Leviticus 20:2
"Tell the Israelites, 'Any Israelite or foreigner living in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. The people of the land are to stone him.
Human SacrificesR.M. Edgar Leviticus 20:1-5
Sin At its WorstW. Clarkson Leviticus 20:1-5
Punishments Assigned to Presumptuous SinsR.A. Redford Leviticus 20:1-27
Sin unto DeathJ.A. Macdonald Leviticus 20:1-27
LapidationM. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.Leviticus 20:2-27
Penal SanctionsS. H. Kellogg, D. D.Leviticus 20:2-27

Leviticus 20:1-5
cf. Genesis 22:1-19; Micah 6:7. In this chapter we come to a catalogue of capital crimes. Upon the whole list of cases we need not dwell; but the first has some interest as raising the question of "human sacrifices." How early the terrible practice of offering "the fruit of the body" in atonement for" the sin of the soul" arose, we can scarcely say. It has been supposed to be as early, at all events, as the time of Abraham. Some entertain the notion that the sacrifice of Isaac was primarily a temptation to imitate the custom existing in the land. But if the horrible custom existed in Abraham's day, nothing could more clearly convey that the Divine pleasure rested in other sacrifices altogether than the details of the escape of Isaac. The custom of human sacrifices was widespread, as investigations show. Here and elsewhere the Lord sets his face against them. Let us see if we can grasp the principle involved.

I. HUMAN SACRIFICE IS THE NATURAL CLIMAX OF THE SACRIFICIAL IDEA. "If no scruples," says Ewald, "held a man back from giving the dearest he had when a feeling in his heart drove him to sacrifice it to his God just as it was, then he would easily feel even the life of a beloved domestic animal not too dear to be given up at his heart's urgent demand, Nay, only in the offering up of life or soul, as the last that can be offered, did it seem to him that the highest was presented. But the logical consequence of such feelings was that human life must ultimately be looked upon as incomparably the highest and most wondrous offering, whether the life offered be that of a stranger or, as that which is dearest to one, that of one's own child, or even of one's self. Thus human sacrifice was everywhere the proper crown and completion of all these utterances of the fear of God." The case of Abraham is one in point. When God for wise purposes demanded the surrender of the only begotten and well-beloved son, Isaac, he asked the patriarch for the greatest conceivable sacrifice; and, so far as intention is concerned, Abraham made the surrender. It has been called on the patriarch's part a "magnificent and extraordinary act of romantic morals." While, therefore, it was in reality, as we shall see, a condemnation of human sacrifices as such, it illustrates their real spirit.

II. HUMAN SACRIFICE IS AT THE SAME TIME SUCH A MONSTROUS AND EXTRAVAGANT EXPRESSION OF THE SACRIFICIAL IDEA THAT NOTHING BUT A DIVINE COMMAND WOULD WARRANT THE ENTERTAINMENT OF IT. What distinguishes Abraham's case in connection with the proposed sacrifice of Isaac from that of all other sacrifices of human life is that he had a command of God to go upon, while the others followed the devices of their own hearts. So sacred should human life appear to men, that the idea of taking it away should only be entertained under the most solemn sanctions. Besides, but for the sin-distorted mind of man, it would appear that the consecration of human beings as "living sacrifices," is in itself far higher and nobler than their death (Romans 12:1). To take innocent infants and place them in the flaming arms of Molech must appear a most monstrous and exaggerated expression of the sacrificial idea. But would God, in any circumstances, command human sacrifices? As a matter of fact, men were sacrificed through capital punishment. The present chapter is full of capital crimes. Men died under the direction of God for their crimes. This, however, is not the sacrificial idea, which involves the sacrifice of the innocent in the room of the guilty. This was doubtless what led the infants to be favourite sacrifices with the heathen - the innocency of the sufferer constituted the greater appeal to the angry deity. We observe, then -

III. THAT GOD FORBADE, UNDER THE PENALTY OF DEATH, HUMAN SACRIFICES, AND IN THE ONLY CASE WHERE lie SEEMED TO DEMAND A HUMAN SACRIFICE HE HAD PROVIDED A SUBSTITUTE. He made the offering of children to Molech a capital crime. This was not aimed at the idolatry only, but at the unwarranted exaggeration of the sacrificial idea. Besides, in the ease of Isaac, just when Abraham was about to slay him, God interposed with a provided substitute. All God required in Abraham's peculiar case was the spirit of surrender. He guards, therefore, his prerogative of dealing with life, and enjoins his people only to take human life away when he directs them. They are not to presume to offer such a sacred gift as human lie upon his altar in the way of sacrifice. They may dedicate themselves and their children as living beings to his service, but their death he requires not in such a voluntary fashion at their hands.

IV. AT THE SAME TIME, WE FIND HUMAN LIFE REGULARLY SACRIFICED IN THE ORDER OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND AT THE CALL OF DUTY. That is to say, though we have not monstrous and unhallowed sacrifices required of God at his altars, he does make demands on men and women to surrender, like Abraham, their sons, or to surrender themselves at the call of duty. This is indeed as real a sacrifice as in the arms of Moloch, and at the same time a far nobler one. In fact, self-sacrifice seems to be a law of providence in the case of all who would be truly noble in their careers. The voluntary element, coming in along with the sweet reasonableness of the sublime necessity, vindicates the morality of the whole transaction. Men and women cheerfully lay down their lives in gradual sacrifice to duty's call, or sometimes in sudden and immediate sacrifice. And the act is moral as welt as heroic.

V. THIS LEADS TO A LAST OBSERVATION, THAT HUMAN SACRIFICE HAD ITS GREAT CULMINATION AND CLIMAX IN THAT OF JESUS CHRIST, For what God did not require from Abraham - the actual sacrifice of his son - he has required of himself. The demand for a human sacrifice made only apparently in the case of Isaac, was made really in the case of Christ. An innocent, sinless human being was once commanded by his God and Father to lay down his life and bear, in doing so, the sins of man. Hence we find him saying, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again" (John 10:17). It would seem a harsh command, a cruel necessity, were it not that the Father and Son are essentially one, and the commandment that the Son should die was virtually Divine self-sacrifice. "He who is sent is one in being with him who sends." The atonement of Christ is really the self-sacrifice of God. Hence the only human sacrifice demanded is God incarnate responding to himself. The necessity for thus atoning for human sin at the expense of self-sacrifice is in the main mysterious. But its very mystery makes it more deeply profitable to faith. How great must God's love be when it leads him to lay down his own life and die ignominiously in the interests of men! The ram which was offered in the stead of Isaac is the type of the self-sacrificing Jesus who was offered for us. - R.M.E.

He shall surely be put to death.
This chapter, directly or indirectly, casts no little light on some most fundamental and practical questions regarding the administration of justice in dealing with criminals. We may learn here what, in the mind of the King of kings, is the primary object of the punishment of criminals against society. First and foremost is the satisfaction of outraged justice, and of the regal majesty of the supreme and holy God; the vindication of the holiness of the Most High against that wickedness of men which would set at nought the Holy One and overturn that moral order which He has established. Again and again the crime itself is given as the reason for the penalty, inasmuch as by such iniquity in the midst of Israel the holy sanctuary of God among them was profaned. But if this is set forth as the fundamental reason for the infliction of the punishment, it is not represented as the only object. If, as regards the criminal himself, the punishment is a satisfaction and expiation to justice for his crime, on the other hand, as regards the people, the punishment is intended for their moral good and purification (see ver. 14). Both of these principles are of such a nature that they must be of perpetual validity. The government or legislative power that loses sight of either of them is certain to go wrong, and the people will be sure, sooner or later, to suffer in morals by the error. In the light we have now, it is easy to see what are the principles according to which, in various cases, the punishments were measured out. Evidently, in the first place, the penalty was determined, even as equity demands, by the intrinsic heinousness of the crime. A second consideration, which evidently had place, was the danger involved in each crime to the moral and spiritual well-being of the community; and, we may add, in the third place, the degree to which the people were likely to be exposed to the contagion of certain crimes prevalent in the nations immediately about them. As regards the crimes specified, the criminal law of modern Christendom does not inflict the penalty of death in a single possible case here mentioned; and, to the mind of many, the contrasted severity of the Mosaic code presents a grave difficulty. And yet, if one believes, on the authority of the teaching of Christ, that the theocratic government of Israel is not a fable, but a historic fact, although he may still have much difficulty in recognising the righteousness of this code, he will be slow on this account either to renounce his faith in the Divine authority of this chapter or to impugn the justice of the holy King of Israel in charging Him with undue severity, and will rather patiently await some other solution of the problem than the denial of the essential equity of these laws. But there are several considerations which, for many, will greatly lessen, if they do not wholly remove, the difficulty which the case presents. In the first place, as regards the punishment of idolatry with death, we have to remember that, from a theocratic point of view, idolatry was essentially high treason, the most formal repudiation possible of the supreme authority of Israel's King. If, even in our modern states, the gravity of the issues involved in high treason has led men to believe that death is not too severe a penalty for an offence aimed directly at the subversion of governmental order, how much more must this be admitted when the government is not of fallible man, but of the most holy and infallible God? And when, besides this, we recall the atrocious cruelties and revolting impurities which were inseparably associated with that idolatry, we shall have still less difficulty in seeing that it was just that the worshipper of Molech should die. And as decreeing the penalty of death for sorcery and similar practices, it is probable that the reason for this is to be found in the close connection of these with the prevailing idolatry. But it is in regard to crimes against the integrity and purity of the family that we find the most impressive contrast between this penal code and those of modern times. Although, unhappily, adultery and, less commonly, incest, and even, rarely, the unnatural crimes mentioned in this chapter, are not unknown in modern Christendom, yet, while the law of Moses punished all these with death, modern law treats them with comparative leniency, or even refuses to regard some forms of these offences as crimes. What then? Shall we hasten to the conclusion that we have advanced on Moses? that this law was certainly unjust in its severity? or is it possible that modern law is at fault in that it has fallen below those standards of righteousness which rule in the kingdom of God? One would think that by any man who believes in the Divine origin of the theocracy only one answer could be given. Assuredly, one cannot suppose that God judged of a crime with undue severity; and if not, is not then Christendom, as it were, summoned by this penal code of the theocracy — after making all due allowance for different conditions of society into revise its estimate of the moral gravity of these and other offences? We do well to heed this fact, that not merely unnatural crimes, such as sodomy, bestiality, and the grosser forms of incest, but adultery, is by God ranked in the same category as murder. Is it strange? For what are crimes of this kind but assaults on the very being of the family? Where there is incest or adultery we may truly say the family is murdered; what murder is to the individual, that, precisely, are crimes of this class to the family. In the theocratic code these were, therefore, made punishable with death; and, we venture to believe, with abundant reason. Is it likely that God was too severe? or must we not rather fear that man, ever lenient to prevailing sins, in our day has become falsely and unmercifully merciful, kind with a most perilous and unholy kindness? Still harder will it be for most of us to understand why the death-penalty should have been also affixed to cursing or smiting a father or a mother, an extreme form of rebellion against parental authority. We must, no doubt, bear in mind, as in all these cases, that a rough people, like those just emancipated slaves, required a severity of dealing which with finer natures would not be needed; and also, that the fact of Israel's call to be a priestly nation bearing salvation to mankind, made every disobedience among them the graver crime, as tending to so disastrous issues, not for Israel alone, but for the whole race of man which Israel was appointed to bless. On an analogous principle we justify military authority in shooting the sentry found asleep at his post. Still, while allowing for all this, one can hardly escape the inference that in the sight of God rebellion against parents must be a more serious offence than many in our time have been wont to imagine. And the more that we consider how truly basal to the order of government and of society is both sexual purity and the maintenance of a spirit of reverence and subordination to parents, the easier we shall find it to recognise the fact that if in this penal code there is doubtless great severity, it is yet the severity of governmental wisdom and true paternal kindness on the part of the high King of Israel, who governed that nation with intent, above all, that they might become, in the highest sense, "a holy nation" in the midst of an ungodly world, and so become the vehicle of blessing to others. And God thus judged that it was better that sinning individuals should die without mercy than that family government and family purity should perish, and Israel, instead of being a blessing to the nations, should sink with them into the mire of universal moral corruption. And it is well to observe that this law, if severe, was most equitable and impartial in its application. We have here, in no instance, torture; the scourging which in one case is enjoined is limited elsewhere to the forty stripes save one. Neither have we discrimination against any class or either sex; nothing like that detestable injustice of modern society which turns the fallen woman into the street with pious scorn, while it often receives the betrayer and even the adulterer — in most cases the more guilty of the two — into "the best society." Nothing have we here, again, which could justify by example the insistence of many, through a perverted humanity, when a murderess is sentenced for her crime to the scaffold, her sex should purchase a partial immunity from the penalty of crime. The Levitical law is as impartial as its Author; even if death be the penalty the guilty one must die, whether man or woman.

(S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)

Stone him with stones. —
Lapidation, as is well known, was frequently resorted to by excited mobs for the exercise of summary justice or revenge. But as a legal punishment it was not usual in the ancient world; it is only mentioned as a Macedonian and a Spanish custom, and as having been occasionally employed by the Romans. Among the Hebrews, however, it was very common; it was counted as the first and severest of the four modes of inflicting capital punishment — the three others being burning, beheading, and strangling — and it was in the Pentateuch ordained for a variety of offences, especially those associated with idolatry and incest; in certain cases it was even inflicted upon animals; and its application was by the Rabbins considerably extended. As regards the proceedings observed, the Bible contains no hints except the statements that it took place without the precincts of the town, and that the men by whose testimony the criminal had been convicted were obliged to throw the first stones. But the Mishnah gives the following account, some features of which are possibly of remoter antiquity: When the offender is being led away to the place of execution, an official remains at the door of the law-court, while a man on horseback is stationed at some distance, but so that the former can see him wave a handkerchief, which he does when any one comes declaring that he has something to say in favour of the condemned; in this case the horseman at once hastens to stop the procession; if the convicted himself maintains that he can offer proofs of his innocence or extenuating circumstances, he is taken back before the tribunals; and this may be repeated four or five times, if there appears to be the least foundation for his assertions. A herald precedes him all the while, exclaiming, "So-and-so is being led out to be stoned to death for this and this offence, and so-and-so are the witnesses; whosoever has to say anything that might save him let him come forward and say it." Having arrived about ten yards from the appointed spot, he is publicly called upon to confess his sins; for "whosoever confesses his sins has a share in the future life"; if he is too illiterate to confess, he is ordered to say, "Let my death be the expiation for all my sins." At four yards from the place he is partially stripped of his garments. When the procession has at last reached its destination, he is conducted upon a scaffolding, the height of which is that of two men, and after drinking "wine mingled with myrrh," to render him less sensible to pain, he is by one of the witnesses pushed down, so that he falls upon his back; if he is not killed by the fall the other witness throws a stone upon his breast; and if he is still alive all the people present cover him with stones. When the corpse, which is usually nailed to the cross, is in a state of decomposition, the bones are collected and burnt in a separate place; then his relatives pay visits to the judges and the witnesses, in order to prove that they bear them no hatred, and that they acknowledge the justice of the sentence; and they must show their grief by no external mark of mourning.

(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

Molech, Moses
Alien, Aliens, Anyone, Certainly, Community, Death, Foreigners, Gives, Giveth, Israelite, Molech, Moreover, Offspring, Seed, Sojourn, Sojourners, Sojourning, Sons, Stone, Stoned, Stones, Strangers, Surely
1. Of him who gives his seed to Moloch
4. Of him who favors such an one
6. Of going to wizards
7. Of sanctification
9. Of him who curses his parents
11. Of incest
13. Of sodomy
15. Of bestiality
18. Of uncleanness
22. Obedience is required with holiness
27. Wizards must be put to death

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Leviticus 20:2

     4366   stones
     5485   punishment, legal aspects
     7530   foreigners

Leviticus 20:1-2

     5277   criminals

Leviticus 20:1-3

     5896   irreverence
     8273   holiness, ethical aspects

Leviticus 20:1-5

     7206   community
     8471   respect, for human beings
     8807   profanity

Leviticus 20:1-6

     8705   apostasy, in OT

Leviticus 20:1-17

     6026   sin, judgment on

Leviticus 20:2-5

     7332   child sacrifice
     7346   death penalty
     8747   false gods

Tenth Day. Holiness and Separation.
I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people. And ye shall be holy unto me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from other people that ye should be Mine.'--Lev. xx. 24, 26. 'Until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the Lord, he shall be holy.... All the days of his separation he is holy unto the Lord.'--Num. vi. 5, 8. 'Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered without the
Andrew Murray—Holy in Christ

Seventh Day. Holiness and Obedience.
Ye have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: ye shall be unto me an holy nation.'--Ex. xix. 4-6. Israel has reached Horeb. The law is to be given and the covenant made. Here are God's first words to the people; He speaks of redemption and its blessing, fellowship with Himself: 'Ye have seen how I brought
Andrew Murray—Holy in Christ

Annunciation to Joseph of the Birth of Jesus.
(at Nazareth, b.c. 5.) ^A Matt. I. 18-25. ^a 18 Now the birth [The birth of Jesus is to handled with reverential awe. We are not to probe into its mysteries with presumptuous curiosity. The birth of common persons is mysterious enough (Eccl. ix. 5; Ps. cxxxix. 13-16), and we do not well, therefore, if we seek to be wise above what is written as to the birth of the Son of God] of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When his mother Mary had been betrothed [The Jews were usually betrothed ten or twelve months
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."--Matt. xvi. 24. Good works are not the saint's sanctification, any more than drops of water are the fountain; but they spring as crystal drops from the fountain of sanctification. They are good, not when the saint intends them to be good, but when they conform to the divine law and proceed from a true faith. Yet the intention is of great importance; the Church has always taught that a work could not be called
Abraham Kuyper—The Work of the Holy Spirit

Epistle Lxiv. To Augustine, Bishop of the Angli .
To Augustine, Bishop of the Angli [174] . Here begins the epistle of the blessed Gregory pope of the city of Rome, in exposition of various matters, which he sent into transmarine Saxony to Augustine, whom he had himself sent in his own stead to preach. Preface.--Through my most beloved son Laurentius, the presbyter, and Peter the monk, I received thy Fraternity's letter, in which thou hast been at pains to question me on many points. But, inasmuch as my aforesaid sons found me afflicted with the
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great

Eleventh Day. The Holy one of Israel.
I am the Lord that brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God; ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. I the Lord which make you holy, am holy.'--Lev. xi. 45, xxi. 8. 'I am the Lord Thy God, the Holy One of Israel, Thy Saviour. Thus saith the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.'--Isa. xliii. 3, 14, 15. In the book of Exodus we found God making provision for the Holiness of His people. In the holy
Andrew Murray—Holy in Christ

Jesus Fails to Attend the Third Passover.
Scribes Reproach Him for Disregarding Tradition. (Galilee, Probably Capernaum, Spring a.d. 29.) ^A Matt. XV. 1-20; ^B Mark VII. 1-23; ^D John VII. 1. ^d 1 And after these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Judæa, because the Jews sought to kill him. [John told us in his last chapter that the passover was near at hand. He here makes a general statement which shows that Jesus did not attend this passover. The reason for his absence is given at John v. 18.] ^a 1 Then there
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The Holiness of God
The next attribute is God's holiness. Exod 15:51. Glorious in holiness.' Holiness is the most sparkling jewel of his crown; it is the name by which God is known. Psa 111:1. Holy and reverend is his name.' He is the holy One.' Job 6:60. Seraphims cry, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.' Isa 6:6. His power makes him mighty, his holiness makes him glorious. God's holiness consists in his perfect love of righteousness, and abhorrence of evil. Of purer eyes than
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

The Call of Matthew - the Saviour's Welcome to Sinners - Rabbinic Theology as Regards the Doctrine of Forgiveness in Contrast to the Gospel of Christ
In two things chiefly does the fundamental difference appear between Christianity and all other religious systems, notably Rabbinism. And in these two things, therefore, lies the main characteristic of Christ's work; or, taking a wider view, the fundamental idea of all religions. Subjectively, they concern sin and the sinner; or, to put it objectively, the forgiveness of sin and the welcome to the sinner. But Rabbinism, and every other system down to modern humanitarianism - if it rises so high in
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

The emphasis which modern criticism has very properly laid on the prophetic books and the prophetic element generally in the Old Testament, has had the effect of somewhat diverting popular attention from the priestly contributions to the literature and religion of Israel. From this neglect Leviticus has suffered most. Yet for many reasons it is worthy of close attention; it is the deliberate expression of the priestly mind of Israel at its best, and it thus forms a welcome foil to the unattractive
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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