Leviticus 19-21

Greetings!  This reading is Leviticus 19-21.

The chapter heading for Leviticus 19 in my Bible says, “Various laws,” and that describes it well.  There is a mix of laws from the 10 Commandments, some other moral laws and some ceremonial laws.  There is a lot here, so please read the verses closely.

Verse 1 says a lot of about what God wants from us: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am Holy.”  That sets the bar rather high. 

Verses 9-10 show how the Israelites were to help the poor by letting them pick up leftovers from the harvest.   This is much different from welfare, where able-bodied people can do nothing and still get money. 

God loves justice and does not want “partiality given to the poor or favoritism to the great.”  Everyone is to be judged fairly.

Note how verse 18 says, “love your neighbor as yourself.”  I used to think that was just from the New Testament.  I was surprised to find it in Leviticus.

Verse 28 says not to get tattoos.  This may be a ceremonial law, but I still think that wisdom and discernment should go into any decisions to permanently alter one’s appearance. 

We are not to mistreat aliens (though that doesn’t mean we have to have open borders). 

Chapter 20 addresses punishments for sin.  Some people like to use these passages to discredit other moral teachings in the Bible (usually 18:22 – “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”)  Their arguments are along the lines of, “Do you put your kids to death for disobeying you?  Of course not.  So these other laws don’t apply either.” (They are referring to v. 9 which says not to curse your parents).  They also point out that breaking the Sabbath could be punishable by death, as if to discount the severity of that sin for the Israelites.

These people are missing the point.  The punishments were specifically for the Israelites, who were living under a theocracy (God was their King).  In other governments the punishments are set up differently.  But that doesn’t mean that the underlying morals don’t still apply. 

There were various sins that could yield the death penalty for the Israelites.  The issue isn’t whether or not those penalties still apply (they don’t) but whether God considered those sins to be very serious (He does).  People want to downplay the sin of homosexual behavior by mocking the punishment for cursing your parents or breaking the Sabbath, implying that those sins aren’t so bad so neither is homosexual behavior.  But that gets it backwards.  You judge how seriously God considered a sin by how severe the punishment was.  And capital punishment was as serious as it could get.

Chapter 21 contains additional rules for priests.  Note that just as the animals to be sacrificed could not have defects, the priests could not have defects, either.  God wasn’t discriminating unjustly.  He was pointing to the perfection to be found in Jesus.

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

One thought on “Leviticus 19-21”

  1. Concerning the death penalty for various transgressions, e.g adultery, a rabbi once told me that it meant that a person was deserving of death, but God was also forgiving and it would not be carried out. From a Christian perspective, we are born spiritually dead.(Adam was created in God’s spiritual image, but unfortunately, we were born in the fallen Adam’s image). When we receive Christ, we become spiritually alive with him(by one man(Adam) sin entered and by Christ it left). Christ paid the price for our punishment of breaking the law at the cross. The new covenant is much better than the old as the book of Hebrews states.


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