You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister: for she is your mother's near kinswoman.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Thy mother’s sister.—Equally forbidden is the aunt by the mother’s side. The law which obtained in the time of Christ also defines this prohibition to extend to a mother’s sister or half-sister by the same father or mother, whether born in wedlock or out of it. It is remarkable that the administrators of the law during the second Temple understood this last prohibition strictly to apply to alliances between nephews and aunts, but not vice versâ to marriages between nieces and uncles. They regarded intermarriage between uncle and niece as an especially meritorious act, and interpreted the promises “then shalt thou call and the Lord shall answer” (Isaiah 58:9) to refer more particularly to the man “who loves his neighbours, befriends his relations, marries his brother’s daughter, and lends money to the poor in the hour of need.” This is in accordance with the fact that not only do we find that Nahor married Milcah the daughter of his brother Haran(Genesis 11:29), but that Othniel, the son of Kenaz, married his niece Achsah, being the daughter of Caleb, his father’s brother (Joshua 15:17; Judges 1:13). Hence among the Jews to this day intermarriages between uncles and nieces is of common occurrence.Exodus 6:20 seems to show that marriage with an aunt was not considered wrong by the Israelites when they were in Egypt.
for she is thy mother's near kinswoman; the same phraseology is used here as in the preceding verse; See Gill on Leviticus 18:12; and by the same rule a woman might not marry her uncle, whether by father or mother's side, the relation being the same, and this reaches to great-uncle and great-aunt; instances of women marrying their uncles, and men their aunts, among the Heathens, have been given, as among the Persians and Lacedaemonians by Herodotus (l), and among the Romans by Tacitus (m), but were, in his time, new things with the latter.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister: for she is thy mother's near kinswoman.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Leviticus 18:6 with the general prohibition, descriptive of the nature of this sin, "None of you shall approach בּשׂרו אל־כּל־שׁאר to any flesh of his flesh, to uncover nakedness." The difference between שׁאר flesh, and בּשׂר flesh, is involved in obscurity, as both words are used in connection with edible flesh (see the Lexicons). "Flesh of his flesh" is a flesh that is of his own flesh, belongs to the same flesh as himself (Genesis 2:24), and is applied to a blood-relation, blood-relationship being called שׁארה (or flesh-kindred) in Hebrew (Leviticus 18:17). Sexual intercourse is called uncovering the nakedness of another (Ezekiel 16:36; Ezekiel 23:18). The prohibition relates to both married and unmarried intercourse, though the reference is chiefly to the former (see Leviticus 18:18; Leviticus 20:14, Leviticus 20:17, Leviticus 20:21). Intercourse is forbidden (1) with a mother, (2) with a step-mother, (3) with a sister or half-sister, (4) with a granddaughter, the daughter of either son or daughter, (5) with the daughter of a step-mother, (6) with an aunt, the sister of either father or mother, (7) with the wife of an uncle on the father's side, (8) with a daughter-in-law, (9) with a sister-in-law, or brother's wife, (10) with a woman and her daughter, or a woman and her granddaughter, and (11) with two sisters at the same time. No special reference is made to sexual intercourse with (a) a daughter, (b) a full sister, (c) a mother-in-law; the last, however, which is mentioned in Deuteronomy 27:23 as an accursed crime, is included here in No. 10, and the second in No. 3, whilst the first, like parricide in Exodus 21:15, is not expressly noticed, simply because the crime was regarded as one that never could occur. Those mentioned under Nos. 1, 2, 3, 8, and 10 were to be followed by the death or extermination of the criminals (Leviticus 20:11-12, Leviticus 20:14, Leviticus 20:17), on account of their being accursed crimes (Deuteronomy 23:1; Deuteronomy 27:20, Deuteronomy 27:22-23). On the other hand, the only threat held out in the case of the connection mentioned under Nos. 6, 7, and 9, was that those who committed such crimes should bear their iniquity, or die childless (Leviticus 20:19-21). The cases noticed under Nos. 4 and 5 are passed over in ch. 20, though they no doubt belonged to the crimes which were to be punished with death, and No. 11, for which no punishment was fixed, because the wrong had been already pointed out in Leviticus 18:18.
(Note: The marriage laws and customs were much more lax among the Gentiles. With the Egyptians it was lawful to marry sisters and half-sisters (Diod. Sic. i. 27), and the licentiousness of the women was very great among them (see at Genesis 39:6.). With the Persians marriage was allowed with mother, daughter, and sister (Clem. Al. strom. iii. p. 431; Eusebii praep. ev. vi. 10); and this is also said to have been the case with the Medians, Indians, and Ethiopians, as well as with the Assyrians (Jerome adv. Jovin. ii. 7; Lucian, Sacriff. 5); whereas the Greeks and Romans abhorred such marriages, and the Athenians and Spartans only permitted marriages with half-sisters (cf. Selden de jure nat. et gent. v. 11, pp. 619ff.). The ancient Arabs, before the time of Mohammed, were very strict in this respect, and would not allow of marriage with a mother, daughter, or aunt on either the father's or mother's side, or with two sisters at the same time. The only cases on record of marriage between brothers and sisters are among the Arabs of Marbat (Seetzen, Zach's Mon. Corresp. Oct. 1809). This custom Mohammed raised into a law, and extended it to nieces, nurses, foster-sisters, etc. (Koran, Sure iv. 20ff.).)
Elaborate commentaries upon this chapter are to be found in Michaelis Abhandl. ber die Ehegesetze Mosis, and his Mos. Recht; also in Saalschtz Mos. Recth. See also my Archologie ii. p. 108. For the rabbinical laws and those of the Talmud, see Selden oxur ebr. lib. 1, c. 1ff., and Saalschtz ut sup.
The enumeration of the different cases commences in Leviticus 18:7 very appropriately with the prohibition of incest with a mother. Sexual connection with a mother is called "uncovering the nakedness of father and mother." As husband and wife are one flesh (Genesis 2:24), the nakedness of the husband is uncovered in that of his wife, or, as it is described in Deuteronomy 22:30; Deuteronomy 27:20, the wing, i.e., the edge, of the bedclothes of the father's bed, as the husband spreads his bedclothes over his wife as well as himself (Ruth 3:9). For, strictly speaking, ערוה גּלּה is only used with reference to the wife; but in the dishonouring of his wife the honour of the husband is violated also, and his bed defiled, Genesis 49:4. It is wrong, therefore, to interpret the verse, as Jonathan and Clericus do, as relating to carnal intercourse between a daughter and father. Not only is this at variance with the circumstance that all these laws are intended for the man alone, and addressed expressly to him, but also with Leviticus 18:8, where the nakedness of the father's wife is distinctly called the father's shame.
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