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

Benjamin Netanyahu Is a Successful Leader, Not a Magician

Sept. 20 2019

Following the inconclusive results of Tuesday’s election, weeks may elapse before a prime minister is chosen, and there is a chance that Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career isn’t over yet. Perusing the headlines about Netanyahu over the past year, Ruthie Blum notes how many have referred to him as a political “magician,” or some variant thereof. But this cliché misses the point:

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics