Study Guide

Leviticus Chapter 18

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Chapter 18

Let's Talk About Sex

  • Now we get to one of the most controversial sections in Leviticus: the holiness rules in chapters 18 through 20.
  • Chapter 18 starts with a couple reasons for the rules.
  • For one thing, Israelites are the cool kids now. Don't be like other people. God has his own lunch table and they're not invited.
  • Israelites also get something out of being part of the Israelite crew. They're really gonna live, baby, and living ain't just breathing.
  • Of course, if the Israelites want good things to happen, they have to keep God's laws and show that they know where the good stuff is coming from.

They're Too Sexy for This Land

  • The key word here is Israelites. The laws in this chapter are ways for the nation to thrive as a separate community in the land that God has given them.
  • The first dozen or so rules are about not "exposing the nakedness" of certain family members. Pantsing other people is apparently okay.
  • Precisely what these incest rules mean has been the subject of extensive debate.
  • Because adultery is already established as unlawful, it would appear that the target of these incest rules are sexual relationships with women who are widowed, divorced, or otherwise not married to someone else.
  • The emphasis on the wrongfulness of uncovering others' nakedness might be focused on keeping a strong male family member from exploiting women in his extended household, both in order to satisfy his sexual appetites and to exert his power.
  • The incest rules also make it unlawful to have sex with combinations of women that could lead to social strife within a family, such as sleeping with two sisters, sleeping with a mother and daughter, or sleeping with a wife and her sister.
  • Clearly God in his total knowledge of all space and time has seen every episode of Jerry Springer.
  • Another forbidden sex-related act is adultery, which refers to a man sleeping with a married woman.
  • Under biblical law, a man—whether married or single—is not committing adultery if he sleeps with a woman who is not his wife and also not married to someone else.
  • For example, in Fifty Shades of Grey, Anastasia Steele and Christian are technically not committing adultery, since Anastasia is not married to someone else. Hmmm.
  • Don't dedicate your children to Molech. Stoning your kid to death if he misbehaves is cool, but sacrificing him to Molech is a big no-no even if he is acting like a spoiled brat.
  • And then, here it is, verse 22, the big kahuna: an Israelite "must not lie with a man with the lying down of a woman."
  • "Lie with a man with the lying down of a woman?" Who in the world talks like that? What does it even mean?
  • Based on other biblical references, it would appear to refer to a man anally penetrating another man.
  • Whatever it is, it's taboo
  • The word used to describe the lying-down-of-a-woman taboo is toevah, which is used for a variety of taboo things from unclean food, unclean birds, and dirty clothes to idols and intermarriage with non-Israelites.
  • Verse 22 says nothing about any other form of sexual contact, such as a woman sleeping with another woman.
  • The next verse is more specific, stating that neither a man nor a woman may have sex with an animal.
  • The chapter winds up by circling back to the reasons for following these rules. The emphasis here is the purity of God's land. If the Israelites and the people who live among them pollute this holy land by engaging in such acts, the land will vomit them out.
  • Again with the vomiting.

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