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Holman Bible Dictionary


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Sexual intercourse between persons too closely related for normal marriage. The twofold theological rationale for the prohibition of incestuous unions is the divine claim “I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 18:2 ,Leviticus 18:2,18:4 ,Leviticus 18:4,18:6 ) and the note that such behavior characterized the Egyptians and Canaanites whom God judged (Leviticus 18:3 ,Leviticus 18:3,18:24-25 ). Leviticus 18:6-16 prohibited unions between a man and his mother, stepmother, sister, half-sister, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, aunt (by blood or marriage), or sister-in-law. Leviticus 18:19 prohibited a man's involvement with a woman and her daughter or granddaughter. Leviticus 18:18 prohibited taking sisters as rival wives. Penalties for various forms of incest included childlessness ( Leviticus 20:20-21 ), exclusion from the covenant people (Leviticus 18:29 ; Leviticus 20:17-18 ; compare 1Corinthians 5:2,1 Corinthians 5:5 ), and death (Leviticus 20:11-12 ,Leviticus 20:11-12,20:14 ). In patriarchal times marriage to a half sister (Genesis 20:12 ) and marriage to rival sisters (Genesis 29:21-30 ) were permissible, though such marriages proved troublesome to both Abraham and Jacob. Scriptural accounts of incest include Genesis 19:31-35 ; Genesis 35:22 ; and 2 Samuel 13:1 .

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Incest'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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