Leviticus 18:6-8

Laws of Sexual Relations

18:6 “‘No man is to approach any close relative to have sexual intercourse with her. I am the Lord. 18:7 You must not expose your father’s nakedness by having sexual intercourse with your mother. She is your mother; you must not have intercourse with her. 18:8 You must not have sexual intercourse with your father’s wife; she is your father’s nakedness.

tn Heb “Man, man shall not draw near to any flesh (שְׁאֵר, shÿer) of his body/flesh (בָּשָׂר, basar).” The repetition of the word “man” is distributive, meaning “any (or “every”) man” (GKC 395-96 §123.c; cf. Lev 15:2). The two words for “flesh” are combined to refer to emphasize the physical familial relatedness (see J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 282, and B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 119).

tn Heb “to uncover [her] nakedness” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV), which is clearly euphemistic for sexual intercourse (see J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 282, and B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 119). This expression occurs a number of times in the following context and is generally translated “have sexual intercourse with [someone],” although in the case of the father mentioned in the following verse the expression may be connected to the shame or disgrace that would belong to the father whose wife’s sexuality is violated by his son. See the note on the word “mother” in v. 7.

sn The general statement prohibiting sexual intercourse between close relatives serves as an opening summary statement for the following section, which gives details concerning which degrees of relationship are specifically forbidden.

tn The verbal negative here is the same as that used in the Ten Commandments (Exod 20:4-5, 7, 13-17). It suggests permanent prohibition rather than a simple negative command and could, therefore, be rendered “must not” here and throughout the following section as it is in vv. 3-4 above.

tn Heb “The nakedness of your father and [i.e., even] the nakedness of your mother you shall not uncover.”

sn Commentators suggest that the point of referring to the father’s nakedness is that the mother’s sexuality belongs to the father and is forbidden to the son on that account (see B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 120, and J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 294). The expression may, however, derive from the shame of nakedness when exposed. If one exposes his mother’s nakedness to himself it is like openly exposing the father’s nakedness (cf. Gen 9:22-23 with the background of Gen 2:25 and 3:7, 21). The same essential construction is used in v. 10 where the latter explanation makes more sense than the former.

tn Heb “the nakedness of your father she is.” See the note on v. 7 above. This law refers to another wife of the man’s father, who is not that man’s mother. The laws in the Pentateuch sometimes assume the possibility that a man may have more than one wife (cf., e.g., Deut 21:15-17).