Mosaic law of taking a dead man’s wife (Lk 20:28-20:28)

“These Sadducees

Asked him a question.

‘Teacher!’

Moses wrote for us

That if a man’s brother dies,

Leaving a wife childless,

The man shall marry

The widow.

He will raise up children

For his brother.’”

 

λέγοντες Διδάσκαλε, Μωϋσῆς ἔγραψεν ἡμῖν, ἐάν τινος ἀδελφὸς ἀποθάνῃ ἔχων γυναῖκα, καὶ οὗτος ἄτεκνος ᾖ, ἵνα λάβῃ ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ ἐξαναστήσῃ σπέρμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ.

 

Luke said that these Sadducees asked Jesus a question (λέγοντες), respectfully calling him “Teacher (Διδάσκαλε)!”  They said that Moses wrote for them (Μωϋσῆς ἔγραψεν ἡμῖν) in Deuteronomy, chapter 25:5-10, that if a man’s brother dies (ἐάν τινος ἀδελφὸς ἀποθάνῃ), leaving a wife childless (ἔχων γυναῖκα, καὶ οὗτος ἄτεκνος ᾖ), that man should marry the widow (ἵνα λάβῃ ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα) to raise up children or seed for his brother (καὶ ἐξαναστήσῃ σπέρμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ).  Luke was the only Greek biblical writer to use this word ἄτεκνος, that means childless.  Matthew, chapter 22:24, and Mark, chapter 12:19, are almost word for word as here in LukeMark said that these Sadducees addressed Jesus very respectfully as “Teacher (Διδάσκαλε).”  They quoted a Mosaic text that Moses had written for them (Μωϋσῆς ἔγραψεν ἡμῖν),  If a man’s brother should die (ὅτι ἐάν τινος ἀδελφὸς ἀποθάνῃ) leaving behind a wife (καὶ καταλίπῃ γυναῖκα) without any children (καὶ μὴ ἀφῇ τέκνον), his living brother should take his dead brother’s widow as his wife (ἵνα λάβῃ ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα).  He would then raise up the descendant children or seeds for his brother (καὶ ἐξαναστήσῃ σπέρμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ).  Matthew indicated that these Sadducees also addressed Jesus very respectfully as “Teacher” or “Rabbi (λέγοντες Διδάσκαλε).”  They quoted a Mosaic text, as Moses said (Μωϋσῆς εἶπεν).  If a man died without any children (Ἐάν τις ἀποθάνῃ μὴ ἔχων τέκνα), his brother should marry the widow (ἐπιγαμβρεύσει ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ).  He would then raise up the descendants for his brother (καὶ ἀναστήσει σπέρμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ).  This levirate law goes back as far as Tamar in Genesis, chapter 38:1-30, with the story of Judah’s 3 sons and Tamar, the original wife of Er.  The brother of the deceased was supposed to marry his brother’s widow if he had no sons.  The widow was not to marry outside her family.  It also assumes that the brother lived close by or in the same house as his brother.  There was no indication of whether the brother was married or not, but this seems to assume a younger brother.  This was an attempt to prolong the heritage and name of a person, which was common in ancient times.  The punishment for the brother’s refusal was an insult, rather than any physical punishment.  Would you marry the wife or husband or your dead brother or sister?

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They refuse the second invitation (Mt 22:5-22:5)

“But they made light of it.

They went away,

One to his own farm,

Another to his trading business.”

 

οἱ δὲ ἀμελήσαντες ἀπῆλθον, ὃς μὲν εἰς τὸν ἴδιον ἀγρόν, ὃς δὲ ἐπὶ τὴν ἐμπορίαν αὐτοῦ·

 

This refusal has more details in Luke, chapter 14:18-20.  Jesus said that they made up specific excuses on why they could not go to the wedding banquet.  But Matthew said that they made light of them, disregarded or disrespected (οἱ δὲ ἀμελήσαντες) this second invitation.  They simply went on with their daily life, they went (ἀπῆλθον) one to his own farm or field (ὃς μὲν εἰς τὸν ἴδιον ἀγρόν), and another to his trading business (ὃς δὲ ἐπὶ τὴν ἐμπορίαν αὐτοῦ).  They were too busy to go to a wedding feast.