“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.” (Deuteronomy 25:5-6)
A dowry was given to the wife’s family as a sort of life insurance policy should something happen to the husband. If he died before they had children, his brother had the responsibility of marrying the widow however. Their first son would be considered as the child of the brother that dies so the inheritance would remain in his name. The wife was not to go and marry someone outside the family. This requirement gave the brothers a vested interest in the marriage. They might not want to risk having to marry her, and intervene. Knowing she might end up married to his brothers would give her a reason for looking more closely at his family.
“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 25:7-10)
A brother who was already married might hesitate to marry his sister-in-law to avoid conflicts with his present wife. An unmarried brother might hesitate to marry her, knowing that their first son would be considered his brothers rather than his own, and if there weren’t any more leaving himself without an heir. In the story of Ruth the next of kin refused for this reason, leaving Boaz free to marry her.
If they refused to marry their brother’s widow, they were to be publicly shamed for refusing to fulfill their family responsibility. In dealing with the church’s responsibility for caring for widows, Paul said, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel,” in I Timothy 5:8.
Hitting Below The Belt
“When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.” (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)
God had promised that there would be nothing barren or unfruitful in the land if they would obey his commands. Injuries to the sex organs would make a man unable to have children, so Deuteronomy 23:1 ordered, “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.” In an effort to save her husband, a wife might strike or grab his opponent in his sex organs, risking permanent injury. The penalty was to be mandatory amputation of her arm whether the person sustained permanent damage or not.
“Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)
When I was a child, a store owner in our area was known for secretly placing his thumb on the scale while weighing things out for pricing. It was widely questioned how many times he’d sold his thumb. Today we have a bureau of weights and measurements to test merchant’s scales and dispensers to verify their accuracy and protect the customer from such unscrupulous businessmen but similar abuses still occur. God promised that being fair in business dealings would ensure long prosperous lives. God despises those that cheat in business. Having seen the corruption of Bernie Madoff, Jon Corzine, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs, none of which could have happened if the regulators had done their job, is it any wonder the United States has serious economic problems? Dishonest business has been tacitly approved.
Future Destruction Of Amalek
“Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)
Forty years before, just weeks after Israel crossed the Red Sea, raiding Amalekites had attacked them in the wilderness, even though they were not encroaching on Amalekite land. God commands them not to forget that attack but to one day in the future wipe out all traces of the Amalekite culture. Nearly six hundred years later, God ordered Saul to carry out this command, in I Samuel 15:3. “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Saul disobeyed and lost the kingdom as a result. He died at the hand of one of the ones he refused to kill, and some four hundred years after that, Haman, a descendant of Agag, the Amalekite king attempted to destroy the Jews in the book of Esther.