No, Biblical Prohibitions on Incest Are Not about “Sexual Property”

Leviticus 18 and 20—read in synagogues last Sabbath and the upcoming one, respectively—contain near-identical lists of forbidden relationships. Most verses in these chapters refer to these forbidden acts as “uncovering nakedness,” e.g., “Do not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is the nakedness of your father” (18:8). According to the late French Bible scholar Guillaume Cardascia, and other contemporary academic biblicists, these prohibitions stem from a notion of a man’s control over his female relatives; transgression of these laws thus constitutes a violation of his property rights. Eve Levavi Feinstein explains, and dismantles, this argument:

[These] scholars have argued that ownership of a woman’s sexuality is at the core of Leviticus 18’s explanation for the various prohibitions against [sex with relatives by marriage]. A man’s father’s wife is prohibited because her “nakedness” is “the nakedness of [his] father,” which they interpret to mean that she is prohibited because she is the man’s father’s sexual property. The prohibitions on sex with other relatives by marriage—a man’s brother’s wife, father’s brother’s wife, and so on—are expressed in relation to the man. . . .

This argument, however, is fallacious. Concern about violating other men’s sexual property is the basis for the law against adultery, which appears in both lists. The prohibitions on the wives of relatives cannot simply be cases of adultery, as this would be redundant. . . .

In fact, the phrase “it is the nakedness of your father” does not mean that your father’s wife is his sexual property. This is clear from the use of the same terminology to explain the prohibition on sex with granddaughters: “because their nakedness is yours.” A man’s granddaughter is not prohibited in spite of the fact that her nakedness is his own nakedness. [as Cardascia et al. argue] but because of it. This would be inconceivable if “your nakedness” referred to sexual property.

A more fitting interpretation of “nakedness” is as a metaphor for a particular type of familial relationship. A blood relation is described as one’s “flesh”; for example, a man’s father’s sister is forbidden because “she is your father’s flesh” (Leviticus 18:12). A spouse, on the other hand, is described as one’s “nakedness.” . . . A man’s mother’s nakedness is both his father’s and her own, and she is prohibited for both reasons.

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Read more at theTorah.com

More about: Hebrew Bible, Leviticus, Religion & Holidays, Sexual ethics

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela