What does Mark 12:21 mean?
ESV: And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise.
NIV: The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third.
NASB: The second one married her, and died leaving behind no children; and the third likewise;
CSB: The second also took her, and he died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise.
NLT: So the second brother married the widow, but he also died without children. Then the third brother married her.
KJV: And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.
Verse Commentary:
In the ancient near-east, a woman was vulnerable and culturally powerless without the protection of a male relative. That typically meant a father, husband, or son, but could also include a brother if he was particularly protective (2 Samuel 13:20). Sometimes women married but found themselves widowed before they had a chance to have children, most importantly a male child to become an heir of the late husband. In order to protect the woman, the Mosaic law endorsed levirate marriages. The woman would marry her late husband's younger brother and have his child. A male child would serve as the older brother's heir, the woman would have a son, and her living arrangements would remain stable and secure.

This was the case of Ruth. Ruth's husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law had died, leaving her father-in-law without a legacy and her mother-in-law, Naomi, defenseless. Ruth traveled with Naomi back to Israel where she met Naomi's kinsman, Boaz. Boaz agreed to marry Ruth and provide Naomi's late husband with an heir who could inherit the family land. (See the book of Ruth.)

The Sadducees are using the concept of a levirate marriage to try to trap Jesus into admitting there is no afterlife. If a woman marries seven brothers in succession but has no children, to whom is she married when she dies (Mark 12:23)? While in that time a man could be married to several women, a woman could only be married to one man at a time. Jesus points out that their premise is faulty: there is no marriage in heaven (Mark 12:25).
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 2:08:44 AM
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