I’ve said that in looking at Leviticus, one main thing I wanted to touch on was the sexual aspect and that especially in dealing with, no doubt, one of the most controversial issues in the book of Leviticus in today’s world. I, of course, am speaking about the blanket condemnation of homosexuality.
The argument is often that homosexuality is called an abomination, but so is something like eating shellfish. I can assure you readers that I have seen this line of argumentation several times be it on an internet chat program or in something like letters to the editor in the newspaper.
Let us look at the relevant texts. In Leviticus 18:22 we read “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female. It is an abomination.” (That’s in the NIV, for those who think for some odd reason that the NIV is light on homosexuality.) In 20:13, it reads “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them. This latter one is the only one that mentions a death penalty.
Now let’s notice something. The punishment then will not be the same everytime. In this case, if you do this abomination, you die. That’s it. Now why would Moses need to add that caveat? Only one reason. This was one you were to die for unlike all the other cases where you would simply be “unclean.”
In Leviticus 11, the word shows up 8 times. It refers to unclean animals. Abomination in the Bible refers to something that is detestable. Genesis 43:32 and 46:34 both have detestable things in the eyes of the Egyptians mentioned. Exodus 8:26 has the same thing. The same meaning applies. These were things to be detested. As shepherds were detested by the Egyptians, so these unclean animals were to be detested by the Jews. Leviticus 7:18 speaks of a sacrifice’s flesh being eaten on the third day as a detestable act. (resurrection parallel anyone?)
The only punishment listed in Leviticus 7 for touching something unclean was being cut off. That would mean exile. It could be temporary or permanent. More than likely, it was temporary. The offense was serious, but it was not of the kind that would merit the death penalty. It is though in Leviticus 20.
Now I hear some of you making some objections. “Ah yes! But that is not mentioned in Leviticus 18!
If that’s you, go to the end of the chapter. All of these things that the Lord prescribes death for are the practices that were done by the people beforehand in the land and that’s why they’re being removed from the land for. Notice it is not for eating shellfish or for eating pigs. It is for these sinful practices.
Why would they be removed for these? Because they should have known better. This is the law written on their hearts as Romans 2 says. The Gentiles were never under a decree not to eat certain animals. They were under a decree though to keep God’s moral law. God’s not a moral relativist. He doesn’t say the moral law is different for each culture. He’s clear.
And what was the punishment Israel brought on them? It was death. They died for those sins. When the prophets later would prophecy to other nations like many of them did, they would condemn these same practices as they would in Judah and Israel. Notice that Israel and Judah both got taken from the land as well. The only reason they didn’t die entirely is that they were God’s chosen people and he had a promise to them, but they were cut off for 70 years and when they came back, they learned their lesson. (This is why Jesus is silent on homosexuality. All homosexuals would be dead in Israel.)
Some of you might also be looking at sacrifices to Molech and saying “All of this only applies to temple cultic practice then.” Really? Then I suppose the same applies to sex with animals. (I shudder though at thinking there are some people today who will think that is okay.) No. These were all sins for everyone no matter who did them.
Of course, some of you can simply say “That was their view, and that was wrong.” That is a more honest view and over time, that will be looked at. For now though, while we can say the author was wrong, let us be clear on one thing. The author meant to convey a message. We must have the proper interpretation and then decide.
Of course, my readers know that I will agree. This is an abomination. This is where we are headed though, and it’s time we learned these arguments so we can deal with them.