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INTRODUCTION TO LEVITICUS 20
In this chapter several laws are, repeated, enforced with a penalty annexed to them, and the breach them made capital, to deter from it, as giving seed to Molech, Leviticus 20:1; going after such that have familiar spirits, or are wizards, Leviticus 20:6; by shunning which, and other sins, a regard would be shown to holiness, Leviticus 20:7; such as cursing parents, Leviticus 20:9; committing adultery, Leviticus 20:10; incestuous copulations, and marriages, and beastly actions, Leviticus 20:11; all which it became the Israelites to avoid, lest, when come into the land of Canaan, they should be cast out of it, as the old inhabitants were for the same things, Leviticus 20:22; and therefore, that they might appear to be a distinct people from others, they were to put a difference between clean and unclean creatures, Leviticus 20:25; and the chapter is closed with a law, making it death for any person to have a familiar spirit, or to be a wizard, Leviticus 19:27.
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.
Again thou shalt say to the children of Israel,.... The body of the people by their elders, and the heads of their tribes; for the following laws were binding on them all:
whosoever [he be] of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel; everyone of the people of Israel, of whatsoever age, sex, or condition of life: and not they only, but the strangers and proselytes; and not the proselytes of righteousness only, but the proselytes of the gate, who, as well as the others, were to shun idolatry, and other impieties and immoralities after mentioned:
that giveth [any] of his seed unto Molech; which Aben Ezra interprets of lying with an idolatrous woman, or a worshipper of Molech, the abomination or idol of the Ammonites, 1 Kings 11:7; of which see
Leviticus 18:21; but more than that is here intended, or even than causing their seed or offspring to pass through the fire to Molech, as in the place referred to; more is meant by it than a lustration of them, or a dedicating them to Molech, by delivering them to his priests to lead them between two fires for that purpose, but even the sacrificing of them to him; and so the Targum of Jonathan seems to understand it, which is,
"that makes (or sacrifices) of his seed Molech to be burnt in the fire:''
for that the Phoenicians or Canaanites, whose customs the Israelites were in danger of imitating, and therefore cautioned against, did sacrifice human creatures, and these the dearest to them, even their beloved and only begotten children, to Saturn, is certain, as Porphyry y and Eusebius z affirm, or to Hercules, as Pliny a, and both the same with Molech, or the sun:
he shall surely be put to death; by the hand of the civil magistrate, which death was to be by stoning, as follows:
the people of the land shall stone him with stones: that is, the people of the house of Israel, as both the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; such as lived in that part of the country where the idolater lived, and where he committed the sin, or was condemned for it; of the manner of stoning, Leviticus 18:21- :.
y De Abstinent. l. 2. c. 56. z De laudibus Constantin. c. 13. p. 646. Vid. Suidam in voce
σαρδανιος. a Nat. Hist. l. 36. c. 5.
And I will set my face against that man,.... Express resentment, anger, wrath, and indignation at him, see Psalms 34:16:
and will cut him off from among his people: that is, supposing him to have been guilty of the above horrid crime, and there being not sufficient evidence given of it by witnesses, or the magistrates negligent in doing their duty; and the matter being known to God the omniscient, he, according this declaration, would deal with him himself, and cut him off out of the land of the living, from among his relations, friends, and neighbours, by his own immediate hand; otherwise the law before provided a penalty, which is death by stoning, whereby he would be effectually cut off from his people, and deprived of all natural, civil, and religious privileges in this life, and sent into everlasting punishment in another, unless forgiving grace should be vouchsafed:
because he hath given of his seed to Molech; an iniquity to be punished by the judge, and deserving of everlasting wrath and destruction:
to defile my sanctuary; not by doing this horrid action in it, but by coming into it, having done it; or by offering sacrifice in another place than where God had commanded, as well as such a sacrifice as was abominable to him, sacrifice being to be offered nowhere but on the altar of the Lord in the sanctuary. Jarchi interprets this of the congregation of Israel, which was sanctified to the Lord, in the midst of which this wickedness was committed, and with which they were polluted:
and to profane my holy name: by sacrificing to an idol, when sacrifice should be offered to God; and such a sacrifice as would cause the name of God, and his holy laws, and true religion, to be blasphemed and evil, spoken of among the Gentiles, Romans 2:23.
And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man,.... That is, the people of the house of Israel, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; if the friends, relations, and neighbours of such a man, though they know what he is about to do, or has done, yet they shut their eyes wilfully, or look another way; or, however, wink and connive at his wickedness, and will not discover him, and bear witness against him; or if a court of judicature, before whom he comes, does not take the evidence of his crime, nor condemn for it, or are negligent in punishing him as the law directs, a gift having blinded their eyes, or they careless and remiss in their duty:
when he giveth his seed unto Molech; a crime so heinous and abominable:
and kill him not; do not bring witness against him, so as that he may be put to death, or do not upon the evidence given condemn him to death, or do not take care to have sentence executed, by stoning him to death.
Then I will set my face against that man,.... That man that sees him do the fact, and winks at it, or the judge that connives at him, and will not condemn him, as well as the man that has committed the iniquity:
and against his family; either the family of the witness, who could and should have testified against him, or of the judge negligent of his office, or of the man himself, whose family must be privy to so shocking an action, and were abettors of it, and aiders and assisters in it; and so Onkelos renders it, "and his helpers":
and will cut him off: the head of the family, whether judge, witness, or the criminal himself:
and all that go a whoring after him: that commit the like idolatry after his example, and encouraged to it by the connivance of others at it:
to commit whoredom with Molech; that is, idolatry, which is spiritual whoredom, and often so called in Scripture, and with great propriety; for since God had espoused these people to himself, and was their husband, as he was from the time of his bringing them out of Egypt, and making a covenant with them, Jeremiah 31:32; and their sacrificing to and serving other gods being a breach of their matrimonial covenant with him, it was no other than whoredom in a spiritual sense, for which he threatens to cut them off:
from among their people; by an immature death, even all that were guilty of such abominable actions, or made themselves accessory to them, by any ways conniving at them, either as judges or witnesses.
The soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits,.... The man or woman that has respect unto them, seeks after them, and inquires of them, in order to get knowledge of things:
and after wizards who pretend to tell fortunes, and discover lost and stolen goods, :-;
to go a whoring after them; for to consult them is to forsake the Lord, and have recourse to Satan and his instruments; to relinquish their trust in God, and put confidence in them, and attribute such things to them as only belong to God, even the knowledge of things future; and this is to commit idolatry, which is spiritual adultery:
I will even set my face against that soul; show like resentment and indignation as at him that gives his seed to Molech:
and will cut him off from among his people; in case his people do not bear witness against him, but hide their eyes, and wink at his crimes, or the civil magistrate does not condemn and punish him; the Targum of Jonathan is,
"I will destroy him by the pestilence.''
Sanctify yourselves therefore,.... By abstaining from such impious and idolatrous practices, and separating themselves from all that gave into them, as well as by observing the holy commandments of the Lord; otherwise internal sanctification is not the work of man, but of the Lord himself, as in Leviticus 20:8:
and be ye holy; or a separate people from all others in worship and conversation:
for I [am] the Lord your God; who is a holy God, and therefore it became them to be holy, in imitation of him, Leviticus 19:2.
And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them,.... Not only those respecting the above things, but all others, which would be a means of preserving them from sin, and of promoting holiness in their lives and conversations:
I [am] the Lord which sanctify you: who had separated and distinguished them from all other people on earth, and who had given them holy laws, as the means of holiness; and who only could and did sanctify internally, by his Spirit and grace, such or them as were sanctified in heart, as well as outwardly.
For everyone that curseth his father or his mother,.... Here begins the account of the penalties annexed to the several laws in the preceding chapter; and that respecting the fear and honour of parents being the first, Leviticus 19:3, is here begun with:
shall surely be put to death; the Targum of Jonathan adds,
"by casting of stones,''
stoning being the punishment of such transgressors:
he hath cursed his father or his mother: to do either is his sin, and a capital crime it is:
his blood [shall be] upon him: he shall be guilty of death, be condemned unto it, and punished with it, namely, by stoning; for, as Jarchi observes, wherever it is, "his blood [shall be] on him", or "their blood shall be on them", it is to be understood of stoning.
And the man that committeth adultery with [another] man's wife,.... Which is a breach of the seventh command, Exodus 20:14;
[even he] that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife: which is only an explanation of the former clause; though the Jewish writers, as Jarchi and Ben Gersom, say this is so expressed to except the wife of a stranger, or a Gentile; but it means whether a Gentile or an Israelite; and which may be confirmed by the instance of Phinehas slaying a prince of Israel, that lay with a Midianitish woman, Numbers 25:6:
the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death; on account of her that is espoused, by strangling, with a hard napkin within a soft one; and on account of her that is married, by casting stones; even both the adulterer and adulteress, as the Targum: and the Jews say b, strangling was thus performed; they that were strangled were fixed up to their knees in dung, and then they put a hard napkin within a soft one, and rolled it about his neck, and one drew it to him this way, and another drew it to him that way, until he expired: and there is no unlawful copulation punished with strangling, according to Maimonides c, but lying with another man's wife; and who observes, that the death which is spoken of in the law absolutely, that is, without specifying any kind of death, is strangling; but stoning seems rather meant, agreeably to Deuteronomy 22:24.
b Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 7. sect. 3. c Hilchot lssure Biah, c. 1. sect. 6.
And the man that lieth with his father's wife,.... Whether she be his mother, or another woman, as the Targum of Jonathan; that is, whether she is his own mother, or a stepmother, or whether he did this in the lifetime of his father, or after his death, or whether she was betrothed or married, it mattered not; according to the Jewish tradition d, this is a breach of the law, Leviticus 18:8; and a man guilty of this
hath uncovered his father's nakedness; and which is a foul and shameful piece of wickedness; the penalty follows:
both of them shall be put to death; by casting stones on them, as the Targum of Jonathan adds; for, as before observed, wherever the following phrase,
their blood [shall be] upon them, is used, stoning is meant; and so, according to the Misnah e, all those were to be stoned, after mentioned, of whom this phrase is used.
d Misn. ut supra, (Sanhedrin, c. 7.) sect. 4. e lbid.
If a man lie with his daughter in law,.... His son's wife, whether in the lifetime of his son, or after his death, or whether she was espoused or married, according to the above tradition f:
both of them shall surely be put to death; it being a breach of the law in Leviticus 18:15; and this is the penalty annexed to it, even death:
they have wrought confusion: have been guilty of a shocking and shameful mixture, as Jarchi and Ben Gersom, as well as confounded the degrees of relation and affinity:
their blood [shall be] upon them; it being a capital crime, their, blood shall be shed for it; they shall be found guilty of death by stoning, as the Targum of Jonathan.
f Misn. ut supra. (Sanhedrin, c. 7. sect. 4.)
If a man lie also with mankind, as he lieth with a woman,.... Is guilty of the sin of sodomy, this is a breach of the law in
both of them have committed an abomination; he that lies, and he that is lain with, both consenting to perpetrate the abominable wickedness; which may well be called an abomination, being contrary to nature, and more than brutish, for nothing of that kind is to be found among brutes:
they shall surely be put to death; if he that is lain with is not forced, as Aben Ezra observes:
their blood [shall be] upon them; be slain by stoning, as the above Targum.
And if a man take a wife, and her mother,.... Marry both the one and the other, or commit uncleanness with them, they consenting to it:
it [is] wickedness; abominable wickedness, shocking and detestable; there are other things, which also are wicked and not to be done, but this is extremely wicked, wickedness to a high degree:
they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; the man, the mother and her daughter both being married together to him, or both consenting to his lying with them; otherwise, if one of them was first his wife, it was not reasonable that she should be put to death; and therefore some interpret "they", one of them, as Jarchi observes, one or other of them; and so Aben Ezra explains it, this or that; if the mother was his wife, the daughter was to be burnt; and so on the contrary, if the daughter was his wife, the mother was to be burnt; according to the Targum of Jonathan, they were to be burnt by pouring lead into their mouths: and so the manner of burning is described in the Misnah g; they that are to be burnt are fixed in dung up to their knees, then they put a hard napkin within a soft one, and roll it about is neck; one draws it one way, and another another way, until he opens his mouth; then they take hot melted lead, and pour it into his mouth, which goes down into his bowels and burns them. But it was rather done with faggots, of which an instance is given:
that there be no wickedness among you; of such kind, continued, countenanced, and pass unpunished. This punishment was to be inflicted, to deter persons from it. The law against it is in Leviticus 18:17.
g Sanhedrin, c. 7. sect. 2.
If a man lie with a beast,.... A sin quite unnatural, exceeding shocking and detestable, forbid Leviticus 18:23:
he shall surely be put to death: by stoning, as the Targum of Jonathan adds; and this is the death such are condemned to in the Misnah h:
and ye shall slay the beast; with clubs, as says the Targum of Jonathan; the reasons given in the Misnah i, why the beast was to be slain, are, because ruin came to the man by means of it, and that it might not be said, as it passed along the streets, that is the beast for which such an one was stoned. Aben Ezra says it was to be slain, that it might not cause others to sin; and he adds, there are that say it was to cover the reproach: no doubt the true reason was to deter the more from this detestable sin, that if a beast, which was only accessory to it, and an instrument of it, was put to death, of how much sorer punishment must the man that committed it be worthy of, even of eternal wrath and destruction, and, unless repented of and forgiven, must be expected by him?
h Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 7. sect. 4. i Ibid.
And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto,.... In order that the beast may lie with her, and solicit it to commit such an action with her, see Leviticus 18:23;
thou shall kill the woman and the beast: the woman by stoning, and the beast with clubs, as the Targum of Jonathan; and this for the same reasons as before, as well as to prevent monstrous births:
they shall surely be put to death; both the one and the other, and not spared:
their blood [shall be] upon them; they are guilty of a capital crime, a crime which deserves death; this must be understood of the man that lies with a beast, and of the woman; for as for the beast itself, as it is not capable of sinning, so not of guilt, in a proper sense.
And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter,.... Take her to be his wife, or commit lewdness with her, whether she be his sister by both father and mother's side, or whether by one only, either way she is his sister, and it is not lawful to marry her, or lie with her, see Leviticus 18:9:
and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; which is not to be understood of an immodest view, exposing to each other what should not be seen, and pleasing themselves wills such obscene sights, but of the act of lying together, for so it is afterwards explained by a phrase frequently used to express that action by; and it denotes, as Aben Ezra observes, their mutual consent and agreement in it:
it [is] a wicked thing; and by no means to be done; it is a breach of a former law, it is a scandalous and reproachful thing, and the word is sometimes used for reproach, as in Proverbs 14:34;
and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people; by death, either by the hand of the civil magistrate, or by the hand of God, by the pestilence, as the Targum of Jonathan; Ben Gersom interprets it, of their dying childless, as in some following cases, Leviticus 20:20;
he hath uncovered his sister's nakedness; or lay with her, which explains a preceding clause:
he shall bear his iniquity; the punishment of it, and he alone, as Aben Ezra observes.
And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness,.... Her monthly courses, which make her weak and languid, which is forbidden, Leviticus 18:19; this is not to be understood of a man's lying with his wife ignorantly, when in such a condition, for this being the case, he was only unclean seven days, Leviticus 15:24; whereas this made him and her liable to cutting off, as in an after clause; but of his lying with her, knowing this to be the case with her, and of which she could not be ignorant, and therefore both liable to the same punishment; or else of any other man lying with her, or of any man lying with any woman, married or unmarried, being in such circumstances:
and shall uncover her nakedness; that is, have carnal knowledge of her:
he hath discovered her fountain; from whence her issue of blood flows: and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood; freely and willingly, as Aben Ezra observes; for if she had been forced, he alone would have been cut off; but both these phrases put together show agreement in this matter, that they both had knowledge of her case, and both consented to commit the sin:
and both of them shall be cut off from among their people; by death, either by the hand of the civil magistrate, the case being known and proved, or else by the hand of God being known by mortality or the pestilence, as the Targum of Jonathan, or they should die childless;
Leviticus 15:24- :.
And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister, nor of thy father's sister,.... An aunt either by mother or father's side, against which the law is, Leviticus 18:13;
for he uncovereth his near kin; as an aunt is to a man, and so an uncle to a woman, and both equally criminal; for it is a rule that holds good in all those cases, though not expressed, that what is binding upon one sex is upon the other, being in the same degree of relation, whether of consanguinity or affinity:
they shall bear their iniquity; "both" of them, as the Vulgate Latin version, the man and his aunt, and so a woman and her uncle;
the guilt of their sin shall be upon them, and the punishment of it be inflicted on them; either they should be cut off from their people, as before, or be childless, as in the following instances.
And if a man shall lie with his uncle's wife,.... His uncle being dead, and he marry her, which is forbidden, Leviticus 18:14;
he hath uncovered his uncle's nakedness: his wife's, which was his, and therefore the kindred too near for a man to marry in, and such a copulation must be incestuous:
they shall bear their sin; "both" of them, as the Vulgate Latin, as before, Leviticus 20:19; the punishment of it, as follows:
they shall be childless; which Jarchi and other Jewish writers interpret, if they had any children at this time, that is, by a former marriage, they should die and be buried before them, which was reckoned a great punishment, see Jeremiah 22:30.
And if a man shall take his brother's wife,.... To his wife, whether in his life, as the Targum of Jonathan adds, or whether after his death, unless when there is no issue, then he was obliged to it by another law, Deuteronomy 25:5; which is now ceased, and the law in
Leviticus 18:16; here referred to, stands clear of all exceptions:
it [is] an unclean thing; or a "separation" k from which a man should remove and keep at a distance, as from menstruous women, of whom this word is used; and so denotes that it is by all means to be avoided, as an abominable and detestable thing; and it is observed that of all copulations it is only used of this: and the Jewish writers, as Aben Ezra and others, observe that this case is somewhat like that of a menstruous woman, who in the time of her separation is unlawful, but when out of it lawful; and so, in this case, a brother's wife might not be taken, he being alive; but after his death she might, if she had no son, according to the law before referred to, but that is now abolished:
he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness; his wife's, which was his brother's; which through nearness of kin, he ought not to have done; and the same holds good of a wife's sister, the relation being the same:
they shall be childless; they shall have none by such a marriage or copulation, and die without any; and as this supposes the brother's wife to have children by her first husband, or otherwise while the Jewish law lasted, it would not have been unlawful to marry her husband's brother; the meaning may be, that these should die before them, or rather, as some think, those that might be born of such a marriage should not be reckoned legitimate, and so not inherit.
k נדה "separatio", Drusius,
Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes,.... All the ordinances, institutions, and appointments of God, whether observed in this chapter or elsewhere, but particularly those concerning incestuous marriages and unlawful copulations:
and all my judgments, and do them; all the laws and commandments of God, founded injustice and judgment, and according to the rules thereof; or else, as Aben Ezra, the judgments of punishment, or the penalties annexed to the above laws, which were carefully to be observed, and put into execution, to deter from the transgression of them:
that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spew you not out; as the stomach does its food when it is loathsome and nauseous to it, and it cannot bear it; see Leviticus 18:25.
And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation which I cast out before you,.... Nation seems to be put for nations, for there were seven nations cast out for them; though the Canaanites may be intended, being a general name for the whole: some think the Amorites are meant, who were a principal nation, and notorious for their wickedness: hence we often meet with this phrase in Jewish writings, "the way of the Amorites", as being exceeding bad, and so to be avoided, and by no means to be walked in, Genesis 15:16;
for they committed all these things; were guilty of all the idolatries, incests, and uncleannesses before mentioned, and forbid under severe penalties:
and therefore I abhorred them; the sins committed by them, being so abominable and detestable: their persons, though the creatures of God, were had in abhorrence by him, and this he showed by casting them out of the land; and hereby it is suggested, that, should they, the Israelites, be guilty of the like, they also would be rejected and abhorred by him: the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan are,
"my Word abhorred them,''
Christ, the eternal Word, Psalms 45:7.
But I have said unto you, ye shall inherit the land,.... Promised it unto them, as he had to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and also to them; or he had said the above things unto them, that they, observing them, might possess the land of Canaan, and continue therein, which is the sense of the Targum of Jonathan: the Jews say, that the right of inheritance belonged to them, from Shem the son of Noah, whose portion it was, and which they gather from Melchizedek being king of Salem, whom they take to be Shem; and they say, the Canaanites only dwelt in it to make it better, till they should come and inherit it:
and I will give it unto you to possess it; in whose gift it was, and who had a right to dispose of it; and could give them a good title to it, and secure them in the possession of it:
a land that floweth with milk and honey; abounding with all good things, with all the comforts of life, with everything both for necessity and delight; see Exodus 3:8;
I [am] the Lord your God, which have separated you from [other] people; had chosen them above all people, to be a special and peculiar people to him; had distinguished them by his favours, and had given them particular laws and ordinances, to observe and walk according to them, different from all other nations, which it became them carefully to regard.
Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean,.... The ten clean ones, as Aben Ezra observes, and all the rest that are unclean, according to the law before given, Leviticus 11:3, by using the one for food, and not the other, and so the Targum of Jonathan, ye shall separate between the beast which is fit for food, and that which is not fit for food:
and between unclean fowls and clean; and which the same Targum interprets, what is unfit to eat and what is fit, even all that are particularly mentioned as unclean, and not fit for food, in
Leviticus 11:13 and all the rest not excepted to as clean and fit for food, which was one way and means God made use of to separate them from other nations, and so preserve them from their idolatrous and evil works:
and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground; that is, by eating them, contrary to the command of God, which would make them abominable in his sight; see Leviticus 11:43; every sin or transgression of this law being so to him:
which I have separated from you as unclean; which by law he had commanded them to abstain from the use of, as clean, and not fit to be eaten.
And ye shall be holy unto me,.... Separated from all unclean persons and things, and devoted to his service, and obedient to all his commands, and so live holy lives and conversations, according to his will, and to his honour and glory:
for I the Lord [am] holy; and therefore they, his people, should be like him, and imitate him, and observe those things which are agreeable to his holy nature and will, and yield a cheerful obedience to his holy precepts:
and have severed you from [other] people, that ye should be mine; which is a very forcible argument, a strong motive, and which laid them under great obligation to obedience and holiness.
A man also or a woman that hath a familiar spirit,.... Or the spirit of Python or divination, see Leviticus 19:31; such as the damsel had in Acts 16:16; a woman is here particularly mentioned, though before included in the above law; because, as Aben Ezra says, such sort of practices were more frequently committed by women; to which Maimonides l adds another reason, because men have a natural clemency towards the female sex, and are not easily prevailed upon to put them to death; therefore the law says, "thou shall not suffer a witch to live",
or that is a wizard; a knowing one, who pretends to a great deal of knowledge of things; as of lost or stolen goods, and even knowledge of things future, and imposes upon persons, and cheats them of their money they give for information: such
shall surely be put to death: and not spared through favour and affection: the death they are to be put to follows:
they shall stone them with stones; until they are dead; of the manner of stoning, Exodus 22:18- :;
their blood [shall be] upon them: they are worthy of death, and they shall suffer it: this phrase following upon the former, the Jews m gather from hence, that, wherever it is used, it is to be understood of stoning; Exodus 22:18- :.
l Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 37. m Torat Cohanim in Yalcut in loc.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 20". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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