Abominations and the Holiness of the Land

Leviticus 18:1-30

This section begins with a command not to follow in the abominable ways of Egypt, from which God has taken the Children of Israel, or of Canaan, to which God is bringing them. Rather, they are to walk in God’s ways of holiness.


From there, the text elaborates on forbidden relationships. These include adultery, incest, bestiality, marrying two sisters, or lying with a woman in her time of separation. The Torah also forbids passing a child to Molech, which the Sages define in the Talmud as a specific form of idolatry.


All of these commands are instructed because the land will not tolerate contamination, and, God warns, if they fail, they will be cast out of the Promised Land just as the previous inhabitants were. In fact, the Israel Bible points out, the Children of Israel do ultimately commit the same grievous sins as their predecessors, and are, indeed, cast out of the land into exile. Today, the people of Israel have returned to the land, but the warnings in this chapter are as salient as ever.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why might the prohibition on worshiping Molech be included in a chapter that details forbidden relationships?

Comments ( 9 )

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  • All the 'old ' sins must be banned though be remembered. Having your son be thrown into the fire in the arms of Molech reminds me of pharo having the boys thrown into the Nile. It is a attempt to genocide, moreover it is an attempt to prevent the Eternal One's plans. An attack on those who are weakest (reminds me of Amalek) YHWH will never ask child sacrifices. He has given life and He has woven a child 's innermost being. He will never sacrifice what He loves, His chosen ones.

  • There is a reason why God told the children of Israel that they were not to marry foreign women. Most of the women were pagan, if not all of them. One has only to remember what the first woman caused a man to do…. Eve and then Adam eating that forbidden fruit and the problem that stemmed from that first act of disobedience. Intermarriage, even today can be fraught with issues, and even many interfaith marriages run into problems. God knew exactly what he was saying, he understood then, as he does today, the struggle these relationships create.

  • In researching this question, I came across an interesting midrash which would explain the inclusion of this prohibition in this section. I felt it was worth consideration.
    "This is a Midrash of the rabbis likewise attested by the Septuagint. A similar non-sacrificial tradition, perhaps more ancient, is found in the Book of Jubilees. The Book of Jubilees 30:7ff. connects intermarrriage or rather the marrying off of one's children to pagans with the sin of Moloch. This tradition seems to be echoed in the dissenting opinion of R. Ishmael (cf. Meg. 4:9) in Sifrei Deuteronomy 18, who explains the prohibition of Moloch as the impregnation of a pagan woman, an interpretation lying behind the Syriac translation in Leviticus 18 and 20. The common denominator of all these traditions is the understanding of Moloch worship as the transfer of Jewish children to paganism either by delivering them directly to pagan priests or by procreation through intercourse with a pagan woman. This tradition is in keeping with the general rabbinic tendency to make biblical texts relevant to their audiences, who were more likely to be attracted to Greco-Roman cults and to intercourse with pagan women than to the sacrifice of humans to a long-forgotten god."
    The link to the complete article is here: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/moloch.html
    Baruch Hashem.

    • Sue Jean I look forward to your comments and references. Thank you.

  • Sheila

    Molech, the national god of the Ammonites was thought of as a protective father. Their worship involved the burning of children as a sacrifice by the parents. The Book of Jubilee connects intermarriage, specifically the marrying of one’s children to pagans as the sin of Molech . The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the true Father to His people and does not want His Holy name profaned.

  • Ken

    This chapter gives the parameters of proper and improper intimate-personal relationships. The most important relationship is our spiritual relationship with God.
    If we violate any of these statutes in regard to our physical relationship with others we damage and can destroy lives of others. Certainly that breaks our relationship with God. But God is gracious and merciful and provides for sacrificial atonement for such offenses. Psalm 51.
    Perhaps the greatest violation of God’s statutes is when one sacrifices to another god. This is saying to God, I have another god besides you.
    If one would continue in such practice, there is no possible means of forgiveness.

  • Diana Brown

    Because child sacrifice to Molech was idol and false god worship. The Lord does not want parents to sacrifice their children to Him to appease Him. He only wants our faith in Him, our service to Him to please and glorify Him. When we live by His Commands, His Word, and His Spirit, we are the sons and daughters of the Most High and then the nations will know….He is the Lord and He is One.

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