Sunday, October 25, 2015

Avunculate Marriage in the Bible

Avunculate Marriage in the Bible 

By Reuven Chaim (Rudolph) Klein

Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is the author of the Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, & Hebrew [available here]. His book is available online and in bookstores throughout the world. Rabbi Klein published articles in various journals including Jewish Bible Quarterly, Kovetz Hamaor, Kovetz Chitzei Gibborim, and Kovetz Kol HaTorah. He studied at premier Yeshivas including the Mir in Jerusalem and BMG in Lakewood. He was most recently a fellow at the Tikvah Institute for Yeshiva Men (Summer 2015) and lives with his wife and children in Beitar Illit, Israel.

Anyone who has a copy of the first edition of his book on Lashon HaKodesh is eligible to receive a PDF of the “Additions and Corrections” section of the new edition. Please send requests directly to the author at:

The term “avunculate marriage” refers to marriage between a man and his niece. In this paper, we will explore the Bible’s view on the permissibility of such unions, and discuss several examples of such marriages in the Bible. Not only does rabbinic literature generally presume that such marriages are permitted, the Talmud even encourages it. On the other hand, other sources ban these relationships. The Sadducees believe that the Bible forbids such marriages. While various Tosafists believe that such marriages are Biblically permitted, they still prohibit marrying one’s niece (at least in some cases) for other reasons.

Abraham & Nahor marry their nieces

Upon close examination, one will find that at least six Biblical personalities married their nieces. Each of these cases can and are interpreted in various ways; calling into question their relevance to our discussion. However, the mere fact that tradition allows for these sorts of interpretations shows that avunculate marriage is compatible with Biblical tradition, and constitutes a legitimate building block in the institution of the Jewish family.

The first two examples of avunculate marriages in the Bible are those between Abraham and Nahor and their respective nieces. The Torah says:

And Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begot Lot. And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees. 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 Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah. (Gen. 11:26–29)

This passage records that Abram (i.e. Abraham), Nahor, and Haran were brothers. Nahor married Milcah, the daughter of Haran; and Abraham married Sarai. According to an ancient tradition preserved in rabbinic sources (Seder Olam Ch. 2; TB Megillah 14a; and TB Sanhedrin 69b) and by Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews Book I, Ch. 6), another name for Sarai is Iscah. The assertion that Sarai is the same person as Iscah is supported by the fact that the Torah provides the paternity of Nahor’s wife Milcah, yet does not mention the paternity of Abraham’s wife Sarai. Given that the Torah delineates one wife’s father, we would have expected it to mention the father of the other wife as well. This difficulty can be resolved if we assume that Sarai is Iscah, since the Torah states that Haran was the father of Iscah.[1]

If we assume that the Haran who is mentioned as Abraham and Nahor’s father-in-law is the same person as their brother Haran, and that Sarai is Iscah, then this passage records two instances of avunculate marriages: Nahor married his niece Milcah and Abraham married his niece Iscah/Sarai.
However, it is debatable whether Nahor and Abraham’s marriages to Milcah and Sarai were truly avunculate marriages. In order to claim that they were, one must rely on two assumptions, both of which are subject to dispute. Firstly, Ibn Ezra (to Gen. 11:29) expresses skepticism regarding the identification of Iscah with Sarai.[2] Secondly, even if Iscah is Sarai, some commentators (including Abarbanel (Gen. 11) and the Medieval work Moshav Zeqenim[3]) understand that the Bible refers to two different men named Haran. One was a brother to Abraham and Nahor (and father of Lot); while the other was the father of Iscah/Sarai and Milcah.[4] Accordingly, there is no clear consensus on whether Abraham and Nahor married their nieces.

Dinah’s daughter

Later in Genesis, the Bible relates that when Joseph was the Egyptian viceroy, he married Osnath daughter of Poti-Phera (Gen. 41:45). According to many Midrashic sources (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer Ch. 38; Masekhet Sofrim 21:9; and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to Gen. 41:45(, Osnath was none other than the daughter of Dinah (Jacob’s daughter) and her rapist, Shechem. This “illegitimate” child was initially shunned by Jacob’s family, but eventually found her way back in by marrying Joseph. Thus, Joseph’s wife Osnath was his niece, the daughter of his sister Dinah. Although others understand that Osnath was actually an Egyptian woman,[5] the Midrashic sources above reject the notion that Joseph would marry a non-Israelite woman.

Similarly, Rabbeinu Hayyim Paltiel quotes a Midrash[6] which says that Simeon married the daughter of Dinah who was born by rape through Shechem.[7] According to this Midrash (which is probably mutually exclusive with the above mentioned sources), Simeon married his niece, the daughter of his sister Dinah.

These examples differ from the others under consideration because these are the only explicit examples of a man marrying his sororal niece (i.e. his sister’s daughter). All the other examples involve a man marrying his fraternal niece (i.e. his brother’s daughter).

Uziel and Miriam

Amram had three children: Miriam, Aaron, and Moses. The Bible records the marriages of both of Amram’s sons: Moses married Zippora daughter of Jethro (Ex. 2:21), and Aaron married Eliseba daughter of Amminadab (Ex. 6:23). However, the Bible does not tell us about the family of Amram’s daughter Miriam. Rabbinic literature states that she married Caleb (Exodus Rabbah §1:17; Sifrei, Beha’alothkha §78; and TB Sotah 11b–12a). However, according to the apocryphal work The Testament of Amram found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran (4Q543, 4Q549), Amram gave his daughter Miriam to his younger brother Uzziel to wed. That work understands that the sons of Uzziel listed in the Bible (Ex. 6:22) were born to his wife Miriam. Thus, that work believed that Uzziel married his brother’s daughter Miriam.

Othniel and Achsa

As related in the book of Joshua (15:16–17) and in the opening chapter of Judges (1:12–13), Caleb offered his daughter Achsa to whoever could conquer the Canaanite stronghold at Kiriath Sepher: And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; and he [Caleb] gave him [Othniel] Achsah his daughter to wife. Othniel succeeded in conquering the city, and thus wins the hand of his brother’s daughter Achsa in marriage. Most assume that Othniel was Caleb’s full brother, although some explain that they shared only a mother, not a father.[8]

R. Ishtori ha-Parhi (1280–1366), the foremost Rabbinic topographer of the Medieval period, writes (Kaftor Va-Fereh Ch. 5) that the Sadducees consider themselves more pious than Rabbinic Jews because they forbid one to marry his brother’s daughter. Then, ha-Parhi cites this case as a Biblical precedent for allowing such marriages. Nonetheless, ha-Parhi notes that the case of Othniel only proves that one may marry the daughter of his maternal brother, but does not necessarily prove that one can marry the daughter of his paternal siblings.

Elimelech and Naomi

There is a Talmudic discussion (TB Bava Bathra 91a) regarding the Book of Ruth which explains the relationships between its major players. It asserts that Elimelech (Naomi’s husband), Salmon (Boaz’s father), the anonymous relative who refused to redeem Naomi’s field, and Naomi’s father were all sons of Nahshon ben Amminadab. According to this understanding, Elimelech married his brother’s daughter—Naomi.

However, the Midrash (Ruth Rabbah §6:3) presents a dissenting view that Elimelech was a son of Salmon (and brother to Boaz). According to this understanding, Naomi was not Elimelech’s niece but his first cousin.

Mordecai and Esther

The Talmud (TB Megillah 13a) relates that Mordecai not only raised the orphaned Esther, but he also married her. Furthermore, some sources, including Josephus in Antiquities (Book XI, Ch. 6), Targum Rishon (to Est. 7:6),[9] and the Vulgate (Est. 2:7) explain that Esther was Mordecai’s niece. Ibn Ezra (to Est. 8:1) and Maimonides (there)[10] also repeat that claim. Together, these two ideas indicate that Mordecai married his niece. Nonetheless, this understanding is simply mistaken as the Bible quite explicitly states that she was his first cousin, not his niece: And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter… (Est. 2:7) and Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai… (Est. 2:15).

The Talmud encourages marrying one’s neice

The prophet Isaiah tells of several acts of kindness that a man can perform that would prompt God to answer his prayers. He says:

Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy healing shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee, the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD will answer; thou shalt cry, and He will say: 'Here I am.'… (Is. 58:7–9)

When explaining these “good deeds” in practical terms, the Talmud (TB Yevamot 62b–63a) notes that and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh refers to a man who marries his sister’s daughter. While there is a controversy among the commentators concerning whether the Talmud only means one’s sororal niece or even his fraternal niece, it is clear that the Talmud encourages a man to marry his niece. Similarly, the Tosefta (Kiddushin 1:2) teaches, “A man should not marry a woman until his sororal niece comes of age [so that he can marry her], or until he finds [another woman equally] fitting for him.”

Only Sororal niece, or even fraternal niece?

There are two approaches among the earlier commentators in how to understand the Talmud’s endorsement of marrying one’s niece. Rashi understands that the Talmud only endorses marrying one’s sororal niece. He explains that this act is considered particularly kind, because a man has a certain longing for his sister (more so than for his brother). Thus, by marrying her daughter, he will insure that his wife will be especially cherished.

However, the Tosafists (Tosafot to TB Yevamot 62b) quote in the name of Rashi’s grandson Rashbam that the Talmud’s endorsement also applies to one’s fraternal niece, not just to a sororal niece. He explains that the Talmud specifically mentions marrying a sororal niece simply because it is more common that a man's sister will convince him to marry her daughter than it is for his brother to do so.
Nonetheless, Rabbeinu Tam disagrees with this assertion and instead maintains that the Talmud only means that one should marry his sororal niece. There are two modes of justifications given for this approach: Firstly, one’s sororal niece is similar to her uncle, as the Rabbis say, “Most children are similar to the brothers of their mother” (TB Baba Bathra 110a, Sofrim 15:10). This similarity between the two will insure a stronger marriage and that is precisely what the Talmud means to endorse.

Furthermore, the Tosafists quote in the name of Rivan (a son-in-law of Rashi and uncle to Rabbeinu Tam and Rashbam) that it is actually forbidden to marry one’s fraternal niece, so the Talmud must only have endorsed marrying one’s sororal niece. They explain that according to the rules of the Levirate marriage (mentioned in Deut. 25:5–10), a man (A) is commanded to marry the widow of his brother (B), if B dies childless. However, the Mishnah teaches (Yevamot 1:1) that if the widow is A’s daughter, then A is exempt from that commandment, because a man may not marry his own daughter. Thus, the Rabbis forbid a man (B) from marrying his niece (A’s daughter) so as to prevent a situation where the commandment of Levirate marriage will be abolished. This rabbinic ban on marrying one’s fraternal niece proves that the Talmud’s endorsement of marrying one’s niece only applies to a sororal niece.[11]

Nonetheless, this proof is incomplete because there are situations where there is no clash with the rules of the Levirate marriage. For example, if A is already deceased (and therefore anyways unable to perform the Levirate marriage), then B should be allowed to marry his daughter. Or if A is only B’s maternal brother, but not paternal brother (and therefore is not allowed to marry B’s widow even if she was not his daughter see TB Yevamot 17b), then he should be allowed to marry A’s daughter. Accordingly, one can argue that in these situations, the Talmud endorses marrying even one’s fraternal niece. This is especially compelling in light of ha-Parhi’s above mentioned proof-text from Othniel, which shows that one is allowed to marry his maternal brother’s daughter.

In short, Rabbeinu Tam—in agreement with his grandfather Rashi—understands that the Talmud only endorses marrying one’s sororal niece, but actually forbids marrying one’s fraternal niece. Rabbi Betzalel Ashkenazi (1520–1592) testifies that this is also the opinion[12] of the non-yet-extant Tosafot Shantz to the Talmudic Tractate Gittin.[13] In his commentary to the Bible, the Alsatian sage R. Yohanan Luria (1440–1514) also follows Rabbeinu Tam’s view.[14]

However, Maimonides (in his commentary to the Mishnah Nedarim 8:5 and in his Laws of Sexual Prohibitions, end of ch. 2) understands that the Talmud does not mention one’s sororal niece to the exclusion of his fraternal niece. He thus rules that is considered a Mitzvah for a man to marry either his sororal or fraternal niece.[15] R. Meir Abulafia (1170–1244) writes (Yad Ramah to TB Sanhedrin 76b) that marrying one’s niece is considered commendable because she is the closest relative that a man is allowed to marry. He thus follows his older contemporary Maimonides in offering no distinction between a sororal niece and fraternal niece (because the degree of kinship to both is the same). Nonetheless, he notes that the Talmud mentioned one’s sister’s daughter in specific simply because marrying her is even more commendable. By doing so, he is performing an act of kindness towards his sister, who might otherwise have difficulty marrying off her daughter.[16]

R. Moses Isserles (1520–1572) settles the matter by ruling in accordance with the view of Maimonides and Rashbam that one should marry his sororal or fraternal niece (see his glosses to the Shulhan Aruch, Even Ha’Ezer §2:6; 15:25).

The Rabbinic View regarding Forbidden Relationships

Rabbinic Judaism extends the meanings of the Biblical passages (Lev. 18 and 20) which delineate forbidden relationships. They note that the Torah spoke of the incest laws from the man’s point of reference, but the laws apply equally to a woman. Thus, the Rabbis understand that all incestuous relationships mentioned in the Bible are forbidden to both the man and the woman involved (TB Yevamot 84b). However, the Rabbis do not add more forbidden relationships than those listed by the Bible; they only say that both parties are culpable. The Sadducees, on the other hand, add cases to the Bible’ list, and forbid more cases of the same types of relationship. In this, the Rabbis understand the Bible’s meaning differently than the Sadducees and remain more faithful to the text of the Torah than did they.

The Sadducee View Regarding Forbidden Relationships

A Sadducean work found by Solomon Schechter at the Cairo Geniza criticizes those who marry their brother or sister’s daughter. This work reasons that since according to Mosaic law, a man is not allowed to marry his mother’s sister because she is his mother's flesh (Lev. 18:13), a woman is also not allowed to marry her parents’ brother. The rationale for such an extension of the Biblical law is that the Torah does not simply list forbidden cases of incest, it lists forbidden categories of relationships. These relationships are determined by degree of kinship, without regard for gender. Thus, if a man is forbidden to his parents’ sister, the same prohibition says that a woman is forbidden to her parents’ brother because the degree of kinship—in this case, parent’s sibling—is the same.[17]
A copy of this document, now known as the Damascus Document, was also found among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran (4Q270). It contains a condemnation of those men who marry their brothers’ daughters (although that particular source omits the prohibition of one’s sister’s daughter). A legal scroll found at Qumran known as Midrash Mishpatim (4Q251) contains a list of the Biblical prohibitions of incest, and includes a man marrying his brother’s or sister’s daughter. Another important document from Qumran known as the Temple Scroll (11Q19) also[18] forbids marrying one’s brother’s or sister’s daughter.[19]

Case #:
The Bible (Lev. 18 and 20) forbids a man from marrying his…
The Rabbis say that this also means that a woman may not marry her...
The Sadducees would say that this also means that one may not marry his/her…
Sadducean approach is redundant because it is already included in case #/New case:
Father’s wife
Husband’s son
Wife’s daughter/Mother’s husband
Parent’s sister
Siblings’ son
Niece/Parent’s brother
Father’s paternal-brother’s wife
Husband’s paternal-brother’s son
Wife’s paternal-sister’s daughter/Parent’s paternal-sister’s husband, Mother’s paternal-brother’s wife/Husband’s paternal-brother’s son
NEW (2 scenarios)
Brother’s wife
Husband’s brother
Wife’s sister/Sister’s husband
Wife’s daughter
Mother’s husband
Father’s wife/Husband’s son
Wife’s granddaughter
Grandmother’s husband
Grandfather’s wife/Husband’s grandson
Wife’s sister
Sister’s husband
Brother’s wife/Husband’s brother
Daughter (see fn. 22)

The Sadducean method of interpretation creates three pairs of redundancies in the Bible’s list (Cases 3, 7, 8, 9, 11, and 12) and also creates four new cases of incest which are not mentioned in the Bible, in addition to marrying one’s niece (Cases 4, 6, two scenarios, 10).

These two points demonstrate the weakness of the Sadducean approach: The method of interpretation used to justify including one’s niece in the Biblical prohibition against marrying one’s aunt would create a series of redundancies in the other listed cases of incest. Furthermore, according to the Sadducean methodology of Biblical interpretation, four other relationships should be classified as incestuous (in addition to marrying one’s niece). However, the Sadducees are inconsistent in that they explicitly mention their added prohibition against marrying one’s niece, but fail to account for the other new cases of incest which their methodology creates.[20]

In fact, Saul Lieberman argues that the Rabbis classified marrying one’s niece as a positive deed specifically in order to counter the Sadducean view that marrying one’s niece is Biblically forbidden. He notes it is the Rabbis’ way to take things which are simply “allowed” by the Bible and encourage people to do them in order to undermine sectarian heretical views.[21]

Interestingly, in his abovementioned work, ha-Parhi notes that the Sadducees were not innovators in banning marriage to a niece: They adopted the prohibition from the Samaritans, who took the idea from the Arabs.[22] Later, the Karaites also followed suit and outlawed uncle-niece marriage.[23]

R. Yehuda Ha-Hassid’s view

The 12th century German leader of the Hassidei Ashkenaz movement, R. Judah Ha-Hassid, declares that one should not marry his niece, neither sororal nor fraternal (in his ethical will §22 and in Sefer Hassidim §477). However, his understanding of this prohibition clearly differs from the Sadducean approach. The Sadducees understood that the Bible itself prohibits marrying one’s niece, while Ha-Hassid does not. As a follower of Rabbinic tradition, Ha-Hassid must comply with Talmudic law, yet his mention of a prohibition against marrying one’s niece is clearly at odds with the Rabbinic approach which not only allows for such marriage, but even encourages it.

R. Ezekiel Landau of Prague (1713–1793), in his halachik responsa (Noda B’Yehuda, Even HaEzer Tinyana §79) offers an innovative solution. He proves that R. Judah Ha-Hassid only wrote the prohibitions in his will and Sefer Hassidim for his descendants — not for all Jews — because otherwise his prohibition would contradict an explicit Talmudic passage which not only allows but even applauds a man marrying his niece.[24] Others interpret Ha-Hassid’s warning in accordance with contemporary science, which warns of the genetic dangers to children born to an uncle and niece.

Nonetheless, Ha-Hassid himself explains his true intent. He writes (Sefer Hassidim §488) that only a pious individual is allowed to marry his niece in order that his children be similar to himself (per the rabbinic dictum mentioned above). However, a wicked man who only intends to fulfill his own pleasures should not marry his niece, so that his children will not be like him. Thus, Ha-Hassid actually allows for avunculate marriage in the right circumstances, yet elsewhere he writes blankly that it is forbidden so that the not-necessarily-pious masses would refrain from such unions.[25]


There are essentially two general views regarding avunculate marriage in the Bible. The Rabbinic position is that avunculate marriage is permitted by Biblical law. In fact, according to Rabbinic tradition there are even Biblical precedents for allowing such marriages. Nonetheless, the Rabbis do limit the circumstances under which one may marry his niece. They forbid marrying one’s fraternal niece, since this might interfere with the commandment of the Levirate marriage. There is also the pietistic view of the Hassidei Ashkenaz, who rule that only a pious man may marry his niece (because he will have pure intentions), while the masses should not engage in such unions.

By contrast, the Sadducean approach outlaws avunculate marriage entirely, and attributes this prohibition to the Bible. Even according to Rabbinic tradition, the aforementioned Biblical cases are not unanimously viewed as actually consisting of avunculate marriages. The Sadducees would likely interpret these cases such that they do not serve as precedents for legitimately marrying ones niece.

[1] L. A. Feldman (ed.), Pirush HaRan Al HaTorah (Jerusalem: Machon Shalem, 1968) pg. 149.
[2] While Ibn Ezra does not explicitly note his objections to this identification, other sources quote a question in his name which implies a reject of this tradition. Ibn Ezra asks that if we assume that the Bible lists Terah’s sons in order of their birth, then Abraham was at least two years older than Haran. Furthermore, it is evident from the Bible that Abraham was ten years older than his wife Sarah (Sarai), as it says Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart: 'Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?' (Gen. 17:17). This would mean that Haran fathered Iscah/Sarai at the extremely unlikely age of eight. Rabbeinu Hayyim Paltiel answers this objection by noting that the Talmud (TB Sanhedrin 69b) itself already raised this point. In fact, it uses this calculation to prove that in early generations men fathered offspring from as early as the age of eight. See I. S. Lange (ed.), Pirushei HaTorah L’Rabbeinu Hayyim Paltiel (Jerusalem, 1981) pp. 26–27 and S. Sasson (ed.), Moshav Zeqenim (London, 1959) pg. 15.
[3] S. Sasson (ed.), Moshav Zeqenim (London, 1959) pg. 15.
[4] The commentators propose this distinction because of the fact that the Bible splits the genealogy of Haran’s descendants into two verses. The first verse only mentions Lot, while the second says that he was the father of Milcah and Iscah. However, Kimhi explains these verses in the exact opposite way: He argues that the Torah sought to clarify that Haran was not only the father of Lot, but also of Milcah and Iscah (which follows the view that this passage only discusses one Haran).
[5] Josephus (in Antiquities of the Jews Book II, Ch. 6) also understood that Joseph’s wife was literally the daughter of Potiphar. However, see Midrash Sekhel Tov (to Gen. 39:1) and Midrash Tadshe (Ch. 21), printed in J. D. Eisenstein (ed.), Otzar Midrashim (New York, 1915) pg. 486 and also cited by Yalkut Shimoni (Joshua §9), which say that Osnath was among several righteous female converts.
[6] This Midrash appears nowhere else, save for Rabbeinu Hayyim Paltiel’s commentary. However, there is a similar tradition (Genesis Rabbah §80:11) which says that Dinah refused to leave the house of Shechem until Simeon promised to marry her. According to that Midrash, Simeon married his sister Dinah, not her daughter.
[7] I. S. Lange (ed.), Pirushei HaTorah L’Rabbeinu Hayyim Paltiel (Jerusalem, 1981) pg. 166.
[8] The Talmud (TB Temurah 16a), followed by Rashi (to Jos. 15:17 and Jud. 1:13), writes that Othniel was only Caleb’s maternal brother, not full brother. The rationale for this statement is that Caleb’s father is always given in the Bible as Jephunah (Num. 13:6; 14:30; 26:65; 32:12; 34:19; Deut. 1:36'; Josh. 14:6; 14:14; I Chron. 4:15), while Othniel is always mentioned as a son of Kenaz (Josh. 15:17; Jud. 1:13; 3:9; 3:11; I Chron. 4:13). According to this approach, after Caleb was born, his mother married someone named Kenaz, and bore Othniel to him. Rashi remains consistent with this view when he writes (in his commentary to TB Sukkah 27b) that he is unsure of Othniel’s tribe, because his relationship to Caleb was only through their mother, and matrilineal descent does not impart tribal affiliation.

Kimhi (to Josh. 15:17) adds that in the instances that Caleb also is referred to as a Kenizzite (Num. 32:12; Josh. 14:6; 14:14), this term is a reference to his step-father. Kimhi then suggests that Caleb and Othniel were actually full brothers and that their father had two names: Jephunah and Kenaz (which is why Caleb is also called a Kenizzite). Ultimately, Kimhi rejects this approach and argues that the appellation “Kenizzite” refers to the family of Kenaz, a common ancestor of both Caleb and Othniel. Ha-Parhi (cited below) and Abarbanel (to Josh. 15:16 and in his introduction to Judges) concur with Kimhi’s conclusion. [It has yet to be explored whether the term Kenizzite used in connection with Caleb is related to the Kenizzites, a Canaanite tribe which God promised Abraham will be conquered by the Israelites (Gen. 15:19).]
[9] Although, see Targum Rishon earlier (to Esther 2:7 and 2:15) who explicitly writes that Esther was the daughter of Mordecai’s uncle, making them first-cousins, not niece and uncle.
[10] Y. Rivlin (ed.), Pirush Megillat Esther L’Rambam (Jerusalem, 1952) pg. 60.
[11] See Tosafot (TB Yevamot 99a) and Tosafot Yeshanim (ibid. 62b). The same point is made earlier by Rav Sherira Gaon (who predated Rabbeinu Tam) in a responsum printed by M. Grossberg (ed.), Gvul Menashe (Frankfurt, 1899) pg. 15.
[12] R. Abraham Haim Schor (d. 1632) writes (Torat Haim to TB Sanhedrin 76b) that marrying one’s sororal niece is especially praiseworthy because according to Biblical law, a daughter does not inherit her deceased father’s property unless he has no sons. Accordingly, there is likely animosity between a man and his sister, for the former will inherit their father’s property and the latter will not. Therefore, it is especially praiseworthy for a man to marry his sister’s daughter in order to alleviate this animosity and show his sister that even she will derive benefit from their deceased father’s estate. Tosafot Shantz, as quoted by Ashkenazi, offers a very similar approach and adds that marrying one’s brother’s daughter does not achieve the same effect because one’s paternal brother will in any case inherit his father’s property. In this, Tosafot Shantz offers another strong argument for Rabbeinu Tam’s position.
[13] M. Y. Blau (ed.), Shitah Mekubetzet Yevamot (New York: Shitat HaKadmonim, 1986) pg. 302. See also Shitah Mekubetzet (to TB Nedarim 63b) who also seems so inclined.
[14] Y. Hoffman (ed.), Meshivat Nefesh (Jerusalem: Machon Yerushalayim, 1998) pg. 18.
[15] See also Meiri (to TB Yevamot 62b) who seems to agree with Maimonides.
[16] In a similar explanation, R. Todros HaLevi ben Joseph Abulafia (1225–1285), a nephew of R. Meir Abulafia, writes that marrying one’s sister’s daughter is especially meritous because his sister likely has financial difficulties in marrying off her daughter. Hida (Birkei Yosef to Even HaEzer §2:6) quotes this unpublished explanation of R. Todros and adds that according to this, there is no difference between a sororal niece and a fraternal niece, the difference is only in whether the groom’s sibling has financial difficulties.
[17] S. Schechter (ed.), Documents of Jewish Sectaries Vol. 1, Fragments of a Zadokite Work (Cambridge, 1910) pg. 5.
[18] Interestingly, Midrash Mishpatim lists the prohibition of marrying one’s niece before it lists one’s aunt, while the Temple Scroll lists marrying one’s niece afterwards.
[19] See E. Eshel, “The Proper Marriage according to the Genesis Apocryphon and Related Texts,” Meghillot: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls Vol. 8–9 (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2010) pp. 29–51, who discusses numerous examples of the DSS embellishing Biblical passages by adding marriages between first cousins. She explains that the authors of those scrolls added cases of marriage between first cousins and not between man and his niece precisely because the Qumranic sect believed the latter to be forbidden.
[20] It should be noted that three out of four of those cases (i.e. grandmother, mother’s paternal brother’s wife, and grandfather’s wife) are explicitly banned by Rabbinic decree, even though according to Rabbinic interpretation they are permitted by Biblical law (see TB Yevamot 21a).
[21] S. Lieberman, Tosefta Ki-fshutah (New York: JTS, 1973) pg. 915. Cf. E. Segal, "Sarah and Iscah: Method and Message in Midrashic Tradition", JQR, vol. 82:4, pp. 417–429 who seems content to similarly explain the Midrashic identification of Sarah with Iscah (mentioned above).
[22] Ha-Parhi, in his abovementioned polemic against Sadducees, writes that should one meet a Sadducee, one should tell him that according to Sadducean religion one is allowed to marry his daughter because the Bible does not explicitly forbid it and the Sadducees do not recognize the hermeneutical arguments set forth by the Rabbis (TB Sanhedrin 76a) for its prohibition. However, in light of the above, Ha-Parhi’s polemic is no longer applicable because according to the Sadducees’ internal logic, marrying one’s daughter is included in the prohibition of marrying one’s mother because both are a violation of the child-parent relationship. That is, the Torah forbids a man to lie with his mother and both Rabbinic and Sadducean interpretation extend this prohibition to a woman who is forbidden from lying with her son. However, Sadducean interpretation would also argue that included in this prohibition is a man lying with his daughter because the Torah’s intent is not simply to forbid a man and his mother, but to declare incestuous any fornication between the child-parent line. The Rabbis, on the other hand, understood that this is not the intent of the Torah and instead offer their own source for the prohibition of marrying one’s daughter.
[23] N.A. Stillman (ed.), "Malik al-Ramlī." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World (Brill Online, 2013).
[24] For an extensive survey of various authorities who agree or disagree with Landau’s characterization of the prohibition cited by R. Yehuda Ha-Hassid, see Sdei Hemed Vol. 7 (Brooklyn: Kohath Publishing, 1950) pp. 2483ff.
[25] See S. Guttman (ed.), Sefer Tzava'at Rabbi Yehuda HaHassid HaMefoar (Jerusalem: Otzar HaPoskim, 2011) pp. 177–188 for an in-depth analysis of Ha-Hassid’s stance on the topic.

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