Levirate marriage (of a man to his dead brother’s widow) is required in the Bible. As the Jewish Encyclopedia states, “This custom is found among a large number of primitive peoples”. It can be useful for a woman in a society in which women have no rights or freedom. It is useful for men in patriarchal societies to give family continuity and inheritances to the children of a dead brother. It has no place in a society in which women have equal rights with men.
A levirate marriage is required in the Bible in certain circumstances: when a man dies childless, his brother is to marry the widow and her firstborn child will be treated as being that of the dead brother, which gives the dead man an heir. (Deuteronomy 25: 5-6) When Onan refused to follow this obligation, God killed him: “Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother.’ But since Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to see his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother. What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.” (Genesis 38: 8-10)
So ‘onanism’ as a sin isn’t masturbation as such, it is refusing to have a child by your brother’s widow. If a man refuses to fulfill this duty, “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,” 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.” That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.”(Deuteronomy 25: 9-10)
Oh, the fun we will all have, when our Presidents and Prime Ministers all start enforcing the old tribal laws about marriage!
This post comes to you courtesy of Nikolai Usack of Astral/Subastral. He normally provides music in the Milwaukee area. Here he provided the impetus for the post and the initial text.