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Deuteronomy 25

Deuteronomy 25:5-10

5. 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.

5. Quum habitaverint fratres pariter, et mortuus fuerit unus ex ipsis, nec fuerit ei filius, non abnubet uxor mortui viro extraneo: cognatus ejus ingredietur ad eam, et capiet eam sibi in uxorem, et affinitatem contrahet cum ea.

6. And it shall be, that the first-born which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.

6. Atque ita primogenitus quem peperit, surget nomine fratris ejus defuncti: ne deleat nomen ejus ex Israele.

7. 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.

7. Quod si noluerit vir ille accipere affinem suam, tunc ascendet ipsa ad portam ad seniores, et dicet, Renuit affinis meus suscitare fratri suo nomen in Israele, nec vult affinitatem contrahere mecum.

8. 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;

8. Tunc accersent illum seniores urbis illius, et loquentur cum eo: et ubi steterit, ac dixerit, Non placet accipere eam:

9. 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.

9. Accedet postea cognata ejus ad ipsum in oculis seniorum, et solvet calceamentum ejus a pede ipsius, et spuet in faciem ejus: loqueturque, ac dicet, Sic fiet viro qui non aedificaverit domum fratris sui.

10. And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.

10. Et vocabitur nomen ejus in Israel, Domus discalceati.


5. If brethren dwell together, and one of them die. This law has some similarity with that which permits a betrothed person to return to the wife, whom he has not yet taken; since the object of both is to preserve to every man what he possesses, so that he may not be obliged to leave it to strangers, but that he may have heirs begotten of his own body: for, when a son succeeds to the father, whom he represents, there seems to be hardly any change made. Hence, too, it is manifest how greatly pleasing to God it is that no one should be deprived of his property, since He makes a provision even for the dying, that what they could not resign to others without regret and annoyance, should be preserved to their offspring. Unless, therefore, his kinsman should obviate the dead man’s childlessness, this inhumanity is accounted a kind of theft. For, since to be childless was a curse of God, it was a consolation in this condition to hope for a borrowed offspring, that the name might not be altogether extinct.

Since we now understand the intention of the law, we must also observe that the word brethren does not mean actual brothers, but cousins, and other kinsmen, whose marriage with the widows of their relative would not have been incestuous; otherwise God would contradict Himself. But these two things are quite compatible, that no one should uncover the nakedness of his brother, and yet that a widow should not marry out of her husband’s family, until she had raised up seed to him from some relation. In fact, Boaz did not marry Ruth because he was the brother of her deceased husband, but only his near kinsman. If any should object that it is not probable that other kinsmen should dwell together, I reply that this passage is improperly supposed to refer to actual living together, as if they dwelt in the same house, but that the precept is merely addressed to relations, whose near residence rendered it convenient to take the widows to their own homes; for, if any lived far away, liberty was accorded to both to seek the fulfillment of the provision elsewhere. Surely it is not probable that God would have authorized an incestuous marriage, which He had before expressed His abomination of. Nor can it be doubted, as I have above stated, but that the like necessity was imposed upon the woman of offering herself to the kinsman of her former husband; and although there was harshness in this, still she seemed to owe this much to his memory, that she should willingly raise up seed to the deceased; yet, if any one think differently, I will not contend the point with him. If, however, she were not obliged to do so, it was absurd that she should voluntarily obtrude herself: nor was there any other reason why she should bring to trial the kinsman, from whom she had suffered a repulse, except that she might acquire the liberty of marrying into another family. Yet it is not probable that he was to be condemned to an ignominious punishment, without being admitted to make his defense, because sometimes just reasons for refusal might be alleged. This disgrace, therefore, was only a penalty for inhumanity or avarice. By giving up his shoe, he renounced his right of relationship, and gave it up to another: for, by behaving so unkindly towards the dead, he became unworthy of reaping any of the advantages of his relationship.

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