Leviticus 18-27: the Law and then some

Part five of Leviticus will discuss some of the laws. Not every law in this book is part of the study that I am doing here, so not all will bear mentioning. Some groupings may be summarized and others may be picked apart, which will be determined by how I see that it fitting into this study.

Chapter eighteen

This chapter discusses nakedness in many specifics. It is all the people that you are not to “uncover” their nakedness. It’s pretty much everyone you have ever lived with that isn’t your spouse. Spouse is the sole exception. I was surprised that it was detailed enough to specify your father’s wife’s daughter, bought up in your family. So no step-siblings either! There’s also a bit at the end about uncovering any woman’s nakedness during her “menstrual uncleanness”.

I was a bit bothered by the wording of this piece:

And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her.

Don’t get me wrong, I get that the deed is unclean, but it’s the way it’s worded. Like the uncleanness comes from her and not the act, or the man’s ejaculation.

This is also the location of one of the laws often cited against homosexuality.

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman, it is an abomination.

Part of what’s curious here is that even though the chapter begins with God telling Moses to tell all the people, these pieces makes it sound very specifically like he is talking to just the men. Whether that is God or Moses or the way the language worked out, I don’t know. It isn’t until they are talking about the wives that it gets to be clear this way but then it hits in the homosexual part too. “You” for lying with a male as a woman. It should be noted that it doesn’t say anything about women laying together. It discusses women laying with animals and it’s worded “neither shall any woman giver herself” and not “you”. Men are talked about in active voice and women in passive voice.

The chapter ends with a warning that these may be things they’ve seen other nations do, but they should not do them or let people who sojourn among them do these things while they are with them.

Chapter nineteen

This one begins with honoring God and moves into the ways that one can “love your neighbor as yourself”.

If only people could live by this part of it. Leviticus 19:9-18 are my favorite so far. It’s hard not to get judge-y but I just never feel like there is enough of this going around.

Later, there’s a mention of a man being sexual with a woman who is a slave and it makes the distinction that they shall not be put to death, though this is only if she is “assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom”. I suppose this implies that the woman herself consented but that distinction isn’t made. His atonement is with God and not the woman, so maybe there was consent. It’s confusing.

This chapter also contains some of the laws that are more popularly dismissed such as tattooing, wearing clothing from two cloths, shaving or removing hair from faces.

That anyone had to be told to not make their daughter’s prostitutes is disturbing, but I recognize that it’s still a problem today. I don’t get how that has ever been disputable.

We’ve also failed miserably at not doing wrong to someone who sojourns among our land. Foreigners have historically had a hard time acclimating to the US because locals (and not natives, that’s a whole different thing and we all know it) haven’t been great at this.

Chapter twenty

This chapter opens with child sacrifices to a local god but carries over into definitions of sexual immorality.

I’m not sure what the difference is between “shall be put to death” and “shall surely be put to death”. Was there a doubt before? Anyway, this has a bunch of people we aren’t supposed to sleep with and punishment for both participants in the act. The exception to this is for a man who sleeps with a woman and her mother also. Then just the man is put to death, I can only imagine that while each is responsible for her own role in each act, it is the combination of actions that damns the man.

These mostly reference back to that this act allows him to see the woman’s nakedness and assigns additional punishment, usually death in the first set and then that they will be childless and/or cutoff from their people in the second. It makes sense out of why so many people think that trouble having kids has to do with God being mad at them.

This is yet another piece that says it’s talking to everyone, but has all the actions directed toward the male half of the population. It’s all about men taking women, and never ensures that there was consent before the taking happened. The women are punished alongside the men, so I hope that this applies solely to consentual situations. But it doesn’t specify that consent is required and there are a lot of other specifications that are given. It makes it seem like it wasn’t accidentally left out, which is upsetting.

It moves from sexual immorality to a paragraph about following the rules and staying holy for God and then ends with a strange warning against mediums and necromancers.

Chapter twenty one

This chapter has some rules about marriage and conduct that is specific to the different levels of priests. It’s interesting that there is a heirarchy to the holy requirements of the priests and that this includes who they marry. It’s the first time there is a mention of virginity as a requirement for marriage and it only seems to pertain to the chief priest so far. The others can’t marry a divorced women or one that was a prostitute, but the chief among his brothers is the only one who it specificies that he must marry a virgin from among his people.

It kinda makes me notice that most of the rules on sexual immorality have more to do with family relations and marriage than virginity for now.

The final paragraph in this chapter goes on to deal with what is termed “blemish”but sounds more like what we would call handicaps today. They should not have blemishes so as to not “profane my sanctuaries” which sounds really harsh against handicapped people.

Chapter twenty two

This chapter deals excluseively with the offerings, going into who may or may not eat them as well as what may or may not be offered as a vow or freewill offering.

Chapter twenty three

Here we have the feasts that they are to celebrate. The first one mentioned is the Sabbath which says that no one shall work on that day. It is commonly argued, however, that women can never have a day without work because meals need to be prepared and children still need looking after. It is also argued that these are not “work”. I’ll say that they certainly are not leisure activities. Children do get easier to look after depending on the child and their age but it doesn’t mean that this suddenly becomes a day of rest. Similarly, the amount of possible rest also depends on the father of the children, or the men of the house, who may or may not participate in activities with children so that mother’s can rest. I’m not one to insist that no women could have rested, there is still those who did not have children, nor would I say that it’s impossible for the fathers to have done some childcare, even if they didn’t consider it care. I’m simply not familiar enough with the lifestyle to make such assumptions, but I do think they are largely assumptions.

This sentiment is repeated for the Day of Atonement, and presents the same problems. But then in the Feast of Booths, the phrasing changes slightly and it makes me wonder why. It says that “you shall do no ordinary work” vice saying “no work” before.

Chapter twenty four

Here we begin with a mention of oil for the lamps and bread for God that Aaron’s family can eat but then it segues into a story about a boy who commits blasphemy and the peope seeking specific guidance to deal with him. God has the entire congregation stone him. Yes, it sounds harsh, and it probably was, I’m not about to make excuses for it.

Then comes the old “eye for an eye” except that it goes likes this too:

If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.

There’s a study piece in my Bible that specifies that this is guidance for the judges and not an excuse for people to go about enacting their own vengeance. I feel like this could have been better conveyed but I have to agree. There’s no reason to assume that these punishments could just be doled out by any bystander or victim at this point.

Chapter twenty five

This chapter deals with the year of rest and jubilee. Interestingly, it deals quite a bit with slavery and the lengths of which people can be kept as slaves. There’s also a bit that states that Israelites should not take their neighbors as slaves, but can take those of other nations; likewise, people of other nations can take Israelites as slaves, but there are restrictions on the duration of slavery. No distinctions are made between male and female slaves though, just nationality.

Chapter twenty six

Here are some promises about what will happen when they keep the covenant and when they don’t.

This is one of those places where we come to the idea that God will abandon us when we abandon Him but He’ll come back to us when we come back to him. It makes sense but I don’t think that the manner in which its described means that any hardship in your life means that God is feeling abandoned by you. It sounded like it was to the collective and not the individual.

Chapter twenty seven

This one has a rather confusing set of “valuation”s for things that are to be God’s. Or devoted to God. Or something like that. And then adding a fifth of whatever it is if you’re going to buy it back for some reason. There are also some things that go back to the owner at the jubilee.

Other than the “valuation” being lower for females than males, there’s not much here for this study. It doesn’t say why the valuation for females is lower or give indication as to why that may be either. We have only to guess and I’m not a fan of guessing what’s on God’s mind about things, so I’ll leave it alone. There wasn’t even a good study that I found on it, but if you’ve seen one, please send it my way!

So there are my feelings and impressions on chapters 18-27 of Leviticus. Have you read it? What do you think?

Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.


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