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Lev. 18:20 ‘You shall not have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife, to be defiled with her.  21 ‘You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.  22 ‘You shall not lie with a male as 1one lies with a female; it is an abomination.  23 ‘Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.

Lev. 18:24   ‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled.  25 ‘For the land has become defiled, atherefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.  26 ‘But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you 27 (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled);  28 so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you.  29 ‘For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people.  30 ‘Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.’”

The Levitical mandate has been often misunderstood in light of what Yahweh commanded concerning homosexuality. Specifically, the case has been made that these commands are archaic, and that Yahweh has relaxed His standards concerning the prohibitions in the text. The case is also made that Yahweh failed to consider cultural and scientific advancements in the modern world, and thus miscalculated the necessities of modern man. Another argument is that the prohibitions were simply for BC Israel and that any consideration of these prohibitions outside of this context is a laughable imposition.

An exegetical and expositional consideration of this passage in its near and larger context must be examined to engage the aforementioned disagreements. First, it must be considered that God is not lacking in knowledge of His creatures (1 Cor. 2:10-11). It is serious folly and blasphemy to suppose that Yahweh lacks the necessary information or ability to understand the depths of His creatures (Gen. 1:26). Can man stand in accusation against Yahweh, when man is beneath his maker? (Job 38:4-7;  Isaiah 29:16, 45:9; Romans 9:21) Scripture soundly speaks of God’s sovereign control over all things, even men and their affairs (Psalm 24:1).

Considering the Levitical text, it must be said plainly that this examination will reveal that homosexuality is not a mere afterthought in ancient Israel. It is not a cultural prohibition that has been abandoned in the modern day. In fact, it is a prescription for understanding the holiness of God, not a mythological account. The book of Leviticus is a mandate to the sons of Israel through the Levitical priest concerning the holiness of Israel before Yahweh and the nations. The text also reveals that the prohibitions for Israel were not unique to them. They extended to the nations (Leviticus 18:26). This is key because the argument is often made that certain prohibitions in Leviticus are too outlandish for modern society. Therefore, as the argument goes, since those commands are outlandish in our western context, then the prohibition concerning homosexuality and other moral statutes are equally outlandish. Yahweh could not have imposed these things if He considered at all the 21st century. However, this argument collapses on two levels. First, all considerations for Israel in the Old Testament must be understood as Israel is to pursue ceremonial purity and moral purity (Dr. Michael Grisanti, Israel IBEX notes, unpublished).

Ceremonial purity meant that Yahweh commanded certain acts and prohibitions for Israel, for the purpose of their coming to Him in worship. Moral purity was assumed and required to live in the presence of Yahweh as He dwelled among the people in the Jerusalem Temple. Each of these must be understood as calls for Israel to be a kingdom of priests, not as a pious testimony to themselves. These prohibitions and commands were commands to be distinct from the pagan nations. Also, these distinctions served to draw the pagan, Gentile nations to Yahweh and repent of such moral/ceremonial failures (Isaiah 49:6; Exodus 19:6). Paul will make the same case in Romans 1 when he argues that the wrath of God is upon all ungodliness of men, who are truth suppressors (Romans 1). Second, Israel’s distinction and holiness was not only for a specific moment in time. Instead, this holiness was to bear blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience (Deuteromony 28). By way of reminder, Moses is given the second rendering of law  to the Israelites as they are to inherit the promised land (δευτερος =second,νομος =law). The moral premises are still built within the commandments. They are given, primarily for Israel, however they are simultaneously to serve as a demonstration to the Gentile nations. Yahweh’s name is directly attached to His commands and judgments. His prohibitions and commands in Leviticus 18, serve as a witness of Yahweh’s holy expectation, and as an indictment to those who fail to meet those expectations in the Gentile nations. Especially since Israel is supposed to be a ‘light to the Gentiles’.  The Leviticus context (chapter 18) reveals that defilement and misrepresentation of the Holy One was at stake if the prohibitions were ignored. The Lord did not deal lightly with those who rebelled against His commands. The question remains, in His eyes has the absolute moral standard been lifted because we are in the modern era? Because God is immutable (never changing) in His divine perfections (attributes), to borrow the language of the apostle Paul, “May it never be!” The mandate in Israel was the death penalty for those who committed acts of sexual immorality, specifically those who committed acts of homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13). While the death mandate of theocratic justice for homosexuality has been lifted (we will come back to this), it is still considered an abominable sin before Yahweh, worthy of death. However it is a sin whereby death is deferred as one plummets down the cycle of this sexual sin. The wages of all sin is death (eternal death), while the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). The Levitical mandates are pertinent when we consider Yahweh’s disposition toward sin specifically. He will judge sin. Because He does not immediately administer a death sentence for some sins committed (exceptions include, in some states, murder), it does not mean that Yahweh has become lax in His judgment (Acts 17:30). Israel, specifically, and the Old Testament in general is not an ancient book with which we give a dismissive glance and mock its use for today. It is an example, as Paul mentioned in New Testament Corinthians, for us to heed and learn from its warnings (1 Corithians 10:11). The Old Testament is written for the dual purpose of informing how all must live before Yahweh, while historically/contextually/grammatically informing us concerning His righteous expectations for Israel. The unified corpus of both the Old and New Testament testifies to us which commands have been abdicated and which commands are pertinent for believers today. God determines this in His word, not modern cultural sensibilities, moral relativism, or supposed scientific findings.

(To be continued)….

-Doron Gladden