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Incest, Marrying Cousins, and Sexual Abuse


According to NAPCAN 2009 and Synder 2000 studies, 95% of sexually abused children will be abused by someone they know and trust, and 50% percent of those who molested children under the age of 6 were family members as well as 23% of those who abused children ages 12-17. Even though these statistics are over a decade old, there is no reason to think that they are much different today in 2020. With the constantly changing cultural norms surrounding the LGBT culture and now the pedophile culture in many areas of the United States, Christians must once again double-check themselves that their thoughts on these matters are biblical, not emotional. Over 20 years ago, many Christians would “know” that homosexuality is sinful simply because it seemed gross to them. Fast forward to today, many Christians hesitate to have a firm stance against homosexuality simply because it has become normalized in pop-culture and society.


I fear that much of the same is going to happen regarding incest, pedophilia, and even beastiality. Each of these topics are still largely to be considered sinful, gross, and immoral. But what is stopping our culture’s morally-relativistic mentality from eventually normalizing them? Nothing. In the same way, I will not be surprised to see many professing Christians to gradually believe that incestual and pedophilic relationships are not considered to be sinful to God. For a more in depth reading specifically regarding why pedophilia is sinful, please go to plumtheology.com and read the blog titled “Why Pedophilia was, is, and always will be sinful”. This entry will be focused on what the Bible says concerning incest.


Incest can be a rather controversial topic to bring up with the Bible, because there are many circumstances in the Bible where the historical characters committed incest. The offspring of Adam and Eve would have had to commit incest in order to populate the earth when it was just their family living there. Lot’s daughters (Genesis 19) thought it was a good idea to get their father drunk and have sex with him in order that their family tree would be preserved. As we take a look at the Bible in regards to incest, we have to remember that just because a historical event is recorded in the Bible, it does not mean that it is something that was prescribed as a moral action by God. In fact, much of the Bible records many of the sinful acts of mankind so that we can more fully understand what it means to be loved by God and saved by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ despite how much we have sinned against Him and deserve His righteous judgment.


The modern definition of incest is: sexual intercourse between closely related persons. For the purposes of this article we will also need to look at the Biblical definition of incest, which can be found in Leviticus 18. In this chapter, God makes it very clear to the nation of Israel which relatives are off limits to have sexual relations with. It is also important to note that for a person to engage in any of these forbidden relationships would fall under the category of committing adultery in the Ten Commandments.

God begins this portion of The Law by stating in verse 6 “None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the LORD”. After this preface, God is going to continue to define more specifically which relationships qualify as “blood relatives”. These relationships include a: father, mother, father’s wife, sister, step-sister, granddaughter, aunt, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, daughter, and granddaughter-in-law.


It is important to note that the language of these laws come during a time in the Ancient Near East culture that is heavy in masculine language. In other words, the forbidden relationships God is speaking of are all geared towards the men, but only because it was the men who had many more rights than women. However, the same forbidden relationships would apply towards the women as well. This is the same case that when Jesus teaches in Matthew 5 that even to “look at a woman lustfully” is committing adultery, the same would apply for looking at men lustfully as well (whether it is men looking at men, women looking at men, or women looking at women).


Notice the relationships that were not mentioned in God’s list: cousins. Now, I am not going to make a case as to why people should still be marrying their cousins (which is still legal in parts of the United States). Rather, just as Jesus Christ brought greater fulfillment to The Law and the Prophets in the Old Testament, this is no different.


To me, it makes logical sense that God desired the Israelites to marry their cousins. After all, in Deuteronomy 7 He sternly warns Israel against intermarrying with the pagan cultures around them for the reason that it will result in the Israelites falling into false worshipping practices which then the anger of the LORD will kindle against them and will destroy them. The purpose of marrying cousins seems to be in order to maintain spiritual purity among the Israelites, God’s chosen people, who are called to represent His holiness to the rest of the world.


Jesus Christ brings greater fulfillment to the allowance of marrying cousins in that His death and resurrection made it possible for all people groups to freely repent of their sins and believe in Him as their Lord and Savior. Just as Romans 1:16, the Apostle Paul states, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek”. This theme is repeated in Galatians when Paul writes to the Gentile Christians in Galatia that because of Christ, there is no distinction among Christians whether they are Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, but all are one in Christ Jesus.


The purpose of not intermarrying under The Law had been made obsolete, because if the purpose of not intermarrying was to maintain spiritual purity among God’s people, Christ made it possible for people groups to intermarry so as long as they are united in Christ. Once again, the Apostle Paul actually addresses this, in a way, when he writes to the church in Ephesus the symbolism of marriage as being a picture of Christ and His Bride, the Church. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, and the wife is to be subject to her husband as the Church is subject to Christ. The only way for this relationship to function properly is if both parties know what it is to belong to Christ. It is impossible for a husband to love his wife if he does not know the love of Christ, and likewise for a wife to be subject to her husband if she does not first know Christ as her Savior and Lord.


As far as incest goes, we have covered the reason why God allowed cousins to marry under the Law of Moses. Now let’s take a look at the forbidden relationships in The Law. Several times God used the terms “she is your blood relative” as the reason why certain relationships were forbidden. I find it interesting that when we compare the four purposes of sex (pleasure, love, unity, and multiplying) to the issue of incest, God seems to deal with the unity-purpose when it comes to incest. For a person to be in a sexual relationship with a close blood relative would nullify the purpose of two becoming one flesh, in that they already belong to the same one flesh. When two people become one flesh they are creating a new family unit, and it seems that a relationship of incest would nullify that.


Regarding sexual abuse among family members, it is clear by the sexual relationships that God forbids, it would definitely apply to all those cases, whether "consensual" or not. It is a form of adultery according to God and is an abomination to Him.


The main reason for this posting is because it does not seem too far in the future that pedophilia and incest will become socially acceptable in our society. Just like many other sinful behaviors, it will probably become so normalized that there will be a growing number of professing Christians who will forget why it is sinful in the first place. As I mentioned before, it is important that Christians have a biblical foundation regarding sexual sin, not an emotional one. Incest will was, is, and always will be sinful and, as Christians, we must adhere to what God defines as incest, because as He never changes, we know that our sinful world always will.


The sin of incest is no different than all other sexual sin in that it has the same common denominator that all sexual sin has, it simply misuses one or more of the four purposes of sex in a way that it does not properly reflect the holy image of our God. Sex was first created to be an act of worship, and secondly as a gift for men and women to enjoy, all for His glory.


For those who have committed any of the sexual sins mentioned here, I would want them to know that forgiveness is available to them if they repent of their sins and place their trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of those sins which they deserve God's eternal punishment for. God is faithful to forgive all sinners who genuinely repent, but He is also faithful to bring down His justice on those who are guilty in their sins. My plea to all sinners out there, repent and believe in Jesus Christ if you have not already done so. Where sin increases, God's grace abounds even more!


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