Levirate marriage

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Levirate marriage is marriage with a brother's widow.[1] Under Old Testament law, it was obligatory if brothers lived together and one of them died without issue, in which case the firstborn would legally be an heir of the deceased, unless the surviving brother underwent a ceremony to avoid the duty.[2]

When Judah's first son Er died, leaving no heir by Tamar, Judah's second son Onan was married to her but "spilled his seed" rather than impregnate her. (Genesis 38:8-9)


  1. "Levirate marriage," from Jewish Encyclopedia
  2. Deuteronomy 25:5-10