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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 20

 

 

Introduction

Leviticus 20. A second list of the crimes catalogued in Leviticus 18, together with the penalties for them, and a final appeal. The special interest of the chapter lies in the variations of penalty assigned; but the real "sanction" of such prohibitions as these lies in the popular horror with which they were regarded rather than in their public punishment. A distinction is also to be made between penalties inflicted by man—stoning, putting to death, and by Yahweh—"cutting off." The purpose and result of both were to preserve the holiness of the people, i.e. to preserve it, and its God, from the contamination which inevitably followed certain actions, and which, once it had taken place, could be removed only by the "excision" of the offending member of the community.


Verses 1-9

Leviticus 20:1-9. Worship of Molech, etc.—Offering children to Molech (see Leviticus 18:21*) is to be punished by stoning; such a death emphasizes the repudiation by the whole community and involves everyone in the act, always serious, of killing a fellow-tribesman (cf. Joshua 7:25). Yahweh Himself will see that the sinner does not survive his crime even if he is not publicly punished; his whole family will be destroyed. Cursing parents is also a capital crime; in such a case, the dead man's blood does not "cry from the earth"; it is on his own head, i.e. its power to hurt comes to an end with his life (cf. 1 Kings 2:31-33; 1 Kings 2:44, and contrast Matthew 27:25).


Verses 10-21

Leviticus 20:10-21. Penalties for Sexual Sins—generally death, the manner being unspecified. Adultery, incest, sodomy head the list; the special case of Leviticus 20:14 (contrast Amos 2:7) is followed by the burning of all three persons (cf. Leviticus 21:9). Special enormity (RVm) requires special penalty. Bestiality, and other cases of incest, and neglect of the regulation of prohibited periods, are all to be punished by death. Union with an aunt, either on the mother's or father's side, is regarded less harshly, with a threat of Divine vengeance rather than a penalty; for union with the wife of an uncle or brother no action is enjoined, but childlessness is foretold.


Verses 22-26

Leviticus 20:22-26. The Final Appeal, emphasizing the motive of separation from the customs of the original inhabitants, complementary to that of fear of defilement (Leviticus 18:30). Refusal to make the due distinction between clean and unclean—here singled out as typical of full observance—entails expulsion by, as well as from, the land and rouses abhorrence (a strong and semi-physical loathing) in Yahweh Himself. Holiness in Israel's conduct is necessary as corresponding to Israel's own holiness or position of separation among the nations.


Verse 27

Leviticus 20:27. This warning against witchcraft should properly follow Leviticus 20:6 (cf. Leviticus 19:31).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Leviticus 20:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/leviticus-20.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 6th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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