|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:1-30 Unlawful marriages and fleshly lusts. - Here is a law against all conformity to the corrupt usages of the heathen. Also laws against incest, against brutal lusts, and barbarous idolatries; and the enforcement of these laws from the ruin of the Canaanites. God here gives moral precepts. Close and constant adherence to God's ordinances is the most effectual preservative from gross sin. The grace of God only will secure us; that grace is to be expected only in the use of the means of grace. Nor does He ever leave any to their hearts' lusts, till they have left him and his services.
Verse 6. - The next thirteen verses contain the law of incest, or the prohibited degrees of marriage. The positive law of marriage, as implanted in the human heart, would be simply that any man of full age might marry any woman of full age, provided that both parties were willing. But this liberty is at once controlled by a number of restrictions, the main purpose of which is to prevent incest, which, however much one nation may come to be indifferent to one form of it, and another to another, is yet abhorrent to the feelings and principles of mankind. The Hebrew restrictive law is contained in one verse. None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him to uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord. All that follows (verses 9-18) is simply an amplification and an explanation of the words, near of kin to him. These words would be literally rendered, flesh of his flesh, or less probably (as in the margin), remainder of his flesh. They certainly include within the compass of their meaning those that are near by affinity, as much as those that are near by consanguinity. This is proved by the instances given below, where no difference is drawn between blood relations and relations by marriage, the latter being supposed to become the former, in consequence of the marriage that has taken place. Nearness of kin is generally counted by "degrees;" but, unfortunately, this word is itself ambiguous, for it is used in different senses by canonists and by civilians. So far as the direct line is concerned, the same method of calculation is observed by the canon and by the civil law. There is one degree from the son to the mother, two degrees to the grandmother; one degree from the father to the daughter, two degrees to the granddaughter. But this is not so with the collateral lines. A brother and sister, for example, are regarded by the canon law as in the first degree of kinship, because there is only one step to the father, in whom their blood meets; but the civil lawyers consider them as being in the second degree, because, as they calculate, there is one step from the brother to the father, and a second from the father to the sister. An aunt is, according to the canonists, in the second degree of propinquity, because there are two steps from her nephew to his grandfather, who is likewise her father, in whom their blood unites; but, according to the civilian's calculation, there are three steps, namely, from her nephew to his grandfather, two steps, and a third from that grandfather to his daughter the aunt; and therefore the aunt and nephew are in the third degree of propinquity. The case of an uncle and niece is exactly the same as that of a nephew and aunt. On the same principle, according to the canonists, first cousins are in the second degree of kinship; according to the civilians, in the fourth. Propinquity by affinity is calculated in just the same way; so that the brother's wife is in the same degree of relationship as the brother, and wife's sister as the sister by blood. In the code before us, confirmed by that in Deuteronomy, marriage is forbidden with the following blood relations: mother (verse 7), daughter (verse 17), sister (verse 9; Leviticus 20:17; Deuteronomy 27:22), granddaughter (verse 10), aunt (verses 12, 13; Leviticus 20:19); and with the following relations by affinity: mother-in-law (verse 17; chapter Leviticus 20:14; Deuteronomy 27:23), daughter-in-law (verse 15; Leviticus 20:12), brother's wife (verse 16; Leviticus 20:21), stepmother (verse 8; chapter 20:11; Deuteronomy 22:30; see Genesis 49:4; 1 Corinthians 5:1), stepdaughter and step-granddaughter (verse 17), uncle's wife, or aunt by marriage (verse 14; Leviticus 20:20); putting aside for the present the question of who is meant by a wife to her sister, in verse 18. In these lists, according to the canonists' method of reckoning, the mother, the daughter, and the sister are related in the first degree of consanguinity; the wife's mother, the wife's daughter, the stepmother, the daughter-in-law, the brother's wife, are related in the first degree of affinity. The granddaughter and the aunt are in the second degree of consanguinity; the wife's granddaughter and the uncle's wife in the second degree of affinity. According to the civilians' reckoning, the following would be the degrees of propinquity: - The mother and the daughter would be in the first degree of consanguinity; the wife's mother, the wife's daughter, the stepmother, the daughter-in-law, would be in the first degree of affinity. The sister and the granddaughter would be in the second degree of consanguinity; the brother's wife and the wife's granddaughter would be in the second degree of affinity. The aunt by blood would be in the third degree of consanguinity, and the uncle's wife, or aunt by marriage, would be in the third degree of affinity. The wife's sister, with regard to whom it is questioned whether she is referred to or not in verse 18, is in the first degree of affinity (a man's wife being regarded as himself) according to the canonists' reckoning, and in the second according to the civilians'. There is no mention made in the code of the grandmother, the niece, and the cousin-german. All of these are in the second degree of consanguinity according to the canon law; and according to the civil law, the grandmother would be in the second degree, the niece in the third, and the cousin-german in the fourth. It may reasonably be supposed that by the expression, None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness, intercourse is forbidden between all those who are related by consanguinity or affinity in the first and second degrees according to the canonists' reckoning (except cousins-german, whose case is considered below); in the first, second, and third degrees 'according to the civilians' method of calculating; whether they are mentioned by name in the list or not. It is only by implication, not by direct injunction, that marriage even with a daughter is forbidden (verse 17).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him,.... Or to all "the rest of his flesh" (t), which together with his make one flesh, who are of the same flesh and blood with him, and are united together in the bonds of consanguinity; and such, with respect to a man, are his mother, sister, and daughter; his mother, of whom he was born, his sister, who lay in and sprung from the same "venter" he did, and his daughter, who is his own flesh; and with respect to a woman, her father brother, and son, who are in the same degree of relation, and both sexes are included in this prohibition; for though in the original text it is "a man, a man" (u), yet as it takes in every man, so every woman: hence, as Jarchi observes, it is expressed in the plural number, "do not ye approach", to caution both male and female; and it is also understood by the Talmudists (w) of Gentiles as well as Israelites, for they ask, what is the meaning of the phrase "a man, a man?" the design of it is, they say, to comprehend the Gentiles, who are equally cautioned against incests as the Israelites; and indeed the inhabitants of the land of Canaan are said to defile the land with the incests and other abominations hereafter mentioned, and for which they were driven out of it: now when man and woman are forbidden to "approach" to those of the same flesh and blood with them, the sense is not that they may not come into each other's company, or make use of any civil or friendly salutations, or have a free and familiar conversation with each other, provided that modesty and chastity be preserved; but they are not so to draw near as to lie with, or have carnal knowledge of one another, in which sense the phrase is used, Genesis 20:4; or to tempt to it or solicit it, and as it follows, which explains the meaning of it:
to uncover their nakedness; that is, those parts, which, by a contrary way of speaking, are so called, which should never be naked or exposed to view; but should be always covered, as nature teaches to do, and as our first parents did, when they perceived themselves naked, and were ashamed, Genesis 3:7, this phrase signifies the same as to lie with another, or have carnal knowledge of them, wherefore the following laws are generally understood of incestuous marriages; for if such an action is not to be done between persons standing in such a relation, as here in general, and afterwards more particularly described, then there ought to be no intermarriages between them; and if such marriages are forbidden, and such actions unlawful in a married state, then much more in an unmarried one; wherefore the several following instances are so many breaches of the seventh command, Exodus 20:14, and so many explications and illustrations of it, and consequently of a moral nature, and binding upon all men, Jews and Gentiles:
I am the Lord; that gave this caution, and enjoined this prohibition, and would greatly resent and severely revenge the neglect of it: the particulars follow.
(t) "ad omnes reliquias carnis suae", Montanus; "ad quascunque reliquias carnis suae", Tigurine version. (u) "vir, vir", Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius. (w) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 57. 2. T. Hieros. Kiddushin, fol. 58. 2, 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6. None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him—Very great laxity prevailed amongst the Egyptians in their sentiments and practice about the conjugal relation, as they not only openly sanctioned marriages between brothers and sisters, but even between parents and children. Such incestuous alliances Moses wisely prohibited, and his laws form the basis upon which the marriage regulations of this and other Christian nations are chiefly founded. This verse contains a general summary of all the particular prohibitions; and the forbidden intercourse is pointed out by the phrase, "to approach to." In the specified prohibitions that follow, all of which are included in this general summary, the prohibited familiarity is indicated by the phrases, to "uncover the nakedness" [Le 18:12-17], to "take" [Le 18:17, 18], and to "lie with" [Le 18:22, 23]. The phrase in this sixth verse, therefore, has the same identical meaning with each of the other three, and the marriages in reference to which it is used are those of consanguinity or too close affinity, amounting to incestuous connections.
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