November 15, 2004

Ruth and The Law of the Levirate

Now I know as you read that you are thinking, what in the world is she talking about? You are probably mentally salivating at such an obscure topic wondering what gems I shall share. I mean with a title like that you'd expect a story about a young girl, named Ruth, who had trouble with this thing called the Law of the Levirate. Having something to do with Levi's jeans and how expensive they were in proportion to how many tears you wanted professionally ripped into them in the late 80s or maybe a humorous tale of about the life of Claude Levi-Strauss and his quest to define all things through structuralism especially the myths of the Savage mind.

Sorry to disappoint you, this is a biblical pondering.... Today I started a new study, after six months of studying the book of James (yes I realize there are only 5 chapters and that means I went really slowly - but I got through Daniel in 9 months and there are 12 chapters in it) I am now studying The law of the Kinsman Redeemer I am very excited about this. Mostly because Scripture as a whole is the very model of this law and because of that it must give a peculiar insight into the very heart of God but also because I have a passion for studying the Old Testament. It excites me like no other. Nothing against the New Testament, I just hear it all the time in church and Bible Studies. The Old Testament seems to be a taboo thing in the church, because if you study it you are obviously "works/law" based. But I love it. It gives us such a balanced picture of who God is and sometimes its like a mystery seeking out Jesus in the word-paintings - the hints and clues of Him to come. The more I study it the more I realize how very applicable it is to our everyday life and how challenging it is to the norms of our churches and lives.

But my point of writing is to get some other views on Deuteronomy 25:5-10 because I have several questions that I have yet to come up with the answer to (I'll type out the text at the end so you don't have to find your Bible if you're not at home). So mostly I'm looking at the role of the husband's brother in all of this (if you had a brother you had a lot of responsibilities - Levirate, Kinsman Redeemer, Blood Avenger). But it also makes me ponder why God would have a law like this and what does it say about God's view of the family and its importance - He mentions "strangers" and "outside the family."

So insight is welcome, I'm curious to understand this passage before I move on too far, but I trust as I continue to study my understanding will deepen.

"When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husbands brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. But if the man does not desire 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 establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.' Then the elders of the city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, 'I do not desire to take her,' then his brother's wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, 'Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.' 'In Israel his name shall be called, 'The house of him whose sandal is removed.''"

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