The Penalties for sexual Immorality


One of the Biblical portions of scriptures that touch deeply on the issue of sexual immorality is the twentieth chapter of the book of Leviticus. In this chapter, God taught clearly on the holy practices of sexual encounters and illustrated various ways by which people sin against Him through sex. In particular, God taught against sexual involvement of the people with their relatives. Besides, the scriptures portray God speaking to the Israelites through Moses and proclaiming a death sentence to those who could go against His teachings. However, the severity of the judgment pronounced against engaging in sexual activities with close relatives illustrates that such a sin was worse than the other sexual offense, as shown in the discussion below.

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Leviticus 20

It is worth appreciating that the texts in reference in the discussion are part of God’s commandments to the Israelites as given to Moses. Therefore, God is depicted as the Supreme Being in the context, and His decision is final. As part of many other scriptures spoken to Moses, the texts on sexual relations with relatives communicated the position of God among the chosen people. In fact, about six verses in the chapter talk about sex among people who are related by blood (Lev 20: 1-27). First, the eleventh verse notes that the Lord abhorred sex between a man and his mother. Consequently, God commanded Mosses to teach that if such occurred among the Israelites, the man and the mother had to be killed. Secondly, the Creator spoke against the perversion of a man engaging in sexual activity with his daughter-in-law. Similarly, the judgment of God against relative sex was death, and the people were to kill both the father and the daughter.

Thirdly, verse fourteen indicated that the Lord prohibited a man from marrying a woman and her mother. Accordingly, the scripture said that the man and the women had to be killed by burning to eradicate the wicked among the people of God. On the other hand, God hated a man who married or had a sexual affair with his sister and pronounced that the two had to be expelled from the society. However, the scripture noted that the man was responsible for the sin. In addition, the twentieth verse shows that the Creator hates sexual relations between a man and his aunt. However, God pronounced the judgment for the offense and indicated that the two would be responsible and hence die childless. A similar punishment was spoken against a man who married his brother’s wife (Lev 20: 21). Accordingly, in the twenty-first verses, God interpreted the act as an impurity and that the man dishonored his brother in the decision. 

Gender Roles

Therefore, the message from the various scriptures, as read from the book of Leviticus, indicates that God had stipulated various roles to the people. The normal way of life among the Israelites was that the men led decision-making. Therefore, any offense that related to sexual purity would be interpreted from the role that men played in approaching the women. In all the above-stipulated verses, the bible speaks of “if a man engages in sexual activity with…” to indicate that the men made such decisions. One could easily interpret the scripture to imply that women were not actively engaged in making the decision on sexual matters. Under those premises, the men were supposed to engage women in sexual matters, and society did not expect a woman to approach men on the subject. Nevertheless, God illustrated that the sexual sin could affect the entire society, hence the commandment that the community could kill the perpetrators by burning or stoning. Therefore, the power to restore sanity was bestowed to the people who could decide what was offensive, according to the commandments of God as passed on by Moses (Lev 20: 1-27). In all the scriptures quoted, the people could only act as God had instructed; thus, the decision to kill depended only on God’s word.


The position of the text to have the perpetrators killed or cursed was justified by sins committed. God called the offenses pervasion, wickedness, impurity, disgrace, or dishonor and spelled judgment against them. For example, the sexual encounter between a man and his mother was considered dishonorable to the father. Hence they pronounced death on the two. The concern in the scripture was that without such guidelines, the Israelites could engage in such sexual activities as God considered sinful. Therefore, the scripture endorsed corrective measures to instill discipline in the people (Lev 20: 1-27). Again, when the people observed the laws, the Creator could always prosper them. Consequently, one could presume that the purpose of God in giving the laws to the Israelites was to show his love for them. The justification of the assumption could be that if the Father did not love them, He could only strike them whenever they sinned without warning them, as seen in the scripture.

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On the other hand, by the law conferring the responsibility of punishing the perpetrators to the people, God was teaching the people that His dwelling was among them, therefore, when one sinned, all people could become unclean. The highlighted scriptures are taken from a prose of God’s law, as Moses wrote in Leviticus chapter twenty. Although the chapter dwelt more on the sexual sin regarding close relations, the text also highlights other practices God considered sinful. For instance, the chapter notes that the Lord hated the sexual engagement between a man and a man and between human beings and animals (Lev 20: 13, 15). Therefore, the narration in the chapter incorporates a wide range of sexual issues that God wanted the Israelites to be cautious (Lev 20: 1-27). It is worth appreciating that in all the offenses in the narration, the Creator pronounced judgment and gave the community the responsibility of executing the judgment. Therefore, one can easily interpret that the whole chapter was meant to communicate God’s mind on the issue of purity and sexuality. However, besides pronouncing God’s punishment for sin, the chapter was to teach the people how to live righteously. Therefore, the chapter is tactically written, has a good flow of ideas, compelling issues, and clearly communicates the judgment of God to the people who would not hearken to God’s teachings.


As it is evident from the above discussion, the twentieth chapter talks on the profanity of engaging in sexual activity with a close relative, which include a man and his mother, sexual activities between a man and his daughter-in-law, and a man marrying a woman and her mother, as well as the man who marries his brother’s wife. In fact, God prohibited all those sexual offenses and indicated that the punishment was death to all the involved parties. On the other hand, men were expected to lead in decision-making; hence, any offense related to sexual purity would be interpreted to be men’s role since they are the one who approaches the women. It is worth noting that the judgment was in the hands of the men who were supposed to curse or kill the perpetrators of sexual sins. Therefore, a righteous society would always prosper; hence, God had to set the standards by giving out the laws. In fact, God pronounced judgment against all people who would be on the offensive against the instructions given. However, in spite of the harsh punishment that God instructed the Israelites to impose on the sin, the entire chapter was meant to teach the people to be obedient to God. 


Works cited

“Bible Gateway Passage: Leviticus 20 – New International Version.” Bible Gateway. N.p., 2016. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.

Holy Bible: The New King James Version, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1982. 

Leviticus 20. Holy Bible: NIV, New International Version. N.p.: n.p., 1982.

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