Leviticus 18:18
New International Version
"'Do not take your wife's sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.

New Living Translation
"While your wife is living, do not marry her sister and have sexual relations with her, for they would be rivals.

English Standard Version
And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.

Berean Study Bible
You must not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is still alive.

New American Standard Bible
'You shall not marry a woman in addition to her sister as a rival while she is alive, to uncover her nakedness.

King James Bible
Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.

Christian Standard Bible
You are not to marry a woman as a rival to her sister and have sexual intercourse with her during her sister's lifetime.

Contemporary English Version
As long as your wife is alive, don't cause trouble for her by taking one of her sisters as a second wife.

Good News Translation
Do not take your wife's sister as one of your wives, as long as your wife is living.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
You are not to marry a woman as a rival to her sister and have sexual intercourse with her during her sister's lifetime."

International Standard Version
"You are not to marry a woman and then have sexual relations with her sister as a rival when your wife is still alive.

NET Bible
You must not take a woman in marriage and then marry her sister as a rival wife while she is still alive, to have sexual intercourse with her.

New Heart English Bible
"'You shall not take a wife to her sister, to be a rival, to uncover her nakedness, while her sister is yet alive.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
While your wife is living, never marry her sister as a rival wife and have sexual intercourse with her.

JPS Tanakh 1917
And thou shalt not take a woman to her sister, to be a rival to her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her lifetime.

New American Standard 1977
‘And you shall not marry a woman in addition to her sister as a rival while she is alive, to uncover her nakedness.

Jubilee Bible 2000
Neither shalt thou take a woman together with her sister, to make her a rival, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her lifetime.

King James 2000 Bible
Neither shall you take as a wife her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.

American King James Version
Neither shall you take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.

American Standard Version
And thou shalt not take a wife to her sister, to be a rival to her , to uncover her nakedness, besides the other in her life-time.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Thou shalt not take thy wife's sister for a harlot, to rival her, neither shalt thou discover her nakedness, while she is yet living.

Darby Bible Translation
And thou shalt not take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness beside her, during her life.

English Revised Version
And thou shalt not take a woman to her sister, to be a rival to her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.

Webster's Bible Translation
Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness besides the other in her life-time.

World English Bible
"'You shall not take a wife to her sister, to be a rival, to uncover her nakedness, while her sister is yet alive.

Young's Literal Translation
'And a woman unto another thou dost not take, to be an adversary, to uncover her nakedness beside her, in her life.
Study Bible HEB ▾ 
Unlawful Sexual Relations
17You must not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. You are not to marry her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter and have sexual relations with her. They are close relatives; it is depraved. 18You must not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is still alive. 19You must not approach a woman to have sexual relations with her during her menstrual period.…
Cross References
Leviticus 18:17
You must not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. You are not to marry her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter and have sexual relations with her. They are close relatives; it is depraved.

Leviticus 18:19
You must not approach a woman to have sexual relations with her during her menstrual period.

Treasury of Scripture

Neither shall you take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.

wife. or, one wife to another

Genesis 4:19 And Lamech took to him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and …

Genesis 29:28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel …

Exodus 26:3 The five curtains shall be coupled together one to another; and other …

to vex her

Genesis 30:15 And she said to her, Is it a small matter that you have taken my …

1 Samuel 1:6-8 And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because …

Malachi 2:15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And …







Lexicon
You must not
לֹ֣א (lō)
Adverb - Negative particle
Strong's Hebrew 3808: Not, no

take
תִקָּ֑ח (ṯiq·qāḥ)
Verb - Qal - Imperfect - second person masculine singular
Strong's Hebrew 3947: To take

your wife’s
וְאִשָּׁ֥ה (wə·’iš·šāh)
Conjunctive waw | Noun - feminine singular
Strong's Hebrew 802: Woman, wife, female

sister
אֲחֹתָ֖הּ (’ă·ḥō·ṯāh)
Noun - feminine singular construct | third person feminine singular
Strong's Hebrew 269: Sister -- a sister

as a rival wife
לִצְרֹ֗ר (liṣ·rōr)
Preposition-l | Verb - Qal - Infinitive construct
Strong's Hebrew 6887: To bind, tie up, be restricted, narrow, scant, or cramped

and have sexual relations
לְגַלּ֧וֹת (lə·ḡal·lō·wṯ)
Preposition-l | Verb - Piel - Infinitive construct
Strong's Hebrew 1540: To denude, to exile, to reveal

with her
עָלֶ֖יהָ (‘ā·le·hā)
Preposition | third person feminine singular
Strong's Hebrew 5921: Above, over, upon, against

while your wife is still alive.
בְּחַיֶּֽיהָ׃ (bə·ḥay·ye·hā)
Preposition-b | Noun - masculine plural construct | third person feminine singular
Strong's Hebrew 2416: Alive, raw, fresh, strong, life
(18) A wife to her sister.--That is, a man is here forbidden to take a second sister for a wife to or in addition to the one who is already his wife, and who is still alive. This clause therefore forbids the Jews, who were permitted to have several wives, a particular kind of polygamy, i.e., a plurality of sisters. According to the administrators of the law during the second Temple, the expression "sister" here not only denotes a full sister by the same father and the same mother, but a half-sister either by the same father or the same mother. The marginal rendering in the Authorised Version, "one wife to another," which makes this a prohibition of polygamy, and which was first proposed by Junius and Tremelius in 1575, is (1) contrary to the expressions "wife" and "sister," which, in every verse of these prohibitions (see Leviticus 18:8-9; Leviticus 18:11-17), invariably mean wife and sister. (2) Whenever the phrase, "a man to his brother," or "a woman to her sister," is used metaphorically in the sense of "one to" or "one with another" (Exodus 26:3; Exodus 26:5-6; Exodus 26:17; Ezekiel 1:9; Ezekiel 1:23; Ezekiel 3:13, &c.), the words have always a distributive force, and are invariably preceded by a plural verb, and the things themselves to which they refer are mentioned by name. Thus, for instance, in Ezekiel 1:23, it is, "their wings were straight one toward the other," which is not the case in the passage before us. (3) This rendering is at variance with the Mosaic code, which bases its legislation upon the existence of polygamy, and thus authorises it, as will be seen from the following facts. It permits a father, who had given his son a bond-woman for a wife, to give him a second wife of "freer birth," and prescribes how the first is to be treated under such circumstances (Exodus 21:9-10). It ordains that a king "shall not multiply wives unto himself" (Deuteronomy 17:17), which, as Bishop Patrick rightly remarks, "is not a prohibition to take more wives than one, but not to have an excessive number"; thus, in fact, legalising a moderate number. The law of primogeniture presupposes the case of a man having two wives (Deuteronomy 21:15-17), and the Levitical law expressly enjoins that a man, though having a wife already, is to marry his deceased brother's widow (Deuteronomy 25:17). Hence we find that the judges and kings of Israel had many wives (Judges 10:4, Judges 12:9; 1Samuel 1:2; 2Samuel 3:7). David, the royal singer of Israel, "their best king," as Bishop Patrick remarks, "who read God's word day and night and could not but understand it, took many wives without reproof; nay, God gave him more than he had before by delivering his master's wives to him" (2Samuel 12:8), and the case adduced in the previous verse plainly shows that polygamy continued among the Jews after the destruction of the second Temple (Leviticus 18:10). (4) The Jews to whom this law was given to be observed in their every day life, and to whom the right understanding of its import was of the utmost importance, inasmuch as it involved the happiness of their families, the transgression of it being visited with capital punishment, have, as far as we can trace it, always interpreted this precept as referring to marriage with two sisters together. Hence the ancient canonical interpretation of it is embodied in the Chaldee Version, "a woman in the lifetime of her sister thou shalt not take," in the LXX., Vulg., the Syriac, and all the ancient versions.

To vex her.--That is, by marrying also the younger sister, the first, who is already the wife, would be roused to jealousy, and the natural love of sisters would thus be converted into enmity, thus precluding the occurrence of a case like that of Jacob with Leah and Rachel. (See Genesis 29:30.)

In her life-time.--This limits the prohibition to her lifetime, that is, as long as the sister who was first married is still living, he must not marry another of her sisters, but he may marry her when the first one is dead. According to the authorities during the second Temple, "in her lifetime" also includes a woman who had been divorced from her husband, and though she is no longer his wife, yet as long as she lives he is forbidden to marry her sister. When the wife died, he was not only free to marry her sister, but in case the deceased left issue, it was regarded as a specially meritorious thing for the widower to do so. Hence the Jews from time immemorial have afforded the bereaved husband special facilities to marry his deceased wife's sister, by allowing the alliance to take place within a shorter period after the demise of his first wife than is usually the case.

Verse 18. - Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time. Do these words refer to the marriage of two sisters or not? It has been passionately affirmed that they do, by those who are opposed to permission being granted for marriage with a deceased wife's sister, and by those who are in favour of that measure, each party striving to derive from the text an argument for the side which they are maintaining. But Holy Scripture ought not to be made a quarry whence partisans hew arguments for views which they have already adopted, nor is that the light in which a commentator can allow himself to regard it. A reverent and profound study of the passage before us, with its context, leads to the conclusion that the words have no bearing at all on the question of marriage with a deceased wife's sister, and thus it may be removed from the area and atmosphere of angry polemics. It is certain that the words translated a wife to her sister may be translated, in accordance with the marginal rendering, one wife to another. The objections made to such a version are arbitrary and unconvincing. It is in accordance with the genius of the Hebrew language to take "father," "son, brother," "sister," in a much wider acceptation than is the case in the Western tongues. Anything that produces or causes is metaphorically a "father;" anything produced or caused is a "son;" any things akin to each other in form, shape, character, or nature, are "brothers" and "sisters." This is the name given to the loops of the curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:3, 5, 6), the tenons of the boards (Exodus 26:17), and the wings of the cherubim (Ezekiel 1:11, 23). Indeed, wherever the expression, "a man to his brother," or "a woman to her sister," is used (and it is used very frequently) in the Hebrew Scriptures, it means not two brothers or two sisters, but two things or persons similar in kind. This does more than raise a presumption - it creates a high probability - that the expression should be understood in the same way here. But a difficulty then arises. If the right reading is, Neither shalt thou take one wife to another, does not the verse forbid polygamy altogether, and is not polygamy permitted by Exodus 21:7-11; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; Deuteronomy 17:17? Certainly, if so important a restriction was to be made, we should expect it to be made directly, and in a manner which could not be disputed. Is there any way out of the difficulty? Let us examine each word of the Law. Neither shalt thou take one wife to another, to vex, to uncover her nakedness upon her in her life time. The two words, to vex, have not been sufficiently dwelt on. The Hebrew, tsarar, means to distress by packing closely together, and so, to vex, or to annoy in any way. Here is to be found the ground of the prohibition contained in the law before us. A man is not to take for a second wife a woman who is likely, from spiteful temper or for other reasons, to vex the first wife. Rachel vexed Leah; Peninnah vexed Hannah; the first pair were blood relations, the second were not; but under the present law the second marriage would in both cases have been equally forbidden, if the probability of the provocation had been foreseen. It follows that polygamy is not prohibited by the text before us, but that the liberty of the polygamist is somewhat circumscribed by the application of the law of charity. It follows, too, that the law has no bearing on the question of marriage with a deceased wife's sister, which is neither forbidden nor allowed by it. Are we then to conclude that the Law of Moses leaves the case of the wife's sister untouched? Not so, for the general principle has been laid down, None of you shall approach to any, that is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness, and, as we have seen, the expression, near of kin, includes relations by affinity equally with blood relations; as therefore the wife's sister is in the canonists' first degree of affinity (and in the second according to the civilians), it is reasonably inferred that marriage with her is forbidden under the above law, and this inference is confirmed by marriage with the other sister-in-law - the brother's wife - being, as the rule, prohibited. It can hardly be doubted that marriage with the grandmother and with the niece - both in the second degree of consanguinity according to the canonists, and the third degree according to the civilians - and incest with a daughter are forbidden under the same clause. The present verse completes the Levitical code of prohibited degrees. The Roman code of restrictions on marriage was almost identical with the Mosaic tables. It only differed from them by specifically naming the grandmother and the niece among the blood relations with whom a marriage might not be contracted, and omitting the brother's wife among relatives by affinity. In the time of Claudius, a change was introduced into it, for the purpose of gratifying the emperor's passion for Agrippina, which legalized marriage with a brother's daughter. This legalization con-tinned in force until the time of Constantius, who made marriage with a niece a capital crime. The imperial code and the canon law were framed upon the Mosaic and the Roman tables, and under them no question arose, except as to the marriage of the niece, the decreased wife's sister, and the first cousin. Marriage with the niece was forbidden by Constantius, as we have said, in the year 355, on penalty of capital punishment for committing the offense, and marriage with a deceased wife's sister was declared by the same emperor to be null. The canons of Councils and the declarations of the chief Church teachers are in full accordance with the imperial legislation, condemning these marriages without a dissentient voice. The only ease in which no consensus is found is that of the marriage of first cousins. By the earliest Roman law these marriages had been disallowed (Tacitus, 'Annal.,' 12:6), but in the second century B.C. they had become common (Livy, 42:34), and they continued to be lawful till the year A.D. or 385, when Theodosius condemned them, and made them punishable by the severest penalties possible. This enactment lasted only twenty years, when it was repealed by Arcadius, A.D. 404 or 405. No adverse judgment respecting the marriage of first cousins was pronounced by the Church until after the legislation of Theodosius, but it appears that that legislation was promoted at her instance, and from that time forward the tendency to condemn these marriages became more and more pronounced. See the canons of the Councils of Agde, Epaone, Auvergne, Orleans, Tours, Auxerre, in the sixth century, and of the Council in Trullo in the seventh century. The reformers of the sixteenth century in England, entrenching themselves, as usual, behind the letter of Scripture and the practice of the primitive Church, forbade marriages of consanguinity and affinity in the first, second, and third degrees according to the reckoning of the civil law, and in the first and second degrees according to the reckoning of the canon law, excepting those of first cousins, on which the early Christians pronounced no decisive judgment. 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.
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