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Leviticus Bible Study – Lesson #10

Lesson 10:  Lev. 20, Lev. 21 and Lev. 22

Punishment for Gross Offenses (Leviticus 20)

This chapter gives the punishments for some of the offenses listed in chapters 18 and 19.

God instituted capital punishment! He is just and righteous, and He applied the death penalty with unsparing severity.

Nowhere in the Word of God is punishment given for the purpose of reforming the criminal. That was not the objective. Punishment of a crime is for the moral good of the people. Punishment of a crime is a deterrent to crime. It will cut down the crime rate. One of the reasons for the spread of lawlessness like a dreadful plague throughout this land is due to the fact that we have weak judges who will not enforce the law.

We hear a great many sob sisters cry about the death penalty. God instituted capital punishment for good and sufficient reasons. There must be the satisfaction of outraged justice. Justice and righteousness demand punishment. The majesty, law, and holiness of God have been outraged, and so crime must be punished.

If you don’t believe in the death penalty, let me ask you a question. Do you mean to say that you are better than God? God makes no apology for the death penalty. Listen to Him: “So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it” (Num. 35:33). Remember that the Books of Matthew and Luke tell us that the blood of Abel cries out from the ground.

Let me ask you another question. Suppose a sadistic criminal took your little child by the heels and dashed his head against a stone. What would you think should be done to him? I’m talking about yours now, not the children of someone else in another state. It’s easy to be theoretical and ideal as long as it doesn’t involve you.

The person who caused a child to go through the fire in an offering to Molech was to be stoned to death (v. 1–3). If the people failed to kill him, God would destroy him and his family (v. 4-5). The death penalty was also pronounced against one who consulted mediums and familiar spirits (v. 6); one who cursed his father or his mother (v. 9); an adulterer and an adulteress (v. 10); one who committed incest with his father’s wife (v. 11) or daughter-in-law (v. 12); and a sodomite (v. 13). (Both parties were to be killed in these cases of unlawful intercourse.) In the case of a man having unlawful sexual intercourse with a mother and her daughter, all three offenders were to be burned (v. 14). Sexual perversion between humans and animals was a capital crime; both man and beast were to be slain (v. 15-16). The death penalty (or, as some think, excommunication) was pronounced against intercourse with a sister or half- sister (v. 17) or with a menstruous woman (v. 18). Intercourse with an aunt called forth the judgment, “they shall bear their guilt,” but no details were given (v. 19). Some think it means that they would die childless, as in verse 20, where a man had intercourse with his uncle’s wife, and in verse 21, where the offense was with a sister-in-law.

Verse 21 applied only as long as the brother was alive. If he died without leaving a son to carry on his name, his brother was commanded to marry the widow and name the first son after the deceased (Deut. 25:5). Such unions were known as levirate marriages.

The longing of God’s heart was to have a holy people, separated from the abominations of the Gentiles and enjoying the blessings of the Promised Land (v. 22–26). Mediums and people with familiar spirits were to be exterminated by stoning (v. 27).

God put the Canaanites out of the land because they committed these awful sins. He warns Israel that He will put them out of the land if they do the same things. God is no respecter of persons. Do you know that their failure to obey God brought on them the Babylonian captivity? Listen to the record: “Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem.  And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel. And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel” (2 Kings 21:1–2, 6, 9).


Conduct of the Priests (Leviticus 21-22)

Chapters 21 and 22, along with 16 and 17, are addressed to Aaron and his sons.

Priests were not to defile themselves by touching the dead except in the case of nearest relatives. Even entering the tent of the dead defiled a person for seven days (Num. 19:14). This would disqualify a priest from serving the Lord during that time, so he was forbidden to make himself unclean for any but his nearest relatives. Verse 4 probably means that, because of his high rank, he must not defile himself for any reason except those listed in verses 2 and 3.  Death is a penalty of sin, and the idea is that they are not to be contaminated with sin. Physical contact with the dead brings defilement. The priest was permitted to defile himself for close relatives. These listed here are all blood relations and by nature close to the priest. He must be permitted to express his feelings of sympathy and grief as a priest of God. He must be a type of Jesus who could weep at the grave of Lazarus and was touched with the feelings of our infirmities. He was not, however, permitted to defile himself for the dead of any others. He could mourn in his heart, but was denied physical contact.

Practices of the heathen in defacing their bodies with signs of mourning for the dead were forbidden. The priest was not permitted to marry a woman profaned by harlotry or a divorced woman. However, he could marry a widow. A priest’s daughter who became a harlot was to be burned to death.

A high priest was not permitted to mourn in the customary ways or leave the sanctuary to show honor to the dead. He was to marry an Israelite virgin, and his married life was to be above reproach.  Their position demanded dignity and restraint as God’s representatives. The same applies to God’s representatives in the church today. “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate” (Titus 1:7–8).

A physical defect barred a man from the service of the priesthood —blindness, lameness, facial deformities, a deformed limb, foot or hand injuries, hunchbackedness, dwarfism, defective eyes, itching diseases, scabs, or injured reproductive organs. Any son of Aaron who was defective in any of these ways could share the food of the priests, but he could not actively serve as a priest before the Lord. The holy food was the priests’ share of the peace offerings. The most holy food was their share of other offerings. The priests who offered the sacrifices must be without defect because they portrayed Christ as our unblemished High Priest.

Leviticus 22

If a priest was ceremonially unclean through leprosy, a running discharge, contact with something defiled by a dead body, eating meat that had not been drained of its blood, or for any other reason, he was not to partake of the food of the priests. That is what is meant by “separate themselves from the holy things” (v. 2). If the priest was a leper or had a running sore, the disqualification probably lasted for a long time. In the other cases mentioned, the following ritual prevailed for the priest: First, he must bathe himself, then wait until the evening, at which time he would be clean again.

In general, strangers, visitors, and hired servants were not permitted to eat the holy food. But a slave who had been purchased by the priest, as well as the slave’s children, could eat it. If the priest’s daughter got married to an outsider, she was not permitted to eat it, but if she were widowed or divorced and childless, and living with her father, then she could share the food of the priests.

If a man ate some of the holy food unintentionally, he could make restitution by replacing it and adding one-fifth, as in the case of the trespass offering.

Offerings brought to the Lord had to be without blemish. Diseased, disabled, or disfigured animals were forbidden. A bull or a lamb with an overgrown limb or a stunted limb could be presented for a freewill offering but not for a mandated offering (v. 23). Castrated animals or those with damaged reproductive organs were not acceptable (v. 24). Israelites were not to accept any of the above defective animals as an offering from a stranger (v. 25). A sacrificial animal could not be offered until it was at least eight days old (v. 26-27). A mother animal and her young were not to be killed on the same day (v. 28). The meat of a thanksgiving offering was to be eaten on the same day that it was offered (v. 29-30).

The final paragraph explains why the Israelites were to keep and perform all these commandments of the Lord. It was because the God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt is holy. Several expressions in this short section stress the message of Leviticus as a whole: “not profane,” “holy name,” “I will be hallowed,” and “I am the Lord who sanctifies.”

The unbelieving world gains its impression of the church (the Body of Christ) from the members of the church (the priesthood). Indifference and irreverence is detected immediately by the outside unbeliever, and his attitude and conduct is governed accordingly. The Lord Jesus said, “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh” (Matt. 18:7).