What does Leviticus 18:18 Teach?

Leviticus 18:18

"Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time."


Let's take a look at the verse above. Many are using this verse to say that one can not marry sisters. Some say it means you can not have more than one wife. Yahweh God can do no sin. He showed that He was married to two sisters in Jeremiah 3 and in Ezekiel 23:1-4 so there must be another meaning. Our God would not show himself married to two sisters if it was a sin to do so. So let us examine each phrase.

"Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister,"

The word take is Strongs H3947, laqach, which means to accept, bring, buy, carry away, drawn, fetch, get, etc. Sister is from Strongs H269, achowth, which means other, sister, together.

"to vex her,"

Vex is from the Hebrew word litsror which is from tsarar (Strong's 6887) and means to cramp, distress, adversary. Would the taking of a wife to her sister vex her? Ask and find out.

"to uncover"

Galah (Strong's 1540) means to denude (in a disgraceful sense)!

"uncover her nakedness,"

This is a common phrase in the Bible. The definition is in Leviticus 20:11.

"And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness"

Also Leviticus 20:17 gives a clue as to it's full meaning which basically means having a sexual relationship.

"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 wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister's nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity."

And now the final phrase which is pretty obvious.

"beside the other in her life time."

So the point here in this verse is to not distress your wife with her sister. Some versions add the phrase "as a rival to her sister". Now the key. How might she be distressed? By taking her sister and uncovering her nakedness in front of her. You should not do this if it vexes her. If both sisters would not be distressed or adversarial with each other then this prohibition does not apply. One way to accomplish this with out misunderstanding is to allow them to set up the sleeping arrangements. So as you can see this verse is not a prohibition against marriage of sisters, but a concern for their feelings. God is telling men that privacy is to be respected between wives who desire it.
Printable Version

Feel free to send your helpful comments.

Thank You


Christian Polygyny

Christian Polygyny



Basic Articles on Marriage, Children, Divorce, Remarriage and Adultery

Articles on Polygyny

Scriptural Marriage Possibilities

Polygyny is not Adultery!

Who did Seth Marry?

Lamech Had Two Wives

A Damsel or Two.

God Gave David His Wives.

How Many Wives per Man in Israel?

Is Polygyny Still Righteous Today?

It Began with One Man and Four Women

Let Each Woman Have Her Own Husband

Hosea's Two Wives

Is this the Meaning of Leviticus 18:18?

Women with Women?

Support for Scriptural Polygyny

How I discovered Polygyny

Sunday Morning Visitor

Poly Friendly Book Reviews

Christian Polygyny Links Page

Home Page