There are a lot of weird rules in Leviticus, such as Leviticus 19:19. But an obvious, running theme that holds it all together is holiness. Holiness means something is “to be set apart, different and unique.” But we don’t want to be set apart, different or unique, do we? We need God to change our hearts.
Holiness requires separation…seen repeatedly throughout the book of Leviticus…. The present verse prohibits the blurring of kinds or, as Noth puts it, “the coupling of unlikes”…. It is purposeful breeding that is to be shunned. In addition, two kinds of cloth are not to be woven into a single garment. Deuteronomy 22:11 gives the example of linen and wool mixed together in one garment as something that is prohibited.From Leviticus, An EP Study Commentary
THE PROMISCUITY AROUND THEM
The context of these instructions is the heinous and bogus sexual practices of the pagan nations of the ancient Near East…Israel is to be distinct from these nations…. The Hittites…allowed incest and bestiality in certain cases. Peoples from Mesopotamia believed prostitution to be an acceptable trade. The Canaanites and others promoted temple prostitution…. Homosexuality appears to have been commonly accepted. The Egyptians had no rigid code of honour in…sexual morality, but pragmatism reigned. Israel is to be different….From Leviticus, An EP Study Commentary
The practice of bestiality seems to have met with general acceptance in the Near East. It had a magical, religious background. Hittite law is the only code to restrict the use of bestiality, but even there it is not prohibited in every case: a person is exempt from penalities if the bestiality occurs with a horse or a mule.
INCEST AND THE LACK OF SEXUAL DISCRIMINATION
lays down a general rule that is…in detail in verses 7-18…prohibits incest between two people…closely related…. The clause “to uncover nakedness,” while it may…at times refer merely to voyeurism (see Genesis 9:22-23), is most commonly a euphemism for sexual intercourse…. A law of this kind would have been particularly problematic for the Hebrews. They were not to marry foreigners and…people marry within the clan…to protect their land inheritance. Naturally it would have been all to easy to marry too close a relative.From Leviticus, An EP Study Commentary
God meant for married couples to be united in more than just sexual intercourse. The faithfulness they should have towards each other covers all areas of life. But in Leviticus 18:7-8,
Oddly the nakedness of one’s mother is equated with the nakedness of one’s father…. This may reflect the original purpose of marriage that two people become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). It also signifies that doing such a thing with one’s mother brings shame on one’s father.From Leviticus, An EP Study Commentary
CONSEQUENCES OF SEX WITH A MENSTRUATING WOMAN
According to regulations in the Cleanliness Code, a woman in her period of menstruation is ritually unclean (12:2). She is considered incomplete because of her loss of blood and, therefore, she has no access to the Hebrew rituals of worship. It is also clear that the one who touches her in that condition becomes unclean himself (15:24). Perhaps the concept of the sacredness of blood plays a part in this taboo. It is so serious that one who violates the prohibition will be cut off from his people (20:18)…. Such an act affects the holiness of the nation…. That penalty is a common punishment in Leviticus (7:25, 27; 17:4, 9-10, 14; etc.). Its precise meaning is uncertain. Some argue that it signifies the execution of the wrong-doer, on the basis of Exodus 31:14. Others, more reasonably, contend that it consistently means the excommunication from the community and disinheritance (see Psalm 37:22)…expulsion from the covenant community.From Leviticus, An EP Study Commentary
DETRIMENTAL ACTIVITY IN COURT
Leviticus 19:15-16 says, “And you shall not stand near the blood of your neighbor.”
This idiom is difficult, although rabbinic exegesis takes it to refer to a man who refuses to testify on his neighbor’s behalf when he knows the truth. It could also have the opposite sense…giving false testimony against one’s neighbor. Whichever…the activity is detrimental….From Leviticus, An EP Study Commentary
BEHIND A HOTCHPOTCH OF RULES
Analyzing Leviticus 19:1-18,
It is commonplace for modern scholars to view this section…as a mere hotchpotch of laws with no semblance of connection one to another…a series of apparently disconnected laws that are attempting to show the concept of holiness over a broad segment…holiness is the dominant motif…the author gives a variety of ways in which it affects every area of Israelite life.From Leviticus, An EP Study Commentary
UNDERNEATH THE SURFACE
Leviticus 20:7-8 says, “And you shall keep yourselves holy and you shall be holy because I am Yahweh your God. And you shall keep my statutes and you shall do them. I am Yahweh who makes you holy.”
Leviticus has a bunch of rules that don’t apply to us today, but it constantly pokes at our willingness to surrender everything to the Lord. When we’re asked to do things that don’t make sense, or when we just don’t want to do it, poke, poke, poke. And yet GOD is the one who makes us holy. Praise God for his redeeming power!