Leviticus 19-20: Righteousness

Original Publication Date
February 20, 2016
Jan 10, 2023 1:26 AM
LeviticusChapter StudyAppearanceCommandmentsLawSacrificeAdulteryWitchcraftFood and DietFeasts & Holy DaysJustice
Bible References
Leviticus 19-20
Table of Contents
This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on February 20, 2016 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.


Leviticus 19 and 20 touch on the 10 commandments, found fully in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, as well as, summarizes additional laws the Israelites were expected to follow. In essence, this chapter's purpose is to tell the Israelites how God expected them to carry themselves and how to treat others.

Treatment of Parents

We are often referred to as children of God in the Bible, and in many ways, our relationship with Him very much mirrors the relationship of a child and parent. We are to hold God in the highest esteem, trusting His way over all others because He is is God; He knows all, and thus is able to make the most informed decisions about any situation. Similarly, our parents have already lived life and often are able to make more informed decisions about a situation than we are. As such, God expects us to fear our parents just as we fear God. This fear is not so much about being afraid of the other person, but about holding them in such high regards that you fear disobeying them. Interestingly, in the King James Version, the word "mother" proceeds "father," as in "obey your mother and father," but in subsequent Greek, Aramaic, and Syriac translations reverse the order to match the 10 commandments and fall in line with the patriarchy.[1]


We also learn that a sacrifices (or offerings) must be given of our own free will, otherwise God would reject the offer (perhaps this was part of the issue with Cain's offering?). What we learn from this is that the priest, nor the wife, nor husband, mom nor dad could force someone to repent and/or sacrifice to God.

The Disabled

If you attended public school in America, chances are you've seen a child get picked on or mocked mercilessly. This is clearly not something we would expect God to approve of. In these chapters, God specifically sets the precedent that we are not to mock those with a disability. God tells us not to put stumbling blocks in front of the blind, nor or curse the deaf.

Upon a quick read, I assumed God was specifically looking out for the disabled and giving them a shot at repentance. As I think about the passage, however I can't help but think God may have meant this in a figurative context as well. Many of us, are spiritually blind—we don't see what God is putting in front of us— while some of us may be spiritually deaf and unable to hear His truth. Is it possible God was saying that we should not mock these people by laughing at their inability to connect with God or placing temptations before them? Regardless of whether God meant this literally, figuratively or both, this commandment from God was extremely progressive. At the time of Moses, most nations in the Middle East did absolutely nothing to protect their disabled.[1]

Judging & Gossip

Judges were to ignore status, wealth, all other worldly characteristics when judging a person. Each person was to be judged by their righteousness, which we are later told is linked to their belief in God.[2]

They were not to slander their fellow Israelites or "stand against the blood" or their fellow Israelites. “Stand against the blood” is explained to mean endanger the life of someone in several commentaries on the text.[3]

This interpretation can be confirmed Biblically; we are told that blood is the life force of all things several times (this is the reason God gives for not allowing us to consume blood) so the word blood could easily be considered a synonym of life from the Biblical point of view. Thus the meaning of the text would say "stand against the life." If a person testified falsely or spread false tales in the community, it could cost the person his or her life. Particularly when many of God's commandments carried a death penalty for breaking.

Though, today, it is unlikely our gossip will cause a government judge to exact the death penalty on someone, we are still "standing against the blood" of that person. Aside from the obvious fact that we aren't to bear false witness against people and the fact that even Matthew 18:15-17 says issues of sin should be confronted one on one not spread to the world, today's gossip has a tendency to break a person's spirit.

Bullying is another form of slandering a peer. Unlike gossip, bullying is directed at the person not the peers. Wikipedia lists 16 teens who committed suicide after being bullied—sounds like someone stood against their blood to me.[4]

It has been proven that both bullying and gossip can negatively impact the spirit and life of a person, thus these behaviors are forbidden when God tells us not to stand against the blood of another.[5]

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

In addition to sticking to the truth about our fellow people, God say we should not "suffer sin upon then." In ancient times, suffer meant tolerate;[6] therefore, God is saying we are not to tolerate sin from our peers. I am currently working on a post discussing the issue of confronting sin amongst our peers as it relates to the idea that we should not judge.

Mixing Things

Leviticus 19:19 tells us not to mix many things: linen and wool, seeds, and cattle. These instructions are the topic of much discussion amongst Bible debates. Those who don't believe the Bible often use this verse to attack those who do. It is very interesting as to what we are being told in this verse. You can find further reading in the Jewish Virtual Library.


God doesn't exactly tell us that we can't create a mule (the offspring of a horse and donkey), because he only specifies cattle. Elsewhere, God has repeated Himself for each animal in discussing offerings, so if God was telling us not to mix any animals He would have made that explicit. Yet, there remains the question of why for many people.

As someone who grew up raising cattle it seems fairly obvious to me. I don't think God is simply saying not to let your Texas Longhorn breed with an Angus; diversity comes from more than just the breed of the animal. For instance, the cattle my family raises (Belted Galloways) are very gentle. I would liken their temperament to that of a golden retriever. Many of them know their names and we can walk amongst them safely. Even as a child I was not afraid to walk up and pet our 2000 lb bull. Once, we bought 2 female cows from a different herd. One of the cows was wild; she must have broken three fences within 5 minutes of being placed in the pasture with our cows. Our herd watched in awe as she proceeded to run through fences and stampede about. If we had kept that cow, would she have spooked the others into acting as she did? Would we have found ourselves mending fences everyday? Would her offspring be tempered the way ours were or would they be wild like her? The second cow was actually pregnant and gave birth to a calf later that year. That calf would become the new bull since he wasn't related to any of the female cows we had. The first calf born from him was gorgeous, but unlike the rest of the herd, she's skittish. The rest of his offspring have fortunately matched the temperament of the original herd. I believe that this is one of the things God is warning the Israelites about; cattle from other nations or people could have all manner of diseases and temperaments. God wanted pure cattle for His people (and for His sacrifices), so He did not want to risk the integrity of their stock by mixing them with cows that were different.

Another possibility is that God meant cattle should not be mixed with wild cattle. Today, there are wolf-dog hybrids; these animals are often banned by apartment complexes (at least they've been on the restricted breeds list at every apartment complex I've lived in so far) and may cause problems with your homeowners' insurance. The reason there is so much discrimination against wolf-dog hybrids is that their temperament is unpredictable. Will such an animal behave like a wolf or like a dog? The same is true of cattle. Yet with cattle, the stakes were a bit higher. Obviously, people today keep dogs in their house and risk attack if a wolf-dog hybrid acts more like a wolf than a dog, but cattle have many more uses. Milk, meat, and temperament are at risk with cattle. Wild cattle are likely not to taste the same as domestic cattle, they may not have the same nutrients or they may cause the cattle to become thinner which would lead to a shortage in food. Similarly, the milk could be tainted. On top of that, the temperament of the herd could change, causing problems.

Wool and Linen

We are told not mix linen and wool, but does that mean we are also not to mix cotton and polyester or nylon? If so 90% of the clothes we buy today are in violation of this law. Like with the cattle, I believe if God meant do not mix fabrics, He would have said something along the lines of "do not let garments of mixed cloth come upon you." Instead, He singles out wool and linen. We know that there were other materials being used to create fabric or clothes and known to the Israelites because God made Adam and Eve's clothes from skins and they used skins of animals for coverings in the tabernacle. Materials such as silk, perhaps were not available to the Israelites during Moses era. The predecessor to the Silk Road began during 500 BC,[6] which is much later than the Exodus. Polyester wasn't developed until the 20th century,[7] so naturally it wouldn't be mentioned by name. Yet, cotton has been discovered in the middle East as far back as 3000 BC.[8] With the exodus estimated at 1446 BC, cotton may have been a fabric the Israelites knew of. In any fashion, the Israelites knew of at least 3 different clothing materials: wool, linen, and animal hide. Note that God would have known we would know of even more fabrics today. I think He would have instructed Moses to mention fabrics in general if He meant no fabric could be mixed.

There are many sites dedicated to explaining or speculating the reasoning behind this command. Reasons range from the treatment and care of the two materials[10] to arguments of the frequency of the material.[9] One person believes the reason for this law was to prohibit the ordinary Israelites from dressing as the priest dressed. This person likens the prohibition of Israelites wearing line and wool to a citizen wearing a police badge.[11] Others root the issue in the symbolic ties of the fabrics to sin. One uses the example of Cain and Abel—Cain half-heartedly gives to God harvest from the land while Abel faithfully gives his firstborn sheep. Since linen comes from the land and wool from sheep, they suggest a symbolic link that mixing linen and wool is like mixing faithfulness and disbelief.[12] Another places the symbolism in the context of those who are unwilling to give up pagan practices.[13]


Seeds aren't supposed to be mixed either, which would prevent foods like tangelos (tangerine-grapefruit hybrid) from coming into existence. Interestingly, a Rabbi suggests that it ok to eat hybrid fruits despite it being forbidden to sow them.[14]

In the case of natural occurrences (i.e. cross-breeding in nature that man did not take part in) I can understand the notion that it is ok to eat the fruit, however, buying such a fruit from the grocery store and consuming it seems off to me. In buying the fruit from a grocery store, you are likely supporting a farm that purposely creates said hybrid fruit, thus you are supporting someone breaking God's commandment.

Many reasons have been purposed to explain the reason for this law (a quick Google search can verify this), however, in some cases we should consider that there isn't a "reason" so much as God's preference. Perhaps God has a touch of OCD and simply prefers to see the crops separated by type. There's also the possibility that He is trying to protect the Israelites from a "one and done" situation. If all of the crops were in one field and something happened to that field, everything would be ruined. Yet, if the wheat was in one field and the tomatoes in another, when the wheat field was destroyed by locusts, the tomato field may have survived. Of course if both fields had a mixture of wheat and tomato, the previous scenario would still hold true. The bottom line is that we don't know why God gave us some of the laws He did, but we can see from several passages throughout the Bible that our willingness to obey His commandments symbolize our love for Him and our faith in Him.

As a descendant of small farmers, I have questions about what is meant by “field.” If you have a one acre plot of land, is the whole thing one field? Typically crops are planted in rows, is each “row” a field? Now that I have my own place, I have a garden box—is it wrong to plant tomatoes in one space of the bed and okra in another? Based on a Chabad.org article, it seems that this prohibition refers to the actual hybrid plant—in other words, if you plant two different fruit and a hybrid fruit springs up, the plant is to be destroyed and the fruit is not to be eaten. This passage makes a lot of sense to me spiritually or figuratively—the fruit of our labors and marriages should not be defiled, either.

Law & Punishment

Servant-Master Adultery

If a man slept with a female slave or servant who was betrothed to someone, he was required to pay a trespass offering and she was to be scourged. They were not killed because the woman wasn't free, thus she only had so many rights to say no and to become engaged. From the wording, I think this passage implies that the act is mutually consensual, thus the crime being discussed is adultery not rape. (Other passages in the Bible make it clear that rape is not acceptable, and the rapist was to be punished, not the victim/survivor.)

Fruit of the Land

When the Israelites entered the promised land, they weren't to eat the fruit of the trees for 3 years. God calls the trees "uncircumcised," a clear indication that this rule was to maintain purity and holiness. The 4th year was meant to be a holy year and the fruit of the trees was to go to God. Only in the 5th year were they allowed to eat the fruit.

Eating Blood, Observing Times, and Enchantments

God reminds us for the 8th time that we are not to eat blood. This time he follows it up by telling us not to work "enchantments" or "observe times." Enchantments is obviously a reference to sorcery. Observe times is translated to augury in other versions of the Bible and relates to the Roman official called augur. Their job was to observe times through celestial signs, signs from bird flight, crying, and feeding, signs from the behavior of animals, signs from the entrails of animals, divination by arrows, or divination by lot. Likely this also includes astrology (e.g. horoscopes and love match predictions by astrological signs).[15]

Note that in Genesis 1, we are told the stars are for signs. The difference between “observing times” and God’s original design seems to be linked to who is attributed power. For instance, the star of Bethlehem appeared because God put it there to mark the birthplace of His Son; the star did not cause the Messiah to be born.

Others conclude this refers to celebrating pagan holidays, as in observing the times of the pagans.[16]


God commands that the Israelites do not round the corners of their heads, mar their beards, print marks upon themselves, or cut the flesh of the dead. These were all practices of pagans in the region. Let's talk about each of these briefly.

Rounding the Corners of the Head & Marring the Beard

If you've ever seen pictures of the ancient Egyptians, you will notice that they had elongated heads/skulls. This is called cranial deformation. No one is certain if they were born that way or if children's heads were forced into the shape at early ages.

Since the Israelites had been amongst the Egyptians for 400 years, it is possible that God was commanding them not to copy this Egyptian practice. One source sums the issue of marring beards and rounding the corners of the head into keeping a natural shape. The author cites the Egyptians unnatural goatee as an example of changing the natural shape of the hair. Also mentioned by the author are haircuts such as the flat top (or high top fade, as we call it in the Black community). Similarly, the author cites haircuts in which shapes and designs are cut into the hair.[17]

I'm not sure if God actually was discussing hair cuts in this verse, since I have not found any evidence that hair cuts had any symbolism toward pagan religions. In fact, some pagan groups require members to wear their hair long.[18]

One source does mention a link between pagans and haircuts:

The Arabians acknowledge no other gods than Bacchus and Urania (i.e. the Queen of Heaven), and they say that their hair was cut in the same manner as Bacchus's is cut; now, they cut it in a circular form, shaving it around the temples.[19] 📖 The Two Babylons

This quote infers that perhaps there are haircuts that should not be present upon the head. I am not sure what a circular hair cut looks like, however. It could be how the edges of the hair are shaped, or a circular patch of hair... There are passages in the Bible in which the head is shaven, which still lends that perhaps the verse is discussing unnatural hair shapes. Luckily, as a female who keeps her hair long, I don't lose sleep over this verse. My suggestion, if you are unsure whether your hair style meets God's approval, is to pray, research deeper, and pray some more.

Tattoos and Cutting Flesh

The latter portion of Leviticus 19:28, causes some people to infer all of these restrictions only apply to dead bodies. I'm not an expert in ancient Hebrew and none of the comments I've seen claiming this verse is only applies to dead bodies base their claim on the Hebrew text, so I'm going to analyze the English text. In order to this, I'm going to back up a view verses so we see the whole context:

26 Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times. 27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. 28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.

Notice that these restrictions are in a list of what we are not to do. Clearly the actions in verse 26 would have to be performed while one is alive. Verse 27 continues says "ye shall not" do to "your head" or "thy beard," thus this must also refer to a person actively choosing to round their own head or mar their own beard. This is not referring to dead bodies either. Next God says not to make cuttings in the flesh for the dead; this is the only action that refers to the dead.

To me, this verse is saying that I should not cut myself in memory or mourning of a dead person.

Cuttings in the flesh of the dead was a pagan ritual that God did not want us copying. Similarly, making marks upon the body was also a part of pagan practices.[20]

Even so, it makes sense that God would not want us marking up our bodies—if He wanted me to have a butterfly on my shoulder, I'm sure He would have given me a butterfly shaped birthmark (I actually do have a scorpion shaped birthmark on my side). From my example, you probably already figured that I was would say this includes tattoos. One reason, aside from pagan influence, that God may frown on tattooing, is the rationale behind exalting an object to the extent you want it on your body permanently. There are people who have tattoos of the image people claim is Jesus; not only is that a false image of Christ, but the second commandment tells us not to make any images of God, which includes Jesus. Regardless of what you think when you get the tattoo, it's permanent. Which means, as you grow in Christ, you could have elements from your past life permanently depicted on your skin. On top of that, unsanitary tattoo needles put you at risk for incurable sicknesses such as HIV and Hepatitis. An article on tattoos and Christianity can be found here.

Some people also use this verse to condemn piercings, since you cut your flesh to receive them. Would that also include surgery—C-sections during childbirth? What about vaccines? The word "pierce" or "pierced" occurs in 13 verses across the Old and New Testaments, but not in Leviticus 19:28. I believe this is significant, because if God was referring to piercings, Moses would have recorded the Hebrew word for piercing as well as cutting. This is an interesting topic that I will likely do a separate post on after doing further research.


Although it seems like an obvious no-no in our society, God tells the Israelites not to prostitute their daughters. In today's society, many women can make more money through stripping or prostitution than other jobs available to them.[21]

It is not unreasonable to assume fathers who were in debt or in a financial crisis, may have been tempted to sell their daughters into prostitution to gain money; in some countries we still see families selling their daughters to be child brides. God specifically tells the Israelites not to do this. It is better to be without than to sell your daughter into prostitution.


God tells the Israelites that the are to keep the sabbaths (His feast days) and to give reverence to the sanctuary. The Feast Days, which God refers to as sabbaths, were part of Israel's end of the covenant. Reverence to the sanctuary proved they viewed God as the Holy God He is.

Witches & Wizards

God tells us not to deal with wizards or those who have familiar spirits. Familiars were associated with witches and witchcraft.[22] This means that franchises such as the beloved Harry Potter and Charmed are not on God's favorite list. Gandalf and Merlin are likely not favorites of God either. The interesting thing about the characters and stories I just mentioned is that they work wonders for the devil; those who read or watch the adaptions grow to love the characters and begin to question why it is evil. Could there not be good witches and good wizards, just as there are good and bad people, good angels and fallen angels? Why would witches and wizards be one sided? The short answer is that people are not born with magical powers or the ability to perform spells, they must receive that power from somewhere, and God is telling us that it isn't from Him. Since it is not of God, it is evil. I want to do a post on this issue, as well, so look for a link to a study on this soon.

This paragraph is evidence of my journey from no discernment about witchcraft in entertainment to full rejection of any magic, to my current stance. Throughout the Bible there are miracles whose only difference from “magic” is Who performed the task or Who gave the performer the right and power to do so. The first example to come to my mind would be Moses turning his staff into a snake and the sorcerers of Egypt doing the same. It was fine for Moses to do because the ability came from God; it was not ok for the Egyptians because they did not receive power from God.

Respecting People

God reminds the Israelites to treat strangers in their land with respect and not to repeat the mistakes of the Egyptians. They were to treat strangers the same way they treated each other. God also tells the Israelites to respect the elderly and not rise up against the "hoary head." A "hoary head" is a gray haired person.


Money was counted with scales in Moses' day since there weren't coin machines to create uniform coins or a printing press for dollars. If one used an unbalanced scale, they could over charge the buyer. God did not want the Israelites pandering to this type of behavior. He wanted them to keep all measurements fair.

References and Footnotes

  1. Holman Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 208-209. 2014
  2. Romans 3:22
  3. "Leviticus 19:16". Bible Hub. 2016
  4. List of suicides which have been attributed to bullying. Wikipedia. 2016
  5. Gordon, Sherri. "Understanding the Impact of Rumors and Gossip". About.com. December 2014
  6. Mark, Joshua J. "Silk Road". Ancient History Encyclopedia. March 2014
  7. Krapp, Kristine. "Polyester". How Products are Made. Encyclopedia.com. 1996
  8. The Story of Cotton. Cotton Counts.2016
  9. The Raw Life Health Show. ”Frequency in God's message by Rico Cortes.” YouTube. January 2010
  10. Caveman. "Why did God command we not wear clothing of two different kinds of material (Leviticus 19:19) — Comment". A Synagogue Without Walls. October 2010
  11. Tverberg, Lois. "What's So Wrong With Mixing Wool Linen". Our Rabbi Jesus. July 2013
  12. Gurkow, Lazer. "Just Say No to Linen". Chabad.org. 2016
  13. Branderud, Anders. "Why did God command we not wear clothing of two different kinds of material (Leviticus 19:19) — Comment". A Synagogue Without Walls. June 2011
  14. Shurpin, Yehuda. "Can I Thank G-d For a Hybrid Fruit?". Chabad.org. 2016
  15. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. "Entry for 'Augury'". International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Bible Study Tools. 1915
  16. "What is Observing Times?". BibleStudying.net. 2016
  17. MacIsaac, Tara."A Look at Theories About Elongated Skulls in Ancient Peru, Europe, Egypt". Epoch Times. July 2014
  18. Wigington, Patti."Hair Length and Religion". About.com. December 2014
  19. Hislop, Alexander.The Two Babylons. 1903
  20. Dr. Eowyn. "n pagan cultures, tattoo began as a form of demon worship." Fellowship of the Minds. December 2014
  21. Chang, Juju and Cappetta, Michael. "The G-String Scholarship: College Students Strip to Pay Tuition Costs." ABC News. May 2014
  22. "Familiar Spirit". Wikipedia. 2016

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