When to marry the brother-in-law
Sentenced to a whipping1 Let’s say two people get into an argument that ends up in court. The judges decide in favor of the right person and against the person who did something wrong. 2 If the judges sentence the guilty person to a beating with a whip, they should make the person lie down for the punishment. 3 Judges may order the person whipped with 40 lashes, but no more. If you whip people more than that, you strip them of all their dignity. So, don’t do it.
Let oxen eat4 Don’t put a muzzle over the mouth of an ox when it’s walking over grain stalks to shake loose the kernels. Let it eat while it works.
A brother-in-law’s duty5 Let’s say two brothers are living together as part of an extended family and one of them dies, leaving a widow without a son. Don’t let the widow marry outside the extended family. The surviving brother should marry her and help her get pregnant. 6 The woman’s first son from this marriage will take the family name of the dead brother. That way, people in Israel won’t forget him.
7 But if the brother refuses to marry his brother’s widow, the woman should go to the city gate where city leaders meet. She should tell them, “My late husband’s brother refuses to perform his duty. He won’t help carry on his brother’s name.” 8 City leaders should call the man for a meeting and talk with him. But if the man insists, “I don’t want this woman,” 9 they should invite the widow to confront him. In front of all the city leaders, the widow should walk up to her brother-in-law. She should pull a sandal off one of his feet, spit in his face, and repeat these words: “This is what you do to a man who won’t keep his own brother’s name alive.” 10 From then on, people in Israel should call this brother-in-law’s family, the Barefoots.
Don’t touch11 Let’s say two Israelite men get into a fight. The wife of one man steps in to help her husband. She grabs the other man by his genitals. 12 Cut off that woman’s hand. Don’t pity her for a second.
Honest in business13 Don’t keep two sets of weights—one set that’s too heavy and one that’s too light. 14 You’re not allowed to keep cheater weights in your house, one set heavy and one set light. 15 Keep it honest. Use accurate weights if you want to live a good long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 16 Cheating with dishonest weights is despicable. The LORD your God hates it.
Wipe out Amalek17 Don’t forget what the desert tribe of Amalek did to you on your way out of Egypt. 18 They attacked you. And as you fled, they killed stragglers who fell behind. They have zero respect for God. 19 So, here’s what you should do about it. When you get settled and are no longer fighting to take land the LORD your God is giving you, go after the people of Amalek. Wipe them out and erase their name from the vocabulary.
There are just two Hebrew words describing what the surviving brother is supposed to do: laqah, “marry,” and yavam, “perform the duty of the brother-in-law.” The Greek form of the word is levir, and that’s where scholars get the term “levirate marriage.” So, a more literal translation is “marry and perform the levir’s duty.” In Bible times, many cultures in what is now the Middle East expected surviving brothers to step up and take responsibility for their brother’s widow. A widow without a son was often a widow without an inheritance. Property passed from one generation to the next through males.
In Hebrew the name is Bayit Naʽal, house of the unsandaled.
If you’re selling a bag of grain by weight, you can cheat and save a little money by using oversized weights that make an underweight bag measure heavier than it is. Then you could use smaller weights when you’re buying something. Cha-ching.
Amalekites were nomads and raiders, as portrayed in stories of the Bible—archenemies of the Jewish people. They would later raid and pillage Israelite towns in the time of Israel’s heroic judges, such as Gideon and Samson (Judges 3:13, 6:3, 33). Centuries later, Haman, a descendant of Amalekite king Agag (Esther 3:1), tried to launch a holocaust of the Jews throughout the Persian Empire. Queen Esther managed to convince the king to stop him. The king executed him.
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