Rabbi, or doctor, as he was usually
in (Deuteronomy 25:5)
if a man die having no children, his brother shall marry his wife,
and raise up seed unto his brother;
which, though not expressed in
the self same words, yet is the sense of the passage referred to,
and was a practice in use before the times of Moses, as appears from
the case of Er and Onan; the design of which was, to preserve
families, and keep their inheritances distinct and entire. This law
only took place, when a man died without children; for if he left
any children, there was no need for his brother to marry his wife;
yea, as a Jewish writer observes F24, she was forbidden, it was not
lawful for him to marry her, and was the case if he had children of
either sex, or even grandchildren: for as another of their
commentators notes F25, his having no child, regards a son or a
daughter, or a son's son, or a daughter's son, or a daughter's
daughter; and it was the eldest of the brethren, or he that was next in
years to the deceased, that was obliged by this law F26, though not if
he had a wife of his own; and accordingly in the following case
proposed, each of the brethren married the eldest brother's wife in
their turn, according to the course of seniority; and by this law, the
first child that was born after such marriage, was reckoned the seed
of the deceased, and was heir to his inheritance. The Jews in their
Misna, or oral law, have a whole tract on this subject, called Yebamot,
which contains various rules and directions, for the right observance
of this law.
F24 Aben Ezra in Deut. xxv. 5.
F25 Jarchi in ib. Vid. Maimon. Hilch. Yebum, c. 1. sect. 3.
F26 Jarchi in Deut. xxv. 5. Misn. Yebamot, c. 2. sect. 8. & 4, 5.
Maimon. Hilch. Yebum, c. 2. sect. 6.