Deuteronomy 22:15
Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate:
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22:13-30 These and the like regulations might be needful then, and yet it is not necessary that we should curiously examine respecting them. The laws relate to the seventh commandment, laying a restraint upon fleshly lusts which war against the soul.Compare Numbers 15:38 and its note. 13-30. If a man take a wife, &c.—The regulations that follow might be imperatively needful in the then situation of the Israelites; and yet, it is not necessary that we should curiously and impertinently inquire into them. So far was it from being unworthy of God to leave such things upon record, that the enactments must heighten our admiration of His wisdom and goodness in the management of a people so perverse and so given to irregular passions. Nor is it a better argument that the Scriptures were not written by inspiration of God to object that this passage, and others of a like nature, tend to corrupt the imagination and will be abused by evil-disposed readers, than it is to say that the sun was not created by God, because its light may be abused by wicked men as an assistant in committing crimes which they have meditated [Horne]. i.e. The linen cloth or sheet, as is expressed, Deu 22:17, which in the first congress was infected with blood, as is natural and usual. But because this is not now constant, the enemies of Scripture take occasion to quarrel with this law, as unreasonable and unjust, and such as might oppress the innocent, and hence take occasion to reject the Holy Scriptures. It were much more reasonable for these men either to expound this place metaphorically, of producing those proofs and testimonies of her virginity which should be as satisfactory as if that cloth were produced, as some of the Jews understand it; or modestly to acknowledge their own ignorance in this, as they are forced to do in many other things, and not impudently to conclude it is insoluble, because they cannot resolve it. But there is no need of such general answers, many things may be particularly said for the vindication of this law.

1. That it was necessary for that people, because of their hard-heartedness towards their wives, and their levity and desire of change of wives.

2. That either this trial, or at least the proof of her virginity, was to be taken presently after the day of marriage, and that proof was to be admitted afterwards upon occasion.

3. That this law was seldom or never put in execution, as the Jews note, and seems to be made for terror and caution to husbands and wives, as really other laws have been in like cases.

4. That that God who gave this law did by his providence govern all affairs, and rule the tongues and hearts of men, and therefore would doubtless take care so to order matters that the innocent should not suffer by this means, which he could prevent many ways.

5. That there is a great difference in times and climates. Who knows not that there are many things now by our moderns thought uncertain or false, by which by the ancient physicians were thought and affirmed to be true, and certain in their times and countries, and that many signs of diseases and other things do generally hold true in those more southerly and warmer parts of the world, which are many times deceitful in our northern and colder climates?

6. That this very way of trial of virginity hath been used not only by the Jews, but also by the Arabians and Egyptians, as is affirmed by divers learned writers, among whom yet it was more doubtful and hazardous than among the Jews, who might promise to themselves that God would guide the execution of his own law to a just and good issue.

7. That this sign, if it were uncertain in persons of riper years, yet it may be reasonably thought certain and constant in virgins of young and tender age, and that the Jews did ordinarily marry their daughters when they were about twelve or thirteen years old, as is confessed; as making haste to roll away that reproach which they thought to be in an unmarried state.

Then shall the father and the mother of the damsel take,.... Power from the court, according to the Targum of Jonathan; having leave and licence granted them to do what follows, these were to, and would, concern themselves in such an affair, partly for the credit and reputation of their child, and partly for their own honour, who were in danger, as Jarchi observes, of coming into contempt for their ill education of her:

and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity; the sheet she lay in when she first bedded with her husband, in her parents' possession, and kept by them as a witness of her purity, should there ever be any occasion for it: and which were to be brought

unto the elders of the city in the gate; which sat in the gate of the city to try causes: the Targum of Jonathan calls it the gate of the sanhedrim, or court of judicature; and, according to Maimonides (q), this court was the court of twenty three judges; for this was a capital crime accused of, a cause relating to life and death, which could not be heard and tried in a lesser court.

(q) Hilchot Naarah Betulah, c. 3. sect. 3.

Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate:
15. father of the damsel, and her mother] Together as in Deuteronomy 21:18 ff. Damsel, Heb. na‘ar, the masc. form used in the Pent, for the fem. 21 times, 13 of which are here (but fem. form in Deuteronomy 22:19) and the rest in Genesis 24, 34; cp. Ruth 2:6; Ruth 4:12.

elders of the city in the gate] Deuteronomy 21:19.

Deuteronomy 22:15In such a case the parents of the young woman (הנּער for הנּערה, as in Genesis 24:14, Genesis 24:28, according to the earliest usage of the books of Moses, a virgin, then also a young woman, e.g., Ruth 2:6; Ruth 4:12) were to bring the matter before the elders of the town into the gate (the judicial forum; see Deuteronomy 21:19), and establish the chastity and innocence of their daughter by spreading the bed-clothes before them. It was not necessary to this end that the parents should have taken possession of the spotted bed-clothes directly after the marriage night, as in customarily done by the Bedouins and the lower classes of the Moslem in Egypt and Syria (cf. Niebuhr, Beschr. v. Arab. pp. 35ff.; Arvieux, merkw. Nachr. iii. p. 258; Burckhardt, Beduinen, p. 214, etc.). It was sufficient that the cloth should be kept, in case such a proof might be required.
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