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Levirate Marriage


LEVIRATE MARRIAGE

Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection, asked Jesus, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up descendants for his brother’” (Mt 22:24). The Sadducees were referring to the law of Levirate Marriage given in the book of Deuteronomy. The word levirate derives from the Latin word “levir” meaning “brother-in-law.” According to this law, “If two brothers live together and one of them dies with no child, the wife of the dead man shall not marry anyone other than the brother of her husband. He shall take her as his wife and shall raise offspring for his brother. The first son she bears will perpetuate the name and the family of the dead brother. In this way, his name shall not be wiped out from Israel. If the brother-in-law refuses to take her for his wife, she shall present herself at the city gate and say to the elders, ‘My brother-in-law refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel. He does not want to perform his duty as the brother-in-law in my favour.’ Then the elders of the city shall summon this man and speak to him. If he persists and says: ‘I do not want to take her for my wife,’ his sister-in-law shall go up to him and in the presence of the elders remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face and say these words: ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not perpetuate the name of his brother.’ His family shall be called in Israel ‘the House of One Deprived of Sandals’” (Deut 25:5- 10). The purpose of this law was to continue the family line and property of a deceased person.

 


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