Just before he gave the ten commandments, in Exodus 19:5-6, God promised Israel, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” If they would keep his commands, he would make them his special people, much like a young man makes a special young woman his wife.
Before they get married, a young couple should talk about their plans for the future, and what their expectations are. After giving the ten commandments, God had expanded on what they involved in Exodus. Later, when meeting with Moses on top of Mount Hor, he had given an even more detailed explanation of the ten commandments. In Leviticus, Moses shares those more detailed explanations.
"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the LORD your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.
Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 18:1-5)
Israel was not to adopt the familiar customs of Egypt, where they had been for four hundred years. When they came to the land God had promised, they were not to adopt the customs of the people there. Instead they were to follow the laws God had given, penalizing violations in accordance with God’s directions. Obedience would produce the long, healthy, productive, and satisfying life God had promised repeatedly because God would make it happen.
The ten commandments are found in Exodus 20. One of them, in Exodus 20:14 is, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Adultery refers to sexual activity between a married person and someone other than their mate. While adultery is probably the most common form of sexual sin, it is not the only one, and as we shall see, the commandment encompassed a broad spectrum of sin.
In Genesis 3:5, Satan told Eve, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil,” indicating that God was just trying to keep people from experiencing something good. Many people today believe that the prohibitions against certain sexual activity are for the same reasons, never considering that there are very practical reasons for those taboos.
The most common concerns about sex involve having an unwanted baby or contracting various diseases. These concerns can be mitigated by practicing “save sex”, by using condoms, avoiding unprotected sex with those who are aware of disease, and using various forms of birth control, so modern society believes that it is free to ignore those taboos.
In I Corinthians 6:16, we learn that the sex act produces an emotional and psychological bond, even when there was no long term intentions. That emotional and psychological bond will affect the person and their interaction with others for the rest of their lives. Certain sexual behaviors were forbidden because they would have detrimental effects on the emotional and mental health of those involved. The practice of safe sex does not prevent these problems, and the demand for psychological and emotional treatment has grown astronomically as those prohibitions have been ignored. Sadly, the relationships between sexual activity and mental illness has been largely ignored.
Here we will look at the prohibited behaviour and examine some of their effects. Later, in Leviticus 20, Moses will explain the penalties for committing these sins. He starts with incestuous relationships, those between genetically related individuals.
“None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD. The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness. The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.
The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness. The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister; for she is thy mother's near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.” (Leviticus 18:6-14)
Inbreeding between genetically related individuals can produce many problems such as dwarfism, deformities or mental retardation as a result of certain combinations of genes. When my folks first came to Kirtland, it was a small somewhat isolated Mormon community. Thanks to Mormon emphasis on not marrying outside their faith, marriages between genetically related individuals were frequent and resulted in a number of deformed or retarded children. They had no system in place to prevent such marriages. The Navajo culture around them had a clan system which prevented such marriages. The same tendency shows up in many other small isolated and insular societies which have not developed some system preventing it.
In addition to the physical problems that can result, there will almost always be emotional and mental problems. For example, sexual relations between a father and daughter can lead to competition or jealousy and distrust between the mother and daughter, or to hatred to the husband or father, which may well be transferred to a future husband. Jealousy or conflicts draw in and polarize other members of the family, resulting in hatred and distrust and ultimately a flawed capability to love or trust, not only by those involved, but their children and siblings.
“Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.
Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.” (Leviticus 18:15-18)
While the genetic effects are not present when all the parties are not related, the emotional effects will still be there. Unlike food, sex is not essential for a good life, as I Corinthians 6:13 tells us. “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.” We can choose not to indulge, and if we care about a person, should be willing to avoid things that do serious long term harm. Failure to do so indicates we don’t really care about that person, and any form of adultery or sexual sin produces serious emotional injury.