Leviticus 18
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chs. 18–20. Laws dealing with various Moral Subjects

These three chs. contain features common to two or all three of them, which are found nowhere else in the Pentateuch. Such are (1) a collection of laws combined with a hortatory introduction and summary (Leviticus 18:1-5; Leviticus 18:24-30, Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 19:37, Leviticus 20:1-8; Leviticus 20:22-26), (2) the prohibition of magic (Leviticus 19:26; Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27), (3) reference to Molech worship (Leviticus 18:21, Leviticus 20:1-5). Paton (Hebraica, x. [1894] iii ff.) considers that ch. 20 does not present an independent code or recension, but is a hortatory exposition based on chs. 17–19 by a later editor. At all events, the amount of repetition coupled with a variation in expressions in ch. 20 as compared with the three preceding it affords sufficient evidence that the two groups of laws are not in their present form the work of one writer.

Ch. Leviticus 18:1-30. Prohibition of Unlawful Marriages and Unchastity, and of Molech Worship

The introductory clause as far as ‘and say unto them’ is all that belongs to the final revision. The style of Rh[63] appears in Leviticus 18:2 b–5 and in Leviticus 18:24-30; the repetition of the same phrases and the brevity of expression in Leviticus 18:7-23 shew that they form a Torah on social relations which has been included by Rh[64] in his collection. The second person sing is employed throughout Leviticus 18:7-23, the plural in Leviticus 18:6 seems to distinguish it as an introduction added by Rh[65]; cp. the plural in Leviticus 18:3-5 and Leviticus 18:24-30.

[63] A Reviser who combined laws taken mainly from existing codes with a hortatory and warning element.

[64] A Reviser who combined laws taken mainly from existing codes with a hortatory and warning element.

[65] A Reviser who combined laws taken mainly from existing codes with a hortatory and warning element.

Paton (J. Bibl. Lit. xvi. [1897] pp. 43 ff.) takes ‘I am Jehovah your God’ in Leviticus 18:2 as the conclusion of ch. 17 which he regards as a pentad (or Torah made up of a fivefold prohibition) on sacrifice. He considers Leviticus 18:3-5 as a second pentad enjoining allegiance to Jehovah, and concluding with ‘I am the Lord.’ He also divides the rest of the chapter into two decalogues:

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
1. Purity in those connected through the relationship of parent and child.

The first Pentad: Kinship of the first degree, Leviticus 18:6-10.

The second Pentad: Kinship of the second degree, Leviticus 18:11-15.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the LORD your God.
2. Purity in remoter relationships.

The first Pentad: Relationships through marriage, Leviticus 18:16-19.

The second Pentad: Purity outside of the family, Leviticus 18:20-23.

To the exhortation concluding with ‘I am the Lord your God’ (Leviticus 18:30) he would add Leviticus 19:2 b, ‘Ye shall be holy,’ etc.

The arrangement in this ch. is better than in ch. 20, and the cases dealt with are more numerous. Ch. 20 contains no parallels to Leviticus 18:7; Leviticus 18:10; Leviticus 18:17 b, Leviticus 18:18, and has therefore been taken as representing an earlier code. On the other hand ch. 20, unlike ch. 18, mentions penalties for the offences, while such indications as it affords by the juxtaposition of ‘you’ in Leviticus 20:14 b, Leviticus 20:15 b, and ‘thou’ in Leviticus 20:16; Leviticus 20:19, and the duplicate clauses in Leviticus 18:10 suggest that whatever age may be ascribed to the code in ch. 20, as compared with that which appears in ch. 18, the former has at any rate been subjected to later editing.

After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.
Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God.
Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.
5. I am the Lord] For the significance of this often repeated expression, see pp. xlviii f.

None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD.
6. A general exhortation (hence perhaps the plural; see above), introductory to the enumeration of specific cases. Baentsch attributes it to the author of the preceding verses.

The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness.
8. This is the one case which appears (apart from two others in the imprecations, Deuteronomy 27:22-23), but stated in different words, in Deut. (Deuteronomy 22:30 [Heb. 23:1], Deuteronomy 27:20). This has been thought to point to the code represented by the v. in Deut. as earlier than that here; but an easier explanation is to suppose that the practice, as specially prevalent at the time, needed specific prohibition. Illicit connexion with a stepmother here forbidden, was not uncommon in the polygamous East. See Driver, Deut., p. 259, for the custom in Syria and Arabia. It seems to have been still common in the time of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 22:10).

The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.
The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness.
10. The prohibition in the case of a daughter was probably omitted accidentally by a copyist from the beginning of this v.

The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister: for she is thy mother's near kinswoman.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.
Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.
18. a woman to her sister] This is clearly right, as against the A.V. mg. ‘one wife to another.’ It is the marriage of two sisters together that is prohibited. The words that follow (‘in her lifetime’) show that the law, as set down here, does not prohibit marriage with a deceased wife’s sister. However weighty the reasons which may be adduced against such a connexion, scholars are generally agreed that they derive no support from this v.

Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.
Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.
And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
21. A more suitable position for this precept would be at the end of the laws in Leviticus 18:7-23. It occurs in a developed form in Leviticus 20:2-5. Its sudden interposition may be accounted for by remembering the condemnation of idolatry under the figure of unfaithfulness to the marriage tie (cp. the expressions in Leviticus 20:5 a), see Jeremiah 3:1 ff. For the worship of Molech (Milcom), the god of the Ammonites, see Barnes (C.B.) on 1 Kings 11:5.

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.
Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
24–30. See general note at the beginning of the ch. These vv. are probably expanded from earlier materials. After the warning in Leviticus 18:24 the standpoint changes, and the remainder of the passage is a reflection on the past, the verbs being really in the past tense, were defiled, was defiled, I visited, (the land) vomited.

And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.
Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
(For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.
For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.
Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.
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