Let’s fast-forward a few hundred years, from the days of the Patriarchs to the time of Moses and the establishment of the Mosaic Covenant at Mt. Sinai. It is from this covenant that the nation of Israel got its laws and traditions that made it ‘holy’, set apart from other nations and chosen by God. Whereas the sexuality of the Patriarchs seemed to mirror their contemporary culture, we see in Mosaic Law that God wanted His people to be distinguishable in their sexual practices from the surrounding people-groups. The book of Leviticus was written by Moses at the command of God and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the mid-15th century B.C., and describes many of the laws and rituals of the ancient Israelites.
In Chapter 18 of Leviticus Moses addressed ‘Forbidden Sexual Practices’. Here are some selected verses from Chapter 18 (NLT):
18:6 “You must never have sexual relations with a close relative, for I am the Lord.”
18:8 “Do not have sexual relations with any of your father’s wives, for this would violate your father” (Note: As in the time of the Patriarchs, it was apparently still appropriate for men to have multiple wives.)
18:19 “Do not have sexual relations with a woman during her period of menstrual impurity.”
18:22 “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.”
18:24-26 “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for the people I am driving out before you have defiled themselves in all these ways. Because the entire land has become defiled, I am punishing the people who live there. I will cause the land to vomit them out. You must obey all my decrees and regulations. You must not commit any of these detestable sins. This applies both to native-born Israelites and to the foreigners living among you.”
We see from these verses that in order for Israel to enjoy the presence and favor of God they had to abstain from certain sexual practices. Though the Israelites may not have understood this at the time, we can see now that many of the laws given to them from God kept them protected from disease, genetic disorders resulting from inbreeding, and other unpleasantries.
I don’t think we can use Mosaic Law to define ‘acceptable’ biblical sexuality for contemporary Christians. There are many laws described in Leviticus that Christians do not hold to, and it feels incongruous and hypocritical to pick and choose which laws should be followed and which should be discarded. However, I do believe there is benefit to defining contemporary biblical sexuality through God’s intent displayed in Mosaic Law. Some of the takeaways from the Law that we can use to define biblical sexuality today include:
- Obedience to God in our sexual lives
- Sexuality that does not imitate the sexual immorality of a local culture
- Sexual practices that are safe and are unlikely to result in damage to our health
- Sexual relationships that support a cohesive family and social structure
Beyond these underpinning values I am hesitant to define contemporary biblical sexuality with the strict guidelines found in Leviticus and Mosaic Law.
What are your thoughts on the application of Mosaic Low on contemporary sexuality?