With the Minnesota Pastor’s Conference coming up November 10th, I thought I’d post a few things on marriage. It’s pretty relevant to my life as well, as I am getting married in 58!!! days. The following is taken from Logos Bible Software (I have the Scholar’s Library).

Forbidden degrees of marriage
These are listed in Lv. 18 in detail, and less fully in Lv. 20:17–21; Dt. 27:20–23. They are analysed in detail by David Mace, Hebrew Marriage, pp. 152f. We presume that the ban held good both for a second wife during the first wife’s lifetime and for any subsequent marriage after the wife’s death, except for marriage with the wife’s sister: for Lv. 18:18, in saying that the wife’s sister may not be married during the wife’s lifetime, implies that she may be married after the wife is dead.

Abraham (Gn. 20:12) and Jacob (Gn. 29:21–30) married within degrees of relationship that were later forbidden. The scandal in the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 5:1) may have been marriage of a stepmother after the father’s death, but, since the woman is called ‘his father’s wife’ (not widow), and the act is called fornication, it is more likely to be a case of immoral relationship with the man’s young second wife.

The levirate law
The name is derived from Lat. levir, meaning ‘husband’s brother’. When a married man died without a child his brother was expected to take his wife. Children of the marriage counted as children of the first husband. This custom is found among other peoples besides the Hebrews.
The custom is assumed in the story of Onan in Gn. 38:8–10. Onan took his brother’s wife, but refused to have a child by her, because ‘the seed should not be his’ (v. 9), and his own children would not have the primary inheritance. This verse does not pass any judgment on birth control as such.

Dt. 25:5–10 states the law as applying to brethren who dwell together, but allows the brother the option of refusing.

The book of Ruth shows that the custom extended farther than the husband’s brother. Here an unnamed kinsman has the primary duty, and only when he refuses does Boaz marry Ruth. A further extension of the custom here is that it is Ruth, and not Naomi, who marries Boaz, presumably because Naomi was too old to bear a child. The child is called ‘a son to Naomi’ (4:17).
The levirate law did not apply if daughters had been born, and regulations for the inheritance of daughters are given to the daughters of Zelophehad in Nu. 27:1–11. It might seem strange that vv. 9–11 seem to ignore, or even contradict, the levirate law. It could be argued that Dt. 25:5–10 had not yet been promulgated. On the other hand, when a law arises out of a specific occasion one must know the exact circumstances in order to judge what the law professes to cover. There would be no contradiction of the levirate law if Zelophehad’s wife had died before he did, and the law here confines itself to similar cases. Nu. 27:8–11 would operate when there were daughters only, or when a childless wife had predeceased her husband, or when the late husband’s brother refused to take the childless widow, or when the wife remained childless after the brother had married her.

In Lv. 18:16; 20:21 a man is forbidden to marry his brother’s wife. In the light of the levirate law this clearly means that he may not take her as his own wife, whether she has been divorced during her husband’s lifetime or has been left with or without children at her husband’s death. John the Baptist rebuked Herod Antipas for marrying the wife of his brother Herod Philip (Mt. 14:3–4); Herod Philip was still alive.

In the NT the levirate law is used by the Sadducees to pose a problem about the resurrection (Mt. 22:23ff.).

Advertisements