Biblical Principle #280: If Israelite Bride’s Virginity Doubted

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Principle

The Law of Moses provided a means of settling claims from a new husband that his Israelite bride was discovered to not be a virgin.

Explanation

In Western culture, sadly, it is common for a bride to not be a virgin at her wedding day. Therefore, we may struggle with this aspect of what the Law said.

But in ancient cultures, and certainly Israelite culture according to GOD’s expectations, a bride was expected to be a virgin until her marriage.

We must also remember that many marriages of the time were arranged between family members, typically parents, and part of the agreement would be the expectation or commitment of virginity. Therefore, such a claim of prior fornication on the bride’s part would be seen as a breech of contract.

Point is: There was much more to it than simply a husband getting upset at his new bride lying to or misleading him about her past.

Yet, because there was often this “business deal” surrounding the marriage, there was sometimes a motive for the husband to falsely claim “no virginity,” which certainly true after the wedding night, and incredibly harmful to the new bride (and her family). Therefore, the bride needed protection.

The Scripture reads:

13 “If any man takes a wife and dwells with her, and hates her, 14 and lays reproachful words upon her, and brings a bad name on her, and says, ‘I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found she was not a virgin,’ 15 then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders at the gate. 16 So the young woman’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he hates her. 17 Now he is laying reproachful words upon her, saying, “I found your daughter was not a virgin,” and yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take that man and discipline him; 19 and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. 20 But if his word is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the doors of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, and she shall die, because she did a foolish thing among the children of Israel, to commit fornication in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.

Deuteronomy 23:12-21 OSB

To summarize, if a new husband brought a “no virgin” claim against his wife:

  • Her parents were to produce evidence of her virginity to the elders at the gate of the city.
  • If evidence of the bride’s virginity was produced:
    • The husband was to pay the elders 100 shekels of silver, which were given to the father-in-law.
    • The woman was to remain his wife.
    • The husband could never divorce her for the rest of his life.
  • If no evidence of the bride’s virginity was produced:
    • The woman was brought to her father’s front door.
    • The men of the city were to stone the woman to death, in order to purge the evil of fornication (and the associated deception) from among Israel.

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