Daily Bible Radio

Case-by-case Punishments for Incest

Leviticus 20:17-21

“‘If a man takes his sister, his father’s daughter, or his mother’s daughter, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness; it is a shameful thing. They shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness. He shall bear his iniquity.

“‘If a man lies with a woman having her monthly period, and uncovers her nakedness; he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from among their people.

“‘You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, nor of your father’s sister; for he has made his close relative naked. They shall bear their iniquity. If a man lies with his uncle’s wife, he has uncovered his uncle’s nakedness. They shall bear their sin. They shall die childless.

“‘If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is an impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness. They shall be childless.

Sexuality in a family is a reserved thing. God reserves it for a person who is not in the family yet. It is important to note that this was not always the case. God had permitted marriage with sisters at the beginning. There was no other way to have children! Some have thought this to be a problem, but it isn't.

The Bible teaches that mankind was created perfectly in the beginning. There was no reasonable chance for genetic mutation with close relatives. By the time we get to Noah, cousins were available since God had Noah and his sons and wives start populating the new earth. The Bible also teaches that this world is rotting in sin. It would make sense for us to avoid intermarriage even more than the time of Noah. Since travel is so easy today, we can even marry from gene pools that were once very separate. This is a blessing from God.

The first verse is not believed to be talking about just being naked, although nakedness is definitely something to be avoided in the family as well. The Jews believe it to be talking about sex, of course. There is controversy over verse 18, however. I believe that when God says "a woman" He is probably talking about an unmarried one. It is difficult for me to say with certainty how this applies to married couples, but I think God knows when we want to obey and He will put it in our minds as to how to be obedient to Him even if I can't tell you.

The punishments for marrying or stealing an aunt or stealing your brother's wife are lesser than the rest. This is curious since God requires the death penalty when committing adultery outside the family as mentioned earlier. Notice that God will allow one to have children, but that they will all die. In the other case no children will be born. These are still very severe punishments.

Since sexual immorality is not allowed for Christians either, these rules still apply to us today. The difference, again, is that the punishments can be avoided by faith in Christ.

Need help understanding other parts of the Bible? Several of Troy's studies are now available for purchase as ebooks: John, Galatians, Luke, and Acts when you use a Kindle reading app. A topical index.

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