THE SEVENTH WORD
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
However much liberal churchmen may wish to truncate the seventh word as pertaining only to intercourse in breach of a marriage vow, the Catechism stands as a constant rebuke of their designs, affirming that Christendom past understood this law to address much more. The Westminster divines agreed that the seventh commandment encapsulated within it prohibition of “fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations . . . unlawful marriages” (WLC, question #139). In essence, then, Westminster comprehended the seventh commandment as taking into its scope the whole realm of sexual infractions and deviancies. It encompasses not just breach of a marriage contract, but ‘all unlawful marriages.’ Which is to say there are some ‘marriages’ which are, in a manner, adulterous even when neither party ‘cheats’ on the other. The seventh law addresses all matters of promiscuity, marital, familial, social, political, national, racial, and even horticultural.
First, it is taken for granted that all case laws pertaining to joining one thing to another – especially sexually – throughout the books of Moses are but outworkings and applications of the seventh word to various circumstances. Or as Tertullian phrased it, “All acts of adultery, all cases of fornication, all the licentiousness of public brothels, whether committed at home or perpetrated out of doors, serve to produce confusions of blood and complications of natural relationship.”1
Concomitant with the word bastard, the word adultery does not mean today exactly what it meant in times past. Others have well plumbed the lexicography of this subject, so I will only sketch the issue in loose strokes here: to begin with, the word adultery is derived of the Latin word adulterare, which, according to most lexicons, means “to corrupt, or pollute, mix, commingle, or alloy, etc.” In V.S. Herrell’s words, “The most interesting thing that we learn [in the OE Dictionary], however, is from a note in the definition of the verb adulterate: ‘repl[aced] by To commit adultery.’ So, in fact, the verb adulterate and to commit adultery were at one point interchangeable.”2
The Oxford Etymological Dictionary does indeed corroborate this on the nounal form as well:
Adulteration (n) c. 1500, from the Latin, adulterationem (nominative adulteratio), noun of action from past participle stem of adulterare, ‘corrupt, falsify, debauch, commit adultery,’ from ad- ‘to’ (see ad-) + alterare ‘to alter’ (see alter).
But the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary tenders a redundant affirmation of the same with respect to all the adjectival and verbal forms of adulterate too:
ADUL’TERATE, verb transitive. [Latin adultero, from adulter, mixed, or an adulterer; ad and alter, other.] To corrupt, debase, or make impure by an admixture of baser materials; as, to adulterate liquors, or the coin of a country.
ADUL’TERATE, verb intransitive. To commit adultery. obsolete
ADUL’TERATE, adjective. Tainted with adultery; debased by foreign mixture.
A survey of the whole family of words derived from the adulter root share in the essence of its basic definition:
- adulter: “to corrupt, debase, adulterate.”
- adulterant: “that which adulterates, adulterating.”
- adulterate: adj.: “spurious, counterfeit, of base origin, or corrupted by base mixture.” verb: “to render spurious or counterfeit . . . by admixture of baser ingredients.”
- adulterer: “one who adulterates, corrupts, or debases.”
- adulterous: “pertaining to, or characterized by, adulteration; spurious, counterfeit, adulterate.”
This is so because the root of adultery – adulter – is but a compound of ‘ad’ and ‘alter’ – literally, “by addition of something dissimilar, altering an original substance.” This, by the most basic structure of the word, is its technical meaning. But according to its etymological history, the English terms adulteration and adultery arose contemporaneously in the 1500s, and though they were, according to the Oxford Dictionary, originally synonymous iterations of the same concept, adultery was the form which found its way into the Geneva Bible of 1599 and the King James Bible followed that pattern.
But we needn’t beleaguer the point here by tracing the definitions of the Greek and Hebrew words that preceded adultery and adulteration; rather, I would recommend any interested in a detailed lexicography to look at Herrell’s work in these matters. Suffice it to say that when large-scale translation into the English language came underway, adultery was merely an alternate iteration and synonym for adulteration, meaning, simply, ‘mixing.’ And this is how we arrive at our definition pertaining to extramarital sexuality: adultery, in the sense explicitly referenced by the seventh word, is a literal mixing of seed, namely the husband’s and the adulterer’s, within the adulteress. Even this most basic moral command, this fundamental, decalogical precept, is wrong principally because it is an unlawful mixing, as the term’s etymology implies. The rest of the commandment’s implications are derived from this core concept.
The Scripture confirms this etymological point in its frequent linking of sexual morality with the avoidance of undue mixture or confusion – adulteration. Take Leviticus 20:12, speaking of sub-categories of adultery (cf. v. 10), which the King James Bible describes as ‘confusion,’ and the Interlinear Hebrew Aramaic OT (by Hendrickson Publ.) translates as ‘unnatural mixture.’ John Gill frames it as “a shocking and shameful mixture . . . confound[ing] the degrees of relation and affinity.” Matthew Poole exposits this passage as an address of “perverting the order which God hath appointed, and mixing the blood which God would have separated.” Adultery here is associated with the overlap of disparate bloodlines. And in Ezekiel 16, where the the nation of Israel is upbraided for her harlotry with the Egyptians, Assyrians, and others, verse 32 describes Israel as “a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband” (Ezek. 16:32).
Then there is the case of Solomon’s renowned counsels against adultery, which is exactly what they are described as in all quarters of interpretation; no amount of prevarication can make these passages say other than what they insist on saying. Proverbs 6:26 certainly does describe the subject under consideration as adultery, telling us that “an adulteress hunteth for his life.” As does 6:32: “Whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.” Many other popular translations amongst Reformed readers, such as the ESV, manage to insert the words ‘adultery’ and ‘adulteress’ many more times in this area of Scripture. But the text warns clearly against “the lips of a strange woman” (5:3), “her ways . . . thou canst not know” (5:6), “lest thou give thine honour unto others” (5:9), “lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger” (5:10). And the reader is advised to “drink waters out of thine own cistern . . . thine own well” (5:15), “let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee” (5:17), for “why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?” (5:20). Proverbs 6:23-24 go so far as to say: “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.” Many translations actually render the term ‘strange woman’ there as ‘adulteress’. Which is to say that the association of ‘adultery’ with foreigners, of some distance or another, is popularly taken for granted by translators and signifies here more than just relations outside wedlock. While clearly encompassing marital infidelity, the adultery against which Solomon inveighs also incorporates the distinction between familiar and foreign, bringing miscegenation in view. Solomon even portrays kinship itself as the anthropomorphic manifestation of wisdom: “Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words” (Prov. 7:4-5). We cannot miss therein the study in contrasts: wisdom and understanding are posited as good kinswomen (a sister and a bride) to keep a young man from the embrace of stranger. He drives home the point ultimately by stating, “The mouth of a strange woman is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein” (Prov. 22:14). Yes, those whom God hates, he gives over to adulteration. Or, we might paraphrase Proverbs 22:14 as, ‘He whom God hates, He also miscegenates.’ But that is just a reiteration of the ‘vengeance of the covenant’ warned of in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26.
John Calvin argued against adultery in these same terms, speaking of “the adulterous woman” as engaged in “the clandestine admixture of seeds.” Based upon this definition of adultery as ‘admixture of seeds’ he offers this apologetic: “For what else will remain safe in human society, if license be given to bring in by stealth the offspring of a stranger? To steal a name which may be given to spurious offspring? And to transfer to them property to be taken away from the lawful heirs?” Calvin explicitly ties marital infidelity to the mixing of seeds (and consequent risk of cuckoldry). His usage of this terminology was nothing if not consistent:
Mules are the adulterous offspring of the horse and the ass. Moses says that Anah was the author of this connection. But I do not consider this as said in praise of his industry; for the Lord has not in vain distinguished the different kinds of animals from the beginning. But since the vanity of the flesh often solicits the children of this world, so that they apply their minds to superfluous matters, Moses marks this unnatural pursuit in Anah, who did not think it sufficient to have a great number of animals; but he must add to them a degenerate race produced by unnatural intercourse. Moreover, we learn hence, that there is more moderation among brute animals in following the law of nature, than in men, who invent vicious admixtures.
None of which are new observations with respect to Calvin’s theology. In fact, mine would be regarded as a rather pedestrian reading of Calvin everywhere outside Reformed Alienist circles, as they have the unique and conflicted interests of venerating Calvin in the abstract, while simultaneously reviling the man’s worldview in reality. At least when Alienist writers are consistent enough in their presuppositions to openly declare Calvin to be their vision of the devil, they can bring themselves to interact with the man’s social theory as it really was. Meanwhile, Alienists who somehow imagine Calvin as teaching a unitarian theory of society abide as is oft the case of unnatural mixtures, deranged and sterile.
But the notion that what ails the world is confusion had much practical value for Calvin. . . . [W]hen Calvin associated disorder with obscurity, he could conceive of correcting it by sharpening the contours of the various entities composing the world; once one thing has been clearly distinguished, physically or conceptually, from others, it can be assigned its proper place in the order of things. . . .
Thus he abominated ‘mixture,’ one of the most pejorative terms in his vocabulary; mixture in any area of experience suggested to him disorder and unintelligibility. He had absorbed deeply not only the traditional concern for cosmic purity of a culture that had restricted mixture to the sublunary realm but also various Old Testament prohibitions. Mixture, for Calvin, connoted “adulteration” or “promiscuity,” but it also set off in him deep emotional and metaphysical reverberations. He repeatedly warned against “mixing together things totally different.” . . .
The positive corollary of Calvin’s loathing of mixture was his approval of boundaries, which separate one thing from another. He attributed boundaries to God himself: God had established the boundaries between peoples, which should therefore remain within the space assigned to them. . . . “Just as there are in a military camp separate lines for each platoon and section,” Calvin observed, “men are placed on the earth so that each nation may be content with its own boundaries.”3
Rushdoony affirmed the same understanding of adultery as had Calvin – a ‘mixing of seeds’:
Clearly then, Biblical law is designed to create a familistic society, and the central social offense is to strike at the life of the family. Adultery is thus placed on the same level as murder, in that it is a murderous act against the central social institution of any healthy culture. Unpunished adultery is destructive of the life of the family and of social order. On the part of the wife, it is treason to the family and introduces an alien loyalty to the home, as well as an alien seed.4
So adultery consists chiefly in mixing, not merely in violation of the sacred marriage vow, on which basis the Scripture and our fathers spoke in one voice against adultery as an introduction of foreign seed. All of which raises the question: what other admixtures, besides that of a familial outsider’s seed with the husband’s, does the Scripture consider adulterous? The Scripture of course mentions other seeds, but this perspective of the seventh word encompassing laws governing seeds, generally, isn’t just a study in parallelism. By the authority of St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:8-10 confirms that the OT cattle laws have chiefly to deal not with cattle, but with human relations. Thus St. Augustine, writing on the subject of marriage, could describe “the sexual intercourse of man and woman, then, [as] . . . the seed-bed” of human society.5
In keeping with this understanding, S.H. Kellogg too exposited the seed and yoking laws of Leviticus 19 as extensions of the seventh commandment against adultery:
Most probable it appears that they were intended for an educational purpose, to cultivate in the mind of the people the sentiment of reverence for the order established in nature by God. For what the world calls the order of nature is really the order appointed by God, as the infinitely wise and perfect One; hence, as nature is thus a manifestation of God, the Hebrew was forbidden to seek to bring about that which is not according to nature, unnatural commixtures; and from this point of view, the last of the three precepts appears to be a symbolic reminder of the same duty, namely, reverence for the order of nature, as being an order determined by God.6
Matthew Henry interpreted the seed and yoking laws in exactly the same way as well, describing Leviticus 19:19 as a generic ‘law against mixtures,’ entailing that “we must acquiesce in the order of nature God hath established, believing that it is best and sufficient, and not covet monsters. Add thou not unto His works, lest He reprove thee; for it is the excellency of the work of God that nothing can, without making it worse, be either put to it or taken from it, Eccl. iii. 14. As what God has joined we must not separate, so what he has separated we must not join.”7
If Henry cited Jesus therein on the subject of human marriage (Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:9) as a controlling clarification of this cattle law against ‘the gendering of diverse kinds together,’ he identified said cattle law as corresponding to human marriage, and therein, the seventh commandment against adultery. And naturally so since, out of the ten, the commandment contra adultery is the one which most directly addresses ‘yoking.’ (Albeit, the concept of ‘seeds’ corresponds to the fifth, sixth, and seventh commandments as well.) The same is affirmed by Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. And the case law in question (Lev. 19:19) is hemmed in on either side by codes commanding one to “bear no grudge against the children of thy folk [race]” (Lev. 19:18) and a ruling against marital infidelity with a bondwoman – i.e., one, who though domiciled on the demesne of a man’s estate, and in bond to him, represents a line foreign to the covenant of his house (Lev. 19:20). All of which have typically been understood as a set in Calvinist thought, as all have in common a concern for purity of ‘seeds’ and ‘yoking’ in one respect or another.
But what did Henry mean by ‘monsters’? The canonist of Christian common law, Sir William Blackstone, tenders the legal definition of the word as it had been comprehended in Henry’s time:
A monster . . . hath no inheritable blood, and cannot be heir to any land, albeit it be brought forth in marriage. . . . But our law will not admit a birth of this kind to be such an issue as shall entitle the husband to be tenant by the courtesy; because it is not capable of inheriting. And therefore, if there appears no other heir than such a prodigious birth, the land shall escheat to the lord.
This is the sense in which Henry clearly intended the term: an illegitimate offspring without heritable blood, one born of bastardy, or by congenital defect rendered contrary to the nature of his parentage. A monster in Christian common law fell under the category of nullius filius – ‘kin to nobody.’ While we yet retain the definition of ‘monster’ in the general sense of a creature unnatural, our fathers at the time understood it in a slightly less fantastical way than we: not as a matter of fiction, but a real category of people. Augustine even waxed long about the ‘monstrous births,’ ‘monstrous races,’ and ‘monstrous peoples’ among men.8
Aside from denoting those races which seem so unnatural, the term ‘monster’ was in Henry’s day applied interchangeably with the terms ‘bastard’ or ‘mongrel.’ But the legal and linguistic force of all such terms were dampened in popular English vernacular with the popularization of more exacting categories, which H.L. Mencken documents in The American Language: Supplement I:
- White father & Negro mother: mulatto
- White father & Indian mother: mestizo
- Indian father & Negro mother: chino
- White father & mulatta mother: quarteron or quadroon
- White father & mestiza mother: creole
- White father & Chinese mother: chino-blanco
- White father & cuarterona mother: quintero or octoroon
- Negro father & Indian mother: zambo or mustee
- Negro father & mulatta mother: zambo-negro
- Negro father & mestiza mother: mulatta-oscuro
- Negro father & Chinese mother: zambo-chino
- Negro father & zamba mother: zambo-negro
- Negro father & cuarterona or quintera mother: mulatto
- Indian father & mulatta mother: chino-oscuro
- Indian father & mestiza mother: mestizo-claro
- Indian father & Chinese mother: chino-cholo
- Indian father & zamba mother: zambo-claro
- Indian father & china-chola mother: Indian9
But as Mencken explains, “It was upon the advice of [Black leader] Booker T. Washington that it [the Census Bureau] began calling all colored persons of African blood Negroes. Mulatto, quadroon and octoroon have now almost disappeared from American speech.”10 Mr. Mencken further explains that Booker T. Washington’s advice of retiring said categories was not on account of any perceived offense in them, nor technical inaccuracy, but only due to the fact that “the divisions ran imperceptibly into one another.” This is possibly because the quarters of society in which said mixtures occurred had a total disregard of genealogy, and were the least discriminate in their mating habits; thus under their own inclinations, they rapidly rendered the above categories useless by recombinant overlaps of heredity, most undocumented. In this light, Washington’s solution to declare the African-miscegenated (and inbred) non-White communities in America as included in the catch-all appellation ‘Negro.’ The positive consequent of which was the preservation of the White community against admixture, as all cross-breeds were allocated to the Black community; the negative consequent of which was the further adulteration of the Black community. But as noted, this policy of absorption of the mulatto into Black society was adopted at the advisement of Black leaders such as Booker T. Washington.
Antecedent of this development however, the mulatto – the crossbreed of White and Black races – acquired its nomenclature in Christendom directly from the mule, the hybrid of horse and donkey. It is this particular hybrid – the mule – which one finds universally referenced by Reformed exegetes such as Calvin, Gill, Henry, Poole, all our Bible dictionaries, the Church fathers, et al., as well as Josephus, and the rabbinic authorities, as the perspicuous object of the yoking and seed laws. As Smith’s Bible Dictionary defines it, the mule is “a hybrid animal. . . . It was forbidden to the Israelites to breed mules.” So does the ATS Bible Dictionary state, “A mixed animal. . . . There is no probability that the Jews bred mules, because it was forbidden to couple creatures of different species, Leviticus 19:19.” And Easton’s Bible Dictionary makes the identical statement, “It is not probable that the Hebrews bred mules, as this was strictly forbidden in the law (Leviticus 19:19). . . . They are not mentioned, however, till the time of David, for the word rendered ‘mules’ (R.V. correctly, ‘hot springs’) in Genesis 36:24 (yemim) probably denotes the warm springs of Callirhoe, on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. . . . Mules are not mentioned in the New Testament. Perhaps they had by that time ceased to be used in Palestine.”
This term mulatto (mule), then, was applied to the Euro-Black hybrid specifically because the mule was the subject under which our historical exegetes had foremost applied the hybrid laws. Designating the crossbreed of White and Black races a mulatto was the application of God’s law to the matter and the unmistakable announcement of his illicit status and disordered parentage. This terminology was the fruit of our Christian fathers having applied God’s Law-Word to every area of life and defining the world in terms of it.
As such, commenting on Leviticus 19:19, Rushdoony lays before us the sweeping principle of these seed and yoking laws:
These laws forbid the blurring of God-ordained distinctions. The nature and direction of sin is to blur and finally erase all the God-ordained boundaries. . . .
God’s laws are case laws. If vegetable seeds are not to be mingled, nor an ass and a horse crossbred, then in the human realm it follows that the confusion of God-ordained boundaries is even more serious.11
The matter at which Rushdoony’s a fortiori argument is driving – miscegenation, the hybridization or adulteration of men – is directly proscribed in Deuteronomy 23:2, wherein we read, “No bastard shall enter into the assembly.” Since many others have demonstrated the etymological force of the term bastard (one born of adulteration) and the corresponding Hebrew term – mamzer – underlying it,12 I here will venture to say only that we know the word mamzer to connote one of mixed race. Without delving too deeply into the lexical quagmire, we know this to be the case by way of the fact that our foremost Bible translations render the same word in Zechariah 9:6 ‘a mixed race’ or, as in the NASB, ‘a mongrel race.’ Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary (1987 ed., p. 129) includes this note in its definition for mamzer: “At Zech 9:6 ‘a mongrel people’ [KJV, JB “bastard”; NIV “foreigners”] refers to a nation of mixed population.” Which, in turn, confirms Luther’s translation of mamzer (in Deut. 23:2) as a ‘mischling‘13 – literally, a “mixling.”
As such, H.B. Clark, the father of the theonomic code book Biblical Law, could confidently assess biblical marriage policy:
And under Mosaic law, the right to marry a woman was regarded as “appertaining” to one of her kindred. A woman who “possessed” an “inheritance” was entitled to marry whom she thought best, “only to the family of the tribe of her father.”14
Which is reminiscent of Augustine’s words:
But the ancient fathers, fearing that near relationship might gradually in the course of generations diverge, and become distant relationship, or cease to be relationship at all, religiously endeavored to limit it by the bond of marriage before it became distant, and thus, as it were, to call it back when it was escaping them. And on this account, even when the world was full of people, though they did not choose wives from their sisters of half-sisters, yet they preferred them to be of the same stock as themselves.15
This, it must be noted, means that the conviction of the Patriarchs prior to Sinai, and in advance of the Mosaic law, was contra miscegeny. But there was on this matter no conflict between that patriarchal ethic and the deuteronomical codes which followed. As Clark says, “Mosaic law forbids the marriage of a man to a woman to whom he is closely related, or to a ‘strange woman’ – one of another race or nation.”16 Because the matrimonial ethics of Abraham and Moses were identical in this matter:
A time-honored rule forbids marriages with persons of another nation, race or tribe. Abraham required his eldest servant to swear that he would “not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell,” but would “go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.” (Gen. 24:3, 4) And Mosaic law provides that “thou (shalt not) make marriages” with those of other nations, “thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son; nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.” (Deut. 7:3; Ezra 9:12; Neh. 10:30). . . . [I]t was doubtless intended . . . to preserve the racial integrity of the Israelites.”17
In Leviticus 21:14 we find a racial insularity code specifying whom Levites, as exemplars to their people, were allowed to wed: “A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.” Today, should one raise this verse for consideration, it is repudiated on the grounds that in its specification of the tribe of Levi, it must be speaking to a ceremonial aspect of the law only, not any abiding moral dimension. But the compilers of the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary say to the contrary: “The same rules are extended to the families of Christian ministers.”18
Henry applies it to the NT priesthood of all believers: “As these priests were types of Christ, so all ministers must be followers of him, that their example may teach others to imitate the Saviour. Without blemish, and separate from sinners, He executed his priestly office on earth. What manner of persons then should his ministers be! But all are, if Christians, spiritual priests; the minister especially is called to set a good example, that the people may follow it.”19 If the OT priests were a type of Christ and we, the ‘priesthood of all believers’ in the NT, are to emulate Christ, then we assume the same standard of holiness and sanctification prescribed to the Levites. Which is to say that as marriage law, Leviticus 21:14 is patently normative, amongst both the Israelite tribes and contemporary Christians.
But if some expositors have cast these marital codes as specific to one tribe and priest-class only, many others, such as Henry, have concluded to the contrary that the definition of a lawful marriage does not change when we speak of priests. (This, we recall, was a major bone of contention between Rome and Geneva.) Rather, like requirements for elders in the NT (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-13), the marital code for priests emphasizes the minister’s status as an exemplar to his brethren, which in itself is merely compliance with the law of kin-rule (Deut. 17:15). Also proving the normativity of this principle among the tribes, we see in the inducement proffered in verse 15 that the alternative to homogeneous marriage for priests was to ‘profane his seed among the people.’ Matthew Poole elaborates:
Neither shall he profane his seed by mixing it with forbidden kinds, whereby the children would be disparaged, and rendered unfit for their priestly function.
Do sanctify him, i.e. have separated him from all other sorts of men for my especial and immediate service, and therefore will not have that race corrupted.
This verse, then, redoubles the necessary conclusion that the moral standard for priests was the same standard to which all Israelites were to aspire. Because we are told that doing otherwise for a Levite would ‘profane his seed (posterity)’ amongst his fellow Israelites. For in the eyes of his kinsmen, a priest who did not wed a virgin of his own folk was not living out the example of a holy life. Because holiness – i.e., separateness, distinction, and sanctification to God – is exemplified by a holistic pursuit of purity, inward and outward.
This is precisely the way we find Leviticus 21:14, 15 to have been applied among Israelites in the eighth century B.C., as Tobit (of the tribe of Naphtali, not Levi), much like Solomon (of Judah) (Prov. 5:20), commanded his son Tobias to “take a wife of the seed of thy fathers, and take not a strange woman to wife, which is not of thy father’s tribe” (Tobit 4:12).
When the prophet Ezra surveyed the apostasy of Israel (Ezra 9:1-2), he expressly mentions Levites and Israelites as culpable under the same marital codes – that “the people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands.” He bewails the fact of Levites’ mixture not with the other tribes of Israel, but only with non-Israelites: ”For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands.” The holy (separated) seed is not regarded as specific to the Levites in this context, but described unitarily and nationally.
If some still object to the priest being a moral exemplar to the nation, none seem to object to the same mechanism at work in his NT equivalent, the elder. The requirements for elders and deacons (the priesthood of the NT) in Titus 1 or 1 Timothy 3 are accepted in virtual unanimity as being a standard of virtue to be aimed at by all Christians. For who will object that every Christian man ought to strive to be ‘blameless’ (1 Tim. 3:2) or that his wife ought to be ‘faithful in all things’ (1 Tim. 3:11)? No, ceremonial laws notwithstanding, if the codes governing the sanctification of elders (priests) in the NT are taken for granted as exemplars for Christians generally, there appear no grounds for assuming a unique marital-moral code on Levi in the OT. The insularity codes of Levi appear normative. Eusebius proves this point by cross-reference of the Levitical codes in question with the laws of inheritance and adoption in Numbers 27 and 36:
And the lineage of Joseph thus being traced, Mary, also, at the same time, as far as can be, is evinced to be of the same tribe, since, by the Mosaic law, intermarriages among different tribes were not permitted. For the injunction is, to marry one of the same kindred and the same family, so that the inheritance may not be transferred from tribe to tribe.20
Reading the Levitical marriage codes with reference to the inheritance statutes applied in the case of the daughters of Zelophehad leaves no room for doubt that the law aims holistically to preserve the distinctions not only between Israelites and other nations but also between the tribes of Israel.
On a practical level, how could it really be otherwise? For if we granted the Alienist assertion that this mandate was given only to the Levite, not to the other tribes, it posits that the Levites were in themselves a strict ethno-nation living amongst, and yet segregated by law, from all the other tribes which were really multitribal, or multiracial. But not only would such an interpretation fail to prove Alienism, it would seem only to cause many more problems than it solves. Such an interpretation renders the law internally conflicted, both granting and denying ethnonationalism at once. Add to that the fact that it directly confounds that central Alienist assertion, that under God’s law there are no tiered standards, but all laws apply equally to all. This, then, is the refutation of the Alienist cavils – that God’s Word cannot contradict itself.
Plainly, in order for Levites to marry homogeneously from amongst Israelite stock, that stock must in fact exist. And to exist, it must abide as a limited and homogeneous entity, not admitting disparate races on the basis of statist abstractions. Any alternative renders the law incoherent. Inasmuch as the Levitical marital codes pertain to marriage, they are clearly expositions of the seventh word contra adultery and, therefore, moral in nature, not ceremonial.
Yes, as has been meticulously exposited by others, we know the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah held Israel as a whole to this same standard and separated those of Israelite lineage from their foreign wives and their adulterate children. According to Matthew Henry’s commentary on Deuteronomy 23, this resolution of the prophets was carried out as the divine and authoritative interpretation of the law (see especially Neh. 13:1-3) to prevent “the separated seed of Israel mingling themselves” with strange peoples (Ezra 9:1, 2; 10:3). And because “they [had] dealt treacherously against the Lord: for they [had] begotten strange children” (Hos. 5:7). The word rendered ‘strange’ there in Hosea is zuwr, which means “foreign or alien,” strongly related to nokri, which appears in Isaiah’s admonishment against those who were “pleased with the children of foreigners” (Isa. 2:6). Where today are the ministers who yet will chastise those pleased with foreign children?
In the context of the national covenant of which the seventh law is part, the case is clear: heterogeneous unions do more than presage the national judgment (Deut. 28; Lev. 26): the two are coextensive. Infidelity is, in large part, its own judgment. No grimmer finality seems betokened in the ruling of any civil court than that issued of the court of heaven on this subject:
Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you. (Joshua 23:12-13)
This is why, writing on the subject of unequal yoking in Deuteronomy 22:10 and 2 Corinthians 6:14, Rushdoony concluded holistically,
The burden of the law is thus against inter-religious, inter-racial, and inter-cultural marriages, in that they normally go against the very community which marriage is designed to establish. Unequal yoking means more than marriage. In society at large it means the enforced integration of various elements which are not congenial. Unequal yoking is in no realm productive of harmony; rather, it aggravates the differences and delays the growth of the different elements toward a Christian harmony and association.21
The ad-alteration, ‘unlawful marriages’, or ‘unequal yoking’ of a seed – be it familial, societal, or racial – is a violation of the seventh law which results in the cuckoldry of hybridization and long-term sterility.
- Tertullian, Ad Nationes, Book I, Chapter 16 ↩
- Herrell, The Sixth Law, p. 42 (hyperlinked above) ↩
- William J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait, pp. 34-35. For the final quote Bouwsma cites Calvin’s commentaries on Psalm 74:16 and Acts 17:26, and the wording matches the Fraser translation of his commentaries. The Beveridge translation of Calvin’s Acts commentary reads as follows: “Now, we see, as in a camp, every troop and band hath his appointed place, so men are placed upon earth, that every people may be content with their bounds.” ↩
- R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 395 ↩
- Augustine, City of God, Book XV, Chapter 16 ↩
- S.H. Kellogg, The Expositor’s Bible: The Book of Leviticus, Chapter XXI ↩
- Matthew Henry, commentary on Leviticus 19 ↩
- Augustine, City of God, Book XVI, Chapter 8 ↩
- H.L. Mencken, The American Language: Supplement I, p. 631 ↩
- Ibid., p. 631 ↩
- R.J. Rushdoony, Leviticus, p. 230. Page 178 in the Scribd version. ↩
- I also covered various exegetical and linguistic evidences for this definition in my article on Rahab’s Hebrew ancestry. ↩
- The University of Michigan has a searchable version of Luther’s German Bible, which shows Deut. 23:2 and Zech. 9:6 as the two instances of mischling for mamzer. ↩
- H.B. Clark, Biblical Law, p. 127, §189 ↩
- Augustine, City of God, Book XV, Chapter 16 ↩
- H.B. Clark, op. cit., p. 134, §199 ↩
- Ibid., p. 135, §201 ↩
- Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary on Leviticus 21 ↩
- Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Leviticus 21 ↩
- Eusebius Pamphilus, Ecclesiastical History, Chapter VII ↩
- R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 257 ↩