Leviticus 20:1-27

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20:1 VA YEDABER YHVH EL MOSHEH LEMOR

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר

KJ (King James translation): And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

BN (BibleNet translation): Then YHVH spoke to Mosheh, saying:


20:2 VE EL BENEY YISRA-EL TOMAR ISH ISH MI BENEY YISRA-EL U MIN HA GER HA GAR BE YISRA-EL ASHER YITEN MI ZAR'O LA MOLECH MOT YUMAT AM HA ARETS YIRGEMUHU VA AVEN

וְאֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל תֹּאמַר אִישׁ אִישׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמִן הַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן מִזַּרְעוֹ לַמֹּלֶךְ מוֹת יוּמָת עַם הָאָרֶץ יִרְגְּמֻהוּ בָאָבֶן

KJ: Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.

BN: Next, you shall tell the Beney Yisra-El, that any man from among the Beney Yisra-El, or from among the strangers who dwell in Yisra-El, who gives some of his seed to Moloch, he shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones.




MI ZAR'O: This is not an Onanistic rite, nor a German porn movie; the seed in question is the first-born child - usually male, but there is some evidence that it may have been girls too - who was sacrificed to the King of the Universe (melech ha olam), a title of the deity which remains in Judaism to this day. The centre of the cult was Yevus, one of the seven hillside towns that would eventually be conurbated into Yeru-Shalayim, and the original Tsi'un, which we now think of as Tsi'on (Zion), was an enormous obelisk dedicated to Moloch that stood on the top of the main hill. And the name of that hill was?... Mor-Yah, where Av-Raham took Yitschak (Isaac) for precisely that purpose (Genesis 22), but in the event sacrificed a ram instead, bringing to a theoretical end the practice of child-sacrifice among the Beney Yisra-El.

Here and previously the Chumash (the version of the Torah, in book-form, used in synagogues) gives pointing that renders the pronunciation of this as Molech rather than Moloch; why? I have written it as Moloch.

The tenor of this is impositional, which conflicts with Leviticus 19:18 and with the basis of all these laws, that Yisra-El will not do to others what was done to it in Mitsrayim (Egypt).

AM HA ARETS YIRGEMUHU VA AVEN: Is the sentence an instruction or a prediction? I mean that only slightly ironically, because it isn't the normal Mosaic way, to encourage a lynch mob. The significance lies in the fact that, in this instance (and there are others: homosexuality and adultery for example), MOT YAMUT requires that the culprit die at the hands of his/her fellow humans, rather than by divine interference.
   See verse 9, below.

Note that the land, which was called Kinnahu in those days, and known as Kena'an by the Beney Yisra-El, is called Yisra-El here, which is either somewhat presumptive, or suggests the text was created after Yisra-El came into existence. And remember, the land conquered by Yehoshu'a and ruled by the Judges, was divided by tribes, and never called Yisra-El; that only begins when Sha'ul becomes king and a theoretical confederation comes into place.

The same sense of the anachronistic is present in the condemnation of Moloch-worship before they have even begun to cross the wilderness. How does Mosheh know about this practice, when he has never been to Kena'an, let alone to Yeru-Shalayim, the only place where Moloch-worship in this form is known to have taken place, and he couldn't possibly know that several hundred years in the future, Yeru-Shalayim will be chosen as the nation's capital? And why Moloch-worship specifically, but not, say, Asherah worship, or Anat worship, or Ba'al worship, or Shet worship, all of them equally idolatrous, equally orgiastic, equally "abominated" later on? The key is in the next verse, where the idolator is accused specifically of defiling the Sanctuary; this cannot be a reference to the desert Mishkan, because there was no Moloch-worship among the Beney Yisra-El at that time; it means the Temple, and so we can date the text.


20:3 VA ANI ETEN ET PANAI BA ISH HA HU VE HICHARTI OTO MI KEREV AMO KI MI ZAR'O NATAN LA MOLECH LEMA'AN TAM'E ET MIKDASHI U LECHALEL ET SHEM KADSHI

וַאֲנִי אֶתֵּן אֶת פָּנַי בָּאִישׁ הַהוּא וְהִכְרַתִּי אֹתוֹ מִקֶּרֶב עַמּוֹ כִּי מִזַּרְעוֹ נָתַן לַמֹּלֶךְ לְמַעַן טַמֵּא אֶת מִקְדָּשִׁי וּלְחַלֵּל אֶת שֵׁם קָדְשִׁי

KJ: And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.

BN: I will set my face against that man, and I will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his seed to Moloch, to defile my Sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.


ETEN ET PANAI: I have made this comment before, but some will come to this chapter specifically, not having read the previous, so let me re-state it: this tends to be ignored by the theosophers, but it is hugely important. We are told that evil enters the world when YHVH turns a blind eye, or HISTIR PANAV; this is regarded as the opposite of the Yevarechecha or Priestly Blessing, where YHVH "turns his face to shine on us". In one the face gets covered up, a metaphorical sun covered by clouds; in the other the face shines directly. But ETEN ET PANAI adds a third dimension to this, and it is linguistically perverse, because it should translate "I will give my face to...", but in fact it means "I will set my face against...". So there is a second explanation of why bad things happen to people, and it is this. The sun that creates life also creates deserts; the sun that warms the flesh also leaves it with cancers.


20:4 VE IM HA'ELEM YA'LIYMU AM HA ARETS ET EYNEYHEM MIN HA ISH HA HU BE TITO MI ZAR'O LA MOLECH LE VILTI HAMIT OTO

וְאִם הַעְלֵם יַעְלִימוּ עַם הָאָרֶץ אֶת-עֵינֵיהֶם מִן הָאִישׁ הַהוּא בְּתִתּוֹ מִזַּרְעוֹ לַמֹּלֶךְ לְבִלְתִּי הָמִית אֹתוֹ

KJ: And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not:

BN: And if the people of the land in any way hide their eyes from that man, when he gives his seed to Moloch, and they do not put him to death...


Which reinforces the comment about HISTIR PANAV above; not only will YHVH set his face against the doer, but against anyone who themselves "turns a blind eye" to the evil act. But if this is so, does it not undermine the concept of divine HISTIR PANAV, inviting the question: what kind of a merciful and compassionate god is it, let alone the "all-seeing" god of the liturgy, who allows evil to occur by turning a blind eye?

HA'ELEM: Or even HA'LEM, the sheva here best explained as being something like a diminished as opposed to an augmented note in music: almost silent, yet there is an audible pause.


20:5 VE SAMTI ANI ET PANAY BA ISH HA HU U VE MISHPACHTO VE HICHARTI OTO VE ET KOL HA ZONIM ACHARAV LIZNOT ACHAREY HA MOLECH MI KEREV AMAM

וְשַׂמְתִּי אֲנִי אֶת פָּנַי בָּאִישׁ הַהוּא וּבְמִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ וְהִכְרַתִּי אֹתוֹ וְאֵת כָּל הַזֹּנִים אַחֲרָיו לִזְנוֹת אַחֲרֵי הַמֹּלֶךְ מִקֶּרֶב עַמָּם

KJ: And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.

BN: Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and anyone who goes astray after him - who goes astray after Moloch - from among their people.


SAMTI ET PANAI: adds yet another variant, albeit only linguistic not theologic this time.

U VE MISHPACHTO: Why does the family get punished for the sins of the man? Is this the Biblical justification for bulldozing the homes of suspected Palestinian terrorists?

ZONIM: Much discussion of the nature of harlotry throughout the text, but here, in this verse, and again in the next, we have an important instance of its usage, because this is quite specifically about men following Moloch, and the orgiastic rites associated with that worship, and has nothing to do with prostitution in sleazy back alleys, or even good-time girls in gentleman's clubs, in any way.


20:6 VE HA NEPHESH ASHER TIPHNEH EL HA OVOT VE EL HA YID'ONIM LIZNOT ACHAREYHEM VE NATATI ET PANAY BA NEPHESH HA HI VE HICHARTI OTO MI KEREV AMO

וְהַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תִּפְנֶה אֶל הָאֹבֹת וְאֶל הַיִּדְּעֹנִים לִזְנֹת אַחֲרֵיהֶם וְנָתַתִּי אֶת פָּנַי בַּנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא וְהִכְרַתִּי אֹתוֹ מִקֶּרֶב עַמּוֹ


KJ: And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.

BN: And the soul who turns to those who practice witchcraft, and to the soothsayers, to go following after them, I will set my face against that soul, and I will cut him off from among his people.


VE HICHARTI OTO MI KEREV AMO: The sense of this is euphemistic. YHVH only has one means available for cutting someone off from his people, and that is death.


20:7 VE HITKADISHTEM VI HEYIYTEM KEDOSHIM KI ANI YHVH ELOHEYCHEM

וְהִתְקַדִּשְׁתֶּם וִהְיִיתֶם קְדֹשִׁים כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

KJ: Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.

BN: Therefore set yourselves apart, and be holy; for I am YHVH your god.


20:8 U SHEMARTEM ET CHUKOTAI VA ASIYTEM OTAM ANI YHVH ELHEYCHEM MEKADISHCHEM

וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת חֻקֹּתַי וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם אֲנִי יְהוָה מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם

KJ: And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you.

BN: And keep my statutes, and carry them out: I am YHVH who has set you apart.


20:9 KI ISH ISH ASHER YEKALEL ET AVIV VE ET IMO MOT YUMAT AVIV VE IMO KILEL DAMAV BO

כִּי אִישׁ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יְקַלֵּל אֶת אָבִיו וְאֶת אִמּוֹ מוֹת יוּמָת אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ קִלֵּל דָּמָיו בּוֹ

KJ: For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

BN: And any man who curses his father and his mother, he shall die for it; he has cursed his father and his mother, his blood shall be upon him.


Yes, but who will execute the sentence, YHVH or Man? The 5th commandment tells us to honour our parents (Exodus 20:11), so that our days may be long upon the Earth. The inference of the two verses in combination is that YHVH will kill by natural causes; which is why I have translated MOT YUMAT here as "he shall die for it", where King James insists that "he shall be put to death".

And what exactly is meant by "curse"? We use the word in two very different ways today; in one, it is a matter of speaking rudely, using expletives; in the other, it is a matter of wishing bad things upon them.

One further question, and again I am not being ironic: in the very next verse we will learn what will happen to any man or woman who commits adultery; based on this verse, do hermeneutics require that, if any of the children of the adulterers curse the parent for committing the adultery and thereby leaving them minus one parent, then they themselves get killed as bad children? 


20:10 VE ISH ASHER YINAPH ET ESHET ISH ASHER YIN'APH ET ESHET RE'EYHU MOT YUMAT HA NO'EPH VE HA NO'APHET

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִנְאַף אֶת אֵשֶׁת אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִנְאַף אֶת אֵשֶׁת רֵעֵהוּ מוֹת יוּמַת הַנֹּאֵף וְהַנֹּאָפֶת

KJ: And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

BN: And the man who commits adultery with another man's wife, even he who commits adultery with his neighbour's wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.



YINAPH: See Exodus 20:12 for this in the 10 Commandments (look under TINAPH). 

But why are we being given this, and the following, again - it was already given in Leviticus 18:20.


20:11 VE ISH ASHER YISHKAV ET ESHET AVIV ERVAT AVIV GILAH MOT YUMTU SHENEYHEM DEMEYHEM BAM

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת אֵשֶׁת אָבִיו עֶרְוַת אָבִיו גִּלָּה מוֹת יוּמְתוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם

KJ: And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

BN: And the man who beds his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.


This one was already given in Leviticus 18:8, though here the punishment is given with the sin, rather than later in the text.


20:12 VE ISH ASHER YISHKAV ET KALATO MOT YUMTU SHENEYHEM TEVEL ASU DEMEYHEM BAM

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת כַּלָּתוֹ מוֹת יוּמְתוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם תֶּבֶל עָשׂוּ דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם

KJ: And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall beupon them.

BN: And if a man lie with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have wrought corruption; their blood shall be upon them.


This was given in 18:9.


20:13 VE ISH ASHER YISHKAV ET ZACHAR MISHKEVEY ISHAH TO'EVAH ASU SHENEYHEM MOT YUMATU DEMEYHEM BAM

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת זָכָר מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה תּוֹעֵבָה עָשׂוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם מוֹת יוּמָתוּ דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם

KJ: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

BN: And if a man lie with another man, as with a woman, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.


YUMATU: Why the grammatical variation from all previous usages? YUMTU -יוּמְתוּ - in the previous verse and elsewhere.

In the previous chapter we were given the prohibited acts (this one in 18:22), but without the consequences. Now we are being told the consequences. But while this verse once again prohibits male homosexuality, it also fails to mention female homosexuality. Does that make the latter acceptable? (To which the answers are: 

a) there are absolutely no references to female homosexuality in the Torah, nor in the other sections of the Tanach, nor in the Talmud, nor in any Rabbinic writings until the early middle ages; 

b) the earliest known insinuation is in the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 65a/b, but what Rav Shmuel meant when he prohibited his daughters from sleeping together was probably not lesbianism, nor incest, anyway, but simply that they they were now too old to share a bed; 

c) the next mention is Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah (Hilchot Issurei Bi’ah 21:8), where he raises the matter only because the sexual experience might be construed as rendering the woman unsuitable for marriage to a Kohen: "For women to play around with one another is forbidden and belongs to 'the practices of the Egyptians' concerning which we have been warned, 'You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt' … But though such conduct is forbidden, it is not punishable by lashing since there is no specific prohibition against it and in any case no sexual intercourse takes place at all. Consequently, such women are not forbidden to the priesthood on account of unchastity, nor is a woman prohibited to her husband because of it, since this does not constitute unchastity. But it is appropriate to flog such women since they have done a forbidden thing. A man should be particularly strict with his wife in this matter, and should prevent women known to indulge in such practices from visiting her, and her from going to visit them." Given that flogging one's wife is not Torah or Talmud either, we may feel inclined to lose a little of our otherwise very considerable respect for Maimonides over this out-of-character expression of patriarchal mysogany, and conclude that, despite the Maimonidean position being upheld by Jacob ben Asher (1270?‑1340) in his Arba'ah Turim a century later, and by Joseph Caro (1488‑1575), in his Shulchan Arukh of 1563, there is actually nothing in the roots and sources of Judaism to suggest that female homosexuality is "wrong"; and in fact Maimonides himself unintentionally explains why: because the prohibited acts relate back to the fertility cult. When a man has sex with a whore or with a hierodule, with an animal or another man or even with himself, or adulterously with a woman with whom the outcome of a child has to be prevented by contraception or onanism, in any of these situations the man's seed is being misused, and this and only this is the sin. No seed, no egg, or misdirected or mis-spent, when two women sensually pleasure each other, and so there are no grounds for its prohibition. 
   My thanks to Rabbi Elizabeth Sarah, with whom I once shared many pages of The Jewish Quarterly before it sadly became defunct, for providing all this information.


20:14 VE ISH ASHER YIKACH ET ISHAH VE ET IMAH ZIMAH HI BA ESH YISREPHU OTO VE ET'HEN VE LO TIHEYEH ZIMAH BETOCH'CHEM

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִקַּח אֶת אִשָּׁה וְאֶת אִמָּהּ זִמָּה הִוא בָּאֵשׁ יִשְׂרְפוּ אֹתוֹ וְאֶתְהֶן וְלֹא תִהְיֶה זִמָּה בְּתוֹכְכֶם

KJ: And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

BN: And if a man take a woman and her mother, this is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; so that there be no wickedness among you.


ISHAH: This is unclear. The translations generally give "his wife", but that really requires the Yehudit to have read "ISHTO" and not "ISHAH". It may well be his wife and her mother, but I think the text is broader than that; "if a man takes a woman and her mother...", meaning any woman.
   Thus law was already given in Leviticus 18:17, but, again, the punishment was not given then; the punishment on this occasion is rather more brutal than elsewhere: fire rather than stoning.



20:15 VE ISH ASHER YITEN SHECHAVTO BI VEHEMAH MOT YUMAT VE ET HA BEHEMAH TAHAROGU

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן שְׁכָבְתּוֹ בִּבְהֵמָה מוֹת יוּמָת וְאֶת הַבְּהֵמָה תַּהֲרֹגוּ

KJ: And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.

BN: And a man who gives his bed to an animal shall surely be put to death; and you shall slay the beast.



As I noted on the previous occasion (Leviticus 18:23), the language is surprising: the man "giving his bed" to the animal, as though it is the animal who has seduced him; where in the next verse, as previously, it is definitely Eve who seduces the serpent.

TAHAROGU: Slay, in this instance, not slaughter - that term is reserved for ritual sacrifice on the altar. And is the death penalty not a terrible injustice against the innocent beast! Probably it was going to be sacrificed for dinner soon anyway.


20:16 VE ISHAH ASHER TIKRAV EL KOL BEHEMAH LE RIV'AH OTAH VE HARAGTA ET HA ISHAH VE ET HA BEHEMAH MOT YUMATU DEMEYHEM BAM

וְאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרַב אֶל כָּל בְּהֵמָה לְרִבְעָה אֹתָהּ וְהָרַגְתָּ אֶת הָאִשָּׁה וְאֶת הַבְּהֵמָה מוֹת יוּמָתוּ דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם

KJ: And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

BN: And if a woman approaches any animal, and lies down for it, you shall kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.



I don't want to sound perverse, let alone perverted, but one of the jobs of a textual commentator is to point out variations, and in this verse the woman lies down for the animal, but in the previous version she stood up for it (see my note to Leviticus 18:23.

Why the repetition of all these laws? As with the previous chapter, the Redactor appears once again to be unwilling to reject any scrap of parchment with a law written on it, and therefore has included it in the final text even when tautologous or variant. The only difference is that the previous chapter catalogued the prohibitions, where this catalogues the punishments.

Note that HAROG applies to the woman, which sounds much more severe, or maybe just more angry, than the punishment of the man - MOT YUMAT. He will be "put to death"; she will be "killed". The end-product is identical, but somehow the language makes them seem otherwise.



20:17 VE ISH ASHER YIKACH ET ACHOTO BAT AVIV OR VAT IMO VE RA'AH ET ERVATAH VE HI TIR'EH ET ERVATO CHESED HU VE NICHRETU LE EYNEY BENEY AMAM ERVAT ACHOTO GILAH AVONO YISA

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִקַּח אֶת אֲחֹתוֹ בַּת אָבִיו אוֹ בַת אִמּוֹ וְרָאָה אֶת עֶרְוָתָהּ וְהִיא תִרְאֶה אֶת עֶרְוָתוֹ חֶסֶד הוּא וְנִכְרְתוּ לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי עַמָּם עֶרְוַת אֲחֹתוֹ גִּלָּה עֲוֹנוֹ יִשָּׂא
                                                                          
KJ: And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister's nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.

BN: And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness: it is a shameful thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people: he has uncovered his sister's nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.


ERVATAH: "Nakedness". I questioned this in the previous chapter (18:6) and will again now, but with a difference; there it was entirely unclear whether "nakedness" was a polite euphemism for physical incest, or whether seeing the other person's nakedness was itself the crime; here it is still unclear, but somewhat less so, with the impression that the two being naked together is indeed sufficient, even if they go no further. The same law is given in 18:9.

CHESED: Something very unusual in the Yehudit language takes place here. We are familiar with the word CHESED - it is the attribute of mercy, identified with the deity, latent in humans. But on this occasion it is being employed to mean precisely the opposite: same spelling, same pointing, same root, but its own antonym. How do we know that it means "shameful" here? Only from the context, and from any other examples in the Tanach that confirm it - for which see Proverbs 25:10.


AMAM: "their people". Used here and earlier in the chapter, and again it suggests to us laws from a period when Yisra-El was powerful and secure, and so able to impose its authority on others. Normally the text would have someone cut off from his people (AM - singular), or from the Beney Yisra-El, but here it is people plural, and that implies at least one other nation besides Yisra-El.

Worth detailing which of these sexual crimes lead to NICHRUT and which to MAVET; and then, note the key difference between the two, which is the continuation of the punishment in NICHRUT to future generations.

Notice that on this occasion the law applies to women as well as men.


20:18 VE ISH ASHER YISHKAV ET ISHAH DAVAH VE GILAH ET ERVATAH ET MEKORAH HE'ERAH VE HI GILTAH ET MEKOR DAMEYHA VE NICHRETU SHENEYHEM MI KEREV AMAM

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת אִשָּׁה דָּוָה וְגִלָּה אֶת עֶרְוָתָהּ אֶת מְקֹרָהּ הֶעֱרָה וְהִוא גִּלְּתָה אֶת מְקוֹר דָּמֶיהָ וְנִכְרְתוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם מִקֶּרֶב עַמָּם

KJ: And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.

BN: And if a man beds a woman while she is menstruating, and uncovers her nakedness, he has revealed the source of her life by revealing the source of her blood; both of them shall be cut off from among their people.


DAVAH: The King James, like most translations in truth, is being prudish here, as well as simply getting some of the Yehudit wrong. MEKOR is the key word, and there are no "fountains" anywhere in the verse. Nor is this a "sickness", and shame upon the translator for being so ashamed to say "menstruation". This verse is the final apotheosis of the Yisra-Eli blood-atavism. What makes this verse especially interesting is its portrait of human anatomy, both physically and, for want of a better term, epistemologically.

It is also a significant verse in that makes a clear distinction: he both "beds" her and "uncovers her nakedness". 


20:19 VE ERVAT ACHOT IMECHA VA ACHOT AVIYCHA LO TEGALEH KI ET SE'ERO HE'ERAH AVONAM YISA'U

וְעֶרְוַת אֲחוֹת אִמְּךָ וַאֲחוֹת אָבִיךָ לֹא תְגַלֵּה כִּי אֶת שְׁאֵרוֹ הֶעֱרָה עֲוֹנָם יִשָּׂאוּ

KJ: And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister, nor of thy father's sister: for he uncovereth his near kin: they shall bear their iniquity.

BN: And you shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister, nor of your father's sister, for she is your immediate family ; they shall bear their iniquity.


The previous version of this is in 18:13.

Again we have to ask if nakedness is a euphemism for actual incest. Elsewhere YISHKAV has been used quite specifically. In verse 17 it was YIKACH. The inference is that it is involuntary on one side, whereas LISHKAV is consensual.

Why the change of pronoun in the KJ translation - you becomes he becomes they? It isn't there in the original.


20:20 VE ISH ASHER YISHKAV ET DODATO ERVAT DODO GILAH CHET'AM YISA'U ARIYRIM YAMUTU

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת דֹּדָתוֹ עֶרְוַת דֹּדוֹ גִּלָּה חֶטְאָם יִשָּׂאוּ עֲרִירִים יָמֻתוּ

KJ: And if a man shall lie with his uncle's wife, he hath uncovered his uncle's nakedness: they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.

BN: And if a man beds his uncle's wife, he has uncovered his uncle's nakedness; they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.


The previous version of this was in 18:14.

When though? Will they die now, as a punishment? Or they will live a long and happy life of incestual love, but be infertile. And no, I am not being flippant; this is a serious question, because the laws have to be enforced, and how do you enforce childlessness, other than by sacrificing or aborting any child who is conceived? Or can we see in this verse an intimation of the old fertility cults failing to be fully excised?

And what happens if the woman falls pregnant? Yes, the affair becomes known and no doubt they get stoned to death, but there still remains the knowledge that infertility didn't happen. And what happens to faith and fear then? And what happens to the child?




20:21 VE ISH ASHER YIKACH ET ESHET ACHIV NIDAH HI ERVAT ACHIV GILAH ARIYRIM YIHEYU

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִקַּח אֶת אֵשֶׁת אָחִיו נִדָּה הִוא עֶרְוַת אָחִיו גִּלָּה עֲרִירִים יִהְיוּ

KJ: And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless.

BN: And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is impurity: he has uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless.


The previous version of this was in 18:16.

Which endorses the question that I asked about the last verse: how does the legal system impose childlessness on a couple? Nature can, and call it divine, but it still can't be imposed humanly, unless by the most barbaric means, and these are not being suggested.

The exception to this is the law of the Levir (Deuteronomy 25:5-10); if the brother has died, and the couple were childless, then it is required that the brother marry her, and father a child with her for the dead brother's sake. Cf Genesis 38, the story of Yehudah and Tamar, and Ruth 4, where Bo'az becomes her "go-el", redeeming her through the terms of the Levir.


20:22 U SHEMARTEM ET KOL CHUKOTAI VE ET KOL MISHPATAI VA ASIYTEM OTAM VE LO TAKI ET'CHEM HA ARETS ASHER ANI MEVI ET'CHEM SHAMAH LASHEVET BAH

וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת כָּל חֻקֹּתַי וְאֶת כָּל מִשְׁפָּטַי וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם וְלֹא תָקִיא אֶתְכֶם הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי מֵבִיא אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה לָשֶׁבֶת בָּהּ

KJ: Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.

BN: You shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my ordinances, and do them, so that the land that I am bringing you to dwell in shall not vomit you out.


How do we know which of the 613 commandments is a CHOK and which is a MISHPAT? And are they all MITZVOT? There is a general understanding among Jews that a Chok comes from the Rabbis, by deduction or interpretation, and the Mitzvot from YHVH in the Torah; but this demonstrates that such is not the case. Click here to learn more.


20:23 VE LO TELCHU BE CHUKOT HA GOY ASHER ANI MESHAL'E'ACH MI PENEYCHEM KI ET KOL ELEH ASU VA AKUTS BAM

וְלֹא תֵלְכוּ בְּחֻקֹּת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי מְשַׁלֵּחַ מִפְּנֵיכֶם כִּי אֶת כָּל אֵלֶּה עָשׂוּ וָאָקֻץ בָּם

KJ: And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.

BN: And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they did all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.


GOY: The word has finally reached the point at which we use it today, a pejorative term to describe all non-Beney Yisra-El.

But if these other nations are being expelled, what need for the laws that relate to the stranger who is among you? Do I sense a contradiction here, or is "cast out" merely a euphemism for "conquer" and "subordinate"?


20:24 VA OMAR LACHEM ATEM TIYR'SHU ET ADMATAM VA ANI ETNENAH LACHEM LARESHET OTAH ERETS ZAVAT CHALAV U DEVASH ANI YHVH ELOHEYCHEM ASHER HIVDALTI ET'CHEM MIN HA AMIM

וָאֹמַר לָכֶם אַתֶּם תִּירְשׁוּ אֶת אַדְמָתָם וַאֲנִי אֶתְּנֶנָּה לָכֶם לָרֶשֶׁת אֹתָהּ אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר הִבְדַּלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מִן הָעַמִּים

KJ: But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.

BN: But I have said to you: "You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you, to possess it, a land flowing with milk and honey." I am YHVH your god, who has set you apart from the nations.


Which, put in the form of a blessing, would fit perfectly into the style of liturgy used since 2nd Temple times.

HIVDALTI: Not Hikdashti on this occasion; LEHAVDIL = "to divide", and was the verb used throughout the first version of Creation.


20:25 VE HIVDALTEM BEYN HA BEHEMAH HA TEHORAH LA TEM'E'AH U VEYN HA OPH HA TAM'E LA TAHOR VE LO TESHAKTSU ET NAPHSHOTEYCHEM BA BEHEMAH U VA OPH U VE CHOL ASHER TIRMOS HA ADAMAH ASHER HIVDALTI LACHEM LE TAM'E

וְהִבְדַּלְתֶּם בֵּין הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהֹרָה לַטְּמֵאָה וּבֵין הָעוֹף הַטָּמֵא לַטָּהֹר וְלֹא תְשַׁקְּצוּ אֶת נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם בַּבְּהֵמָה וּבָעוֹף וּבְכֹל אֲשֶׁר תִּרְמֹשׂ הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר הִבְדַּלְתִּי לָכֶם לְטַמֵּא

KJ: Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean.

BN: You shall therefore make a separation between clean and unclean animals, and between unclean and clean fowl; and you shall not make your souls detestable by beast, or by fowl, or by any thing that teems on the earth, which I have set apart for you to consider unclean.


The phrasing again takes us self-consciously back to Genesis 1, and the details of Creation itself, where this process of division, whether of cells or genders, firmaments from firmaments, days from nights, et cetera, was first described. However much YHVH may have been anthropomorphised over the centuries, and in the process of law-creating, it is god the verb not god the noun whom the Beney Yisra-El are ultimately asked to worship, and to fear.

TEHORAH LA TEM'E'AH... TAM'E LA TAHOR: A poetic reversal that is not generally found among the law-codes of the Tanach; was it by chance, by error, or deliberate? We cannot know.

But we can know, on this occasion, how to pronounce it. As so often, we have the question raised by that post-prefictual sheva: is it LA TEM'E'AH or LAT'ME'AH; here it has to be the former, because there is also a definite article subsumed within the prefix and sheva: LE HA TEM'E'AH, balancing the HA TEHORA or the first part.


20:26 VI HEYIYTEM LI KEDOSHIM KI KADOSH ANI YHVH VA AVDIL ET'CHEM MIN HA AMIM LIHEYOT LI

וִהְיִיתֶם לִי קְדֹשִׁים כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְהוָה וָאַבְדִּל אֶתְכֶם מִן הָעַמִּים לִהְיוֹת לִי

KJ: And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.

BN: And you shall be holy to me; for I, YHVH, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations, that you should be mine.


The concept of "the chosen people" which has caused the Jews so much difficulty down the centuries.


20:27 VE ISH O ISHAH KI YIHEYEH VAHEM OV O YID'ONI MOT YUMATU BA EVEN YIRGEMU OTAM DEMEYHEM BAM

וְאִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה כִּי יִהְיֶה בָהֶם אוֹב אוֹ יִדְּעֹנִי מוֹת יוּמָתוּ בָּאֶבֶן יִרְגְּמוּ אֹתָם דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם

KJ: A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.

BN: Any man or woman who sets up as a diviner or a medium shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones; their blood shall be upon them.


Another afterthought? Verses 21 ff perorated the list of prohibitions and its companion list of punishments; this verse should have come earlier; it spoils the logic and fluidity of the chapter - having said which, it is, of course, only a chapter ending in translation into the Christian. The Yehudit version continues into what in the Christian is 21:1; and in fact the list of prohibitions and punishments is resumed, so in reality the verse is only wrong in the Christian, where it should be 21:1 and not 20:27


pey break




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