Matthew 22:24-28 (Answering the Sadducees 3: Levirate Marriage)

With what law given by Moses did the Sadducees preface the conundrum they would pose to Jesus?  See Mat 22:24; cf. Deut 25:5-10.  What is this form of marriage called?  Note: the term levirate marriage derives not from the Levites or Leviticus, but from the Latin term levir, meaning “husband’s brother”.  Was it normally the case that a man could marry his brother’s wife?  See Lev 20:21, Mar 6:17-18.  What was the key point that not only overrode the general prohibition against marrying a brother’s wife, but made it somewhat obligatory?  See Deut 25:5.  Why was that?  See Deut 25:6.  How would this provision in the Law of Moses have especially fostered the Sadducees’ belief that the promises of God are temporal to this life?  Think: if a man who had died was to be resurrected, why would his brother need to raise up children for him so his name would not be blotted out in Israel?  I.e., they understood this to mean that a man lived on in the legacy of his descendants, so that with no descendants his name would be blotted out.

What examples do we find in the Bible of the principles of levirate marriage?  See Gen 38:6-11, Rut 1:12-13, 4:1-6, and recall that levirate marriage may be behind the different genealogies of Jesus given in Matthew and Luke.  Consider then that although strange to our culture, levirate marriage was not uncommon in Biblical times and in fact is still quite common today throughout the lesser-developed world (see Wikipedia).  Although the privileged worldview of the worldly minded Sadducees led them to understand from levirate marriage that there must be no resurrection, was the reason that a man’s name was not to be blotted out so that he might live on in his descendants as his only lasting reward, or was it to provide for the long-term care and support of the widow he left behind?  See again Deut 25:5 as well as the examples noted above in Gen 38:6-11 and Rut 4:1-6.  Think too: if the purpose of levirate marriage is for one’s name to live on in his descendants, why is no similar provision found for those who never marry, and why is it that we find Judah’s and Boaz’s names in the genealogy of Jesus (Mat 1:3,5), but not Er’s nor Mahlon’s?  How would the laws of levirate marriage have served to benefit and protect women by providing for them in the event of their husband’s death?  What does this provision of God’s law teach us about His concern and care for women within their role as a helpmate to their husbands for which they were created?  See also Act 6:1, 1Ti 5:3-4,8,16 and cf. Joh 19:26-27.  In light of these verses (esp. 1Ti 5:8) how might one also and perhaps even better understand that the name of the deceased husband would not be blotted out from Israel by his brother raising up offspring for him?  See Exo 32:32-33, Deut 9:14, 29:20, Psa 9:5, 69:28, Rev 3:5 for the way that one’s name being blotted out is used throughout Scripture.  What does this understanding and the principles of levirate marriage help us better understand about the care and provision expected in Scripture of a wife by her husband, even in the event of his death?  What financial device in our modern culture seeks to provide a similar care and provision to a widow?  Is it significant that the name of the nearest relative to Ruth who would not have her for fear of jeopardizing his own inheritance was lost in obscurity, but the name of Boaz who was kind to provide for her has been immortalized in the genealogy of king David and Jesus?  What does this again remind us about the substance of true religion?  See Jam 1:27.

What conundrum did the Sadducees pose to Jesus?  See Mat 22:24-28.  Although they purported to be taught by Him, were they any more sincere in their desire to know the truth of the matter than were those Pharisees who had just come inquiring about paying the poll tax to Caesar?  In what way are many scoffers today like the Sadducees, who in order to justify their own mistaken views that are more pleasing to their flesh seek to undermine the truth by perplexing it with difficulties?  I.e., “How could Noah fit all those animals on an ark?”  “How could a loving God allow people to suffer with sickness and pain?”  “If God is real, why doesn’t He do something about all the evil in the world?”  Etc…

Are we necessarily to suppose that the scenario posed to Jesus by the Sadducees in Mat 22:25-27 reflected a real circumstance?  Cf. the lack of Matthew’s “with us” in Mar 12:20 and Luk 20:29 written later.  What aspect gives it the appearance of having been contrived, even frivolous, as if they were only toying with Jesus and didn’t really take Him, or anything sacred, very seriously?  How is this like many today who are only religious in outward appearance for their own ends but in fact are completely irreligious?  Consider that whereas the Pharisees were opposed to Jesus from the beginning on religious grounds, the more irreligious Sadducees likely viewed Him as a relatively harmless religious fanatic to whom they gave little thought at first and even considered beneficial to their own cause for denouncing their arch-rivals the Pharisees.  However, as His popularity grew to the point that He was being hailed as the Messiah they quickly came to oppose Him on political grounds and in their irreligion had no qualms about doing whatever was politically expedient to accomplish what they supposed was for the good of the nation—and themselves; see John 11:47-50,53.

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