Why does the widow of the brother have to spit in his face and take off his shoe? What does taking off his shoe and spitting in his face symbolize?


Deuteronomy 25:9

NKJV - 9 "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.'

Clarify Share Report Asked July 07 2014 1469093851 Sabrina Bryan

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Eced7a1f c81d 42f4 95ea 9d5719dce241 Singapore Moses Messenger of God, CEO in IT industry, Astronaut, Scientist
Five Commands regarding "Perpetual Families" in dispensation of Law and is not applicable now.

1. If a married brother dies childless, the living brother shall go in to his brother's wife and raise up children for him. 

2. The firstborn from such a union shall succeed in the name of the dead brother that his name be not blotted out of Israel (Deut. 25: 6). 

3. If a man refuses to raise up children for his brother, then his brother's wife shall take her case before the elders of his city for justice (Deut. 25: 7). 

4. The elders shall call the man and ask him his reason for not raising up children for his brother (Deut. 25: 8). 

5. If he persists in not fulfilling his obligation according to the law, then the brother's wife shall approach him in the presence of the elders, loose his shoe from his foot, spit in his face, and say that such disgrace rightly belongs to the man who will not build up his brother's house. His name in Israel shall be called: The house of him that hath his shoe loosed (Deut. 25: 9- 10).

The house of him that hath his shoe loosed. Going barefoot was a sign of distress and humiliation, making this a term of reproach. It signified that a man was bankrupt. So the man in Israel who refused to preserve the name of his brother was considered worthless. 

Two examples of going barefoot:
1. David when he fled from Absalom out of Jerusalem (2Sam. 15: 30). 
2. Isaiah walked barefoot three years as a prophetic sign of judgment on Egypt and Ethiopia (Isa. 20: 1- 4).

Why this law is not applicable now as we living in dispensation of grace?

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). He has “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:14). Christ was crucified, but He came back alive. The Law was crucified and was cast away, never to be resurrected. The New Covenant was not added to the Old, but the New annulled the Old!

July 08 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Jose de Carvalho Seminary Theology Graduate
This section concerns the applicability of the Law in context of justice, marriage and business. More directly to the question this section deals with the provision for widows.

Deuteronomy 25:9 has its roots in the legislation of Leviticus 25:25-55, ‘redemption’ and Levirate marriage. 

The Law reflects a strong sense of obligation placed on the family of the deceased, primarily the brother, to provide the widow with security.

The primary concern in the narrative is the preservation of the family line/name via a Levirate marriage in a society where polygamy was allowed. Hence; “her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.(Det. 25:5-6, ESV). 

Although he has the obligation, he is however not forced into taking the widow as his wife, which is in actual fact to protect the widow from a reluctant husband. In which case a ceremony takes place (halizah) to officiate his decision not to marry her, after her husband's his brother’s, death.

This is an official ceremony, intended on bringing shame and public humiliation for not cooperating, involving “pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face.” (v.9) by the widow of a brother who has died childless, through which ceremony he is released from the obligation of marrying her, and she becomes free to marry whomever she desires.

“Sandals were the ordinary footwear in the ancient Near East, but they were also a symbolic item of clothing, especially in the relationship between the widow and her legal guardian or levir. This is due to the fact that land was purchased based on whatever size triangle of land one could walk off in an hour, a day, a week or a month (1Ki. 21:16-17). Land was surveyed in triangles, and a benchmark was constructed of fieldstones to serve as a boundary marker (Deu. 19:14). Since they walked on the land in sandals, the sandals became the movable title to that land. By removing the sandals of her guardian (Rth. 4:7), a widow removed his authorization to administer the land of her household.”

In today’s contemporary society, the concept of levirate marriage as portrayed in the Law is not common. Nevertheless there are a few African communities that practice it, but its tradition is not rooted in the scriptures (allegedly in Lesotho this custom in Setswana is called Seya-ntlo they still practice Levirate Law, the Zulu (ukungenwa) nations certainly use it to look after vulnerable windows with small children). In many cases it tends to go against the wishes of the widow and therefore violates their rights (1 Cor. 7:39). Today’s western society would treat this kind of marriage as incestuous and the couple would suffer rejection.

Nevertheless the application of the spirit of the Law in terms of looking after the vulnerable like widows, in contemporaneous society by the Church is worthy of taking note.

James charges the Church to look after the vulnerable among us (1:27).
Paul repeats this theme in 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”(ESV)

July 10 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Kenneth Heck
The rejection of the man's brother's wife is represented by a rejection of sexual intercourse with the wife. The man's foot represents the male organ, the shoe the female organ, and the spitting the male seed.

July 08 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Add your Answer

All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.

What makes a good answer? ▼

A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.

  1. Adhere to the eBible Statement of Faith.
  2. Your answer should be complete and stand-alone.
  3. Include supporting arguments, and scripture references if possible. Seek to answer the "why".
  4. Adhere to a proper tone and spirit of love and understanding.
  5. For more info see The Complete Guide to eBible
  1. 4000 characters remaining