[b-hebrew] virginity

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 19 06:00:01 EDT 2007


Dear Shoshanna,

> Dear Harold, you are oversimplifying things, and you are inserting 
> your own ideas about morality into the Torah, which is talking about 
> something completely different.
>   


HH: Did you read Michael Abernathy's post of Philo's treatment of this 
passage in Deut 22:14-21? Philo had the same interpretation that I gave.

> It is not a moral passage, it is a halachic and LEGAL passage, and in 
> order to understand it - you have to know Halacha, ie; ORAL TORAH.
>   


HH: I don't entirely understand your distinction between moral and 
legal. Mosaic laws express morality. The Ten Commandments express morality.

> There are two stages in Jewish marriage - Kiddushin and Nesuin. 
> Kiddushin is effected when the groom gives his bride a ring or 
> something else of value, and makes a declaration that, nowadays is 
> recited under the chuppa.  It is a legal transaction, but there is 
> not a good English translation, so it is sometimes called "betrothal" 
> but betrothal does not indicate properly that Kiddushin establishes a 
> stronger and more legal obligation than an "engagement".  After 
> Kiddushin, the couple is halachically married, and the bride is 
> subject to the death penalty for adultery - even BEFORE Nesuin, after 
> which the couple may cohabit.
>   


HH: Let's say all this were true in the time of Moses. So far it does 
not seem to change what I said.


> In this passage, the husband accuses his new wife of not being a 
> virgin - ie; that SHE HAD COHABITED WITH ANOTHER MAN AFTER KIDDUSHIN.
>   


HH: The words in capital letters are an interpretation, as Yigal said, 
and there is a problem with the interpretation. The means of proving 
guilt or innocence is a cloth (Deut 22:17). The man claims that he did 
not find "betulim." The lexicon defines this word as "state of 
virginity" or "evidence of virginity." It is the same root from which 
the debated term "betulah" comes.  But the cloth is able to prove the 
issue one way or another. What cloth could possibly prove this issue in 
every case except the cloth from the marital bed proving the girl had 
bled? This is the interpretation through history, as far as I know. But 
such a cloth would not prove anything for a woman who had already had 
sex prior to marriage, since she probably would not bleed. This evidence 
of virginity does not merely extend back to the beginning of Kiddushin 
but covers the woman's entire life.

> If adultery CANNOT be proven, EVEN IF IT WERE TRUE THAT SHE WAS NOT A 
> VIRGIN AT THE TIME OF KIDDUSHIN, she is not subject to any punishment 
> by the court, BECAUSE SHE WAS PERMITTED TO COHABIT WITH A MAN BEFORE 
> KIDDUSHIN, ie; when she was NOT legally married to anyone.
>   


HH: This interpretation is not something the Law says and in fact is 
contrary to what the law in Deut 22:14-21 implies. The material below 
suggests that this interpretation is based on a false deduction about 
concubines.


> Even so, however, she would not be entitled to collect the divorce 
> settlement stipulated in her marriage document, because she falsely 
> misrepresented herself.
>
> THE SUBJECT OF THIS PASSAGE IS A HUSBAND WHO COMES TO HATE HIS NEW 
> WIFE AND TRIES TO VOID THE KETUBA BY WANTONLY ACCUSING HER OF 
> ADULTERY (and thereby he violates the prohibition of "Motzei Shem Ra" 
> - defamation)
>
> Deut 22:  23-24  and 28-29 - "meOrasha" "Orasha" ("BETROTHED") - same 
> issue as above.  Proof that this is not talking about a "virgin" is 
> that the text says "Betula meOrasha" - a maiden (assumed to be a 
> virgin) who is BETROTHED - ie; LEGALLY BOUND TO A MAN (ie; not just a 
> simple "virgin")
>   


HH: This is another overly fine distinction. If you are betrothed and 
have not have sex with your betrothed, then you are a simple virgin if 
you have never had sex before the betrothal either. And if you had sex 
before, then how could a cloth prove that you were innocent of 
wrongdoing during the time of betrothal?

> Verse 21 is proof that this is talking about a woman who is accused 
> of adultery - "Asta Nevala" - (committed adultery) and not the modern 
> morality of a woman who is not a virgin - remember a woman was 
> ALLOWED to be concubines, ie; living with a man and not married to 
> him - and there is no stigma or legal punishment against her - as I 
> said, a woman is only liable for one of the forbidden sexual 
> relationships outlined by the Torah, and single unmarried woman 
> having sexual relationship with a man not her father, brother, or a 
> woman, or an animal, is fine.
>   


HH: Here is where the false deduction is. The writer seems to assume 
that being a concubine is just living with a man without being properly 
married. He implies that one might move out of this relationship into a 
marriage with no problem. But the matter does not seem so easy because 
concubines were slaves. Here is the definition of a concubine from the 
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

Concubine . . . A female slave regarded as part of the Israelite family, 
generally designated as bearing children. She might be taken in debt or 
purchased from a poor Israelite family or taken captive in war (2 Sam 
5:13). . . .

So the relationship was a lasting one that she was not free to jump out 
of. She was obligated to be a concubine. This was a lasting 
relationship. Here is a definition from Wikipedia:

Concubinage is the state of a woman or youth in an ongoing, 
quasi-matrimonial relationship with a man of higher social status. 
Typically, the man has an official wife in addition to one or more 
concubines. Concubines have limited rights of support as against the 
man, and their offspring are publicly acknowledged as the man's 
children, albeit of lower status than children born by the official wife 
or wives.

HH: This was an ongoing relationship, having something of the permanence 
of marriage. If Thomas Jefferson had an ongoing sexual relationship with 
one of his slaves, as historians suggest, then she was a type of 
concubine. But this status says nothing about whether one had a right to 
engage in sex before marriage because concubinage was a permanent 
status, unless the nation was defeated in war, or something else unusual 
happened.

> In verses 28 - 29, the man who has cohabited with a BETROTHED woman 
> has to marry her, because SHE WOULD THEN NO LONGER (after sex with 
> another man) BE ALLOWED TO COHABIT WITH HER HUSBAND, IE; THE MAN SHE 
> WAS BETROTHED TO.
>   


HH: I don't know why you are bringing in Deut 22:28-29, which is talking 
about a situation where a woman is not betrothed. There is no man that 
she is betrothed to. The verse states that fact:

Deut. 22:28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not 
betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;

HH: The reason the rapist has to marry the girl is that he has humbled 
her when she was a virgin (betulah: v. 28). He has caused her to lose 
the status that makes her so desirable as a wife, her purity. So her 
father might not be able to find a husband for her. Therefore the rapist 
must pay the equivalent of a dowry to her father and must marry her. And 
because the father and the woman had no say in the man's decision to 
take this woman, since it was rape, he does not have any right to end 
the marriage.

At least I understand this to be rape because the verb TP$ means "lay 
hold of, seize," and has an Arabic cognate that involves violence. Also, 
the similar XZQ in the Hiphil, meaning "seize," is used to describe rape 
in Deut 22:25. According to Exodus 22:16-17, even if it was not rape but 
only enticement, the man still had to marry the woman, evidently because 
he engaged in the marital act and the father was not consulted beforehand.

Sex is the God-given act that unites a man and woman in marriage, as 
Genesis 2 shows. That is one reason why prostitution is so wrong in 
God's eyes. It is a perversion of what God intended sex to be. The same 
is true for premarital sex. It perverts what God intended sex to be, the 
act of union between a husband and wife.

> Lev. 21:14  is an ENTIRELY different matter -


HH: This is a matter of perspective.

>  it is about the special 
> rules for a Kohen, who has to maintain a higher degree of purity, 
> therefore he cannot marry any woman who had been married to, ie; had 
> sexual relations, with anyone else.
>   


HH: Yes, I realize that, but it is related in that the virgin represents 
the ideal marriage partner.

Yours,
Harold Holmyard



More information about the b-hebrew mailing list