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Levirate Marriage Study

The goal of this discussion is to assess the cultural and biblical aspects of Levirate marriage.

In order to complete this assignment, you will need to read:

Genesis 38:8Judah, 3 sons, and Tamar (Tamar seems to have understood the custom).
Deuteronomy 25:5-10Perform the duty of a husbands brother. Note the curse added for failure to perform such a marriage.
RuthBoaz as kinsman redeemer and the man who marries Ruth to provide an heir for her and Naomi (Levirate marriage). Naomi speaks with this idea in mind to both Orpah and Ruth (chapter 1).
Research this custom by reading a brief article or 2 in a Bible dictionary, a Bible encyclopedia or a related reference work (see eResources in the Getting Started module for reference works), and read the following 2 Middle Assyrian Laws (from Theophile J. Meek, ANET, 182). The Middle Assyrian Laws only relate indirectly, but think about what Kitchen has written about making cultural comparisons when interacting with them.

30: If a father has conveyed (or) brought the betrothal gift to the house of his sons (prospective) father-in-law, with the woman not yet married to his son, and another son of his, whose wife is living in her fathers house died, he shall give his dead sons wife in marriage to his other son to whose father-in-laws house he brought (the gift); if the girls master, who has received the gift, is not willing to give up his daughter, if he wishes, the father who brought the gift may take his (prospective) daughter-in-law (and) marry (her) to his son; however, if he wishes, he may take back in full as much as he brought: lead, silver, gold (and) what is not edible, but with no claim to what is edible.
33: [If], while a woman is still living in her fathers house, her husband died and she has sons, [she shall live where she chooses in] a house of theirs. [If] she has no [son, her father-in-law shall marry her to the son] of his choice or if he wishes, he may give her in marriage to her father-in-law. If her husband and her father-in-law are both dead and she has no son, she becomes a widow; she may go where she wishes.
Based upon your biblical reading and research of the concept of Levirate marriage, formulate an assessment of the biblical and cultural aspects of Levirate marriage in Old Testament times.

For example, Why did people rely on this custom? How was it helpful or unhelpful and what were the cultural and/or biblical implications of this practice? Is there are larger principle about God and the way He works behind this custom? (Note: These are example questions but your assessment should include reflections upon the custom in its culture, how it provides insight into God’s working with his people [his nature] and what we might learn from that for today’s world.)


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