Deuteronomy 25:5-10 – When You Ain’t Got Nothing Else, You Got Your Family Name!

Posted: April 11, 2017 in 05-Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy 25:5-10

Levirate Marriage

On this day, it is my eldest daughter’s 32nd birthday, her first birthday celebration where she is a mom herself. She gave birth to my granddaughter back in July 2016. Since it is her birthday, and she is mom now and I am a grandpa now. It got me to thinking about lineage today after reading this passage. Sometimes, we don’t understand why our parents make rules for us. They seem asinine to us when we are kids and particularly when we are teenagers. We had rules. One of those rules was that Bowlings don’t act that way. We had to hold ourselves to what my dad felt was the standard of behavior for the Bowling family. It was good ol’ Southern stuff. He wanted us to have honor, courage, and integrity.


My father instilled family pride in us that I could have cared less about as a kid and as a teenager. However, my dad was very mindful of our family having an honorable name. When you ain’t got nothing else, dad would say, you got your family name. Be proud of it and respect it. Give it a good name. Because of that family pride that dad instilled in us, and although I have failed miserably at times, I want my name to have honor. Not because I want to impress people, but I want for my daughter’s to be proud of their lineage. I want them to have pride that their maiden name is Bowling. I don’t want them to ever have to hide the fact that their last name is Bowling. My oldest daughter has married and her last name is now Greer. My youngest daughter is still a Bowling but she, too, will one day marry and take on another name. So, each could easily hide their lineage as a Bowling if they were ashamed of it. However, I want them and I believe they are proud to be Bowlings. Although I am not perfect and have made many mistakes with my daughters, I would think when you pinned them down about it, they would say that they are proud to be my children and that they are proud to be a Bowling. For me as a grandpa, whose name will not be carried on because of having daughters, it is important to me that they remember the Bowling name and be proud of it. Although the lineage of my line of the Bowlings will die with me, I want them to be proud of having that birth name. And for my wife, I want her to be proud to have acquired my name. I want her to believe that it is an honorable name. Because, as my dad used to say, when you ain’t got nothing else, you got your family name.


That idea of having an honorable name and preserving that as the generations pass is what I thought of when I read today’s passage, Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Let’s read it now together:


5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.


7 However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.” 8 Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” 9 his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” 10 That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.


In this passage, we find that this law describes a levirate marriage, the marriage of a widow to the brother of her dead husband. The purpose of such marriage was to carry on the dead man’s name and inheritance. Family ties were important aspect of the Israelite culture. The best way to be remembered was through your lineage. If a widow married someone outside the family, her first husband’s lineage would come to an end. The law of levirate marriage (from the Latin word levir, meaning “husband’s brother”) is given only here. The limitation to brothers who “dwell together” may indicate that it applied to an unmarried brother, but it is doubtful that this limitation held in practice. The obvious purpose of the arrangement was to maintain the property rights of the deceased’s family line. The levirate custom dates to patriarchal times and is mentioned in Gen. 38:8–11; Ruth 3:1–4:12; Matt. 22:23–28; Mark 12:18–23; and Luke 20:27–33.


This law also serve as a protection for women in the Israelite culture. Since women had few, if any, legal rights in ancient Middle Eastern culture, they were extremely dependent on the family into which they married. Inheritance would pass from father directly to sons and not first to the wife. This law help ensure that widowed wives would not become destitute. As we see in the book of Ruth, poverty of the widow was a very real thing. Since there were no living relative males in Ruth’s husband’s lineage, she and Naomi, her mother-in-law, were destined to live in complete poverty. Were it not for Boaz stepping in and redeeming Ruth, she would have lived in total poverty.


Further, this law was intended to prevent marriages of widows to husbands outside the Israelite nation. In order for the Isrealite nation to survive, they would have to preserve their lineage. If they intermarried with other nations, Israel would eventually disappear, as would happen with the northern kingdom after the split with Judah. You could no longer call the inhabitants of the northern kingdom Israelites because they had so diluted their lineage and had so assimilated the ways of other cultures. Therefore, this law was important in maintaining the integrity of the line of the Israelites, to maintain the Israelite people as a unique and distinct people.


The takeaway here that all of us as Christians can takeaway here are two things. First, we must be mindful of our family name. we are Christians. We want to live lives that give honor, dignity, courage, and integrity their definition. Let us wear Jesus’ name with the awareness that the world watches us. They are waiting for us to give Jesus a bad name. They want to tear Jesus down. And we are His worldly representatives. That desire to show the world who Jesus is should rule us. We should be in the world but not of it. We should be peculiar. We should be different. We should preserve that difference so that you can tell the difference between worldly culture and Christian culture. Let us lead by example. Let us show the world what Jesus was all about. He was so different from the world that He ended up on the cross. We cannot assimilate and be so like the world that you cannot tell the difference between us and the worldly culture around us. We have a name. A family name. Christians. Let us live lives that give that name honor. Let us live Christ-like lives. We are not perfect and never will be but we seek through the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives to honor Jesus name. We have a family name. When we ain’t got nothing else, we got our family name – Christians. Let us make our Father, His Son, and The Holy Spirit proud to call us His children.


Amen and Amen.

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