New English Translation
Prohibitions against Illegitimate Family Worship
20 The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 “You are to say to the Israelites, ‘Any man from the Israelites (or any of the resident foreigners[a] who live in Israel) who gives any of his children[b] to Molech[c] must be put to death; the people of the land must pelt him with stones.[d] 3 I myself will set my face[e] against that man and cut him off from the midst of his people,[f] because he has given some of his children to Molech and thereby defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name.[g] 4 If, however, the people of the land shut their eyes[h] to that man[i] when he gives some of his children to Molech so that they do not put him to death, 5 I myself will set my face against that man and his clan. I will cut off from the midst of the people both him and all who follow after him in spiritual prostitution,[j] committing prostitution by worshiping Molech.[k]
Prohibition against Spiritists and Mediums[l]
6 “‘The person who turns to the spirits of the dead and familiar spirits[m] to commit prostitution by going after them, I will set my face[n] against that person and cut him off from the midst of his people.
Exhortation to Holiness and Obedience
7 “‘You must sanctify yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. 8 You must be sure to obey my statutes.[o] I am the Lord who sanctifies you.
Family Life and Sexual Prohibitions[p]
9 “‘If anyone[q] curses his father or mother[r] he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or mother; his blood guilt is on himself.[s] 10 If a man[t] commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife,[u] both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. 11 If a man goes to bed with[v] his father’s wife, he has exposed his father’s nakedness.[w] Both of them must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.[x] 12 If a man goes to bed[y] with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be put to death. They have committed perversion;[z] their blood guilt is on themselves. 13 If a man goes to bed with[aa] a male as one goes to bed with a woman,[ab] the two of them have committed an abomination. They must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves. 14 If a man has marital relations with both a woman and her mother,[ac] it is lewdness.[ad] Both he and they must be burned to death,[ae] so there is no lewdness in your midst. 15 If a man has sexual relations[af] with any animal, he must be put to death, and you must kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal to copulate with it, you must kill the woman, and the animal must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.
17 “‘If a man has marital relations with[ag] his sister, whether the daughter of his father or of his mother, so that he sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace. They must be cut off in the sight of the children of their people.[ah] He has exposed his sister’s nakedness; he will bear his punishment for iniquity.[ai] 18 If a man goes to bed[aj] with a menstruating woman and uncovers her nakedness, he has laid bare her fountain of blood and she has exposed the fountain of her blood, so both of them[ak] must be cut off from the midst of their people. 19 You must not expose the nakedness of your mother’s sister or your father’s sister, for such a person has exposed his own close relative.[al] They must bear their punishment for iniquity.[am] 20 If a man goes to bed[an] with his aunt, he has exposed his uncle’s nakedness; they must bear responsibility for their sin, they will die childless. 21 If a man has marital relations with[ao] his brother’s wife, it is indecency. He has exposed his brother’s nakedness;[ap] they will be childless.
Exhortation to Holiness and Obedience
22 “‘You must be sure to obey all my statutes and regulations,[aq] so that[ar] the land to which I am about to bring you to take up residence does not vomit you out. 23 You must not walk in the statutes of the nations[as] which I am about to drive out before you, because they have done all these things and I am filled with disgust against them. 24 So I have said to you: You yourselves will possess their land and I myself will give it to you for a possession, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your God who has set you apart from the other peoples.[at] 25 Therefore you must distinguish[au] between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean, and you must not make yourselves detestable by means of an animal or bird or anything that creeps on the ground—creatures[av] I have distinguished for you as unclean.[aw] 26 You must be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the other peoples to be mine.
Prohibition against Spiritists and Mediums
- Leviticus 20:2 tn The noun “foreigner” (גֵּר; ger) is based on the same verbal root as “lives” (גּוּר; gur), which means “to sojourn, to dwell as an alien.” On the Hebrew ger (גֵּר) “resident foreigner” see notes at Exod 12:19 and Deut 29:11.
- Leviticus 20:2 tn Heb “his seed” (so KJV, ASV); likewise in vv. 3-4.
- Leviticus 20:2 tn Regarding Molech and Molech worship see the note on Lev 18:21.
- Leviticus 20:2 tn This is not the most frequently-used Hebrew verb for stoning (see instead סָקַל, saqal), but a word that refers to the action of throwing, slinging, or pelting someone with stones (רָגָם, ragam; see HALOT 1187 s.v. רגם qal.a, and B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 136).
- Leviticus 20:3 tn Heb “And I, I shall give my faces.”
- Leviticus 20:3 sn On the “cut off” penalty see the notes on Lev 7:20 and 17:4.
- Leviticus 20:3 tn Heb “for the sake of defiling my sanctuary and to profane my holy name.”
- Leviticus 20:4 tn Heb “And if shutting [infinitive absolute] they shut [finite verb].” For the infinitive absolute used to highlight contrast rather than emphasis see GKC 343 §113.p.
- Leviticus 20:4 tn Heb “from that man” (so ASV); NASB “disregard that man.”
- Leviticus 20:5 tn The adjective “spiritual” has been supplied in the translation to clarify that this is not a reference to literal prostitution, but figuratively compares idolatry to prostitution.
- Leviticus 20:5 tn Heb “to commit harlotry after Molech.” The translation employs “worshiping” here for clarity (cf. NAB, NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT). On the “cut off” penalty see the note on Lev 7:20.
- Leviticus 20:6 sn For structure and coherence in Lev 20:6-27 see the note on v. 27 below.
- Leviticus 20:6 tn See the note on the phrase “familiar spirits” in Lev 19:31 above.
- Leviticus 20:6 tn Heb “I will give my faces.”
- Leviticus 20:8 tn Heb “And you shall keep my statutes and you shall do them.” This appears to be a kind of verbal hendiadys, where the first verb is a modifier of the action of the second verb (see GKC 386 §120.d, although שָׁמַר [shamar, “to keep”] is not cited there; cf. Lev 22:31, etc.).
- Leviticus 20:9 sn Compare the regulations in Lev 18:6-23.
- Leviticus 20:9 tn Heb “If a man a man who.”
- Leviticus 20:9 tn Heb “makes light of his father and his mother.” Almost all English versions render this as some variation of “curses his father or mother.”
- Leviticus 20:9 tn Heb “his blood [plural] is in him.” Cf. NAB “he has forfeited his life”; TEV “is responsible for his own death.”sn The rendering “blood guilt” refers to the fact that the shedding of blood brings guilt on those who shed it illegitimately (even the blood of animals shed illegitimately, Lev 17:4; cf. the background of Gen 4:10-11). If the community performs a legitimate execution, however, the blood guilt rests on the person who has been legitimately executed (see the remarks and literature cited in J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 328).
- Leviticus 20:10 tn Heb “And a man who.” The syntax here and at the beginning of the following verses elliptically mirrors that of v. 9, which justifies the rendering as a conditional clause.
- Leviticus 20:10 tc The reading of the LXX minuscule mss has been followed here (see the BHS footnote a-a). The MT has a dittography, repeating “a man who commits adultery with the wife of” (see the explanation in J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 328). The duplication found in the MT is reflected in some English versions, e.g., KJV, ASV, NASB, NIV.
- Leviticus 20:11 tn Heb “lies down with.” The verb שָׁכַב (shakav) “to lie down” acts as a euphemism, implying going to bed for sexual relations.
- Leviticus 20:11 sn See the note on Lev 18:7 above.
- Leviticus 20:11 tn See the note on v. 9 above.
- Leviticus 20:12 tn Heb “lies down with.” See note at v. 11.
- Leviticus 20:12 tn The Hebrew term תֶּבֶל (tevel, “perversion”) derives from the verb “to mix; to confuse” (cf. KJV, ASV “they have wrought confusion”).
- Leviticus 20:13 tn Heb “lies down with.” See note at v. 11.
- Leviticus 20:13 tn Heb “[as the] lyings of a woman.” The specific reference here is to homosexual intercourse between males.
- Leviticus 20:14 tn Heb “takes a woman and her mother.” The verb לָקַח (laqakh) is sometimes used idiomatically with אִשָּׁה (ʾishah) to mean “take a wife,” or “marry,” and may mean that here (cf. NIV, NASB). But the same expression in v. 21 probably does not imply marriage itself, but only the sexual act of marriage. This chapter uses different expressions for sexual relations, though the subtleties for exegesis are not clear. Since this Hebrew expression can imply marriage, the translation uses “marital relations” as the metaphor in vv. 14, 17, and 21.
- Leviticus 20:14 tn Regarding “lewdness,” see the note on Lev 18:17 above.
- Leviticus 20:14 tn Heb “in fire they shall burn him and them.” The active plural verb sometimes requires a passive translation (GKC 460 §144.f, g), esp. when no active plural subject has been expressed in the context. The present translation specifies “burned to death” because the traditional rendering “burnt with fire” (KJV, ASV; NASB “burned with fire”) could be understood to mean “branded” or otherwise burned, but not fatally.
- Leviticus 20:15 tn See the note on Lev 18:20 above.
- Leviticus 20:17 tn The Hebrew verb לָקַח (laqakh) “to take” sometimes means to take a woman in marriage (cf. Gen 34:16; Lev 20:14; and see HALOT 534 s.v. לקח) as understood by, e.g., NIV, NCV, TEV, CEV. It is possible that expression here simply means to have sexual relations, or that it does so in combination with the following two clauses. See note at v. 14.
- Leviticus 20:17 tn Regarding the “cut off” penalty, see the note on Lev 7:20.
- Leviticus 20:17 tn See the note on Lev 17:16 above.
- Leviticus 20:18 tn Heb “lies down with.” See note at v. 11.
- Leviticus 20:18 tn Heb “and the two of them.”
- Leviticus 20:19 tn Heb “his flesh.”
- Leviticus 20:19 tn See the note on Lev 17:16 above.
- Leviticus 20:20 tn Heb “lies down with.” See note at v. 11.
- Leviticus 20:21 tn Heb “takes.” See notes at vv. 14 and 17. sn It must be assumed that the brother is still alive in this situation, since Deut 25:5 requires a man to marry his brother’s widow and have a child in his brother’s name. It is less clear whether the brother in this case has divorced his wife.
- Leviticus 20:21 sn See the note on Lev 18:7 above.
- Leviticus 20:22 tn Heb “And you shall keep all my statutes and all my regulations and you shall do them.” This appears to be a kind of verbal hendiadys, where the first verb is a modifier of the action of the second verb (see GKC 386 §120.d, although שָׁמַר [shamar, “to keep”] is not cited there; cf. Lev 22:31, etc.).
- Leviticus 20:22 tn Heb “and.” The Hebrew conjunction ו (vav, “and”) can be considered to have resultative force here.
- Leviticus 20:23 tc One medieval Hebrew ms, Smr, and all the major ancient versions have the plural “nations.” Some English versions retain the singular (e.g., KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV); others have the plural “nations” (e.g., NAB, NIV) and still others translate as “people” (e.g., TEV, NLT).
- Leviticus 20:24 tc Here and with the same phrase in v. 26, the LXX adds “all,” resulting in the reading “all the peoples.”
- Leviticus 20:25 tn Heb “And you shall distinguish.” The verb is the same as “set apart” at the end of the previous verse. The fact that God had “set them apart” from the other peoples around them called for them to “distinguish between” the clean and the unclean, etc.
- Leviticus 20:25 tn The word “creatures” has been supplied in the translation to make it clear that the following relative clause modifies the animal, bird, or creeping thing mentioned earlier, and not the ground itself.
- Leviticus 20:25 tc The MT has “to defile,” but Smr, LXX, and Syriac have “to uncleanness.”
- Leviticus 20:27 tc Smr, LXX, Syriac, and some Targum mss have the relative pronoun אֲשֶׁר (ʾasher, “who, which”), rather than the MT’s כִּי (ki, “for, because, that”).
- Leviticus 20:27 tn See the note on the phrase “familiar spirit” in Lev 19:31 above.
- Leviticus 20:27 tc Smr and LXX have “you [plural] shall pelt them with stones.”tn This is not the most frequently-used Hebrew verb for stoning, but a word that refers to the action of throwing, slinging, or pelting someone with stones (see the note on v. 2 above).sn At first glance Lev 20:27 appears to be out of place but, on closer examination, one could argue that it constitutes the back side of an envelope around the case laws in 20:9-21, with Lev 20:6 forming the front of the envelope (note also that execution of mediums and spiritists by stoning in v. 27 is not explicitly stated in v. 6). This creates a chiastic structure: prohibition against mediums and spiritists (vv. 6 and 27), variations of the holiness formula (vv. 7 and 25-26), and exhortations to obey the Lord’s statutes (and judgments; vv. 8 and 22-24). Again, in the middle are the case laws (vv. 9-21).