Biblical Principle #283: Penalty for Israelite’s Sex with an Engaged Virgin

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The Law of Moses prescribed death by stoning to an Israelite who, while in town, had sex with a virgin who was engaged to be married to someone else.


23 “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.

Deuteronomy 22:23-24 OSB

In this case, the man was stoned for lusting after and taking a woman who was to be another man’s wife. The woman was stoned for not making an effort to resist.

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2 responses to “Biblical Principle #283: Penalty for Israelite’s Sex with an Engaged Virgin”

  1. George Tillmon Avatar
    George Tillmon

    So, if they are engaged they are considered married already?
    But not legally oe religiously?

    1. Tim Harris Avatar

      I am not an expert in the culture so I can’t speak to how this was implemented in practice. Frankly, unless there are ancient records we can rely upon, I am not sure I would trust anyone who claimed they knew.

      What appears to be the principle being taught here is that, because the woman had committed to marry another man, she had, in a sense vowed herself to become married, even though that specific vow had not yet been completed, and therefore this sexual relationship was a breech of the engagement vow. It is a dishonest act of betrayal and a failure to keep one’s word.

      That’s how I understand it what this text to be saying.

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