Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife,
&c.] Neither debauch her nor after the death of the brother marry her, that is, unless he dies without issue; and then, by another law, he was obliged to marry her, ( Deuteronomy 25:5 ) ; hence the Targum of Jonathan adds; by way of explanation.
``in the life of thy brother, or after his death, if he has children,''but then that law was but an exception from this general rule, and so did not make it void in other respects, but bound it the more strongly; and besides, it was a special and peculiar law to the Jews, until the Messiah came to make it manifest of what tribe and family he came; and the reason of it ceasing, the law itself is ceased, and so neither binding on Jews nor Gentiles: hence John the Baptist boldly told Herod to his face, that it was not lawful for him to have his brother's wife ( Matthew 14:3 Matthew 14:4 ) ; and even such marriages were condemned by the very Heathens: Dionysius Halicarnassensis F14 relates, that Lucius Tarquinius, Superbus, his brother being removed by poison, took Tullia to wife, whom his brother Aruntus had before married; but the historian calls it (anosion gamon) , "an unholy marriage", and abominable both among Greeks and Barbarians: Plutarch also reports F15, that Marcus Crassus married the wife of his deceased brother; but such marriages are condemned by the same writer, as they are by the ancient Christians in their councils and canons F16; now by this same law, if it is not lawful for a man to have his brother's wife, then it is not lawful for her to have her sister's husband; or, in other words, if it is not lawful for a woman to marry two brothers, then it is not lawful for a man to marry two sisters: the case of Jacob will not countenance such a marriage, since he was imposed upon and deceived; and such marriages have also been disapproved of by the Heathens and Christians: Honorius the emperor married two daughters of Stilico, one after another, but the unhappy exit of both sisters showed that those marriages were not approved of by God, for they both died premature deaths, leaving no children F17; it [is] thy brother's nakedness;
that is, his wife is, being by marriage one flesh with him, and his brother being so to him, the relation is too near to intermarry, and more especially when there is issue by the first, which connects them strongly.
F14 Hist. l. 4.
F15 In Vita M. Crassi.
F16 Canon Apostol. can. 19. Concil. Neocaesar. can. 2.
F17 Zonaras, l. 3. apud Zanchium de Sponsalibus, l. 4. c. 1. p. 786.