Raise Up An Offspring
On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Him and questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘IF A MAN DIES, HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP AN OFFSPRING TO HIS BROTHER.’ ” Matthew 22:23-24 (NAS)
As one reads through the Gospel accounts, an attentive eye will note that Satan wasn’t the only one who attempted to trap Jesus with quoted Scripture. The Sadducees, Pharisees and Herodians had all taken their shots at it with the Master.
Jesus stated the truth when he leveled the charge in John chapter eight, verse forty-four, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.” (John 8:44a) They’d exemplified it in many ways!
Our text for today is one example of their crafty scheming where they tried to trap Jesus. Let’s consider some background on their citation of this Old Testament law.
The portion of the law the Sadducees quoted is found in Deuteronomy 25:5, “When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.”
This ordinance of the Law is referred to as the law of Levirate marriage. Levirate means “husband’s brother.” The practice applied to brothers who had not yet married since they would be those who would be a part of their brother’s household. There are two examples of this custom recorded in the Old Testament. In Genesis 38:6-9 regarding Judah’s sons, Er and Onan (evidence this was a custom before the Law was given), the negative example; and the positive example in the book of Ruth, chapters 3:10-4:12 concerning Boaz and Ruth.
The case of Er and Onan is interesting to say the least. Er was Judah’s firstborn from a Canaanite woman named Shua. Judah left his brothers, meaning his family and their influence, and soon violated the principle of not marrying outsiders. The result? Well, the context of Genesis 38 reveals the results.
Er was so evil that he is the first person recorded in the Bible that the LORD took his life. Judah told Onan to perform his duty as a brother-in-law to Er’s wife (levirate marriage) Tamar and raise up a child for his dead brother. Onan accepted the gratification of conjugal relations but refused the responsibility of producing an heir by wasting his seed on the ground. This so displeased the Lord that He is the second individual in the Bible to be taken out by the LORD.
You might ask yourself, ‘Why such a severe response?’ There’s plenty of conjecture concerning that, but we do know from Scripture that it was from the line of Judah that the Messiah was to come. Perpetuation of the family line was a critical component of God’s plan concerning the coming of the Messiah through the Hebrew (Jewish) descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Because Onan was unwilling to do his part, it would make sense God would eliminate him from the line.
Since Judah wouldn’t give Tamar his remaining son Shelah when he reached the proper age as he had previously promised, Tamar had to scheme to insure a descendent would be left as a posterity to her dead husband. She played the harlot, got Judah to lie with her and from that plot came twin sons, Perez and Zerah. Through the line of Perez, the result of a Gentile/Hebrew “liaison” came the Messiah as recorded in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:3).
By the time the law was given through Moses, it appears to have been relaxed somewhat. From the context that follows in Deuteronomy 25:6-10, the law was not binding upon the deceased’s relative, but to not follow thorough was odious in the eyes of the people.
Consider Ruth and Boaz now. Boaz, being a close relative of Ruth’s former husband sought to be her redeemer (Hebrew word go-el). But first he had to get a closer relative than he to forsake his obligation under the law of Levirate marriage. Boaz was able to do so and the rest as they say, is HIStory (Jesus’). Ruth now becomes the second Gentile descendent from which the seed of David (her great-grandson) in the flesh is to be born, Jesus the Christ.
Both genealogies of Jesus Christ (Matthew and Luke’s) demonstrate a clear Gentile connection through Perez (son of Tamar, a Canaanite) and Obed (son of Ruth, a Moabitess) Further proof the Bible is indeed the word of God, and not some Jewish record edited to reflect favorably upon their race. Wouldn’t they have expunged this information if that were so?
Raising up offspring
The spiritual fulfillment of the law of Levirate marriage was the raising up of God’s prophesied offspring. the Messiah. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted (raised) up from the earth will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32) First lifted up on the cross, then raised to the throne in heaven. Jesus died without physical offspring but He was to see His seed. (Isa. 53:10)
The Lord is still concerned about perpetuating the family line, brethren. For us as the church, the greatest glory and service we can bring to our Lord, is to raise up spiritual seed to our brother, Christ Jesus. (C. f. John 15:8) We too, first take them to the cross where they must die, then raise them up to be seated with Him in the heavenly places in their immersion into Christ. Raise up offspring to your Brother!