Leviticus 18

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Read Leviticus 18

Unlawful Sexual Relations

18 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.

“‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.

“‘Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother.She is your mother; do not have relations with her.

“‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.

“‘Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.

10 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter; that would dishonor you.

11 “‘Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father’s wife, born to your father; she is your sister.

12 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s sister; she is your father’s close relative.

13 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your mother’s sister, because she is your mother’s close relative.

14 “‘Do not dishonor your father’s brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations; she is your aunt.

15 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son’s wife; do not have relations with her.

16 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife; that would dishonor your brother.

17 “‘Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness.

18 “‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.

19 “‘Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.

20 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.

21 “‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.

22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

23 “‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.

24 “‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.

29 “‘Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. 30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.’”

Go Deeper

Reading through Leviticus 18 today, a lot of the decrees in this chapter seem like common sense to us. There were a lot of ungodly nations surrounding the Israelites and they had been trapped in the Egyptian nation as slaves for a long time. Ancient Egypt saw sex as a much more casual affair; it was a simple occurrence much like eating and sleeping. Other nations (including Egypt) used sex in their religious practices as they had fertility gods that they worshipped. Incest was a common occurrence since sex was only meant to be for fulfilment and pleasure. 

The views of the Israelites had been warped by Egyptians practices so in this chapter God is giving them guidelines to help His people get back on the right track by giving them a new baseline of understanding. This chapter is no different. God desires for His people to have a proper understanding for the sanctity of sex within the covenant of marriage (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6). 

Sex is a wonderful and amazing thing that is meant to be between one man and one woman in marriage (see Song of Songs for a more full picture of how this plays out). God desires us to see the act of sex as an act of devotion, honor, and holiness. This is the sexual ethic that we see repeated throughout scripture. He follows most of the decrees by saying “that is wickedness” because they fall outside of God’s original design for sex. Sexual intimacy within the covenant of marriage is honorable to God. 

Satan, our adversary, has greatly distorted the way that we view sex in the twenty-first century. Our world today is not that far from ancient Egypt in its view of sex. Pornography consumption is all too common and destroys lives and marriages every day. Modern media glorifies and celebrates casual sex. The meaning of sex (as God intended it) has been distorted, which does an extreme disservice to our Father in Heaven. Sex is meant to be an honoring and holy act had with a spouse. We should challenge ourselves to live counterculturally from the world in all aspects of our lives (particularly with how we treat sex). Whether you’re single or married, let’s lead the way in honoring God by preserving sex for within a marriage between a man and a woman in a way that is uplifting and honoring, not degrading.


  1. What has shaped your view on biblical sexuality?
  2. How do you see Satan’s distortion of sex in our modern world? 
  3. What can you change in your daily/weekly life to help modify your view of sex to be more in line with how God desires us to view it?

Keep Digging

So much of what we read today is affirmed in the writings of the New Testament as well. Interested in learning more and developing a deeper understanding of each instruction laid out in this chapter? Check out the Enduring Word Commentary’s (a free online commentary) entry for Leviticus 18.

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3 thoughts on “Leviticus 18”

  1. Living in the present day culture honestly mimics pagan practices of Egypt & Canaan more than we’d like to admit, yet God’s standard of holiness still stands. We most certainly are living in the midst of a perverse generation! Pleasing ourselves with little or no thought of what honors God is marketed & celebrated everywhere we turn. Yet God calls us to be pure & “set apart” for his glory. That’s one reason mental illness is at an all time high and confusion is rampant; we have drifted far from God’s design and yielded to the pressures of society to coddle our flesh. One of the most glaring issues today is homosexuality and how we are conditioned to accept and celebrate it. V22 calls it a detestable sin. Let’s please not glorify something Christ died for! Honestly I’m humbled and saddened as I read Leviticus at how casually we treat sin. Acts 20:24 (the verse we are memorizing) has become my mantra, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the Good News of God’s grace.” ,

  2. As a parent I feel empathy towards God with children. We tell them, show them, teach them, and love them with all we are and still they sometimes choose the wrong path, then it is here we go again, and sometimes again and again and again. But God never ever gives up. We are seen by God, Loved by God, pursed by God and never forsaken. Speak that over yourselves today. Fully capture that into your heart just how much your are seen, He knows all the acts of kindness, generosity, and love you give. 1 John 3:1 ESV See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him He LOVES YOU!!!!! He is pursuing you daily with His Word, with other believers, and with goodness. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Romans 8:38-39 ESV For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    God help me in my desire to know that I know that you see me, that you LOVE me, that you pursue me, and that you will NEVER abandon me leave me or forsake me. God you have set our boundaries so that we know just how far to push. Thank you for my understanding of that better now as a parent but also that as Your child I obey. Thank you for today and the people in my path, show me how to love, bless and comfort them or whatever they may need, Holy Spirit be the driver of my flesh and spirit today in Jesus name amen.

  3. Tony Evans message series of the Lord’s Prayer has been phenomenal. Yesterday it was over “and lead us not into temptation” —how God allows tests/trials to happen to strengthen us. He used Job as an example—how God allowed Satan to tempt Job.
    Evans believes there are demons assigned to us—that knows our every sinful desire—and you can’t convince me that’s not true. The demon of lust is real. You probably have known people that have committed offenses against God that you know in their right mind they wouldn’t have done. Prayer and speaking truth with love and compassion is our defenses against this evilness. Educating our children while they are young is the key to shielding them from being bait of social media and toxic, unhealthy relationships.

    Lord, come quickly and save your children from sex trafficking and sexual predators. Give us eternal healing of this sick world, and let us delight in your Presence. No more pain, no more heartaches, no more temptations—just your overflowing love surrounding us. In your name I pray…

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