Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Incest

In the Biblical Period

The idea of what constituted a prohibited degree of kinship for sexual relations seems to have broadened during the biblical period. Among the ancestors of Israel there occurred an unusual number of marriages that are incestuous by later standards; evidently this was not merely condoned, but favored, as ensuring good stock (cf. Gen. 24:3–4; 38ff.; 28:1ff.). Thus Abraham married his paternal sister (Gen. 20:12 against Lev. 18:9), Jacob married two sisters (Gen. 29:21ff. against Lev. 18:18), and Amram, Moses' father, married his aunt (Ex. 6:20, against Lev. 20:19). As late as the time of David, marriage to a half sister was condoned (II Sam. 13:13). The standard of the laws thus reflects a tendency (that reached its culmination in post-biblical legislation) to broaden the scope of incest with the passage of time. Rabbinic theory recognized this, justifying the patriarchs' disregard of the Torah prohibitions on the ground that they were subject only to the *Noachide law of incest, which was far less comprehensive than that of the Torah (Sanh. 58a–b; Maim. Yad, Melakhim, 9:5).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

BIBLICAL PERIOD:

E. Neufeld, Ancient Hebrew Marriage Laws (1944), 191–212; D.R. Mace, Hebrew Marriage (1953), 20ff.; E.A. Speiser, in: A. Altmann (ed.), Biblical and Other Studies (1963), 62–81; Z. Falk, in: Tarbiz, 32 (1963), 19–34. IN JEWISH LAW: M. Mielziner, The Jewish Law of Marriage and Divorce (19012), 33–41; L. Blau, in: Abhandlungen… Chajes (1933), 6–21; E. Neufeld, Ancient Hebrew Marriage Laws (1944), 191–212; ET, 1 (19513), 204–11, 214, 321–4; 2 (1949), 23f., 257–61; 4 (1952), 745–52; 6 (1954), 106–15. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Elon, Ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri (1988), 1:109, 175, 185, 196, 208, 248, 251, 282f, 297, 312, 318, 353, 396, 414, 434, 456f, 468, 655, 659, 670, 692f, 697, 711, 723, 808; idem, Jewish Law (1994), 1:122, 194, 207, 220, 230, 234, 289f, 293, 333f, 353, 373, 380f, 426; 2:483, 505, 529, 556f., 811, 815, 828, 854f., 860, 878, 892, 990.