Leviticus 20:1 MEANING

Leviticus 20:1

(1) And the Lord spake unto Moses.--It is difficult to account for the position of this chapter. Naturally we should expect it to follow Leviticus 18. If Leviticus 20 contains the penalties attached to the sins enumerated in Leviticus 18, we should expect it immediately to follow that chapter. It may, however, be that before enacting these severe punishments, the Lawgiver wanted to appeal to the high calling of the nation, to qualify them by the sublime precepts laid down in Leviticus 19 for obedience to the laws in Leviticus 18, and that in the chapter before us the civil punishments are set forth as an alternative for those who will not be guided by the spiritual sentiments enunciated in Leviticus 19.

The subject of chapter 18, is resumed in this chapter; but that which was before considered as sin only is now regarded as crime, and penalties are attached according to the heinousness of the offense. For example, the sin of "giving of his seed to Molech," or which is the same thing, "letting any of his seed pass through the fire to Molech," had been forbidden as a sin in chapter Leviticus 18:21; now it is condemned as a crime. The various penalties assigned in this chapter are

(1) burning with fire (verse 14);

(2) stoning with stones (verses 2, 27);

(3) being put to death in a manner not specified (verses 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16);

(4) being cut off from among his people, either by God himself (verses 4, 5, 6) or by an agency not specified (verses 17, 18);

(5) bearing his iniquity (verses 17, 19, 20);

(6) childlessness (verses 20, 21).

The first of these penalties, burning with fire, does not mean that those on whom it was inflicted were burnt alive, but that their dead bodies were burnt after they had been stoned to death, as in the case of Achan (Joshua 7:25). It is the punishment for taking a mother and daughter together into the same harem (verse 14). Stoning with stones is appointed for crimes which are at once offenses against religion and morals, viz. giving of his seed to Molech (verse 2), and witchcraft (verse 27). The other form of putting to death, which no doubt was strangling, is the penalty assigned to cursing parents (verse 9), adultery (verse 10), marriage or intercourse with a stepmother (verse 11) or stepdaughter (verse 12), the sin of Sodom (verse 13), and bestiality (verses 15, 16). Cutting off from his people may be effected either by death (verses 4, 5, and perhaps 6), which is the penalty for Molech-worship, connivance at Molech-worship, and dealing with witches; or by excommunication (verses 17, 18), which was the punishment for intercourse with a sister, or with one who was unclean by reason of her monthly sickness (see Exodus 31:14). The phrase, bearing his iniquity, means that the man continues in the state of a criminal until he has been cleansed either by suffering the punishment of his offense or making atonement for it, which sometimes he might, sometimes he might not, do. The man who committed incest with a sister would "bear his iniquity" (verse 17), because he would be put in a state of excommunication without permission of restoration by means of sacrificial offerings. And so with the man who took his aunt by blood (verse 19) or by marriage (verse 20) as his wife, - he would not be allowed to recover his status by offering sacrifice. Childlessness, the punishment for marrying an uncle's or brother's wife, probably means that in those cases the offender's children should not be counted as his own, but should be entered in the genealogical register as his uncle's or his brother's children. (Cf. Deuteronomy 25:10, where it is noticeable that the penalty is retained, even though the marriage with the brother's wife, which had been prohibited in general, had in the particular case become a duty for family or tribal reasons.)

20:1-9 Are we shocked at the unnatural cruelty of the ancient idolaters in sacrificing their children? We may justly be so. But are there not very many parents, who, by bad teaching and wicked examples, and by the mysteries of iniquity which they show their children, devote them to the service of Satan, and forward their everlasting ruin, in a manner even more to be lamented? What an account must such parents render to God, and what a meeting will they have with their children at the day of judgment! On the other hand, let children remember that he who cursed father or mother was surely put to death. This law Christ confirmed. Laws which were made before are repeated, and penalties annexed to them. If men will not avoid evil practices, because the law has made these practices sin, and it is right that we go on that principle, surely they should avoid them when the law has made them death, from a principle of self-preservation. In the midst of these laws comes in a general charge, Sanctify yourselves, and be ye holy. It is the Lord that sanctifies, and his work will be done, though it be difficult. Yet his grace is so far from doing away our endeavours, that it strongly encourages them. Work out your salvation, for it is God that worketh in you.And the Lord spake unto Moses,.... After he had delivered the above laws to him in the preceding chapter, he added penalties, to many of them, or declared what punishment should be inflicted on the transgressors of them:

saying; as follows.

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