Deuteronomy 25:5-10

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 7, 2001

:5-10 Levirate Law

:5 and have no child

There was also a period of three months that followed the death of the husband, during which everyone waited to see if the widow was pregnant from her deceased husband. If she was already pregnant, then this law wasn’t put into effect.

:5 her husband's brother shall go in unto her,

This section was known as the “Levirate” law, the duty of a man to raise up a name for a deceased brother who had no offspring. The Latin word levir means “brother-in-law”.

There were two unwritten rules here – first, it was the eldest brother who had the duty to marry the widow, and second, only if the brother was unmarried. This is how the Jews put this into practice.

This was a custom that actually predated Moses.

When Judah’s son Er died without having had a child with his wife Tamar, Judah made Er’s brother Onan marry Tamar to produce offspring (Gen. 38:8).

(Gen 38:8 KJV) And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

The Sadducees used this law to try and trap Jesus:

(Mat 22:23-33 KJV) The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, {24} Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. {25} Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: {26} Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. {27} And last of all the woman died also. {28} Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.

They were building a situation based upon the Levirate law, where a brother dies and the wife is taken by the next brother to fulfill his responsibilities. Then this brother dies, and the next brother takes her, and so on until all brothers have died. The Sadducees don’t believe in a resurrection, and they want to show how silly the whole idea is. They think they have a difficult situation for Jesus to solve in asking whose wife she will be in this “resurrection”.

{29} Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. {30} For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

There is no marriage in heaven. We will not be married to our spouse in heaven.
For some, this is a relief. I hope for most of us, this is sad news. Jesus’ approach to their argument is simply to tell them that the gal won’t be married to any of them in heaven because there is no marriage in heaven. You won’t stay married to your current spouse in heaven, you won’t be marrying anybody else in heaven.
There are other belief systems that have ideas about heaven that differ from the Bible.

I don’t know if this qualifies as marriage in heaven, but in the Qur’an it is written,

“Verily for the Righteous there will be a fulfillment of (the heart's) desires; Gardens enclosed, and grapevines, And voluptuous women of equal age” (78:31-33).


The Mormons have some unusual ideas about marriage and heaven. They have a ritual that “seals” your marriage so you will be married in heaven, then you can have spirit babies, and become a god over your own planet.

Former LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote that those who attain exaltation "…inherit in due course the fullness of the glory of the Father, meaning that they have all power in heaven and on earth..." (Mormon Doctrine pg. 257). The LDS Doctrine and Covenants also teaches that "then shall they be gods, because they have no end…then shall they be gods, because they have all power…" (D&C 132:16-26). This is the ultimate goal in Mormonism.

This sounds a little like what we read in Genesis 3:5 – your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, the only problem is, this is what Satan said to tempt Eve.

One of the requirements to reach this goal is what Mormons call "celestial marriage." Today celestial marriage is simply defined as a marriage in a Mormon temple designed to last not just until death but throughout all eternity. Couples joined in such marriages are considered "sealed" to each other. Their children afterward are automatically "sealed" to them as well. This, they believe, ensures that their family will continue in heaven eternally as a complete unit.

McConkie wrote, "Celestial marriage is the gate to exaltation, and exaltation consists in the continuation of the family unit in eternity. Exaltation is…the kind of life which God lives" (Mormon Doctrine pg. 257). Celestial marriage is an absolute necessity to reach this desired goal. Its importance in the place of salvation and exaltation cannot be overestimated. "The most important things that any member of (the LDS Church) ever does in this world are: 1) To marry the right person, in the right place, by the right authority; and 2) To keep the covenant made in connection with this holy and perfect order of matrimony…" (Mormon Doctrine pg. 118).

All Mormon men who desire Godhood are required to marry; if they do not, their leaders have taught that their actions will be displeasing to God. For instance, 10th LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith said, "Any young man who carelessly neglects this great commandment to marry, or who does not marry because of a selfish desire to avoid the responsibilities which married life will bring, is taking a course which is displeasing in the sight of God…There can be no exaltation without it. If a man refuses…he is taking a course which may bar him forever from (exaltation)." (Doctrines of Salvation 2:74).

The amazing thing is that this idea of being married in heaven clearly contradicts what Jesus said. Jesus rebuked the Sadducees because they were making up a silly situation, assuming that there was marriage in heaven, when in fact there was no such thing.

{31} But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, {32} I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. {33} And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.

Besides not believing in a resurrection, the Sadducees also believed that only the first five books of Moses were inspired. They did not believe in the inspiration of the prophets, the Psalms, the history books, etc. When Jesus quotes the Scriptures for the Sadducees (“I am the God of Abraham …”), He quotes from Exodus 3:6, from one of the books that they accept. God had told Moses that He is currently the God of Abraham. If there was no resurrection, God would have told Moses, “I WAS the God of Abraham” since Abraham had long been dead at Moses’ time.

Jesus told the Sadducees that they were mistaken in their ideas because they were unfamiliar with the Scriptures and unfamiliar with the true power of God.


The Word and Power

If you want to stay on track with what you believe, you need to know both God’s Word and His Power.
The Sadducees didn’t know God’s Word, and so they came up with some silly notions about heaven.
Instead of basing their belief system on something authoritative, like God’s Word, they based their belief system on what they thought heaven was like.

The other day Larry King had Deepak Chopra on with a Rabbi, John MacArthur, and Bruce Wilkinson. Both Mr. Chopra and the Rabbi talked about how they did not believe in hell because they could not believe that God would make such a place nor send people there. John’s response was that it really didn’t make any difference what they believed. What counted was what God has told us.

Dave Ritner shared an illustration a few weeks ago – suppose I had your gas tank drained of gas and told you so, but you chose not to believe me. Suppose you go to your car to start it up, and the fuel gage reads “Empty”, but you choose instead to believe that there is gas in your tank. If you were even able to start the car, would you get very far just by “believing” there was gas in the tank when in fact there was none? Believing just for the sake of believing will get you nowhere. God asks you to believe in Him, not because He’ll disappear if you don’t, but because He is real and you need Him and you need to follow Him.

The fact is, God has told us about Himself. The Bible is authoritative. We have proof of the Bible’s validity through the hundreds of specific prophecies that have already been fulfilled. God has spoken. We ought to pay attention. Don’t base your beliefs upon what you think, be sure to find out what God says.
The Sadducees didn’t know God’s power, and this too affected their beliefs.
They did not understand God’s power, so when it came to the topic of something like raising someone from the dead, they couldn’t comprehend it.

Hundreds of years ago, the king of Siam was visited by the Dutch ambassador. The ambassador told the king about his country and how in cold weather the water became so hard that men walked on it and it would bear an elephant. The king replied, “Hitherto I have believed the strange things you told me, because I looked upon you as a sober fair man; but now I am sure you lie.”

The king of Siam had a hard time believing there were such a thing as ice because he had never experienced it. But is there such a thing as ice? Yes.

How much of the world’s knowledge do you suppose you have acquired? If you walk into a huge college library, how many of the books do you think you could have written? Is it possible that God might actually exist and function outside of your very, very small grasp of the universe?

Be careful about limiting what you think God can do based upon your limited understanding.

(Jer 32:27 KJV) Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?

:6 that his name be not put out of Israel.

This was the purpose behind the law, to keep the family line of the brother going and to keep the property within the family. The firstborn son would receive his inheritance from the dead brother’s estate.


Marrying a family

If you were about to married under these laws of Israel, I think you’d want to pay attention to who your in-laws were. If you were a gal marrying a guy, you’d probably want to make sure you could stand his brother (if he had any). If you were a guy and your brother was getting married, you’d probably want to make sure that he marries a nice gal. After all, you may get stuck with her.
When you marry a person, there is a sense that you are gaining a new family, your spouse’s.
The Wisdom of Solomon
Two women came before wise King Solomon, dragging between them a young man in a three-piece suit. “This young CPA agreed to marry my daughter,” said one. “No! He agreed to marry MY daughter,” said the other. And so they haggled before the King, until he called for silence. “Bring me my biggest sword,” said Solomon,” and I shall hew the young accountant in half. Each of you shall receive a half.” “Sounds good to me,” said the first lady. But the other woman said, “Oh Sire, do not spill innocent blood. Let the other woman’s daughter marry him.” The wise king did not hesitate a moment. “The accountant must marry the first lady’s daughter,” he proclaimed. “But she was willing to hew him in two!” exclaimed the king’s court. “Indeed,” said wise King Solomon. “That shows she is the TRUE mother-in-law.”
I’ve heard a person say to their spouse, “I married you, not your mother”. Then they will proceed to alienate their spouse from their mother or other family members. There is a point where this is completely appropriate since we are to “leave” our parents’ influence and “cleave” to our spouse. But I’ve also seen a type of abuse over the years where one spouse works hard to alienate their spouse from their family.
I think when a couple marry, there’s a fine line they need to walk where they on one hand “leave” the influence of their family, yet on the other hand they need to continue to show love and respect toward their family as well.

:9 loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face

loose his shoe from off his footThis act signified that he had abandoned his duty. It was a kind of sign of degradation, as if the man was becoming poorer by having to go barefoot. The city officials would keep the sandal as evidence of the transaction.

spit in his face – A sign of contempt.

:10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.

or, bayith chalotz hana’al

We see this played out in the book of Ruth. A man named Elimelech took his wife and two sons and went to the land of Moab to ride out a time of famine. While there, his boys married two Moabite girls. As the famine got worse, Elimelech and his sons all died. His name was going to be cut off. The family tree had been cut down.

When Elimelech’s wife Naomi went back home to Bethlehem, she was surprised when her daughter-in-law, the Moabitess Ruth, went with her. We begin to see the levirate law come into play as they run into a relative named Boaz, and he falls in love with Ruth.

(Ruth 4:1-8 KJV) Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down. {2} And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down. {3} And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's: {4} And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it.

There is another law coming into play here, the law of the Kinsman Redeemer (Lev. 25:25). When a relative went into debt, it was the obligation of the nearest kinsman to help out, to buy the farm and keep the property in the family. Boaz has now approached the one relative that was closer to Elimelech than he was, and giving him the first shot at helping the family.

{5} Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.

Here we see Boaz now invoking the Levirate Law, requiring the near kinsman not only to buy the land, but take Ruth to be his wife and raise up an inheritance for Elimelech. It was a package deal.

{6} And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it.

The other kinsman didn’t mind acquiring the land, but when he saw that it came with a wife attached, he was quick to back out. Perhaps he was married, and his own wife wasn’t too excited about the situation!

{7} Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel. {8} Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe.

It seems that by Ruth’s time, the shoe bit had lost some of its meaning. We also see another part of the ritual has dropped off, Ruth was supposed to spit in the face of the one rejecting her.


Responsibility for family

One of the great principles we see in Scripture is that we need to learn to take responsibility for our families. The early church had a program to take care of the needs of widows, but they did not help widows who had family that could take care of them:
(1 Tim 5:3,4,8 KJV) Honour widows that are widows indeed. {4} But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. …{8} But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
The whole point of the Levirate law was to say, “Take care of your family”.



Why is all this important? What’s the big deal with this “Levirate Law”?
First, God is showing how He honors those who take care of their families.  God blessed Ruth because she was willing to take care of her mother-in-law Naomi.  God blessed Boaz because he was willing to obey this Levirate law and marry Ruth.
More importantly, it all leads to Jesus.
(Ruth 4:17 KJV) And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Boaz and Ruth both showed honor to their family, and they were the great-grandparents of King David, from whom came Jesus.

Jesus too is an example of honoring family.  We are His family.  He laid down His life by dying on a cross and take the punishment for our sins.