Chapter 20


Punishments for Disobedience

    • The Lord told Moses to give the following instructions which apply to the Israelites as well as the foreigners living among them:

      • If anyone offers any of their children to Molech, they must be stoned to death. I, Myself, will turn from them and cut them off from the community because they have defiled My sanctuary and profaned My name.”

      • We discussed Molech worship in our notes for chapter 18. Guzik describes the ritual, “Molech was worshipped by heating a metal statue representing the god until it was red hot, then by placing a living infant on the outstretched hands of the statue, while beating drums drowned out the screams of the child until it burned to death.”

      • If anyone knows of someone who is sacrificing a child to Molech and they ignore it, I will turn against them and their families also and cut them off from the community. This is the punishment for anyone who prostitutes themselves by worshiping Molech.”

        • The penalty for Molech worship was death and if the sentence was not carried out by Israel, God declared He would set My face against that man and against his family. God will prosecute if the legal system of Israel failed to.” (Guzik)

      • I will also turn against anyone who turns to mediums or consults the dead and cut them off from the community. Set yourselves apart and be holy because I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and put them into practice because I am the Lord who sets you apart.”

        • Guzik writes, “In this specific passage, God gave nothing for Israel to do regarding the penalty. He simply said that He would execute the penalty. Involvement in such occultic practices invariably separates someone from God…This was the driving force behind the Ephesian church’s dramatic renunciation of magical and occultic materials (Acts 19:17-20). Having seen the reality of spiritual warfare, they wanted to draw close to the Lord and remove anything that might hinder that drawing close…1 John 4:2 makes it clear there are spirits who are not from God; such occultic, Jesus-denying spirits must be rejected completely.”

      • Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death- he has brought this punishment on himself.”

        • Time out!! This is one of those passages that skeptics have a field day with. Admittedly, it sounds extremely harsh. However, there are several things we need to keep in mind when considering this verse.

              1. Although critics of Christianity love to frame this as a young child being stoned to death for backtalking their parents, this interpretation is not accurate. This verse is later expounded upon in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and the context is made clear. William Einwechter writes, “..the person in view is a not a small child but a grown ‘son.’ The Hebrew term for ‘son’ (ben) employed here is indefinite. It is sometimes used of children of both sexes (Ex. 21:5) but most often of the male offspring of parents, and that is clearly the sense in this text. Of itself, the word “son” does not give any indication of age. It can refer to a child or a young man (cf. 1 Sam. 4:4; 19:1; 1 Kg. 1:33); age must be determined from the context. In this case, the son in view is not a child, for the sins brought forth in testimony to show his contumacious manner are gluttony and drunkenness (v. 20), hardly the sins of the average 6 or 10 year old! The case also indicates that the parents have tried to restrain their son, but all their efforts have failed (vv. 18, 20); specifying that he is physically beyond their control. Furthermore, the parents bring their son to the magistrates to judge the matter (v. 19); hence, the son would have opportunity to speak on his own behalf. All of this indicates that the ‘son’ in question is no mere child, but, rather, a young man at least in his middle teens or older. As Wright observes, ‘The law is not talking about naughty children but about seriously delinquent young adults.’”

              2. We aren’t talking about minor disobedience here or even a one time major mess up. Einwhechter continues, “This is not the case of a child who has failed to do his chores, spoke back to his parents, or even committed a serious act of disobedience, but of a son of dissolute character who is in full rebellion to the authority of his parents—he holds them and their word in contempt. […] The “rebellious” individual lashes out in contempt against those who have authority over him verbally, and perhaps even physically. […] In the case of such rebellion and riotous living, and after all attempts at discipline and control have failed, the parents are to bring their son before the magistrates for judgment.”

              3. This is not a punishment an angry parent could levy on their own. The son was entitled to his due process. As Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell points out, “In the instance described here, parents were empowered to bring a son who remained a stubborn, rebellious, gluttonous drunkard to the bar of justice, which consisted of the elders of his city at the gate. There, his case would be publicly tried, and if he were found guilty, he would be executed by stoning, the same method of execution used for other capital crimes.”

              4. As this Compelling Truth article notes, “…the goal was to remove evil from the community” and “to protect the community from future crime and to cause others to realize the importance of living according to the law of the Lord.”

              5. In truth, the modern day equivalent of this passage is turning over a dangerously delinquent adult (or almost adult) son or daughter to the police. The son or daughter is then subject to the laws of our country and the laws of our state, just as the son in this Leviticus passage is subject to the laws of the Israelite theocracy.

              6. Finally, even though this law is indeed “on the books,” there is no record in the Bible of this law actually being enforced.

      • If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, or has sexual relations with one of his father’s wives or his daughter-in-law, both the man and the woman will be put to death- they have brought it on themselves.”

        • Guzik makes the following points, “God commanded the death penalty for adultery in ancient Israel. As with previous laws and their penalties, this was because of the exceedingly great social consequences of this sin. God commanded the ultimate penalty to discourage it…As a practical matter, this death penalty was rarely carried out, as is the case in most of these situation where capital punishment is commanded. This is because any capital crime required two or three witnesses, and the witnesses had to be so sure of what they saw that they were willing to “cast the first stone” – that is, initiate the execution (Deuteronomy 17:6-7)…So, particularly in a case of adultery (or other sexual sins) there would rarely be two eyewitnesses willing to initiate the execution – and so capital punishment would not be carried out…This also helps us to understand what Jesus was doing when confronting the crowd who brought to Him the woman taken in adultery. By their presence and words, they claimed to have caught the woman in the act – but why then did they not bring the guilty man as well? And who was willing to cast the first stone – that is, initiate the execution? (John 8:1-12)…If the death penalty was carried out so rarely in ancient Israel (especially for these crimes), what good was it? It communicated loud and clear an ideal that Israel was to live up to, and it made people regard their sin much more seriously.”

      • If a man has sexual relations with another man, they have committed an abomination and must be put to death- they have brought this punishment on themselves.”

        • Guzik makes a very important point here that is often overlooked in Christianity today, “Though God here commanded the death penalty for homosexual practice (under the guidelines of evidence in a capital case as described in Deuteronomy 17:6-7), we should note this was not a more severe punishment than what was commanded for adultery or incest. Homosexuality is sin, but sin in the same sense other sexual sins are.”

      • If a man commits the depraved act of marrying a woman and her mother, they must be burned to death to wipe out this depravity.”

      • If a man or a woman has sexual relations with an animal, both the person and the animal must be killed. They have brought this punishment on themselves.”

      • If a man marries his sister (whether she’s the daughter of his mother or his father) and has sexual relations with her it is disgraceful and they must both be publicly cut off from the community, and the man will bear the punishment.”

      • If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her menstrual period, both of them will be cut off from the community because they have exposed the source of her blood flow.”

        • Because of these passages in Leviticus, some people believe that it is a sin today to have sexual intercourse while your wife is on her period. However, this gotquestions article offers a good response, “The problem with this view is that if the Scriptures are applied consistently, even touching a woman who is having her menstrual flow would be forbidden. Further, according to Leviticus 15:20-23, even touching something that the woman has also touched would be forbidden. Do these laws apply to us today? No, they do not. Why? It is important to remember the purpose of the Old Testament laws concerning blood. In the sacrificial system, blood was sacred (Leviticus 17:11). A woman’s “uncleanness” during her period was symbolic of the value placed on blood. As a result, contact with a woman who was having her period was forbidden.” I would add that we are no longer under Mosaic Law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24-26; Ephesians 2:15) and no such command exists under the New Covenant Law of Christ.

      • Don’t have sexual relations with your aunt (whether your mother’s sister or your father’s sister) because this shames a close relative. Both parties are to be considered guilty and punished.”

      • If a man has sexual relations with his uncle’s wife, he has shamed his uncle. If a man marries his brother’s wife, this is impure and he has shamed his brother. In these cases, both parties are considered guilty and will die childless.”

        • Guzik notes, “they shall be childless is a penalty only God can apply.”

Holiness in the Land

      • You must keep all of My commands and do them. If you don’t, the land that I am bringing you to will vomit you out. Don’t live like the people who currently inhabit the land I’m giving you- the people that I am driving out. They do all of these shameful things I have told you not to do and I detest them. I have promised you that I will give you this rich land which is flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your God who has set you apart from all these people. You are to distinguish between clean and unclean animals and birds. Don’t defile yourselves by eating any unclean animal, bird, or creature that scurries on the ground. You are to be holy because I am holy and I have set you apart from these other nations to be Mine. A man or woman who acts as a medium or spiritist (consults the dead), must be stoned to death- they have brought this punishment on themselves.”

        • The expression flowing with milk and honey is common in Exodus-Deuteronomy. It conveys the idea of food being abundant and easy to get. This contrasts with Egypt, where everything depended on the flooding of the Nile and irrigation (Deuteronomy 11:9-12).” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

        • Guzik writes, “If one consulted a medium, they were to be cut off (Leviticus 20:6); but if some one was the actual practitioner of these occultic arts, they were to be executed under the law of Israel.”