“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’
If a man died childless, then his family line was certain to die out. God made provision in the Law of Moses for the nearest relative to marry the childless widow and raise up a child in the name of the dead husband.
This was part of God’s provision and mercy upon families. God wanted the people of Israel to be able to maintain their family line. He also ensured through the Law that each family would have a piece of property on which to perpetually raise their family and provide food and income for their families.
Another provision of this law shows how important this was to God. If a man would not perform his duty to redeem his family and raise up a son in the name of his dead brother (relative), then he was to be publicly disgraced and humiliated. You can see in the above passage in Deuteronomy how that occurred. The widow, in the public square, would take off this man’s sandal and spit in his face.
The man who would not take his role to care for his relatives would forever live with that stigma. His name would forever be ruined and his reputation sullied. That’s how important this was to God. In fact, one of Judah’s sons was struck dead by God because he refused to fulfill this obligation (Genesis 38).
God takes providing for our families and next of kin as serious business, doesn’t He?
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
(1 Timothy 5:8)
Certainly, God doesn’t want us to do this as a grudging obligation, but to do so with joy. It should be a privilege and an honor to fulfill this role. We should consider ourselves blessed to be able to take care of those closest to us. The apostle Paul demonstrated this attitude as a spiritual father, and he “most gladly spent” to provide for the needs of his relatives in the faith, and that is the attitude we all must have in our hearts (2 Cor. 12:14-15; Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).