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Leviticus 18 - Sexual Relations

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

2 Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: I am the Lord your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not follow their statutes. 4 My ordinances you shall observe and my statutes you shall keep, following them: I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances; by doing so one shall live: I am the Lord.

6 None of you shall approach anyone near of kin to uncover nakedness: I am the Lord. 7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is the nakedness of your father. 9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether born at home or born abroad. 10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or of your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. 11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, begotten by your father, since she is your sister. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s flesh. 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s flesh. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law: she is your son’s wife; you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, and you shall not take[a] her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are your[b] flesh; it is depravity. 18 And you shall not take[c] a woman as a rival to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.

19 You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. 20 You shall not have sexual relations with your kinsman’s wife, and defile yourself with her. 21 You shall not give any of your offspring to sacrifice them[d] to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 You shall not have sexual relations with any animal and defile yourself with it, nor shall any woman give herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it: it is perversion.

24 Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for by all these practices the nations I am casting out before you have defiled themselves. 25 Thus the land became defiled; and I punished it for its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and commit none of these abominations, either the citizen or the alien who resides among you 27 (for the inhabitants of the land, who were before you, committed all of these abominations, and the land became defiled); 28 otherwise the land will vomit you out for defiling it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For whoever commits any of these abominations shall be cut off from their people. 30 So keep my charge not to commit any of these abominations that were done before you, and not to defile yourselves by them: I am the Lord your God.


a. Leviticus 18:17 Or marry

b. Leviticus 18:17 Gk: Heb lacks your

c. Leviticus 18:18 Or marry

d. Leviticus 18:21 Heb to pass them over

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Comprehensive Analysis

Child Sacrifice and Sex (Leviticus 18:19-23)

This warning against child sacrifice seems out of place in the middle of a chapter on rules about sex. Yet, for the Israelites, there was a connection. Their neighbors, who sacrificed their children as a part of their religion, also practiced temple prostitution and homosexual acts as a way of worship. To them, sex was a way to get in touch with their gods. God’s warnings against various sexual practices begin (Lev 18:3) and end (Lev 18:24) with warnings to behave differently from these neighbors.

NIV Student Bible

NIV Student Bible, Copyright © 2002, 2011 by Zondervan.

(Lev 18:21) Typically, children were sacrificed to Molek. This involved not only dedicating the child to Molek, which was idolatry, but perhaps also burning the child in sacrifice to Molek (or Baal in some instances). As here, this prohibition sometimes occurs in the midst of prohibitions about incest and other sexual violations because there is a natural connection between sexual relations and having children. Profane = To treat someone or something that was holy as if it were common. Similar: desecrate, defile, violate.

NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible

NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible, Copyright © 2019 by Zondervan.

The sacrifice of children; (Molech was the name of a god known in Canaan and elsewhere), genito-anal intercourse between men and both male and female intercourse with animals are all known to have been part of pagan worship in Egypt, Canaan and elsewhere. The actions are described respectively as profaning the name of your God (that is, bringing disgrace on the reputation of Yahweh among the nations), detestable = used for things which God hates or deplores, and perversion = ‘confusion’; i.e. the unnatural mixing of what God created and intended to be separate.

New Bible Commentary

Copyright Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, Leicester, England, 1953, 1954, 1970, 1994 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher or, in the UK, the Copyright Licensing Agency. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder and Stoughton Ltd and Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Also banned were the terrible practices sometimes connected with the worship of the idol Molech, causing newborn babies to pass through fire (2 Kgs. 23:10; Jer. 32:35). Molech was the god of the Ammonites: His idol-image was in the Valley of Hinnom. Francis Schaeffer describes the ritual: According to one tradition there was an opening at the back of the brazen idol, and after a fire was made within it, each parent had to come and with his own hands place his firstborn child in the white-hot, outstretched arms of Molech. According to this tradition, the parent was not allowed to show emotion, and drums were beaten so that the baby’s cries could not be heard as the baby died in the arms of Molech.

Believer's Bible Commentary

Believer's Bible Commentary, Copyright © 1989, 1990, 1992, 1995, 2016 by William MacDonald.

There is plenty of evidence for homosexuality and bestiality in the ancient Near East. A Mesopotamian omen (concerned with results rather than morality) prognosticates: “If a man has anal sex with a man of equal status—that man will be foremost among his brothers and colleagues.” However, the Middle Assyrian laws have a different attitude, which is closer to that of Leviticus: “If a man sodomizes his comrade and they prove the charges against him and find him guilty, they shall sodomize him and they shall turn him into a eunuch.” In harmony with this negative assessment, a confession of righteousness in the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” affirms: “I have not copulated with a boy.” Both homosexuality and bestiality were practiced in the context of ritual or magic in the ancient Near East. The latter particularly occurred in Ugarit, but was banned in Hittite laws.

Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the Old Testament

Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the Old Testament, Copyright © 2002 by Zondervan.


Regarding the persecution of homosexuals in the past (and in today's world) by the church and false Christians:

Romans 14:13-17, ESV

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So, do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.



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