[b-hebrew] Leviral marriage

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Tue Oct 25 18:38:28 EDT 2005

Dear Peter,

>  >>And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your
>  >>arms ...
>>I have noticed that some translators go weak at the knees with this
>>verse. I'll only cite one, the NASB:-
>>8.`I also gave you your master's house and your master's wives into
>>your care,
>  >Hmmm, care? How polite!
>Actually it seems that ESV's "arms" is the polite version. The word is
>XEYQ, "bosom". Of course the word has metaphorical senses, but they
>relate not to anything sexual, but to care. The same word is used in
>verse 3 of how the lamb slept in the poor man's bosom, which clearly
>implies care rather than bestiality, cf. also Isaiah 40:11. So, while
>NASB is unusually non-literal here, this is a justifiable explanation of
>the metaphor.
>It is worth remembering that Saul's wives would probably have been
>rather old by the time David succeeded Saul, old enough to be David's
>mother and including the mother of his friend Jonathan. David already
>had his own nubile young wives. Why would he have taken Saul's wives to
>be his own wives? It makes much more sense that he took on caring for
>them as widows.

HH: That is an admirable line of thought with some cogency except for 
the fact that the verse is about what God gave David. It is not about 
responsibilities that He loaded on him. Remember the rest of the 

2Sam. 12:8 I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives 
into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all 
this had been too little, I would have given you even more.

HH: So having Saul's wives in his bosom would have had to be a 
personal blessing to David. One thing you may be overlooking is that 
older men could marry much younger women. Like I said, it may be that 
Saul only had one wife, Ahinoam. But if he had more, they could have 
been half his age. The fact that David had other wives would not 
necessarily deter him. David ended up with a lot of wives, and 
Solomon with even more. It really seems naive to me to think that the 
phrase did not have sexual overtones. Perhaps it is as naive as my 
thinking Saul only had one wife. As I think about God's words, that 
seems less and less likely, since God would not have expressed 
Himself with the plural "wives" in that case, it seems (unless he was 
speaking abstractly in Near Eastern terms about the rights of the new 
king with respect to the deceased king).

HH: I would remind you, too, that in Nathan's story about the rich 
man, the poor man, and the little lamb, the little lamb represented 
Bathsheba. The poor man's holding the lamb in his bosom represented 
Uriah's marriage love with Bathsheba. So there is a sexual undertone 
to Nathan's tale.

					Harold Holmyard

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