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Questions & Answers

Cousin marriage

First posted: February 18, 2005



In Indian culture, it is permissible for cousins to marry cousins. Is it permissible according to Scripture?



I tried to find a verse in the Old Testament that might prohibit marriage between cousins. Despite the many prohibitions in Leviticus chapter 18 and chapter 20, there seems to be no direct ban of marriage between cousins. The closest thing I found was a ban against marriage between a man and his sister, even if she is only his half-sister.

The marriage prohibitions found in the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) must be considered in the light of the following facts:

Despite the fact that the Law prohibited marriage between a man and his half-sister (Leviticus 18:9), Genesis declares that Sarah, Abraham's wife, was his half-sister (Genesis 20:12). God did not take this as sin, however, because this happened prior to the Law.


Isaac, Abraham's son, took Rebecca to be his wife, and Rebecca was the daughter of Bethuel, who happened to be Abraham's nephew (Genesis 22:20-23), meaning that Isaac and Rebecca's father were cousins. In other words, Isaac married the daughter of one of his cousins. This also happened before the Law of Moses was established.


Jacob, Rebecca's son, took Leah and Rachel to be his wives, both of whom were daughters of Laban, who happened to be Rebecca's brother. In other words, Laban was Jacob's uncle, which means that Jacob's wives were his cousins. This also happened before the Law of Moses was established.


In Acts chapter 10, the Lord shows Peter a vision of "unclean" animals, and He orders Peter to "Eat and kill". Peter did not want to do this, since he did not want to break the Law of Moses, which declared the animals in the vision to be "unclean". The Lord then says to him, "What God has cleansed, call not thou common" (Acts 10:16).


In Acts 15:19-21, the Word declares that Gentiles are not under the obligation to live under the Law of Moses, except for the prohibition of 4 things:

Pollution of idols




Strangled animals




Most believe that the word "fornication" used in Acts 15:20 includes the marriage prohibitions of Leviticus 18:6-18, yet the Hebrew word for "fornication" in the Old Testament, zanah, does not appear in chapter 18 of Leviticus. It does appear in chapter 17 and chapter 19 of Leviticus and in many other passages, but it always seems to be used in the context of idolatry, not marriage between relatives.

Therefore, I believe that, under the New Covenant, there is no explicit prohibition concerning marriage between relatives. Having said this, let me share with you how I interpret the rules found in the Law of Moses...

We are convinced that all the laws in the "Law of Moses" apply to us today. However, they apply to us in a spiritual sense. For example, the Law prohibits working on the Sabbath (i.e.- Saturday). This does not mean, however, that we cannot go to work on Saturdays. It means that we are to live out the Sabbath in our spiritual lives. The literal Sabbath was a shadow (Hebrews 9:4-5) of the spiritual awareness that human effort can only go so far, and that all human effort is worthless if we don't rest in God so that He may complete what is impossible for us to complete (Matthew 19:25-26, Ephesians 6:13, Exodus 14:13).

The Law also prohibits the eating of pork. We are now allowed to eat pork, yet the spiritual meaning of this Law still stands. As you may recall from the Girgashites article, pigs are a figure of people who constantly dwell on earthly things. Therefore, "eating pork" today means allowing our hearts to be influenced by Girgashite spirits. In a sense, Scripture portrays "eating" as the assimilation of the nature of what we eat. Eating pork, therefore, means assimilating the nature of a "pig", i.e.- a Girgashite.

I personally avoid eating too much pork, because I see the literal law more as a "medical recommendation" than as an "unavoidable command". I would not be surprised, however, if at any moment, the Spirit would instruct me to eat pork. If I refused to obey the Lord, I would be behaving like Peter in Acts chapter 10 (when the Lord told him to kill and eat the animals on the linen sheet) because I would be valuing temporary, earthly commands over obedience to God's eternal, spiritual commands. In a spiritual sense, the Law of Moses still stands, but, in a literal sense, it has already served its purpose and is no longer applicable (this is what the Lord said to Peter in Acts 10:16).

Therefore, I would view the non-marrying of close relatives as a "strong recommendation" rather than an "unavoidable command". However, I would push the "marriage ban" to a higher level:

"You shall only marry the person whom the Lord tells you to marry"

God told Hosea to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2-3) because there was a powerful prophetic purpose behind such a marriage, and Hosea obeyed God's command without complaining. If Hosea had married anybody else, it would have been against God's perfect will, even if he had married the person least related to him in all of Israel.

I believe that it was God who prompted Abraham to marry his half-sister Sarah because there were mighty prophetic purposes behind that marriage. If Abraham had married anyone else, he would have been outside of God's perfect will, even if he had married the most distant relative.

With respect to your question on the marriage of cousins in India, we would have to consider the underlying spiritual reasons for this custom. In Genesis chapter 24:1-9, Abraham tells his servant to seek a wife for his son Isaac out of the relatives in his country, and he explicitly instructs his servant not to seek a wife from among the daughters of the Canaanites. This shows how the marriage between "relatives" is generally motivated by the desire not to introduce "contamination" from the outside.

If the marriage between cousins is common or "traditional" in India, it means that there is a strong spiritual force in India that is working to eliminate the influence from outside cultures, especially those that will jeopardize a family's particular idolatry. An occasional, Spirit-inspired marriage between cousins would be OK, but a constant pattern of cousin-marriage betrays the influence of spiritual forces that are working to eliminate the influence of God in India. Each cousin-marriage that is produced by these forces solidifies those spirits' stranglehold on India.

This may sound strange, but this is a case where "family unity" becomes a force contrary to God because it perpetuates idolatry. This is why the Lord said the following:

"49I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? 50But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! 51Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: 52For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. 53The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law." (
Luke 12:49-53)

As we have said before, the red-horse anointing in believers creates division that destroys the unity of Girgashite structures. Therefore, it is necessary to pray for God to send the red horse to visit places like India where family unity serves as an instrument that perpetuates idolatry. We must pray that young Indian men and women become defiant against their ancestral traditions and begin to long for a God they do not yet know:


"16Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. 17Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him." (Acts 17:16-17)

[The word "stirred" in verse 16 is a mistranslation of the Greek word paroxuno, which is derived from the words para, meaning "besides", and oxus, meaning "sharp", which is also related to the Greek word meaning "acid". In other words, paroxuno speaks of something sharp pricking a person's side, provoking that person to action. Because of its connection to the word "acid", it also has the connotation of "provoked anger".


Notice that verse 17 begins with the word "therefore". This means that the anger or reaction provoked in Paul by the idolatry he saw propelled him to dispute in the synagogue. He didn't dispute with the "pagans" first. He started with the Jews, the natural people of God, and with the "devout" persons. Why? Because the idolatry of the "unbelievers" is sustained by the idolatry inside the House of God. If there is idolatry inside the Church, the idolatry outside the Church will be strengthened. If the Church is not repulsed by idolatry, it will be weak and useless in stopping the idolatry outside. This is why a Church that idolizes "full-time ministers" by turning them into sacred cows has no spiritual authority to overcome the sacred cows worshipped by the world. 


Christian evangelists in idolatry-filled places such as India are so lovey-dovey towards idolatry that they become spiritually powerless against it. In their blatant effort not to "offend" anyone, they water down the spiritual authority of the Gospel and reduce it to one of many other "religious" options. Just as Paul disputed with the Jews and the devout in the synagogue, I am now disputing with the Church, so no one can dare say, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, that I am not being Scriptural here!!!


A brother in Christ recently e-mailed us and shared with us that "mother" Theresa once said the following about her work in India: "My work for the Lord helps the Christian be a better Christian, the Hindu be a better Hindu, and the Moslem a better Moslem." For crying out loud, how could a supposedly "Christian" woman say such a stupid thing!!! Cursed be the men and women who water down the Gospel "in the name of Jesus"! Cursed be the workers of iniquity (Matthew 7:23) who delay God's true restoration by implanting a false restoration that acts as a deceitful placebo, as "opium to the masses" (to quote an odious unbeliever). It is no wonder that the unbelievers profane the name of God because of us (Ezekiel 36:23)! God will change this in the latter days. He will restore His Name among the nations by first judging the pathetic body of "pastorized" believers who have watered down His Gospel.]


"22Then Paul stood in the midst of Marsí hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 24God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25Neither is worshipped with menís hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things" (Acts 17:22-25)

[The words "Mars' hill" was translated from the Greek words "Areios Pagos", where "Areios" is derived from "Ares", the Greek deity of war. Notice how the story of Paul in Athens is written in the context of a red-horse rider taking the peace from the Earth (Revelation 6:4) and causing spiritual turmoil in the midst of the idolatry. By standing on the hill of the Greek deity of war, he was directly challenging the Greek deities to spiritual confrontation.


Notice how Paul was not afraid to directly confront the Athenians' idolatry in verses 24 and 25. Instead of circumventing the issue or pampering them with a message of "tolerance" and "mutual understanding", he told them that they were wrong in their idolatry.]


"30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31)

[Notice how Paul called their idolatrous behavior "ignorant" in verse 30, and he tells them that God is now commanding (not "suggesting") them to repent from this "ignorant" behavior. Notice that, in verse 31, Paul speaks of a God who judges, not a mushy "God" who feels no repulsion in the face of blatant idolatry. He tells them that the time of God "winking at" (or "overlooking") their ignorant behavior was up, and that they would now be held accountable for their idolatry because the Truth was now being preached to them. It is a shame that very few (if any) Christians in places like India speak with such boldness!!! Fellow believer, even if you are not in India, send your judgment against the spirit of idolatry through your prayers. In the Spirit, there are no physical limitations. God will hear your prayers and unleash punishing judgments on the spirits of idolatry and on those who stubbornly work to perpetuate that idolatry. The Lord will also judge the mushy Christians who are too "politically correct" to confront that idolatry.


According to this passage, God no longer overlooks idolatry, and He is commanding idolaters to repent. This passage was written almost 2000 years ago!!!]

"32And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. 33So Paul departed from among them. 34Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them." (Acts 17:32-34)

[Notice how the crowd was divided as a result of Paul's words. The red-horse anointing produces division that separates those who are willing to believe from those who are not.


Notice that Paul did not say, "Please, pretty please, will you be kind enough to believe me? Did I say something that you didn't like?" He simply departed, as if to say, "I told you the Truth. You were not accountable before, but you are accountable now and are now under judgment (v31) because you heard the Truth and you simply mocked it and belittled it (v32). Those who were willing to believe had to be brave enough to break away from the mocking and belittling idolaters in order to follow the Truth (v34). By walking away, Paul forced the believing into the uncomfortable position of having to openly buck the trend of the rest and swim upstream. Idolatry can only be broken through open confrontation, but most Christian evangelists in places like India are too cowardly to take such a stand. It is no wonder, therefore, that after centuries of persistent "evangelism", India and the rest of South Asia remain an idolatrous wasteland. These evangelists and missionaries are so spiritually asleep that even the December 26, 2004 tsunami did not wake them up!!! Among the tsunami casualties you will find pastors, pastors' wives and children, and even Christian church buildings that were wiped away, yet Christians there refuse to understand that our God is a God of love who executes judgments, not a mushy, appeasing "God". Those who truly love the people there and want to see God's Glory openly manifested in that region understand that it is only through purifying judgments that the spiritual strongholds there will be demolished.]