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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


Seven Brothers, One Wife

January 13, 2013

Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too.” (Mark 12:18-22, NIV)

It’s “Meet the Press” time for Jesus. His interrogators seek to trap Him on this Tuesday prior to His crucifixion.

The first questioners, the religious leaders, asked Him about the source of His authority (11:27–12:12). Next, the Pharisees and Herodians asked Him whether taxes should be paid to Caesar (12:13-17). Jesus avoided both their attempts to box Him in.

The Sadducees are the third group to try their hand at tripping up Jesus. The group held only to the authority of the five books of Moses, and asserted that belief in things like the resurrection and angels were later additions by man, not God.

The law of Moses demanded that a man not have sexual relations with his brother’s wife (Leviticus 18:16). However, there was an exception to this: If the brother died without his wife having had a child, then the surviving brother was to marry her, and the first son born to that union would carry on the name of the dead brother. The surviving brother, however, could opt out of that obligation (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

This provision did protect the livelihood of the widow, for it permitted the property of the deceased to remain in her control through the son born who bore the dead husband’s name. Even before Moses, this rite was practiced (Genesis 38:6-10). We see it in full view in the Book of Ruth, when Ruth’s “kinsman redeemer” opted out of marrying her, ceding his place to Boaz.

The practice may also help explain why there is a difference in the genealogies of Luke and Matthew. In Luke, Joseph’s father is Heli; and in Matthew, Jacob. Could either Heli or Jacob be the brother who generated a child for the deceased?

Given the practice spelled out in Deuteronomy and exhibited in Ruth, the Sadducees come with a wildly extended example — seven brothers in succession marry the same woman. All the brothers die, and at last the woman dies — childless!

Pity the poor woman! Only the first husband wanted to marry her. The other six took her by obligation. Their sexual relationship to her was not from love, but from duty. In the most intimate relationship of life, she was used rather than loved. Her value came only in her ability to bear a child.

Pity the poor woman! She had to follow seven brothers in succession to the cemetery, gaining the reputation in the community of being really “bad luck.” Her only relief comes when she dies!

Obviously, this story was fabricated by the Sadducees, and I suspect they had stumped the Pharisees with it on more than one occasion.

So many experience the same as this woman, heartbreak after heartbreak. As far as the Sadducees were concerned, death was the end for her. Not so with Jesus! Not so with you!

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, in every adversity in my life, You are there to help me and not to use me. You always care for me.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.


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