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Leviticus 20:6-27

Context
Prohibition against Spiritists and Mediums 1 

20:6 “‘The person who turns to the spirits of the dead and familiar spirits 2  to commit prostitution by going after them, I will set my face 3  against that person and cut him off from the midst of his people.

Exhortation to Holiness and Obedience

20:7 “‘You must sanctify yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. 20:8 You must be sure to obey my statutes. 4  I am the Lord who sanctifies you.

Family Life and Sexual Prohibitions 5 

20:9 “‘If anyone 6  curses his father and mother 7  he must be put to death. He has cursed his father and mother; his blood guilt is on himself. 8  20:10 If a man 9  commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, 10  both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. 20:11 If a man has sexual intercourse with his father’s wife, he has exposed his father’s nakedness. 11  Both of them must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves. 12  20:12 If a man has sexual intercourse with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be put to death. They have committed perversion; 13  their blood guilt is on themselves. 20:13 If a man has sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman, 14  the two of them have committed an abomination. They must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves. 20:14 If a man has sexual intercourse with both a woman and her mother, 15  it is lewdness. 16  Both he and they must be burned to death, 17  so there is no lewdness in your midst. 20:15 If a man has sexual intercourse 18  with any animal, he must be put to death, and you must kill the animal. 20:16 If a woman approaches any animal to have sexual intercourse with it, 19  you must kill the woman, and the animal must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.

20:17 “‘If a man has sexual intercourse with 20  his sister, whether the daughter of his father or his mother, so that he sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace. They must be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. 21  He has exposed his sister’s nakedness; he will bear his punishment for iniquity. 22  20:18 If a man has sexual intercourse with a menstruating woman and uncovers her nakedness, he has laid bare her fountain of blood and she has exposed the fountain of her blood, so both of them 23  must be cut off from the midst of their people. 20:19 You must not expose the nakedness of your mother’s sister and your father’s sister, for such a person has laid bare his own close relative. 24  They must bear their punishment for iniquity. 25  20:20 If a man has sexual intercourse with his aunt, he has exposed his uncle’s nakedness; they must bear responsibility for their sin, they will die childless. 20:21 If a man has sexual intercourse with 26  his brother’s wife, it is indecency. He has exposed his brother’s nakedness; 27  they will be childless.

Exhortation to Holiness and Obedience

20:22 “‘You must be sure to obey all my statutes and regulations, 28  so that 29  the land to which I am about to bring you to take up residence there does not vomit you out. 20:23 You must not walk in the statutes of the nation 30  which I am about to drive out before you, because they have done all these things and I am filled with disgust against them. 20:24 So I have said to you: You yourselves will possess their land and I myself will give it to you for a possession, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your God who has set you apart from the other peoples. 31  20:25 Therefore you must distinguish 32  between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean, and you must not make yourselves detestable by means of an animal or bird or anything that creeps on the ground – creatures 33  I have distinguished for you as unclean. 34  20:26 You must be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the other peoples to be mine.

Prohibition against Spiritists and Mediums

20:27 “‘A man or woman who 35  has in them a spirit of the dead or a familiar spirit 36  must be put to death. They must pelt them with stones; 37  their blood guilt is on themselves.’”

1 sn For structure and coherence in Lev 20:6-27 see the note on v. 27 below.

2 tn See the note on the phrase “familiar spirits” in Lev 19:31 above.

3 tn Heb “I will give my faces.”

4 tn Heb “And you shall keep my statutes and you shall do them.” This appears to be a kind of verbal hendiadys, where the first verb is a modifier of the action of the second verb (see GKC 386 §120.d, although שָׁמַר [shamar, “to keep”] is not cited there; cf. Lev 22:31, etc.).

5 sn Compare the regulations in Lev 18:6-23.

6 tn Heb “If a man a man who.”

7 tn Heb “makes light of his father and his mother.” Almost all English versions render this as some variation of “curses his father or mother.”

8 tn Heb “his blood [plural] is in him.” Cf. NAB “he has forfeited his life”; TEV “is responsible for his own death.”

sn The rendering “blood guilt” refers to the fact that the shedding of blood brings guilt on those who shed it illegitimately (even the blood of animals shed illegitimately, Lev 17:4; cf. the background of Gen 4:10-11). If the community performs a legitimate execution, however, the blood guilt rests on the person who has been legitimately executed (see the remarks and literature cited in J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 328).

9 tn Heb “And a man who.” The syntax here and at the beginning of the following verses elliptically mirrors that of v. 9, which justifies the rendering as a conditional clause.

10 tc The reading of the LXX minuscule mss has been followed here (see the BHS footnote a-a). The MT has a dittography, repeating “a man who commits adultery with the wife of” (see the explanation in J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 328). The duplication found in the MT is reflected in some English versions, e.g., KJV, ASV, NASB, NIV.

11 sn See the note on Lev 18:7 above.

12 tn See the note on v. 9 above.

13 tn The Hebrew term תֶּבֶל (tevel, “perversion”) derives from the verb “to mix; to confuse” (cf. KJV, ASV “they have wrought confusion”).

14 tn Heb “[as the] lyings of a woman.” The specific reference here is to homosexual intercourse between males.

15 tn Heb “And a man who takes a woman and her mother.” The Hebrew verb “to take” in this context means “to engage in sexual intercourse.”

16 tn Regarding “lewdness,” see the note on Lev 18:17 above.

17 tn Heb “in fire they shall burn him and them.” The active plural verb sometimes requires a passive translation (GKC 460 §144.f, g), esp. when no active plural subject has been expressed in the context. The present translation specifies “burned to death” because the traditional rendering “burnt with fire” (KJV, ASV; NASB “burned with fire”) could be understood to mean “branded” or otherwise burned, but not fatally.

18 tn See the note on Lev 18:20 above.

19 tn Heb “to copulate with it” (cf. Lev 20:16).

20 tn Heb “takes.” The verb “to take” in this context means “to engage in sexual intercourse,” though some English versions translate it as “marry” (e.g., NIV, NCV, TEV, CEV).

21 tn Regarding the “cut off” penalty, see the note on Lev 7:20.

22 tn See the note on Lev 17:16 above.

23 tn Heb “and the two of them.”

24 tn Heb “his flesh.”

25 tn See the note on Lev 17:16 above.

26 tn Heb “takes.” The verb “to take” in this context means “to engage in sexual intercourse.”

27 sn See the note on Lev 18:7 above.

28 tn Heb “And you shall keep all my statutes and all my regulations and you shall do them.” This appears to be a kind of verbal hendiadys, where the first verb is a modifier of the action of the second verb (see GKC 386 §120.d, although שָׁמַר [shamar, “to keep”] is not cited there; cf. Lev 22:31, etc.).

29 tn Heb “and.” The Hebrew conjunction ו (vav, “and”) can be considered to have resultative force here.

30 tc One medieval Hebrew ms, Smr, and all the major ancient versions have the plural “nations.” Some English versions retain the singular (e.g., KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV); others have the plural “nations” (e.g., NAB, NIV) and still others translate as “people” (e.g., TEV, NLT).

31 tc Here and with the same phrase in v. 26, the LXX adds “all,” resulting in the reading “all the peoples.”

32 tn Heb “And you shall distinguish.” The verb is the same as “set apart” at the end of the previous verse. The fact that God had “set them apart” from the other peoples roundabout them called for them to “distinguish between” the clean and the unclean, etc.

33 tn The word “creatures” has been supplied in the translation to make it clear that the following relative clause modifies the animal, bird, or creeping thing mentioned earlier, and not the ground itself.

34 tc The MT has “to defile,” but Smr, LXX, and Syriac have “to uncleanness.”

35 tc Smr, LXX, Syriac, and some Targum mss have the relative pronoun אֲשֶׁר (’asher, “who, which”), rather than the MT’s כִּי (ki, “for, because, that”).

36 tn See the note on the phrase “familiar spirit” in Lev 19:31 above.

37 tn This is not the most frequently-used Hebrew verb for stoning, but a word that refers to the action of throwing, slinging, or pelting someone with stones (see the note on v. 2 above). Smr and LXX have “you [plural] shall pelt them with stones.”

sn At first glance Lev 20:27 appears to be out of place but, on closer examination, one could argue that it constitutes the back side of an envelope around the case laws in 20:9-21, with Lev 20:6 forming the front of the envelope (note also that execution of mediums and spiritists by stoning in v. 27 is not explicitly stated in v. 6). This creates a chiastic structure: prohibition against mediums and spiritists (vv. 6 and 27), variations of the holiness formula (vv. 7 and 25-26), and exhortations to obey the Lord’s statutes (and judgments; vv. 8 and 22-24). Again, in the middle are the case laws (vv. 9-21).



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