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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 5: Harmony of the Law, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Political Supplements.  60

Exodus 22

Exodus 22:19

19. Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.

19. Quisquis concubuerit cum animali, morte moriatur.


We learn from these passages that the people were not only prohibited from adultery, but also from all sins  61 which are repugnant to the modesty of nature itself. In order that all impurity may be the more detestable, He enumerates two species of unnatural lust, from whence it is evident that when men indulge themselves in this respect, they are carried away by an impulse, which is more than beastly, to defile themselves by shameful wickedness. The beasts are satisfied with natural connection; it is therefore a gross enormity that this distinction should be confounded by man endowed with reason; for what is the use of our judgment and intelligent faculties if it be not that greater self-restraint should exist in us than in the brute animals? It is plain, therefore, that they must be blinded in a horrible manner who so shamefully defile themselves, as Paul says. (Ro 1:28.) The madness of lust has, however, invented several monstrous vices, whose names it would be better to bury, if God had not chosen that these shameful monuments should exist, to inspire us with fear and horror. It has at length advanced to such excesses, that men created in God’s image, both male and female, have had connection with brutes.

Leviticus 18:24. Defile not yourselves in any of these things. An old proverb  62 says, that good laws have sprung from evil habits; and God reminds us that for this reason He has been induced expressly to advert to these disgusting and wicked things; for the monstrosities which He mentions would have been concealed in eternal silence had not necessity compelled Him to bring them to light. But since the Canaanitish nations had advanced to such a pitch of licentiousness, that the prodigious sins, which else would have been better concealed, had been but too familiarly known from their wicked habits, God warns His people to beware of their fatal examples. First, when He says that these abominations prevailed amongst the Gentiles, He indicates that evil habits by no means avail as an excuse; nay, that public consent is in vain alleged in defense of vice. But the better to deter them from imitating them, He sets before their eyes the vengeance He is about to take. It is true, indeed, that the nations of Canaan were destroyed for other reasons, but it is not without cause that He sets forth this amongst the rest, for undoubtedly God was offended by such pollutions.

26. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes He here contrasts His Law with the abominations of the Gentiles. The exhibition of His severity, which He had referred to, might indeed have sufficed for the instruction of His people; but in order to influence them more strongly, He at the same time adduces the way pointed out to them in the Law, which would not suffer them to go astray, if only they refused not to follow God. For that the Gentiles, who were destitute of light, should have been drawn aside in every direction was not surprising; but whilst they thus proved their blindness, it behooved true believers, on the contrary, to testify that they were not children of darkness, but of light. And to this Paul seems to allude, when he exhorts believers not to walk, like the Gentiles, “in the vanity of their mind.” (Eph 4:17.) On this account God not only commends to them His precepts and statutes, but also His ordinances (custodias,) because He had omitted nothing in the Law which would be useful for the direction of men’s lives. The sum is, that unless they order themselves constantly by the doctrine which enlightens them, the same destruction awaited them also which was about to overwhelm the (Canaanitish) nations.

Leviticus 20

Lev. 20:13, 15, 16

13. If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

13. Quicunque coierit cum masculo coitu mulieris, abominationem fecerunt ambo: morte morientur, sanguis eorum super eos.

15. And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death; and ye shall slay the beast.

15. Si quis intulerit coitum suum in brutum, moriendo morietur, et jumentum occidetis.

16. And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

16. Si mulier accesserit ad unum animal ad coeundum cum eo, occides mulierem et animal, moriendo morientur, sanguis eorum super eos.


13. If a man also  63 God had hitherto taught what was right, in order to restrain the people from sin, not only from fear of punishment, but for conscience’ sake. But whereas all do not voluntarily dispose themselves to obedience, the awards severe punishments to those wicked despisers in whom there is no effort to be religious. And it is astonishing that almost all the Gentiles have so sunk into stupid and brutal folly, that they have tolerated with little less than impunity unnatural crimes, detestable in their very name.

I admit that even the wickedest of them were ashamed to justify so gross a crime; but although it was practiced with impunity, it was a common reproach to make even against the very public tribunals, that it ought to be more severely punished than other crimes, which they did not spare.

Both of the offending parties were subjected to the same punishment, because it is a pollution which ought by no means to be borne. Nay, if a man or woman offend with a beast, in order that, all may the more abhor and beware of the unnatural crime, the penalty is extended even to the harmless animal; as we have before seen that a goring ox is condemned to death if it had killed a man. Hence we infer how greatly displeasing to God is this kind of crime, since its iniquity is confirmed by the death of guiltless animals.

Leviticus 19

Leviticus 19:29

29. Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.

29. Non pollues filiam tuam prostituendo eam: neque scortetur terra, et impleatur ipsa scelere.


This passage more clearly proves that all unlicensed connections  64 were always unlawful in God’s sight. It is a tame and forced interpretation to apply what is here said to spiritual fornication; and those also, who suppose that public stews only are forbidden, restrict the law too much, whereas God rather gives a general injunction that parents should preserve their daughters by means of a pure and chaste education. But even although we admit that nothing else is prohibited but that parents should be the panders of their daughters, still we gather from the word pollute  65 (for some render the word חלל, chalal, too tamely to make common) that they are contaminated by their whoredom, and the reason given abundantly confirms the fact, that all whoredom is hateful to God, “lest the land fall to whoredom, (He says,) and the land become full of wickedness.” It is plain that adultery is not in question here; but God declares it to be criminal if a man and woman have connection out of wedlock. Consequently, the people are taught in the Seventh Commandment to beware of all unchastity.

Deuteronomy 23

Deuteronomy 23:17

17. There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.

17. Non erit meretrix e filiabus Israel, neque erit scortum masculum e filiis Israel.


This passage is akin to the foregoing; for in the first clause He forbids that girls should be prostituted. Some think that a whore is called in Hebrew קדשה, kedeshah, because she is exposed to, and prepared for sin;  66 but her pollution, the opposite of sanctity, seems rather to be expressed by antiphrasis. At any rate, a precept of chastity is given, that it should not be lawful for unmarried girls to have connection with men. In the second clause there is some ambiguity, “There shall be no קדש, kadesh, of the sons of Israel;” for in other passages it is clearly used for a catamite, or male harlot, but there is no reason why it should not be rendered a fornicator. In this sense the word seems to be used in the Book of Job: “The hypocrites shall die in youth, (or in the flower of their age,) and their life is among the קדשים, kedeshim,” which is equivalent to their being infamous and shameful in life. (Job 36:14.) But if it be preferred to apply it to sodomy, all impurity is condemned by synecdoche

Leviticus 20  67

Leviticus 20:10

10. And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

10. Vir qui adulterium commiserit cum uxore alterius, qui adulterium commiserit cum uxore proximi sui moriendo morientur adulter et adultera.


Deuteronomy 22

Deuteronomy 22:22-27

22. If a man be found lying with a woman married to all husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

22. Si quis deprehensus fuerit coiisse cum muliere conjugata marito, morientur etiam ambo ipsi, vir qui coierit cum muliere, et mulier ipsa: atque auferes malum ex Israele.

23. If a damsel that is a virgin he betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;

23. Quum fuerit puella virgo desponsata viro, et invenerit eam aliquis in urbe, coieritque cum ea:

24. Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbor’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

24. Adducetis utrunque ad portam urbis ejus, et lapidabitis eos lapidibus, ac morientur: puellam quidem, quod non clamaverit in urbe: et virum, propterea quod affiixit uxorem proximi sui: atque ita auferes malum e medio tui.

25. But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:

25. At si in agro invenerit vir puellam desponsatam, et apprehenderit eam vir ille, et coierit cum ea, morietur vir qui coierit cum ea solus.

26. But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbor, and slayeth hint, even so is this matter:

26. Puellae vero non facies quicquam: non est puellae peccatum mortis: nam quemadmodum insurgit quis in proximum suum, et occidit eum anima, sic se habet res ista.

27. For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

27. In agro invenit eam, clamavit puella desponsata, et nemo adfuit qui servaret eam.


Deuteronomy 22:22. If a man be found lying with. A Political Supplement, whereby it appears how greatly God abominates adultery, since He denounces capital punishment against it. And assuredly, since marriage is a covenant consecrated by God, its profanation is in no wise tolerable; and conjugal faith should be held too sacred to be violated with impunity, whilst it is an act of horrible perfidiousness to snatch from a man’s bosom the wife who is as his very life, or at any rate half of himself. Wherefore, also, the Prophet ignominiously compares adulterers to neighing horses, (Jer 5:8;) for where such lasciviousness prevails, men degenerate, as it were, into beasts. Another reason is, however, here referred to; for, if a man had broken faith with his wife by having connection with a harlot, it was not a capital offense; but if any man, though a bachelor, had committed adultery with the wife of another, (he was to die,  68 ) because both the husband is grossly injured, and the dishonor descends to the offspring, and all adulterine race is substituted in place of the legitimate one, whilst the inheritance is transferred to strangers, and thus bastards unlawfully possess themselves of the family name. This cause impelled the Gentiles, even before the Law, to punish adultery with severity, as clearly appears from the history of Judah and Tamar. (Ge 38:14.) Nay, by the universal law of the Gentiles, the punishment of death was always awarded to adultery; wherefore it is all the baser and more shameful in Christians not to imitate at least the heathen. Adultery is punished no less severely by the Julian law  69 than by that of God; whilst those who boast themselves of the Christian name are so tender and remiss, that they visit this execrable offense with a very light reproof. And lest they should abrogate God’s law without a pretext, they allege the example of Christ, who dismissed the woman taken in adultery, whereas she ought to have been stoned; just as He withdrew Himself into a mountain that He might not be made a king by the multitude. (Joh 8:11, and 6:15.) For if we consider what the office was which the Father delegated to His only-begotten Son, we shall not be surprised that He was content with the limits of His vocation, and did not discharge the duties of a Judge. But those who have been invested with the sword for the correction of crime, have absurdly imitated His example, and thus their relaxation of the penalty has flowed from gross ignorance.

Although the disloyalty of husband and wife are not punished alike by human tribunals, still, since they are under mutual obligation to each other, God will take vengeance on them both; and hence the declaration of Paul takes effect before the judgment-seat of God, Let not married persons defraud one another; for the wife hath not power of her own body, nor the husband of his. (1 Cor. 7:4, 5.)

23. If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed. The severity of the punishment is now extended further, and a betrothed woman is counted as a wife; and this for a very good reason, because she has plighted her troth, and it is a token of abandoned incontinency for the mind of a woman to be so alienated from the man to whom she is betrothed, as to prostitute her virginity to another’s embraces. But since one who has been ravished is not criminal, a woman is absolved if she be forced in a field, because it is probable that she yielded unwillingly, inasmuch as she was far from assistance. Although, however, the terms are accommodated to the comprehension of a rude people, it was the intention of God to distinguish force from consent. Thus if a girl had been forced in a retired part of a building, from whence her cries could not be heard, God would undoubtedly have her acquitted, provided she could prove her innocence by satisfactory testimony and conjecture.

Leviticus 19

Leviticus 19:20-22

20. And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman that is a bond-maid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged: they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.

20. Vir si coierit cum muliere coitu seminis quae fuerit ancilla desponsata viro, nec redimendo redempta fuerit, nec fuerit manumissa, vapulatio erit: non morientur, quia non est libertate donata.

21. And he shall bring his trespass-offering unto the Lord, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass-offering.

21. Adducet autem oblationem, pro delicto suo Jehovae ad ostium tabernaculi conventionis, arietem pro delicto.

22. And the priest shall make au atonement for him with the ram of the trespass-offering before the Lord, for his sin which he hath done; and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.

22. Et expiabit eum sacerdos per arietem pro delicto coram Jehova, propter peccatum suum quod peccavit: et remittet ei peccatum suum quod peccavit.


Albeit in God’s sight there is no difference between bond and free, yet their condition is diverse as regards courts of justice;  70 nor do the same evil consequences ensue from adultery with a bond-maid, (as with a free woman.)  71 Notwithstanding, therefore, that the crime is worthy of death, still, in consideration of the people’s infirmity, the punishment is mitigated, so that, if a person shall have corrupted a betrothed bond-maid, both shall be scourged.  72 From hence we infer that, if a concubine, who had already cohabited with a man, were seduced, it was accounted a capital adultery. Lest it should be falsely held, from the lenity or indulgence of the law, that the offense was a trifling one, this error is at once anticipated by the addition of the expiation: for, if one already beaten with stripes still required reconciliation, it follows that the measure of the offense is not to be estimated by its penalty.

Exodus 21  73

Exodus 21:7-11

7. And if a man sell his daughter to be a maid-servant, she shall not go out as the men-servants do.

7. Quum vendiderit quispiam filiam suam in ancillam, non egredietur quemadmodum egredi solent servi.

8. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.

8. Si displicuerit hero suo, nec sibi desponderit eam, redimendam curabit: populo alieno non habebit potestatem vendendi eam, quum spreverit eam.

9. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.

9. Quod si filio suo desponderit eam, secundum morem filiarum faciet ei.

10. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

10. Si aliam acceperit sibi, alimentum illius, operimentum illius, et constitutionem illius non diminuet.

11. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

11. Quod si tria haec non fecerit illi, egredietur gratis absque argento.


From this passage, as well as other similar ones, it plainly appears how many vices were of necessity tolerated in this people. It was altogether an act of barbarism that fathers should sell their children for the relief of their poverty, still it could not be corrected as might have been hoped. Again, the sanctity of the marriage-vow should have been greater than that it should be allowable for a master to repudiate his bond-maid, after he had betrothed her to himself as his wife; or, when he had betrothed her to his son, to make void that covenant, which is inviolable: for that principle ought ever to hold good — “Those whom God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mt 19:6; Mr 10:9.) Yet liberty was accorded to the ancient people in all these particulars; only provision is here made that the poor girls should not suffer infamy and injury from their repudiation. But, although God is gracious in remitting the punishment, still He shows that chastity is pleasing to Him, as far as the people’s hardness of heart permitted. First of all, He does not allow a master to seduce his purchased maid-servant, but if he wishes to enjoy her embraces, a marriage must take place; for although He does not set this out in express terms, still we may infer from what He condemns, that the contrary is what He approves. From whence, too, their notion is refuted who suppose that fornication was lawful under the Law. But the words must be more closely examined on account of their ambiguity. First, the sex is treated with consideration, that the condition of a female may be somewhat more favorable than that of a male; since, otherwise, their weakness would render young women subject to injury and shame. An explanation then follows, respecting which, however, interpreters differ; for some read the particle לא,  74 lo, which is properly negative, for לו, lo; and hence arise two opposite meanings — If he hath, or hath not, betrothed her to himself. If it be preferred to take it affirmatively, the meaning of the precept will be: If a master shall repudiate his bond-maid, whom he has loved and destined to be his wife, he must give her her liberty; for although literally it is, “he shall cause her to be redeemed,” yet; the context shows that the obligation of setting her free is laid upon him; nor is this contradicted by the fact that he is only deprived of the power of selling her to a strange people; since I do not understand this as applying to foreigners only, but to others of his own nation, since sometimes those of another tribe or family are called strangers. For, even though there were no marriage-compact, it was not otherwise lawful to sell slaves of the holy and elect people to foreigners. Besides, amongst the Israelites, slavery was only temporary. But, to pass by everything else, let it suffice to observe the absurdity that a master should hold his wife as a slave to be sold at pleasure, if their opinion is received who suppose that the words refer to repudiation after betrothal.  75 I myself rather approve of the other opinion, that, although the master shall not have aspired to matrimony with her, if her appearance displeases him so that he would be unwilling to have her as his wife, at least he must provide for her redemption; because her chastity would be in jeopardy if she remained with him unmarried; unless perhaps Moses may signify that, after she had been seduced, her master did not honor her with marriage. But the other view which I have just expressed is more simple; and a caution is given lest masters should seduce their maid-servants at their pleasure. Thus the word despise  76 does not refer to repudiation, but is opposed to beauty, or conjugal love.

The next case is, that if he should betroth her to his son, (he must give her a dowry,  77 ) in which, also, her modesty and honor is consulted, lest she should be oppressed by the right of ownership, and become a harlot. In the third place, it is provided that, if she should be repudiated, her condition should not be disadvantageous. If, therefore, he would make her his daughter-in-law, and betroth her to his son, he is commanded to deal liberally with her; for “after the manner of daughters” is equivalent to giving her a dowry, or, at any rate, to treating her as if she were free. Finally, he adds that, if he should choose another wife for his son, he should not reject the former one, nor defraud her of her food and raiment, or of some third thing, concerning which translators are not well agreed. Some render it time, but I do not see what is the meaning of diminishing her time; others, duty of marriage, but this is too free a translation; others, more correctly, affliction, since the girl would be humiliated by her repudiation; still, to diminish affliction, is too harsh an expression for to compensate an injury. Let my readers, then, consider whether the word, ענתה, gnonathah, is not used for compact or agreement; for thus the context will run very well: If his son have married another wife, that the girl who has suffered ignominious rejection should obtain her rights as to food, and raiment, and her appointed dowry; otherwise, God commands that she should be set free gratuitously, in order that her liberty may compensate for the wrong she has received.

Exodus 22

Exod. 22:16, 17

16. And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her; he shall surely endow her to be his wife.

16. Quum seduxerit quispiam virginem quae non est desponsata, et coierit cum ea, dotando dotabit sibi in uxorem.

17. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

17. Si renuendo renuerit pater ejus ei dare ipsam, pecuniam appendet secundum dotem virginum.


Hence, also, it is manifest that, although God remits the judicial penalty, fornication is displeasing to Him. As to the spiritual judgment of the conscience, there were expiations to propitiate Him; He here only has consideration for young females, lest, being deceived, and having lost their virginity, they should become prostitutes; and thus the land should be defiled by whoredom. The remedy is, that lie who has corrupted girl should be compelled to marry her, and also to give tie a dowry from his own property, lest, if he should afterwards cast her off, she should go away from her bed penniless. But, if the marriage should not please her father, the penalty imposed on her seducer is, that he should assign her a wedding portion.

Deuteronomy 24

Deuteronomy 24:5

5. When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business; but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.

5. Quum quis acceperit uxorem novam, non egredietur ad bellum, neque injungetur ei munus: immunis erit in domo sua anno uno, et delectabit uxorem suam quam accepit.


The immunity here given has for its object the awakening of that mutual love which may preserve the conjugal fidelity of husband and wife; for there is danger lest, if a husband departs from his wife immediately after marriage, the bride, before she has become thoroughly accustomed to him, should be too prone to fall in love with some one else. A similar danger affects the husband; for in war, and other expeditions, many things occur which tempt men to sin. God, therefore, would have the love of husband and wife fostered by their association for a whole year, that thus mutual confidence may be established between them, and they may afterwards continually beware of all incontinency.

But that God should permit a bride to enjoy herself with her husband, affords no trifling proof of His indulgence. Assuredly, it cannot be but that the lust of the flesh must affect the connection of husband and wife with some amount of sin; yet God not only pardons it, but covers it with the veil of holy matrimony, lest that which is sinful in itself should be so imputed; nay, He spontaneously allows them to enjoy themselves. With this injunction corresponds what Paul says,

“Let the husband render unto his wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer.” (1 Cor. 7:3, 5.)

Numbers 5

Numbers 5:11-31

11. And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying,

11. Loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

12. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him,

12. Alloquere filios Israel, et dicas illis, Quum diverterit uxor cujuspiam, et praevaricata fuerit praevaricatione:

13. And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and he kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner;

13. Et coierit aliquis cum ea coitu seminis, absconditum autem fuerit ab oculis viri sui et delituerit, ipsaque polluta fuerit: testis vero non fuerit contra eam, neque ipsa fuerit deprehensa:

14. And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled; or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled:

14. Et transierit super eum spiritus zelotypiae, zelatusque fuerit uxorem suam, et ipsa polluta fuerit: vel transierit super eum spiritus zelotypiae, zelatusque fuerit uxorem suam, et ipsa non fuerit polluta:

15. Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.

15. Tunc adducet vir uxorem suam ad sacerdotem, et afferet obtationem ejus cum illa, nempe decimam partem epha farinae hordeaceae: non fundet super eam oleum, neque ponet super eam thus, quia oblatio zelotypiarum est, oblatio memoriae revocans in memoriam iniquitatem.

16. And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the Lord.

16. Et appropinquare faciet eam sacerdos, statuetque eam coram Jehova.

17. And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water.

17. Tolletque sacerdos aquam sanctum in vase testaceo, de pulvere quoque qui fuerit in pavimento tabernaculi tollet sacerdos, et mittet in aquam illam.

18. And the priest shall set the woman before the Lord, and uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy-offering: and the priest shall have in his hand. the bitter water that causeth the curse.

18. Tum statuet sacerdos mulierem coram Jehova, et discooperiet caput illius mulieris, ponetque super manus ejus oblationem memoriae, quae oblatio zelotypiarum est: et in manum sacerdotis erunt aquae amarae maledictae.

19. And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse:

19. Et adjurabit eam sacerdos, dicetque illi, Si non coierit quispiam tecum, et si non declinaveris ad immunditiam sub viro tuo, munda esto ab aquis istis amaris maledictis:

20. But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee besides thine husband:

20. Si vero declinaveris sub viro tuo, et polluta fueris, dederitque aliquis in te semen suum praeter virum tuum:

21. Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing; and the priest shall say unto the woman, The Lord make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the Lord doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell:

21. (Adjurabit, inquam, mulierem illam sacerdos adjuratione maledictionis, et dicet mulieri,) Det te Jehova in maledictionem et adjurationem in medio populi tui, quum dederit Jehova femur tuum cadens, et uterum tuum tumescentem:

22. And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot. And the woman shall say, Amen, amen.

22. Ingredianturque aquae maledictae istae in interiora tua, ut tumescere faciant uterum, et cadere faciant femur. Et dicet mulier illa, Amen, amen.

23. And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:

23. Et scriber maledictiones istas sacerdos in libro, et delebit postea illas cum aquis amaris:

24. And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter.

24. Tum ad potandum dabit mulieri aquas amaras maledictas, et ingredientur in eam aquae maledictae, in amaras.

25. Then the priest shall take the jealousy-offering out of the woman’s hand, and shall wave the offering before the Lord, and offer it upon the altar.

25. Postea capiet sacerdos e manu mulieris oblationem zelotypiarum, et elevabit illam coram Jehova, offeretque eam super altare.

26. And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water.

26. Tollet etiam sacerdos pugillum plenum de oblatione memoriam ejus, adolebitque illud super altare, et postea ad potandum dabit mulieri aquas:

27. And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

27. Ad potandum, inquam, dabit ei aquas illas: et erit, si polluta fuerit, praevaricataque fuerit praevaricatione in virum suum, tunc ingredientur in illam aquae maledictae versae in amaritudinem, intumescetque uterus ejus, et cadet femur ejus: et erit mulier illa in maledictionem in medio populi sui.

28. And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.

28. Quod si non fuerit polluta mulier, sed munda fuerit, munda erit, seminabiturque semine.

29. This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled;

29. Haec est lex zelotypiarum, quum diverterit mulier sub viro suo, et polluta fuerit.

30. Or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the Lord, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law.

30. Aut viri super quem transierit spiritus zelotypiae, et zelatus fuerit uxorem suam, statueritque mulierem coram Jehova, ac fecerit ei sacerdos secundum omnem legem hanc.

31. Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.

31. Et innocens erit vir ille ab iniquitate, mulier vero illa portabit iniquitatem suam.


11. And the Lord spoke unto Moses. Although this ceremony appears to be part of the legal services, still I have thought fit to postpone it to this place, because it relates to the observance of the Seventh Commandment. The object of it is, lest women, trusting that they would escape punishment, should abandon themselves to unchastity, or lest jealousy should lead to dissension, and, by alienating the mind of the husband from the wife, should loosen the ties of pure affection, since thus the door would be open to many iniquities. By this rite, therefore, God proclaims Himself the guardian and avenger of conjugal fidelity; and hence it appears how acceptable a sacrifice in His sight is the chastity of married women, of which He condescends to profess Himself the guardian. It is, therefore, no trifling consolation to husbands, that God undertakes the cognizance of the secret wrong, if, perchance, their wives have dealt treacherously with them.

But it will be better to examine the details in order. When at the outset he says, — If a man’s wife go aside, and her offense be concealed, an absurdity appears to be implied; as if He would thus bring to judgment none but those who should be convicted, whereas, if the fact were established, there would be no use in the application of the test. But the condition, “if she commit a trespass against him,” does not signify that the woman’s adultery should be discovered, but refers to the opinion of her husband; and thus the words must be paraphrased in this way: If any one should think that his wife has had connection with another man, and he cannot otherwise be relieved from the anxiety which oppresses him, let him appeal to God for that judgment, which is beyond the reach of man. Still God  78 seems designedly to have expressed the crime, lest husbands should heedlessly involve their innocent wives in disgrace. We know that many are causelessly suspicious; and when jealousy has once taken possession of the mind, there is no room for moderation or equity.  79 Wherefore it would be inhuman to permit morose and unreasonable husbands to drag their wives to this horrible judgment of God on account of certain trifling suspicions. For, if the husband were cruel and ungodly, it would be like putting a sword into the hands of a madman, to give him such a power without any distinction. God, therefore, implies that the priest should carefully consider, so as not too easily to receive every complaint; although He afterwards more clearly expresses Himself in another part of the conditions, “if a man be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled.”

15. Then shall the man bring his wife to the priest. This offering is different from the rest, which have been heretofore mentioned, because it is a kind of adjuration, whereby the woman exposes herself to be accursed. Pure meal without frankincense or oil is therefore offered, since the rite  80 of expiation would not be in accordance with the curse. That the woman may be more afraid of perjuring herself, she is presented before God, with her head uncovered too, as if the priest would drag her from her lurking-place; for it seems incongruous that, as some suppose, the veil was removed from her head in token of her infamy, since thus she would have been condemned before her case was heard. She is, then, brought before God’s face with her head bare, that she may be seriously alarmed; and then follows the mode of absolution or condemnation. The priest is commanded to take holy water in an earthen vessel, to throw in some dust from the floor, and then a book or scroll, on which were written the words of the curse, so that the blots should remain in the water, and so to give the cup to the woman. Some interpret the holy water to be that which was kept ill the brazen laver, to be always ready for the ablution of those engaged in duly offering sacrifices. Let my readers, however, consider whether he does not rather mean the water in which the ashes of the red heifer were sprinkled, and whereby solemn purifications were made, (Nu 19:1,) as we have already seen. For thus the woman was admonished that, if she perjured herself, no further means of expiation remained. The dust collected from the floor was also a sign of detestation: in short, the whole proceedings were calculated to humble her, so that she might not double her offense by perjury. Besides, the priest is commanded to repeat the words of the curse, lest she should seek to escape by some subterfuge or other. The question, however, arises, why she should be compelled to imprecate evil upon herself rather than others were who were suspected of murder or other atrocious crimes? and I think it was for this reason, because no other offense can be so easily concealed. Lest, therefore, women should grow hardened from their cunning and evil arts, a remedy is provided against their various deceptions; and thus God shows that the marriage-bed is under His protection and safeguard. We must remember, too, that this was not a mere empty bugbear, inasmuch as God undoubtedly appeared as the open avenger of unfaithfulness, according to His declaration. Nor is the threat added in vain, that if the woman be a deceiver, she should be a curse among the people, because her belly should swell and her thigh dissolve; whilst, on the other hand, He does not promise in vain, that if she be innocent, she should not only be free, but prolific also; so that God’s blessing would be the seal of her absolution. For this is the meaning of the expression, “she shall be sown with seed;”  81 as, on the contrary, it was said that her thigh  82 should dissolve when she wasted away with barrenness. We infer, from the opposite effects of the same water, that by the outward symbol God wrought with His secret power as the occasion demanded.

Deuteronomy 22

Deuteronomy 22:13-21

13. If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,

13. Quum acceperit quis uxorem, et ingressus fuerit ad eam, et odio habuerit eam,

14. And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her I found her not a maid:

14. Et imposuerit ei occasiones verborum, et traduxerit eam, dicendo: Uxorem hanc accepi, et accessi ad eam, et non inveni in ea virginitatem:

15. Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate:

15. Tunc accipiet pater puellae et mater ejus, et proferent signa virginitatis puellae eorum senioribus urbis ad portam.

16. And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her:

16. Dicetque pater puellae senioribus, Filiam meam dedi viro huic in uxorem, et odio habet eam.

17. And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.

17. Et ecce, imposuit occasiones verborum, dicendo: Non inveni in filia tua virginitatem: Ecce autem signa virginitatis filiae meae. Et expandent vestimentum coram senioribus urbis:

18. And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him:

18. Tunc apprehendent seniores urbis virum, et castigabunt eum.

19. And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife: he may not put her away all his days.

19. Et mulctabunt eum centum argenteis, quos dabunt patri puellae, quoniam traduxit virginem Israelis: habebitque eam uxorem, nec poterit dimittere omnibus diebus suis.

20. But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:

20. Quod si vera fuit accusatio ista, et non inventa fuerit virginitas in puella:

21. Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die; because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

21. Tunc educent puellam ad ostium domus patris sui, et lapidabunt eam homines urbis ejus lapidibus, donec moriatur: quia perpetravit nequitiam in Israele, fornicando in domo patris sui: et auferes malum e medio tui.


13. If any man take a wife. This passage also tends to the exaltation of chastity. God provides against both cases, lest a husband should unjustly bring reproach upon a chaste and innocent young woman, and lest a young woman, having been defiled, should escape punishment, if she pretended to be a virgin. A third object is also to be remarked, viz., that parents were thus admonished to be more careful in watching over their children. This is, indeed, an act of gross brutality, that a husband, wittingly and willingly, should seek a false pretext for divorcing his wife by bringing reproach and infamy upon her; but, since it does not infrequently happen that the libidinous become disgusted with their vices, and then endeavor to rid themselves of them in every way, it was needful to correct this evil, and to prescribe a method whereby the integrity of the woman should be safe from the calumnies of an ungodly and cruel husband; whilst it was also just to give relief to an honest man, lest he should be compelled to cherish in his bosom a harlot, by whom he had been deceived; for it is a very bitter thing to ingenuous minds silently to endure so great an ignominy. An admirable precaution is here laid down, i e., that if a woman were accused by her husband, it was in the power of her parents to produce the tokens of chastity which should acquit her; but if they did not, that the husband should not be obliged against his will to keep her in his house, after she had been defiled by another. It is plain from this passage, that the tokens of virginity were taken on a cloth, on the first night of marriage, as future proofs of chastity. It is also probable that the cloth was laid up before witnesses as a pledge, to be a sure defense for pure and modest young women; for it would have been giving too much scope to the parents if it had been believed simply on their evidence; but Moses speaks briefly as of a well-known custom.

18. And the elders of that city shall take that man. Calumny in this case received a threefold punishment; first, that he, who had invented the false accusation, should be beaten with stripes; secondly, that he should pay an hundred pieces of silver to the father of the girl; thirdly, that he should never be allowed to put her away; and tie reason is given, “because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel.” God here shows Himself to be the protector of virgins, that young women may be the more encouraged to cultivate chastity. If any should object that it was a bad provision for the unhappy woman that she should be subjected for ever to tyrannical rule, I reply, that this was done because there was no means for her release; for although, as we shall presently see, men were permitted to obtain a divorce from their wives, still it was neither just nor right to overthrow God’s earliest institution. Besides, it was necessary to obviate the trick of the husband who would have gloried in her divorce, as having gained what he desired.

20. But if this thing be true. If the punishment should seem to anybody to be somewhat too severe, let him reflect that no kind of fraud is more intolerable. A false sale of a field or a house shall be accounted a crime, as also the utterance of false money; and, therefore, she who abuses the sacred name of marriage for deception, and offers an unchaste body instead of a chaste one, much less deserves to be pardoned. The cause of severity, however, which is expressly mentioned, is much more extensive, i e., because she hath wrought wickedness, or filthiness in Israel. The translation which some. give, folly, is poor; for although the word. is derived from נבל, nabal, it still means something more atrocious than folly; just as Simeon and Levi, in excuse for their slaughter of the Shechemites, call the defilement of their sister  83 נבלה, nebalah, that is, filthiness in Israel. (Ge 34:7.) Whence it appears once more how greatly acceptable to God is chastity.

Deuteronomy 24

Deuteronomy 24:1-4

1. When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her; then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

1. Si acceperit quis uxorem, et coierit cum ea, non autem invenerit gratiam in oculis ejus, eo quod invenerit in ea maculam aliquam, et seripserit ei libellum repudii, ac tradiderit in manum ejus, et emiserit e domo sua:

2. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife

2. Illa vero egressa e domo ejus, abierit, et nupserit alteri viro:

3. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife;

3. Vir deinde hic posterior oderit eam, et scripserit libellum divortii, tradideritque in manum ejus, et emiserit e domo sua, aut si vir iste posterior mortuus fuerit qui sumpserit eam sibi uxorem:

4. Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee. for an inheritance.

4. Non poterit maritus ejus prior, quia eam a se demisit, reverti, et ducere eam sibi uxorem, posteaquam polluta est: quia abominatio est coram facie Jehovae: et non inquinabis peccato terram quam Jehova Deus tuus tradet tibi in haereditatem.


Although what relates to divorce was granted in indulgence to the Jews, yet Christ pronounces that it was never in accordance with the Law, because it is directly repugnant to the first institution of God, from whence a perpetual and inviolable rule is to be sought. It is proverbially said that the laws of nature are indissoluble; and God has declared once for all, that the bond of union between husband and wife is closer than that of parent and child; wherefore, if a son cannot shake off the paternal yoke, no cause can permit the dissolution of the connection which a man has with his wife. Hence it appears how great was the perverseness of that nation, which could not be restrained from dissolving a most sacred and inviolable tie. Meanwhile the Jews improperly concluded from their impunity that that was lawful, which God did not punish because of the hardness of their hearts; whereas they ought rather to have considered, agreeably to the answer of Christ, that man is not at liberty to separate those whom God hath joined together. (Mt 19:6.) Still, God chose to make a provision for women who were cruelly oppressed, and for whom it was better that they should at once be set free, than that they should groan beneath a cruel tyranny during their whole lives. Thus, in Malachi, divorce is preferred to polygamy, since it would be a more tolerable condition to be divorced than to bear with a harlot and a rival. (Mal 2:14.) And undoubtedly the bill or scroll of divorce, whilst it cleared the woman from all disgrace, cast some reproach on the husband; for he who confesses that he puts away his wife, because she does not please him, brings himself under the accusation both of moroseness and inconstancy. For what gross levity and disgraceful inconstancy it shows, that a husband should be so offended with some imperfection or disease in his wife, as to east away from him half of himself! We see, then, that husbands were indirectly condemned by the writing of divorce, since they thus committed an injury against their wives who were chaste, and in other respects what they should be. On these grounds, God in Isaiah, in order that He might take away from the Jews all subject of complaint, bids them produce the bill of divorce, if He had given any to their mother, (Isa 1:1;) as much as to say, that His cause for rejecting them was just, because they had treacherously revolted to ungodliness.

Some interpreters do not read these three verses continuously, but suppose the sense to be complete at the end of the first, wherein the husband testifies that he divorces his wife for no offense, but because her beauty does not satisfy his lust. If, however, we give more close attention, we shall see that it is only one provision of the Law, viz., that when a man has divorced his wife, it is not lawful for him to marry her again if she have married another. The reason of the law is, that, by prostituting his wife, he would be, as far as in him lay, acting like a procurer. In this view, it is said that she was defiled, because he had contaminated her body, for the liberty which he gave her could not abolish the first institution of God, but rather, as Christ teaches, gave cause for adultery. (Mt 5:31, and 19:9.) Thus, the Israelites were reminded that, although they divorced their wives with impunity, still this license was by no means excused before God.

Leviticus 18

Leviticus 18:19

19. Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.

19. Ad mulierem in segregatione immunditiae suae non accedes, revelando turpitudinem ejus.

Leviticus 20

Leviticus 20:18

18. And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness, he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.

18. Quicunque dormierit cum meretrice aegra, et revelaverit turpitudinem ejus, fontem ejus discooperuerit, ipsa etiam revelaverit fontem sanguinis sui: succidentur ambo e medio populi sui.

Leviticus 20:18. And if a man shall lie  84 The enormity of the crime is seen by the severity of the punishment; and surely, when a man and woman abandon themselves to so disgraceful an act, it is plain that there are no remains of modesty in them. God, therefore, does not only regard the offense itself, but the brutal impulse of lust, whereby men are so carried away as to degenerate from the very feelings of nature. For what wickedness would he abstain from who yields to such impurity, that he breaks through an obstacle in his fury which restrains the brutes themselves? Let us not wonder, then, that God is a severe avenger of such obscenity.

This precept  85 has no other tendency than that believers should be kept far from all filthiness, and that chastity may flourish among them. It is indeed true that a woman, under these circumstances, is withheld from connection with a man by the very foulness of the disease, whilst there is also danger of contagion; but God rather chooses here to be an instructor in decency to His people, than to perform the office of a physician. It must be remembered, therefore, that men are warned against all indelicacy, which is abhorrent to the natural sense; and, by synecdoche, married persons are exhorted to restrain themselves from all immodest lasciviousness, and that the husband should enjoy his wife’s embraces with delicacy and propriety.

Leviticus 18

Leviticus 18:1-4, 6-18

1. And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying,

1. Loquutus est autem Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

2. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God.

2. Alloquere filios Israel et die eis, Ego Jehova Deus vester.

3. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.

3. Secundum opus terrae Aegypti in qua habitastis, ne feceritis: neque secundum opus terrae Chanaan in quam ego introduco vos, feceritis: et in statutis eorum ne ambuletis.

4. Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk there-in: I am the Lord your God.

4. Judicia mea facite, et statuta mea observate, ut in ipsis ambuletis: ego Jehova Deus vester.

6. None of you shall approach to any that is near of kill to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord.

6. Nemo ad propinquam carnis suae accedat ad revelandam turpitudinem: ego Jehova.

7. The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.

7. Turpitndinem patris tui et turpitudinem matris tuae non revelabis: mater tua est, non revelabis turpitudinem ejus:

8. The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.

8. Turpitudinem uxoris patris tui non revelabis: turpitudo patris tui est.

9. The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.

9. Turpitudinem sororis tuae, filiae patris tui, aut filiae matris tuae, quae genita est domi vel genita est foris, non revelabis turpitudinem earum.

10. The nakedness of thy son’s daughter, or of thy daughter’s daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness.

10. Turpitudinem filiae filii tui, vel filiae tuae non revelabis, quia turpitudo tua sunt.

11. The nakedness of thy father’s wife’s daughter, begotten of thy father, (she is thy sister,) thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.

11. Turpitudinem filiae uxoris partis tui, prolis patris tui, quae soror tua est, non revelabis.

12. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s sister: she is thy father’s near kinswoman.

12. Turpitudinem sororis patris tui non revelabis: nam consanguinea patris tui est.

13. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister: for she is thy mother’s near kinswoman.

13. Turpitudinem sororis matris tuae non revelabis, nam consanguinea matris tuae est.

14. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.

14. Turpitudinem fratris patris tui non revelabis, ad uxorem ejus non accedes: nam uxor fratris patris tui est.

15. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter-in-law: she is thy son’s wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.

15. Turpitudinem nurus tuae non revelabis: uxor filii tui est, non revelabis turpitudinem ejus.

16. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.

16. Turpitudinem uxoris fratris tui non revelabis, quia turpitudo fratris tui est.

17. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.

17. Turpitudinem mulieris et filiae ejus non revelabis: filiam filii ejus et filiam filiae ejus non accipies ad revelandam turpitudinem ejus: consanguineae sunt, scelus est.

18. Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, besides the other in her life-time

18. Mulierem quoque cum sorore sua non accipies ad affligendum et revelandum turpitudinem ejus contra eam (vel, super eam) in vita sua.


1. And the Lord spoke unto Moses. I have not introduced this declaration amongst other similar ones, which had for their object the preparation of their minds for the reverent reception of the Law, because, whatever conformity there may be in the words themselves, in their substance there is a great difference; for they were general, whereas this is specially confined to a single point. For it was not God’s intention here merely to exhort the people to the study of the Law, but the address respecting the keeping of His statutes is directed to the present cause, since He does not refer indifferently to all the statutes of Himself and of the Gentiles, but restricts Himself to the subject-matter, as it is called; and thus, by the statutes of the Gentiles, He means those corruptions whereby they had perverted His pure institution as to holy matrimony. First, however, tie forbids them from following the customs of the Egyptians, and then includes all the Canaanitish nations. For, since all the Orientals are libidinous, they never had any scruple in polluting themselves by incestuous marriages; whilst it is abundantly proved by history, how great were the excesses of the Egyptians  86 in this respect. A brother had no abhorrence against marrying his uterine sister, nor a paternal or maternal uncle his niece; in a word, they were so dead to. shame that they were carried away by their lusts to trample upon all the laws of nature. This is the reason why God here enumerates the kinds of incest of which the mention would else have been superfluous.

4. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments. Because it is no less difficult to correct vices, to which men have been long accustomed, than to cure diseases of long standing, especially because people in general so pertinaciously cleave to bad examples, God adduces His statutes, in order to recall the people from the errors of their evil habits into the right way. For nothing is more absurd than for us to fix our minds on the actions of men, and not on God’s word, in which is to be found the rule of a holy life. It is, therefore, just as if God would overthrow whatever had been received from long custom, and abolish the universal consent of the world by the authority of His doctrine. With this object He commands His Law to be regarded not once only, as we have already seen, lest the Israelites should abandon themselves to filthy lusts; but He diligently inculcates upon them, that they should turn away from all abuses, and keep themselves within the bounds and ordinances of His Law. And to this refers the expression, “I am the Lord your God;” containing a comparison between Himself and the heathen nations, between whom and His people He had interposed, as it were, a wall of partition.

6. None of you shall approach to any that is near. This name does not include all female relations; for cousin-ger-mans of the father’s or mother’s side are permitted to intermarry; but it must be restricted to the degrees, which He proceeds to enumerate, and is merely a brief preface, declaring that there are certain degrees of relationship which render marriages incestuous. We may, therefore, define these female relations of blood to be those which are spoken of immediately afterwards, viz., that a son should not marry his mother, nor a son-in-law his mother-in-law; nor a paternal or maternal uncle his niece, nor a grandfather his granddaughter, nor a brother his sister, nor a nephew his paternal or maternal aunt, or his uncle’s wife, nor a father-in-law his daughter-in-law, nor a brother-in-law his brother’s wife, nor a step-father his stepdaughter. The Roman laws accord with the rule prescribed by God, as if their authors had learnt from Moses what was decorous and agreeable to nature. The phrase which God uses frequently “to uncover the turpitude,” is intended to awaken abhorrence, in order that the Israelites may beware more diligently of all incest. The Hebrew word, indeed, ערוה, gnervah, signifies nakedness, therefore some translate it actively, “the nakedness of thy father,” i e., the womb which thy father hath uncovered; but this meaning would not be suitable to the nakedness of thy daughter, or thy daughter-in-law, or thy sister. Consequently, there is no doubt but that Moses means to denote that it is a filthy and shameful thing.

We must remember, what I have already hinted, that not only are incestuous connections out of wedlock condemned, but that the degrees are pointed out, within which marriages are unlawful. It is true, indeed, that this was a part of the political constitution which God established for His ancient people; still, it must be borne in mind, that whatever is prescribed here is deduced from the source of rectitude itself, and from the natural feelings implanted in us by Him. Absurd is the cleverness which some persons but little versed in Scripture pretend to,  87 who assert that the Law being abrogated, the obligations under which Moses laid his countrymen are now dissolved; for it is to be inferred from the preface above expounded, that. the instruction here given is not, nor ought to be accounted, merely political. For, since their lusts had led astray all the neighboring nations into incest, God, in order to inculcate chastity amongst his people, says; “I am the Lord your God, ye shall therefore keep my statutes; walk not after the doings of the land of Egypt and of Canaan;” and then He adds what are the degrees of consanguinity and affinity within which the marriage of men and women is forbidden. If any again object that what has been disobeyed in many countries is not to be accounted the law of the Gentiles, the reply is easy, viz., that the barbarism, which prevailed in the East, does not nullify that chastity which is opposed to the abominations of the Gentiles; since what is natural cannot be abrogated by any consent or custom. In short, the prohibition of incests here set forth, is by no means of the number of those laws which are commonly abrogated according to the circumstances of time and place, since it flows from the fountain of nature itself, and is founded on the general principle of all laws, which is perpetual and inviolable. Certainly God declares that the custom which had prevailed amongst the heathen was displeasing to Him; and why is this, but because nature itself repudiates and abhors filthiness, although approved of by the consent (suffragiis) of men? Wherefore, when God would by this distinction separate His chosen people from heathen nations, we may assuredly conclude that the incests which He commands them to avoid are absolute pollutions. Paul, on a very trifling point, sets before our eyes the law of nature; for, when he teaches that it is shameful and indecorous for women to appear in public without veils, he desires them to consider, whether it would be decent for them to present themselves publicly with their heads shorn; and finally adds, that nature itself does not permit it. (1Co 11:14.) Wherefore, I do not see, that, under the pretext of its being a political Law,  88 the purity of nature is to be abolished, from whence arises the distinction between the statutes of God, and the abuses of the Gentiles. If this discipline were founded on the utility of a single people, or on the custom of a particular time, or on present necessity, or on any other circumstances, the laws deduced from it might be abrogated for new reasons, or their observance might be dispensed with in regard to particular persons, by special privilege; but since, in their enactment, the perpetual decency of nature was alone regarded, not even a dispensation of them would be permissible. It may indeed be decreed that it should be lawful and unpunished, since it is in the power of princes to remit penalties; yet no legislator can effect that a thing, which nature pronounces to be vicious, should not be vicious; and, if tyrannical arrogance dares to attempt it, the light of nature will presently shine forth and prevail. When, formerly, the Emperor Claudius had married his niece Agrippina,  89 for the purpose of averting the shame, he procured a Senatusconsultum, which licensed such marriages; yet no one was found to imitate his example, except one freedman. Hence, just and reasonable men will acknowledge that, even amongst heathen nations, this Law was accounted indissoluble, as if implanted and engraved on the hearts of men. On this ground Paul, more severely to reprove the incest of a step-son with his father’s wife, says, that such an occurrence “is not so much as named among the Gentiles.” (1Co 5:1.)

If it be objected that such marriages are not prohibited to us in the New Testament, I reply, that the marriage of a father with his daughter is not forbidden; nor is a mother prohibited from marrying her son; and shall it therefore be lawful for those, who are near of kin, to form promiscuous connections?  90 Although Paul expressly mentions only one kind of incest, yet he establishes its disgrace by adducing the example of the Gentiles, that at least we should be ashamed if more delicacy and chastity is seen amongst them. And:. in fact, another admonition of the same Paul is enough for me, who thus writes to the Philippians:

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Php 4:8.)

As to those who ascend or descend ill a direct line, it, sufficiently appears that there is a monstrous indecency in the connection of father and daughter, or mother and son. A licentious poet,  91 being about to relate the frantic incest of Myrrha, says:

“Daughters and fathers, from my song retire,
sing of horror.”

In the collateral line, the uncles on both sides represent the father, and the aunts the mother; and, consequently, connection with them is forbidden, inasmuch as it would be of somewhat similar impropriety. The same rule affects affinity; for the step-mother, or mother-in-law, is held to stand in the relation of mother; and the step-daughter, or daughter-in-law, in that of daughter; as also the wife of the paternal or maternal uncle is to be regarded in the relation of mother. And, although express mention may not be made of it here, we must form our judgment by analogy as to what is prohibited; — the uncle on the father’s or mother’s side is not here forbidden to marry his niece; but, since the nephew is interdicted from marrying his paternal or maternal aunt, the mutual relation of the inferior to the superior degree must prevail. But if any should contend that there is a difference, the reason added by Moses refutes his objection, for it is said, “She is thy father’s or thy mother’s near kinswoman.” Hence it follows, that a niece is guilty of incest if she marries her uncle on either side. As to brothers and sisters, God pronounces that marriage with a sister, although she be not uterine, is unlawful; for He forbids the uncovering of the turpitude of a sister, who is either the daughter of thy father or thy mother.

16. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife. They are bad  92 interpreters who raise a controversy on this passage, and expound it, that a brother’s wife must not be taken from his bed, or, if she be divorced, that manage with her would be unlawful whilst her husband was still alive; for it is incongruous to twist into different senses declarations which are made in the same place, and in the same words. God forbids the uncovering of the turpitude of the wife of a father, an uncle, and a son; and when He lays down the same rule respecting a brother’s wife in the very same words, it is absurd to invent a different meaning for them. If, therefore, it be not lawful to marry the wife of a father, a son, an uncle, or a nephew, we must. hold precisely the same opinion with respect to a brother’s wife, concerning whom an exactly similar law is enacted in the same passage and context. I am not, however, ignorant of the source from whence those, who think otherwise, have derived their mistake; for, whereas God gives a command in another place, that if a man shall have died without issue, his surviving brother shall take his widow to wife, in order that he may raise up of her seed to the departed, (De 25:5,) they have incorrectly and ignorantly restricted this to own-brothers, although God rather designates other degrees of relationship. It is a well-known Hebrew idiom, to embrace under the name of brother all near kinsmen in general; and the Latins also formerly so denominated cousins-german.  93 The law, then, now before us, respecting marriage with a deceased brother’s wife, is only addressed to those relations who are not otherwise prohibited from such a marriage, since it was not God’s purpose to prevent the loss of a deceased person’s name by permitting those incestuous marriages, which tie had elsewhere condemned. Wherefore these two points agree perfectly well, that an own-brother was prohibited from marrying his brother’s widow, whilst the next of kin were obliged to raise up seed for the dead, by the right of their relationship, wherever their marriage was otherwise permissible by the enactment’s of the law. On this ground Boaz married Ruth, who had previously been married to his near kinsman; and it is abundantly clear from the history, that the law applied to all the near kinsmen. But if any still contend that own-brothers were included in the number of these, on the same grounds the daughter-in-law must be married by her father-in-law, and the nephew’s wife by the uncle, and even the mother-in-law by the son-in-law, which it is an abomination to speak of. If any object that Er, Onan, and Shelah, the sons of Judah, were own-brothers, and still that Tamar married two of them, the difficulty is easily solved, viz., that Judah, following the common and received practice of the Gentiles, acted improperly in permitting it. It is plain enough, from the histories of all ages, that there were disgusting and shameless mixtures in the marriages of Oriental nations. By evil communications, then, as is ever the case, Judah was led into giving the same wife to his second son as had before been married to the eldest. And, in fact, God expressly says that this offense was rife among the Gentiles, where tie condemns incestuous connections. This, therefore, I still hold to be unquestionable, that, by the law of Moses, marriage with the widow of an own-brother is forbidden.

18. Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister. By this passage certain froward persons pretend that it is permitted, if a man has lost his wife, to marry her own sister, because the restriction is added, not to take the one in the lifetime of the other. From whence they infer, that it is not forbidden that she should succeed in the place of the deceased. But they ought to have considered the intention of the legislator from his own express words, for mention is made not only of incest and filthiness, but of the jealousy and quarrels, which arise from hence. If it had merely been said, “Thou shalt not uncover her turpitude,” there would have been some color to their pretext, that the husband being a widower, he would be free to marry his wife’s sister; but, when a different object for the law is expressly stated, i e., lest she, who was legally married, should be troubled by quarrels and contentions, it is plain that the license for polygamy is restricted by this exception, in order that the Israelites should be contented with one evil, and, at least, should not expose two sisters to hostile contention with each other. The condition of the first wife was already painful enough, when she was compelled to put up with a rival and a concubine; but it was more intolerable to be constantly quarrelling with her near relative. The name of sister is not, therefore, restricted, I think, to actual sisters, but other relations are included in it, whose marriages would not otherwise have been incestuous. In a word, it is not incest which is condemned, so much as the cruelty of a husband, if he chose to contract a further marriage with the near kinswoman of his wife. Nor can we come to any other conclusion from the words of Moses; for if the turpitude of a brother is uncovered when his brother marries his widow, no less is the turpitude of a sister uncovered when her sister marries her husband after her decease. But hence we plainly see the diabolical arrogance of the Pope, who, by inventing new degrees of kindred, would be wiser than God; whilst he also betrays his cunning, because from this kind of sport he made himself a fat game-bag.

Since from long custom it is established that cousins-german should not marry, we must beware of giving scandal lest too unbridled a liberty should expose the Gospel to much reproach; and we must bear in mind Paul’s admonition, to abstain even from things lawful when they are not expedient. (1Co 10:23.)

Deuteronomy 22

Deuteronomy 22:30

30. A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor discover his father’s skirt.

30. Non accipiet quisquam uxorem patris sui, neque discooperiet oram patris sui.


30. A man shall not take his father’s wife. Since Moses does not here refer to any other kinds of incest, but speaks only of that with a step-mother, it is probable that, what he had more fully set forth before he here briefly recalled to the minds of the Israelites under a single head. At any rate, the prohibition of one offense does not open the gate to other abominations. The expression which he adds, “nor discover his father’s skirt,” is as much as to say, that the father is exposed to shame when the step-son has; no regard to decency, and goes in to his step-mother. Perhaps he alludes to the sin of Ham, who betrayed his ungodliness by exposing the shame of his father. (Ge 9:22.)



Omitted in Fr.


“Toutes dissolutions vilenes.” — Fr.


See vol. 2, p. 281, and note.


The Supplements of the Seventh Commandment are differently divided in the Fr. There is no such heading as “Judicial Supplements,” and this passage, as well as several others, is removed into a separate class, headed “Political Supplements.”


“Toute compagnie d’homme et de femme hors le mariage.” — Fr.


Margin A. V., “profane.”


The Hebrew verb קדש has the double signification of sanctum esse and praeparare, (Taylor’s Concordance,) though only, it would appear, to prepare by sanctifying.


These passages are also considered in the Fr. subsequently to some that follow.


Added from Fr.


See Plin., Ep. 6:13.


“Quant aux jugemens terreins, et humains.” — Fr.


Added from Fr.


C.’s Latin version and Commentary agree here with the margin of, A. V. rather than the text, “she shall be scourged;” margin, “there shall be a scourging.” Dathes translation is “vapulabunt ambo,” and his note, “sic Vulgatus recte, sequitur enim pluralis non moriantur. Cf. Michaelis in J. M. P. V., p. 50.”


This passage also taken further on in Fr.


The Hebrew text has לא, not, but with a mark of doubt as to the genuineness of the reading, and the Masoretic note directs the substitution of לו, to him C. follows S. M. in adhering to the text, whilst our A. V. and the LXX. reject not, in accordance with the Masora. — W


This sentence is omitted in Ft., and the following substituted: “Ce mot doncques ou il est dit, Quil ne la pourra vendre a des estrangers, est entrelasse, pour monstrer, qu’il n’y eust eu nulle raison qu’il vendist celle qu’il a abusee de vaine esperance;“ this sentence, then, in which it is said that he may not sell her to strangers, is inserted to show that there was no reason why he should sell her whom he has abused with vain hopes.


A. V., “If she please not.” Margin, “Heb., Be evil in the eyes of, etc.”


Added from Fr., in which there is much verbal difference here.


“Toutefois il semble bien que Dieu ait poisee le cas, qu’une femme fust chargee de presomption vehemente;” still it fully appears that God has supposed the case, that the woman should be charged upon strong presumption. — Fr.


“Nous savons qu’il y a beaucoup de gens ombrageux, qui concoyvent des fantasies a la volee;” we know that there are many suspicious persons who hastily take fancies into their heads. — Fr.


“Litandi ritus.” — Lat. “La facon d’obtenir grace devant Dieu, et se reconcilier.” — Fr.


A. V., “and shall conceive seed.” “Heb., shall be sown with seed; which the Chaldee expoundeth, shall prove with child.” — Ainsworth.


Thy thigh to fall. Heb., thy thigh falling; in Greek, thy thigh fallen; in Chaldee, thy thigh dissolved. — Ibid. “Something similar to the disease called prolapsus uteri.” — Adam Clarke.


“Folly, that which is contrary to sound reason, wickedness.” — Simon’s Heb. Lex. — W. Taylor, in his Concordance, says, “Folly, rather vice:, villany, or what can be supposed in bad morals to be answerable to sapless, withered flowers, leaves, or fruit. Ge 34:7; Jos 7:15; Judg. 19:23, 24.”


This passage considered further on in Fr., under the head of “Political Supplements.”


This commentary is, in Fr., appended to Le 18:19, and included previously under the General Supplements of the Commandment.


“A very objectionable custom, which is not only noticed by Diodorus, but is fully authenticated by the sculptures both of Upper and Lower Egypt, existed among them from the earliest times, the origin and policy of which it is not easy to explain — the marriage of brother and sister, which Diodorus supposes to have been owing to, and sanctioned by, that of His and Osiris; but as this was purely an allegorical fable, and these ideal personages never lived on earth, his conjecture is of little weight; nor does any ancient writer offer a satisfactory explanation of so strange a custom.” — Wilkinson’s Popular Account of the Ancient Egyptians, 2:224.


Thus, the third Canon of the 24th Session of the Council of Trent declares; “Si quis dixerit, eos tantum consanguinitatis et affinitatis gradus, qui Levitico exprimentur, posse impedire matrimonium, et dirimere contractum: nec posse Ecclesiam in nonnullis illorum dispensare, aut constituere, ut plures impediant, et dirimant, anathema sit.” “Atqui plane certum est, (says Lorinus, in loco,) praecepta de gradibus in isto capite contenta, cum non sint omnia pure moralia, et naturalia, sed quaedam positiva, et judicialia, per se non obligare Christianos, et idcirco posse per Ecclesiam in quibusdam dispensari.”


“Sous couverture que la Loy de Moyse a cesse” — Fr. Under the pretext that the Law of Moses has ceased.


“Nec Claudius ultra expectato, obvium apud forum praebet se gratantibus; senatumque ingressus ‘decretum postulat, quo justae inter patruos, fratrumque filias nuptiae etiam in posterum statuerentur.’ Neque tamen repertus est, nisi unus talis matrimonii cupitor, T. Alladius Severus, eques Romanus, quem plerique Agrippinae gratia impulsum ferebant.” — Tacitus Ann., Lib. 12:7.


“Leur sera il pourtant licite de se mesler confusement ensemble comme bestes?” shall it therefore be lawful to them to mix together confusedly like beasts?


Ovid. Metam., 10:300.

“Dira canam: procul hinc natae, procul este parentes.”


In Willet this exposition is attributed to Radulph., Blesensis, and Borrhaus.


Thus Augustine (De Civit. Dei. 15:16. Section 2,) says, — “quod fiebat cum consobrina, pene cum sorore fieri videbatur: quia et ipsi inter se propter tam propinquam consanguinitatem fratres vocantur, et pene germani sunt.”

Next: Judicial Supplements