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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Leviticus 18

Verses 1-30


Law of Forbidden Degrees of Marriage, and of Chastity

3. Some of the unions here forbidden as incestuous were permitted among the nations of antiquity. The early Egyptians, e.g. permitted marriage with a full sister. Abraham married his half-sister (Genesis 20:12), a practice here forbidden (Leviticus 18:9, Leviticus 18:11). 6. Uncover their nakedness] i.e. marry.

8. Father’s wife] This is not the same as ’mother’ in the previous v. so that polygamy is here presupposed. It was common, perhaps universal, in the East at the time of Moses. The Mosaic Law did not seek all at once to abolish polygamy, which might have been the occasion of great hardship in the circumstances. But it certainly discouraged it, and by regulating and restraining it prepared the way for its gradual extinction: cp. the remarks on slavery among the Hebrews at Exodus 21.

16. This law was not absolute, the so-called levirate marriage, or marriage with the widow of a deceased brother, being not only permissible but almost compulsory: see on Deuteronomy 25:5.

18. In her life time] This implies that after the death of the first wife a man might marry her sister. It is not a law against polygamy but only against a special form of it, viz. marrying two sisters. The restriction is professedly made in the interests of domestic peace and happiness. For to vex her RV reads, ’to be a rival to her’: cp. the case of Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob, who were sisters (Genesis 29, 30).

21. Cp. Leviticus 20:1-5. Molech] (’king’) the firegod of the Ammonites and Canaanites, and especially of the Phœnicians, to whom children were sacrificed in burnt-offering. Pass through the fire] see 1 Kings 11:5-7; 2 Kings 3:27; 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 32:35. The idea underlying child sacrifice is probably that of propitiating the deity by offering the most valued possession: see 2 Kings 3:27, and cp. the case of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:12). The penalty of this most inhuman form of worship was death by stoning: see Leviticus 20:2. It should be observed that the exact meaning of the expression ’pass through the fire’ is uncertain. The rite may have been a kind of ordeal by which it was sought to ascertain the mind of the deity by observing whether the child passed through the fire unscathed or not.

Verses 1-30


Law of Forbidden Degrees of Marriage, and of Chastity

3. Some of the unions here forbidden as incestuous were permitted among the nations of antiquity. The early Egyptians, e.g. permitted marriage with a full sister. Abraham married his half-sister (Genesis 20:12), a practice here forbidden (Leviticus 18:9, Leviticus 18:11). 6. Uncover their nakedness] i.e. marry.

8. Father’s wife] This is not the same as ’mother’ in the previous v. so that polygamy is here presupposed. It was common, perhaps universal, in the East at the time of Moses. The Mosaic Law did not seek all at once to abolish polygamy, which might have been the occasion of great hardship in the circumstances. But it certainly discouraged it, and by regulating and restraining it prepared the way for its gradual extinction: cp. the remarks on slavery among the Hebrews at Exodus 21.

16. This law was not absolute, the so-called levirate marriage, or marriage with the widow of a deceased brother, being not only permissible but almost compulsory: see on Deuteronomy 25:5.

18. In her life time] This implies that after the death of the first wife a man might marry her sister. It is not a law against polygamy but only against a special form of it, viz. marrying two sisters. The restriction is professedly made in the interests of domestic peace and happiness. For to vex her RV reads, ’to be a rival to her’: cp. the case of Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob, who were sisters (Genesis 29, 30).

21. Cp. Leviticus 20:1-5. Molech] (’king’) the firegod of the Ammonites and Canaanites, and especially of the Phœnicians, to whom children were sacrificed in burnt-offering. Pass through the fire] see 1 Kings 11:5-7; 2 Kings 3:27; 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 32:35. The idea underlying child sacrifice is probably that of propitiating the deity by offering the most valued possession: see 2 Kings 3:27, and cp. the case of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:12). The penalty of this most inhuman form of worship was death by stoning: see Leviticus 20:2. It should be observed that the exact meaning of the expression ’pass through the fire’ is uncertain. The rite may have been a kind of ordeal by which it was sought to ascertain the mind of the deity by observing whether the child passed through the fire unscathed or not.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 18". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/leviticus-18.html. 1909.