My friend has recently sent me the Leviticus 20:13 passage which condemns same-sex behavior and says the participants must be put to death. He asked, “So this is what your God commands?” How can I respond to him? I can I explain to him why God commanded the death penalty as certain punishments for certain sins in the Old Testament?
New American Standard Bible
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 bloodguiltiness is upon them.
Yes, that is what God commanded.
There are 2 aspects to be considered in that command:
the act (morality of it)
the punishment for the act (criminal law/justice)
The Chosen People were to be both a religion and a nation, so the laws given to them by God encompassed both areas. (Consider all the “national” laws we have in the U.S., including the criminal and judicial laws.)
What is important to ponder is why God, who is all goodness, truth, love, …, would institute for His Chosen People a death penalty for certain acts. (Sodomy is not the only act that incurred capital punishment in the OT.)
For me, the answer to that question was that God must have considered those behaviors so spiritually harmful not only to the person committing the act, but also to the community, that, for **the sake of their souls, ** **such behavior/s ****had to be **removed from society.
I would imagine that being such a strong punishment deterred many from committing those sins that led to eternal death, which is something that we should take much more serious, but often we don’t seem to take it near as serious as physical death. Obviously under the new covenant we have less to fear about being put to death for certain sinful acts, though we still can such as murder and so on. When we look at society today its upside down, and every generation seems to be more out of control than the one before. God’s commandments were always for our best interest, and chastity obviously makes for a much more stable society. Look at what a lack of sexual discipline does to a society, transmitted diseases and broken homes to mention a couple. And those sins always affect more than the ones doing it. So God making harsh punishments for sexual crimes is a way that He tries to protect His people. In our society now we not only sympathize with homosexuality, but we glamourize it and promote it like its the best thing since peanut butter and jelly. I work in a high school and I am always amazed at how many same sex relationships I see. Most of them I really don’t think are gay but rather confused. Kids today are so confused about life that it is scary to think where our world is headed.
True. Plus, I believe God needed to be stricter in the OT because of the seriousness of this time. He needed to instruct His people on the do’s and don’ts of being a blessed Chosen People. He needed to be a shepherd for His flock. During the NT, there is less emphasis on the law written in stone. It is now about loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself. The law is written on your heart.
The death penalty was applied to a number of sins - including heterosexual adultery.
In addition to what others have noted, the Old Testament law has been fulfilled and perfected in Christ…we are now in the age of grace. These laws no longer apply… though homosexual acts continue to lead to spiritual death, which is where confession comes in!
Think about the term death… The Jews viewed this as a physical death. And in a sense they were justified. But that was only a forerunner to the understanding of the Law which Christ brought. Consider ‘‘They shall surely be put to death’’ along the idea of a mortal sin. A ‘‘sin unto death’’. The idea is that the VERY act, being so unnatural, would turn the individuals entirety away from God into spiritual death. For it is God’s Grace, testifying to us, that is life. The loss of that, once known, is death. And the act would cause the individual to become like Adam and Eve, hiding from God in shame. The death God warned them about in regards to the fruit.