The Morality of Deuteronomy 22 : 20-21

The laws of the Old Testament only applied to ancient Israel, but it still doesn’t minimize how harsh and cruel they seemed. Deuteronomy 22 : 20-21 said that if a husband reported his wife because there was no evidence she was a virgin on her wedding night, she would be stoned to death. The woman who committed adultrey in the New Testament was almost stoned to death because she was caught in the act of adultrey,

But why did men in ancient Israel have their wives stoned to death just because they weren’t a virgin when they got married (even if their wives were faithful didn’t commit adultrey). Why were they that cruel and inhumane to a woman who may have just made one mistake in the past? Some of the women in the Old Testament didnt even chose to get married-they were put in arranged marriage; so why is it fair that they were punished for that? Why did Moses even sanction that law?

The Mosaic law was a product of its time – that is, it was meant for a certain people, in a certain geographical area, in a certain timeframe. Assuredly, in their totality, they weren’t meant to address us in our society today. But, looking at them and comparing them to what follows is a poor way to compare their virtue or effectiveness. That would be like looking at our parents’ rules for us when we were teens (be home by 11! no drinking! no smoking! break these rules and you’re grounded for a month!) and saying, “wow… how horrible! how harsh! look how much better it is, now that we’re adults!” – after all, the rules our parents had for us spoke to our maturity level and our situation then, and the rules we follow now do a good job speaking to our maturity level and situation now.

So, I would assert that the proper way to ‘judge’ the Mosaic law isn’t by comparing it to 21st century standards of behavior – but by the standard of behavior that existed in their society and their context before the Mosaic law came out!
[list]*]Men could divorce their wives at will, without cause (and remember – in those days, a divorced woman essentially became destitute).
*]There was no standard of law – if you had power, no law would touch you, and if you had no power, no law could save you. (In the Mosaic law, “an eye for an eye” held whether you were a beggar on the street or a king in the palace.)
*]Women who were accused of not being a virgin on their wedding night had no recourse (so, what the Mosaic law did was codify that they did have protection against unjust accusations, where no such protection existed previously).
*]Men who committed adultery (with an unmarried woman – and thereby preventing her from being a virgin on her wedding night – and thereby damaging her prospects for a favorable marriage) could get away with it. (Under the Mosaic law, not only women but also men could be stoned for committing adultery; and, a male adulterer who deflowered a woman – was held responsible, and made to make good on the ‘wedding promise’ that this intercourse represented. (And, if it was rape – such that the woman did not consent and cried out (or was in a location where she wouldn’t have been heard crying out), then the man stood to lose his life for the rape).)[/list]

The Mosaic law represented an advance in moral behavior, in its geographical and temporal context. Far from being ‘barbaric’, it moved the people of God out of greater barbarism and on the path of moral behavior. Was it the end-all and be-all of God’s design for us? Of course not… and that’s why Jesus’ “New Covenant” was given to us. But, that doesn’t mean that the Mosaic law was bad… :wink:

Most likely the reason some cultures still have this kind of attitude towards women. Family reputation and viewing women as property. Marriage was a property contract, I give you my virgin daughter for the payment of dowry.

I share your disgust of this whole attitude towards women. Fortunately we have moved on, though there is still more to do. It does however provide a source of laughter for me when I hear someone wanting to get back to “the Biblical definition of marriage”.

But how is the Mosaic Law any different from Sharia Law? Why is it morally consistent for Christians to criticize Sharia Law in middle eastern countries, but the Mosaic Law God ordained in the Bible was extremley similar?

But why did God have a law that in ancient Israel, that husbands could have their wives stoned to death if they werent virgins?

I’m not an expert on sharia, so perhaps there are some examples that you could use, that would demonstrate the similarities you’re perceiving?

But, in general, to answer your question: Mosaic law is different because it’s given by God; it was appropriate in its time and place, but the application of sharia in the 21st century seems less so.

But why did God have a law that in ancient Israel, that husbands could have their wives stoned to death if they werent virgins?

Are you asking about the requirement (brides should be virgins on their wedding night) or the punishment (stoning)?

This is because as a previous poster said,“The Mosaic law was a product of its time – that is, it was meant for a certain people, in a certain geographical area, in a certain timeframe.

The Mosaic Law is meant as a progression and development of morality, justice, and humanity as a whole. Ultimately this is all pinnacled with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with the New Covenant, hence why the Mosaic Law is now irrelevant for today.

None of this applies to Sharia Law. It does not have the same context that the Mosaic Law had during its time, and it would just be a regression to lower forms of justice/morality that became irrelevant with Jesus. For those who want a nonreligious explanation, it’s basically irrelevant and unnecessary as today’s form of justice and morality.

Valid questions. Firstly not all, possibly a smallish minority, even think Sharia Law should be implemented in its full extent. I think one can oppose Sharia Law and reject items like Mosaic Law because I believe God has been trying to move us on to better thinking throughout history, even up to today.

To me the Bible is a collection of man’s best understanding of God’s will at the time of its assembly. The Bible historically represents an early attempt at establishing Orthodoxy and Theological standards from many other Christian writings. Our theology has continued to develop and science has certainly made us look differently at how creation might have occurred. Certainly the Bible didn’t magically appear from God, but represent a snapshot in time of our faithful attempt to understand God that continues to evolve unto today.


I’m making the case that the Mosaic law replaced a more barbaric system with one less so; and therefore, analogously, recourse to Sharia is a step backward, not a step forward.


Yes…?!? The answer to a question “X or Y” is “yes”??? :confused:

I’m also asking this-why did women who werent virgins get married or engaged, if they knew they would be stoned to death for not virgins, and why would their husbands want their wives stoned to death just because they werent virgins? Why were they so spiteful and cruel back in those days?

You’re referring, I’m assuming to Deuteronomy 22. Here, the issue isn’t “men marrying non-virgins” so much as “men trying to find a loophole and divorcing their wife.” Go take a look at it again, before you conclude “spiteful and cruel.” After all, the presumption here is that there are women who married as a non-virgin, but whose husbands don’t immediately run out and stone them. Rather, the context here is the man who “after marrying a woman and having relations with her, comes to dislike her,and accuses her of misconduct and slanders her” (Deut 22:13-14). Read carefully – what this tenet of the law is doing is giving a woman and her family the opportunity to defend her against unjust slander: is that ‘cruel’? Is that ‘spiteful’?

Yet, the context does allow for capital punishment; why is that? The reason given is that, in this case, “she committed a shameful crime in Israel by prostituting herself in her father’s house” (Deut 22:21). Are you asking why sexual misconduct carried a death penalty in those days? (After all, other forms of sexual misconduct similarly carried a death sentence – for both men and women!)

The laws of Moses were not “a product of their time.” They were laws given to man by God. The Mosaic laws were of divine origin.

The world was out of control. The Laws of Moses were God’s first controls on an out of control situation. Husbands were killing their wives to get out of marriage. Pagan temples with boy prostitutes. Incest. Selling your children into slavery. Sodomy. Sex with animals. Child sacrifice - burning infants alive!

Before the law a husband would just kill his wife even if she wasn’t guilty, just because he wanted to get out of marriage. The law said that he had to bring charges and the elders had to judge the matter - the husband was not allowed to just kill his wife for no reason. Jesus settled the matter perfectly when he said the husband was to forgive his wife and lay down his life for her.

The divine laws given by God to Moses were designed to put the first curbs on humanity which had no self control. The laws were not intended to be perfect but temporary until the time was right for a permanent and perfect fix - Jesus Christ - who would heal mankind so that these laws were no longer needed.


The bad thing about sharia law is that they are trying to enforce their laws on others AND shara law has been outdated for over a thousand years in the rest of the world. Mosaic Law was an IMPROVEMENT over the laws before it. sharia is worse than most countries’ law.

My knowledge is limited on the details of the Mosaic Law, so take this with a grain of salt.

Now why would women without their virginity get married or engaged? I think this is framing the question incorrectly. The laws are supposed to be viewed the other way around. It’s meant to deal with those who are married/engaged that have committed the sin of unfaithfulness and losing their virginity when they shouldn’t have.

Now why were they so cruel and spiteful back in those days? Well, that’s reality. God told us that all sin leads to death, so being stoned to death for the sin of unfaithfulness isn’t unjust. It is just. So for the case of women who have committed the sin of unfaithfulness (or tried to deceive their to-be husbands) would be justly condemned to death.

We shouldn’t see it as being so cruel because that is just comparing to 21st century way of justice and morality. The Mosaic Law was a STEP UP from the form of morality that existed at the time. The Mosaic Law should be seen as a form of mercy from God in that respect. Not only that, God didn’t even have to let any of us live and could have condemned us all to death by stoning. God establishing this law can be seen as a form of mercy as it established a higher form of morality at the time, and women who were chaste would not be stoned even though all people were deserving of being stoned at the time since they were all sinners. Remember with the adulteress, Jesus said let he the man with no sin cast the first stone.

Of course, Jesus came and fulfilled the Mosaic Law and brought the New Covenant. It brings out the fullness of the Mosaic Law’s branding of justice with a more manifest form of mercy.

Sorry… perhaps I could have phrased it better: I didn’t mean to imply that the Mosaic law wasn’t God-given. The Mosaic law was indeed a product of God, but given to people in a particular place and time, and applicable in that context. (Better? :wink: )

The law was spiteful and cruel because men in Old Testmament times had their wives executed for not being virgins, even if their wife never committed adultery.

Why did they assume the woman was a prostitute, just because she wasn’t a virgin?

The law was not mean to be applied for “oh any people who are nonvirgins etc.” It was meant for those who have committed the sin of unfaithfulness or unchastness.
As far as I know, they have no reason to be anything but a virgin, hence why it would seem applicable they would be guilty of something, such as prostitution. And as the previous poster said, this law gives the woman the chance to be defended in case of false accusations.

Ok… you read what I wrote, didn’t you? So, you saw that, when a man tried to falsely accuse his wife – in order to divorce her – it was him that was punished, right? And you saw that, although what you said was true before the Mosaic law, it was precisely the Mosaic law that corrected that situation… right?

Why did they assume the woman was a prostitute, just because she wasn’t a virgin?

No, it’s not saying “she’s a prostitute”; it’s saying “in that act (those acts?) of pre-marital sex, she prostituted herself.” Subtle – but important – difference. Then, on her wedding night, she (presumably) presented herself as a virgin, thus attempting to deceive her husband. (You realize that similar situations exist in Catholic canon law, don’t you? They don’t result in capital punishment, of course, but an “error of person”, in which one spouse is deceived about the character of his spouse (given that, he wouldn’t have married that person if he knew their true character), is cause to recognize that the marriage is invalid…

A woman who engaged in fornication at some point in her life, but became faithful to her husband when married/engaged, was not being unfaithful to her husband.

Interestingly, since women were expected to be virgins on their wedding night, fornication - in a certain sense - really was seen as unfaithfulness to their future husband…! :hmmm:

But why did those women get married in the first place, if they knew the consequences of their behavior if they were reported?

Considering that the text describes it as the man finding out about the women’s virginity (or lack there-of) means that the women was deceiving the husband. Hence, a sin right there. If they are not virgins and intended to get married by deceiving the husband, then she shouldn’t be getting married in the first place.

And for the reason “why” is simple. We’re sinners. That’s like asking why a person would want to inflict harm on another. We’re sinful creatures. Maybe the woman wanted financial support and protection from the husband. Who knows. It doesn’t change the fact that the woman would have been in the wrong in the cases concerned with the text in Deuteronomy.

It’s the same question as asking why would a person lie in court when there can be terrible consequences if the person was caught doing so.

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