Leviticus 22

Notes (NET Translation)

1 The Lord spoke to Moses:

2 “Tell Aaron and his sons that they must deal respectfully with the holy offerings of the Israelites, which they consecrate to me, so that they do not profane my holy name. I am the Lord.

3 Say to them, ‘Throughout your generations, if any man from all your descendants approaches the holy offerings which the Israelites consecrate to the Lord while he is impure, that person must be cut off from before me. I am the Lord.

A priest, like a regular citizen, becomes unclean during the course of daily routine. Whenever he becomes unclean, he cannot contact anything that is holy. The holy must never be defiled. The holy things here are specifically the elevated offerings that have not gone to the altar (7:28-34). Perhaps there was a tendency not to consider them as holy since they had not been on the altar and thus to treat them more casually. Defilement of the holy carries the severe cut-off penalty (cf. 7:20-21). Never again could such an offender serve at the altar.1

4 No man from the descendants of Aaron who is diseased or has a discharge may eat the holy offerings until he becomes clean. The one who touches anything made unclean by contact with a dead person, or a man who has a seminal emission, 5 or a man who touches a swarming thing by which he becomes unclean, or touches a person by which he becomes unclean, whatever that person’s impurity – 6 the person who touches any of these will be unclean until evening and must not eat from the holy offerings unless he has bathed his body in water.

7 When the sun goes down he will be clean, and afterward he may eat from the holy offerings, because they are his food.

8 He must not eat an animal that has died of natural causes or an animal torn by beasts and thus become unclean by it. I am the Lord.

Cf. Ex. 22:31; Lev. 17:15; Deut. 14:21; Ezek. 44:31.

9 They must keep my charge so that they do not incur sin on account of it and therefore die because they profane it. I am the Lord who sanctifies them.

10 “‘No lay person may eat anything holy. Neither a priest’s lodger nor a hired laborer may eat anything holy, 11 but if a priest buys a person with his own money, that person may eat the holy offerings, and those born in the priest’s own house may eat his food.

12 If a priest’s daughter marries a lay person, she may not eat the holy contribution offerings, 13 but if a priest’s daughter is a widow or divorced, and she has no children so that she returns to live in her father’s house as in her youth, she may eat from her father’s food, but no lay person may eat it.

According to biblical law, a widow or a divorcee without children was compelled to rely on her father or her brothers for support. A widow did not inherit her husband’s estate; his sons or, if he had no sons, his daughters fell heir to it. Similarly, a childless, divorced woman had no claim on her husband’s estate. (In later Judaism, the settlement contained in the ketubbah, “writ of marriage,” protected women in such circumstances.) This verse ordains, therefore, that the daughter of a priest who had been married to a nonpriest could regain her privileges within her original, priestly family.2

14 “‘If a man eats a holy offering by mistake, he must add one fifth to it and give the holy offering to the priest.

It is unclear whether the man in this verse is a priest or a layman.

15 They must not profane the holy offerings which the Israelites contribute to the Lord, 16 and so cause them to incur a penalty for guilt when they eat their holy offerings, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them.'”

These verses appear to serve as a warning to priests who might be tempted to give the holy offerings to non-priests.

17 The Lord spoke to Moses:

18 “Speak to Aaron, his sons, and all the Israelites and tell them, ‘When any man from the house of Israel or from the foreigners in Israel presents his offering for any of the votive or freewill offerings which they present to the Lord as a burnt offering, 19 if it is to be acceptable for your benefit it must be a flawless male from the cattle, sheep, or goats.

Note that a foreigner in Israel had the opportunity to worship Yahweh.

20 You must not present anything that has a flaw, because it will not be acceptable for your benefit.

21 If a man presents a peace offering sacrifice to the Lord for a special votive offering or for a freewill offering from the herd or the flock, it must be flawless to be acceptable; it must have no flaw.

22 “‘You must not present to the Lord something blind, or with a broken bone, or mutilated, or with a running sore, or with a festering eruption, or with a feverish rash. You must not give any of these as a gift on the altar to the Lord.

23 As for an ox or a sheep with a limb too long or stunted, you may present it as a freewill offering, but it will not be acceptable for a votive offering.

Less stringent restrictions for the freewill offering may be due to it being an entirely voluntary offering.

24 You must not present to the Lord something with testicles that are bruised, crushed, torn, or cut off; you must not do this in your land.

25 Even from a foreigner you must not present the food of your God from such animals as these, for they are ruined and flawed; they will not be acceptable for your benefit.'”

26 The Lord spoke to Moses:

27 “When an ox, lamb, or goat is born, it must be under the care of its mother seven days, but from the eighth day onward it will be acceptable as an offering gift to the Lord.

28 You must not slaughter an ox or a sheep and its young on the same day.

Traditionally, this prohibition has been explained as expressing compassion for living creatures. It has been understood to apply only to female animals, “mothers,” and their male offspring (Heb. beno, [literally] “its son”). Practically speaking, male animals account for the majority of sacrifices. This interpretation is cited by Rashi, Maimonides, and others.3

This is not a particularly satisfying rationale since presumably the mother and son could still be sacrificed on successive days.

29 When you sacrifice a thanksgiving offering to the Lord, you must sacrifice it so that it is acceptable for your benefit.

30 On that very day it must be eaten; you must not leave any part of it over until morning. I am the Lord.

31 “You must be sure to do my commandments. I am the Lord.

32 You must not profane my holy name, and I will be sanctified in the midst of the Israelites. I am the Lord who sanctifies you, 33 the one who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord.”

YHWH is sanctified when Israel performs his commandments (v. 31), not that he thereby increases his own sanctity. Rather, it does so relatively. Israel increasingly regards him with sanctity and is more scrupulous in preventing the desecration of his name. The result is that YHWH’s sanctity is more visible, giving the appearance of his increased sanctity.4

Bibliography

Hartley, John E. Leviticus. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1992.

Levine, Baruch A. Leviticus. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 17-22. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

Rooker, Mark, and Dennis R. Cole. Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Holman Reference, 2000.

Wenham, Gordon J. The Book of Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979.


  1. Hartley 1998, p. 355 
  2. Levine 1989, p. 150 
  3. Levine 1989, p. 152 
  4. Milgrom 2008, p. 1888 

Psalm 21

Notes (NET Translation)

For the music director; a psalm of David.

The logic of the psalm is as follows. The king has experienced Yhwh’s delivering him from his foes (vv. 2-5). That inspires his praise and his ongoing trust (vv. 1, 6-7). It also gives grounds for the conviction that Yhwh does/will overcome all those who oppose the divine purpose (vv. 8-12). And that inspires the people’s praise (v. 13). The people who pray this psalm thus move from a distanced declaration and observation in the third person (vv. 1-7) to a general statement (vv. 8-12) and then to an explicit identification with that statement’s implications (v. 13). Being in a position of leadership inevitably exposes a leader to danger but also drives the leader to prayer and provides the opportunity to prove God. If the people are aware of that process, it gives opportunity for them to join in the leader’s praise and profit from the leader’s experience.1

1 O Lord, the king rejoices in the strength you give; he takes great delight in the deliverance you provide.

2 You grant him his heart’s desire; you do not refuse his request. (Selah)

3 For you bring him rich blessings; you place a golden crown on his head.

The crown symbolizes divine approval.

4 He asked you to sustain his life, and you have granted him long life and an enduring dynasty.

While the gift of life . . . for ever and ever might have implied to an Old Testament reader either a hyperbole like that of Daniel 2:4, etc., or an allusion to the endless dynasty promised to David in 2 Samuel 7:16, the New Testament has filled in the picture firmly with the figure of the ultimate king, the Messiah, for whom the whole stanza is true without exaggeration. In him the glory . . . splendour and majesty of verse 5 reveal their full range of depth (John 13:31f.) and height (Rev. 5:12), as does the joy of thy presence (6; cf. Heb. 12:2).2

5 Your deliverance brings him great honor; you give him majestic splendor.

6 For you grant him lasting blessings; you give him great joy by allowing him into your presence.

7 For the king trusts in the Lord, and because of the sovereign Lord’s faithfulness he is not upended.

The covenant between God and Israel, represented by the king, is summarized here. God is always faithful but Israel must trust in God for the relationship to prosper.

8 You prevail over all your enemies; your power is too great for those who hate you.

9 You burn them up like a fiery furnace when you appear; the Lord angrily devours them; the fire consumes them.

10 You destroy their offspring from the earth, their descendants from among the human race.

11 Yes, they intend to do you harm; they dream up a scheme, but they do not succeed.

12 For you make them retreat when you shoot your arrows at them.

13 Rise up, O Lord, in strength! We will sing and praise your power!

Because messianic kingship is wholly dependent on the Great King for its strength, honor, longevity, and authority, the psalm appropriately concludes with an inscription of praise to the Lord. He is the source of “strength” and “might.” The king and his people rejoice in God’s kingship and the blessings he has bestowed on them. The king led in praise (v. 1), and now the people join in (“we will sing and praise,” cf. 20:5).3

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


  1. Goldingay 2006, loc. 6428-6434 
  2. Kidner 2008, p. 121 
  3. VanGemeren 2008, p. 234 

Leviticus 21

Notes (NET Translation)

1 The LORD said to Moses: “Say to the priests, the sons of Aaron – say to them, ‘For a dead person no priest is to defile himself among his people, 2 except for his close relative who is near to him: his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, 3 and his virgin sister who is near to him, who has no husband; he may defile himself for her.

Coming into contact with a corpse caused ritual impurity. The average Israelite would become impure when burying a corpse and then be restored to purity through the proper rituals (Num. 19:11-22). Ordinary priests were only allowed to come into contact with the corpse of a close relative (cf. Ezek. 44:25-27). If the sister was married it would be her husband’s duty to bury her (the Hebrew habbetula refers to a young and nubile woman, not necessarily a virgin). The omission of any mention of the priest’s wife is noteworthy. This law eliminated a funerary role for the Israelite priesthood and thereby gave no sanction to the idolatrous cult of the dead known throughout the ancient Near East.

4 He must not defile himself as a husband among his people so as to profane himself.

The meaning of this verse is difficult to determine. Hartley takes it to mean a priest is not to become unclean by mourning for one of his wife’s relatives. Levine takes it to mean that a priest, in the role of husband, is not permitted to bury his wife because she is not a blood relative. Rooker and Cole take it to mean a priest could come in contact with the corpse of a close relative by marriage. Wenham suggests the verse anticipates verse 7 in warning the priest not to marry a woman of doubtful character.

5 Priests must not have a bald spot shaved on their head, they must not shave the corner of their beard, and they must not cut slashes in their body.

All Israelites were forbidden from shaving a bald spot in their head or from gashing their bodies (Deut. 14:1). These were mourning rites in ancient Canaanite religion. Such practices also mar the wholeness or completeness of the body.

6 “‘They must be holy to their God, and they must not profane the name of their God, because they are the ones who present the LORD’s gifts, the food of their God. Therefore they must be holy.

Priests must observe a stricter code of purity because they are charged with performing the rites of the cult.

7 They must not take a wife defiled by prostitution, nor are they to take a wife divorced from her husband, for the priest is holy to his God.

An ordinary priest was allowed to marry a widow but not a divorcee.

The law prohibiting priests from marrying divorced women persisted into later Judaism. It was adopted by the Christian church for its clergy, who were consecrated; and was also applied to Christian kings. There is a specific reason for this ban, which explains why the divorcee and the harlot are mentioned together. Hoffmann explains that this priestly ban helps to clarify the view of the House of Shammai as to the grounds for divorce. In the law of Deuteronomy 24:1, it is stipulated that a man may divorce his wife if he discovers in her behavior literally “some matter that was sexually improper” (ʿervat davar), which was taken to mean that only the presumption of marital infidelity constituted legal grounds for initiating divorce. In an effort to broaden the grounds for divorce, the House of Hillel, whose view is reported in Gittin 90a, departed from the original sense of ʿervat davar in maintaining that ʿervah, “nakedness, sexuality,” was not the only “matter” (davar) that could serve as grounds for divorce. So, although this wider interpretation became normative in later Judaism, it was not originally envisioned in the laws of the Torah. In biblical times, it is likely that divorce always involved a charge by the husband of infidelity. If that charge was made when the marriage was first consummated, the husband had to substantiate it in accordance with the law of Deuteronomy 22:13–14. At other times, a husband could subject his wife to an ordeal if he suspected that she was pregnant by another man, as we read in Numbers 5:11–31. If there was adequate testimony to prove adultery on the wife’s part, she was subject to the death penalty under the law of Deuteronomy 22:23–24. In most cases, however, there was insufficient evidence to condemn a woman under this law. There was, however, sufficient motivation for a husband to charge his wife with adultery, thereby accomplishing what he truly sought — divorce.1

8 You must sanctify him because he presents the food of your God. He must be holy to you because I, the LORD who sanctifies you all, am holy.

9 If a daughter of a priest profanes herself by engaging in prostitution, she is profaning her father. She must be burned to death.

10 “‘The high priest – who is greater than his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured, who has been ordained to wear the priestly garments – must neither dishevel the hair of his head nor tear his garments.

The disheveling of hair and tearing of garments were signs of mourning. “His hair had been anointed and his clothes specially designed for him. If he disturbed them, it could serve to nullify his consecration.”2

11 He must not go where there is any dead person; he must not defile himself even for his father and his mother.

The high priest is held to a higher standard than ordinary priests. He is never allowed to come into contact with a corpse.

12 He must not go out from the sanctuary and must not profane the sanctuary of his God, because the dedication of the anointing oil of his God is on him. I am the LORD.

“Verse 12 does not mean that the high priest lived in the sanctuary, only that his duties there took precedence over family ties, even when his parents died.”3

13 He must take a wife who is a virgin. 14 He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or one profaned by prostitution; he may only take a virgin from his people as a wife. 15 He must not profane his children among his people, for I am the LORD who sanctifies him.'”

The high priest must marry a virgin. It is debated whether “from his people” means a priest’s daughter or an Israelite. Ezek. 44:22 says the high priest may marry any Israelite virgin.

16 The LORD spoke to Moses:

17 “Tell Aaron, ‘No man from your descendants throughout their generations who has a physical flaw is to approach to present the food of his God.

The wholeness of the priest corresponds to the holiness of God.

18 Certainly no man who has a physical flaw is to approach: a blind man, or one who is lame, or one with a slit nose, or a limb too long, 19 or a man who has had a broken leg or arm, 20 or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or one with a spot in his eye, or a festering eruption, or a feverish rash, or a crushed testicle.

The Hebrew adjective ivver (“blind”) does not necessarily connote total blindness, but could refer to a man with only one good eye. In ancient times a broken bone would often cause permanent deformity because the bones were not set properly. The skin conditions mentioned in v. 20 are not included in ch. 13. This means there were skin conditions that did not isolate a person from the community.

21 No man from the descendants of Aaron the priest who has a physical flaw may step forward to present the LORD’s gifts; he has a physical flaw, so he must not step forward to present the food of his God.

22 He may eat both the most holy and the holy food of his God, 23 but he must not go into the veil-canopy or step forward to the altar because he has a physical flaw. Thus he must not profane my holy places, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.'”

Priests with a defect are only prohibited from officiating in the cult, not from taking their portion of the sacrifices. They were not reduced to poverty or forced into another profession.

24 So Moses spoke these things to Aaron, his sons, and all the Israelites.

Bibliography

Hartley, John E. Leviticus. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1992.

Levine, Baruch A. Leviticus. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 17-22. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

Rooker, Mark, and Dennis R. Cole. Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Holman Reference, 2000.

Wenham, Gordon J. The Book of Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979.


  1. Levine 1989, p. 143–144 
  2. Wenham 1979, loc. 3884-3885 
  3. Wenham 1979, loc. 3886-3887 

Psalm 20

Notes (NET Translation)

For the music director; a psalm of David.

The psalm is not so much a prayer to God as it is a blessing of the king by the people.

Blessing involves the avowal to someone that God has such intentions toward them. It is thus related to prayer in the sense that God wills that it play a role in the implementing of God’s will in the world, but a blessing is not so much a request addressed to God as a declaration of what the blesser is empowered to say God will do. It is performative language, language that puts into effect what it speaks of. Blessing is God’s means of implementing a purpose in people’s life. The relationship of blessing can be two-way, and there is a relationship of codependence between people and king. King blesses people; people bless king.1

1 May the LORD answer you when you are in trouble; may the God of Jacob make you secure!

The phrase “God of Jacob” recalls the covenant relationship between God and Israel.

2 May he send you help from his temple; from Zion may he give you support!

The word qodesh (“temple”) means “holiness.”

3 May he take notice of your offerings; may he accept your burnt sacrifice! (Selah)

The idea is hardly that Yhwh’s support can be bought: at least Ps. 50 (for instance) would deny that. The gifts are rather a sign of the king’s serious turning to Yhwh in a situation of need. Verse 7 will hint at the possibility that the king might do otherwise, the possibility referred to in passages such as Isa. 30-31.2

4 May he grant your heart’s desire; may he bring all your plans to pass!

5 Then we will shout for joy over your victory; we will rejoice in the name of our God! May the LORD grant all your requests!

6 Now I am sure that the LORD will deliver his chosen king; he will intervene for him from his holy heavenly temple, and display his mighty ability to deliver.

The “I” of this verse could be the king, speaking in the third person about himself, or the words of a priest, prophet, or some other representative of the people.

7 Some trust in chariots and others in horses, but we depend on the LORD our God.

The reversion to “we” talk suggests these are the words of the people again.

The words “chariotry” and “horses” should probably be taken as poetically synonymous. Chariots, and the horses which pulled them, represented the most powerful military resources available in the ancient Near Eastern practice of warfare.3

8 They will fall down, but we will stand firm.

9 The LORD will deliver the king; he will answer us when we call to him for help!

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


  1. Goldingay 2006, loc. 6232-6236 
  2. Goldingay 2006, loc. 6154 
  3. Craigie 2004, p. 187 

Leviticus 20

Notes (NET Translation)

Chapter 20 contains many of the same laws given in chapter 18 but adds the punishments associated with the crimes.

1 The LORD spoke to Moses:

2 “You are to say to the Israelites, ‘Any man from the Israelites or from the foreigners who reside in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death; the people of the land must pelt him with stones.

Recall that Molech is a false god who may have been associated with the underworld. Devoting a child to Molech was both a case of idolatry and murder. Stones were either thrown or hurled with a slingshot. Ordinary citizens (“the people of the land”) carried out the punishment. Deut. 17:1-7 implies that execution occurred after a trial. “According to tradition, this penalty was discharged by casting the guilty party from a high place; they stoned that person only if the fall was not fatal.”1

3 I myself will set my face against that man and cut him off from the midst of his people, because he has given some of his children to Molech and thereby defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name.

The phrase “I myself will set my face against that man” expresses the intent to punish. The form of punishment is cutting off the perpetrator from his people. Pagan worship defiled the sanctuary.

4 If, however, the people of the land shut their eyes to that man when he gives some of his children to Molech so that they do not put him to death, 5 I myself will set my face against that man and his clan. I will cut off from the midst of their people both him and all who follow after him in spiritual prostitution, to commit prostitution by worshiping Molech.

Verse 4 implies that people knew of the violator’s crime but did not execute him.

Hebrew mishpaḥah, “clan” (“kin”), designates the basic sociological unit in ancient Israelite society. It is presumed that the clan tends to act together in matters of worship, following the way of its leaders.2

This interpretation is bolstered by the fact that “all who follow after him” are also to be cut off.

6 “‘The person who turns to the spirits of the dead and familiar spirits to commit prostitution by going after them, I will set my face against that person and cut him off from the midst of his people.

The same root is deliberately used as an exemplification of divine measure-for-measure punishment: a person’s turning (facing) to forbidden practices is matched by God’s turning (facing) against such a person. The death penalty specified in v. 27 is not implied here. The cases are not equivalent: karet is prescribed for turning to a medium; death, for being one.3

7 “‘You must sanctify yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God.

8 You must be sure to obey my statutes. I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

Instead of pursuing Molek worship and seances, the people must “sanctify themselves.” They sanctify themselves each time they obey the laws given by God. Sanctification involves affirmative action; it is exercising one’s will to do God’s will. Sanctification is also pursued by consciously avoiding any activity that defiles. Standing at the head of the family laws, this call to holiness also teaches that how one treats one’s parents and how one conducts oneself in sexual relationships directly affect the development of one’s character. Holiness is practiced at home as well as at the sanctuary. Thus every time the people obey God’s word, they activate the sanctifying presence of God in their midst. Yahweh does the sanctifying; he is present among his people as the Holy God.4

9 “‘If anyone curses his father and mother he must be put to death. He has cursed his father and mother; his blood guilt is on himself.

“To curse” means more than uttering the occasional angry word. 2 Sam. 16:5ff.; Job 3:1ff. give some idea of the venom and bitter feelings that cursing could entail. It is the very antithesis of “honoring.” To honor in Hebrew literally means “to make heavy or glorious,” whereas to curse literally means “to make light of, despicable.”5

The formula “his blood guilt is on himself” means that the guilty is deserving of death and that those who execute him are not guilty of breaking the law. “If a man breaks such a law, he does so knowing the consequences, and therefore cannot object to the penalty imposed.”6

10 If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.

11 If a man has sexual intercourse with his father’s wife, he has exposed his father’s nakedness. Both of them must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.

12 If a man has sexual intercourse with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be put to death. They have committed perversion; their blood guilt is on themselves.

13 If a man has sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman, the two of them have committed an abomination. They must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.

14 If a man has sexual intercourse with both a woman and her mother, it is lewdness. Both he and they must be burned to death, so there is no lewdness in your midst.

The Hebrew is also consistent with the corpses of the offenders being burned (cf. Jos. 7:25). This would deprive the offenders of proper burial.

15 If a man has sexual intercourse with any animal, he must be put to death, and you must kill the animal.

The rabbis offer several rationalizations [for killing the animal]:

  1. The animal now being disposed or trained for bestiality will lead a person into sin (Sipra Qedoshim 11:5; m. Sanh. 7:4).
  2. “So that the animal, when passing through the market, will not prompt the remark: ‘This is the one'” (m. Sanh. 7:4; cf. Sipra Qedoshim 10:8; Lev. Rab. 27:3).
  3. The Torah enjoined the proscription of all the (idolatrous) places and the destruction of its (Asherah) trees (Deut 12:2) because they are reminders of man’s shame(ful acts) (Sipra Qedoshim 11:5).

That is, according to the rabbis, the death of the beast serves as a moral lesson to man.7

16 If a woman approaches any animal to have sexual intercourse with it, you must kill the woman, and the animal must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.

It is not clear whether “their” refers to (a) the man (v. 15) and the woman (v. 16) or (b) the woman (v. 16) and the animal (v. 16). If option (b) is correct it is not clear how the animal is guilty. Perhaps it merely means the executioner is not guilty of killing either the woman or the animal.

17 “‘If a man has sexual intercourse with his sister, whether the daughter of his father or his mother, so that he sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace. They must be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has exposed his sister’s nakedness; he will bear his punishment for iniquity.

The punishment in this verse is either banishment or early death. The singular in the phrase “he will bear his punishment for iniquity” is puzzling.

18 If a man has sexual intercourse with a menstruating woman and uncovers her nakedness, he has laid bare her fountain of blood and she has exposed the fountain of her blood, so both of them must be cut off from the midst of their people.

The “fountain of her blood” refers to the female genitalia.

19 You must not expose the nakedness of your mother’s sister and your father’s sister, for such a person has laid bare his own close relative. They must bear their punishment for iniquity.

20 If a man has sexual intercourse with his aunt, he has exposed his uncle’s nakedness; they must bear responsibility for their sin, they will die childless.

The Hebrew phrase “they will be childless” literally means that they will be “stripped” (of rights/honor?). Dying childless was regarded as a tragedy (Gen. 30:1-2; 1 Sam. 1:1-20; Ps. 127:3-5).

21 If a man has sexual intercourse with his brother’s wife, it is indecency. He has exposed his brother’s nakedness; they will be childless.

22 “‘You must be sure to obey all my statutes and regulations, so that the land to which I am about to bring you to take up residence there does not vomit you out.

23 You must not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am about to drive out before you, because they have done all these things and I am filled with disgust against them.

24 So I have said to you: You yourselves will possess their land and I myself will give it to you for a possession, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the LORD your God who has set you apart from the other peoples.

Although the distinctiveness of Israel is a major theme in biblical literature, it is rare to read that God actively “separates” Israel, a notion conveyed by the Hifil verb hivdil, “to divide, separate.” In the following verses, the separateness of Israel, involving their duty to live differently from other nations, is the stated rationale for the requirement to observe the dietary laws, which are the subject of chapter 11.8

25 Therefore you must distinguish between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean, and you must not make yourselves detestable by means of an animal or bird or anything that creeps on the ground – creatures I have distinguished for you as unclean.

26 You must be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the other peoples to be mine.

27 “‘A man or woman who has in them a spirit of the dead or a familiar spirit must be put to death. They must pelt them with stones; their blood guilt is on themselves.'”

At first glance this verse seems out of place. Yet it forms an inclusio with verses 2-6 which concern chthonic worship, either by devotion to Molech (20:2-5) or communicating with the spirits of the dead (20:6). The NET translation almost makes it sound like the person is possessed by a spirit but this is not the meaning. The NIV translates the verse as: “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death.”

Bibliography

Hartley, John E. Leviticus. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1992.

Levine, Baruch A. Leviticus. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 17-22. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

Rooker, Mark, and Dennis R. Cole. Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Holman Reference, 2000.

Wenham, Gordon J. The Book of Leviticus. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979.


  1. Hartley 1998, p. 333 
  2. Levine 1989, p. 137 
  3. Milgrom 2008, p. 1738-1739 
  4. Hartley 1998, p. 338 
  5. Wenham 1979, loc. 3700-3703 
  6. Wenham 1979, loc. 3706-3707 
  7. Milgrom 2008, p. 1751-1752 
  8. Levine 1989, p. 140 

The Mind, Dualism, and Neuroscience

I’m in a discussion with “The Thinker” concerning the mental, the physical, and causality (among other things). Though a self-described naturalist, The Thinker appears open to the possibility that there is an immaterial mind (he failed to provide an account of how matter can exhibit inherent intentionality). However, he believes that the physical (brain) always causes the mental and that the mental never causes the physical.

As evidence for this belief he linked to a paper entitled Tracking the Unconscious Generation of Free Decisions Using Ultra-High Field fMRI by Stefan Bode, Anna Hanxi He, Chun Siong Soon, Robert Trampel, Robert Turner, and John-Dylan Haynes. In short, subjects were in an fMRI machine and told to click a left or right button and record when they were consciously aware of which button they were going to click. The researchers studied the fMRI data and were able to decode the brain activity taken seconds before the subject was consciously aware of what button he was going to click to predict, with up to 57% accuracy, the button that was, in fact, clicked.

Since I’m no neuroscientist, take my comments on the article with a grain of salt. But I don’t think this study warrants the conclusion that the physical always causes the mental and that the mental never causes the physical.

(1) The researchers claim that the subjects “were free to decide, at any time, to press the left or the right button with the corresponding index finger.” In fact, subjects that did not behave in certain ways were excluded from the study. “[I]t should be obvious that moving a finger that one was requested to move is no less voluntary an act than is moving one or another of two fingers on request” (Bennett and Hacker, Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, p. 231).

“If one asks one’s subjects to move their hand voluntarily within the next minute, but to take care to note when they feel an urge, an intention or a desire to move it, one’s very question subjects them to a tempting (but mistaken) philosophical picture of the nature of action and its causal genesis. Indeed, one of the most interesting (inadvertent) results of these experiments is that people, when asked to report such bizarre things as ‘a feeling of intention to move one’s hand’, will find such a feeling to report, even though it is more than a little doubtful whether there is any such thing as ‘a feeling of intention’. Equally, when asked to note when they feel an urge to move, they come up with such a feeling, even though moving one’s hand voluntarily does not require and does not normally involve any such feeling. The feeling reported is not what makes their movement voluntary, and any absence of feeling would not make it involuntary. The fact that the neurons . . . fire . . . before the feeling is allegedly apprehended does not show that the brain ‘unconsciously decided’ to move before the agent did. It merely shows that the neuronal processes that activate the muscles began before the time at which the agent report a ‘feeling of desire’ or ‘feeling an urge to move’ to have occurred. But, to repeat, a voluntary movement is not a movement caused by a felt urge, any more than to refrain voluntarily from moving is to feel an urge not to move which prevents one from moving” (Bennett and Hacker, Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, p. 230).

So, such an experiment is not studying free will or voluntary action. It seems to involve a gray area between voluntary action and involuntary action, perhaps called non-voluntary action. It is not the kind of case where we would necessarily expect the mental to cause the physical.

(2) “Chance level for correct prediction was 50%.” The researchers were able to decode the fMRI with an accuracy up to 57%. You claim that the physical always causes the mental and the mental never causes the physical. What do you make of the 43% of cases where prediction was not possible? Could that be when the mental causes the physical?

(3) The researchers state “early predictive activity patterns are attributable to unconscious components of evolving intentions.” How do you rule out the possibility that unconscious mental states caused unconscious physical states which caused conscious mental states?

(4) The researchers say “data from one trial cannot be used to predict the trial preceding or following it.” Your position states that the causality effecting the fMRI is all on the physical level. Thus, whatever caused the subject to click a button in trial 1 should be causally connected to what caused the subject to click a button in trial 2, should it not? Why isn’t this observable?

(5) The researchers note “that our study cannot provide evidence for a causal relationship between the activation in frontopolar cortex and the decision, e.g. because fMRI measures neural decision-related processes only indirectly and prediction is far from perfect.” How are you not guilty of misusing the science in this study?

A layman's views on biblical scholarship, religion, philosophy and more

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers

%d bloggers like this: