Today’s reading begins with a description of the Day of Atonement for the nation of Israel and concludes with a reiteration of the holiness of God.
The Day of Atonement was an important yearly occurrence in the calendar of the Israelites. It was the day in which the priest made atonement for all of the sins of the nation of Israel. It involved sacrificing a bull and a ram and also two male goats and an additional ram. The bull was to be offered as a sacrifice for the priest himself, while a goat was offered on behalf of the people.
An interesting event on the day of atonement was the releasing of the scapegoat. The priest would place his hands on the head of the scapegoat and then confess all of the sins of the people over the live goat. The priest would then release the goat into the wilderness to bear the sins of the people away from the camp.
God is also very explicit in this passage about His stance against the people’s consumption of the blood of any living thing. The people groups among which the Israelites lived had made been in the habit of doing this, but God condemns this action. To God, the life of the flesh is in the blood and because of this, the flesh of living things was not to be consumed.
The next portion of the text deals with illicit sexual relations, and the punishment that each of the various activities would incur. I’m not going to beat anyone over the head with this passage. The reading and understanding of what this passage states has been clear for thousands of years and it’s understanding has only recently been questioned. I’ll leave my thoughts on Chapters 18-20 of Leviticus with a link to this excellent piece by Tim Keller at Redeemer. I can’t explain it any better and would fail if I tried: