Thursday, July 2, 2015

Does Deuteronomy 22:13-21 really say that a marriage is only considered valid if the woman is a virgin, and if she is not she should be executed

There's a photo which has been circulating recently on Facebook . It shows  a sign which says "WE CAN QUOTE THE BIBLE TOO:  A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If
the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)"

So of course I pulled up the passage from Deuteronomy to read what is actually says.

"If a man marry a wife, and afterwards hate her, And seek occasions to put her away, laying to her charge a very ill name, and say: I took this woman to wife, and going in to her, I found her not a virgin: Her father and mother shall take her, and shall bring with them the tokens of her virginity to the ancients of the city that are in the gate: And the father shall say: I gave my daughter unto this man to wife: and because he hateth her, He layeth to her charge a very ill name, so as to say: I found not thy daughter a virgin: and behold these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the ancients of the city: And the ancients of that city shall take that man, and beat him, Condemning him besides in a hundred sides of silver, which he shall give to the damsel's father, because he hath defamed by a very ill name a virgin of Israel: and he shall have her to wife, and may not put her away all the days of his life. But if what he charged her with be true, and virginity be not found in the damsel:  They shall cast her out of the doors of her father's house, and the men of the city shall stone her to death, and she shall die: because she hath done a wicked thing in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: and thou shalt take away the evil out of the midst of thee."

The marriage in the scenario presented in this passage is not considered invalid simply because the woman is not a virgin, nor is she executed simply for that reason. In fact, the passage doesn't address the validity of the marriage because the validity of the marriage is assumed. So why is she to be executed? Good question. The answer is "because she hath done a wicked thing in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house."

The situation described here is that of a woman who is already betrothed but commits adultery before the marriage is consummated with her husband. How do we know she is betrothed? The Hebrew language has two words for virgin: almah - an espoused virgin - and bethuwlah - a virgin who is not espoused. "Almah" is the word used here. Therefore it must be noted that once a couple was betrothed, there was considered to be a valid marriage even before the marriage was consummated.

Fornication alone was not punishable by death, if you read in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 "If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, who is not espoused, and taking her, lie with her, and the matter come to judgment : He that lay with her shall give to the father of the maid fifty sides of silver, and shall have her to wife, because he hath humbled her: he may not put her away all the days of his life." So it is obvious that the reason for execution is not simply her lack of virginity. However, adultery was grounds for the death penalty, as it states in Deuteronomy 22:22 "If a man lie with another man's wife, they shall both die, that is to say, the adulterer and the adulteress: and thou shalt take away the evil out of Israel." Since this statement immediately follows the earlier passage, it seems to logically flow out of and elaborate upon the earlier statement.

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