One of my goals on this blog is to share my thoughts, but I also hope to learn from you. Consequently, some of my entries will not be me giving a decisive opinion, but rather me asking questions. This is one of those entries.
I study a chapter of Scripture every Friday night, and this evening I went through Deuteronomy 22. I have questions about divorce in this chapter and the Book of Deuteronomy in general. I would like to ask about other issues as well, but that will have to wait for future blog entries. Here are my questions, and I appreciate any insight that you can give me (on any of the questions):
1. In Deuteronomy 22:13-22, there is the scenario of a man who suspects that his wife was not a virgin before he married her. The man hates her, and her parents are required to produce evidence of the girl’s pre-marital virginity before the elders. If the parents do so, then the accuser is chastised and must pay the parents 100 silver shekels. Also, he is not allowed to divorce the woman for the rest of his life. If the girl was not a virgin, then the men of the town stone her to death. I guess my question is, If the man hated this woman, then why didn’t he just divorce her according to the law of Deuteronomy 24? I was thinking that he may have been upset because he paid for a non-virgin at a virgin’s price, but he does not get financially compensated once the women is found to have been a non-virgin. Maybe the answer to this is that he simply hated her and wanted to tarnish her reputation.
2. I also wonder why God/Deuteronomy allowed divorce in some cases but not in others. I understand why God would forbid a man who slandered his wife from divorcing her, since he may want to deter that sort of act. But I wonder why he prohibits a man who seduces and then marries a woman from ever divorcing her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Sure, the seducer violated the woman and made her a former virgin (meaning that she would not be worth as much as far as dowry goes), but the man of Deuteronomy 24 also had relations with his wife, yet he is permitted to divorce her. Moreover, a man who took a foreign female captive is allowed to put her away when she displeases him, even though he violated her (Deuteronomy 21:14, which has the same word, ana, that appears in Deuteronomy 22:29). What is the difference among these cases? One thought that came to me was that God wants to discourage men from impulsively acting on their passions. The man in Deuteronomy 21 at least had to wait 30 days before he could marry the foreign captive, so he was not exactly impulsive. Maybe that is a solution, but I wonder if anyone has a better proposal.
3. On a side note, why did the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East place such value on a woman being a virgin before she got married, since virgins required a higher price than non-virgins? A homiletical solution would be to say that the ancient world thought that “true love waits,” but I wonder if there is a better explanation, one that considers the culture of the ancient world on its own terms.