In the first twelve verses of Deuteronomy 22, Moses spoke to the Israelites about mixing two different things contrary to God’s plans (beasts of burden, cloths, seeds) and being compassionate to God’s creations (humankind and animal). In the rest of chapter twenty-two, Moses continued the thoughts on mixing things together that were not in God’s plans. Chiefly, he told them the rules of morality related to human relations. Moses taught them what God considered adultery. Rabbinical literature teaches adultery is the mixing of any two or more things that the LORD says are not to be mixed or put together – ox and donkey, wool and cotton, maiden and non-husband/betrothed husband-to-be. God allows the proper use and union of His creation for His purposes. He made them and He knows best how each fits and works within His universe for the good of the whole universe. When something goes against God’s perfect plan for His created universe, rabbinical teachers call that adultery. Adultery is using something in a way not consistent with His order, which then creates perversion and chaos.
Morality in Marriage
From verse thirteen through verse twenty-one, Moses taught the Israelites God’s plan for the marriage of a man and woman. He taught them using a negative format. Before we study these nine verses, we must understand the Jewish customs of betrothal and marriage.
Stages in Marriage.
The early Jewish method of marriage involved three stages – contract, consummation, and celebration. We read of these stages in the Bible from the time of Abraham to the first century AD. The first stage was the signing of the marriage contract called the ketubbah. This contract legally bound the bride, groom, and their families. The father of the bride and the father of the groom or the groom himself signed the ketubbah, the purpose of which was primarily to protect the bride. The father of the bride used his wisdom to protect his daughter. The contract included the money the groom paid the father of the bride (“bride price”). Fifty shekels of silver was the normal bride price. The groom lost this bride price if he divorced the bride without cause or took a second wife without the permission of the bride or her father. The ketubbah also spelled out the assets the bride would take into the marriage to contribute to her husband’s estate when she married him. The signature by the groom and bride’s father (with or without the bride’s consent) sealed the marriage. The bride and groom would get to know each other between the first two stages of the wedding. They were legally married/betrothed after the signatures on the ketubbah and began dating at that point. The signing of the betrothal meant they were married according to law.
Though the bride and groom were legally married at the signing of the contract, they did not co-habitate until stage two, which could be six months to seven years later (as Jacob did for Leah in Genesis 29). They had no physical relationship until the groom paid the bride price to the bride’s father. This occurred for a few reasons. Often a bride was younger than puberty so the waiting period for the consummation allowed her to reach puberty. The time delay showed if the bride was pregnant before her betrothal in which case her bride price changed to that of a non-virgin. Added to this, as stated earlier, it allowed the groom to earn the bride price to pay to the bride’s father.
When the bride’s father approved the groom had met his legal and financial requirements of the contract, he set a date for the chuppah and told the bride. The bride and her mother prepared the wedding room and bed at her home. The groom went to the home of the bride and consummated the marriage in her own house. At the consummation of the marriage, a chuppah (virginity cloth about two feet square) lay under the bride on the bed for her to bleed onto to leave proof of her virginity. Several formal witnesses waited in a room nearby while the bride and groom consummated their marriage after which the bridegroom would give them the “proof of virginity.” The bride’s father kept the chuppah in a safe place.
Once the bride and groom consummated the marriage, the groom led the witnesses and his bride to his home or to a friend’s home for a wedding celebration/feast. The apostle, John, spoke of a wedding feast in his Gospel, John 2:1-11. Jesus spoke a parable to the people comparing the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14.
Accusations and Judgments.
Groom and Bride
Remember when we studied Deuteronomy 20, we defined the Israelites’ enemies as someone who was an enemy of God. Conversely, someone who was an enemy of God was an enemy of the Israelites. To defame one of God’s children, an Israelite, was to defame God. Defamation of character ruins reputations. God spoke about this in Deuteronomy 16, 19, & 21. God did not allow a malicious witness’ testimony as the sole evidence that sentenced a person. That testimony about the other person could be due to the witness’ own evil of wanting to gain the property of the accused. God required two or more witnesses to any claim to verify the truth.
The same rule is required for a bride. She needed a testimony or witness of her virginity should a man go into the marriage contract just to gain her assets, sexual relations, or defame her name. Moses taught the Israelites what God commanded about this situation in verses thirteen through twenty-one. Verses 13 to 15 say,
If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her deed and says, “I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,” then the girl’s father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. [NASB]
In verse thirteen, the Hebrew word for “man” is ‘iysh, unlike in verse five. This verse speaks about every man. The English word “wife” is the Hebrew word ‘ishshah and means female, woman, or wife. This is the same word used in verse five. Regarding a Jewish marriage, the “wife” can be a betrothed maiden girl or a woman whose marriage was consummated. We must understand that this teaching is about both women. Verse 13 says, when the man goes in to her, (into her bedroom) and then turns against her, this “turning against” her comes from the Hebrew word sane’. It means to hate or detest her. Why would anyone hate a young bride and intentionally lie with her except that he wanted to harm her. Moses said in these three verses the groom’s hate or detest of her could turn into verbal defamation. His hate might provoke his public proclaiming that she did shameful deeds and her family tricked him into marrying her assuming she was a virgin. Moses said the father, as the bride’s witness along with her mother (two or more witnesses, you remember), shall take evidence of the girl’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. Here the benefit of having the witnesses at the consummation comes into play. The witnesses for the groom and bride saw the chuppah after consummation and the bride’s parents kept it as evidence should an evil man try to claim their daughter was not a virgin. The elders of a city, you recall, were the people of the city having authority. They could be the Levites of the city, the older and wiser people of the city, or the key leaders of business there. The gate of a city was the place where the elders decided between claimants on matters of law and judgment. From stools, barrels, or rocks, the elders listened, consulted together, and decided judgment on matters brought to them.
The testimony of two or three people can vouch for or against the validity of a claim. The validity of a claim is greater if a person presents physical evidence with a verbal testimony. When the bride’s father brought the evidence of virginity, he approached the elders of the city saying,
I gave my daughter to this man for a wide, but he turned against her and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, ‘I did not find your daughter a virgin.’ But this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. (Deut. 22:16-17 [NASB])
The girl’s father would say he is the girl’s protector, her ‘ab, father. He must speak to the elders who decide great matters in a city and show them the evidence he and his wife kept. The groom’s witnesses saw the evidence, too. More people than the groom could attest to the event. The father said the groom turned against her and hated her. The groom defamed her name and, by doing so, defamed the family and the God. The father said, “See the evidence of the garment” (simlah – cloak, mantle, wrapper), in this case the chuppah. The father protected the reputation of his daughter, family, and LORD with his and the mother’s witness with the physical evidence.
What did Moses command the elders of the city do in such a case? He told them in verses eighteen through twenty-one. He gave answers for two possible scenarios. First, if they found the groom about the bride, Moses said in verses eighteen and nineteen,
The elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl’s father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel (not just the father). And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. [NASB] (emphasis my own)
The chastisement of that man comes from the Hebrew word yacar, meaning to discipline, admonish, and chastise. The groom’s false claim would sully his own name. Added to this, the elders would assess a fine of a hundred shekels of silver, which they gave to the bride’s father. A shekel is the weight of silver, about 10.5 grams. The current value of one shekel of silver is about $10, so the groom in today’s money would pay the father $1000 for defaming his daughter. That is double the price he paid for the bride in the marriage contract, the ketubbah. The elders admonished the groom in public and made him pay the bride’s father punitive damages. These actions would bring shame on the groom’s name just as he wanted to bring on the bride. Added to this, the groom had to remain her husband and never divorce her. If he did, she would no longer be a virgin because he took that from her. She would have a ruined reputation since a few people would believe the groom no matter what evidence came forward in the claim. This kept the bride’s, her family’s, and Israel’s names free from defamation. God’s purpose for marriage would occur despite an attempt to change it by the groom.
Another possibility could occur when the groom brought the charge to the elders. The bride may not have been a virgin as the groom claimed. For such a situation, Moses taught that God commanded a harsh judgment on her. He said in verses twenty and twenty-one,
But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you. [NASB]
There are two people in any marriage relationship. The fault could lie with the bride. God created man and woman to be helpmates to each other. He created them to work together, be fruitful, and multiply. He gave Adam just one wife and Eve just one husband. God’s plan was one man for one woman. If the husband found he was not the first to have sexual relations with his wife, he had recourse. He did not have to live in an adulterated relationship, but had the privilege of living in a relationship where Yahweh and His rules for living stood firm. The bride/wife, in this case, defamed her family, the groom and his family, and Yahweh. She brought evil into their relationship with her choice to lie with a man outside of marriage. Moses charged the elders with keeping God’s command to have the girl stoned by the men of her city at her father’s door. The girl’s actions tainted her family’s name and her blood made her family’s gate unclean.
This command taught one of the hard sayings of God, but He said it to purge evil from among the people of the city and from Israel. Anything that went against the purpose of God for His created universe brought evil and allowed it to separate the Israelites from Him. To keep the Israelites from being separated from Him by impurity, the evil had to be removed. Remember God’s judgment for sin is the death penalty, often given through a sacrificial animal back then. Yet, in a few cases such as premeditated manslaughter (Deut. 19:19), false prophets (Deut. 13:5), or worshipping of other gods (Deut. 17:7), the judgment of death was immediate, not in the distant future. That was the case here.
Sexual Relations Outside of Marriage
Man and Wife of Another Man.
In the case of a man lying with a married woman, we read that God protects His creation and perfect order. Moses told them what God commanded in verse twenty-two when he said, “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.” [NASB] This command from God sounds straightforward. God explained when two unmarried people laid the together He considered that evil, sin. This required His judgment, which was death to “purge evil from Israel.” God’s purpose was to make sure evil did not taint the faith and purity of the people of Israel. God used the phrase, “to purge evil from Israel” in Deuteronomy 13:5, 17:7, and 19:19, too. Evil must be removed from the land so it would not cause confusion/chaos and raise up more evil in the land. God’s laws led people to Him in the Old Testament. Jesus was the physical manifestation of God on earth who permanently took away the sins of the people. He offered them the power they never had to stay away from sin and the temptation to sin. Until Jesus brought fulfillment of God’s laws, God commanded the Israelites stay pure by following His commands, laws, and statutes.
Jesus taught about this law when the Pharisees brought him a woman found in adultery. In John 8:3-8, Jesus recognized the Pharisees desire to trick him. When they asked Him what they should do to the woman found in adultery, Jesus said, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” The Pharisees did not understand He came to save the world, not judge it. Jesus wanted them to see themselves as sinners, too, so they would see the need for a Savior. Jesus gave adultery a new definition from the one in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, adultery was the act of illicit sexual relations. Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28 adultery occurs when a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart. God knows some intentions of the heart can lead to sin. He knows we need the power to overcome those temptations and intentions that begin in the heart. Jesus gives us that power when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior.
Man and Betrothed Woman of Another Man.
In the next section of this chapter, verses twenty-three through twenty-seven speak of two situations that can occur when a betrothed woman laid with a man who was not her betrothed husband. In both cases, God said to purge the evil from Israel, but the elders of the city must apply diligence in their investigation to decide if the accusation was true. God gave the elders ways to determine this.
Verse 23 speaks of an engaged woman with a man who finds her in the city and laid with her. For this situation, God’s command was that both the people be stoned to death. God told them this punishment on the girl was because she did not cry out for help so she must have willingly laid with the man. If she unwillingly laid with him, then she would have cried out. Since she was in the city when found, if she cried for help, the city people would have heard and rescued her. The man’s judgment of death came because he violated his neighbor’s wife/betrothed. By violating the man’s wife, he humiliated her and her husband in the face of the family, community, and nation of Israel. By doing that the man made himself an enemy of Israel, and enemy of God. Enemies of God receive the judgment of death, most often seen as eternal death after physical life on earth. In these cases and the few others recalled earlier, God’s judgment of death was immediate. Once again, God’s reasoning for this was to purge the evil from Israel so no other people would follow that evil, become impure, fall away from God, and not be able to be in His presence.
Verses 23 – 27 speak of a man finding a betrothed woman in a field and lying with her. For this situation, just the man received the death sentence. The betrothed girl did not because no one could have heard her call for help since she was not in the city where more people were available to hear such cries. Being in the field meant there was little opportunity for someone to hear a cry for help. There was no one to save her. God said in verse twenty-six, “But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death.” For the man, we find he humiliated the betrothed man and woman, their families, the community, and their nation. By doing that, the man sinned against God and made God his enemy, too.
Unengaged Man and Woman.
In this case, the man seized (taphas – captures and grasps) an un-betrothed girl and laid with her. By doing this, he stole the father’s property and his pride, his daughter. The man ruined the girl’s chance to be married as a virgin bride and gave her a bad reputation. To remedy the humiliation of the girl and her family, the man must pay the bride price for the girl and never divorce her. The bride price became half the price (fifty shekels of silver) of a virgin bride (one hundred shekels of silver). This happened if the girl was an un-betrothed maiden or married to another man.
A Father’s Wife and Son.
In Leviticus 18:7-8, God commanded sons not to “uncover the nakedness of his [their] father,” that is his mother or step-mother. In Leviticus 20:11, a son must not lie with his father’s wife or else both of them, the wife and the son, shall die. Deuteronomy 27:20 repeats what Moses said in Deuteronomy 22:30, “A man shall not take his father’s wife so that he will not uncover his father’s skirt.” From the first, we read that incest is un-permissable. For strong genetics to continue, we see why God commanded that. Obviously, if the stepmother is still married to the father, the son cannot lay with her. That would be the same sin as a man lying with a married woman. The other though, lying with his step-mother, is made clear when we study Hebrew symbolism.
To understand this better, we must understand what it means to “uncover his father’s skirt.” This phrase is like the phrase found in the Bible that says, “uncovering nakedness.” It means having sexual relations with someone. In Hebrew symbolism, a man’s wife was his garment. The wife was so valuable and close to the man, that she was as close as his garment. When a son uncovered his father’s skirt, it meant he had sexual relations with his father’s wife and concubines. The sexual union between a father’s wife and his son is a forbidden mixture just like wool and cotton or ox and donkey.
This law had much to do with the laws of inheritance in the cultures around Israel at the time. When a father died in the surrounding nations, the inheriting son took possession of his father’s concubines and wives. In this way, a man’s stepmother became his wife and his father’s concubines became his harem. God forbade the Israelites to keep these inheritance laws just because the other nations had them.
An instance of this occurred in the Bible when Reuben took one of Jacob’s concubines (Genesis 35:19-23). When Jacob lay dying, he did not give Reuben the firstborn inheritance because he lay with his concubine, Bilah (Genesis 49:1-4). Besides this reasoning, when a man of that time in other Middle Eastern countries wanted to usurp another man’s throne, authority, and power, whether clan, tribal, or kingship, he showed his own power by having sexual relations with the leader’s wives and concubines. Jacob removed Reuben’s birthright of becoming the next leader of Israel when he “uncovered his father’s skirt.” With Deuteronomy 22:30, God said the practice of other nations, inheriting a father’s wives and concubines, was not acceptable. God forbade this practice in Israel.
The marriage of a man and woman is sacred to God whether betrothed or consummated. He created man and woman for each other. They were not to share themselves with others, be passed to the next leaders, or taken by force. God provided judgment for those people who caused confusion in human relationships, people who put God’s perfect order out of balance by thinking just of themselves and their wants. Sometimes God delays His judgments against sinners and other times He acts at once. The timing of God’s judgment is His alone because He knows the hearts of humankind. Sins of relationship between men and women required God’s people to act right then to effect His judgment and “purge the evil from among them.” Sin separates people from God because He cannot be in the presence of evil. To remove sin from the people meant the people could be in God’s presence quicker. God provided that with these judgments in Deuteronomy 22.
The sexual union between a husband and wife is a physical manifestation of their intimate relationship to each other. Walking with the LORD by obeying, worshipping, and loving Him is a physical manifestation of our intimacy with God. Adam and Eve walked with God before they sinned. God called Abraham His friend. God was with these people because they sought Him and His righteousness. To be righteous, a person must follow God. Moses taught the Israelites this required them to love, worship, and obey Him. God created everything in the universe to work in certain ways to keep it running perfectly. He created man and woman to multiply, be fruitful, subdue, and fill the earth. Verses one through twelve of Deuteronomy 22 teach some ways they were to manage and maintain God’s universe from Genesis 1:28. Verses thirteen through 30 speak of the first part of God’s mandate to humankind from Genesis 1:28 – to be fruitful and multiply. These things could not happen well if men and women just saw each other as sexual outlets. Mutual trust, love, and respect has to be a part of man-woman relationships otherwise they were just taking care of their physical needs and not taking care of God’s created universe. Man and woman would become totally absorbed in his or herself and not in God. God created man and woman to be in a relationship with each other exclusively just as He requires humankind exclusively to love and worship Him. Without following His plans for the world, chaos, sin, and death occur and perfection and purity departs.
Each of us has to decide if we will take up the mantle God gave us in Genesis 1. If we do, that means we will follow God’s perfect plan for His created universe. The relationship each of us has with Him affects our relationship with the created world and with other humans. God made humans into two sexes to be helpmates and to provide what was needed for the tasks of multiplying, being fruitful, subduing, and ruling. To live harmoniously while following God’s commands, a deep trust relationship is necessary between man and woman and between man and God. God’s perfect laws enhance the relationship between man and woman. Trust and love occur. Life is easier when shared. Worship of the God who created everything in the universe perfectly happens naturally. Love of God grows to love between man and woman and then to their descendants. God’s commands in Deuteronomy 22 come across harsh to the ears of the post-modern 21st century. Maybe though we should consider if they are truly harsh of if they just get in the way of doing what we want when we want to do it, not considering what harm may occur in our world or universe because of our selfish choices. That is adulteration of God’s plans for His creation. Maybe when we look at it that way we can see how God’s judgment to purge the evil from among the Israelites was most important, especially over the desires of flesh.
We each now must decide how we want to walk after this lesson. Can we walk our lives the way we have been? Are there things we have done that are not the best, which is what God wants? We need to reflect and talk with God about each of the actions with which we want to be or are involved to decide if they advance God’s perfect plan for His created universe. Come back closer to yourself – Is there something God wants you to do to allow Him to come back into your life in a closer way? That is where we each must start.
Where did you stop following God and His plan?
Where do you need to be to follow God?