February 14

Leviticus 18-19

 

The Walk with God…Sanctification      Leviticus 11-27, cont’d.

 

Leviticus 18-20 Laws concerning Standards of Behavior for the People

These laws are based upon the nature and character of God…and the relationship that the people have with the Him.  This is clearly indicated when God tells Moses to deliver the laws based on the fact that, “I am the LORD your God” (:2)…then tells them to not live according to the laws of the people in the nations that He is giving to them (18:3,24-29)…and then tells them again that they are to live according to His laws because, “I am the LORD your God” (:3).  Notice the emphasis on the word “your”.  This is reiterated in 19:1, when He says, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy."  Notice that throughout Leviticus this directive is repeated each time God’s name is referenced…

  • The name "LORD" is used 273 times in Leviticus
  • "I am the LORD" is used 49 times in Leviticus (3 times in chapter 18; 8 times in chapter 19)
  • "I am the LORD your God" is used 21 times in Leviticus (3 times in chapter 18; 7 times in chapter 19)
  • "God" is used 47 times in Leviticus

 

Leviticus 18 Laws concerning sexual relationships

Leviticus 18:1-5-The foundation for the moral and ethical behavior of the people was God and their relationship with Him.

Leviticus 18:6-21-The laws concerning sex between male and female family members.  The phrases using the word “nakedness” speak of having sexual intercourse.

Leviticus 18:22-The law concerning sex between those of the same sex.

Leviticus 18:23-The law concerning sex between men and animals.

Leviticus 18:24-30-Notice the descriptive words that are used concerning the breaking of these laws concerning sexual relationships: “defile” (:24,25,27,28,30); “punishment” (:25); “spewed out its inhabitants” (:25,28); “cut off” (:29); “abominations” (:26,27,29,30).  Obviously, sexual purity is important to the Lord and those who break these laws will be punished.

 

Leviticus 19 Laws concerning daily life

 

Leviticus 19 has been called the highest development of ethics in the Old Testament. This chapter perhaps better than any other in the Bible, explains what it meant for Israel to be a holy nation (Exod 19:6). The chapter stresses the interactive connection between responsibility to one’s fellow man and religious piety, the two dimensions of life that were never meant to be separated.

Rooker, M. F. (2000). Leviticus (Vol. 3A, p. 250). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, Logos Bible Software

 

Leviticus 19:1-2-God reemphasizes the reason for the people to live holy lives.  Since He is holy and as His people they represent Him…their lives should be holy, in keeping with His.

Leviticus 19:3a-The law concerning respect to parents.

Leviticus 19:3b-The law concerning keeping the Sabbaths.

Leviticus 19:4-The law concerning not worshipping at idols or making images of pagan gods.

Leviticus 19:5-8-The law concerning the peace offering.  Someone has suggested that the reason that it had to be eaten immediately was to show that thanksgiving to the Lord is not something that should be taken lightly, or put off.  When we realize God’s blessings on our lives we should quickly express our gratefulness and not allow time or activity to cause us to lose our intent.

Leviticus 19:9-10-The law concerning leaving some of the harvest untouched to support the poor.  This is an action that is a reflection of God’s benevolent nature.

Leviticus 19:11-18-Numerous laws concerning how they were to relate to each other.  Notice the repetition of the phrase, “I am the LORD”.  Jesus identified the last part of verse 18 as the basis for the second greatest Commandment.  We find its use in Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31,33; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.  Our relationship with God should determine our relationship with people.  This is to be the basis for the laws given here.

Leviticus 19:19-This is a difficult passage to explain as can be seen in the various suggestions that follow:

 

Verse 19 prohibits improper mixing of animals, plants, or clothing. The rationale for these commandments is not provided. The root šaʿaṭnēz is defined in Deut 22:11 as a mixture of linen and wool. Hence Archer argues that the mixing of different materials typifies a commingling of the holy and the profane. Similarly, Noordtzig maintains that since each plant or animal had its own life principle it was not to be mixed with another. Alden, on the other hand, argues that the term šaʿaṭnēz might refer to a web used in magic ceremonies. A similar prohibition is found in Deut 22:5, 9–11.

Rooker, M. F. (2000). Leviticus (Vol. 3A, p. 259). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, Logos Bible Software

 

The Law prohibited the crossbreeding of animals, the cultivation of two different crops in the same field, and the weaving of two different fabrics into a single article of clothing. Those who see a religious background to these prohibitions are in all likelihood correct. Man was to keep separate what God had created separate.

Smith, J. E. (1993). The Pentateuch (2nd ed., Le 19:1–37). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., Logos Bible Software

 

Here is an interesting explanation and application given by a Jewish Rabbi on this prohibition:

Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

174:1 Diverse species of trees are included in the prohibition of Leviticus 19:19, “Do not sow your field with different species.”  It is therefore prohibited to graft a tree of one species onto a tree of a different species, such as the branch of an apple tree onto an esrog tree or vice versa. This is the case even when the species are similar, such as the branch of an apple tree onto a crab apple tree. Since they are two different species, it is forbidden to graft them together. It is likewise forbidden for a Jew to have a non-Jew graft different trees for him.

174:2 We are not permitted to keep a tree that was grafted with a different type of tree but the fruit that grew from it is permitted. It is permitted to take a branch from a grafted tree and to transplant it elsewhere.

https://www.ou.org/torah/halacha/hashoneh-halachos/1156-grafting/

 

Leviticus 19:20-22-The law concerning a man having sex with the slave of another man.

 

A man who had sexual relations with a servant girl who had been promised to another had to be given “due punishment” (biqqoret). Jewish scholars interpreted this to mean (1) a monetary penalty or (2) corporal punishment. The death penalty was not assessed here because the woman was not free. Nonetheless, this adultery was a sin against God as well as man, for a sacrificial offering was required of the guilty man.

Smith, J. E. (1993). The Pentateuch (2nd ed., Le 19:1–37). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.

 

The punishment for adultery was death for both parties (20:10), and the same in case, of the seduction of a free virgin who was betrothed (Deut. 22:23, 24); and it was still death to the man in case the act might be presumed to have been by violence (ib. 25–27). These laws were inapplicable in their full force in the case of a slave, since she could not legally contract marriage. Still, the moral offence existed, and therefore there must be punishment. Versions and authorities vary as to whether the punishment was to be inflicted on both parties (LXX., Vulg., Syr.), on the man alone (Sam.), or on the woman alone (A. V.). The last is supported on the ground that the man’s punishment consisted in his trespass offering; but this is so entirely inadequate that this view may be dismissed. Probably both parties were punished when the acquiescence of the woman might be presumed, and the man alone in the opposite case. This would be in accordance with the analogy of Deut. 22:23–27, and would account for the indefiniteness of the Hebrew expression. See Textual note 18. The supposition that both were ordinarily to be punished also agrees best with the following plural—they shall not be put to death. In the form of sacrifice to be presented by the man, the trespass offering (comp. 5:14–6:7), the violation of the rights of property of which he had also been guilty is recognized.

Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., & Gardiner, F. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Leviticus (p. 151). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

 

Leviticus 19:23-25-The law concerning eating the fruit of newly planted trees.

 

  1. Leviticus 19:25–31 contains a series of laws which prohibit pagan worship customs. These were: (1) eating blood; (2) attempting to unveil the future by divination or sorcery; (3) clipping the sides of the head or beard; (4) self-inflicted bodily lacerations for the dead; (5) tattoos; (6) cult prostitution; (7) profaning sacred times or places by pagan impurity; and (8) consulting spirit mediums. Item number 3 above may have something to do with the pagan custom of making hair offerings to various deities.

Smith, J. E. (1993). The Pentateuch (2nd ed., Le 19:1–37). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., Logos Bible Software

 

They could not eat from the fruit trees of Canaan for 4 years after entering the Land because the fruit of the first 3 years was to be considered unclean, and the fourth year the fruit was to be offered to the Lord. Some gardeners say preventing a tree from bearing fruit in the first years, by cutting off the blossoms, makes it more productive.

MacArthur, J., Jr. (Ed.). (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed., p. 181). Nashville, TN: Word Pub., Logos Bible Software

 

Like many of God’s laws given to the Israelites, this one had a practical purpose rather than a spiritual one. The basic purpose of a tree’s fruit is to fertilize and reproduce itself. The fertilization takes place as the fruit falls to the ground under the tree and decays; the reproduction occurs as the seeds are consumed by birds—or the fruit-seed combination consumed by ground animals—and spread to other places in their droppings. If the fruit of a newly planted tree is picked and eaten the first few years, as people even today are wont to do, then the tree’s natural fertilization doesn’t occur, and though the tree may grow it is considerably weakened. This is the same as human beings who don’t have proper nourishment during their initial stages of growth and development.

Today, most horticultural advice is to not pick the fruit of a newly planted tree for the first 3–4 years, and allow the fallen fruit to remain on the ground and decay into natural fertilizer, but few people do. It was the same in the days of the Israelites. So to help them grow their newly planted fruit trees properly, God could either give them instantaneous horticultural knowledge, or give them a spiritual law based on his natural laws of fruit tree growth and development. Obviously, doing the first would have caused some problems, so in His wisdom He chose to do the second.

Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (pp. 156–157). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, Logos Bible Software

 

Leviticus 19:26-The law concerning eating meat with blood in it and practicing divination.

 

19:26b Humans have always been naturally curious about the future, wondering whether blessings or dangers possibly await them. In the pagan world of the ancient Near East many believed that insight into the future was possible through divination and sorcery. Pagans often employed divination and sorcery to try to determine what events would soon transpire. Divination and sorcery were widespread in the ancient Near East, particularly in Mesopotamia and Egypt.159 Techniques of divining include leconomancy (Gen 44:5), belomancy (Ezek 21:26; Hos 4:12), and oneironancy (1 Sam 28:6; Gen 37:5–11; 41:1–36).

Magic and divination were practiced in civilizations that had contact with Israel in biblical times (Num 23:23; 1 Sam 6:2; Isa 44:25). These practices were categorically condemned in the Old Testament (Deut 18:10; 2 Kgs 17:17; 21:6; 2 Chr 33:6; Isa 2:6; 57:3; Jer 27:9). The Israelites had access to information about future events only if God chose to reveal this information to them. Thus revelation is diametrically opposed to divination. Also while revelation necessitates divine self-disclosure, in divination the initiative is taken by the diviner. When the Israelites had no revelation from God, they were to walk by faith and seek to obey his revealed will in the law.

Rooker, M. F. (2000). Leviticus (Vol. 3A, pp. 261–262). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, Logos Bible Software

 

Lange. “These words were not a mere repetition of the law against eating blood (17:10), but a strengthening of the law. Not only were they to eat no blood, but no flesh to which any blood adhered.” Keil. Patrick, quoting from Maimonides and others, makes it very probable that this has reference to a heathen custom of eating flesh over the blood of the animal from which it had been taken as a means of communion with demons who were supposed to feast upon the blood itself.

Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., & Gardiner, F. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Leviticus (p. 151). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

 

Leviticus 19:27-The law concerning cutting hair and beards.

 

This forbids shaving around the temples and ears, leaving only a crown of hair on the top of the head, as well as mutilating the beard, which were practices of the heathen. In Jeremiah 9:26 the KJV reads: “Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” It is believed that here the expression “all that in the utmost corners,” is better translated “who clip the hair on their temples” or “who cut the corners of their hair.” This was a practice honoring the gods of the heathen, and is that which is condemned in Leviticus 19:27. See also Leviticus 21:5; Jeremiah 25:23, 49:32; and Ezekiel 5:1.

Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (p. 157). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, Logos Bible Software

 

Leviticus 19:28-The law concerning tattooing the body.  Notice that the tattooing was being done as a part of a pagan religious practice…not as a form of artistic expression.

 

This forbids shaving around the temples and ears, leaving only a crown of hair on the top of the head, as well as mutilating the beard, which were practices of the heathen. In Jeremiah 9:26 the KJV reads: “Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” It is believed that here the expression “all that in the utmost corners,” is better translated “who clip the hair on their temples” or “who cut the corners of their hair.” This was a practice honoring the gods of the heathen, and is that which is condemned in Leviticus 19:27. See also Leviticus 21:5; Jeremiah 25:23, 49:32; and Ezekiel 5:1.

Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (p. 157). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

 

Leviticus 19:29-The law against a man selling his daughter into prostitution in order to gain financial profit.

Leviticus 19:30-The law requiring keeping the Sabbath.

Leviticus 19:31-(see :26)

Leviticus 19:32-The law requiring respect for the elderly.

Leviticus 19:33-34-The law concerning respect for the alien.

Leviticus 19:35-36-The law concerning honesty in business practices.

Leviticus 19:37-A summary statement showing that the practice of these laws should be done because of the relationship of the people with the LORD.

 

Prayer:  Lord, please help me to get beyond simply keeping Your laws as a set of behavior patterns that I am to abide by and help me to realize that these laws are representative of Your nature and character.  If I am going to relate to You (come to You, worship You) it will only be in a way that is in keeping with Your nature and character.  I must conform to Your nature and character (holy), because You will not conform to me.  And Lord, I find it hard to understand why You (holy) would die for me.  I must realize again that it is Your nature and character (love, mercy) that moved You to do so.  Help me to know and understand You as You are totally...not just parts and pieces...but Your whole nature and character.  Help me to not choose those aspects that suit me, or that appear to be what I think You should be.  It seems to me...that at this point in Your revelation to Your people, the key aspect of Your nature that You are showing them is that You are "holy"...distinct and separate from the gods which the nations worshipped.  Your holiness incorporated the distinctiveness of Who You are...as opposed to the general characteristics of the many gods which the nations worshipped and basically determined for themselves.  Help me to not confuse the two...but to know You as You have revealed Yourself..."holy".

 

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