Are there two types of men in Leviticus 20:13?


  • David Instone-Brewer Tyndale House, Cambridge



Leviticus, homosexuality, Akkadian, zakar


The law of Leviticus 20:13 contains a curious non-symmetry: “a man [’ish, אִישׁ] may not lie with a male [zakar, זָכָר]”.  If the purpose of the law was to forbid sexual activity between two people of the same sex, we would expect two identical terms for “man” to emphasise their similarity. The paper looks at two possible ways to account for this non-symmetry: it may be due to merging legislation from two sources, or the two terms may be synonymous. While surveying the concept of homoerotic inclination in the large corpus of Akkadian texts, the cognate term zikaru is found in two of these texts where its meaning of “male” implied heteroerotic inclination.  If this meaning existed also in Hebrew, the two types of male who must not lie together may refer to “any male” (’ish) and a “heteroerotic male” (zakar). In this case, sexual activity between two homoerotically inclined males may still be regarded as immoral, but it was a capital crime only if a heteroerotic male was involved. The possibility of this interpretation means it is no longer certain that Leviticus condemned all homoerotic activity.




How to Cite

Instone-Brewer , D. (2020). Are there two types of men in Leviticus 20:13?. HIPHIL Novum, 6(1), 33–49.