Don’t do what Egyptians did
- 1 The LORD told Moses:
- 2 Tell this to the Israelite people:
I am the LORD your God.
- 3 I don’t want you doing what the Egyptians did, in the land you just came from. And I don’t want you doing what the people of Canaan1 are doing, in the land I’m taking you to.
- 4 I want you to obey and enforce my laws. I’ll say it again. I am the LORD your God.2
- 5 If you obey and enforce my laws, I’ll let you live. I am the LORD.
In the “don’t” column: Sex with relatives
- 6 Don’t have sex with a close relative. I am the LORD, and I mean what I say.
- 7 Don’t disgrace your parents by having sex with your mother. Come on, she’s your mother. Don’t have sex with her.
- 8 Don’t have sex with your father’s wife. It would disgrace him.
- 9 Don’t have sex with your sister. It doesn’t matter if she’s merely your stepsister or was born into some other family. No sex with any daughter of your mom or dad.
- 10 Don’t have sex with your granddaughter. No sex with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter. You would disgrace yourself into the dirt.
- 11 Don’t have sex with your stepmother’s daughter. Hey, she’s your sister. Don’t do it.
- 12 Don’t have sex with your aunt—the sister of your dad. She’s a blood relative.
- 13 Don’t have sex with your mom’s sister, either. She’s also your aunt, which makes her a blood relative, too.
- 14 Don’t have sex with the wife of your dad’s brother. She might not be a blood relative, but she’s your aunt.
- 15 Don’t have sex with your son’s wife. Don’t do it.
- 16 Don’t have sex with your sister-in-law, your brother’s wife. You would disgrace your brother.
- 17 You can’t have sex with a woman and then have sex with her daughter or her granddaughter, too. The relationships are too close for that kind of comfort. It doesn’t matter if the granddaughter is from the woman’s son or from her daughter. Piling up bodies for sex like this would be wicked. So don’t do it.
- 18 As long as your wife is living, you’re not allowed to marry her sister and have sex with her. This would humiliate your wife.3
- 19 Don’t have sex with a woman when she’s in her menstrual period. She’s ritually unclean and contagious.4
- 20 Don’t have sex with your neighbor’s wife. Both of you would become unclean.
Don’t sacrifice kids
- 21 Don’t sacrifice any children to Molech.5 It would disgrace my name if any of my people did something like that. I am the LORD.
- 22 If you’re a man, don’t have sex with another man. It’s disgusting.6
- 23 Don’t have sex with an animal. That would certainly leave you ritually unclean. And no woman should ever let an animal have sex with her. That would be one perverted scene.
When the land gets sick of sin
- 24 Don’t trash yourself by doing any of that. The land I’m taking you to is full of people doing it all the time. So, I’m going to drive them out of their own nations to make room for you.
- 25 These people disgrace the land they live on. As punishment, the land is going to puke them out.
- 26 You, on the other hand, should obey and enforce my laws. Don’t do any of these despicable things. And don’t let your visitors do them, either.
- 27 The people I’m kicking out to make room for you contaminated the land with their sins.
- 28 If you don’t want the land to puke you out, don’t make the same mistake.
- 29 Anyone doing any of this is unfit to be an Israelite. If you do any of it, say goodbye.7
- 30 Do what I’m telling you. Don’t do what these other people are doing; it’s disgusting. Don’t dirty yourself up like that. I am the LORD your God.
Canaan was roughly the land today known as Israel and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories.
God begins reminding the Israelites that he’s in charge. It sounds a little like a parent telling a child, “You’ll do as I say because I’m your mother and I said so.” God invokes his authority as the Final Word.
It would also set the family up for never-ending rivalry between the two sisters and their children. Case in point: the story of Jacob, married to sisters Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29—30).
This is a bit like a sexually transmitted spiritual disease. Ritual uncleanness is highly contagious. Touch an unclean person and you’re suddenly unclean, too. That means anything you touch becomes unclean, too, and has to go through cleansing rituals. An unclean person is unfit to worship in the tent worship center. To cleanse themselves, ritually unclean people had to wash their clothes and wait until evening (Leviticus 11:28).
Scholars debate who or what Molech was and whether children were literally sacrificed or perhaps figuratively presented to Molech and dedicated to him. Many scholars say Molech was a god, because of the way Bible writers describe people prostituting themselves to Molech (Leviticus 20:5). Most scholars seem to agree that some people of Israel “ built places to worship Baal so they could burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices to Molech” (Jeremiah 32:35 New Century Version). Scholars, however, question why this note got added to a chapter about sex sins. Theories: Sex sins and killing your own children each have the power to destroy a family. Both sins are rotten to the core and despicable. Molech’s worship may have focused on family, such as communicating with the dead and worshiping the peoples’ ancestors.
The original Hebrew term is tôʽēbâ. It has many meanings. None of them good: detestable, repulsive, loathsome, abominable. Yet for many people of faith today, the very idea of shaming homosexuals is as repulsive as reading Paul telling runaway slaves to go back to their masters. Among the arguments: the ancients had no idea that homosexuality was not a matter of choice, but was the way God created some individuals. Neither did Apostle Paul, who called homosexuality “unnatural” and “shameful” (Romans 1:26-27). Christians are so divided over how to understand what the Bible says about homosexuality that church denominations have split over this very topic. Some say they believe Paul and Moses were speaking for God. Other Christians say they doubt that God would want to be blamed for what we’re reading into our Bibles today, and that the ancient writers were expressing their culture’s opinion rather than revealing something God told them. Some Christians argue that Jesus never even addressed the topic. He told us to love one another. He didn’t tell us who to fall in love with. Cultures have done that for us throughout the centuries: Don’t marry a white with a black. Don’t marry an upper crust with a crumb. Don’t marry a Baptist to anyone but a Baptist.
More literally, the person “should be removed from the community” or “cut off.” This is a consequence repeated throughout these early books of the Bible. It’s unclear how and by whom the offenders were removed. Perhaps they could no longer worship at the tent worship center, or they lost their rights as citizens of this emerging nation that Moses seemed to be organizing. Maybe they were executed. Or perhaps the community let God deal with the person. Scholars seem uncertain about what happened.
BY ROBERT V. HUBER
God tells the people “I don’t want you doing what the Egyptians did, in the land you just came from. And I don’t want you doing what the people of Canaan are doing, in the land I’m taking you to.” He then goes on to list all the sexual no-nos. Although marriages of brother and sister were not uncommon among the rulers of Egypt, there is no evidence that the sexual mores of either Egypt or Canaan were any worse than those of Phoenicia, Mesopotamia, or any other country in the area. Why signal them out?
Leviticus forbids a man to have sex with his sister-in-law, his brother’s wife. But Deuteronomy 25:4-10 requires a man to marry his brother’s wife if the brother dies childless. One seems to be the opposite of the other. What do you make of this seeming contradiction?
Leviticus forbids a man to marry both a woman and her sister while both women are living, but Jacob married both Rachel and her sister, Leah. Do you think he was breaking God’s law?
Leviticus 18:21 prohibits the Israelites from sacrificing children to Moloch (probably a prohibition against child sacrifice in general). But why do you think it’s here in the middle of prohibitions against sexual unions?
Leviticus 18:22 flatly states “If you’re a man, don’t have sex with another man. It’s disgusting.” However, it says nothing of a woman having sex with another woman. Why do you think the writer singled out only men? Why skip the ladies?
LIFE APPLICATION. Homosexuality is a controversial topic. Churches have split over whether to allow an admitted homosexual to become an ordained minister. Old Testament law said it was wrong to practice homosexuality. Paul in the New Testament called it “shameful” (Romans 1:27) and a sex sin (1 Corinthians 6:9). Today, many would call out Paul for gay bashing. Why is this such a hard topic for Christians to talk about in a normal voice?