Leviticus 18:6
None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD.
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(6) None of you shall approach.—Literally, man, man, ye shall not approach. It is part of the phrase used in Leviticus 17:3; Leviticus 17:8; Leviticus 17:13, and should accordingly be rendered by no man whatsoever shall approach. The absence of the words “of the house of Israel,” which, in the other instances, form part of this phrase, as we are assured by the authorities in the time of Christ, shows that these prohibitions are also binding upon the stranger who took up his abode among the Israelites, lest the land be defiled by his transgressions. Though primarily addressed to man, who, in these cases, takes the initiative, the punishment for violating any of these laws was visited upon both man and woman.

Near of kin to him.—Literally, the flesh of his flesh. (See Psalm 73:26; Psalm 78:20; Psalm 78:27; Micah 3:2-3.) The combination of two synonymous expressions is often used to denote intensity. Thus the phrase rendered “my exceeding joy” in the Authorised Version (Psalm 43:4), literally means the joy of my joy, or, as the Margin has it, “the gladness of my joy.” Accordingly, “the flesh of his flesh” signified “nearness of his flesh,” his near kin. This technical sense is assigned to the first of these two words by itself in Leviticus 18:12-13, &c, where it is translated “near kinswoman.” It expresses kinship of both consanguinity and mere affinity. (See Leviticus 18:17.)

To uncover their nakedness.—Upon the import of this phrase depends the interpretation of the laws laid down in this chapter and chapter 20, inasmuch as it furnishes the clue to the definition whether the interdicts refer to illicit commerce or to incestuous marriages. In the only other passage in the Pentateuch where it occurs, it does not appear to imply any unseemly intention (Exodus 20:26). This is also its sense in Isaiah 47:3. In the seven instances in Ezekiel, however (Ezekiel 16:36-37; Ezekiel 22:10; Ezekiel 23:10; Ezekiel 23:18; Ezekiel 23:29), which are the only other passages in the Bible where this phrase is used, it denotes unseemly exposure, sexual intercourse, etc. Hence some high authorities maintain that in the twenty-one instances in which it is used in this part of the legislation (Leviticus 18:6-19; Leviticus 20:11; Leviticus 20:17; Leviticus 20:20-21), it denotes extra-conjugal licentiousness, and is simply an explanatory addition to the phrase “approach to,” with which it is combined in Leviticus 18:6; Leviticus 18:14; Leviticus 18:18. From a comparison, however, of Leviticus 18:18 with Leviticus 18:19 to Leviticus 20:11, it will be seen that it is undoubtedly used to denote sexual intercourse both within and without the pale of matrimony. As cohabitation without any religious ceremony whatever constituted and consummated marriage amongst the early Hebrews, the euphemistic phrases “to take home,” “to approach to,” “to know,” etc., as well as the less veiled expressions, “to lie with,” “to uncover her nakedness,” etc., denote marriage in Hebrew, not excluding, however, the primary sense of illicit commerce or incestuous marriages. The context in which the phrase occurs must determine the sense in which it is used. The administrators of the law during the second Temple, whilst rightly interpreting it here generally to denote incestuous marriages, also apply it in some instances to fornication and adultery.

Leviticus 18:6. The first of these prohibitions is against all improper and incestuous marriages, a thing very common among the Canaanitish nations and in Egypt, even to the last degree of unnatural mixtures. Diodorus Siculus relates, that it was permitted by law in the latter country, contrary to the custom of other nations, that a man might marry his own sister. None of you shall approach — The prohibition is absolute, and no advances were to be made toward its violation. Indeed the only way to avoid actual transgressions, is to resist and guard against the first motions of evil. Principiis obsta, withstand the first approach of sin, is a most important precept. And it is to be well observed, that as these laws forbade marriages between near relations, they certainly much more prohibited unchastity between them, and every approach to it. Any that is near akin to him — Hebrew, The remainder of his flesh; that is, his immediate relations, so near akin to him, that they are, as we say, his own flesh and blood; such as a man’s sister, mother, daughter. Indeed, had near relations been allowed to marry each other, the most mischievous and fatal consequences must have resulted from it. For being much together in youth, temptations to unchastity would frequently have been too powerful to have been resisted. But, by such a restriction as this, being taught to look upon all such intercourse as prohibited and incestuous, they were assisted to withstand temptations to evil.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.Near of kin - See the margin. The term was evidently used to denote those only who came within certain limits of consanguinity, together with those who by affinity were regarded in the same relationship.

To uncover their nakedness - i. e. to have sexual intercourse. The immediate object of this law was to forbid incest.

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. None, Heb. no man, For though the women also be bound by this law, yet the men alone are mentioned, both because they are most active in the choice of their yoke-fellows, and therefore most likely to transgress these laws, and because they having authority over the women, could have the greater influence upon them, by their power, counsel, or example, to oblige them either to the observation or violation of them.

Approach: this word signifies the conjugal act here, as it doth Genesis 20:4 Isaiah 8:3; but because it is ambiguous in itself, it is so limited and explained in the end of the verse.

To any that is near of kin to him: this is the general rule, which is particularly expounded and applied in the following instances. And these laws are so just and reasonable, that although the barbarous nations did allow of such incestuous marriages, yet wiser and civil heathens by the mere light of nature condemned them, as may be seen in Suetonius, Tacitus, Catullus, and others.

Their nakedness, i.e. their secret parts, so called to put us in mind of the fall of our first parents, whose first sense and shame of their nakedness had its rise from thence. This phrase notes the same thing with knowing, Genesis 4:1; and with discovering one’s skirt, Deu 22:30 27:20. 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.

None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to {c} uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD.

(c) That is, to lie with her, though it be under title of marriage.

6. A general exhortation (hence perhaps the plural; see above), introductory to the enumeration of specific cases. Baentsch attributes it to the author of the preceding verses.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). "For as for the soul of all flesh...its blood makes out its soul:" i.e., "this is the case with the soul of all flesh, that it is its blood which makes out its soul." בּנפשׁו is to be taken as a predicate in its meaning, introduced with beth essentiale. It is only as so understood, that the clause supplies a reason at all in harmony with the context. Because the distinguishing characteristic of the blood as, that it was the soul of the being when living in the flesh; therefore it was not to be eaten in the case of any animal: and even in the case of animals that were not proper for sacrifice, it was to be allowed to run out upon the ground, and then covered with earth, or, so to speak, buried.

(Note: On the truth which lay at the foundation of this idea of the unity of the soul and blood, which others of the ancients shared with the Hebrews, particularly the early Greek philosophers, see Delitzsch's bibl. Psychol. pp. 242ff. "It seems at first sight to be founded upon no other reason, than that a sudden diminution of the quantity of the blood is sure to cause death. But this phenomenon rests upon the still deeper ground, that all the activity of the body, especially that of the nervous and muscular systems, is dependent upon the circulation of the blood; for if the flow of blood is stopped from any part of the body, all its activity ceases immediately; a sensitive part loses all sensation in a very few minutes, and muscular action is entirely suspended... The blood is really the basis of the physical life; and so far the soul, as the vital principle of the body, is pre-eminently in the blood" (p. 245).)

- Lastly (Leviticus 17:15, Leviticus 17:16), the prohibition against eating "that which died" (Leviticus 11:39-40), or "that which was torn" (Exodus 22:30), is renewed and supplemented by the law, that whoever, either of the natives or of foreigners, should eat the flesh of that which had fallen (died a natural death), or had been torn in pieces by wild beasts (sc., thoughtlessly or in ignorance; cf. Leviticus 5:2), and neglected the legal purification afterwards, was to bear his iniquity (Leviticus 5:1). Of course the flesh intended is that of animals which were clean, and therefore allowable as food, when properly slaughtered, and which became unclean simply from the fact, that when they had died a natural death, or had been torn to pieces by wild beasts, the blood remained in the flesh, or did not flow out in a proper manner. According to Exodus 22:30, the נבלה (that which had fallen) was to be thrown to the dogs; but in Deuteronomy 14:21 permission is given either to sell it or give it to a stranger or alien, to prevent the plea that it was a pity that such a thing should be entirely wasted, and so the more effectually to secure the observance of the command, that it was not to be eaten by an Israelite.

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