What does Mark 12:19 mean?
ESV: “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.
NIV: Teacher,' they said, 'Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.
NASB: Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves behind a wife and does not leave a child, his brother is to marry the wife and raise up children for his brother.
CSB: "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife behind but no child, that man should take the wife and raise up offspring for his brother.
NLT: Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.
KJV: Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
The Sadducees are asking a question about levirate marriages. In the ancient near-east, women were given in marriage to strengthen business ties or because her family of birth couldn't support her. Rarely did a man and woman marry because they were deeply in love with each other, or never wanted anyone else. Marriage was crucial for a woman's survival, as they usually had no right to own property and they would find it difficult to support themselves outside a family or clan. Like Naomi and Ruth, they needed a male relative who was willing to claim them. If their husband died and they had no son, their options were limited.
To protect young widows, the Mosaic law endorsed the levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5–10). If a woman's husband died without a son, the husband's younger brother was obliged to marry the widow and provide a son in his name. The son would inherit the first husband's birthright and care for his mother.
This is what was supposed to happen with Tamar, Judah's daughter-in-law. When Judah's oldest son married Tamar but then died, his middle brother Onan was supposed to give Tamar a son. Onan refused; he knew that if Tamar had a son, the son would claim the firstborn birthright. If Tamar didn't have a son, Onan would become the firstborn. When Onan cheated Tamar, God killed him. Judah should then have given Tamar to his youngest son, but kept delaying in fear God would kill him, as well. Tamar finally took matters into her own hands and tricked Judah into sleeping with her. She gave birth to twin boys, one of whom is in Jesus' genealogy (Genesis 38).
Mark 12:18–27 describes the Pharisees' and Herodians' futile attack on Jesus' base of support. Earlier, they posed a political question, trying to force Him to choose between the Roman rulers and the Zealots (Mark 12:13–17). It didn't work. Now, the Sadducees pose a theological question that seems to present a choice between their own woodenly literal interpretation of Scripture and the Pharisees' broader beliefs. These religious leaders fail to understand that Jesus doesn't need to align with any of them. If He's on any side, it's God's. This riddle is also found in Matthew 22:23–33 and Luke 20:27–40.
This chapter contains lessons taught by Jesus in various circumstances. He explains the eventual destruction of traditional Judaism, the relationship between secular and sacred obligations, the nature of the resurrection, and the most important of God's commandments. Jesus also expounds on Messianic statements in the Old Testament. Jesus also condemns the glory-seeking shallowness of the scribes, and extolls the virtues of sincere, faith-based giving.
Days before, Jesus has entered Jerusalem, hailed as a hero by the people (Mark 11:1–11). While teaching in the temple courtyard, Jesus shows superior understanding of Scripture over the chief priests, scribes, and elders (Mark 12:27–33), the Pharisees and Herodians (Mark 12:13), the Sadducees (Mark 12:18), and the scribes again (Mark 12:35, 38). Sadly, even in the instance where a scribe does understand Scripture, that is no guarantee he will follow it to its logical conclusion: Jesus (Mark 12:28–34). In contrast, a humble widow exemplifies the faithfulness and piety the leaders lack (Mark 12:41–44). Jesus leaves the temple for the last time to teach the disciples on the Mount of Olives (Mark 13). In Mark 14, He prepares for the crucifixion.
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
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