Leviticus 20:18 - Moral or Ceremonial?

Not open for further replies.

De Jager

Puritan Board Freshman

This is a bit of an awkward question, but I was hoping that you folks could help me understand it. Leviticus 20:18 teaches that if a man and a woman have sex during her period, they should be cut off from the congregation. My questions are as follows:

1. Is this act (sex during menstruation) a sinful act in and of itself, or was it simply sinful because it had earlier (in Leviticus) been described as making one unclean?

2. Were the perpetrators excommunicated because they had committed the act or because they were unclean (or both)?

3. This is confusing because the immediate context (Leviticus 20) contains many other sexual prohibitions that we would still consider binding as Christians.



Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
It isn't clear to me that this behavior is intrinsically sinful, immoral.

Appealing to other evident sxual sins in the context is not persuasive. The covenant people of old were to regard their network of regulations as a mutually reinforcing system; so while it it quite legitimate to categorize their laws generally, at times one encounters laws that have both ceremonial and judicial ties. And all of it rests on a moral foundation.

So, the uncleanness of the woman during her monthly period is the immediate and obvious reason why this matter is considered sinful. The mutual guilt stated in the statute belonging to both parties implies consent--presumably the woman was not forced in this situation.

But this also brings up the question of how such a sin should be discovered. Would either of the two parties be inclined to tell anyone? What sort of witnesses would meet the criteria for a judicial trial? It seems to me that the seriousness of the result expressed in the statute (excommunication) is primarily indicative of the duty of an Israelite couple to regard their marital relations as conducted in the sight of God, and not just as a private "family matter."

It seems to me the most likely people to make the charge would be the couple coming as their own accusers. In which case, either mercy was in order for the repentant along with procedures for recovering cleanness, or else they were speaking thus in order to get themselves removed from the covenant community. Either way, the law is taken seriously.

While not daring to speak about all marriages, I don't think menstruation days are usually convenient for intimacy. Perhaps relations at those times can be harmful to one party or the other or to the marriage. So, as another way of thinking about this statute, we might consider how it taught Israel not to regard sxual congress as an end-good, not as an idol or a lust to be satisfied whenever, however. It was good and ideal when God said it was, and not when he told them to wait.

But, being ceremonial it has no more force today.
Not open for further replies.