What does Mark 12:20 mean?
ESV: There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring.
NIV: Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children.
NASB: There were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and died leaving no children.
CSB: There were seven brothers. The first married a woman, and dying, left no offspring.
NLT: Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children.
KJV: Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.
Verse Commentary:
The Sadducees are a sect of religious Judaism, like the Pharisees, Zealots, and Essenes. Culturally, the Sadducees tend to be the high priests and the aristocracy of Jerusalem. Theologically, they interpret the Jewish Scriptures—the Old Testament—literally, especially the first five books, the Torah. Since the Torah doesn't mention life after death, and other comments in Jewish Scriptures are vague, the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection of the dead. This partially explains their tendency toward positions of earthly power and authority.

The Sadducees' disbelief in an afterlife also explains their choice of riddle. The thought of dying without a son would be troubling. If a man ceases to exist after his death, the only legacy he can hope for is through his sons. That is why the concept of a levirate marriage is so important. If a man dies, his younger brother or kinsman redeemer is required by law to marry the widow and provide an heir for the older brother (Deuteronomy 25:5–10). Not only would the older brother have a legacy, the widow would have a son to care for her.

For seven brothers to die with no sons (Mark 12:22) would not only end the line of the sons, it would end the line of their father. This is a situation in which the Sadducees might hope that the resurrection of the dead is true. In this case, however, they just want to discredit Jesus, while trying to paint the idea of resurrection as absurd. If Jesus' popularity continues to grow, and if enough people start believing that He is the Messiah, come to rescue Israel from Roman rule, the Sadducees will quickly lose their Roman allies.
Verse Context:
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.
Chapter Summary:
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.
Chapter Context:
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.
Book Summary:
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.
Accessed 3/1/2024 2:02:55 AM
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