Uncle Niece Marriage and Judaism

 Table of Contents

Tanakh (Jewish Bible):

Some Examples of Avunculate marriages from Hebrew Bible:





Modern Era Examples:


Tanakh (Jewish Bible):

Leviticus Chapter 18 gives a list of relations that are forbidden by Jewish law but there is no mention of Avunculate marriages. Hence Tanakh doesn’t forbid marriage between uncle and his niece.


Some Examples of Avunculate marriages from Hebrew Bible:

a)      Nahor married daughter of his brother Haran:

Reference: Tanakh>> Torah>> Book: Genesis>> Chapter: 11>> Verse 26-29

Online Source: http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8175#v=26&lt=primary

Text: 26And Terah lived seventy years, and he begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

27And these are the generations of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and Haran begot Lot.

28And Haran died during the lifetime of Terah his father in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldees.

29And Abram and Nahor took themselves wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah.


b)      Othniel married his fraternal niece, daughter of his brother Caleb:


Reference: Tanakh>> Nevi’im – Prophets>> Book: Yehoshua – Joshua >> Chapter:15 >> Verse 16-17

Online Read: http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15799#v=16&lt=primary

Text: 16And Caleb said, “He who smites Kirjath-sepher and takes it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter for a wife.”

17And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife.


Reference: Tanakh>> Nevi’im – Prophets>> Shoftim – Judges>> Chapter 1>> Verse 12-13

Online Source: http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15809#lt=primary&v=12

Text: 12And Caleb said, “He that shall smite Kirjath-sepher and capture it; to him will I give Achsah my daughter for a wife.”

13And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife



Talmud not only allows marriage with niece but recommends it.

Reference: Talmud>> Seder: Nashim(Women) >> Tractate: Yebamoth>> Chapter: 6>> Folio: 62b-63a

Online Source:http://www.halakhah.com/yebamoth/yebamoth_62.html#Partb

Text: Our Rabbis taught: Concerning a man who loves his wife as himself, who honours her more than himself, who guides his sons and daughters in the right path and arranges for them to be married near the period of their puberty, Scripture says, And thou shalt know that thy tent is in peace.49  Concerning him who loves his neighbours, who befriends his relatives, marries his sister’s50  daughter,

Folio 63a

and lends a sela’1  to a poor man in the hour of his need, Scripture says, Then shalt thou call, and the Lord will answer; thou shalt cry and He will say: ‘Here I am’.2


Abraham and Sarah:

According to Talmud, Iscah, daughter of Haran, as mentioned in Genesis 11:29 was another name of Sarah. Hence Abraham married his fraternal niece. It’s another thing that in Genesis 20:12 it is mentioned that Sarah was Abraham’s paternal sister.

Reference: Babylonian Talmud>> SEDER NEZIKIN (Damage)>> Sanhedrin (Court of Justice)>> Chapter 8>> Folio 69b>> Paragraph: 3

Online Source: http://www.halakhah.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_69.html#PARTb

Text: Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor and Haran.19

Now Abraham must have been [at least] one year older than Nahor, and Nahor one year older than

Haran;20 hence Abraham was two years older that Haran. And it is written, And Abram and Nahor

took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai,’ and the name of Nahor’s wife Milcah, the

daughter of Horan, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.21 Whereon R. Isaac observed: Iscah

was Sarai, and why was she called Iscah? Because she foresaw [the future] by holy inspiration;22

hence it is written, In all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice.23 Another reason is,

that all gazed at her beauty

Reference: Babylonian Talmud>> SEDER MO‘ED (Appointed Seasons)>> Tractate Megillah (The Scroll)>>Chapter 1>> Folio 14a>>Paragraph: 6

Online Source: http://www.halakhah.com/pdf/moed/Megilah.pdf

Text: ……..Sarah’, as it is written, The father of Milkah and the father of Yiscah’,18 and R. Isaac said

[on this]. Yiscah is Sarah; and why was she called Yiscah? Because she discerned [sakethah] by

means of the holy spirit, as it is said, In all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken to her voice.19 Another

explanation is: because all gazed [sakin] at her beauty.

Famous Jewish Historian Josephus (who was not rabbinic Jew) also mentioned that Sarai was Abraham’s niece.

Reference: Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus>>Book 1: From The Creation To The Death Of Isaac (3,833 Years)>> Chapter 6: HOW EVERY NATION WAS DENOMINATED FROM THEIR FIRST INHABITANTS>> verse 5

Online Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/history/flavius-josephus/antiquities-jews/book-1/chapter-6.html

Text: Now Abram had two brethren, Nahor and Haran: of these Haran left a son, Lot; as also Sarai and Milcha his daughters; and died among the Chaldeans, in a city of the Chaldeans, called Ur; and his monument is shown to this day. These married their nieces. Nabor married Milcha, and Abram married Sarai.

But Hebrew Bible says Sarai was Abraham’s paternal sister. But may be Abraham has taken it into the account that Granddaughter is also daughter.

Reference: Tanakh>> Torah>> Genesis>> Chapter 20>> Verse 12

Online Source: http://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.20.12?lang=en&with=Rashi&lang2=en

Text: And besides, she is in truth my sister, my father’s daughter though not my mother’s; and she became my wife.

Elimelech and Naomi:

Hebrew Bible says Elimelech was husband of Naomi while Talmud says Elimelech and father of Naomi were sons of Nahshon. Hence Naomi was Niece of Elimelech. Another Example of Fraternal Niece marriage.

Reference: Tanakh>>K’tuvim – Scriptures>>  Rut – Ruth >> Chapter 1>> Verse 1-2

Online Source: http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16453#lt=primary

Text: 1Now it came to pass in the days when the judges judged, that there was a famine in the land, and a man went from Bethlehem of Judah to sojourn in the fields of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.

2And the man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife’s name was Naomi, and his two sons’ names were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites, from Bethlehem of Judah, and they came to the fields of Moab and remained there.

Reference: Talmud>> Gemara>> SEDER NEZIKIN (Damage)>> Tractate Baba Bathra>> Folio 91a

Online Source: http://www.halakhah.com/bababathra/bababathra_91.html

Text: R. Hanan b. Raba said in the name of Rab: Elimelech and Salmon26  and such a one27  and the father of Naomi all were the sons of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab




Halakhah explicitly allows one to marry fraternal and sororal niece.

Reference: Halakhah>> Mishneh Torah>> Sefer: Kedushah>> Isssurei Biah(Forbidden Intercourse) >> Chapter 2>> Verse 14

Online Source: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/960648/jewish/Issurei-Biah-Chapter-Two.htm#lt=primary

Text: When a man’s father or son marries a woman, that man may marry her daughter or her mother as we explained.29 A person may marry the wife of his brother’s son.30 A man may marry a woman and her sister’s daughter or her brother’s daughter at the same time. It is a mitzvah from the Sages for a man to marry his sister’s daughter,31 as [alluded to by Isaiah 58:7]: “Do not turn away from your own flesh.” This law also applies to his brother’s daughter.32



Joseph married his sororal niece, Asenath daughter of Dinah


Reference: Midrash>>Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer >> Chapter 38

Online Source: https://archive.org/stream/pirkderabbieli00frieuoft/pirkderabbieli00frieuoft_djvu.txt



” Or went into the house and leaned his hand on the wall, and the serpent bit him ”  {Amos v. 19). When Jacob went into his house in the land of Canaan – the serpent bit him. || And who was the serpent? This was Shechem, the son of Chamor. Because the daughter of Jacob was abiding in the tents, and she did not go into the street; what did Shechem, the son of Chamor, do? He brought dancing girls who were (also) playing on pipes in the streets. Dinah went forth to see those girls who were making merry; and he seized her, and he slept with her, and she conceived and bare Asenath. The sons of Israel said that she should be killed, for they said that now people would say in all the land there was an immoral daughter 1° in the tents of Jacob.


What did (Jacob) do? He wrote the Holy Name upon a golden platc, and suspended it about her neck and sent her away. She went her way. Everything is revealed before the Holy One, blessed be He, and Michael the angel descended ‘ and took her, and brought her down to Egypt to the house of Potiphera; because Asenath was destined to become the wife of Joseph.” Now the wife of Potiphera was barren, and (Asenath) grew up with her as a daughter. When Joseph came down to Egypt he married her, as it is said, ” And he ” gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potiphera priest of On ” (Gen. xli. 45).

Reference: Targum Pseudo-Jonathan>> Genesis 41-44>> Section 10: VAYEHI MEKETS

Online Source: http://targum.info/pj/pjgen41-44.htm#_ftnref7

Text: And Pharoh called the name of Joseph, The man who revealeth mysteries. And he gave him Asenath, whom Dinah had borne to Shekem, and the wife of Potiphera prince (Rabba) of Tanis had brought up, to be his wife.




Modern Era Examples:


  • Uriah P. Levy was first Jewish Commodore of the United States Nav

At the age of 61, Levy married his 18-year-old niece Virginia Lopez.[9]


  • Netziv, was an Orthodox rabbi, dean of the Volozhin Yeshiva and author of several works of rabbinic literature in Lithuania.

His second wife was his niece, a daughter of Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, the author of the Aruch haShulchan. A son from his first marriage, Chaim Berlin, became the rabbi of Moscow, a daughter married Rabbi Refael Shapiro, and his son from his second marriage was Rabbi Meir Berlin (later Bar-Ilan).



James Mayer de Rothschild married his niece Betty Salomon von Rothschild




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