Posted: May 23rd, 2022

The background of Hebrew levirate marriage

Levirate Marriage.

It is a type of marriage where a brother of a deceased man is required to marry the brother’s widow. This type of marriage is mainly practiced in societies with a strong clan culture and whereby exogamous marriage is strictly forbidden (Burrows 12). Exogamous marriage is another type of marriage where clan members are prohibited from marrying outside the clan.

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Levirate marriage was common in primitive times and was mostly practiced in African cultures. In its most positive advantage, the children, if there are any, and the mother are sure that they have a father figure who will protect and provide for them. Worldwide, the male gender is the head of a family, meaning they provide for and take care of their families.

The primary purpose of this type of marriage was to ensure continuity of the family line for the deceased. It was characterized by both reproducing and preservation of the family land. There was a rule that stated that when a first-born son is conceived after the marriage, he will inherit the dead brother’s name. It was to acknowledge his presence and that he continued to live amongst the clan’s people.

In my view, levirate marriage is just out of the question. First, marrying a woman who was married to your brother seems odd. The act of actually sleeping with her is just out of the question. This is because when she married your brother, she instantly became your sister-in-law, so the act of re-marrying your sister-in-law is a no for me.

Although it was practiced in the Old Testament times in the bible, it had specific reasons that are somehow understandable to me. The main reason for this type of marriage was to give a mother who had not yet conceived a child. This was to ensure the generation would continue.

But there exist several reasons why this type of marriage is applicable. If, for instance, my brother made me promise to re-marry his wife if he was gone and she was okay with it, I can understand. I don’t fully support it, but it makes sense since it was my deceased brother’s wish.

Advantages of Levirate Marriage.

In cases where a sister-in-law has not conceived, the brother-in-law will therefore take responsibility for making sure she gets a child. This ensures continuity of their bloodline.

The widow and children know that they will be protected because the widower’s brother will step up to be their male provider and protector.

In cases where the widower was an abusive partner, the widow has a chance of experiencing something divine and beautiful from the brother-in-law.

Both families will still be close to each other, as opposed to if the widow decides not to marry again from the family in law.

Disadvantages of Levirate Marriage

It may result in some misunderstanding. This is because their first-born male son should inherit the deceased brothers name and would be considered his offspring. The brother to the deceased may view the act as not fair, seeing that he is the biological father and should decide on what to name him.

There is a possibility of spreading Sexually Transmitted Infections or HIV/AIDs (Malungo 41). The deceased brother or the widow may have contracted the disease while together. Consequently, the deceased’s brother may have some sexually transmitted infections and may pass them to the widow without her knowledge.

It is viewed in some African cultures as taboo. In many countries worldwide, it is well-known that one should not engage in any sexual activities with their in-laws. Even best friends know that they should not date their ex’s best friends as a sign of respect and good friendship.





Burrows, Millar. “The ancient oriental background of Hebrew levirate marriage.”Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research77.1 (1940): 2-15.

Malango, Jacob RS. “Challenges to sexual behavioral changes in the era of AIDS: Sexual cleansing and levirate marriage in Zambia.”Resistances to Behavioural Change to Reduce HIV/AIDS Infection(1999): 41-57.

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