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Scripture reading – Leviticus 20-21

Today’s Scripture reading continued the subject of the LORD’s Laws and Commandments and focused on those sins that were capital offenses punishable by death (Leviticus 20). Leviticus 21 marked a shift from the common people to “the sons of Aaron” (21:1-9) and the High Priest (21:10-15). We will briefly consider the guidelines for the priest, his person, and his character.

Leviticus 20

The LORD’s command for His people to be holy and obedient to His Law and Commandments continued in Leviticus 20. We will note six offenses warranted capital punishment.

Infanticide (Child Sacrifice), Abortion, and Guilt by Omission (20:1-5)

The first was the sacrifice of children to Molech (Leviticus 18:21), a pagan god who was identified with the Canaanites and particularly the Ammonites (1 Kings 11:5). While we find the thought of sacrificing children revolting, I remind my readers that our world has aborted and taken the lives of millions upon millions of unborn infants. While the ancients sacrificed their children to pagan gods, our world has taken the lives of the unborn because of the pagan god of convenience, irresponsibility, selfishness, and the list continues. The penalty for sacrificing one child was death by stoning (20:2), and God warned, “I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name” (20:3).

You Are Your Brother’s Keeper (20:4-5)

After he had slain his brother Abel and was confronted by God, Cain dared ask the LORD, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9b) Cain implied he was not responsible for his brother’s whereabouts (Genesis 4:9a). However, he was guilty of his brother’s murder.

Leviticus 20:4-5 revealed that God’s people carried a burden of responsibility when they knew the sins of others (in this case, sacrificing a child to Molech). God warned that He would set His “face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off…from among their people” (20:5). Why? Because he had “turned a blind eye” and did nothing. The sins you ignore in others and fail to confront invite God’s judgment.

Five additional types of sins were noted in Leviticus 20 that warranted capital punishment and death. (20:6-21)

Consulting with witches (20:6, 27), cursing one’s parents (20:9), adultery (20:10), incest (20:11-12, 14, 17, 19-21), and unnatural lusts. Named and condemned were homosexuality (20:13), bestiality (20:15-16), and incest (20:13).

What did the LORD require of His people? (20:22-26)

The LORD required Israel to keep His statutes and obey His Law and Commandments. The LORD warned that should the people follow the sins of other nations, the land He promised them would spue them out (literally vomit), them from their land (20:22-23).

Leviticus 21

A Charge and Guidelines for Priests (21:1-9)

The focus of Leviticus 21 was the priests who were “the sons of Aaron” (21:1). Because they were ministers of the LORD to Israel, priests were to model holiness in person and practice (21:6). They were not to defile themselves by touching the bodies of the dead (21:1), except those who were family members and for whom they had familial responsibilities (21:2-3). Likewise, they were not to mourn the dead as those who shave their heads, cut their beards, or cut themselves as an outward sign of mourning (21:4-5).

When a priest married, he must not be unequally yoked, not take a wife whose reputation would tarnish his public ministry (21:7; 2 Corinthians 6:14). Daughters of priests were especially challenged to be mindful that their reputation could soil their father. Failure to do so could require she “be burnt with fire” (21:9).

A Charge to the High Priest (21:10-15)

Because the calling of the High Priest was to shepherd the nation, he was anointed and bound by higher standards than the common priests (21:10). Unlike our day when I observe ministers and preachers attempting to be “cool” under the notion of being relevant, the high priest was to be holy and set apart unto the LORD (21:11-12). In addition, his wife was to be a virgin (21:13-14), and he was to be chaste and have no children by any other than his wife (21:15).

Closing thoughts: 

For those who served the LORD and His people, the standard was the same as those animals offered for sacrifice…without physical blemish (21:16-24). The priests were to be physically perfect and were excluded from ministry for several physical maladies that were stated (21:18-20). Why? Arguably the work of sacrificial offerings was physically grueling. The priests were to reflect God’s holy, perfect character; therefore, none might approach His altar or sanctuary, which had a blemish (21:23-24).

Questions to consider:

1) What happened to those who ignored their neighbor’s wickedness? (Leviticus 20:4-5)

2) What were the consequences of cursing a father or mother? (Leviticus 20:9)

3) What did God promise if Israel kept His Laws and Commandments? (Leviticus 20:22)

4) Why was a priest to be concerned with the character of the woman he married? (Leviticus 21:7)

5) What manner of woman was a high priest to take as his wife? (Leviticus 21:13-14)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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