[b-hebrew] virginity

Tory Thorpe torythrp at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 18 23:35:55 EDT 2007

On Jul 18, 2007, at 8:49 PM, dwashbur at nyx.net wrote:

> In addition, Judges 21:12 piles up 3 terms, NA(AR, B:TUWLFH, and  
> "who did not  know to
> lie with a man," a rather unusual expression, methinks.  The  
> previous verse says to kill ever
> woman "who knows lying-down with a male" (my own literal  
> rendering).  All this suggests
> that the language being used here is very intensive and hardly  
> normative for regular
> narrative, much less poetry.  I doubt we can infer anything at all  
> about Isaiah from this
> verse.

This feature also appears in Genesis and has already been discussed  
by Gordon: "In Ugarit, the Betulah Anath is not a virgin... In an  
Aramaic incantation a woman having difficulty in bearing her  
(presumably first) child is nonetheless called betulta ( = Heb.  
betulah). Dr. E. J. Young calls my attention to the fact that the  
betulah of Joel 1:8 must have been married for she mourns 'the  
husband of her youth.' Dr. H. S. Gehman informs me that parthenos as  
early as Homer (e.g., Iliad 2:514) may refer to a woman who is no  
longer a virgin. All this may explain why Rebecca, who is called an  
'almah in Gen. 24:43, and a betulah in 24:16, is (to make matters  
unequivocally clear) additionally described as a girl that 'no man  
had known' (24:16). Neither 'almah nor betulah nor parthenos means  
necessarily what 'virgin' means in English" ("The Patriarchal Age,"  
JBR 21 [1953], pp. 240-1).

Tory Thorpe

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