Incest in the Bible

Most of us are taught that Incest is a sin. That god outlawed it. But the fact is, I cannot find a single passages which backs up this belief.

God tells us that we should not lie with another man's wife. But nowhere does it say anything about our daughters. If you read the Old Testament you will find a multitude of scripture describing who you may not take as a bed partner, but there is a conspicuous lack of mention of daughters.

In fact, there are passages which tell of daughters that have gotten themselves pregnant by their father, while he slept.

GEN 19

31 And the first-born said unto the younger: 'Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth. 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.' 33 And they made their father drink wine that night. And the first-born went in, and lay with her father; and he knew not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the first-born said unto the younger: 'Behold, I lay yesternight with my father. Let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.' 35 And they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose, and lay with him; and he knew not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. 37 And the first-born bore a son, and called his name Moab--the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. 38 And the younger, she also bore a son, and called his name Ben-ammi--the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day. {

God does not punish these two girls. In fact, the next passages mention nothing more about it. It is funny that of all the passages in the Bible, God has absolutely nothing to say about this act.

There is a sense, however, that the person writing this story finds some slight moral dilemma concerning this, but he is more concerned with discretion than anything else. It is said that Lot was drunk, and knew nothing of either encounter. Are we to believe such a story?

If there were no men around, how did he think his daughters got pregnant? Are we to believe he was so drunk that he didn't know what he was doing? How many times have we heard that one before?

Here then, is law as set forth by God concerning who and what you may not sleep with. You will notice that there is a suspicious lack of mention concerning daughters.

LEV 20:

10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 11 And the man that lieth with his father's wife--he hath uncovered his father's nakedness--both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. 12 And if a man lie with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have wrought corruption; their blood shall be upon them. 13 And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. 14 And if a man take with his wife also her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you. 15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death; and ye shall slay the beast. 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. 17 And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness: it is a shameful thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people: he hath uncovered his sister's nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity. 18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness--he hath made naked her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood--both of them shall be cut off from among their people. 19 And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister, nor of thy father's sister; for he hath made naked his near kin; they shall bear their iniquity. 20 And if a man shall lie with his uncle's wife--he hath uncovered his uncle's nakedness--they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless. 21 And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is impurity: he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless.

The laws are all varied according the severity of the crime committed. Some punishments seem rather light in comparison to others of a very similar nature. Yet as we see in these passages, there is no mention of the father/daughter relationship. As we also saw in the story of Lot. No punishment was received by the daughters who impregnated themselves by their father. In fact, they were made the mothers of two new lines that thrived.

Rape is not spoken of in the Bible. It seems to be the males right to take a woman and make her his wife, even if it is against her will. We see proof of this in Numbers, where the laws concerning the taking of beautiful woman that were left over in battle were given.

Throughout history it has been common practice that a daughter should take the place of the mother in all ways, if the mother is incapacitated. The reason given has always been that if the man did not obtain sex at home, he would go elsewhere and usually take his paycheck with him.

My own mother went to school with a girl in this very position in pre-war Europe. The church knew about the arrangement as did the school and all the neighbours. Many pitied her, but since the family had little recourse as there was no welfare or child protective services, the father was not chastised for his actions.

It is not a law given by the Bible, but we must assume by the omission of any law whatsoever $6 concerning the father/daughter relationship that this practice is overlooked, if not sanctioned by God.

In fact, it is well known that if the bible were a true account of history that at least twice incest was the only possible way mankind could have survived and thrived. The first is the story of Adam and Eve and the second is the story of Noah after the flood. Brothers and sisters would have had to have come together because there was no one else according to the bible.

Perhaps we can say that there were others since Cain had to get a wife from somewhere and left his home to get her. That would be interesting in that then one could say that the story of Adam and Eve is about the first Hebrews, not the first people. Or perhaps that god created others but Adam and Eve were first. We might even consider that original sin would not have been universal if there were others.

But in light of a flood that wiped everyone out the point is moot. There is no other way but incest for Noah and his family. But that presents a problem in that we know that genetics degrade if you keep mating with family members. Divine intervention for special periods of time anyone?

We see by these passages, that our own morality has evolved beyond that of the bible. Today, rape is a crime, and all forms of incest have been outlawed. We know it still goes on, but we also know that daughters can, and do, suffer severe mental trauma at the hands of their fathers.

Our empathy has brought us to believe that god outlawed incest in all forms, but that is clearly not the case. Humanity has come out against the practice, and that to me, says a lot about the human mind. It proves that we are more than capable of finding our own morality, and refining it. There is no god required for this

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Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

I've always puzzled a bit over this one myself. Almost as though God forgot to mention it - but a natural law/instinct in humanity says that there is something fundamentally wrong with it. Excellent hub...and I'm so glad they added this interesting option.


Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author

lol... I'm clearing out a bunch of essays I wrote as part of a book I started in 1996. I've already cannibalized it for other books.

I'm not sure I am seeing what you are seeing. What interesting option?

I got a notice that said I was not allowed to use ads for this hub because it deals with incest. Does the option you are talking about have something to do with that?

I've always puzzled over it too but at the same time when you have a situation where your creation myth tells you incest had to be the only way the species was propagated originally it would be hard to outlaw it directly. Plus, we have to remember it was a man's world so he options that included sleeping with his daughters if need be.

It's rather sick, I think. I could never look at my daughters that way. I can't imagine myself doing so in those days either. I don't think it is something men naturally do or think about as a rule. But I think privilege and ownership may have more to do with it for some. Remember that kings had the right to first crack at the virgin brides of England for a time.

Certainly it is not uncommon even today. Though at least society doesn't condone it or brush it under the rug anymore, which is at least a bit encouraging.

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Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

You know the useful, funny, awesome, beautiful? They've now added interesting. I love it.

I think that's part of why I've always felt very strongly that Genesis is an allegory rather than a literal telling of creation. My husband and I have had that conversation several times because neither of us believes in the literal creation myth as it's defended by some.

And the thought that any man could EVER look at his daughter that way absolutely sickens me.

Privilege and ownership in regard to women does as well.

Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi :)

So much for us getting our morals only from God and the Bible!


You can't use ads because it deals with incest? How odd! It's a serious article.

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Binaya.Ghimire 5 years ago

I have not read the Bible in great details so I was astounded by this hub. Thanks for sharing.

graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 5 years ago

One of my early thoughts on Lot's daughters was that their sexual violation of their father (I saw it as a violation) was directly related to him not long before offering to hand them over to a crowd to be raped. It's an interpretation of my own, I suppose, but I saw the 2 incidents as connected. I think i also saw the girls getting a bit of their own back. Bearing a child was very important to a woman of that time, their father had hardly endeared himself to them, and so they used him for their purposes. If one wants to look for a message, maybe it's "People you gave over to be gang raped can get unpredictable on you."

There's more than one story in the OT whose morality is nebulous at best. What is one to make of the levitite who pushed his concubine outdoors so she could raped all night, then cut her body into twelve pieces when he found her dead next morning? I really can't hazard a guess at the point of that one, other than "people do some horrible things."

Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Yes, the whole story of Lot and family is very odd, I find.

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author


Ownership of other people period is sickening. But it was common to own you wife and children even up to a hundred years ago. Everything was owned either by you or another man. Woman and children were not persons under the law.

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Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

I know...and ugh. That's really all I can say about that. Fabulously well thought out comment, eh? ;)

Although to be more clear - privilege and ownership in regard to other human beings (not just women) sickens me. Always has. One of the benefits of being born and raised in 20th and 21st century America, I suppose, is that it's a concept I can barely fathom. Makes me very grateful to be from the time and place I'm from.

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author


Yes it does seem like we have surpassed our god on the question of morality.

The Lot story really is a mess. Here's a guy who wants to give up his daughters to be raped and yet God sees him as an upstanding moral human being. It is rather odd to us. But I suppose back when this story was told, giving up the men would have been worse morally.

I may do some research and do a hub on Lot's story, actually.

So. Yes. Apparently if you du a hub that mentions someone buying or selling drugs you are in violation of the terms. Also articles that mention illegal drugs, the word incest, pedophilia, and other word that are not PC topics for Hub pages, are not allowed to run ads. The hubs themselves can stay as long as they are "quality hubs". It has more to do with google ads than it does about Hub pages, I think.

Your pages are auto-scanned for "objectionable" words. Then someone actually reads them and makes a decision as to whether they are "quality hubs" or not if such a word is found. ;)

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author


I'm glad you found it of some use. The bible is best seen as a window into the minds and culture of human beings 2000 to 5000 years ago. As far as I am concerned it is not always a pretty picture. But it allows us to learn where some of the prejudices and superstitions of our society have come from.

If anything it is a book that tells us how NOT to think and behave rather than how we should think and behave. But to take it as a book of accurate historical fact is absurdity in the extreme.

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Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

I'm going to take a lead from grace someday and write a hub about the role of the Bible in my spiritual life. It's interesting to me that I have similar feelings to yours about what the Bible is and is not. I think, though, that you have a much more generous view of Scripture than your average non believer. Most of them just think it's crap. At least you acknowledge that there is instructive value in it (even if that instructive value means something different for you than it does for me).

Grateful to be able to see into the minds of those who think so differently from me.


Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author


I never made that particular connection but you could be right.

My standpoint has always been that he couldn't have not known what was happening. It's almost impossible. I have always thought he either instigated sex with them when he was drunk or it was a mutual decision. After all, he didn't have a mate, they were out in the wilderness without the chance of meeting men. So it seems almost natural for the time. I think it was the scribes who finally wrote the story down who gave him deniability because they didn't like the moral implications of having him know he was having sex with his daughters.

I just can't see any man not knowing he is having sex no matter how drunk he is. He may forget by morning if he is an alcoholic but while it is happening he knows.

graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 5 years ago

Slarty - As a female I also find the story problematic from a practical standpoint. I find it doubtful that a woman with no sexual experience would know enough about the mechanics to get pregnant without active cooperation from the man.

I think the Bible is, as you said, a window into the lives of ancient people. These stories were compelling enough to people to pass them down for many generations, then compelling enough for a scribe to record them. I do think they are valuable to us as human beings, as a part of our history. I personally think it is a failure of education that so many in our society are shocked when they learn that there are violent, unsavory stories and people in the bible. A person will learn much more about realities of life in the ancient world reading these texts than in visiting a museum with some pot shards.

meow48 profile image

meow48 5 years ago from usa

what to say about this? interesting...never thought of it like that before. but genetics seem to rule more than morality... the children born of such a union have much greater risk for mutation..and deadly recessives to come into to play... studies are done on the amish due to the shallow gene pool. and the second cousin rule comes to mind on those who wish to marry... but this is an interesting take on an otherwise little discussed and often taboo subject. Men are men... easiest access the daughter. would like to see the follow up to this on the scars and destroyed lives it creates.... thanks for sharing. take care.

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author


I agree with you on all counts. ;) I like all the ancient texts, even the ones that didn't make it into the bible. They all have some value and as you say, it gives us a window into the mind of our ancestors. that's worth a whole lot of broken pottery shards.

Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author

Hi Meow.

Yes. Genetically it is not a good idea to mate with close relatives. But if it happens once in a while it is not always detrimental. Inbreeding of course is. The Russian Czars found that out. Hence the title "Blue Bloods".

The bible says the sons who were born went on to create new tribes. Probably not through incest. It's not out of the realm of possibility.

But for Noah's clan to create the rich gene pool we have now is pretty much impossible. That would have meant inbreeding. If one is religious one would have to conclude that god set aside problems like that supernaturally until he accomplished his mission. There are those who have said that to me.

The other way to see it is as a story without basis in fact. That's the way I see the Adam and Eve and Noah stories. Ancient bad attempts at explaining our existence.

But as Grace says, the stories are of value if for nothing else than to show us the minds of these people and teach us a bit about our own minds and the way they work.

I am in no way advocating incest and I do agree that all manner of scars are left by such relationships. They probably have been for centuries.

But then again, what is considered social norm does effect how much scaring is done. Not to say no one had scars from incest 3000 years ago. I am sure they did. But people did learn to deal with life in different ways than we do now. Now it is unacceptable and should be. But we can not always judge them by our standards.

You can judge the men all you like and you would be right. But is it not nice to know that the way we are evolving is away from those brutal days and ideas instead of toward them? It shows us that selection is favoring a kinder more compassionate way.

Seeker 4 years ago

It is important to distinguish between incestuous relationships prior to God commanding against them (Leviticus 18:6-18), and incest that occurred after God’s commands had been revealed.

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arlacheran 3 years ago

God rescued Lot n his family when he is no better or worse than those who are damned..... this is the hellish part of the bible which is despicable... n dats one of the reasons why i don't believe in bible...

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dianetrotter 8 months ago from Fontana

Hi! Leviticus 18:6 6 ‘None of you shall approach any blood relative [d]of his to uncover nakedness; I am the Lord.

Reason I posted Scripture

This covers daughters. I'm not sure of any reference before this but Leviticus 18 speaks against incest. Most of the inter-relations were in books before Leviticus. Since it was not stated to be sin at that time, I believe it was not considered since. Sounds utterly disgusting but it certainly had to be done by Adam and Eve and their children to populate.

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