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provided for, by ever reckoning the husband to the tribe and family of the wife, as it obviously might have been had the general principles of the law allowed it. But they did not allow it, and therefore it was never permitted in any case. The only remaining practicable mode of providing for the case was that adopted: to forbid women possessing an inheritance to marry out of their tribe and family; although, if they possessed no inheritance, they might marry any Israelite.
Leviticus 21: 1-3. In this passage a priest is forbidden to defile himself for the dead among his people; but for his kin that is near unto him, for his father and his mother, his son and his daughter, for his brother and for his sister, a virgin that is nigh unto him, which hath no husband, for them he may be defiled. An unmarried sister is so near unto him that he may be defiled for her”—but if she was married she was in the eye of the law no longer so near to him that he might go into mourning for her. The fact of her marriage had essentially changed the nearness of her kin to him. Had then the same fact made no change in her nearness of kindred to the rest of her family? Had she ceased to be near of kin to her brother and not to her sister ? Did she continue to be as nearly related to her sister as before ? And had the same fact which had removed her from being near of kin to her brother and her sister, made her husband as near of kin to them as he was to his own ? that is, nearer than she was herself? Would the advocates of implication apply to this
passage their doctrine, that a man is as near of kin to his wife's blood relatives as to his own, and therefore contend, that though a priest is solemnly forbid to put on mourning for a married sister, he still might for her husband ? In all consistency they must do it, for he, according to their doctrine, is just as near of kin as an own brother, and for an own brother the priest might put on mourning. Let the advocates of implication dispose of this case consistently with their principles, if they can. When they have done so, the writer will be ready to give the subject a reconsideration.
There is but one mode of disposing of this case, or that of the daughters of Zelophehad. By referring again to our table, it will be seen that within certain grades of kindred, a man was not permitted to marry an affinis of his own family. The reason is obvious. The wives of his male relatives were considered as incorporated with his own family,
and as having thus become near of kin to him. By the same principle they had ceased to be near of kin to their brothers and sisters, or so near as before, by being removed from their family, and as the case might be, from their tribe. Thus a man might not marry his father's brother's wife, because she was of his own family, and near of kin, but he is not prohibited his mother's brother's wife, because, though the wife of a relative of the same nearness of blood as the other, she had by no means the same nearness of kin; for she belonged to another family, and might belong to another tribe. So a man must not marry his brother's wife, because she is in his own family, but he may marry his wife's sister because she is of another family, and may be even of another tribe : his marriage, instead of making him near of kin to his wife's collateral relatives, had caused her to cease to be near of kin to ihem, and had created a nearness of kin between her and his collateral relatives. With this principle our whole table is strictly consistent. In certain degrees a man may never marry an affinis of his own family, lineal or collateral ; a collateral of his wife he is never forbidden. It is now confidently asked, can any man, in view of these facts and considerations, maintain that in the eye of the Levitical law, a man's nearness of kin to his brother's wife, a member of his own family, is the same as to his wife's sister of entirely another family, and perhaps another tribe ? But this must be maintained, or the prohibition of marriage with the collateral relatives of his deceased wife must be given up.
The attempt has sometimes been made to set aside the interpretation which is advocated in this article, by reasoning from what is supposed to be the design of the law. It is claimed by some, that the design of the law is to remove all temptation to illicit intercourse of the sexes, among members of the same family, and that this reason applies as much to the wife's collateral relatives as to a man's own. But where is the proof that this is the design of the law? This again is an assumption, with no proof. Nor is it alone without proof. The evidence is against it. If this had been the design of ihe law, there is no connexion which it would have been more important to forbid than that of step-brother and-sister. They generally live under the same roof, and are associated in all the operations of the family as brother and sister, and yet marriage in this relation is not forbidden by the broadest ex
tension of the law. The marriage of cousins is not forbidden; and yet if this were the design of the law, it ought to have been forbidden rather than most of those which are specified. As there is therefore good reason to believe that this is not the design of the law, all conclusions drawn from the supposition that it is, must be without foundation.
Is it then still urged, as an objection to the interpretation which has been given, that it leaves some cases unprohibited, in which, in the circumstances of modern society, it is evidently undesirable and improper that the marriage relation should be formed ? It is admitted that it does, but it is claimed that this cannot invalidate the interpretation, if it rests otherwise on substantial reasons. We have no right to set up a modern standard to interpret the Mosaic law by. Why indeed should we expect the law of incest in that code, to be better suited to the circumstances of modern Christian socie. ty than the more general law of marriage? Surely no one contends for an interpretation of that law, which would render it suited to our case. In a certain case of very frequent occurrence in our day, a man was required by that law to marry his brother's widow. Does any one think that law ought to be enforced now?
The Levitical law did not even prohibit polygamy. It is indeed claimed by Dr. Sereno E. Dwight, that polygamy is forbidden in Leviticus 18: 18. “Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, besides the other in her life-time.” Dr. Dwight deserves great credit for the acute and unanswerable philological argument, by which he has proved, that to take a wife to her sister, means to take one wife to another, that is, to take a second wife in addition to one he already had. But it will be observed that the thing forbidden is not the taking of a second wife in the life-time of the first, but it is the doing of it “to vex her.” It is not a general prohibition of polygamy, but a prohibition of it in a particular case, implying of course that in other cases it was permitted.* Indeed, how can any one entertain
We take the liberty of inserting here an extract from the communication of “Omicron," in the New York Observer of August 6, 1842, generally attributed to Dr. E. Robinson.ED.
“ The philological difficulty above alluded to, is perhaps
the idea that David and Solomon, and others, in taking a plurality of wives, were acting in direct violation of the known letter of the divine law? It is claimed by some that the king
not less real. The phrase, a woman to her sister,' does indeed occur no less than eight times elsewhere in the He. brew Bible, in the general meaning one to another;' but only of inanimate objects in the feminine gender, viz. of the curtains, loops, and tenons of the tabernacle, Exod. xxvi. 3 bis. 5, 6, 17; and of the wings of the living creatures, Ezek. i. 9, 23, iii. 13. The like phrase in the masculine, “a man to his brother,' occurs in all about twenty times; mostly of men, but also in a few instances of inanimate objects or insects, as Exod. xxv. 20; Joel ii. 8. But it is to be remarked, that in every such instance, this phrase, whether masculine or femi. nine, has a reciprocal distributive power; that is, a number of persons or things are said to do or be so and so one to another. A plural nominative invariably precedes, connected with a plural verb; and then the action or relation of this verb is by ibis phrase marked as reciprocal and mutual among the individuals comprised in the plural nominative. Thus :
the children of Israel said one to another,' Exod. xvi. 15, and often. So Abraham and Lot separated themselves one from the other,' Gen. xiii. 11; Neh. iv. 19; Isa. ix. 19, in the Heb. 'they shall not spare one another.' Hagg. ii. 22, And the horses and their riders shall come down, each by the sword of the other,' i. e. they shall destroy one another. So of the other examples. This, then, is the idiom ; and to this idiom the passage in Levit. xviii. 18, has no relation. There is nothing distributive nor reciprocal implied in it. The phrase here refers only to the object of the verb; upon which object no trace of mutual or reciprocal action passes over. To bring it in any degree under the idiom, it should at least read thus : • Wives (bu; na-shim) one to another thou shalt not take;' and even then it would be unlike any other instance. But further, the suffixes attached in the singular to the subsequent words [her nakedness, besides her, in her life.time,] show decisively, that such a solution is inadmissible; and these of themselves limit the words to two specific individuals, who have here no mutual action one upon the other, in the same literal sense as in the preceding verses, viz. a wife to her sister.
was forbidden to practise polygamy in Deut. 17: 17, where, speaking of the king whom the Israelites should set over them, it is said, “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself that his heart turn not away." By looking back to the 16th verse it will be seen that he is forbidden to multiply horses ; does this mean that he should have but one horse ? No more does the prohibition to multiply wives, imply that he should have but one wife. Indeed, the giving of such a charge to a pepole in reference to their king, implies the existence and toleration of polygamy. How
would such a charge sound given to a king of England or France, or to a President of the United States?
It is then undeniable that the Levitical law of marriage is, as a whole, inadequate to the necessities and unsuited to the circumstances of modern Christian society. The idea of introducing it as our code, would be revolting to every mind. Is it then an objection to an interpretation of a particular part
may also be remarked, as a fact of no little importance in this connection, that all the ancient versions adhere like. wise to this literal and obvious interpretation; as the Chaldee Targum of Onkelos, made about the time of our Saviour, and the Samaritan and Syriac versions made not long afterwards. As to these, it might indeed be replied, that they merely follow the cognate Hebrew idiom, and therefore decide nothing. But the oldest version of all, made two or three centuries before Christ, and into a language not cognate, I mean the Septuagint, is certainly not liable to any such reply, and is nevertheless the most decisive of all. This version, in all the other eight instances of the feminine phrase, renders it one to another,' by means of some form of the Greek words Štepos heteros, or onenav allelon; but here in Levit. xviii. 18, it gives to the same phrase the literal sense, 'A wife to her sister thou shalt not take,' γυναίκα επ’ αδελφη αυτής ου λήψη It would be in vain in this case to say, either that the Seventy had before them a different text; or that they did not understand their own language and its idioms; or that they were unacquainted with the manner in which their fathers interpreted the Mosaic law.
“It appears to me, therefore, that we are compelled, by all sound laws of interpretation, to understand this 18th verse of a wife's sister, and of her alone."