A Question I Was Asked:

Why Did the Lord Require New Brides to Prove Their Virginity in Deuteronomy 22?

LEGAL NOTICE:During this ongoing series, nobody's privacy is invaded. We are granted permission to use the question in a completely anonymous fashion. We retain no email address and these emails are then destroyed. In every one of these cases, these people freely chose to email a question to us on the understanding that we might use it (anonymously) in this series.

In Deuteronomy chapter 22 , one of the laws stated that, if a man takes a wife and could find no proof of her virginity, she should be stoned. My question is why would God give this law to Moses? In Egypt to this day proof of virginity still exists among Muslim families of maybe a majority of people. It is my opinion that it amounts to marital rape in front of many people to witness the first such act. I am not sure if Moses took this law from the Ancient Egyptian practices and customs, or if it is really God Law.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, first of all, Moses did not make up these laws as he went along, nor simply take them from Egyptian culture.

Look, this is unquestionably a difficult thing to understand in our day, I don't deny that. We have to remember that though this sounds very extreme, especially in the possibility of a stoning to death, one should understand that these matters would be brought to the attention of the Judges of Israel who would have the authority decide these things, after hearing all the evidence; there seems little doubt that the most harsh outcome was only very rarely carried out.

So no, Moses did not take this law from the Egyptian practices and customs; it was a divine law for one people (Israel) but for a specific point in time (whilst the old covenant continued to exist), yet the Egyptians might indeed have had similar laws. But verses 13-19 of Deuteronomy 22 does not state that the first marital act between a husband and wife should be witnessed "in front of many people" - to use my questioner's expression. The young woman obviously was to have a piece of cloth with her on her wedding night which she could then offer to her parents as proof of her virginity if it should be needed, yet we may well imagine that in the overwhelming majority of cases no such 'proof of virginity' would ever be required nor needed, nor would any new husband, thrilled and excited with his new wife, ever require it.

So the law existed but no punishment would be allowed unless the Judges decided for it and permitted it. If there was no proof of virginity, all parties had a full right simply to ignore this and to carry on with their lives. No righteous and decent man, deeply loving his new bride, would surely even contemplate taking this further when he could decide to simply forgive. Only promiscuous girls would need to fear this law.

The Real Purpose of This Law

If one carefully considers the wording of Deuteronomy 22, the real purpose of this law becomes evident: it was to protect young brides from husbands who wanted to put them away (divorce them) without reason. Only a woman's lack of virginity on her wedding night could ever afford a reason to put a wife aside. Look at this:

16. Her father will say to the elders, "I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. 17. Now he has slandered her and said, 'I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.' But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity." Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, 18. and the elders shall take the man and punish him. 19. They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman's father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives. (Deuteronomy 22:16-19).

So a main purpose of this law was to protect young wives from the slander of young husbands who later regretted their choice in a bride. In any event - and for various reasons - it seems obvious that the ultimate penalty would only very rarely be carried out - if ever.

Robin A. Brace. May 27th, 2018.