One of the biggest mistakes people make when reading the Bible is reading it like a regular book. There are too many ancient customs and idioms that modern readers have trouble understanding that cause unbelievers to throw down the Scriptures in disgust and believers to gloss over them or accept erroneous explanations. Also, people tend to judge the past by the present, which ignores the fact that is was harsh and brutal because of the will of survival. This results in dismissals of the knowledge hidden to those unwilling to face the truth of how Yah operates. It is vital that teachers do their due diligence on these matters and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance while researching.
Our Father amazes me constantly when He places items to share along my way. The title of this series of articles addresses the top criticism of the Bible by non-believers:
The Bible says:
Deuteronomy chapter 22 (TEV)
13 “Suppose a man marries a young woman and later he decides he doesn’t want her. 14 So he makes up false charges against her, accusing her of not being a virgin when they got married.
15 “If this happens, the young woman’s parents are to take the blood-stained wedding sheet that proves she was a virgin, and they are to show it in court to the town leaders. 16 Her father will say to them, “I gave my daughter to this man in marriage, and now he doesn’t want her. 17 He has made false charges against her, saying that she was not a virgin when he married her. But here is the proof that my daughter was a virgin; look at the bloodstains on the wedding sheet!’
18 Then the town leaders are to take the husband and beat him. 19 They are also to fine him a hundred pieces of silver and give the money to the young woman’s father, because the man has brought disgrace on an Israelite woman. Moreover, she will continue to be his wife, and he can never divorce her as long as he lives.
20 “But if the charge is true and there is no proof that she was a virgin, 21 then they are to take her out to the entrance of her father’s house, where the men of her city are to stone her to death. She has done a shameful thing among our people by having intercourse before she was married, while she was still living in her father’s house. In this way you will get rid of this evil.
Apparently, the reason it was so important that a woman could guarantee her virginity on marriage was because in the days before a welfare state, when the literal survival of a family could depend on their ability to farm their land, it was essential that the paternity of any future head of an extended family who were all relying on that land for support could not be contested by greedy people who would claim that they had no right to the land because the head of the household might not be a legitimate heir, because his mother hadn’t been a virgin when she married. If someone contested the family’s rights to their land and succeeded, they could be forced off it, and become destitute, and potentially starve. Thus, it was vitally important for family survival that women remained virgins until marriage, and faithful to their husbands afterwards.
From an article called Are the Laws in the Old Testament About Rape and Virginity Unfair to Women? by Glenn Miller:
“… Secondly, we need to understand that Israelite law was not applied ‘blindly’ and ‘superficially’ to cases that came up. …
Although we don’t have any records of court cases going back to OT Israel, the rabbinic writers-often demonstrating significant continuity with ancient practice-certainly didn’t apply the ‘bloody sheet’ test in an unreasoning fashion:
“Several rabbinic sources shed light on the legal aspects of the problem of virginity. In various cases brides are accused of having already lost their virginity but the sages invalidate the accusation. All these cases appear in two collections of baraitot, one in the Palestinian Talmud and the other in the Babylonian Talmud, and the sages who appear in them, with the exception of R. Ishmael b. R. Yose, are all from the house of the nasi. In the first story, in which the protagonist dates from the Second Temple period, a man went before Rabban Gamaliel the Elder and claimed that he failed to find the signs of virginity in his wife, but Rabban Gamaliel believed the wife, who claimed that she came from the Dorkti family, which was a family in which women were known not to bleed when they lose their virginity (bKet. 10b). The same claim was twice brought before Rabbi, who accepted the wife’s explanation and rejected the husband’s complaint in both cases: in the first, the wife attributed her failure to bleed to years of famine (Ibid.), and in the second the wife maintained that her hymen fell from the rigor of climbing the steps of her father’s house (yKet. 1.1, 25a).R. Ishmael b. R. Yose, when he heard the case of the woman ‘whose signs of virginity were no larger than a mustard seed,’ ruled in her favor and even said a blessing over her…” …
But the most important thing to understand about ANE virginity (and marital fidelity, also) is its socio-economic function, in inheritance-based cultures. …
But, almost universally, adultery carries the death penalty in the ANE-because of the criticality of being able to prove paternity…it was a major foundation of community existence and stability.
Now, what this creates is an interesting socio-economic dynamic. The larger the household and landholdings, the more important to the community and to the family for the absolute certainty of paternity. This places a tremendous value on (1) demonstrable virgins and on (2) women with the ‘promise of fidelity’ (i.e., from a “good family”). The managing parents of a ‘rich’ household would diligently try to find a mate for a son that could satisfy these two criteria.
From the other side, the parents of a daughter would obviously seek the best possible future for her. This would generally mean trying to arrange a marriage into the most economically-stable family in the community, to provide the girl with every possible advantage for the future. This would primarily entail protecting her ‘demonstrable virginity’ to ensure that she would find a home in the highest-strata families. Needless to say, if the girl was deprived of her virginity via a rapist or seducer (and didn’t marry said individual), her probability of being sought out by families in desperate need for a demonstrable virgin (in other words, the families with the most inheritable property and land!) would drop to zero. This would make the task of providing for/ensuring the long-term welfare of the daughter that much more difficult. …”
Deuteronomy chapter 22:
28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
Here is a clear case in which the rapist has (1) stolen the girl’s ability to guarantee paternity, and by doing so has greatly limited her future options; and (2) has limited her father’s options of arranging a good marriage for her.
The rapist is now forced to become what he has cheated the girl out of-a ‘well off’ husband. The fifty shekels bride-price (see below on the Exodus 22.16 passage) is five years worth of average wages, and is the price paid by the Pharaoh Amenophis III for the women of Gezer destined for his harem.
The girl’s future is now assured-she has a guaranteed support source (he cannot divorce her)-and she has a ‘big’ bride-price on deposit. …
What was this mohar or bride-price all about?
It can be thought of as a ‘pension’ or ‘social security’ for the woman. It was kept by the father (out of the clutches of her husband!), but not ‘owned’ by him:
Furthermore, it is probable that the father enjoyed only the usufruct of the mohar, and that the latter reverted to the daughter at the time of succession, or if her husband’s death reduced her to penury. …
There is some evidence that this was a variable amount in Israel, and that it was negotiated by the parents. In some of these cases of rape and/or seduction, the price being paid is typically higher than what would normally have been paid, so this was both a disincentive for would-be rapists, and a compensation for ”lost opportunities” for the woman. …”
Some sceptics ask why Christians don’t stone women to death for not being virgins on their wedding nights nowadays, assuming that it must be because “even Christians” can understand the “stupidity and barbarity” of the Bible’s laws! They clearly misunderstand the place of the Law – that it was meant for the people of Israel to last until Christ died.
In letters that were put in the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote to Christians:
Galatians chapter 3 (NLT)
19 Well then, why was the law given? It was given to show people how guilty they are.
21 If the law could have given us new life, we could have been made right with God by obeying it. 22 But the Scriptures have declared that we are all prisoners of sin, … 23 Until faith in Christ was shown to us as the way of becoming right with God, we were guarded by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until we could put our faith in the coming Savior. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came. … 25 But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
Galatians chapter 4 (NLT)
4 When the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father. 7 … And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you.
Corinthians chapter 9 (TEV)
21 This does not mean that I don’t obey God’s law; I am really under Christ’s law.
Romans chapter 13 (TEV)
8 Be under obligation to no one-the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law. 9 The commandments,
“Do not commit adultery;
do not commit murder;
do not steal;
do not desire what belongs to someone else” –
all these, and any others besides, are summed up in the one command, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 10 If you love others, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law.
The issue of what punishments should be given under the new system of authority didn’t arise, because Christians were a minority when the New Testament was written, so they were not in a position to influence the making of laws by governments. Thus, when they are, they have to decide themselves what should remain or become illegal, and what penalties are appropriate.
Do you see why it is important to continuously seek His truth?