In Hebrew, does Leviticus 18:22 really say "while with" a woman?

by Mr. T
(England)

The Tanakh or Hebrew Old Testament

The Tanakh or Hebrew Old Testament



No, I don't believe that is at all what the Hebrew text says. Let's go through it carefully. Here is the Hebrew text of Leviticus 18:22. And here is the Hebrew text of Leviticus 20:13.

Here is the most complete list of online commentaries on Leviticus, a massive resource available free for anyone interested in doing additional study. No translation, no lexicon, no interlinear, no commentary I have examined lists a meaning of mishkab which includes "while with" a woman as a possible translation of the Hebrew text. The true meaning of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 is shrine prostitution.

I do not see any translation which gives the Hebrew word, mishkab, the meaning of "while with" a woman. Are you aware of any translation which translates it that way? I am unable to find that translation or that meaning given to the Hebrew word, mishkab, anywhere.

The Complete Jewish Bible translates it this way:

"You are not to go to bed with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination."

The Jewish Publication Society Old Testament, 1917, translates it this way:

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination."

The Hebrew Names Version translates it this way:

"You shall not lie with a man, as with a woman. That is detestible."

The ever-faithful old King James Version, 1611 translates it this way:

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."

The Peshitta, Lamsa Translation translates it this way:

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; because it is an abomination."

The Wycliffe Bible, 1395 translates it this way:

"Thou schalt not be medlid with a man bi letcherie of womman, for it is abhomynacioun."

The Message Bible translates it this way:

"Don't have sex with a man as one does with a woman. That is abhorrent."

The Young's Literal Translation translates it this way:

"And with a male thou dost not lie as one lieth with a woman; abomination it is."

The Reina Valera Version (La Biblia Reina-Valera) translates it this way:

"No te echarás con varón como con mujer: es abominación."

Here is a definition of mishkab and a list of every time mishkab is used and how it is translated in the KJV. In its 46 occurrences in 44 verses, it is never translated "while with."

I would be interested to know why you believe the Hebrew text of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 should be translated "while with" a woman.

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Comments for In Hebrew, does Leviticus 18:22 really say "while with" a woman?

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Oct 23, 2013
Hebrew text of Leviticus 18:22
by: JIM

Leviticus 18:22 - The translations of this verse found in most English Bibles are not supported by the Hebrew text.

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." King James Version

Correct translation: And with a male, thou shalt not lie down in
a woman's bed; it is an abomination.

I have the full translational analysis but can't post it in 300 characters.

Sep 27, 2014
Read ALL the words
by: Scott

I urge you so very strongly to reconsider this verse. If you string all of the Hebrew words together as they are worded per the lexicon, it makes little sense, but let's give it a try. "To be lain with (verb) man (noun) lying down (masculine noun) woman (noun) a disgusting thing (feminine noun)". It is to say that to lie with a man in the sense of how one lies with a woman is a disgusting thing. The masculine noun turns the "lying down" into an act, not just a verb. "To be lain with man in the manner one lies with a woman is abomination."

I pray wholeheartedly that this is not shrugged off as hate speech or otherwise. I only aim to follow Jude's 23rd verse. I personally have sought the definition of sin for nearly two years now, and what separates the sins of Leviticus 18 as a chapter from other "sins" is the fact that it says in verse 26, "The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things." It applies to EVERYONE. This is not an Israeli purity law.

All of these things, from the various forms of incest to homosexual acts to bestiality, are so vile that the land vomited them out. It made the land sick. It is why Paul is so fervently against it in the New Testament, as well as malice, greed, slander, etc. You can also reference Matthew 19, when Jesus says, "But it was not this way from the beginning." I know you're familiar with that argument, so I won't elaborate. Please do not fall prey to the prophecy of 2 Timothy 4:3.

Rick's comment: Hi Scott - I appreciate that you earnestly believe what you wrote but regardless of your sincerity, your conclusion is flawed. Lev 18:22 and 20:13 have never been about gays or lesbians.

1. None of the human authors of the Bible link those verses to gays.

2. Jesus never links those verses to gays.

3. Our ancient Jewish spiritual ancestors never linked those verses to gays.

4. Early Christians did not link those verses to gays.

5. The church fathers did not link those verses in Leviticus to gays.

If your view was correct, someone between 1400 BC to around the time of Christ, would have linked those verses to gays and homosexuality. Yet they did not.

The reason why is, those verses prohibit shrine prostitution, not gay guys or gay gals falling in love with each other and spending their lives together as a couple.

Please take time to click on the text links and get familiar with the information. What I present is strongly supported historically and even the most virulent anti-gay Christians admit that the context of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 is cult prostitution or shrine prostitution or temple prostitution - different names for the same idolatrous activity.

By the way, Jude never condemns gays and lesbians, never mentions gays and lesbians.

Jan 27, 2016
I am a certified Hebrew linguist. Here's your answer.
by: Michael

I have been a Hebrew linguist by profession since 2008, with a level 3 reading skill on ILR standards, and I am currently in Seminary as a graduate student. This article intrigued me, so I decided to look into it myself. My mind has not been changed.

Here is the Hebrew text for Leviticus 18:22 :

ואת-זכר לא תשכב משכבי אשה תועבה הוא

I hope those characters will show up, because this is important. The first letter (from right to left) is the "vav," or "waw" depending on how you ask, and that simply means "and." The next to letters, "et," to put it simply is an indefinite article that specifies that the next word is what's intended to be emphasized. Next is "Zachar," a Hebrew word for "male," or man. The 8th and 9th letters spell "Lo," which means "no," "don't," or "shall not," depending on the context of the sentence. The next word is pronounced "tishkav," which by itself literally translates to "he will not lay."

Next you see "mishkavey," which is a combination of two words, "mi" which means "From," "of," or "with", depending on the context. Again we see the same root "shkav" (like "tishkav" above) which means "to lay." The grammatical construct of "mishkavey" in Hebrew means that this word is part of a "סמיכות", prounounced "smikhut." Simply put, this word is attached to the next word. Next is the word "Isha." This word means "woman," and there is no alternative translation.

Next is "tu-eva," which means abomination, and finally we have "hu," which is a masculine word that means "he," or "it," depending on the context.

When you put it all together, what you essentially have is:

"And male will not lay (from/of/with) "layers of women. He/it abomination."

When doing professional translation, you can't just do a word for word translation with a dictionary - it doesn't quite make sense in the target language because each language uses words and grammar that vary in every language. I suspect by now it seems a bit clearer why this passage is so often referred to as one that condemns homosexuality. What it says in prettier English, as is reflected by most modern professional, scholarly, actual translations outside of the LGBT community, is:

"And a man shall not lay with "layers of women." It is an abomination."

"Layers of women," which doesn't make sense in English, logically translates to: "Men," or "those who lay with women," and in order to transfer the full meaning of the original Hebrew into English, many translations therefore include "as with a woman" in this verse.

This is how we came to our fully translated verse, Leviticus 18:22 :

Leviticus 18:22: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination" (KJV).

I don't have the time to go over another verse in-depth right now, but Leviticus 20:13 uses the EXACT same vocabulary and grammatical constructs used in this verse, and the meaning is the same.

And just to clear up any confusion, since I see this is another issue of contention on your site... the word meaning to "lay" here definitely has a sexual connotation. Surely laying in the vicinity of another person is not "an abomination." The word used for "lay" is the same word used in Genesis 39:7 as well when Potipher's wife tempted Joseph and asked him to come "lay" with her."

There is no mention of "Molech" in this verse, and there is no reference to "shrine prostitution" either, though I see how that would be a victory for the LGBT cause if it was true. A handful of people have unjustly attempted to re-interpret this verse to say what they want to hear, including the untrained and anonymous authors of the Queen James Bible. Unfortunately, this verse states rather clearly that sexual relations between two men is a sin.

I noticed that your list of various translations of Leviticus 18:22 were all in English, and that you did not do an in-depth review of the Hebrew in this passage before criticizing it. What are your linguistic credentials to be making such a claim? Do you have any background in translation, or any kind of language certification?

I also read your biography and I did not notice any linguistic studies or experience, only a Bachelors in Bible Studies if I remember correctly. This alone calls into question your credibility on this matter.

Furthermore, the website that you listed as a resource also includes commentary on the Bible's clear declaration of homosexuality as a sin, which makes me think you're picking and choosing whichever bits of commentary support your view rather than objectively looking at all of the evidence.

One last note, you can't just go with whatever English translation you want either, specifically in reference to the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh you referenced. Yes, it shows the text in Hebrew, but the translations are not entirely accurate. As a self-proclaimed Christian you should understand this - look up the prophecy about Jesus being "pierced," in reference to his crucifixion. After Jesus came and fulfilled that prophecy on the cross, the Jews ceased to accept that translation of that verse instead opting for returning "as a Lion" to fit their view of what the Messiah was going to be like. In other words, you need to actually study the Hebrew in all of its complexity and tiny little grammatical nuances before you can claim that it was mistranslated. Looking at the English and twisting it around isn't enough.

My friend, I understand where you're coming from, and I know what it's like to be trapped in a sin... but the Bible is very clear, here and elsewhere, that homosexuality is a sin.

It is true "that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, NIV). However, even the demons believe that there is one God (James 2:19), so what is belief according to John 3:16 then? In James chapter 2 it says very clearly that faith, without good works, is dead (James 2:17, James 2:26). At its most basic level, good works includes obedience and repentance.

Jesus also said "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!'" (Matthew 7:21-22, NIV).

I fear that if you do not confess your sin (homosexuality) to Jesus and ask forgiveness, that you will end up in the category of those described in this passage above, and based on your biography, you have certainly done great things as a Christian. But as I demonstrated above, Leviticus 18:22 definitely refers to laying with a man "as with a woman," and the fact that the grammatical construct is different from what you would expect in English in no way affects the meaning of God's original Holy Word. The Old Testament does indeed condemn homosexuality. You would need to understand Hebrew to know that.

Rick's comment: Hi Michael - we are all greatly impressed with your erudition and learning. However, you have not proven your case nor have you interacted with anything I wrote.

Your opinion is that Lev 18:22 and 20:13 condemn gay relationships yet nothing you wrote supports that. You pointed out that there is no mention of Molech in this verse, as if that is conclusive. Did you miss Molech in Lev 18:21 and 20:2, 3, 4, 5?

Being "a Hebrew linguist by profession since 2008, with a level 3 reading skill on ILR standards" does not convey discernment, understanding and wisdom in "rightly dividing the word of truth," 2 Timothy 2:15 or in biblical exposition. All scripture is given in a biblical cultural doctrinal historical linguistic literary and religious context. The context of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 is shrine prostitutes.

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