Are you ready for His return?
Torah Portion Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Halph Torah Portion Isaiah 54:1-10
New Testament Matthew 24:29-42
In this Torah Portion, Moses continues teaching the Children of Israel the things necessary for them to stay in the land that YHVH is giving to them. When YHVH gives us something it does not mean that we are to do nothing with it. As with anything everything must be set in order so that it is ready to move in. There are requirements to rid the property of pests and vermin that may have taken over the property.
We are to remain vigilant so that they do not return a different way. In the Kingdom, we are to do the same. In spiritual warfare, we need to make sure that the enemy is not able to return. We belong to the Most High God, who has compassion and mercy on whom He will have compassion and mercy.
As I was going through this Torah Portion, I saw an interesting thing about how the Modern King James Version (MKJV) translated the concept of raising up seed for his dead brother. The MKJV translated it as Levirate marriage.
Deu 25:7 MKJV
And if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders and say, My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name in Israel to his brother. He will not perform my levirate.
The word in Hebrew is;
A primitive root of doubtful meaning; used only as a denominative from H2993; to marry a (deceased) brother’s widow: – perform the duty of a husband’s brother, marry.
This stirred up the idea that is Israel the only nation that performed such practices then and now. What I found was that not only did Israel practice. This service they are not the only ones who perform this act.
There are many countries that still follow this practice. This was not unfamiliar to the Israelites, rather YHVH formalized it in Deut.
Goto the footnotes, Levirate came from the Latin word Lavir meaning husband brother. In this way, the MKJV placed the word Levirate instead of stating that the brother of the deceased man. The MKJV makes sound like this practice came from the Levites. Although this custom predates the scriptures of this text in fact goes back to Tamar and Judah. This actually had been going on prior to the flood. The reason was that the brother’s name would not be forgotten. Also, there are indications that the widow was taken care of through this act. This in effect the seed would take care of her for the rest of her life. Property would remain with her and the inheritance would remain within the family.
The basic theme here is to love your neighbor as you love yourselves. I know that this looks like I broad brushed this. Yet, when we show that we love YHVH with our whole being. Through showing that we love our neighbor as ourselves, this also shows that we love YHVH. It’s the ultimate circle of love. When Yeshua said that the Father and He is one.
Joh 14:20 MKJV
At that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
Joh 10:38 ASV
But if I do them, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.
Joh 17:11 MKJV
And now I am in the world no longer, but these are in the world, and I come to You, Holy Father. Keep them in Your name, those whom You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are.
Shifting to the Halph Torah Portion and the New Testament. The question that is the title of the teaching is; Are you ready for His return?
If we are appointed to be in the Kingdom and treat our fellow servants with contempt and lie, cheat, and steal, what will our master do to us when He returns? For He said that in such a time that you think not, then the Son of Man will return.
Mat 24:43-51 MKJV
(43) But know this, that if the steward of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched and would not have allowed his house to be dug through. (44) Therefore you also be ready, for in that hour you think not, the Son of Man comes.
(45) Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord has made ruler over His household, to give them food in due season?
(46) Blessed is that servant whom his Lord shall find him doing so when He comes.
(47) Truly I say to you that He shall make him ruler over all His goods.
(48) But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delays His coming,
(49) and shall begin to strike his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken,
(50) the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he does not look for Him, and in an hour which he does not know.
(51) And He shall cut him apart and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The levirate custom was revived in Scythia if there were shaky economic conditions in the decedent’s family. Khazanov, citing [Abramzon, 1968, p. 289 – 290], mentions that during World War II, the levirate was resurrected in Central Asia. In these circumstances, adult sons and brothers of the deceased man held themselves responsible to provide for his dependents. One of them would marry the widow and adopt her children, if there were any.
Central Asia and Xiongnu
The levirate custom survived in the society of Northeastern Caucasus Huns until the 7th century CE. The Armenian historian Movses Kalankatuatsi states that the Savirs, one of Hunnish tribes in the area, were usually monogamous, but sometimes a married man would take his brother’s widow as a polygynous wife. Ludmila Gmyrya, a Dagestani historian, asserts that the levirate survived into “ethnographic modernity” (from the context, probably 1950s). Kalankatuatsi describes the form of levirate marriage practised by the Huns.
As women had a high social status, the widow had a choice whether to remarry or not. Her new husband might be a brother or a son (by another woman) of her first husband, so she could end up marrying her brother-in-law or stepson; the difference in age did not matter. Hungarians also practiced levirate marriages. Koppány’s rebellion against the Christian king Stephen I and claim to marry Sarolt, the widow of his relative Géza, was qualified as an incestuous attempt by 14th-century Hungarian chronicles, but was fully in line with the pagan custom.
In India, this custom is still popular in rural areas. In 2017, the Indian Army removed a rule which restricted payment of monetary allowances to widows of gallantry awardees if she marries someone other than the late husband’s brother. Previously, the payment of an allowance was continued until her death or until she re-married, unless the new husband was the late husband’s brother.
According to the adat (customary practice) of the Karo people in North Sumatra, Indonesia, polygyny is permitted. A study of Kutagamber, a Karo village in the 1960s, noted one instance of the practice, as a result of levirate. The Indonesian term for it is “turun ranjang” (lit.: get down off one’s bed).
The Japanese had a custom of levirate marriage called aniyome ni naosu (兄嫁に直す) during the Meiji period.
Levirate marriages among the Kurds are very common and also among the Kurds in Turkey, especially in Mardin. Levirate is practised in Kurdistan: a widowed woman stays with her husband’s family. If she is widowed when her children are young, she is obliged to marry her deceased husband’s brother.
This form of marriage is called levirate. Sororate marriage is another custom: When a man loses his wife before she bears a child or she dies leaving young children, her lineage provides another wife to the man, usually a younger sister with a lowered bride price. Both levirate and sororate are practiced to guarantee the well being of children and ensure that any inheritance of land will stay within the family.
“The Kirghiz practice levirate whereby the wife of a deceased male is very often married by a younger sibling of the deceased.” “Kirghiz … followed levirate marriage customs, i.e., a widow who had borne at least one child was entitled to a husband from the same lineage as her deceased spouse.”
The Korean kingdom of Goguryeo also had a custom of levirate marriage. An example of this was king Sansang of Goguryeo marrying the queen of Gogukcheon of Goguryeo, who was his older brother’s wife.
The existence of levirate marriage is supported by the case of Korean Princess Uisun who was brought to the Later Jin dynasty to marry the Manchu prince Dorgon and married his nephew after he died.
Central African Republic
Levirate marriage is commonly practiced among Goula who mostly live in northern part of Central African Republic.
Among the Mambila of northern Cameroon, in regard to “Inheritance of wives: both levirates are practised throughout the tribe”.
As among the Maragoli of western Kenya, likewise “in the Luo case widows become mostly remarried to the deceased husband’s brother”.
In the highlands of Kenya, it is “Nandi custom for a widow to be ‘taken over’ … by a brother … of her deceased husband.” “According to customary law, it is tantamount to adultery for a widow to be sexually involved with a man other than a close agnate of her late husband.”
In some parts of Nigeria, it is a common practice for a woman to marry her late husband’s brother if she had children. This enabled the children to retain the father’s family identity and inheritance. Although less common today, it is still practiced:
Levirate marriage is considered a custom of the Yoruba, the Igbo, and the Hausa-Fulani … . … levirate marriages … are commonest among the [I]gbo … . … Under customary law among the Yoruba, … A brother or son of the deceased husband … was traditionally allowed to inherit the widow as a wife … . The inheritance of the youngest wife of the deceased by the eldest son … continues to be practiced in Yoruba land … . … Under Igbo customary law, … a brother or son of the deceased Igbo husband … was traditionally allowed to inherit the widow as a wife. Levirate marriage is also considered in the tradition of the Urhobo people, a major ethnic group in the Delta State.
In Somalia, levirate marriage is practiced and is called Dumaal, and provisions are made under Somali customary law or Xeer with regard to bride price (yarad). The widow is usually given a choice in the matter.
In the past few decades since the start of the Somali Civil War, this type of marriage has fallen out of favor due to strict Islamic interpretations that have been imported to Somalia.
Main article: Ghost marriage (Sudanese)
Levirate marriages are very common among South Sudan’s Nilotic peoples, especially among the Dinka and Nuer people.
An alternate form, the ghost marriage, occurs when a groom dies before marriage. The deceased groom is replaced by his brother who serves as a stand in to the bride; any resulting children are considered children of the deceased spouse.
In Zimbabwe, levirate marriage is practiced amongst the Shona people, and provisions are made under Zimbabwe customary law, with regard to bride price (roora). The widow is usually given a choice in the matter, as well as the widower. In the past few decades, this type of marriage has fallen out of favor due to increased rural-to urban migration as well as improved literacy for women and the girl-child in general.
[ii] LEVIRATE MARRIAGE (IN THE BIBLE)
The term levirate marriage, from the Latin levir meaning husband’s brother or brother-in-law, refers to marriage between a widow and her deceased husband’s brother. If a married man died without a son, his brother was to marry the widow. The practice is reflected in three Old Testament texts: Gn 38.6–11, the Book of Ruth, and Dt 25.5–10.
The purpose of the law in Deuteronomy was to prevent loss of family property by the widow’s marrying outside the clan. The law applied only to the case of brothers who had lived together and worked common property. The levirate marriage would insure issue to the deceased and pass the inheritance to the firstborn of the new union. Later, levirate law applied only if no child was born, since daughters could inherit (Nm 27.8; 36.6–7).
If the brother-in-law refused to marry, his sister-in-law took off his sandal publicly and spat in his face because he refused to build up his brother’s house (Dt 25.7–10). In Ruth, in default of a brother-in-law, other relatives had the duty of marrying the widow in order of nearness of kinship to her. Both widow and relative could refuse to marry in this case without disgrace (Ru 3.10; 3.13).
In Mt 22.23–28; Mk 12.18–23; Lk 20.27–33, the question put to Christ about a widow’s marrying seven brothers reflects the levirate law. Though not found in the Code of Hammurabi, the custom was known also among the Assyrians and Hittites. Here death during engagement also brought the law into effect [J. B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament (Princeton 1955) 182; 196].
Bibliography: p. cruveilhier, “Le Lévirat chez les Hébreux et chez les Assyriens,” Revue biblique 34 (Paris 1925) 524–546. m. burrows, “Levirate Marriage in Israel,” Journal of Biblical Literature 59 (Boston 1940) 23–33. r. de vaux, Ancient Israel, Its Life and Institutions, tr. j. mchugh (New York 1961) 37–38.
[r. h. mcgrath]
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