Deuteronomy 25:9
Then shall his brother's wife come to 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 to that man that will not build up his brother's house.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Deuteronomy 25:9-10. Loose his shoe — As a sign of his resignation of all his right to the woman, and to her husband’s inheritance; for as the shoe was a sign of one’s power and right, (Psalm 60:8; Psalm 108:9,) so the parting with the shoe was a token of the alienation of such right; and as a note of infamy, to signify that by this disingenuous action he was unworthy to be among free men, and fit to be reduced to the condition of the meanest servants, who used to go barefoot, Isaiah 20:2; Isaiah 20:4. His name — That is, his person, and his posterity also. So it was a lasting blot.25:5-12 The custom here regulated seems to have been in the Jewish law in order to keep inheritances distinct; now it is unlawful.Loose his shoe from off his foot - In token of taking from the unwilling brother all right over the wife and property of the deceased. Planting the foot on a thing was an usual symbol of lordship and of taking possession (compare Genesis 13:17; Joshua 10:24), and loosing the shoe and handing it to another in like manner signified a renunciation and transfer of right and title (compare Ruth 4:7-8; Psalm 60:8, and Psalm 108:9). The widow here is directed herself, as the party slighted and injured, to deprive her brother-law of his shoe, and spit in his face (compare Numbers 12:14). The action was intended to aggravate the disgrace conceived to attach to the conduct of the man.5-10. the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother … shall take her to him to wife—This usage existed before the age of Moses (Ge 38:8). But the Mosaic law rendered the custom obligatory (Mt 22:25) on younger brothers, or the nearest kinsman, to marry the widow (Ru 4:4), by associating the natural desire of perpetuating a brother's name with the preservation of property in the Hebrew families and tribes. If the younger brother declined to comply with the law, the widow brought her claim before the authorities of the place at a public assembly (the gate of the city); and he having declared his refusal, she was ordered to loose the thong of his shoe—a sign of degradation—following up that act by spitting on the ground—the strongest expression of ignominy and contempt among Eastern people. The shoe was kept by the magistrate as an evidence of the transaction, and the parties separated. Loose his shoe; partly as a sign of his resignation of all his right to the woman, and to her husband’s inheritance; for as the shoe was a sign of one’s power and right, Psalm 60:8 108:9; so the parting with the shoe was a token of the alienation of such right, and that he would not, and henceforth might not, enter upon his brother’s land; and partly as a note of infamy, to signify that by this unnatural and disingenuous action he was unworthy to be amongst free-men, and fit to be reduced to the condition of the meanest servants or captives, who used to go barefoot, Isaiah 20:2,4.

Spit in his face, as a return of his contempt upon himself. See Numbers 12:14 Isaiah 1:6 Matthew 26:67 27:30. This was not done, Rth 4, either because he was not a brother, but a remoter kinsman, and so deserved less shame; or because Ruth did not prosecute him to the utmost, but freely consented to this exchange.

Build up; a phrase oft used for the procreation of children, and the increase of a family. See Genesis 16:2 Exodus 1:21 1 Kings 11:38 1 Chronicles 17:25. Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders,.... The time and place being appointed the evening before by three Rabbins, and two witnesses, as Leo of Modena says (p); of which she was apprized, and ordered to come tasting:

and loose his shoe from off his foot; his right foot, which was thus done;"they bring him a leather shoe, which has a heel, but not sewed with linen (linen thread), and he puts it on the right foot, and binds the latchet on his foot, and stands, he and she, in the court; he fixes his foot on the ground, and she sits and stretches out her hand in the court, and looses the latchet of his shoe from off his foot, and pulls off his shoe, and casts it to the ground (q):''this he suffered to be done to show that he gave up his right to her; and he was so used by way of reproach, to signify that he deserved not to be reckoned among freemen, but among servants and slaves, that went barefooted, having no shoes on: and in the mystical sense of it, as Ainsworth observes, it spiritually signified, that such as would not beget children unto Christ (or preach his Gospel for that purpose), it should be declared of them that their feet are not shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Christ, Ephesians 6:15,

and spit in his face; in a way of contempt, as a token of shame and disgrace; but the Jewish writers generally interpret this in a softer manner, as if it was not in his face, but in his presence, upon the floor, and seen by the judges (r):

and shall answer and say, so shall it be done unto the man that will not build up his brother's house; that is, in this contemptuous and shameful manner shall he be used.

(p) Ut supra, sect. 4. (Leo Modena's Hostory of Rites, &c. l. 1. sect. 4.) (q) Maimon. ut supra, (Yebum Vechalitzab, c. 4.) sect. 6. (r) Ibid. sect. 7. Targum & Jarchi in loc.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. come unto] The same vb. in Deuteronomy 20:2, Deuteronomy 21:5, of the formal approach Of priests.

and strip his sandal from off his foot] ‘As one occupied land by treading on it, the shoe became the symbol of taking possession (Psalm 60:8; Psalm 108:9); when a man renounced property to another, he drew off and gave him his shoe. So among the ancient Germans the taking off of the shoe was a symbol for giving up property and heritable rights, and with the delivery of the shoe or the throwing of it away goods were conveyed to another. Similarly among Hindoos and Arabs, Burckhardt, Bed. 91’ (abridged from Knobel). Cp. the Bedawee form of divorce: ‘She was my slipper, I cast her off’ (W. R. Smith, Kinship, etc., 269). That the right was a duty, which should not be renounced, is marked by the woman’s drawing off the sandal, and spitting in the face of the recusant (Numbers 12:14, Job 30:10, Isaiah 50:6). Sandal, Heb. na‘al, Ar. na‘l.

answer] testify or solemnly assert as in Deuteronomy 5:20, etc.

the man that doth not build up, etc.] Such was his sin. But the excuse of the kinsman who refused to take Ruth and her possession was that he was unwilling to mar his own heritage (Ruth 4:6). Build up, Ruth 4:11."Forty shall ye beat him, and not add," i.e., at most forty stripes, and not more. The strokes were administered with a stick upon the back (Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 19:29; Proverbs 26:3, etc.). This was the Egyptian mode of whipping, as we may see depicted upon the monuments, when the culprits lie flat upon the ground, and being held fast by the hands and feet, receive their strokes in the presence of the judge (vid., Wilkinson, ii. p. 11, and Rosellini, ii. 3, p. 274, 78). The number forty was not to be exceeded, because a larger number of strokes with a stick would not only endanger health and life, but disgrace the man: "that thy brother do not become contemptible in thine eyes." If he had deserved a severer punishment, he was to be executed. In Turkey the punishments inflicted are much more severe, viz., from fifty to a hundred lashes with a whip; and they are at the same time inhuman (see v. Tornauw, Moslem. Recht, p. 234). The number, forty, was probably chosen with reference to its symbolical significance, which it had derived from Genesis 7:12 onwards, as the full measure of judgment. The Rabbins fixed the number at forty save one (vid., 2 Corinthians 11:24), from a scrupulous fear of transgressing the letter of the law, in case a mistake should be made in the counting; yet they felt no conscientious scruples about using a whip of twisted thongs instead of a stick (vid., tract. Macc. iii. 12; Buxtorf, Synag. Jud. pp. 522-3; and Lundius, Jd. Heiligth. p. 472).
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