Levirate Marriage

What were the purposes of levirate marriage? I can see that it would help to provide for widows, but its described purposes appear to go beyond that. In our culture, if a brother dies, he and his brother already share a name and his nieces and nephews by a brother will carry on the family name. My understanding is that the Israelites did not have family names in the same manner as modern English-speaking cultures. What was different about Israelite culture that causes the first child born of a levirate marriage being described in Deuteronomy 25 as assuming the name of the dead brother (and what does such a taking of the brother’s name mean, in cultural context)? Also, does levirate marriage imply polygamy because of how, with regard to the levirate marriage, it apparently contains an increased risk that the surviving brother will not have a child from that marriage to succeed him (if, for instance, he only has one son by that wife)?

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Ruth the Moabitess and the Moabite Women of Nehemiah

Having recently read both Ruth and Nehemiah, I was struck by the very different ways they relate to the recurring entanglement of Moabite women and Israelite men. Nehemiah seems to replay the old story, whereas Ruth seems to invert it (the faithful pagan woman, redeemed that she might birth the future redeemer). Do you have any thoughts on this or on the related issue of how David and Jesus were admitted into the congregation of Israel in spite of Moabite ancestry?

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