentionally oppressive or coercive forms.
  • Contains the marks of moral impurity. Contrary to those who dismiss these prohibitions as antiquated ritual purity law, the prohibition bears the marks of a moral purity issue. Unlike impurity of a merely ritual sort (e.g., corpse impurity, genital discharges, scale disease), moral impurities such as the prohibitions of incest, adultery, male-male intercourse, and bestiality are not (a) contagious through physical contact and (b) rectified by ritual bathing; moreover, (c) moral impurities concern only intentional acts. They also do not involve merely an exchange of fluid (as does menstrual impurity)
  • Adopts a creation/nature model. The prohibition leads the hearer back to a foundational creation/nature model (cf. also the prohibition of bestiality as illicit "mixing" of creation boundaries)
  • Appropriated by the New Testament. The term arsenokoitai ("men who lie with a male") in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is formulated from the Septuagint translation of Lev 18:22 and 20:13, which refers to not 'lying' (koite) with a 'male' (arsen). Paul's critique of homosexual relations in Romans 1:24-27 also echoes Lev 18 and 20 by using two terms that appear in Septuagint translation of these chapters: akatharsia ("uncleanness, impurity" in Romans 1:24 and Lev 18:19; 20:21, 25) and aschemosune ("indecency, indecent exposure" in Rom 1:27 and twenty-four times in Lev 18:6-19; 20:11, 17-21). [16]

As regard the attempts to negate the universality and transcendence v. 22 by creating a divisional break from universal laws to culturally bound laws, beginning in v. 21 due to the culturally specific aspect of child sacrifice to Molech, this also cannot be established, as that law is not restricted to child sacrifice to only one specific idol, and cannot be relegated to merely being ceremonial. Rather, it is based upon foundational moral law (Gn. 9:5,6; Ex. 20:2; 34:15) and is literally applicable in principal and by modification to all cultures and times. In addition, consistently with the prohomosex hermeneutic behind their attempt, v.19 (intercourse during menstruation, which is more akin to ceremonial law) would disallow the intrinsic sinfulness of the next verse (adultery). While types of laws are sometimes grouped together, Biblical laws codes as a whole are not strict categories of laws, but types are more manifest by their nature and foundational principals.

D. Sherwin Bailey, whose primary revisionary work is looked to by succeeding prohomsoex polemicists, while yet seeking to justify homosex, himself stated, "It is hardly open to doubt that both the laws in Leviticus relate to ordinary homosexual acts between men, and not to ritual or other acts performed in the name of  religion."[17]

Another grammatical argument to relegate Lv. 18:22 and 20:13 to a unique cultic context, is one that sees a radical significance in the use of zakhar [Strong's, H2145] the Hebrew word normally translated male/males, or the lesser used word for such, zekhur [H2138]

However, extensive examination reveals that zakhar/zekhur are strictly gender specific words which are primarily used to differentiate between male and females in general, as well as those in special classes of people, and that is the only special significance it provides. These word provide a distinction between genders without signifying a difference in what the Levitical injunctions proscribe. The reason for their most prevalent use being within special classes of males is simply because that is most often the subject, from sacrificed animals to Jews returning from exile.

Some prohomosex polemicists argue that Lev. 20:13 only prohibits actual male intercourse, while also not forbidding lesbian eroticism.[18]The New Testament and Homosexuality, Palestinian Judaism Scroggs</ref>

However, as v. 22 is substantially evidenced as being based upon foundational design and decree, just as the forbiddance of bestiality is in the next verse is, in principal its application is not restricted to only male homosex but same gender sex as well. Male sex with another male represents an illicit partner, contrary to all Biblical marriages, just as Molech represents an illicit object of worship, contrary to all statements relative to such, and the respective injunctions against both are universal based upon inherent qualities which disallow the forbidden functions.

More psychological attempts seeking to make these Levitical laws motive or disposition dependent, however motive (love, hate, consensuality) does not play a part in determining the forbiddance of homosex,<Homosexuality in the Church, Richard B. Hays, Lev. 18:22; 20:13)</ref> nor whether sex outside marriage or with any unlawful partner is valid in either Testament, in contrast with sexual legislation which stipulates such, (Dt. 22:13; 24:3; Num. 35:20; Dt. 22:23-29). Neither the mention of such or lack of mention of it establishes a factor which may sanctify an otherwise illicit union (adultery, incest etc, and all fornications are unequivocally sinful: cf. Gn. 34).


Sins mentioned under Nos. 1 [mother], 2 [stepmom], 3 [sister; half sister], 8 [daughter-in-law], and 10 [with a woman and her daughter, or a woman and her granddaughter] were to be followed by the death or extermination of the criminals (Lev_20:11-12, Lev_20:14, Lev_20:17), on account of their being accursed crimes (Deu_23:1; Deu_27:20, Deu_27:22-23). On the other hand, the only threat held out in the case of the connection mentioned under Nos. 6 [with an aunt, the sister of either father or mother], 7 [wife of an uncle on the father's side], and 9 [sister-in-law, or brother's wife], was that those who committed such crimes should bear their iniquity, or die childless (Lev_20:19-21). The cases noticed under Nos. 4 [granddaughter, the daughter of either son or daughter] and 5 [daughter of a step-mother] are passed over in ch. 20, though they no doubt belonged to the crimes which were to be punished with death, and No. 11 [two sisters at the same time], for which no punishment was fixed, because the wrong had been already pointed out in Lev_18:18.[19]

Male homosex is classified as a first tier offense requiring the death penalty, which stipulates that they shall “be put to death” (20:13). It may be notable that the capital penalty term “be put to death” is used for universal immutable grave sins, (Ex. 21:15-17,29; and not for ceremonial/purity laws, except for unholy presumption, (Ex. 19:12) and for breaking the Sabbath, the gravest of such (including in principal under the New Covenant: Gal. 1:6-8), while the punishment for ritual purity offenses, such as eating while unclean, is usually to be “cut off ” (which is rarely used by itself for grave most sins).

See also


  1. The 'Documentary Source Hypothesis' http://www.ukapologetics.net/docu.htm
  2. Leviticus An Economic Commentary, by Gary North http://www.entrewave.com/freebooks/docs/a_pdfs/gnlv.pdf
  3. Ceremonies and the ceremonial law, Kaufmann Kohler
  4. Does Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 Flat-Out Condemn Homosexuality?. J. P Holding http://www.tektonics.org/lp/lev18.html
  5. Halloween Origins and Customs http://www.jeremiahproject.com/culture/halloween.html
  6. Thompson and Major, 1987, 7[2]:7)
  7. Adam Clarke
  8. Adam Clarke
  9. http://hsf.bgu.ac.il/cjt/files/electures/gloss.htm#Halakhah
  10. The Chemistry Of The Blood, M.R. DeHaan, M.D. http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/BTP/Dr_MR_DeHaan/Chemistry/05.htm
  11. Wesley
  12. Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. pp 100-01
  13. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality By Jack Bartlett Rogers, p. 72
  14. Horner, David loved Jonathan, p.73,85
  15. Townsley, Homosexuality and the Bible
  16. Gagnon, Why the disagreement over the Biblical witness on homosexual practice? http://www.westernsem.edu/files/westernsem/gagnon_autm05_0.pdf
  17. Bailey, "Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition p. 30.
  18. Wrestling with God and Men, pp. 80-93; by Steven Greenberg
  19. Keil and Deitzch