Leviticus 20:1-5, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell 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. I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given some of his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name.
And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he gives some of his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.”
Historically, we know Molech was one of the gods of the ancient Canaanites dwelling in the Promised Land. In fact, archeological digs indicated Molech was a bronzen statue depicting the body of a man with the head of a bull who’s belly was hollowed out.
According to non-Biblical references, the priests of Molech would stoke a fire in the belly so hot the outstretched arms of this deity would turn molten red. Then in order to bring about the financial blessing of this god, the Canaanites would actually sacrifice their firstborn babies by placing them into Molech’s searing arms in an act of worship. The belief was that the spirit of the baby would return in the second child with more strength and vigor. Once dead the burnt body of the child would be incinerated in the belly of Molech.
This act of child sacrifice was so barbaric and demonically motivated God specifically singles out Molech among the many Canaanite deities prohibiting His people from having anything to do with this pagan practice. God was so serious not only was the person who disobeyed Him to be stoned to death, but a failure to report such a person would result in that individual, along with their entire family, being “cut off from the people” of God.
I don’t want to spend to much time on this point, but infanticide (or the termination of a living baby who survives a botched abortion — which is the official position of every Democratic presidential candidate with the exception of Tulsi Gabbard) is an abomination to God. Furthermore, there is a warning in our passage that God will also hold the failure of His people to stand up against such a hellish act equally responsible. We can’t be silent!
Regarding the Nation of Israel we’ve already addressed the fact there was no such thing as a prison system. Instead of time being a tool to punish a perpetrator, God’s presentation of justice required appropriate recompense be made towards the victim. That said… Pertaining to matters where restitution was impossible the death penalty was enacted.
Within the Law you will encounter 15 scenarios for capital punishment — many of which are laid out in the remainder of our passage: (1) cursing a parent, (2) breaking the Sabbath, (3) blasphemy against God, (4) participating in the occult, (5) being a false prophet, (6) adultery, (7) rape, (8) incest, (9) homosexuality, (10) bestiality, (11) kidnapping, (12) idol worship, (13) sex before marriage with someone other than your fiancé, (14) bearing a false witness against someone in a capital case, and (15) premeditated manslaughter.
Leviticus 20:6-9, “And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 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.”
In God’s economy the family structure was the foundation for societal stability so much so parents would be held responsible for the actions of their children. If a child ran up a debt they could not pay, the burden was then placed onto the parents. Because of this dynamic “cursing” or trifling with one’s parents could lead to extreme consequences.
Leviticus 20:10-12, “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death. 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. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them.
Leviticus 20:13-14, “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you.”
In Hebrew society a death sentence was always carried out via stoning. This phrase “they shall be burned with fire” likely implies their bodies would not be given a proper burial after the stoning and instead their memories would be scourged from the earth with fire.
Leviticus 20:15-17, “If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them. 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 wicked thing. And they shall be cut off in the sight of their people (kicked out of the camp of Israel). He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness. He shall bear his guilt.”
Leviticus 20:18-21, “If a man lies with a woman during her sickness (this would be an unclean bleed) and uncovers her nakedness, he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from their people. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister nor of your father’s sister, for that would uncover his near of kin. They shall bear their guilt.
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. If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness. They shall be childless.”
Leviticus 20:22-25, “You shall therefore keep all My statutes and all My judgments, and perform them, that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am casting out before you (the Canaanites); for they commit all these things, and therefore I abhor them.
But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk (abundance) and honey (provision).’ I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean.”
Leviticus 20:26-27, “And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits (practicing divination), shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.’”
When it came to certain violations of God’s Law the point was not aimed at reforming the sinner, but resisting sin (specifically sexual sins) from becoming accepted in Israel. The warning was clear… While God was giving them a “land flowing with milk and honey” to “inherit” and “possess” as His people, if they allowed certain behaviors to go unchecked and normalized God says in verse 22 the land itself will “vomit you out.”
Before we move on there are two ideas that need to be mentioned… There are certain types of crimes people can’t be rehabilitated from. In fact, the data shows the recidivism rates specifically for sexual sins is astounding. In Israel the death penalty existed for four reasons: (1) punish the wrongdoer, (2) justice for the victim, (3) deter similar behaviors, and (4) protect the larger population from a predator who’d likely strike again. It’s fair to argue against capital punishment in our legal framework. Just don’t get overly moral about it!
Regarding adultery, I can’t help but think about Jesus and the way He applied this chapter to the woman who’d been caught in adultery recorded for us in John 8.
Transitioning to chapters 21 and 22 we find ourselves entering a section of Leviticus specifically dealing with the conduct and character of the priests and High Priest. As the representatives of God’s ideal for holiness, they were called to a higher standard. The priests were to live their lives as an example for what life should really look like!
What makes this such a relevant section of Scripture is that, as mentioned before, you and I have received a similar calling. In 1 Peter 2 we’re actually called “a holy and royal priesthood.” In 1 Timothy 4:12 the Apostle Paul encouraged his friend and by extension every believer to “be an example in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity.”
Leviticus 21:1-6, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘None shall defile himself for the dead among his people, except for his relatives who are nearest to him: his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, and his brother; also his virgin sister who is near to him, who has had no husband, for her he may defile himself. Otherwise he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself.
They shall not make any bald place on their heads, nor shall they shave the edges of their beards nor make any cuttings in their flesh. They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God, for they offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.”
Because contact with the dead would make a person ceremonially unclean for the day and the priests had an important job to do around the tabernacle, the first stipulation was that they were not to come into contact with a dead body — unless it was a close relative. In this case, if such an interaction was unavoidable, their grief over the dead was to be different from the pagan nations in order to avoid articulating the wrong message.
The application for you and I as a new priesthood of believers living out our faith in this lost world is that we should handle death differently than the way the world does. Paul would write in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 that we not “be ignorant concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” Adding, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”
Up front, because God didn’t create humanity to die (death entered the human condition on account of sin), we were never hardwired with the ability to deal with death. This is why when faced with death a person goes through five stages of grief before simply coping. And yet, a Christian should not view death as the world! You see the reality we serve a God who conquered death rising from the grave should change everything!
One pastor I listen to recounted an exchange he had with a friend following the tragic loss of his daughter. After the funeral the man approached him and said, “I’m so sorry you lost your daughter.” His reply, “Lost? I didn’t loose her. I know exactly where she is!”
Leviticus 21:7-8, “The priest shall not take a wife who is a harlot (fornicator or whore) or a defiled woman (a pierced or wounded woman), nor shall they take a woman divorced from her husband (driven away with just cause — sexual sin); for the priest is holy to his God. Therefore you shall consecrate him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I the Lord, who sanctify you, am holy.”
The next stipulation for the priests involved the kind of woman he decided to marry. God is clear we should avoid marrying someone who doesn’t share our moral convictions. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul would advise believers not to be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” Single person, I cannot stress enough the wisdom in these words. Ladies, avoid players. And men, avoid hoes. Furthermore, only Jesus can change someone!
Leviticus 21:9-8, “The daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, she profanes her father. She shall be burned with fire.”
Back in Leviticus 19:29 God said to all of the fathers in Israel, “Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry, and the land become full of wickedness.” In my commentary on this verse last Sunday I noted how God was calling upon fathers to hold their daughters to a holy standard of modesty not only to protect her but so that the larger societal framework wouldn’t fall into decadence.
In this situation and in the context she’s behaving against the wishes and influence of her dad, this daughter is acting purely on her own volition. Because of the effect this had on her father’s reputation and the societal rot she’s contributing to, the woman was to be stoned to death and her body “burned with fire” so that her memory would be no more.
Here’s the application… Because a child’s behavior is a reflection on their parents reputation and in some instances it’s a poor and unfair refection, it becomes incumbent on a parent to deal decisively with their wayward child. A parent can’t control their adult children, but the acceptance of ungodliness and the enablement of behavior is on them!
Leviticus 21:10-12, “He who is the high priest among his brethren (God takes the stipulations for the priests and now applies them to the High Priest), on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments (he’s on duty), shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes (the context is dealing with death); nor shall he go near any dead body, nor defile himself for his father or his mother; nor shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the Lord.”
In a practical sense a concession was made for the normal priest regarding the death of a close family member because there were other priests on the clock who could pick up the slack. Because there was only one High Priest this concession could not be made. A perfect example of this we find back in Leviticus 10 with the death of Aaron’s two sons.
In way of application concerning the larger typology, keep in mind there is only one High Priest and His name is Jesus… Leviticus 21:13-15, “And the high priest shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow or a divorced woman or a defiled woman or a harlot — these he shall not marry; but he shall take a virgin of his own people as wife. Nor shall he profane his posterity among his people, for I the Lord sanctify him.’”
As the High Priest there was only one bride Jesus could marry — a virgin bride! In writing to the Corinthian church Paul says (2 Corinthians 11:2), “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Friend, it’s amazing Jesus sees US as a pure and spotless bride!
For the sake of time I want to skip over the remaining portion of chapter 21 so that we can return to these verses at the end of our time together… Leviticus 22:1-6, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they do not profane My holy name by what they dedicate to Me: I am the Lord.
Say to them: ‘Whoever of all your descendants throughout your generations, who goes near the holy things which the children of Israel dedicate to the Lord, while he has uncleanness upon him, that person shall be cut off from My presence: I am the Lord. Whatever man of the descendants of Aaron, who is a leper or has a discharge, shall not eat the holy offerings until he is clean.
And whoever touches anything made unclean by a corpse, or a man who has had an emission of semen, or whoever touches any creeping thing by which he would be made unclean, or any person by whom he would become unclean, whatever his uncleanness may be the person who has touched any such thing shall be unclean until evening, and shall not eat the holy offerings unless he washes his body with water.”
Leviticus 22:7-9, “And when the sun goes down he shall be clean; and afterward he may eat the holy offerings, because it is his food. Whatever dies naturally or is torn by beasts he shall not eat, to defile himself with it: I am the Lord. They shall therefore keep My ordinance, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby, if they profane it: I the Lord sanctify them.” The idea being articulated by God in these verses is that you can’t preach one thing and do another. The priests were not entitled to a different set of rules.
Because the priests practically lived off the various offerings which were considered holy, there were obvious restrictions as to who could share in these things… Leviticus 22:10-13, “No outsider shall eat the holy offering (non-Levite); one who dwells with the priest, or a hired servant, shall not eat the holy thing. But if the priest buys a person with his money, he may eat it (the word “buys” implies the person was redeemed); and one who is born in his house may eat his food. If the priest’s daughter is married to an outsider (not a Levite), she may not eat of the holy offerings. But if the priest’s daughter is a widow or divorced, and has no child (heir), and has returned to her father’s house as in her youth, she may eat her father’s food; but no outsider shall eat it.”
Leviticus 22:14-16, “And if a man eats the holy offering unintentionally (accident), then he shall restore a holy offering to the priest, and add one-fifth to it (20%). They shall not profane the holy offerings of the children of Israel, which they offer to the Lord, or allow them to bear the guilt of trespass when they eat their holy offerings; for I the Lord sanctify them.’” Interestingly enough, these verses are clear that even a violation of God’s Law committed in ignorance still carried with it a severe consequence.
Leviticus 22:17-19, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, and to all the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘Whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, who offers his sacrifice for any of his vows or for any of his freewill offerings, which they offer to the Lord as a burnt offering — (stipulations concerning the offerings) you shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from the cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats (picture of Jesus).”
Leviticus 22:20-21, “Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf. And whoever offers a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord, to fulfill his vow, or a freewill offering from the cattle or the sheep, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. (Examples of these defects…)
Leviticus 22:22-25, “Those that are blind or broken or maimed, or have an ulcer or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the Lord, nor make an offering by fire of them on the altar to the Lord. Either a bull or a lamb that has any limb too long or too short you may offer as a freewill offering, but for a vow it shall not be accepted.
You shall not offer to the Lord what is bruised or crushed, or torn or cut; nor shall you make any offering of them in your land. Nor from a foreigner’s hand shall you offer any of these as the bread of your God, because their corruption is in them, and defects are in them. They shall not be accepted on your behalf.’”
The purpose for these details are really twofold: (1) Because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, it was paramount the type be maintained. (2) In requiring your best God was insuring the attitude of the offerer was correct. You know you can always tell when a person is serving Jesus at church out of a response to His grace or when that person is serving out of obligation or a sense of duty… If it’s grace, the job is done in excellence and joy. If they’re motivated by obligation or duty, the job is done haphazardly and begrudgingly.
Leviticus 22:26-33, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘When a bull or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall be seven days with its mother; and from the eighth day and thereafter it shall be accepted as an offering made by fire to the Lord. Whether it is a cow or ewe, do not kill both her and her young on the same day. And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it of your own free will. On the same day it shall be eaten; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the Lord.
Therefore you shall keep My commandments, and perform them: I am the Lord. You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord.”
This section closes with God giving three reasons they were to obey Him: (1) “I am the Lord” — if He’s your Lord obedience is natural. (2) “Who sanctifies you” or literally is the one hallowing you — making you holy! (3) “Who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” The entire motivation for their obedience was to be the work God had already accomplished on their behalf. The reason grace works is that it motivates a man like nothing else can.
In closing I want us to return to the section of chapter 21 we skipped… Leviticus 21:16-20, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron, saying: ‘No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God. For any man who has a defect shall not approach (we’re now going to be provided a list of physical defects that would exclude you from serving in the tabernacle): a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long, a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch (a man with broken stones).
Leviticus 21:21-24, “No man of the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, shall come near to offer the offerings made by fire to the Lord. He has a defect; he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. He may eat the bread of his God, both the most holy and the holy; only he shall not go near the veil or approach the altar, because he has a defect, lest he profane My sanctuaries; for I the Lord sanctify them.’ And Moses told it to Aaron and his sons, and to all the children of Israel.”
It’s been said, “Everything physical in the Old Testament illustrates a spiritual truth laid out in the New Testament.” This passage is a perfect example. The person being described here is a Levite (part of the family of God), they’re a “descendant of Aaron” meaning they’re a member of the priesthood, they’re even allowed to “eat the bread of God” which was “holy” and reserved for only the priests — And yet, because of these specific “defects” or more accurately translated “blemishes” they’re not able to effectively serve as a priest.
In viewing these chapters through the lens of you and I also being apart of the priesthood, the allegory presented in this section of Scripture lays out certain characteristics that will inevitably restrict us from being used by the Lord in our priestly capacity.
“Blindness…” Spiritual blindness always manifests from Scriptural ignorance. In fact, the Psalmist declares, “God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.” People who aren’t in the Word of God blind themselves to God’s will restricting their usefulness.
“Lameness…” Sadly, there are Christians saved by grace, but stuck in the same place. There is no motion to their spirituals lives. They don’t go to church, give, serve, or really any of the basics of Christian life. As a result they find themselves restricted in their usefulness.
There are those who have a “marred face…” In the Hebrew this word described a person who’s face was completely destroyed. It’s a tragic thing, but some Christians are limited in their usefulness because you look at their lives and really can’t make out who they are.
There are those who have a “limb too long” or literally they are deformed by an excess of members — two many toes or fingers. The fact is some Christians are not useful to the Lord because of all the extra stuff in their life that doesn’t matter. They’re stretched out!
Those with a “broken foot…” The description here is a person who walks with a limp. You know it’s hard to run a race with a broken foot. Because of the hitch in this man’s giddy-up his walk tends to start and stop limiting his overall usefulness as a priest. No endurance.
Then there’s the man with a “broken hand…” He has a weakness that limits his usefulness. He has no grip on the Word of God and therefore has no grasp on spiritual truths. He’s not useful because he doesn’t have a handle when it comes to the difficult things of life.
The “hunchback” is also not useful to the Lord because he’s always bent over burdened by the cares of this life and weight of sin. As a result his eyes are aways downward consumed with himself. Not surprisingly, God has a difficult time utilizing a person self-absorbed.
A similar difficulty arises with a “dwarf…” Aside from being small in stature, this word was also used to describe someone thin and gaunt. Spiritually speaking, this speaks of a Christian who’s growth has been stunted. A lack of maturity limits their usefulness.
Also excluded would be someone with a “defect in his eye…” In the Hebrew this was someone with an irritant in the eye that prohibited focus and led to confusion. Understand, a lack of clarity on God’s mission and purpose for your life will foster uselessness.
A man with “eczema” was disqualified. This describes the Christian who always has an itch that needs to be scratched. This person is never satisfied, never content, never still, wishy washy. Fundamentally, there is a restlessness that prohibits their usefulness to the Lord.
In a related way there are those with a “scab…” This is a person who is still harboring wounds that continue to fester. They are constantly picking on old hurts never allowing themselves to fully experience the healing Jesus wants to desperately provide.
Lastly, a “eunuch” was restricted in their usefulness. You see a eunuch was someone who lacked stones. They don’t possess the tenacity, inner will, or drive needed. Aside from this, they also can’t reproduce. It’s been said, “Healthy sheep reproduce.” When a Christian lacks zero ambition to share their faith they’re useless to God’s mission in this world.
The thing that’s really astonishing about this list is Jesus is more than able to heal you of any of these blemishes and in turn make you useful to Him. And you know how? He became all of these things! Jesus was blinded as the Roman soldiers taunted him. He was lame as he was carried from the cross to the tomb. His face was so marred He no longer looked like a man. Once more His reputation sullied by those who falsely accused Him.
Jesus was stretched out on the cross and a crown of thorns added to His brow. Rusty nails were driven through His hands and feet. On the cross Jesus was hunched over bearing the weight of our sin, guilt, and shame. His stature dwarfed as the crowd taunted Him.
Jesus’ eyes were swollen from the beating and His gaze into heaven limited as He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!” Jesus experienced the itch of the soul tarnished by sin when He thirsted. Wounds festered upon His back from the scourging further irritated by the wooden beam. Jesus died without children or a legacy of His own.
Or so people thought! You see, amazingly Jesus would not remain in such a blemished state for He would rise victorious three days later conquering sin, hell, and the grave!
It’s a truth you might have some blemish that hinders your usefulness to the Lord, but it doesn’t have to remain that way. For Jesus came that the blind might see and the lame walk. While the world will leave you nearly unrecognizable, Jesus came to give you a new identity. Sin may have left you deformed, but He came that you might be whole. Jesus takes broken feet and enables them to run — weak hands He’ll provide divine strength.
The hunchback weighed down by sin Jesus can liberate from that burden. The dwarf He’ll give the Bread of Life and a stature in heaven. The confusion of life in sin He can replace with a clarity of vision and purpose. For the restlessness soul He can provide rest and satisfaction. Jesus came to heal the wounded. He came that you might become a son or daughter of the Most High! You see Jesus took all of your blemishes upon Himself when He went to the cross specifically in order to free you from them. Will you let Him?
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