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©Bonnie LaBelle

Chapter 25:5-12 (ESV)

Posted on April 02, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 25:5-12 (ESV) - “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. And if the man does not wish to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband's brother refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ then his brother's wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.’ And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’

“When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity.”

Question to consider: Why was it so important for the women of Israel to bear at least one son?

Even though modern culture tries to set aside naming conventions by hyphenating last names or even husbands taking the last names of their wives, throughout the ages, the family line has generally been extended through the husband. In the case of Israel, the succession of males was vital, for the mark of the covenant was circumcision. Only those who were in the covenant could receive a land inheritance so it was considered a blessing for women to bear sons.

The book of Ruth gives us a good understanding of how inheritance worked, for Naomi was in the precarious situation of having lost her husband and both of her sons. Thus, she had no means in herself of reclaiming Elimelech's land at the end of the famine. Since she had no more sons, there was no one in her family for Ruth to be able to produce an heir, and she was too old to have more children and have them grow up to marry Ruth.

Ruth decided to go back to Bethlehem with Naomi to live as paupers because she desired to worship the God of Israel. Her intent was to live out her days gleaning in the fields to care for her mother-in-law. In carrying out this plan, Ruth met Boaz, a near relative to Naomi, who admired Ruth’s character and chose to take her for his wife and thus redeem Elimelech’s land inheritance for Naomi.

As strange as the marital arrangement is in today’s passage, it was intended to keep the widow of a brother from losing out on his rightful inheritance and end up destitute. In Genesis, Jacob’s son, Judah, had a daughter-in-law named Tamar who was widowed by two of his sons, and Judah was afraid to give her his last son in case he died as well. Even though the Law had not been given at this point, Judah had an obligation to offer his last son to marry her, but he avoided it to the point where Tamar got desperate enough to disguise herself as a cult prostitute (probably of Asherah) and had Judah’s baby. When she was found pregnant, the people of the town were going to punish her, when Judah owned up to his sin.

This decree from Moses was meant to spare the daughters of Israel from having to go through an ordeal like Tamar’s in order to keep from being destitute. The other decree which could cost a woman her hand if she grabbed a man by the private parts was most likely to protect the man from having crushed testicles which we learned from chapter 23 would keep him out of the assembly. This also would interfere with his ability to produce sons for his own wife.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for baptizing us into the New Covenant through Christ so that people from every tribe and nation can look forward to an eternal inheritance in Your kingdom. Amen.