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Comparing Leviticus 20 and Leviticus 18

Comparing Leviticus 20 and Leviticus 18

Leviticus 20 sounds a whole lot like Leviticus 18. In fact, most of the laws in Leviticus 20 are identical with those of the earlier chapter… with one major exception: the latter chapter includes the penalties associated with each law.

Leviticus 18 says, “Don’t commit adultery” (vs 20).

Leviticus 20 says, “Don’t commit adultery… and if you do, both offenders shall be put to death” (vs 10).

And so on.

Here’s a comparison showing the relationship between the two chapters:

Lev 18Improper RelationshipLev 20Penalty
vs 6Close relatives

vs 7Mother

vs 8Stepmomvs 11Put to death
vs 9Half-sistervs 17Cut off
vs 10Granddaughter

vs 11Step-sister

vs 12Aunt (father’s side)vs 19Unspecified
vs 13Aunt (mother’s side)

vs 14Aunt (unrelated by blood)vs 20Die childless
vs 15Daughter-in-lawvs 12Put to death
vs 16Sister-in-lawvs 21Die childless
vs 17Step-daughter & Step-granddaughter

vs 18Polygamyvs 14Death by fire
vs 19Menstruating womanvs 18Cut off
vs 20Adulteryvs 10Put to death
vs 21Offer kids to Molechvss 1-5
vs 22Homosexualityvs 13Put to death
vs 23Bestialityvss 15-16Put to death

As we see, all the sins in Lev 20 are covered in Lev 18, but not all the sins mentioned in Lev 18 find a penalty in Lev 20. This may be 1) because the community was not responsible to enact any penalty upon these sins, or 2) because their penalties are assumed in Lev 20. The second option is preferable, since it is unreasonable to think there would be a death penalty for sleeping with an unrelated aunt but not your own mother.

The sexual offenses in Lev 20 also appear to be organized roughly in order of severity of penalty. Most of the “put to death” penalties are higher up on the list, whereas the list ends with “cut off” and “die childless.” We can’t draw too sharp a distinction between many of these penalties, as there seems to be overlap in many areas.

The bottom line is that God takes sin seriously and the death penalty was enacted for crimes much less severe (in the eyes of our culture) than what our government regulates today.

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