07 December 2016

Biblical--Er--Brotherly Marriage

 Another kind of "biblical" marriage is known among anthropologists as livirate marriage.

Let Moses explain it.

Moses shares Yahweh's regulations regarding a marriage broken by the death of the husband. Although Yahweh might simplify matters by not permitting the death of the husband in the first place, he places on obligation (of sorts) on the brother of the deceased to take the widow as his bride.

"If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.  And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.  And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.  Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;  Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house.  And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed." Deuteronomy 25:5-10 (KJV)  

Later known as livirate marriage, it seems designed to vicariously continue the blood line of the deceased and to provide heir for his property. The marriage prevented the widow from remarrying a stranger or foreigner. This probably means someone outside the tribe or extended kinship network rather than a non-Hebrew. Perhaps Yahweh could have simplified matters by not letting a man die until after he reproduced.

It also appears that this is a Semitic custom that Moses uses religion to affirm, rather than some divinely inspired provision of marriage and family law. Back in Gen. 38, for example, Judah contracted a marriage for his son Er with a local gal named Tamar. Because of the wickedness of Er, Yahweh took his life. Consequently, Judah directed his other son Onan to take Tamar as is wife. He agreed, but on his honeymoon, he squirted his goo on the ground. He knew that whatever child that came from the union would not be reckoned as his own--and neither would any property.

So Yahweh killed him, too. 

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