Leviticus 18

Leviticus 18


The LordI spokeII to Moses,III saying:

Notes on verse 1

I “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
II “spoke” = dabar. This is generally to speak, answer, declare, or command. It might mean to arrange and so to speak in a figurative sense as arranging words.
III “Moses” = Mosheh. From mashah (to pull out in a literal or figurative sense, to draw out) OR from Egyptian mes or mesu (child, son i.e. child of…). This is Moses – the one drawn out from the water, which is to say, rescued. If derived from the Egyptian, his name would share a root with Rameses and Thutmose.

“Speak to the IsraelitesIV and say to them: I am the Lord your God.V You shall not doVI as they doVII

Notes on verses 2-3a

IV “Israelites” = ben + Yisrael. Literally, “children of Israel.” Ben is from banah (to build or obtain children). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense. Yisrael is from sarah (to persist, exert oneself, contend, persevere, wrestle, prevail) + el (God or god). This is Israel, meaning God strives or one who strives with God; new name for Jacob and for his offspring. This refers to the people and to the land.
V “God” = Elohim. Related to “Israelites” in v2. See note IV above.
VI “do” = asah. Related to “do” in v3. See note VII below.
VII “do” = maaseh. From asah (to do, make, accomplish, become). This is a work – any action whether positive or negative. It can also be a transaction, construction, activity, property, or something that is produced.

in the landVIII of Egypt,IX where you lived,X and you shall not doXI as they doXII

Notes on verse 3b

VIII “land” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
IX “Egypt” = Mitsrayim. Perhaps from matsor (besieged or fortified place, bulwark, entrenchment; something hemmed in; a siege or distress or fastness); from tsur (to confine, besiege, to cramp). This is Egypt.
X “lived” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.
XI “do” = asah. Same as “do” in v3. See note VI above.
XII “do” = maaseh. Same as “do” in v3. See note VII above.

in the land of Canaan,XIII to which I am bringingXIV you. You shall not followXV their statutes.XVI 

Notes on verse 3c

XIII “Canaan” = Kna’an. From kana’ (to be humble, subdue; properly, bend the knee). This is Canaan, his descendants, and the land where they settled. This could mean lowlands, describing their land or subjugated in reference to being conquered by Egypt. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaan
XIV “bringing” = bo. This is to enter, come in, advance, fulfill, bring offerings, enter to worship, attack. It can also have a sexual connotation.
XV “follow” = halak. This is go, come, walk. It is walk literally and figuratively and includes people and animals. It can be used figuratively for one’s moral life – how we walk according to God’s way or against it. It can also refer to the walk of life as in the course one’s life takes, the choices we make, etc.
XVI “statutes” = chuqqah. From choq (statute, boundary, condition, custom, limit, ordinance; something that is prescribed or something that is owed); from chaqaq (to inscribe, carve, or decree; a lawmaker; literally, this is engraving, but it implies enacting a law because laws were carved into stone or metal). This is something prescribed such as a statue, custom, or ordinance.

My ordinancesXVII you shall observe,XVIII and my statutes you shall keep,XIX following them: I am the Lord your God. You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances; by doingXX so oneXXI shall live:XXII I am the Lord.

Notes on verses 4-5

XVII “ordinances” = mishpat. From shaphat (to judge, defend, pronounce judgment, condemn, govern). This is a verdict or formal sentence whether from humans or from God. It includes the act of judging as well as the place that judging takes place, the suit itself, and the penalty. Abstractly, this is justice, which includes the rights of the participants.
XVIII “observe” = asah. Same as “do” in v3. See note VI above.
XIX “keep” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
XX “doing” = asah. Same as “do” in v3. See note VI above.
XXI “one” = adam. Perhaps from adam (to be red, make ruddy); related to adamah (ground, dirt, earth). This is man, humankind, also Adam’s name. It refers to a human individual or humanity.
XXII “live” = chayay. 17x in OT. This is to live, save life, or revive.

“NoneXXIII of you shall approachXXIV anyoneXXV nearXXVI

Notes on verse 6a

XXIII {untranslated} = ish + ish. Perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
XXIV “approach” = qarab. This is to come near, offer, make ready, approach, take.
XXV “anyone” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
XXVI “near” = sheer. 16x in OT. Perhaps from sha’ar (properly, swelling up i.e. being left over; a remnant, remaining, being redundant). This is flesh, body, meat, kin, self.

of kinXXVII to uncoverXXVIII nakedness:XXIX I am the Lord.XXX 

Notes on verse 6b

XXVII “kin” = basar. From basar (being a messenger, publish, carry preach; properly, this is being fresh, rosy or cheerful as one bearing news). This is flesh, the body, fat, skin, self, nakedness, humankind, or kin. It can also refer to private parts.
XXVIII “uncover” = galah. This is to remove, bring, carry, lead, appear, advertise. It can mean to strip someone or something bare in a negative sense. Captives were typically stripped before they were sent into exile. Used figuratively, in a positive sense, this word means reveal, disclose, discover.
XXIX “nakedness” = ervah. From arah (to be bare, empty, raze, uncover, discover, demolish). This is nakedness, nudity – particularly as a reference to genitals, shame, or blemish.
XXX “Lord” = YHVH. Related to “Lord” in v1. It has a different vowel pointing, but the same meaning as “Lord.” See note I above.

You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father,XXXI which is the nakedness of your mother;XXXII she is your mother; you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife;XXXIII it is the nakedness of your father. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister,XXXIV your father’s daughterXXXV or your mother’s daughter,

Notes on verses 7-9a

XXXI “father” = ab. This is father, chief, or ancestor. It is father in a literal or figurative sense.
XXXII “mother” = em. This is a mother as binding a family together or a breeding female animal. It could be mother in a literal or figurative sense.
XXXIII “wife” = ishshah. Related to {untranslated} in v6. From ish (see note XXIII above). This is woman, wife, or female.
XXXIV “sister” = achot. From the same as ach (brother, kindred, another, other, like). This is sister in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean another or together.
XXXV “daughter” = bat. Related to “Israelites” in v2. From ben (see note IV above). This is daughter in a literal or figurative sense.

whether bornXXXVI at homeXXXVII or born abroad.XXXVIII 10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’sXXXIX daughter or of your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. 11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, born in your father’s house, since she is your sister. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s flesh.XL 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s flesh. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother;XLI that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt.XLII 

Notes on verses 9b-14

XXXVI “born” = moledeth. From yalad (to bear, bring forth, beget, calve, act as midwife, show lineage). This is kindred, offspring, birthplace, lineage, native country, or family.
XXXVII “home” = bayit. Related to “Israelites” in v2 & “daughter” in v9. Probably from banah (see note IV above). This is house, court, family, palace, temple.
XXXVIII “abroad” = chuts. Root may mean to sever. So, this is something that is separated by a wall – the outside, the street, a field, highway, or abroad.
XXXIX “son’s” = ben. Same as “Israelites” in v2. See note IV above.
XL “flesh” = sheer. Same as “near” in v6. See note XXVI above.
XLI “brother” = ach. Related to “sister” in v9. See note XXXIV above.
XLII “aunt” = dodah. 3x in OT. From dod (beloved, love, uncle, love token; root may mean to boil). This is aunt, more specifically one’s father’s sister.

15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law:XLIII she is your son’s wife; you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a womanXLIV and her daughter, and you shall not takeXLV her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are your flesh;XLVI it is depravity.XLVII 

Notes on verses 15-17

XLIII “daughter-in-law” = kallah. Related to “anyone” in v6. Perhaps related to kalal (see note XXV above). This is bride or daughter-in-law and the term is used before and after marriage.
XLIV “woman” = ishshah. Same as “wife” in v8. See note XXIII above.
XLV “take” = laqach. This is to take, accept, carry away, receive. It can also have the sense of take a wife or take in marriage.
XLVI “flesh” = shaarah. Related to “near” in v6. 1x in OT. From sheer (see note XXVI above). This is a female blood relative.
XLVII “depravity” = zimmah. From zamam (to devise, plot, imagine, intend, scheme, think evil; usually in an evil sense). This is a plan – usually a negative one. So, it could be a scheme, wickedness, mischief, immorality, a crime, or evil intent.

18 And you shall not take a woman as a rivalXLVIII to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.XLIX

19 “You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrualL uncleanness.LI 

Notes on verses 18-19

XLVIII “rival” = tsarar. This is to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary.
XLIX “alive” = chay. From chayah (to live or keep alive literally or figuratively). This is alive, living, lifetime. It can also be used to describe someone’s age. It can refer to animals, plants, water, or a company or congregation of people. It is life in a very broad sense.
L “menstrual” = niddah. From nadad (to wave back and forth; figuratively, to flee, stray, flutter chase away, shake, or shrink; to be a fugitive). This is rejection, filthiness, impurity, menstruation, idolatry, incest.
LI “uncleanness” = tum’ah. From tame (becoming unclean, foul, defiled; polluted, particularly in a ritual or moral sense). This is filthiness or uncleanness. It can refer to ritual or moral impurity.

20 You shall not have sexual relationsLII with your neighbor’sLIII wife and defileLIV yourself with her. 21 You shall not giveLV any of your offspringLVI

Notes on verses 20-21a

LII “have sexual relations” = natan + shekobeth. Natan is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively. Shekobeth is 4x in OT. From shakab (to lie down, lodge; lying for sleep, sex, or other reasons). This is sexual intercourse.
LIII “neighbor’s” = amith. 12x in OT– 11x in Leviticus & 1x in Zechariah. Root may mean to associate. This is a companion, associate, relation, or neighbor.
LIV “defile” = zera + tame. Zera is From zara (to sow or scatter seed; conceive or yield). This is seed or sowing. It can, thus, mean a fruit, plant, sowing time, child, offspring, or posterity. Tame is related to “uncleanness” in v19. See note LI above.
LV “give” = natan. Same as “have sexual relations” in v20. See note LII above.
LVI “offspring” = zera. Same as “defile” in v20. See note LIV above.

to sacrificeLVII them to MolechLVIII and so profaneLIX

Notes on verse 21b

LVII “sacrifice” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
LVIII “Molech” = Molek. 9x in OT. From the same as melek (king, royal) OR related to mlk (to sacrifice, to promise). This is Molech, Molek, or Moloch, god of the Ammonites. It means “king.” Alternately, it may refer to a manner of ritual sacrifice rather than a specific god. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moloch
LIX “profane” = chalal. This is to pierce, which implies to wound. It is used figuratively for making someone or something profane or breaking your word. It can also mean to begin as though one opened a wedge. Also, to eat something as a common thing.

the nameLX of your God: I am the Lord.LXI 22 You shall not lieLXII with a maleLXIII as withLXIV a woman; it is an abomination.LXV 

Notes on verses 21c-22

LX “name” = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
LXI “Lord” = YHVH. Same as “Lord” in v1. See note I above.
LXII “lie” = shakab. Related to “have sexual relations” in v20. See note LII above.
LXIII “male” = zakar. From zakar (to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention). This is male. Properly, perhaps, it means one who is remembered, which is to say a male.
LXIV “as with” = mishkab. Related to “have sexual relations” in v20 & “lie” in v22. From shakab (see note LII above). This is a place where one lies down i.e. a bed, couch, or bedchamber. It can also be used in an abstract sense to refer to sleep or euphemistically for sex.
LXV “abomination” = toebah. Perhaps from ta’ab (to abhor or morally detest). This is something that instills one with moral contempt or disgust. It can mean abhorrence and is often in reference to idolatry or idols.

23 You shall not have sexual relations with anyLXVI animalLXVII and defile yourself with it, nor shall any woman giveLXVIII herself toLXIX an animal to have sexual relationsLXX with it; it is perversion.LXXI

Notes on verse 23

LXVI “any” = kol. Same as “anyone” in v6. See note XXV above.
LXVII “animal” = behemah. This is animal or cattle. It is often used of large quadrupeds.
LXVIII “give” = amad. This is to stand up in a literal or figurative sense. So it can be establish, continue, endure, take a stand, act, be a servant, stand still, remain, stand against an enemy.
LXIX “to” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.
LXX “have sexual relations” = raba. 3x in OT – all in Leviticus. This is to lie down, to squat, breed.
LXXI “perversion” = tebel. 2x in OT – both in Leviticus. Perhaps from balal (to anoint, mix, overflow). This is confusion, unnatural mixture. It can refer to incest or bestiality.

24 “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for by allLXXII these practices the nationsLXXIII I am casting outLXXIV beforeLXXV you have defiled themselves. 

Notes on verse 24

LXXII “all” = kol. Same as “anyone” in v6. See note XXV above.
LXXIII “nations” = goy. From the same root as gevah (the back, person, or body); related to gev (among); related to gaah (to rise up). This is nation or people. Often used to refer to Gentiles or foreign nations. It can also be used figuratively for a group of animals. This is where the Yiddish “goy” comes from.
LXXIV “casting out” = shalach. This is to send out, away, send for, forsake. It can also mean to divorce or set a slave free.
LXXV “before” = paneh. Same as “to” in v23. See note LXIX above.

25 Thus the land became defiled, and I punishedLXXVI it for its iniquity,LXXVII and the land vomited outLXXVIII its inhabitants.LXXIX 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and commitLXXX noneLXXXI of these abominations,

Notes on verses 25-26a

LXXVI “punished” = paqad. This is to attend to or visit – can be used for a friendly or violent encounter. So, it can be to oversee, care for, avenge, or charge.
LXXVII “iniquity” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
LXXVIII “vomited out” = qo. 8x in OT. Related to qayah (to vomit up). This is to vomit up or out.
LXXIX “inhabitants” = yashab. Same as “lived” in v3. See note X above.
LXXX “commit” = asah. Same as “do” in v3. See note VI above.
LXXXI {untranslated} = kol. Same as “anyone” in v6. See note XXV above.

either the native-bornLXXXII or the alienLXXXIII who residesLXXXIV amongLXXXV you 27 (for the inhabitantsLXXXVI of the land, who were beforeLXXXVII you, committed all of these abominations, and the land became defiled); 28 otherwise the land will vomit you out for defiling it, as it vomited out the nation that was beforeLXXXVIII you. 

Notes on verses 26b-28

LXXXII “native-born” = ezrach. 17x in OT. From zarach (to rise, shine, or dawn; can also describe symptoms of leprosy). This is native or native-born. It can also refer to spontaneous growth, a bay tree.
LXXXIII “alien” = ger. From gur (to abide or sojourn; to leave the road to lodge or for any other reason). This is sojourner, guest, stranger, foreigner.
LXXXIV “resides” = gur. Related to “alien” in v26. See note LXXXIII above.
LXXXV “among” = tavek. This is among, middle, in the midst, the center. Perhaps, properly, to sever.
LXXVI “inhabitants” = ish. Same as {untranslated} in v6. See note XXIII above.
LXXVII “before” = paneh. Same as “to” in v23. See note LXIX above.
LXXVIII “before” = paneh. Same as “to” in v23. See note LXIX above.

29 For whoeverLXXXIX, XC commits any of these abominations shall be cut offXCI fromXCII their people.XCIII 

Notes on verse 29

LXXXIX “whoever” = kol. Same as “anyone” in v6. See note XXV above.
XC {untranslated} = nephesh + asah. Literally, “people who commit.” Nephesh is related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires. Asah is the same as “do” in v3. See note VI above.
XCI “cut off” = karat. This is to cut down, cut off, or make a covenant (idiom for making a covenant is “to cut a covenant”). It can also mean to destroy, fail, or consume.
XCII “from” = qereb. Related to “approach” in v6. Perhaps from qarab (see note XXIV above). This is among, in the midst, before, the center It is the inward part, whether literal or figurative. It can also be used for the heart, the site of thoughts and feelings. This word is also used as a technical term for the entrails of the animals who are sacrificed.
XCIII “people” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.

30 So keep my chargeXCIV notXCV to commitXCVI any of these abominations that were doneXCVII beforeXCVIII you and not to defile yourselves by them: I am the LordXCIX your God.”

Notes on verse 30

XCIV “charge” = mishmereth. Related to “keep” in v4. From mishmar (jail, guard, watch, guard post); from shamar (see note XIX above). This is a guard or watch or guard post. It is used figuratively for obligation, duty, or observance, including religious observance.
XCV “not” = bilti. From balah (to grow old, wear out, consume, waste, enjoy, fail, decay). This is nothing, not, lest, or except. From its root, it means “a failure of” – used for negative particles.
XCVI {untranslated} = chuqqah. Same as “statutes” in v3. See note XVI above.
XCVII “done” = asah. Same as “do” in v3. See note VI above.
XCVIII “before” = paneh. Same as “to” in v23. See note LXIX above.
XCIX “Lord” = YHVH. Same as “Lord” in v1. See note I above.

Image credit: “Metropolis-17” by Coconut Cove, 2016.

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