For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

20:1.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


20:2.  “Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.”


Relative to Molech, see comments on 18:21.  The worship of this false god involved the sacrifice of children by burning.  The “strangers” here were the Gentiles living in Israel, and whether Israelite, or Gentile living in Israel, those who worshiped Molech were to be stoned to death.


The dreadful cruelty involved in the immolation of their children to Molech demonstrates the terrible power of Satan over men’s minds.  Nor is his cunning any less than his power, as is demonstrated by the fact that he still leads deluded multitudes in our modern society down the same deadly pathway, for when we neglect to warn our children of the need to be born again, and instead push them to excel academically, athletically, and socially, we are just as surely consigning them to the eternal flame of the lake of fire, except for the rare few who in spite of our negligence, discover their danger, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.


The degree of divine anger provoked by the worship of Molech may be measured by the penalty He imposed: the guilty were to be stoned to death. He is no less angry today with parents who are guilty of the crime portrayed typologically in the Israelites’ idolatry.


20:3.  “And 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.”


We may not conclude that the Israelite idolaters had ceased to continue the charade of also worshiping Jehovah, but rather that they still engaged in the outward ritual, so that their very presence in the tabernacle defiled it, and caused the Lord’s name to be profaned, i.e., lightly esteemed.  God is jealous of His honor, and will not permit the creature to impugn his majesty.  Every offender would be slain.


It behooves us to live before men in such fashion as will afford them no cause to denigrate His holy name.


20:4.  “And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not:”


20:5.  “Then will I set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people.”


This takes account of the fact that then, as now, many who should have known better, turned a blind eye to sin, and by their very indifference, encouraged the evil.  God however, took note of all such, and still does today, for He can never be indifferent to sin; and though He may not slay the offender instantly, He will in His own perfect time call the guilty to account at the judgment of the great white throne, from which He will cast them into the eternal flame of the terrible lake of fire.


Some understand the term “cut him off” to mean that God would outlaw, rather than slay, the guilty man.


20:6.  “And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.”


See comments on 19:31 relative to familiar spirits and wizards.  God opposed those who had anything to do with such evil, and slew them; nor does He take any more lenient view of such people today.  The heinousness of seeking contact with the evil spirit world most likely lies in the fact that those engaging in this diabolic traffic are thereby demonstrating their contempt for God the Holy Spirit.


20:7.  “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God.”


To sanctify is to set apart for a special holy purpose; and as God’s earthly people were commanded to sanctify themselves for His honor and glory, so are we.  The “mediums” who acted as the human go-betweens in this diabolic traffic between men and the Satanic spirit world, were themselves indwelt, temporarily or permanently, by one or more evil spirits.  See the numerous NT references to such embodiment of these wicked agents of Satan.


Believers of this present dispensation are indwelt and sealed for God by the Holy Spirit, but how different is His mode of control! He never compels obedience.  His dominion is only by our own volition, hence the warning not to quench Him, 1 Thessalonians 5:19 “Quench not the Spirit,” and Ephesians 4:30, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”  He is grieved when we do what He has forbidden us to do; and quenched when we refuse to do what He has commanded us to do.  It would be impossible to grieve or quench Him were our obedience compelled.                                             


20:8.  “And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you.”


A statute is an enactment or ordinance.  The people were to keep, i.e., obey God’s laws.


In the preceding verse the people were told to sanctify themselves, but here they are told that it was the Lord who sanctified them.  There is no contradiction.  We cannot sanctify ourselves apart from His enablement; but as noted above, He does not compel our obedience: it must be willingly yielded, and when it is, He will bestow the needed grace to walk before Him obediently, and thus ensure His blessing.


20:9.  “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.”


To curse in the present context means to revile, vilify, insult.

This was a violation of the fifth commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,” Exodus 20:12. 


The question has been asked whether obedience applies when the parents are evil, and the answer is furnished in what is commanded relative to obedience to rulers Titus 3:1, “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates ....” 1 Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake....”  It is axiomatic that the enjoined obedience relates to such laws as do not make us disobedient to God, see Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”  The same principle applies to parental jurisdiction. As authority figures in the family, parents are to be obeyed, but with the above qualification.


“... his blood shall be upon him” means that he himself had caused his own death by his rebellion against God’s command.


20:10.  “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”


The severity of the penalty declares the sanctity with which God has invested the marriage bond.


20:11.  “And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood (blood guiltiness) shall be upon them.”


The wife here is generally understood to be a wife other than the man’s own mother: a stepmother.


20:12.  “And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.”


This verse needs no comment.


20:13.  “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”


See comments on 18:22.


“... their blood shall be upon them” means that they were resposnible for their own deaths.


20:14.  “And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.”


This is virutally the same as 18:17, and needs no comment, except to note that the burning by fire was of the body after the offender had been stoned to death, see e.g., Joshua 17:25 relative to the execution of Achan, “”And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.”


20:15.  “And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.”


See comments on 18:23.


20:16.  “And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”


See comments on 18:23.


20:17.  “And if a man shall take his sister, his father’s daughter, or his mother’s daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister’s nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.”


The comments on 18:9 apply here, the only difference being that here the woman is his full sister.


20:18.  “And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.”


See comments on 15:24, 33.


20:19.  “And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister, nor of thy father’s sister: for he uncovereth his near kin: they shall bear their iniquity.” 


This simply repeats 18:13, and doesn’t require comment.


20:20.  “And if a man shall lie with his uncle’s wife, he hath uncovered his uncle’s nakedness: they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.”


This is one of the few instances where the punishment in this series is spelled out, there being no readily apparent reason why it is not also specifically declared in the others.  To die childless was virtually the same as if the individual were to die immediately, for at his death his line would cease.


20:21.  “And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall die childless.”


It was for this very sin that John the Baptist rebuked Herod, see Mark 6:17-18, but it is clear that the proscription applied only to Israelites, and probably only to those of the OT era, for Herod, who was not a Jew, had children.


20:22.  “Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.”


“...spue” means to vomit, so that the violence with which the stomach’s contents are ejected in vomiting, portrays the equally violent eviction of Israel from the land, which would punish her disobedience, and which occurred in 586 BC at the hand of Babylon, and again in AD 70 at the hand of Rome.


20:23.  “And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.”


This was God’s warning to Israel not to ape the ways of the Canaanites whose wickedness had provoked His anger, and caused Him to cast them out of the Land.


It isn’t difficult to see in God’s violent expulsion of the Canaanites, and later of the Israelites, for their wickedness, the foreshadowing of what is yet to be in the now imminent Great Tribulation which will see millions swept from the earth by war, famine, and disease.  The abounding wickedness of today’s world, particularly our highly privileged western society, causes every true believer to wonder why those judgments haven’t already fallen.


20:24.  “But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people.”


This was partially fulfilled when God first brought the Israelites into Canaan, but their wickedness ensured their expulsion which came in AD 70, so that complete fulfillment awaits the coming Millennium, when the saved believing remnant of Israel, and of the nations, will be brought out of the terrible Great Tribulation judgments, into the enjoyment of the phenomenal long-promised millennial bliss.


20:25.  Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: 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, which I have separated from you as unclean.”


This is a summation of all that has preceded, and declares the imperative of holiness as the prerequisite of blessing.


20:26.  “And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.”


This is even more true of us, conversion having given us Christ’s very life and nature.  It behooves us therefore to manifest that new spiritual life in our daily living.


20:27.  “A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.”


Relative to familiar spirits and wizards, see comments on 19:31.

[Leviticus 21]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough