Our continued study in the book of Leviticus brings us to a seemingly unrelated list of activities forbidden by God. We must remember the context in which these statutes were given. God commanded Israel to build a house so He could dwell in the midst of Israel, hence, in the midst of the human community. Once built, His Glory descended onto/into the house. Finally, in the book we call Leviticus He invited Israel (His human host nation) to come to visit (approach) Him. There was a “proper” moral attire that those approaching should conform to. We saw a progression to spiritual maturity outline in chapters 1-8. Later, God distinguished between ritual clean and unclean. It appears that this subject had to do with life and death. Those approaching God could not bring anything associated with death close to Him. Now we will consider moral qualities necessary for those approaching God.
We should note that much of the moral code embraced by Western civilization was defined by God in the Torah. Statutes concerning sexuality was included in the section currently being considered.
The first subject discussed in incest. God declared,
“None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the Lord”. (Leviticus 18:6)
A series of specific prohibited relationships were listed. It appears that any relative closer than first cousins are prohibited. Evidently incest was common in Egypt from which Israel had been delivered and also common in the Canaanite culture where they were going. In addition sexual intercourse with a woman during her menstrual cycle was prohibited. In chapter 20 specific penalties are listed for those guilty of incest.
Homosexuality and Bestiality were also prohibited.
“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female, it is an abomination. Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, not shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.” (Leviticus 18:22-23)
In recent years, American culture (or lack of it) has rejected the prohibition of homosexuality and to a lesser degree bestiality. Today homosexuality is considered to be “politically correct” and is being embraced widely by the American culture.
Another important area of concern is welfare. How does a society provide for the welfare of those unable to provide for themselves which allows the recipient to survive while maintaining personal dignity?
“Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:9-10)
Also special previsions were made for those working on a daily wage:
“You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.” (Leviticus 19:13)
“You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:14)
Worship of the false gods of the Canaanites was prohibited. This included the sacrifice of children to Molech. Children were burned in the arms of Molech in an effort to appease this angry god who supposedly had been offended by an individual or by the community. Such a sacrifice supposedly benefited the individual or community so they could return to prosperity. The modern practice of abortion is very nearly the same thing. Children are sacrifices in order for the individual or family to prosper materially.
Finally, a famous rabbi once quoted Leviticus 19:18 as a companion commandment to the great commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul and your strength”. He said a second commandment was to:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18b and Mark 12:31a)