Leviticus 20

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Read Leviticus 20

Punishments for Sin

20 The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him. I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molek, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. If the members of the community close their eyes when that man sacrifices one of his children to Molek and if they fail to put him to death, I myself will set my face against him and his family and will cut them off from their people together with all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molek.

“‘I will set my face against anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people.

“‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God.Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.

“‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head.

10 “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.

11 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

12 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, both of them are to be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads.

13 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

14 “‘If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you.

15 “‘If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he is to be put to death, and you must kill the animal.

16 “‘If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

17 “‘If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace. They are to be publicly removed from their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible.

18 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people.

19 “‘Do not have sexual relations with the sister of either your mother or your father, for that would dishonor a close relative; both of you would be held responsible.

20 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his aunt, he has dishonored his uncle. They will be held responsible; they will die childless.

21 “‘If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless.

22 “‘Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you.Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. 24 But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations.

25 “‘You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those that I have set apart as unclean for you. 26 You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

27 “‘A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.’”

Go Deeper

As we read through Leviticus 20, there are a litany of consequences for disobeying the Law. Whereas the previous two chapters outlined what correct behavior looks like, this chapter delves more into the punishments for disobedience. This chapter follows a pattern throughout: “If you do _________, __________ is the punishment.” The end of the chapter concludes with another call and reminder that holiness really matters to God. 

Reading this through our modern lens, we may see this list and think since these aren’t our struggles or temptations, there isn’t a lesson for us to learn in this chapter. But the more we zoom out and think about this chapter within the whole overarching narrative of scripture, we see how it all ties together. The Apostle Paul in Romans 6:23 puts it succinctly: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Every time we step outside of God’s best for us, the punishment we deserve for that is death (whether we tell a little white lie or violate one of the instructions listed in this chapter). Sin always leads to death. But because of the good news of the Gospel, we aren’t condemned to death; Jesus set us free. 

As we enter this final stretch of Leviticus, it’s important to look back at the theme that has been repeated over and over throughout the book: holiness is important. As people outside the faith examine our lives, there should be something noticeably different about how we live. This is reiterated in v. 23-24: 

23 You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. 24 But I said to you, ‘You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations.”

We have two options: to live according to the social and cultural norms around us, or to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God. We are to live in a manner that is set apart and distinct. We are to embrace this call to holiness and let our lights shine before the world around us (Matthew 5:16). 


  1. After your first read through this chapter, what verse (or section of verses) sticks out to you the most? Why?
  2. What does it mean to “live according to the customs of the nations”? How have you fallen into that in your own life?
  3. What’s standing in the way of you pursuing holiness today? What needs to change in your own heart and life to live a life that’s set apart?

A Quote

“Many Christians have what we might call a “cultural holiness”. They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them. As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy. But God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God.” –Jerry Bridges 

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7 thoughts on “Leviticus 20”

  1. Tim Keller stated that understanding the Trinity was the hardest part to understand as a Christian, but I think understanding how to live not under the law is the hardest for me. We have laws and regulations all around us we are to follow, (since infancy) but then we are to set apart in our mind that Jesus died to end the law? Romans 6:14 states we have grace now. But then Paul turns around in chapter 7:12 and says “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”
    I’ve been criticized for “living under the law”… that I don’t understand grace fully. That I can be “excused” of feeling guilty or dismiss conviction of the Holy Spirit tells me not to do something because Jesus covered that sin(grace). Or that I live by too many ‘right or wrongs’ rules (laws). That I need to live under grace more and relax.
    I ran into a friend who has served in church for more than 30 yrs and she stated they were just moving around to different churches trying to find the church that didn’t preach “you have to stop ____, you can’t do ____.” She said ‘Jesus paid for all of that so I don’t want to be condemned—I’m set free.’ I just stood there in shock and thought “am I missing something?”
    Am I alone in this confusion about the law? I know Jesus paid it ALL… but I do not believe that excuses or changes God’s views from v. 22-23 on any sin—even tho He sacrificed His son. I do not believe we get a “get out of death” grace card.

    1. I agree, Christi, we never get a hard pass on sin! Sadly there are churches who coddle sin and your friend may stumble onto one; however, only the pursuit of holiness in God will result in abundant life here. The real question is not arguing about scripture but are we willing to give up our selfishness to wholly commit to Him?

    2. Good morning Christi,
      This is something I wrestle with as well. Here’s what the Lord has been showing me while healing a religious spirit in my heart. The motive of the heart matters! I love rules and laws because I don’t have to examine my heart- rules are easy. When Jesus came to fulfill the law it all became a matter of our hearts. You’ll see Pharisees who couldn’t move beyond rules into heart change. You’ll see letters written to churches that warn about pious knit picking. There’s freedom in Jesus and his commands aren’t burdensome, we can be holy because He makes us holy. Interestingly, this is where the enemy disguised as an angel of light gets me in the middle of religious games. Attacks me into the thinking ‘ is that music holy? Is this outfit holy enough? Would it be more holy to serve in a different area of the church?’ When the actual matter is my heart- am I worshipping in spirit and truth no matter the song, am I wearing something to make my body look some kind of way, is my heart just available to serve the body of Christ without thanks or recognition. I’m weak in the area of religion- it’s my default. I know this, it keeps me close to Jesus as I pray- search me and know me. Our weakness is our advantage because it makes us dependent on Him. The thing about grace is all of us have taken advantage of it, taken it lightly, misused and misunderstood it- yet Jesus knew that would be the case and still paid for that. I pray your friend comes to experience grace in such a way that reveals how vast it is. I pray you also experience and know this grace and freedom for you. You can Go to Him and rest, His ways aren’t ill fitting, it’s not bondage- it’s freedom.

    3. The law is a “teacher.” We still obey God’s law. When we break one of His laws, as a Christian, we are convicted of that sin and ask to be forgiven. We don’t continually keep doing that sin because we are under grace. Some does and don’ts may be opinions, like how to dress or what type music but others are non-negotiable.”Written in stone.”

      1. Thank you ladies for your responses! 🤗 Y’all provides some great feedback! Self always comes across as being the “right” one. And then there’s a fine line between self-righteousness and righteous.
        It was good to be reminded that it’s a heart matter, and that the law is the teacher. That those two are perhaps guidelines to help direct our decisions. I was also thinking that conviction is a tell-tale navigator, too. I find myself convicted in areas that perhaps others aren’t convicted on—therefore, it’s a heart matter—and grace will help deal with reconciliation.
        Thanks again for clarification and your thoughts. I’ll meditate on them today. 🥰

  2. What caught my attention right at the beginning of this chapter was the sacrifice of children to Molech. I dug a little deeper and found that “sacrificing children to gods was a common practice in ancient religions. Molech was the national god of the Ammonites, and sacrificing children was seen as the greatest way to ward off evil or appease angry gods.” Wow! God’s call on my life has been to serve children as a teacher. I can’t for a single moment imagine one of them being offered as a sacrifice to a pagan god! What I have witnessed far too many times though, is different kind of offering, that of placing children on the alter of pleasure, pride, fame, possessions, power, popularity, hobbies/sports, etc. I’m reminded of Mark 8:36-37 when Jesus confronts humanity with these words, “And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

  3. God brought the Israelites our of Egypt and the turned on Him. He made the way back for them but with it was many rules due to their pervesed and wicked ways. All the entirety of the Bible God’s heart desire {as Amy sees it} is a relationship with His children. The Israelites and we do what is wrong and that makes us unworthy of His love. Disobedience deserves consequences. We have rules and regulations to follow to know our boundaries, which is what any parent does set those up for our children because we love them. Now as I have grown and matured (a little) I understand when I am not doing right I not only am hurting myself but God. My actions now are much more intentional to be a pleasure and joy to my Heavenly Father. I know that I know that when my time is finished I will be with Him and for that day I am super excited!!!! WOOHOO!!! Do I do right everyday? By no means, yesterday was a great example of a not so good day but I diligently endeavored to pull it back to glorifying God. But He knows that we are all going to stumble and bumble that is why He gives us grace and why Jesus came to be our ultimate sacrifice so our sins are forgiven as far as the east is from the west and we can turn from the evil immediately. No it does not give us the license to do what we want and if we truly truly truly LOVE God then that is not what we want or do either.
    Thank you God for your love, grace and mercy. God thank you for making a way for me to be able to come turning immediately back into your arms. Thank you for your forgiveness when I do stumble. I know you Love me, I know I am pursued, I know I am needed and I know I am never forsaken. Thank you for me being the best me for you that I can. I love you with all that I am and just fall to my knees in worship to you Father to thank you, bless you, exalt you, praise you, in Jesus name amen

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