Richard Agee

Leviticus 18: Why is God so concerned about nakedness?

Richard AgeeThe descendants of Israel had been in bondage in Egypt for 400 years. That’s not simply being slaves in Mitsraim (Egypt) but also being surrounded by Egyptian morals and cultural norms for all that time. After that long of a period of time, many were culturally Egyptian — assimilated — even though they were treated horribly by the Egyptians. And that is something that God caused to happen.

In this chapter, we have the first time that a pagan deity is specifically mentioned by name, but it’s a name with profound meaning.

In Leviticus 18, God is giving the children of Israel a list of sexual norms they were to leave behind in Egypt and not adopt from the Canaanites they were to meet later. God wants the children of Israel to be a separate people from the Egyptians and the Canaanites. 

Leviticus is a book of promise and blessing from beginning to end. It’s a book that show us what is clean and unclean. It also talks about how to be clean and what to do if we discover uncleanness in ourselves. 

This is not a book of damnation but salvation. God isn’t speaking this for the sake of condemnation but to simply tell the Israelites that although they may have done these things in the past (or they are the product of these kind of relationships), they are to stop from here on out. Nothing in the Torah is hard to do. 

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “I am the LORD your God.”‘” (Leviticus 18:1–2)

Moses had to make it clear whose message he was speaking. He was speaking God’s message, not a message from the gods of Egypt or the gods of the Canaanites. He is separating them from their previous culture, where they had spent the past 400 years. He is creating a new culture with them. 

“You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes.” (Leviticus 18:3–4)

Remember God is the one who caused the children of Israel to sojourn in Egypt for 400 years. God winks at ignorance but once He opens a person’s eyes, that person has to respond. God sacrificed His own Son to save not just the Israelites, but the Egyptians, the Canaanites and all people. 

People read this chapter and retroactively judge Abraham and Jacob for “breaking Torah.” Abraham had married his half sister and Jacob was married to two sisters at the same time. Did they break Torah? No. This Torah was not their Torah. 

God is simply telling them that although they and their ancestors may have lived this way, they are not to live that way. He’s giving them a different way. 

“You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 18:4)

The Hebrew phrase translated as uncover nakedness throughout this chapter is גַלּוֹת עֶרְוָה galah ‘erwah (Strong’s lexicon Nos. H1540 + H6172), which is a euphemism for sexual relations. The passage has a long list of blood relatives and relatives by law who are not eligible for a marriage covenant. 

Leviticus 18 is not a prohibition against taking care of the chronically ill or the crippled. This is a prohibition against “uncovering nakedness” for sexual satisfaction or public humiliation. 

There’s a one-liner that pops up in the midst of this chapter that seems so out of place but it’s important. 

“You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 18:21)

This is the first time that a pagan deity is specifically mentioned by name. The root meaning of the name of this god, מֹלֶךְ Molech (H4432), is מֶלֶךְ melek (H4428), which means a ruler or a king. God is telling the children of Israel to never sacrifice a human being to Him. He is the King of the entire world, but He will never ask His people to give this kind of sacrifice to Him. If He doesn’t ask for this kind of sacrifice from us, no other “god” has the right to ask for it either. He gave His Son, He doesn’t ask us to give our sons. 

Our society is rapidly becoming like the children of Israel were when they left Egypt. The children of Israel had not known God for 400 years. They were not connected with their history, with their ancestors Abraham, Yitskhak (Isaac) and Ya’akov (Jacob). That was ancient history to them just as George Washington or King James I are ancient history to us. God had to re-teach them their history and their connection to Him. He also had to create a new connection to Him. 

“You also carried along Sikkuth your Molech and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves. Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.”(Amos 5:26-27)

Stephen quoted this verse when he confronted the Sanhedrin: 

“You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship. I also will remove you beyond Babylon.” (Acts 7:43, see note below)

Child sacrifice, whether it’s for worship or for the sake of convenience, is evil in God’s eyes. Abortion is a form of sacrifice that profanes God’s name because it’s the ultimate desecration of His image, destruction of the next generation before it can know God.  

Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.


Note on Acts 7:43

It quotes pretty much from the Septuagint translation of Amos 5:26:

“You even took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Raiphan, models of them which you made for yourselves.” (Amos 5:26 New English Translation of the Septuagint)

Ραιφάν Raiphan or Ρομφά Rompha (G4481) come from “a Coptic [proper] name of Saturn” (Thayer’s Greek lexicon). Margin notes in the New American Standard Bible suggest can translate Sukkoth in Amos 5:26 as Saturn or tent and Kiyyun as Saturn or pedestals.

In the LXX [Septuagint] the consonants סכת skt were understood as a form of sukkah, “tent,” and מלך mlk was taken to be Molek, the god to whom infant sacrifices were offered (Jer 32:35; 2 Kgs 23:10). So the phrase in the LXX became “the tent of Moloch.” Similarly, the LXX, used by Luke, transforms the Hebrew phrase כִּיּוּן … כּוֹכַב אֱלֹהֵיכֶם kiyyun … kokab ’elohekem, “Kaiwan, your star-god” (the Assyrian name for Saturn), into τὸ ἄστρον τοῦ θεοῦ ὑμῶν Ραιφαν ton astron tou theou hymōn Rhaiphan, “the star of your god Rhephan.”

Acts 7:43–44 is an example of the complex relationship between the authors of the NT, who wrote in Greek, and the Greek (LXX) and Hebrew versions of the OT. (“Acts 7:41-43.” The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, Abingdon Press, 2003)


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