And if the man like not 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 to his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Genesis 38:8) in all essential respects the same among various Oriental nations, ancient and modern. The rules in these verses, like those upon divorce, do but incorporate existing immemorial usages, and introduce various wise and politic limitations and mitigations of them. The root of the obligation here imposed upon the brother of the deceased husband lies in the primitive idea of childlessness being a great calamity (compare Genesis 16:4; and note), and extinction of name and family one of the greatest that could happen (compare Deuteronomy 9:14; Psalm 109:12-15). To avert this the ordinary rules as to intermarriage are in the case in question (compare Leviticus 18:16) set aside. The obligation was onerous (compare Ruth 4:6), and might be repugnant; and it is accordingly considerably reduced and restricted by Moses. The duty is recognized as one of affection for the memory of the deceased; it is not one which could be enforced at law. That it continued down to the Christian era is apparent from the question on this point put to Jesus by the Sadducees (see the marginal references).
No child - literally, "no son." The existence of a daughter would clearly suffice. The daughter would inherit the name and property of the father; compare Numbers 27:1-11.To raise up unto his brother a name; to revive his brother’s name and memory. Genesis 38:9; as many do now on one account or another. Leo of Modena (l) says,"it was anciently accounted the more laudable thing to take her, than to release her; but now the corruption of the times, and the hardness of men's hearts, are such, as that they only look after worldly ends, either of riches, or of the beauty of the woman; so that there are very few that in this case will marry a brother's widow, especially among the Dutch and Italian Jews, but they always release her:"
then let his brother's wife go up to the gate; to the gate of the city, where the judges sit for public affairs; to the gate of the sanhedrim, or court of judicature, as the Targum of Jonathan; and this affair was cognizable by the bench of three judges, and might be dispatched by them; for so it is said (m),"the plucking off the shoe, and the refusal of marriage, are by three:''i.e. three judges, which was the lowest court of judicature with the Jews:
unto the elders, and say; which according to the above Targum were to be five wise men, of which three were to be judges, and two witnesses; and she was to say in the Hebrew language, in which, according to the Misnah (n), she was to pronounce what follows:
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; that is, in a few words, he will not marry her.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)7. shall go up to the gate] Ruth 4:1, only here, in D; so also the terms like not and refuseth (see introd. note).
elders] Deuteronomy 21:19, Deuteronomy 22:15. See on Deuteronomy 16:18.Verses 7-10. - If the man refused to marry the widow of his deceased brother, he was free to do so; but the woman had her redress. She was to bring the matter before the eiders of the town, sitting as magistrates at the gate, and they were to summon the man and speak to him, and if he persisted in his refusal, the woman was to take his shoe from off his foot, and spit before his face, and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house. The taking off of the shoe of the man by the woman was an act of indignity to him; it amounted to a declaration that he was not worthy to stand in his brother's place, and was scornfully rejected by the woman herself. As the planting of the shod foot on a piece of property, or the casting of the shoe over a field, was emblematical of taking possession of it with satisfaction (Psalm 60:8; Psalm 108:9); and as the voluntary handing of one's shoe to another betokened the giving up to that other of some property or right; so, contrariwise, the forcible removal from one of his shoe and the casting of it aside indicated contemptuous rejection of the owner, and repudiation of all his rights and claims in the matter. To walk barefooted was regarded by the Jews as ignominious and miserable (cf. Isaiah 20:2, 4; 2 Samuel 15:30). The spitting before the face of the man (בְּפָנַיו in front of him) is by the Jewish interpreters understood of spitting on the ground in his presence (Talmud, 'Jebam.,' 106; Madmen., 'In Jibbum.,' 4:6-8). This seems to be what the words express (cf. Deuteronomy 4:37; Deuteronomy 7:24; Deuteronomy 11:25; Joshua 10:8; Ezekiel 10:8, for the rendering of בפני); and this, according to Oriental notions, would be insult enough (cf. Numbers 12:14; Isaiah 1:6; Niebuhr, ' Description de l'Arabie,' 1:49). Deuteronomy 25:1 with the general law, that in a dispute between two men the court was to give right to the man who was right, and to pronounce the guilty man guilty (cf. Exodus 22:8 and Exodus 23:7).
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