There is one passage of Scripture that clearly forbids marrying various relatives, but interestingly enough the “cousin” is not included in that list. Leviticus 18:6 says, “None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness” (NASB). In other words, one is NOT to have sexual relations with a close relative. The relatives included are listed in verses 7-18:

“Your mother”;

“Your father’s wife” (your “stepmother”);

“Your father’s daughter” (your “sister”);

“Your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter” (your granddaughter);

“Your father’s wife’s daughter” (your “half-sister”);

“Your father’s sister” or “your mother’s sister” (your aunt);

“Your father’s brother” (your uncle)

“Your son’s wife” (your daughter-in-law)

“Your brother’s wife” (your sister-in-law)

“Your step-granddaughter”

Again, the “cousin” is NOT included in this list of relatives, so some believe it is okay to marry a cousin. They may also point to actual examples of “cousin marriage” in Scripture. One of the most popular cases is that of Jacob marrying his cousin Rachel. In fact, he was commanded to do this by his father Isaac as we see in Genesis 28:1-2: “So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.” I personally believe that Isaac had God’s Mind when he charged Jacob to seek a wife among his cousins that lived in Paddan-aram. Having said that, Jacob went a step further and also married his cousin Leah, and Scripture is quite clear that God never condoned polygamy (though God’s grace came in and blessed Jacob in both marriages by providing him with 12 sons who made up the nation of Israel).

The fact that “cousin marriage” was NOT forbidden in Leviticus 18:6-18 seems to give one liberty to do so, but there are other things to consider. Perhaps the two greatest questions would be: 1) Would marrying your cousin affect your relationships with your other family members, your friends, or your neighbors? 2) Is it legal to marry your cousin where you live? The second question is easy to answer, but the first one may involve some real soul-searching, for in many minds there is a definite stigma attached to marrying any relative, no matter how “distant” it may be. If they do, one could expect some form of persecution or shunning from them. I should also mention that “some” studies have been done that show a possible risk of birth defects in children of “first cousin marriages,” so one must be aware of this potential danger if they are considering marrying their first cousin. (258.9) (DO)