Original Research

Levirate marriage amongst the Hebrews and widow's inheritance amongst the Yoruba: A comparative investigation

Samson O. Olanisebe, Olusegun A. Oladosu
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 35, No 1 | a826 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v35i1.826 | © 2014 Samson O. Olanisebe, Olusegun A. Oladosu | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 January 2013 | Published: 24 March 2014

About the author(s)

Samson O. Olanisebe, Department of Religious Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
Olusegun A. Oladosu, Department of Religious Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria


In ancient Israel, even though widowhood was not something people were praying for, when it came, the people involved were protected by the legal and customary structures already in place. One of those structures in the Old Testament is the institution of the levirate marriage where the right and the possession due to a widow without a son for her late husband could be protected and appropriated. A similar custom was also found amongst the pre-colonial Yoruba people through the widow’s inheritance which guarantees the welfare of the widow after the demise of her husband. However, these structures have been dismantled by Christianity, thereby exposing the majority of present-day widows to untold hardship. This article, therefore, through historical, descriptive and comparative methods, examines the customs of the levirate marriage and widow’s inheritance in the two cultures, ascertains how effective they were in addressing the welfare and protection of the rights and privileges of widows and recommends how the church can better see to the welfare of the widows in the society.


Levirate; Hebrews; Widow's Inheritance; Yoruba; Comparative


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