SynopsisI haven’t been looking forward to blogging about this passage, because there are some things in here that I simply don’t like reading in the LORD’s Holy Bible. This is very similar to my thoughts on Deuteronomy 21:18–21; I think there are cultural issues that I don’t understand, as well as not having a proper perspective—meaning the LORD’s perspective—on these rules.
That being said, this passage deals with a number of things that the NIV heading classifies as “marriage violations.” I usually save my own thoughts and perspectives until the end of the post, for the Thoughts section, but for this passage, I’ll have some thoughts throughout the post, too.
- First, the rules deal with a man who marries a woman, lies with her, and then decides that he doesn’t like her. If he tries to claim that she wasn’t a virgin, when he married her, but the girl’s father is able to provide proof that she was a virgin, the man is to be punished for slandering her. The punishment for the husband is that he has to pay the woman’s father 1 kilogram of silver. However, she must continue to be his wife; he is not allowed to divorce her.
- This means, of course, that when a man and woman get married, and lie with each other the first time, the woman has to provide to her father the sheet (or cloth) on which they had sex, for the proof that she was a virgin.
- The rules then talk about the flip side to this situation; what if the woman can’t prove that she was a virgin, when she married? In that case, she is to be brought to the door of her father’s house, and she is to be stoned to death. Verse 21 says that “… She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.” This seems draconian to me, but again, it just means that the LORD takes promiscuity more seriously than I do. (This shouldn’t be too surprising; living in 21st Century North America, I’ve been raised to think that promiscuity is no big deal.)
- Similarly, if a man is caught sleeping with a married woman, both the man and the woman are to be executed. (No method of execution is mentioned, but I’m assuming it’s stoning again.)
- If a man rapes a virgin, who is not pledged to be married, he is to pay the girl’s father 0.6 kilograms of silver, and marry the girl.
This rule surprised me. I had been expecting that a man caught raping a woman would be executed. And the fact that the girl now has to marry the man who raped her… well, it seems counterintuitive to me. However, the cultural context is again very important here: If the man were executed, what would happen to the girl? Since she would no longer be a virgin, no man would want to marry her, and so she’d have no means of supporting herself. (And, along those lines, I’m sure the Israelites had as much of a tendency to “blame the victim” as we do in 21st Century North America—there would always be a lingering doubt, in men’s minds, as to whether she was really raped or not.)
- If a man is out in the country—as opposed to being within a city—and comes across a girl who is pledged to be married, and he rapes her, he is to be executed. Again, no method of execution is given.
- On the other hand, if the same thing happens, but within a city, both the man and the woman are to be executed: “the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife” (verse 24).
- A man is not to marry his father’s wife—since it’s worded this way, I assume this means that a man cannot marry his mother or his step-mother—because this would “dishonor his father’s bed” (verse 30).
ThoughtsWhen I say things like, “this law makes sense to me,” or, “that law doesn’t make sense to me,” don’t think that I’m offering judgements on God’s law; I mean just what I’m saying: whether or not the laws make sense to me. As I’ve been saying in other posts, if it doesn’t make sense to me, the problem is with me, and my understanding, not with the law.
I don’t know if I’m overstating the case, when I talk about women not being able to support themselves on their own. For the most part, I’m inferring that, from other passages, and rules such as the ones in this passage.
As life goes on, and I read the Bible over and over again, I’ll continue to come to passages like this, that I don’t understand, and hopefully God will provide more understanding as time goes by.