“The Sadducees said.
‘If a man dies
He will raise up
For his brother.’”
λέγοντες Διδάσκαλε, Μωϋσῆς εἶπεν Ἐάν τις ἀποθάνῃ μὴ ἔχων τέκνα, ἐπιγαμβρεύσει ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀναστήσει σπέρμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ
Mark, chapter 12:19, and Luke, chapter 20:28, are almost word for word as here in Matthew. These Sadducees addressed Jesus very respectfully as “Teacher” or “Rabbi (λέγοντες Διδάσκαλε).” They quoted a Mosaic text, as Moses says (Μωϋσῆς εἶπεν), from Deuteronomy, chapter 25:5-10. 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.