One Bride. Seven Husbands.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 22:24 (Holman) Teacher, Moses said, If a man dies, having no
children, his brother is to marry his wife and raise up
offspring for his brother.
Heretics love to misquote the Bible. The Sadducees ill-used Scripture here to try to discredit Jesus as a Teacher. Hoping to trap Him with an unsolvable problem, they tried to force Jesus into a corner where He had to make one of two decisions, either for or against a resurrection. If he denied the resurrection, He would offend the nation. If He endorsed it, their riddle would make Him look foolish. Either way, Jesus loses and Sadducees win.
In Deuteronomy 25:5, Moses endorsed levirate (Latin for husband’s brother) marriage. If a man left his widow childless, his brother (or if needed, another near kinsman) had to marry her. The first child was legally the child of the deceased. This practice kept a man’s estate in his family, and protected a childless widow by keeping her husband’s property for her.
This requirement is why Boaz married his kinsman’s widow Ruth (RT 2:20). God struck Onan dead because he disobeyed this law (Gen. 38:8-10).
Matt. 22:25-26 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first got married and died. Having no offspring, he left his wife to his brother. The same happened to the second also and the third, and so to all seven.
One bride married seven brothers. J. Vernon McGee said this lady must have lived in Hollywood to accomplish this. She was evidently a tough woman to live with. Does the designation “husband-killer” come to mind?
She was widowed seven times. Her seventh husband was the boldest and/or craziest man who ever lived. Anyone who married a woman widowed six times must have had a death wish.
Matt. 22:27-28 Then last of all the woman died. In the resurrection,
therefore, whose wife will she be of the seven? For
they all had married her.
Oh they thought they were sly dogs, didn’t they? The Sadducees felt brilliant, clever, and coy. They thought their argument was irrefutable, and would show forever how foolish the notion of a future resurrection was.
In their way of thinking, she could not belong to all seven husbands. Thus, voila, no resurrection; they truly thought this problem was unsolvable, and would thus reduce any notion of a resurrection to the level of absurdity.
Unbelief tends to argue the most extreme cases. We by nature do not like open-ended situations. For instance, I am convinced railroad tracks meet somewhere. Surely they cannot be parallel forever. Often my college math instructors would draw parabolas on the blackboard, and say the line never met the axis all the way to infinity. Every time I heard that, I wanted to walk to the board, take the chalk, and say, “I can fix that”, and connect the two.
We desperately want resolution, congruence, in our thinking, but every day presents us unanswerable questions. This is what our existence consists of: inexplicable realities beyond our ability to figure out totally.
Much of life is unfathomable. Should this be a problem to us? Do we want it any other way? Would we prefer a God whose ways are plain and simple, who is easy to figure out and not transcendent? Doesn’t the fact some circumstances are beyond us cause us to be in awe of our God even more?
Living in this irreconcilable dynamic tension is what it means to live by faith. If all things were obvious and easy, we would be living by sight.
Once they posed their perplexing enigma, the Sadducees probably thought Jesus would immediately give up: say nothing or walk away. But instead of embarrassing Jesus, they had inadvertently put their own ignorance on public display for the entire nation to see. Jesus in essence told these religious leaders they did not know what they were talking about.
Matt. 22:29a Jesus answered them, You are deceived,. . .
This is the only recorded instance of Jesus colliding head to head with the Sadducees. He was less severe with them than with the Pharisees.
He was more patient with the Sadducees because, though they were wrong, dead wrong, they were not hypocrites. They openly spoke their truly held convictions. Hypocrisy called down Jesus’ worst anger. The Sadducees were mean, haughty snobs who never pretended to be anything else.
Matt. 22:29b . . .because you don’t know the Scriptures. . .
Don’t miss the inferred claim. “You don’t know the Scriptures” implied “I do know the Scriptures”. He asserted His spiritual superiority over them due to His accurate, and their inaccurate, knowledge of Scripture.
Apart from Scripture, there has to be error, for it is the one thing that is given to us to set aside error. The Sadducees knew the letter of Holy Writ.
They had huge parts of the Old Testament memorized. This is not enough. Prayer and God’s anointing must enhance our study of the Bible. Belief in inspiration must be matched with a belief in illumination. “Open my eyes so that I may see wonderful things in Your law” (Psalm 119:18).
Matt. 22:29c . . .or the power of God.
In other words, God had ample power to raise the dead, and anyone who does not believe the Bible, or does not believe in the resurrection, is deceived, wrong. We are to embrace a written word that has as its whole tenor an existence beyond ours, another world, a different place. Knowing the Bible aright leads to knowing the extent of God’s power aright. Scripture tells us a resurrection will happen; God’s power assures us it will happen.
Resurrection depends on the miraculous, unparalleled power only God has. And He does have it. The Sadducees deemed resurrection impossible, but God’s omnipotence, once acknowledged, solves all reservations. “The idea of impossibility to Omnipotence is a contradiction” (Thomas).
To us resurrection seems overwhelming, but when we realize God is behind it, it becomes believable. Many refuse to believe God can powerfully and sovereignly intervene in the natural order. It is not a slam-dunk of belief.
Dead bodies have been strewn everywhere, buried at land and sea, scattered to the four winds, devoured by wild animals, and cremated. Can God call all parts back together again? Can He do this? If so, how? Once again, we return to faith. We don’t know for sure how He will do this.
This we know. Since God created life, He can raise it from death. “God was not at his wit’s end when he fashioned mortal life” (Buttrick).
Faith believes God can remedy every circumstance however difficult. People often disbelieve because they’ve never experienced this transforming power in themselves, and thus do not believe it exists. This was true of the Sadducees. They had not felt God’s power drawing them closer to Him.