Do the verses prohibiting practicing homosexuality in the book of Leviticus apply today? Some critics don’t think so. I was at a presentation at a local university several years ago, and heard a well known theologian speaking about the Old Testament. When the speaker defended the homosexual lifestyle and basically said that the Bible doesn’t apply today, a questioner from the audience objected, bringing up verses in the book of Leviticus that say that the practice of homosexuality is an “abomination” to the Lord (Lev. 18:22, 20:13, KJV).
The speaker ridiculed the question, saying that the same book of Leviticus also uses the word abomination when speaking of certain foods not to be eaten such as pork, and also mentioning the commandments against “rounding the corners of one’s beard” and wearing two different types of cloth together, and so basically dismissed the question in this way, getting a snicker on his behalf from most of the audience. His implication was that just as we no longer prohibit eating pork or fish without scales, or cutting our beard in a certain way, or wearing different cloth materials together, we by the same “logic” should not think that homosexuality is unlawful. The speaker told the audience that the questioner was “misusing and misinterpreting Scripture.”
I knew something was wrong with this argument, and did some research on Leviticus and the word “abomination”. It turns out that there are two different words translated as “abomination” in the Hebrew, and both are used in Leviticus. The first word is shequets, which is used in connection with unclean foods, while a different word, towebah, is used reference to homosexuality, and this second word is used mainly in connection with sexual sins and idolatry. The first word shequets means “polluted” or “detestable” almost exclusively in reference to food, and it is used by saying “let this food be an abomination (polluted) to you (see Lev. 11:10). To paraphrase: “Even though others in other nations eat this food, and it may seem ok and not polluted or inedible in itself, consider it polluted as far as you are concerned.” This clearly seems to be how the word is used in the relevant verses. (Interestingly enough, it turns out there were good health reasons for not eating some of the unclean foods) The Jews were also to be set apart from pagan nations who sometimes ate certain foods when they worshiped their idols.
The use of the second Hebrew word, towebah, meaning “abhorrent”, concerned specified illicit sexual practices, forms of idolatry, and some of the other practices of the pagan nations that were “abhorrent” to the Lord. These included adultery, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality among others. It should be noted that neither of the above Hebrew words were used in reference to rounding the corner to one’s beard or head or wearing two different types of cloth together (Lev. 20:19, 27) so the use of them by the speaker was misleading. Also, in this same chapter (20) in Leviticus, there are laws against giving your daughter to be a prostitute, ans using unfair weights and measures, or consulting “wizards” and mediums (verses 29,31,35-36). So by this speaker’s “logic” it’s lawful to do all these things now. Obviously some discrimination must be done, rather than the simplistic argument of lumping them all together.
Some of the laws in the Torah which seem ridiculous to us now, were often prohibiting practices associated with the idolatry of the pagan nations which the Lord wanted Israel to be “separate” and “severed” from (see Lev. 18:27, 20:23, 25, 26). And I doubt the speaker would have advocated throwing out other laws listed together with the one on homosexuality, such as “thou shalt not lay with another man’s wife”. Adultery being wrong is not outmoded or irrelevant (at least to most today!), and so as anyone goes through all these laws, they realize that some apply today ( the moral laws such as the sexual prohibitions) and some do not (the ceremonial laws such as unclean food regulations, and the legal statutes such as the death penalty for certain offences),and so to lump them all together as this speaker did was not sound Bible exegesis. He had accused the questioner of “misusing and misinterpreting Scripture.” I think rather the speaker, and all others who used this common argument, are doing the misusing and misinterpreting.
The Scriptures such as those in Leviticus that seem to say that God does not approve of the homosexual lifestyle have been improperly dismissed. There are other Scriptures (Romans 1:18-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-10) that support the basic command in Leviticus. Whether we like it or not, it is irresponsible Biblical exegesis to say otherwise.
I believe God loves homosexuals but has not ordained or condoned the practices of men going to bed with men or women with women. He has expressed that their conduct is abhorrent to Him and that He wants to rescue their souls. We all need to have our souls rescued from sin, whatever we call ourselves. And God is a compassionate and loving God who never calls someone to a lifestyle that He doesn’t then empower them to live: ” According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” (2 Peter 1:3, KJV) There are definite testimonies of homosexuals and lesbians who have been transformed by the Holy Spirit and have been set free from the gay life to be able to obey God . There also many psychologists who present evidence that homosexuality is not totally inborn as is commonly believed,  and that change is indeed possible. Some had been told that change and healing was not possible, but they found out differently. A healing was needed in their lives that they did not even realize in some cases. For these examples and more, see reference books on this subject  listed below.
I don’t believe that God is saying to us to tell homosexuals that they are bad people and condemn them. Rather, He wants to heal their souls from slavery to conduct that is not His will, and endangers their souls for eternity.
It is so easy for all of us to try to conform God’s Word to society and explain everything away, as if each individual defines their own private morality according to “free society”, and not according to what God thinks and wants for us. I believe that people need to be redeemed from these “alternative” practices and lifestyles, and the proper expression of sexuality in God-consecrated heterosexual marriage needs to be upheld.