Punishments in Leviticus 20

Punishments for Sin

_1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “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. 3 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. 4 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, 5 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. 6 “ ‘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. 7 “ ‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy. 9 “ ‘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…

Did the priests/elders in that time carry out these punishments for said sins? I know of course Jesus asking them to cast the first stone if they be without sin, so I don’t understand how this teaching in Leviticus is from God.

I also don’t understand then why Leviticus is quoted so much in regard to same sex acts yet never is really quoted for other sins, it’s like that’s the only quote from God in the entire book.

And Jesus spoke of love and mercy, not death as in Lev 20 so are we really quoting the same God or someones idea of what God would want to happen to people that disobeyed him?

The New Testament.


If God’s word is eternal he has changed his teachings along the way…

The ceremonial laws were under the old covenant.

Give the New Testament a read!

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Hi TheLittleLady: I hope you’re doing well this evening. I have read the New Testament as well as the Old, and unfortunately it leaves a lot of independent thinkers such as myself with a struggle of logic. I am not being argumentative - I am just trying to get through life and do my best to make these things out like a most people. For instance, in this case, the New Testament quotes Jesus as saying "“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” Now, as I have seen in the past, you could wind a tale that alludes to that having some other meaning wherein Jesus makes the laws superfluous, yet he doesn’t say that at all, and offers no alternative explanation other than what he said. Yet the laws we find repulsive today are no less Mosaic law than the Ten Commandments, which we do not find to be barbaric, in fact we find them sensible for the most part. Another problem is that one can usually bend the words of Jesus to support just about any position you like. I have seen people use the words of Jesus to aptly support pacifism, and then see another person on the same thread use other words of Jesus to make a good case as to why people should be running around with AK-47s. I haven’t found a satisfactory solution to the problems within the scriptures from a theological perspective, although from a pragmatic and historical perspective it seems pretty explainable. Anyway, I would be interested to see how you may be able to help with an understanding of how the New Testament changes anything about Mosaic law from a scriptural account and without apologetics that get a lot more sophisticated than the audience of a 1st century Jew could reasonably be thought to be able to comprehend. That was his audience after all, and I find it counter intuitive to think he would have told them things that would have to wait 1,300 years for people like Aquinas or a later Renaissance council to straighten out. I think the answers have to be plainer, yet there is clearly a challenge in it if we are truthful with ourselves, and I am trying to be truthful.

Are you a parent? If not, at least you have been a child.

There were things that were forbidden by your parents when you were 7. I doubt you were allowed to have a big slice of cake instead of supper at age 5 and you were likely not allowed to cross the street by yourself and you were not allowed to tell lies.

As you got older, you grew in wisdom and your parents permitted some things which used to be forbidden, by 13 you could cross the street by yourself. Supper cake and lying were still forbidden.

At 33 you were on your own, you can eat cake for supper but you don’t because you know you will feel sick if you do. You can cross the world by yourself. Lying is still forbidden.

We see the relationship between God and man develop with God as our Father.

God also gave us the Church to guide us in all these questions!


If anyone today, or in the New Testament, sacrificed their child by burning them alive as an offering to an idol, they would face the death penalty or life in prison, depending on when they did this. Murdering your child is still wrong. So that part has never changed.

People who commit bestiality, incest, and other obscene acts face the appropriate penalties.

Adultery and homosexuality are still wrong.

God has been gradually teaching humanity, little by little, as we collectively “grew up.” God Himself, and the justice that He desires for us, hasn’t changed.

If you study the culture of the pagan nations around Israel at that time, you’ll realize that Israel’s laws were a revolutionary way of trying to be just and fair.

They taught an eye for an eye as punishment, instead of slaughtering your offender’s entire family and taking all his possessions as retribution.

At the time, the OT laws were just and fair.

As humanity matured more and more, we have tried to implement the “spirit of the law,” or the reasons behind God’s laws of mercy and justice, which were elucidated by Jesus, in better and better ways.


Hi LittleLady: Thanks for the reply. I don’t think there is a moral equivalence between common modern day punishments for eating cake for dinner and being sent to death by stoning. I wouldn’t kill my kids to teach them that crossing the street can get them killed. That would make us nonsensical to the point of being dangerous. I have surmised that this is somewhat at the heart of what the OP may be getting at, but at least it’s what I’m getting at, and it just doesn’t resonate with me as an explanation. It also doesn’t in my mind at least address the fact that I can’t find Jesus rescinding any laws, yet I do find Him affirming them. So, it remains problematic to me.

Try Acts Chapter 10, begin at Verse 9


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Thank you LittleLady. Can you elucidate on how you reason those passages to solve the issue? Thanks again.

This is where the Oral Law (Oral Torah), passed down from one generation of Jews to the next and eventually codified in the Midrash and Talmud, comes in. Without the Oral Torah and its explanations and rabbinical commentaries upon commentaries, the Written Law sounds strange and unjustly cruel to us. This is why the study of the Oral Law MUST accompany that of the Written Law so that the latter can be interpreted, clarified, and understood in the context of the culture, in the context of the other Books of the Hebrew Bible and their literary devices and style, in the context of surrounding verses in the same Book, in the context of the Hebrew language of the period, and in the context of G-d’s mercy reflected in so many other verses. Otherwise, much of the Hebrew Bible sounds like a bunch of internal inconsistencies, contradictions, omissions, and cruel punishments.


Thank you Meltzerboy: When you get time, could you tie together some of those other writings and walk myself and I’m sure many other curious people through how our perception of cruelty is reconciled? I might find that helpful and without in-depth knowledge of Judaism, I will at this point say that it sounds very feasible, so I would like to see what you would consider to be some good examples. In short, it sounds as though you have some intriguing information on this subject, and I’m hoping that you’ll be willing to unpack some of that here if you would.

Thanks again.

It’s believed that God gave these laws to Moses, in our time some of these laws still exist although the punishments do not. Did God tell us that some are now ok or did humans decide some were no longer to be upheld because of the way they viewed/related to God?

They taught or God taught?

God’s commands were to kill people who broke any of the laws he deemed suitable for humans to flourish. Very different from what Jesus taught to do when people broke these laws.

Please excuse my ignorance but why do Jewish people not uphold the punishments in Lev 20 if nothing has changed for them?
Do they believe it was their creator who gave these instructions to moses?

Over time, the people of God have grown in their understanding of God. At the same time, they’ve grown in their ability (and desire?) to follow God. That necessarily means that this is a process, and it has to be viewed in that light.

Imagine, if you will, that you’ve been transported to the time and place of Moses. He stands up and says, “here’s the Law!”… and then you stand up and say, “no, wait a minute: you shouldn’t own slaves; women are the equal of men; you need to love everyone, not just your relatives!” Here’s my question: do you think that they would be in a position in which they’d be able to live according to your standards – or even want to do so?

If not… then we have to consider that the Mosaic Law was intended to meet them where they were, and help them move forward.

Because it’s the place where this is addressed explicitly?

Same God. Different people. :wink:

It’s called “proof-texting.” Yep, it can be used in a way that runs counter to the message of God. (Incidentally, that’s why the Catholic Church teaches that we need to interpret the Bible in light of the whole Bible, and not just in bits and pieces.)


Two come to mind right away:

  • God is one, but He is also a Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • God wants to save all people, not just the Jews.

These imply differences in how to treat people (as described in the Mosaic Law), and how to implement various liturgical/canonical norms.

I think I’d assert that they were His original audience, but that His intended audience is all of humanity.

Hmm… don’t we see things in the Old Testament – especially references to Jesus – that were told to the People of God and then only understood (in light of Jesus) thousands of years later? And, if that’s the case, why would we expect that all of Jesus’ teachings would be understood immediately and completely?


“You have heard it said… but I say…” – that whole section in Matthew 5 is all about Jesus looking at the Mosaic law and then changing it to fit His message!


God taught them and delivered the Law to them. :roll_eyes:

Excellent answers, @Gorgias.


People in large numbers aren’t asking to legally marry a mother and her daughter or have sex with animals.

The Pope says that today we can keep dangerous people in prison and others safe from them. This gives the person time to repent as well.

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