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 - I'm sure 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.

Apr 07, 2016
Curiosity
by: Charles

Polygamous marriages, which I must add the bible never said "one" man "one" woman. It also doesn't speak against womankind lying with each other. It isn't specified as it is, could that be for a reason.

May 26, 2016
RSTNE
by: RavMoshe

I am a Messianic Jew, which is a Jew that believes in Messiah and is born again.

In The RSTNE (Restored Scriptures True Name Edition)which is translated straight from the Hebrew by a Rabbi scholar, Wayiqra (Leviticus) 18:22 You shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Wayiqra 20:13 If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their dahm (blood) shall be upon them.

But, Romiyah 1:26 For this cause יהוה gave them up to vile affections: for even their women did change the natural sexual relations into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural sexual relationship with the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men committing shameful acts, and receiving back in their own selves repayment for their error.

So lets put 2 and 2 together, so to speak.
Wayiqra 18:22 and 20:13 call this act an abomination which means to abhor or detest.

Gilyahna (Revelation)20:8 But the fearful and unbelieving and the abominable and murderers and those who whore and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: this is the second death.

Define abomination as you like but if it is worthy of the lake of fire, then it is a lot worse than what you are trying to water it down to be.

Oh, by the way, until I got saved, I was in the homosexual lifestyle. I was not born that way.
Neither were you. That is just an excuse to remain in sin, which is what homosexuality is.

Shalom B'Shem יהוה

Rick's comment: Hello RavMoshe - You cited some verses and alleged that they refer to homosexuals. They do not. The context of all of the verses you cited has nothing to do with gays and lesbians.

I have hundreds of pages of carefully sourced information on this website which makes the case.

You haven't made a case at all for your beliefs. You even accused me of watering down God's truth. Is that the best you have? Baseless accusations and out of context verses alleged to prove your beliefs?

You cited a few verses and you expect us to believe your slant on them, without factoring in context. Moshe, I expect more from you than that.

That might work on little children and people who prefer to farm out their thinking to others but it doesn't work with real disciples of Jesus who read, study and believe the Bible, 2 Timothy 2:15.

To add an air of authenticity to your comment, you then claimed you were in the homosexual lifestyle before you got saved but you didn't say you were gay. Why is that?

I am thankful that you got saved but you have alleged that no one is born gay without any proof to back up your claim. Have you never read Matthew 19:3-12? Jesus tells us about eunuchs who were so born from their mother's womb.

In New Testament times, gay people were included in the group known as born eunuchs therefore Jesus has clearly told us that some people are born gay.

You apparently disagree with Jesus, probably because you take the discredited Exodus view that no one is born gay, that everyone is born heterosexual, therefore being gay is a sinful choice made by the individual.

Your views sound like the old Exodus International scam. Did you know that Exodus admitted they didn't see anyone change their sexual orientation in the 38 years they operated?

So they shut down their entire ministry because it was a failure from start to finish, as far as changing anyone's sexual orientation. Their sexual orientation change efforts never worked for anyone in 38 years.

May 26, 2016
Look at the culture
by: Phil

"when a man lies with a male the lyings of a women....". Given the context and the cultural evidence, it seems pretty clear. The male priests dressed as women to ritualistic sex. Isn't this repeated in other parts of the Torah regarding temple prostitution? And wasn't that the practice of the Canaanites?

Rick's comment: Hi Phil - Good points. There is more detail on my shrine prostitutes page.

Jun 03, 2016
New take on this
by: BobZ

Full disclosure: I'm Jewish, not Christian, and have no credentials other than my own self-guided studies.

My reading of the original Hebrew, along with the context of a lot of Leviticus, shows me an alternative interpretation, one that I haven't seen before (and one that I'm actually quite proud of). It also fits better with the strong desire expressed in a lot of these commandments to keep the Jewish people from mixing things that should not be mixed.

This isn't a condemnation of male homosexuality at all - it's a condemnation of BIsexuality - a man cannot lie down (have sex with) a man who also has sex with women! This also fits well with the prohibitions about temple prostitution - it's very likely that male prostitutes had sex with both men and women. The verse has been twisted by many generations of translators and commentators making assumptions and allowing their own prejudices bleed through to their translations - but I'm pretty well convinced I have it right.

Rick's comment: Hi BobZ - Interesting take on these verses. Because bisexuals are such a small percentage of the human race, I think this view is a stretch yet in the Leviticus chapter of my book, Gay Christian 101, published in June, 2007, I list 18 possible interpretations of Lev 18:22 and 20:13. Here is interpretation #10.

"10. Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 forbid substitutional sexual behavior, i.e., heterosexual substitution for sexual gratification, a heterosexual or bisexual man lying with another man, as though he were lying with a woman - view of some liberal Jews.

Rabbi Gershon Caudill makes this argument. "It should be noted that it is not the normal homosexual practice for a man to lie with
another man as though he were laying with a (preferred) woman.

This is heterosexual substitution for sexual gratification. [In other words, a heterosexual man would do this but a homosexual man
would not.] In fact, if a man were thinking of using his sexual partner as though he were a woman, and not the man that he is, it would
not be a true homosexual relationship, as one of the parties involved is pretending that the person he is laying with is a (preferred)
woman. Why should he lay with a man when he could find women that would lay with him?"

Jun 08, 2016
Very interesting debate
by: Researcher

I am hot on the trail with this topic as well. it would seem that in every case where a verse is said to be against homosexuality, when looking at the translated hebrew or greek words it paints a different picture.

As of right now I am inclined to think what somebody just said above, that is that the verse in question was talking about "men that lay with women". Lets think about this. why the need to further complicate the writing if it just meant "men with men"?

I notice that the word translated as "men" is a completely different word from the word translated as "mankind". What would be the reason to not just re use the same word "men" again in that verse?? obviously the word translated as "mankind" means something else other than "men".

Rick's comment: Hi Researcher - Here are the Hebrew words of Leviticus 18:22.

we know the english translation is completely wrong because "mankind" would include woman. mankind is our KIND as human beings so we know this is way off base. It doesn't take a linguistic scholar to see this. This topic of homo sexuality is not the only place we find these hidden clues to the true meaning of important verses.

Rick's comment: I don't follow your logic. The old KJV is perfectly fine, perfectly accurate. To say it is completely wrong indicates lack of knowledge on your part.

Stuff like this is being found in other places about other topics and this issue seems to follow the pattern of other truths that have been found. At this point there is ample evidence to at very least but the brakes on regular homosexual condemnation until further deep study can be done. I definitely see that ANY sexual act that is used as a ritual or sex magic is an abomination, that is what seems to be pretty clear and common sense.

What we see with this issue reminds me of the instances where Jesus was criticized by the scribes and pharisees for doing something they thought the law forbid. But it would always turn out the the scribes and pharisees were guilty of ADDING or taking the law too far and out of context from what God said.

If it turns out to be true that "regular" "moral" homosexuality is natural to those that are born that way, then a wwwhhhoollllleeee lot of people are going to be held accountable for altering Gods word and prosecuting these people. There is going to be literal hell to pay.

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