Leviticus 20:1-4

Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him. I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molek, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name.

The text here is really perplexing, first the text orders the stoning of the worshipper of Molekh, but then in the next verse it states that God will set his face against the worshipper and cut him off from his people. But isn't he dead already, as he was to be stoned by the community? How can the person be cut off again? (It cannot refer to his children's death, for the curse is clearly directed at "him". Compare to v. 5) I saw one of the commentators suggesting that this refers to the afterlife, the man not only will his body perish but also his soul will be cut off from the afterlife (heaven/paradise or however it was viewed by the biblical authors). Is this solid evidence that the authors of the OT believed in the afterlife (unlike the consensus of biblical scholars), if not, how else would you explain this perplexing text?

1 Answer 1


Ellicott explains it this way:

And will cut him off.--As the preceding verse describes the offender as having been stoned to death by the people, the declaration on the part of God that He will cut off the sinner has occasioned some difficulty. Hence some take it simply to express the same thing--that the judicial execution is God's mode of cutting off the sinner from his people. According to the administrators of the law during the second Temple, however, the legislator supposes a case where the man has been actually guilty of the crime, and that there has not been a sufficient amount of evidence to convict him. In that case God himself would interpose and cut the offender off. This is more in accordance with what follows.

Gill also expresses that in case of insufficient evidence, God himself would intervene.

Is this solid evidence that the authors of the OT believed in the afterlife?

Not exactly, for my reading, I do think that Leviticus 20:1-4 is a hint to a possible afterlife.

  • This seems a very fair and balanced read of the text. Upvoted +1 Apr 25, 2021 at 17:06

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