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Moral and Religious Laws

19 The Lord told Moses (A) to say to the community of Israel:

I am the Lord your God. I am holy, and you must be holy too! 3-4 (B) Respect your father and your mother, honor the Sabbath, and don't make idols or images. I am the Lord your God.

When you offer a sacrifice to ask my blessing,[a] be sure to follow my instructions. You may eat the meat either on the day of the sacrifice or on the next day, but you must burn anything left over on the third day. If you eat any of it on the third day, the sacrifice will be disgusting to me, and I will reject it. In fact, you will be punished for not respecting what I say is holy, and you will no longer belong to the community of Israel.

(C) When you harvest your grain, always leave some of it standing along the edges of your fields and don't pick up what falls on the ground. 10 Don't strip your grapevines clean or gather the grapes that fall off the vines. Leave them for the poor and for those foreigners who live among you. I am the Lord your God.

11 (D) Do not steal or tell lies or cheat others.

12 (E) Do not misuse my name by making promises you don't intend to keep. I am the Lord your God.

13 (F) Do not steal anything or cheat anyone, and don't fail to pay your workers at the end of each day.[b]

14 (G) I am the Lord your God, and I command you not to make fun of the deaf or to cause a blind person to stumble.

15 (H) Be fair, no matter who is on trial—don't favor either the poor or the rich.

16 Don't be a gossip, but never hesitate to speak up in court, especially if your testimony can save someone's life.[c]

17 (I) Don't hold grudges. On the other hand, it's wrong not to correct someone who needs correcting. 18 (J) Don't be angry or try to take revenge. I am the Lord, and I command you to love others as much as you love yourself.

19 (K) Breed your livestock animals only with animals of the same kind, and don't plant two kinds of seed in the same field or wear clothes made of different kinds of material.

20 If a man has sex with a slave woman who is promised in marriage to someone else, he must pay a fine, but they are not to be put to death. After all, she was still a slave at the time.[d] 21-22 The man must bring a ram to the entrance of the sacred tent and give it to a priest, who will then offer it as a sacrifice to me, so the man's sins will be forgiven.

23 After you enter the land, you will plant fruit trees, but you are not to eat any fruit from them for the first three years. 24 In the fourth year the fruit must be set apart, as an expression of thanks 25 to me, the Lord God. Do this, and in the fifth year, those trees will produce an abundant harvest of fruit for you to eat.

26 (L) Don't eat the blood of any animal.

Don't practice any kind of witchcraft.

27-28 (M) I forbid you to shave any part of your head or beard or to cut and tattoo yourself as a way of worshiping the dead.

29 (N) Don't let your daughters serve as temple prostitutes—this would bring disgrace both to them and the land.

30 (O) I command you to respect the Sabbath and the place where I am worshiped.

31 (P) Don't make yourselves disgusting to me by going to people who claim they can talk to the dead.

32 I command you to show respect for older people and to obey me with fear and trembling.

33 (Q) Don't mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. 34 Instead, treat them as well as you treat your own people and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

35-36 (R) Use honest scales and don't cheat when you weigh or measure anything.

I am the Lord your God. I rescued you from Egypt, 37 and I command you to obey my laws.

Penalties for Disobeying God's Laws

20 The Lord told Moses to say to the community of Israel:

Death by stoning is the penalty for any citizens or foreigners in the country who sacrifice their children to the god Molech. They have disgraced both the place where I am worshiped and my holy name, and so I will turn against them and no longer let them belong to my people. Some of you may let them get away with human sacrifice, but not me. If any of you worship Molech, I will turn against you and your entire family, and I will no longer let you belong to my people.

I will be your enemy if you go to someone who claims to speak with the dead, and I will destroy you from among my people. Dedicate yourselves to me and be holy because I am the Lord your God. I have chosen you as my people, and I expect you to obey my laws.

(S) If you curse your father or mother, you will be put to death, and it will be your own fault.

10 (T) If any of you men have sex with another man's wife, both you and the woman will be put to death.

11 (U) Having sex with one of your father's wives disgraces him. So both you and the woman will be put to death, just as you deserve. 12 (V) It isn't natural to have sex with your daughter-in-law, and both of you will be put to death, just as you deserve. 13 (W) It's disgusting for men to have sex with one another, and those who do will be put to death, just as they deserve. 14 (X) It isn't natural for a man to marry both a woman and her daughter, and so all three of them will be burned to death. 15-16 (Y) If any of you have sex with an animal, both you and the animal will be put to death, just as you deserve.

17 (Z) If you marry one of your sisters, you will be punished, and the two of you will be disgraced by being openly forced out of the community. 18 (AA) If you have sex with a woman during her monthly period, both you and the woman will be cut off from the people of Israel. 19 (AB) The sisters of your father and mother are your own relatives, and you will be punished for having sex with any of them. 20 If you have sex with your uncle's wife, neither you nor she will ever have any children. 21 (AC) And if you marry your sister-in-law, neither of you will ever have any children.[e]

22 Obey my laws and teachings. Or else the land I am giving you will become sick of you and throw you out. 23 The nations I am chasing out did these disgusting things, and I hated them for it, so don't follow their example. 24 I am the Lord your God, and I have promised you their land that is rich with milk and honey. I have chosen you to be different from other people. 25 That's why you must make a difference between animals and birds that I have said are clean and unclean[f]—this will keep you from becoming disgusting to me. 26 I am the Lord, the holy God. You have been chosen to be my people, and so you must be holy too.

27 If you claim to receive messages from the dead, you will be put to death by stoning, just as you deserve.

Instructions for Priests

21 The Lord gave Moses these instructions for Aaron's sons, the priests:

Touching a dead body will make you unclean. So don't go near a dead relative, except your mother, father, son, daughter, brother, or an unmarried sister, who has no husband to take care of her. Don't make yourself unclean by attending the funeral of someone related to you by marriage.[g] (AD) Don't shave any part of your head or trim your beard or cut yourself to show that you are mourning. I am the Lord your God, and I have chosen you alone to offer sacrifices of food to me on the altar. That's why you must keep yourselves holy. Don't marry a divorced woman or a woman who has served as a temple prostitute. You are holy, because I am holy. And so, you must be treated with proper respect, since you offer food sacrifices to me, the God of holiness.

If any of you priests has a daughter who disgraces you by serving as a temple prostitute, she must be burned to death.

10 If you are the high priest, you must not mess up your hair or tear your clothes in order to mourn for the dead. 11 Don't make yourself unclean by going near a dead body, not even that of your own father or mother. 12 If you leave the sacred place to attend a funeral, both you and the sacred place become unclean, because you are the high priest.

13 If you are the high priest, you must marry only a virgin 14 from your own tribe. Don't marry a divorced woman or any other woman who has already had sex, including a temple prostitute. 15 In this way, your descendants will be qualified to serve me. Remember—I am the Lord, and I have chosen you.

16 The Lord told Moses 17-18 to say to Aaron:

No descendant of yours can ever serve as my priest if he is blind or lame, if his face is disfigured, if one leg is shorter than the other, 19 if either a foot or a hand is paralyzed, 20 if he is a hunchback or a dwarf, if an eye or his skin is diseased, or if his testicles have been damaged. 21 These men may not serve as my priests and burn sacrifices to me. 22 They may eat the food offerings presented to me, 23 but they may not enter the sacred place or serve me at the altar. Remember—I am the Lord, the one who makes a priest holy.

24 Moses told all of this to Aaron, his sons, and the people of Israel.


  1. 19.5 sacrifice … to ask my blessing: See the note at 3.1.
  2. 19.13 to pay … end of each day: Day laborers needed their wages to buy food for their evening meal, which was the main meal of the day.
  3. 19.16 but never … someone's life: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  4. 19.20 time: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 20.
  5. 20.21 And … children: According to Deuteronomy 25.5,6 a man was supposed to marry his brother's widow if his brother had died without having children. Otherwise, such marriages were forbidden (see also Matthew 22.23-33; Mark 12.18-27; Luke 20.27-40).
  6. 20.25 clean and unclean: See the note at 11.4-8.
  7. 21.4 marriage: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 4.

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