Feb. 7 Reading: Leviticus 19-21 Commentary

Below is our Leviticus 19-21 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“…you shall love your neighbor as yourself…” (Lev. 19:18)

“Therefore you shall observe all My statues and all My judgments, and perform them: I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:37)

Leviticus 19 – More Moral and Ceremonial Laws

commentaryGod calls the people to holiness once again in Lev. 19:2. The reason? Simply to be holy a reflection of him, for he is holy.

They could fulfill this command by following the laws God outlined. In this chapter, God spoke to Moses about moral and ceremonial laws for the people. Some are reiterations of commands given before, while others appear here for the first time.

Some highlights include:

1. Children were to revere their parents (v. 3) and everyone was to respect their elders (v. 32).

2. The people were forbidden to worship idols (v. 4).

3. Peace offerings were not to be coerced. They were given by one’s free will (v. 5).

4. Provisions were to be made for the poor at harvest time by not reaping the corners of the field or picking every grape from the vine (vv. 9-10).

5. They were to exercise honesty when dealing with a neighbor (v. 13) and make just judgments (v. 15).

6. No eating anything with blood still in it (v. 26)(see Leviticus 17 commentary for further study).

7. No tattoos (most likely again to distinguish themselves from their pagan neighbors)(v. 28).

8. There was to be no prostitution (v. 29), no seeking out spiritualists (v. 31) and no cheating others in business deals (v. 35).

Perhaps the most important command falls right in the middle of the chapter. It’s a command Jesus would describe as one of the two greatest. “…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).

People matter to God. Additionally, how we interact with each other matters to Him. He wants our love for others to be as great as His.

“I am the Lord”

If you ever see repetition in the Bible, it’s important to note. In this chapter, we see that happen. The phrase “I am the Lord” is repeated 15 times. The phrase occurs at the end of each command given in the chapter (vv. 3, 4, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 25, 28, 30, 31, 32, 34, 36, 37).

There is no obvious explanation given for the repetition. One gets the sense it’s God as parent saying “because I said so” to a child. And if that is the case, that should be enough for people to be obedient. Most likely, it’s his way of drawing people’s attention back to himself as the author of everything happening in their lives.

Leviticus 20 – What if You Break the Law?

So what if a person didn’t follow God’s laws? What then? Were there actual consequences for disobedience?

It would see that there were varying levels of consequence. As outlined earlier in Leviticus, several offerings could be presented at the tabernacle for the forgiveness of sin. In those cases, the person was declared righteous or clean and allowed to remain with the people.

However, some offenses carried heavy weight. One of those sentences was death.

In Leviticus 20, some offenses resulted in the death penalty (most likely by stoning). These include:

1. Sacrifices to Molech (v. 1-5)(see below).

2. Consulting with mediums or spirits (v. 6) or practicing such (v. 27).

3. Cursing one’s father or mother (v. 9).

4. Committing adultery (v. 10).

5. Sexual relations with a close family members (vv. 11-12).

6. Homosexual relations (v. 13).

7. Bestiality (vv. 15-16).

It’s really hard to believe but there was a practice among the Canaanite people of offering child sacrifices to their god Molech. God strictly forbid the Israelites from doing this (Lev. 20:1-6). It serves as another explanation to us as to why God gave them all these laws outlined in the Bible. The people were to be completely different in their actions and behavior than the other nations that surrounded them in the land. They were to stand out and not adopt the evil practices of the other nations. As followers of Jesus, that is still our challenge today – to stand out and be godly examples in this world.

Leviticus 21 – The Conduct of Priests

The priests also had rules of conduct to follow. A few regulations listed in Leviticus 21 include:

1. They were not to go near a dead body except one of a close relative (v. 1).

2. No bald spot was to be shaved on their head or beard and no cuttings were allowed in their flesh (v. 5).

3. They could not marry a harlot, defiled woman or a divorced woman (v. 6).

4. A priest was to burn his daughter with fire if she became a prostitute (v. 9).

5. Among other things, the high priest was not to uncover his head or tear his clothing (v. 10). Additionally, no descendant of a priest in succeeding generations who had a defect of some kind, was allowed to offer the offerings made by fire (v. 16-23).

Again, these may not make sense for our day and time. The day-to-day application with these laws was for the people of that era. But we continue to see God’s insistence on holiness, reverence, and obedience. Even today, we can get behind those concepts in our daily life.

Questions to Consider:

Is it hard for you to live a godly life? How are you tempted and drawn to do  things you know God would not approve of? How do you resist that pull? 

Leviticus 19 contains a whole host of laws that relate to how the Israelites were to treat other people. Ultimately, God summed up his expectation for them in verse 18 by saying “…love your neighbor as yourself.” Is that what you are doing? How are you caring for and serving other people?

What other points would you want to know about in our Leviticus 19-21 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.