Leviticus 20


וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר   20:1

Levi. 20:1   And the Lord spoke to Moses saying,

וְאֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל תֹּאמַר אִישׁ אִישׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמִן־הַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן מִזַּרְעֹו לַמֹּלֶךְ  20:2

מֹות יוּמָת עַם הָאָרֶץ יִרְגְּמֻהוּ בָאָבֶן

Levi. 20:2   “Moreover, to the children of Israel you shall say, ‘Any man from the children of Israel or from a stranger sojourning in Israel who will dedicate any of his seed to Molech shall surely be put to death.  The people of the land shall stone him with stones.’”

An interesting variation in the Hebrew grammar occurs in this verse, although it can also occasionally be found elsewhere in the bible.  The verb translated as “... shall stone him ...” near the end of the verse is typically assumed to be plural (although this assumption may be questioned because of the ambiguous Hebrew spelling) despite the fact the subject of that verb, the people, is singular.  If it is indeed plural, the statement would mean that the individuals of the community are to cast the stones.  If it is instead singular, the statement would mean that the community is responsible for casting the stones (similar to the responsibility of a firing squad).  Shall I show my naiveté once more?  I suspect the verb is indeed singular.

וַאֲנִי אֶתֵּן אֶת־פָּנַי בָּאִישׁ הַהוּא וְהִכְרַתִּי אֹתֹו מִקֶּרֶב עַמֹּו כִּי מִזַּרְעֹו נָתַן לַמֹּלֶךְ לְמַעַן טַמֵּא   20:3

אֶת־מִקְדָּשִׁי וּלְחַלֵּל אֶת־שֵׁם קָדְשִׁי

Levi. 20:3   “And I shall set My face toward that man, and cut him off from among his people, because he has dedicated some of his seed to Molech, so that My sanctuary is defiled and My holy name is profaned.”

וְאִם הַעְלֵם יַעְלִימוּ עַם הָאָרֶץ אֶת־עֵינֵיהֶם מִן־הָאִישׁ הַהוּא בְּתִתֹּו מִזַּרְעֹו לַמֹּלֶךְ לְבִלְתִּי הָמִית אֹתֹו  29:4

Levi. 20:4   “And if the people of the land at all hide their eyes from that man in his dedicating any of his seed to Molech to not put to him death,

וְשַׂמְתִּי אֲנִי אֶת־פָּנַי בָּאִישׁ הַהוּא וּבְמִשְׁפַּחְתֹּו וְהִכְרַתִּי אֹתֹו וְאֵת כָּל־הַזֹּנִים אַחֲרָיו לִזְנֹות אַחֲרֵי   20:5

הַמֹּלֶךְ מִקֶּרֶב עַםָּם

Levi. 20:5   then I shall set My face on that man and on his family and cut him off and all who follow after him to commit idolatry after Molech from among their people.”

                                                                                                               [Return to Levi. 18:21]

וְהַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תִּפְנֶה אֶל־הָאֹבֹת וְאֶל־הַיִּדְּעֹנִים לִזְנֹות אַחֲרֵיהֶם וְנָתַתִּי אֶת־פָּנַי בַּנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא וְהִכְרַתִּי   20:6

אֹתֹו מִקֶּרֶב עַמֹּו

Levi. 20:6   “And the soul of the one who would turn to the ghosts and to the mediums to go astray after them, even in that soul will I withdraw My presence and I will cut him off from among his people.”

וְהִתְקַדִּשְׁתֶּם וִהְיִיתֶם קְדֹשִׁים כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם   20:7

Levi. 20:7   “So sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I, the Lord, am your God.”

וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת־חֻקֹּתַי וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם אֲנִי יְהוָה מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם   20:8

Levi. 20:8   “And you shall keep My statutes and do them.  I am the Lord, Who sanctifies you.”

כִּי־אִישׁ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יְקַלֵּל אֶת־אָבִיו וְאֶת־אִמֹּו מֹות יוּמָת אָבִיו וְאִמֹּו קִלֵּל דָּמָיו בֹּו   20:9

Levi. 20:9   “But any man who will curse his father or his mother surely shall be put to death.  He has cursed his father and his mother; his blood shall be on him.”

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִנְאַף אֶת־אֵשֶׁת אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִנְאַף אֶת־אֵשֶׁת רֵעֵהוּ מֹות־יוּמַת הַנֹּאֵף וְהַנֹּאָפֶת    20:10

Levi. 20:10   “When a man who will commit adultery with the wife of another man, who will commit adultery with the wife of his neighbor, surely the adulterer shall be put to death, as well as the adulteress.”

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת־אֵשֶׁת אָבִיו עֶרְוַת אָבִיו גִּלָּה מֹות־יוּמְתוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם   20:11

Levi. 20:11   “And a man who will lie with the wife of his father, he has uncovered the nakedness of his father.  Surely both of them shall be put to death.  Their blood shall be on them.”

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת־כַּלָּתֹו מֹות יוּמְתוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם תֶּבֶל עָשׂוּ דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם   20:12

Levi. 20:12   “And a man who will lie with his daughter-in-law, surely both of them shall be put to death. They have performed a perverse act.  Their blood shall be on them.”

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת־זָכָר מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה תֹּועֵבָה עָשׂוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם מֹות יוּמָתוּ דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם   20:13

Levi. 20:13   “And a man who will lie with a male of the lyings down with a woman, both of them have performed an abominable act.  Surely they shall be put to death.  Their blood shall be on them.”

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִקַּח אֶת־אִשָּׁה וְאֶת־אִמָּהּ זִמָּה הִוא בָּאֵשׁ יִשְׂרְפוּ אֹתֹו וְאֶתְהֶן וְלֹא־תִהְיֶה זִמָּה   29:14


Levi. 20:14   “And a man who will take a woman and her mother, it is wickedness.  He and they shall be burned in fire, so wickedness will not be among you.”

This command is traditionally taken to mean that a man shall not marry both a woman and her mother, at least in the lifetime of the latter.  The word take is often interpreted as meaning marry.  There are verses in the bible that seem to weakly support this conclusion.  But I’m not sure the traditional interpretation is accurate here.  Verse 20:17 below contains the same verb and there it cannot be construed to mean marriage.

We must also examine the final statement in this verse with some concern.  If the verse said “... so their wickedness will not be among you ...,” then we might conclude that it was reasonable.  But it doesn’t say that.  The pronoun their is absent from the Hebrew.  Given that the verse is saying that wickedness in general would be removed with the fiery death of the perpetrators, we must question this.  Would God “understand” that the death of the three people would remove wickedness from among the people?  Surely He would “understand” that this is not true.  There would be others committing this sin either at the same time or before or very soon afterward.  And all-seeing God would know this.  But perhaps Moses would not, and we know that he sometimes did not faithfully follow God’s instructions (see Exod. 3:18, Exod. 9:23, Exod. 10:13, Exod. 14:21, and Levi. 8:13).  Might it not be reasonable to suggest that Moses added this final phrase in this verse on his own?  I believe it could be quite reasonable.                                                                [Return to Numb. 20:11]

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן שְׁכָבְתֹּו בִּבְהֵמָה מֹות יוּמָת וְאֶת־הַבְּהֵמָה תַּהֲרֹגוּ   20:15

Levi. 20:15   “And a man who will permit his sexual satisfaction with a beast shall surely be put to death, and you shall slay the beast.”

וְאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרַב אֶל־כָּל־בְּהֵמָה לְרִבְעָה אֹתָהּ וְהָרַגְתָּ אֶת־הָאִשָּׁה וְאֶת־הַבְּהֵמָה מֹות יוּמָתוּ   20:16

דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם

Levi. 20:16   “And a woman who will come near to any beast to lie down with it, then you shall slay the woman and the beast.  They shall surely be put to death.  Their blood shall be on them.”

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִקַּח אֶת־אֲחֹתֹו בַּת־אָבִיו אֹו בַת־אִמֹּו וְרָאָה אֶת־עֶרְוָתָהּ וְהִיא־תִרְאֶה אֶת־עֶרְוָתֹו   20:17

חֶסֶד הוּא וְנִכְרְתוּ לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי עַםָּם עֶרְוַת אֲחֹתֹו גִּלָּה עֲוֹנֹו יִשָּׂא

Levi. 20:17   “And a man who will take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nudity and she see his nudity, it is a wicked thing, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people.  He has uncovered the nakedness of his sister.  He shall bear his sin.”

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִשְׁכַּב אֶת־אִשָּׁה דָּוָה וְגִלָּה אֶת־עֶרְוָתָהּ אֶת־מְקֹרָהּ הֶעֱרָה וְהִיא גִּלְּתָה אֶת־מְקֹור   20:18

דָּמֶיהָ וְנִכְרְתוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם מִקֶּרֶב עַםָּם

Levi. 20:18   “And a man who will lie with a woman in menstruation and uncover her nakedness, he has exposed her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood, then both of them shall be cut off from among their people.”

וְעֶרְוַת אֲחֹות אִמְּךָ וַאֲחֹות אָבִיךָ לֹא תְגַלֵּה כִּי אֶת־שְׁאֵרֹו הֶעֱרָה עֲוֹנָם יִשָּׂאוּ   20:19

Levi. 20:19   “And the nakedness of the sister of your mother and the sister of your father you shall not uncover, for his near kinswoman has been bared.  They shall bear their iniquity.”

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת־דֹּדָתֹו עֶרְוַת דֹּדֹו גִּלָּה חֶטְאָם יִשָּׂאוּ עֲרִירִים יָמֻתוּ   20:20

Levi. 20:20   “And a man who will lie with his aunt uncovers the nakedness of his uncle.  They shall bear their sin.  They shall die childless.”

What exactly does “They shall die childless” mean?  Who is it that will die childless?  Is it the man and his aunt, or is it the uncle and aunt?  If it is the man and his aunt, does it mean that their sexual union shall bear no fruit? If it is the uncle and aunt, what if they already have children?  What if the man already has children?  A straightforward answer to these questions is that the prophecy relates to the fruit of the sexual union.  That seems reasonable and may resolve the uncertainties in the verse.  But it doesn’t explain what the words in question mean.  They’re pretty explicit.  “They shall die childless.”  Could it mean that if the man or his aunt have any children, they will die before them?  Maybe that’s the best answer.

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִקַּח אֶת־אֵשֶׁת אָחִיו נִדָּה הִוא עֶרְוַת אָחִיו גִּלָּה עֲרִירִים יִהְיוּ   20:21

Levi. 20:21   “And a man who will take the wife of his brother, it is impurity.  He uncovers the nakedness of his brother.  They shall be childless.”

The discussion on the preceding verse about a man and his aunt applies in general to this verse about a man and his sister-in-law.  However, this law does not apply to a brother-in-law whose brother, the husband of the widow, if childless, has died.

וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת־כָּל־חֻקֹּתַי וְאֶת־כָּל־מִשְׁפָּטַי וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם וְלֹא־תָקִיא אֶתְכֶם הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי   20:22

מֵבִיא אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה לָשֶׁבֶת בָּהּ

Levi. 20:22   “So you shall keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them.  Then the land in which I will be bringing you to dwell will not vomit you out.”

וְלֹא תֵלְכוּ בְּחֻקֹּת הַגֹּוי אֲשֶׁר־אֲנִי מְשַׁלֵּחַ מִפְּנֵיכֶם כִּי אֶת־כָּל־אֵלֶּה עָשׂוּ וָאָקֻץ בָּם   20:23

Levi. 20:23   “And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I will be casting out from before you, for they did all these things, so I will be grieved with them.”

When I first translated this verse, I had thought the next-to-last word in this verse, translated then as so I am grieved, presented us with another of the rare exceptions to the rule of non-inverting vavs prefixing a first-person imperfect verb.  I thought the vav was indeed inverting.  But you can see that I retranslated that word, because I now see the Lord is saying what He will do with them when the children of Israel enter the land.  See the next verse for corroboration of this belief.  The vav is inverting after all.

וָאֹמַר לָכֶם אַתֶּם תִּירְשׁוּ אֶת־אַדְמָתָם וַאֲנִי אֶתְּנֶנָּה לָכֶם לָרֶשֶׁת אֹתָהּ אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ אֲנִי   20:24

יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר־הִבְדַּלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מִן־הָעַמִּים

Levi. 20:24   “And I can say to you, you shall possess their land, and I shall give it to you to possess it, a land gushing milk and honey.  I am the Lord, your God, Who has separated you from the peoples.”

This verse expresses the essence of holiness, that is, to be separate from the other peoples, to behave differently, to cherish different values, and to live by different standards. 

וְהִבְדַּלְתֶּם בֵּין־הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהֹרָה לַטְּמֵאָה וּבֵין־הָעֹוף הַטָּמֵא לַטָּהֹר וְלֹא־תְשַׁקְּצוּ אֶת־נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם   20:25

בַּבְּהֵמָה וּבָעֹוף וּבְכֹל אֲשֶׁר תִּרְמֹשׂ הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר־הִבְדַּלְתִּי לָכֶם לְטַמֵּא

Levi. 20:25   “So you shall make a distinction between clean beast and unclean, and between unclean fowl and clean, and you shall not make your souls abhorrent by beast or by fowl or by anything that would creep on the ground that I have separated as unclean for you.”

וִהְיִיתֶם לִי קְדֹשִׁים כִּי קָדֹושׁ אֲנִי יְהוָה וָאַבְדִּל אֶתְכֶם מִן־הָעַמִּים לִהְיֹות לִי   20:26

Levi. 20:26   “And you shall be My holy ones, for I, the Lord, am holy, so I will separate you from the peoples to be Mine.”

Here’s another non-inverting vav prefixing a first-person imperfect verb.  It’s before the sixth word from the end of the verse, translated as so I will separate.  It is a consequence of the first part of the verse, so it represents the second condition for a non-inverting vav prefixing a first-person verb.

וְאִישׁ אֹו־אִשָּׁה כִּי־יִהְיֶה בָהֶם אֹוב אֹו יִדְּעֹנִי מֹות יוּמָתוּ בָּאֶבֶן יִרְגְּמוּ אֹתָם דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם   20:27

Levi. 20:27   “And a man or a woman, when a ghost or a familiar spirit shall be in them, they shall surely be put to death.  With stones they shall stone them.  Their blood shall be on them.’”

Torah Commandments in this Chapter

254. The punishments for the various sinful acts described in Leviticus Chapter 20

        shall be seen to by the priests, judges, and elders.    Chapter 20, various verses


[Return to Leviticus Chapters]  [Prev:  Levi. 19]  [Next:  Levi. 21]