Leviticus 20:13 brings the prohibition of homosexuality:

וְאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִשְׁכַּ֤ב אֶת־זָכָר֙ מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אִשָּׁ֔ה תֹּועֵבָ֥ה עָשׂ֖וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֑ם מֹ֥ות יוּמָ֖תוּ דְּמֵיהֶ֥ם בָּֽם׃

And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

In the beginning of the verse, the Hebrew word אִישׁ is used, but later the word זָכָר is used. They seem to have the same translation to me. What is the practical difference between these two words?

  • Ibn Ezra hints to androgynous people. I don't completely understand what he's saying. But, it's possible that this may be the reason for using the term zachar, as the verse may be hinting at not having relations with an androgynous. Perhaps, you or another reader can extract something from Ibn Ezra?
    – DanF
    Jun 6, 2018 at 13:33
  • Sorry about that - I wrote the above comment before you mentioned which verse it was. The Ibn Ezra I refer to is for Vayikra 18:22 which uses similar language, but without the word ish. There's a part there where he mentions hermaphrodites or someone who grafts something onto the body that looks like a female organ. Thus, perhaps, this is the reason for saying zachar which means, male - thus being specific to the physical birth gender, regardless of what a person pretends to be by attaching the organ or having both organs. "To dwell on this subject any further is distasteful".
    – DanF
    Jun 6, 2018 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


The Torah Temimah explains the difference by citing from the Talmud hat the word "ish" is used to exclude a minor and "zachar" to imply whether this is an adult or a minor.

  • So what, the passuk says איש to exclude women, and זכר to include children? Why not just use זכר?
    – DonielF
    Jun 3, 2019 at 17:17

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