|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.
Verses 7, 8. - Incest with a stepmother is placed next after that with a mother. On account of the unity caused by marriage ("they shall be one flesh," Genesis 2:24), the stepmother's nakedness is the father's nakedness. The tie of affinity is thus declared to be similar in its effects to the tie of consanguinity. Reuben's sin, by which he forfeited his birthright, is connected with this offense, but is of a more heinous character, as his father was alive at the time of his transgression (Genesis 49:4). It is one of the sins which Ezekiel enumerates as those which brought the judgment of God on Israel (Ezekiel 22:10). "That one should have his father's wife" is declared by St. Paul to be "such fornication as is not named among the Gentiles," and to call for the excommunication of the offender (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). Adonijah's marriage with Abishag, so strongly resented by Solomon on political grounds, is not denounced as morally reprehensible, probably because Abishag was not the wife of David in such a way as to cause the marriage with his son to be abominable in the eye of the law (cf. 1 Kings 1:4 with Amos 2:7). Absalom's" going in unto his father's concubines" was regarded as the final act which made reconciliation with his father impossible (2 Samuel 16:22; 2 Samuel 20:3). The history of the Church has shown that marriage with the stepmother has had to be again and again prohibited by Council after Council (see Smith and Cheetham's 'Dictionary of Antiquities,' s.v. 'Prohibited Degrees').
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother,
shall thou not uncover,.... By uncovering a father's nakedness is not meant anything similar to what befell Noah, which Ham beheld with pleasure, and the other two sons of Noah studiously and with reverence to their father covered; nor any sodomitical practice of a son with his father; as Gersom interprets it; but the same is meant by both phrases, and the words are by many interpreters thus rendered, "the nakedness of thy father, that is (x), the nakedness of thy mother thou shalt not uncover": for what is the mother's is the father's, and uncovering the one is uncovering the other; wherefore the mother only is made mention of in the next clause, where the reason of this prohibition is given:
she is thy mother, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness; that is, not lie with her, nor marry her, because she is his mother that bore him, of whom he was born, and therefore ought not to become his wife, or be taken into his bed; such a marriage must be incestuous and shocking; such were the marriages of Oedipus with his mother Jocasta, and of Nero with Agrippina; though the words will bear another sense, that a woman may not marry her father, which may be meant by the first clause, nor a man his mother, intended in the next; and where indeed it is not expressed, females in the same degree of relation are included with the males, and under the same prohibition; and so the Targum of Jonathan explains this, a woman shall not have to do with her father, nor a man with his mother; as Lot's two daughters had with him, and the Persians with their mothers; among whom such incestuous marriages and copulations were frequent, and especially among their Magi (y) who might not perform their office unless they had lain with their mothers, sisters, and daughters (z), or were begotten in such incest (a): a man guilty of such incestuous copulations was cursed by the law of Moses, Deuteronomy 27:20; this is contrary to nature, what the brute creation abhors; a camel will not cover its dam: Aristotle (b) reports of one who was betrayed into it by his keeper, who, after he had discovered it, fixed his teeth in him and slew him; and he also relates of a horse after that he had ignorantly done the same, ran away in great haste and cast himself down from a precipice headlong.
(x) "id est, nuditatem vel pudenda", Vatablus, Fagius, Piscator. (y) Sex. Empir. Pyrrh. l. 3. c. 24. (z) Patricides apud Selden. de jure natur. Gent. l. 5. c. 11. p. 624. (a) "Nam magus ex matre et gnato nascatur oportet." Catull. Epigr. 91. (b) Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 47.
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