Leviticus 20:1-26 • Set Apart


When a naïve recruit arrives at boot camp, he is in for a shock. Instead of a warm handshake and pat on the back by the drill sergeant, he is thrust into a world unlike anything he has ever known. His suitcase full of clothes, including underwear and toothbrush, is quickly boxed up and shipped home. He is whisked down to the barber where a thirty-second haircut makes him unrecognizable by his civilian counterparts. Under the threatening scrutiny of the drill sergeant, he stands at attention while being issued standardized uniforms, including underwear and toothbrush. When he lays his head down on his government issue pillow at night, he quickly falls asleep from the exhaustion of being torn from one world for another. The last words he remembers are those of the drill sergeant shouting, “You belong to me. I own you now!”

The purpose of military boot camp is to set recruits apart from their previous civilian lifestyle. They are military personnel now. They have a different mission and purpose in life. Life as they knew it will cease to exist, and a new daily routine will capture every moment. Boot camp is designed to cause a new recruit to begin thinking according to his drill sergeant. His lifestyle, mannerisms, vocabulary and values will change. He is set apart to fulfill the goals and objectives of his recruiters.

God had a similar plan for the Hebrews. Boot camp began on the day of exodus from Egypt. Now that they are out of Egypt, their entire lifestyle, values and behavior must change. The question that will be asked in this study is, “Why?”

Read verses 1-5

Q: What despicable acts are these verses referring to, and what do you know about Molech?

A: These verses refer specifically to child sacrifice. Molech was the name of the god of the Ammonites whose worship pervaded most of the land in which the Israelites would be settling. One form of sacrifice involved a large metal replica of Molech, its belly an oven heated to a white-hot fire. Children were made to stand in front of Molech while the priests swung open the doors. If the child was incinerated, the sacrifice was acceptable. Biblical archeologists have uncovered Canaanite temples next to burial grounds containing thousands of bones of infants and children. It is also highly likely that Canaanite children were abused sexually.

Q: If God is a God of mercy, why does He pronounce death to those Hebrews who participate in Molech worship?

A: God’s mercy does not preclude His justice and holiness. Child sacrifice is so horrendous to God that He requires the death penalty. Such idolatry is an extreme violation of the 1st commandment. God is the God of life, not of death. Tolerance by the Hebrews of their neighbors or relatives who practice this idolatry is also judged by God. Five centuries earlier, God had placed Melchizedek in the midst of the indigenous Canaanite people (Genesis 14:17-20) and given them plenty of time to repent (Genesis 15:16). Now He would raise up a nation who would carry out judgment on the land they had made unclean (“defiled”).


Read verses 6-8

Q: Why do you think God warns His people against the occult?

A: Because it is through the occult that people gain direct access to demons. The occult is an important part of almost every false religion. Also, to seek the occult is failure to trust God, and pursuing the occult is always related to desiring power over possessions and people (usually the opposite sex).

Q: In verses 7 and 8, three words are used to describe God’s design for His people. What are they and what do they mean? Whose responsibility is each?

A: The words are “consecrate,” “holy” and “sanctifies.”

It is God’s people’s responsibility to consecrate themselves and seek holiness, and in doing so, God will make them clean; that is, unstained by the wickedness in the world.

Read verse 9

Q: Why is honoring one’s parents so important to God?

A: It involves the purity, solidarity, protection and health of the family structure. If a healthy family structure is not maintained, the nation itself will suffer.

Read verses 10-21

Q: This section repeats many of the sexual prohibitions given previously in chapter 18. Why is there such an emphasis on sexual behavior in Leviticus?

A: Because, like today, sexual temptations are so prevalent and powerful. There is virtually no sexual aberration left untouched. The Hebrews were moving into an environment where all these sexual practices were not only common but intimately tied into the worship of fertility gods.

Q: What does this say about God’s standards of human sexuality?

A: It is quite clear from these and other verses that God considers adultery, homosexuality, incest, pedophilia and bestiality unholy sexual practices. The practice of monogamy also imitates monotheism, one of the foundations of the Jewish religion. It is monogamy that makes for healthy families, and healthy families make for a healthy nation.


Read verses 22-26

Q: What is God’s plan for the people He rescued from Egypt?

A: He will make the Hebrews His own people, His own possession.

Q: Can you list at least three reasons God would do this?

Q: There is a fourth reason not mentioned in these verses. It is alluded to by the abundance of verses referring to their sexual practices, and alluded to further by the prohibitions against Molech worship. (Hint: it has to do with the person of Jesus Christ.)

A: By being pure, holy, consecrated, set apart and sanctified, God is raising up a holy nation to provide a hedge of protection around the genetic seed line that would lead from Adam to the Messiah. This messianic seed line was in great jeopardy through the sexual exploits of Jacob’s son Judah. God is raising up a nation that would harbor the seed line to the Messiah. Intermingling with the nations around them would greatly jeopardize the purity and integrity of that line.

Final Application