Deuteronomy 25:5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

7 However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.” 8 Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” 9 his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” 10 That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.


This is from the easy English site.

This custom made sure that a woman’s dead husband had a son. In that society, it was very important for a man to have a son. That son continued to use the name of the family. The reason why people married was to build up the family as a social unit. People believed that something of yourself went into your children. So your name continued to live even after you had died. If the brother refused to do his duty, he had to go to the town leaders. If he still refused, the widow took off one of his shoes. Then she coughed water in his face. They did that because most people could not read legal notes.

Bibletrack.org has this to offer.

In Israel, it was your family obligation after your brother's untimely death to take his wife and give her an opportunity to bear a child. So, you refuse? Better get ready for some public humiliation then...in front of the whole city. The dead brother's name would be continued through the birth of the son conceived under this provision of the Law.

This procedure was not new under Mosaic Law. We first get a glimpse of this brotherly responsibility in Genesis 38 with Judah and his first son, Er. We then see this scenario played out between Ruth and Boaz in the Book of Ruth. Some have sought to make this law socially compatible with contemporary standards by specifying that the obligation existed only when the brother had not previously married prior to his brother's death. There is no scriptural evidence to support this notion. In fact, providing an heir was the issue here. The widow needed an heir for her dead husband, and the remaining brother was obligated to provide that heir in his brother's name - without regard to the one or more wives he might already have. In Hebrew culture, marriages under these circumstances are known as "levirate" marriages.

A property-rights issue is probably in view here. If a widow without children marries outside of her husband's clan, that portion of the family inheritance of land may end up in the hands of another clan. This insures that the property stays where it was intended. Incidentally, the special circumstances of this law overrides the stipulations of Leviticus 18:16 and Leviticus 20:21. Both of those passages forbid one from marrying his brother's wife.

See how important family and name were to the Israelites. Everything they had was based on family and name. We can use the family and the name to track one Israelite all the way back to Abraham.

As I was reading and posting the Bible verses this morning.... I had "Roy Rogers" on TV. The story this morning was about the time Dale found a little girl. She had run away because her family was feuding. You know the term feuding [like the Hatfields and the McCoys].... I think two brothers feuding might be one reason the law of the Unsandaled might have been created. Of course, it might also have been caused by a jealous sister-in-law.

Without a son.... the wife of the deceased brother would be a widow.... without income.... as long as she had a son.... she was taken care of a tad bit better after her husband's passing.

Most of these people couldn't read or write. A deed or a bill of sale would have meant very little to them. A man's name was unique and consistent. As dysfunctional as it was.... family was the key.... and every man still needed a son to carry on the name. Women had little or no value.