Biblical Views of Divorce, Remarriage, and Adultery

Ok so this is super controversial. First there is the opinion from Finny Kuruvilla at (which is rather well thought out) that divorce is permitted but only in extreme circumstances and remarriage is forbidden in all circumstances:

I endorse Finny’s critique of the literal Erasmian interpretation which I think has multiple problems. However, there are a few problems I have with Finny’s view:

1. To hold Finny’s view you need to interpret Deuteronomy 24 as regulating something that is wrong under all circumstances.

While this is possible, it seems unlikely due to the fact there is no punishment listed for the behavior except not marrying your previously married wife. Also, we must assume that if divorce and remarriage are wrong under all circumstances then remarriage to the original husband is worse:

1 Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house 2 and goes off to become another man’s wife. 3 Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); 4 her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)

I will add the caveat that divorce is certainly something that is wrong under many circumstance, or is at least more wrong than some of the offenses that people often have divorced over:

13 And this you do as well: You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. 14 You ask, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did not one God make her? Both flesh and spirit are his. And what does the one God desire? Godly offspring. So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth. 16 For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless. (Malachi 2:13-16 NRSV)

2. Finny’s view implies that the certificate of divorce has no effect

The certificate of divorce has the effect of separating you from your spouse. This is because it has the effect of making it impossible for your wife to come back after marrying someone else according to Deuteronomy 24. If you can’t remarry after a divorce then the divorce certificate seems to have no effect: you are still tied to your spouse. This does not fit with a whole law written regulating the certificate of divorce. If all it does is allow you to leave then you are still married to them; therefore what is the problem with remarrying the same person?

3. If you take literally what Mark 10:11-12 says that remarriage after divorce for any reason is adultery . . .

If you take literally what Mark 10:11-12 says then you must believe that what Jesus says in Mark 10:5-9 means that divorce for any reason is unlawful. However, Paul explicitly states that in some cases divorce can happen even though it should not happen:

10 To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. (1 Cor 7:10-11)

4. The context in which Finny argues “eunuchs are divorced people who can’t remarry” doesn’t fit.

The only place where this occurs is in Matthew 19 and here we see what they are objecting to is the difficulty of divorce in the context of not being able to divorce your wife for “any cause.” They aren’t afraid of marrying then getting divorced and having to be Eunuchs (which they would be without marrying anyway), they are afraid of marriage itself:

3 Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” . . .

8 He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.”

10 His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

(Matthew 19:3-12 NRSV)

5. Matthew tends to clarify Mark.

The fact that Matthew makes the context of Jesus’s statement about being able to divorce for “any reason” means that Jesus was reacting to a lax standard of divorce. His response therefore would be in the context of frivolous divorces.

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” (Matthew 19:3)

Another example of possible clarification is the following:

As another example, within Matthew’s community unchastity was evidently recognized as legitimate grounds for divorce. It may have been in the communities of Mark and Luke as well, but they failed to stipulate the exception in this particular saying of Jesus. Matthew clarifies the issue by inserting the phrase “except for unchastity:”

Some may respond that Jesus’s statement would have to be summarized as “you may not divorce your wife for any cause but only except for unchastity” This makes sense but it seems like he still had a strict view on it. What about if one spouse was trying to kill the other? Well, this author argues that Jesus was only addressing a certain type of divorce. See the Pharisees had split up the grounds for divorce of “some indecency” in Deuteronomy 24:1 into “adultery” and “a cause.” Jesus was addressing only this type of divorce and saying you couldn’t divorce for any cause. When he says “except for porneia” (“porneia” is the word translated “adultery”) it is literally “not porneia” That is, he is implying “any cause” by saying “not porneia” because that is how those divorces were split up: into “adultery” and “a cause.” It is just a restatement of the “any cause” phrase in their earlier question: “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” These divorces were the most common since you didn’t have to prove anything in court but only present “a cause.” Jesus does not address the other types of divorce where other grounds are presented like in Exodus 21:10-11 Also, the cultural context backs this up:

By the first century there was general agreement concerning most aspects of divorce and remarriage within rabbinic Judaism. According to divorce law, the decision to end the marriage contract was that of the husband, because he had to write the divorce certificate. A wife could force a husband to divorce her if she could prove to a rabbinic court that he had broken the marriage contract, but it seldom happened. The author claims that one development during these times influenced almost all divorces among Jews. The Hillelites introduced a new interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1 by which they allowed divorce for “any matter”, while the Shammaites interpreted the same text as saying “for a matter of indecency”. Most Jewish divorces therefore took place on Hillelite grounds, because there was no need to prove anything in court. It is worth noting that the Shammaites accepted the validity of this type of divorce even though it was contrary to what they would have decided. Meanwhile, in the greater Greco-Roman context it became easier for both men and woman to initiate a divorce, and anyone could divorce simply by separating from one’s spouse.

I have reached my conclusions mostly just by comparing the texts of the gospels and the Hebrew Bible and being aware of the tendency of Matthew to clarify things. Here we see that a scholar has reached similar conclusions by looking at the cultural context of the first century:

Instone-Brewer approaches the problem of Jesus’ radical teaching about divorce and remarriage from an interesting angle. An important investigation in this regard concerns the abbreviated texts that we find in the Gospels. He claims that usually the exegesis was largely absent from these debates because these text were regularly used in the synagogue and because it was widely known at the time. By the second century what used to be common knowledge was quickly disappearing, largely because of the disappearance of the Shammaite group. Commonly understood phrases were also removed, but would have been mentally added by first century readers. The added phrase “for any matter” as it appears in Matthew 19:3 which does not appear in Mark or Luke, is one such example.

This phrase referred to the Hillelite interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1, an interpretation Jesus did not agree with at all – hence the view that remarriage after this type of divorce is invalid. As far as this issue is concerned, Jesus differed from opinions within Judaism, including that of the Shammaites. Furthermore, the author concludes that in instances where the Gospels are completely silent about an important matter like the silence about remarriage after the death of a spouse or Jesus’ opinion about the grounds for divorce in Exodus 21:10-11, Jesus’ silence can be ascribed to the fact that on these points he agreed with the unanimously held opinion of Judaism. One such example is Jesus’ silence about the Old Testament grounds for divorce. The author claims that the assumption that Jesus regarded the exception of porneia as the only ground for divorce is wrong, because it would mean that the Shammaites too had allowed divorce only on the grounds of adultery, which is simply not the case. At first these arguments appear to be rather weak but the author’s extensive research is convincing. The author delicately adds to the exegeses and arguments from their abbreviated forms and concludes six separate matters about which Jesus taught.

6. What about Paul’s sayings in 1 Corinthians 7? Do they imply remarriage is impossible after a divorce?

10 To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:10-11)

Paul’s sayings may only apply to the Roman custom of divorce through separating since he was writing to people living in the secular city of Corinth:

Chapter seven shows that the world in which Paul lived was completely different from that in which Jesus lived. It is shown that Paul reacts mainly to the practice in the Greco-Roman world in terms of which anyone could divorce simply by separating from one’s spouse. Like Jesus, Paul emphasized ways to stay married, rather than ways to divorce.

7. Jesus as the New Covenant Mediator may have been focusing on the heart

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

(Matthew 5:27-32)

In context, Jesus’s statements could be more about intent than about the physical requirements of a divorce. For instance, above where Jesus says “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus is not literally saying that they are guilty of adultery but that as the New Covenant Mediator he trying to allow the law to be written on people’s hearts and coveting in your heart is against that purpose. (you have to take your thoughts captive as Paul says) Similarly, Jesus is not saying if your eye or your hand causes you to sin once then you have to cut them off because your eye or your hand can’t cause you to sin. He is saying to value your eternal existence more than your present existence in your physical body.

Therefore Jesus’s comments on divorce may be about divorce that was caused by a heart intent/condition that was not concerned with trying to keep the marriage together. Also, maybe the context is a heart intent that wanted to divorce in order to marry someone else.

Why is this important?

I talked to a woman whose husband was beating her (and if I remember correctly–threatened to kill her) and she felt she couldn’t divorce him until he committed adultery because of Matthew 19:8. Luckily he did eventually commit adultery. Let me ask you this, what if she was one of the very early Christians who didn’t have access to all the gospels and only had access to Matthew or Luke? (Mark is also supposed to have been written before Matthew) If she only read Mark and read it literally (like she did Matthew) she might be dead.

Threatening to kill someone violates the marriage covenant because if one person dies the covenant is nullified and shows you are willing to break it yourself. Beating someone I would think is worse than committing adultery. (I know the law says you can stone someone for adultery but this seems to have only been done in rare cases and forgiveness seems to be allowed, such as the case of Hosea)

I definitely think you can divorce for more causes than adultery. I think if your life is in danger or your emotional health is in danger those are reasonable causes. Emotional abuse can be physically dangerous to you–it can be unhealthy and take years off your life. It can make you at risk for suicide. I’m not as sure about remarriages after divorce. However, I’ve presented some evidence that remarriage is justified in certain cases as well.

Philosophical Considerations

One thing that has bothered me about marriage is the question of “what is it and for what purpose?” Does marriage begin when you have sex with someone because you are “certainly” supposed to marry someone afterward according to Exodus 22:16-18? If that is it then why is remarriage allowed upon death according to Romans 7? It would seem that if marriage is started with sex and it lasts forever then having sex with multiple people during your lifetime would be wrong. Yet if someone had multiple spouses die during their lifetime they would be able to do this. Therefore, limiting sexual partners isn’t of the utmost importance for the intent of marriage. In fact, there is no part of the Torah that prevents you from going into a cancer ward and marrying people one right after the other as they are dying. In addition, sex with a betrothed woman is treated just like adultery in the Torah, so marriage has to be about more than just regulating sex or commitment to one person for each individual.

More likely, it seems that marriage is a combination of sex and a covenant (betrothal), although if you have the sex you are supposed to make the covenant. Marriage then is not primarily concerned with limiting the number of people you have sex with during your life (although that tends to be one of its effects) but marriage may be primarily concerned with maintaining societal health, providing a stable environment for children, and ensuring people and households are emotionally/financially stable. If a marriage is so bad that it damages those things more than it upholds them then maybe it should be terminated.


Based on my own observations the following conclusions and summary are likely correct:

The conclusions:

The Bible’s message for those suffering within marriage is both realistic and loving

Marriage should be lifelong, but broken marriage vows can be grounds for divorce

Biblical grounds for divorce include adultery, abuse and abandonment

Jesus urged forgiveness but allowed divorce for repeated unrepentant breaking of marriage vows

Only the victim, not the perpetrator of such sins, should decide when or whether to divorce

Anyone who divorces on biblical grounds or who is divorced against their will can remarry.

Very quick summary:

This book interprets the words of Jesus and Paul through the eyes of first century readers who knew about the ‘Any Cause’ divorce which Jesus was asked about (“Is it lawful to divorce for ‘Any Cause’” – Mt.19.3). Christians in following generations forgot about the ‘Any Cause’ divorce and misunderstood Jesus.

The ‘Any Cause’ divorce was invented by some Pharisees who divided up the phrase “a cause of indecency” (Dt.24.1) into two grounds for divorce: “indecency” (porneia which they interpreted as ‘Adultery’) and “a cause” (ie ‘Any Cause’). Jesus said the phrase could not be split up and that it meant “nothing except porneia”. Although almost everyone was using this new type of divorce, Jesus told them that it was invalid, so remarriage was adulterous because they were still married.

The Old Testament allowed divorce for the breaking of marriage vows, including neglect and abuse, based on Exod.21.10f. Jesus was not asked about these biblical grounds for divorce, though Paul alluded to them in 1Cor.7 as the basis of marriage obligations. This book argues that God never repealed these biblical grounds for divorce based on broken marriage vows. They were exemplified by Christ (according to Eph.5.28f) and they became the basis of Christian marriage vows (love, honour, and keep).



What Does The Bible Say About Rape?

All verses are in the NRSV unless otherwise noted. When I first started writing this I thought I had to admit that the Bible did not explicitly prohibit rape of an unmarried unbetrothed woman. However, I have now realized that the Bible does explicitly prohibit rape in Ex 21:16 and Deut 24:7 because it prohibits the capture/seizure of people which is part of rape. I argue that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is connected with Exodus 22:16-17 and is about seduction and not rape but I don’t have time to make that argument here, instead see this article:

I do think rape is explicitly against other laws–for instance it would at least be covered under the laws concerning damages to people and certainly against the law to love your neighbor. However, I will argue that just because it is not explicitly named that the Bible’s attitude should not be taken as lax towards it. In fact, I will argue that under the biblical law that rape requires the death penalty.

So why isn’t rape itself explicitly mentioned in the law? For a few reasons I suspect

1 The first one is pretty obvious: it was covered directly by other laws against capturing and indirectly by laws against slavery which came almost immediately in the giving of the law.

There was no reason to add specific cases to a good comprehensive general one. This comes by observing that the Tanakh is very much against capturing and slavery:

Whoever kidnaps h1589 a person, whether that person has been sold or is still held in possession, shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:16)

If someone is caught kidnaping h1589 another Israelite, enslaving or selling the Israelite, then that kidnaper shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 24:7)

You shall not steal. h1589 (Ex 20:15)

Notice it uses the same Hebrew word for “steal” in the 10 commandments. There are some translations that have “and” in-between each case here rather than “or” which causes some to argue that it only prohibited the combination of them: kidnapping, selling, and found in their possession. However, in YLT this seems to be the result of translating the vav literally and consistently as “and” and is not a mandate for how to understand the vav in that particular context. Keil and Delitzsch correct the misconception that vavs can only mean “and” and note the severity with which this capturing was treated:

Maltreatment of a father and mother through striking (Exodus 21:15), man-stealing (Exodus 21:16), and cursing parents (Exodus 21:17, cf. Leviticus 20:9), were all to be placed on a par with murder, and punished in the same way. By the “smiting” (הכּה) of parents we are not to understand smiting to death, for in that case ומת would be added as in Exodus 21:12, but any kind of maltreatment. . . . Man-stealing was also no less a crime, being a sin against the dignity of man, and a violation of the image of God. For אישׁ “a man,” we find in Deuteronomy 24:7, נפשׁ “a soul,” by which both man and woman are intended, and the still more definite limitation, “of his brethren of the children of Israel.” The crime remained the same whether he had sold him (the stolen man), or whether he was still found in his hand. (For ו – ו as a sign of an alternative in the linking together of short sentences, see Proverbs 29:9, and Ewald, 361.) This is the rendering adopted by most of the earlier translators, and we get no intelligent sense if we divide the clauses thus: “and sell him so that he is found in his hand.”

This attitude is consistent with the Bible’s libertarian treatment of individual freedom and the prohibition against forced servitude:

15 Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. 16 They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16 )

It even says the type of slavery that happened in Egypt was wrong since it says that you shall not crush (H3905) the sojourners like has been done to you in Egypt:

You shall not wrong or oppress H3905 a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)

This is because the same word H3905 is used to describe the oppression of the Egyptians upon the Israelite:

The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress H3905 them. (Exodus 3:9)

You shall not oppress H3905 a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. H3906 (Deu 26:7)

It in fact says that you should treat sojourners as natives:

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

It says that you should never rule over anyone like the Egyptians did to the Israelites (the context in Ezekiel is criticizing their behavior):

The Egyptians became ruthless H6531 in imposing tasks on the Israelites, (Exo 1:13)

You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled H6531 them. (Ez 34:4)

So if they couldn’t behave like the Egyptians and they couldn’t capture or force people to stay with them then what motivation could servants have for staying? I think this was a way for people who had gotten into debt (by committing a crime or otherwise) to get back on their feet by making an extended contract with someone. The servant could break that contract but if they broke it for no good reason then other people would be less likely to want to have them as a servant. It also says to provide them with resources when they went out, this may have been partially motivation for staying. In addition this may imply that they came in with nothing, hence were working to get back on their feet:

And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. 14 Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 15:13)

There are intricacies to these contracts that often escape our notice; servants could be given authority to manage the household and manage the marriage of a son (Genesis 24:2) and also may have been heirs automatically when no children were present (Genesis 15:3). They could own property (2 Samuel 19:17), and they, or a relation, could buy their freedom regardless of the master’s will to keep them (Lev 25:47–50).

And it seems to have had a positive connotation:

Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:13)

You could replace “servant” with “daughter” and it would still make sense. Interestingly a son is said to serve the father and it uses the same word that means “servant” elsewhere:

They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve H5647 them. (Mal 3:17)

Since you have to capture someone to rape them and you can’t capture people this would outlaw rape. Also raping a person is like taking them temporarily as a sex slave so the prohibition against forced servitude or slavery would indirectly outlaw rape as well.

2 The second reason it does not explicitly mention rape is because of the nature of ancient law which is not meant to be comprehensive:

Excursus: The Paradigmatic Nature of Biblical Law

Modern societies generally have opted for exhaustive law codes. That is, every action modern society wishes to regulate or prohibit must be specifically mentioned in a separate law.  Under the expectations of this exhaustive law system, state and/or federal law codes run to thousands of pages and address thousands of individual actions by way of requirement or restriction or control or outright banning of those actions.  By this approach, all actions are permitted that are not expressly forbidden or regulated.  Thus it is not uncommon that criminals in modern Western societies evade prosecution because of a “technicality” or a “loophole” in the law—their undesirable actions are not exactly prohibited or regulated by a written law, so they cannot be convicted even though an objective observer may be convinced that what they did surely deserved punishment.

Ancient laws did not work this way. They were paradigmatic, giving models of behaviors and models of prohibitions/punishments relative to those behaviors, but they made no attempt to be exhaustive.  Ancient laws gave guiding principles, or samples, rather than complete descriptions of all things regulated.  Ancient people were expected to be able to extrapolate from what the sampling of laws did say to the general behavior the laws in their totality pointed toward.  Ancient judges were expected to extrapolate from the wording provided in the laws that did exist to all other circumstances and not to be foiled in their jurisprudence by any such concepts as “technicalities” or “loopholes.”  When common sense told judges that a crime had been committed, they reasoned their way from whatever the most nearly applicable law specified to a decision as to how to administer proper justice in the case before them.  Citizens of ancient Israel, and especially its judges, had to learn to extrapolate from whatever laws they had received from Yahweh to whatever justice-challenging situation they were dealing with.  The number of laws dealing with any given application of justice might be few, but that would not prevent justice from being applied.  It would simply have been the case that all parties were expected to appeal for guidance to those laws that did exist, whether or not expressed specifically in terms that dealt with the case under consideration.  In other words, the Israelites had to learn to see the underlying principles in any law and not let the specifics of the individual casuistic citation mislead them into applying the law too narrowly.

God’s revealed covenant law to Israel was paradigmatic.  No Israelite could say: “The law says I must make restitution for stolen oxen or sheep (Exod. 22:1), but I stole your goat. I don’t have to pay you back,” or “The law says that anyone who attacks his father or mother must be put to death (Exod. 21:15), but I attacked my grandmother, so I shouldn’t be punished,” or “The law says that certain penalties apply for hitting someone with a fist or a stone (Exod. 21:18), but I kicked my neighbor with my foot and hit him with a piece of wood, so I shouldn’t be punished.”  Such arguments would have insulted the intelligence of all concerned and made no impact on those rendering judgments.  It is in connection with the paradigmatic nature of Israel’s covenant law that Jesus, following the established tradition in Judaism, could make so sweeping an assertion as that two laws sum up all the rest [Matt. 22:34-40].  Properly understood, two laws do indeed sum up everything in the entire legal corpus of the Old Testament.  So do ten laws (the Ten Words/Commandments); so do all six hundred and thirteen.  The numbers go no higher, nor would they need to.  If a reasonable number of comprehensive and comprehensible laws (as few as two, as many as six hundred and thirteen) are provided to a people as paradigms for proper living, there is no excuse for that people to claim ignorance of how to behave or to claim innocence when their sins are found out.

. . .

A final implication of paradigmatic law: not all laws will be equally comprehensive in scope.  That is, some will be very broad in their applicability (love Yahweh your God) and some much more narrow (do not bear false witness).  One might ask, “Why not say ‘don’t be dishonest in any way,’ which would be broader and more comprehensive than ‘don’t bear false witness’?”  But that would be missing the way paradigmatic law works: through a somewhat randomly presented admixture of rather specific examples of more general behaviors and very general regulations of broad categories of behavior, the reader/listener comes to understand that all sorts of situations not exactly specified (either because a law is so broad or so narrow) are also implicitly covered.  In other words, when all the laws are considered together, one’s impression is that both the very narrow, precise issues and the very broad, general issues fall under the purview of God’s covenant.  The wide variability of comprehensiveness is intended to help the person desiring to keep the covenant to say, “I now see that in the tiniest detail as well as in the widest, most general way, I am expected to try to keep this law—in all its implications, not just in terms of its exact wording.”  Some commandments are thus less broad in scope in the way they are expressed than is necessary to cover all the intended actions; others are so broad in scope in the way they are expressed that one could never think up all the ways they might be applied.  This is just as it should be.  The narrow and the broad taken together suggest the overall comprehensiveness of God’s covenant will for his people.  (p. 442-45) see original source:

3 There was already a law mandating that servants not be held against their will. This can be combined with the rule of “light and heavy” to also outlaw holding anyone against their will which is a prerequisite for rape.

15 Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. 16 They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16 )

Essentially servants would have had the least rights in the society, so if people with the least rights couldn’t be held against their will then how much more the non-servants? Light and heavy is described below:

Kal Vahomer (Light and heavy)

The Kal vahomer rule says that what applies in a less important case will certainly apply in a more important case. A kal vahomer argument is often, but not always, signaled by a phrase like “how much more…”

The Rabbinical writers recognize two forms ok kal vahomer:

kal vahomer meforash – In this form the kal vahomer argument appears explicitly.
kal vahomer satum – In which the kal vahomer argument is only implied.
There are several examples of kal vahomer in the Tenach.

For example: Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner. (Proverbs 11:31)

And: If you have run with footmen and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? (Jerermiah 12:5a)

Other Tenach examples to look at: Deuteronomy 31:27; 1 Samuel 23:3; Jerermiah 12:5b; Ezekiel 15:5; Esther 9:12

There are several examples of kal vahomer in the New Testament. Y’shua often uses this form of argument.

For example: If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? (Jn. 7:23)

And: What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (Mt. 12:11-12)

Other examples of Y’shua’s usage of kal vahomer are: Matthew 6:26, 30 = Luke 12:24, 28; Mathhew 7:11 = Luke 11:13; Matthew 10:25 & John 15:18-20; Matthew 12:12 & John 7:23

Paul especially used kal vahomer. Examples include: Romans 5:8-9, 10, 15, 17; 11:12, 24; 1 Corinthians 9:11-12; 12:22; 2 Corinthians 3:7-9, 11; Philippians 2:12; Philemon 1:16; Hebrews 2:2-3; 9:13-14; 10:28-29; 12:9, 25.

4 The fourth reason rape may not have been mentioned is because of cultural differences that made it not as important to address directly.

Unlike the Greeks and Romans, the ANE was not very ‘into’ using slaves/captives for sexual purposes, even though scholars earlier taught this:

“During the pinnacle of Sumerian culture, female slaves outnumbered male. Their owners used them primarily for spinning and weaving. Saggs maintains that their owners also used them for sex, but there is little actual evidence to support such a claim” [OT:EML:69]

There’s no case in that Bible where rape was taken lightly. The rape of the concubine in Judges was avenged by a national civil war. (Judges 19-21) The rape of Tamar by Amnon was avenged by Amnon’s death and possibly was the cause of another national civil war because David didn’t punish Amnon. (2 Sam. 13) What’s commonly called the rape of Dinah (Gen 34:2) (which may have even been consensual) was avenged by genocide. (Gen 34:25-31) Do we even take rape that seriously today? I think not.

The one possible exception to this pattern is in judges 21 where the men of Benjamin are given women that were captured from Jabesh-Gilead, in addition, they are invited to steal women at a festival which they accomplish. However, a few points: 1. This was a terrible time in Israel and the story illustrates that. 2. There is also genocide and killing going on left and right so the fact that another atrocity is overlooked is expected. 3. The women of Jabesh-Gilead that Benjamin take are specifically those that have never lain with a man. There is no way to test for virginity reliably–especially in that day–and so this was most likely because the women were too young to have been with a man, hence they would have had to wait for them to mature before marriage. 4. It is never said that they raped anyone, rather the women seeing that they were taken and that their fathers were not going to do anything about it may have eventually acquiesced willingly (although admittedly this still terrible and is not consensual since it is done under duress and manipulation). Nevertheless, these cases differ from the explicitly stated cases of rape and do not show an–overall–cultural acquiescence to those cases.

In the Torah women were protected from having their conjugal duty diminished “If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.” (Ex 21:10) and Rachel and Leah were able to trade a night with Jacob for mandrakes Gen 30:14-18. Also note that it’s the less attractive Leah that tells Jacob: “‘You must come in to me; for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night.” God killed Onan for not having sex in a way that would cause pregnancy when he was supposed to perform the duty of the Levarite in Genesis 38:8-10. Hannah’s prayer was answered by God when she cried because she was not able to become pregnant and was ridiculed by her rival 1 Samuel 1:1-28. Part of one of the Jewish interpretations of Leviticus 19:29 in the Talmud is to not deny your daughter her right of marriage for too long:

Ein Yaakov (Glick Edition), Sanhedrin 9:1
(Fol. 76) You shall not profane your daugher (Lev. 19, 29). R. Eliezer says: “This refers to one who marries off his [young] daughter to an old man.” R. Akiba says: “This refers to one who leaves his daughter unmarried until she enters the age of womanhood.” R. Cahana in the name of R. Akiba said (Ib. b) Who is to be considered poor and shrewd-wicked? He who has left his daughter unmarried until she enters the age of womanhood.”

Rather than sex being an obligation of women, it seems that it was an obligation of men especially for the purpose of giving women children. This probably breaks a lot of the preconceptions most people have about the Biblical culture.

Here’s an interesting statement on how culture really determines what people are likely to do:

At the same time, many of the men who have violated a woman sexually do not meet clinical diagnostic criteria as either sociopaths, sexual deviants, or for that matter neurologically (or intellectually) impaired. While “stranger danger” stirs deep, easy dread (and is hence a useful trope for screenwriters and politicians), most sexual violence takes place among otherwise normative people who are familiar with each other and are involved in some type of relationship. This raises the possibility that to these perpetrators, the violence appears, in context, normative. By this argument, a sizable proportion of the men who attack women are following, rather than flaunting, social dictates.

The role of social dictates in shaping individual behavior is often overlooked because we are inclined to favor internal causes when explaining other people’s behavior. This tendency is so fundamental that it has a name: The Fundamental Attribution Error. (When evaluating our own, particularly negative behavior, however, we often rely on less damning external explanations. To wit: you’re late for work because you’re lazy. I’m late because of traffic. This is called the “actor-observer effect”).

It turns out, however, that social and situational variables often override individual characteristics in predicting one’s behavior and overall future. If I need to predict whether you’ll be dancing next Friday night, it’s better for me to inquire about where you’ll be that night than about your extraversion score on a personality test. If I want to know whether you’ll become wealthy, I’m better off basing my prediction on whether your parents are wealthy than on the conscientiousness score on your personality test. We are more beholden to our circumstances than we tend to believe. This is true in general; and it’s true for sexual violence in particular. For example, contextual and group factors (such as orders from the leadership, pre-conflict rates of sexual violence, intra-group dynamics, gender inequality) predict the prevalence of war rapes better than the personalities or characteristics of individual soldiers.

Circumstances matter in part because they set (or remove) certain hard parameters. Regardless of your personal characteristics, if you’re at your wedding, you’re going to dance. The fact also remains that if you are born in Afghanistan to poor parents, you have no access to capital. If you’re born in Manhattan to wealthy parents, you do. Circumstances, particularly social ones, also matter greatly because as herd animals, we are utterly dependent on the approval, acceptance, cooperation, and support of others. Thus, we are wired to notice, take into account, and align with the behavior of those around us.

If you’re still telling yourself that you are your own person, doing your thing, not giving a damn about what others think—then you need to grow up and face the (social) facts. Society gives you life. It is your main source of strength and identity. Without it you’re hopeless—an ant that has lost its colony. Society provides you with the tools and rules for living. It has fearsome powers of reward and retribution. In other words society, as the sociologist Randall Collins has argued brilliantly, is God.

We expect people back then to be like they are today. However, this isn’t always the case. The first difference we do know is that they were a polygynist society which is sometimes caused by a need to deal with the issue of lack of men (sometimes caused by war):

“Deal with the “problem” of surplus women.”

However, this is speculation. I haven’t had any luck on finding what the actual gender ratio was in biblical times and when I have found articles there seem to be different opinions.

However, some things I can observe from the law and culture is that: 1. there is no premarital sex, a man who sleeps with a woman is supposed to marry her “he shall surely marry her” and “unless the father absolutely refuses” in Exodus 22:16 and Deuteronomy 22:29 (I argue that this is indeed a seduction but don’t have time to go into this now) Here’s something I wrote that touches on premarital sex: This makes early sexual competition over mates virtually non-existent if followed correctly. 2. Marriage is arranged by the family at a young age which also prevents any rejection based on sexual prowess that seems to increase the risk of men becoming rapists. It is possible however that someone’s wife would reject them and that might increase the risk of rape. However, based on my arguments on the Torah the consent of both the person being married and the guardian was required because the Torah gives the freedom to run away for any reason based on not holding servants against their will and the rule of light and heavy. Also, the modern rise in narcissistic personality disorder may be a result of modern living and individualism all of which would be absent in the tribal society of the Bible:

The following is about rape being associated with narcissism:

Heavy drinking, perceived pressure to have sex, a belief in “rape myths” — such as the idea that no means yes — are all risk factors among men who have committed sexual assault. A peer group that uses hostile language to describe women is another one.
Yet there also seem to be personal attributes that have a mediating effect on these factors. Men who are highly aroused by rape porn — another risk factor — are less likely to attempt sexual assault if they score highly on measures of empathy, Dr. Malamuth has found. What about the idea that rape is about power over women? Some experts feel that research into hostile attitudes toward women supports this idea. In general, however, researchers say motives are varied and difficult to quantify. Dr. Malamuth has noticed that repeat offenders often tell similar stories of rejection in high school and of looking on as “jocks and the football players got all the attractive women.”As these once-unpopular, often narcissistic men become more successful, he suspects that “getting back at these women, having power over them, seems to have become a source of arousal.”

I should be clear when arguing this that I am not blaming women rejecting men for causing men to rape. I am saying based on science allowing men to freely compete and be rejected by women on an individual basis seems to increase the likelihood that narcissistic men will rape. A family-based method of choosing mates would redirect anger towards a rival family which could be bad as well, it’s just not likely to result in rejected narcissistic men blaming women. There’s a similar behavior in orangutans for those who find animal studies helpful in explaining human behavior:

One possible reason for the rapes, she said, is because it takes so long for males to mature in the rain forest. In zoos, captive male orangutans usually become mature at age 13 or 14. In the rain forest of Borneo, however, they do not become mature until age 20, only then developing the cheek pads and large throat sac of a male adult. Although they are capable of sexual activity before that, females in heat are not attracted to them, so their only sexual option becomes force.

There’s a Biblical ethics paper I am working on that will address more misconceptions like this and fill in some details on how ancient Israelite law was supposed to work. I think there is a huge amount of bias in the way people interpret the Bible from chronological bigotry. Us moderns looking backwards/downwards like to feel good about ourselves and like we are making moral progress. We also just like to be able to feel outraged about something, whether it’s Harambe’s killing or ancient people mistreating their women. This seems to be the case irrespective of our level of knowledge on these topics. However, the bias that comes with interpreting the law through a lens that assumes words like “slave” (used by some translations of the Bible) meant the same thing back then as it does today is even worse. If we poison the well with misunderstandings as bad as that, it’s no wonder that we see other parts of the law as barbaric.

Gesenius, Leviticus 19:29, And Premarital Sex

I had a discussion with some people that thought Leviticus 19:29 could have just prohibited forcing your daughter to become a prostitute. One person argued that prostitution wasn’t wrong on its own while the other stated that prostitution was wrong not because it was premarital sex but because sex was supposed to be free! This view about premarital sex being permitted is becoming more common among Christians today so I thought I’d share what I’d found. All verses are in YLT unless otherwise noted.

`Thou dost not pollute thy daughter to cause her to go a-whoring, that the land go not a-whoring, and the land hath been full of wickedness. (Lev 19:29)

1 How can we take the meaning of “cause to” given the definition? “Cause” is different than “force” even though force certainly can be a cause. Can we cause our brother to stumble only if we do it forcefully? Romans 14:13-23

2 Yeshua says:

But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

(Matthew 5:32)

This is not about “causing” by force but about “causing” by neglect hence why must Leviticus 19:29 be about “causing” by force?

3 Gesenius defines the word translated “pollute” as “to lay open, to give access to [“to profane from the idea of opening”]

The “laying open” is easier to understand if you look at the father as having responsibility for the daughter (other examples are his right to annul her oaths and refuse a marriage) There are many ways to “lay open” your daughter to prostitution, and I think forcing them to become one is certainly laying open access. I think their issue with it being an intensive Piel of “profaning” (hence they think it implies force) is resolved with Gesenius by the fact that laying open access to your daughter is an intense way of profaning your daughter (or is REALLY profane to put in another way)

I also should point out that that word for pollute/profane is only used in that exact form in Leviticus 19:29 and Lev 18:21 Lev 18:21 doesn’t really give us much insight but it would seem a bit odd if it allowed you to let God’s name be profaned and only prevented you from forcibly profaning it.

The expanded Brown Driver Briggs says: that it is to “sexually defile” a woman. So you can say that this is related to the prostitution and not to the act of causing:

1 defile, pollute:

a. sexually, Genesis 49:4 (poem) = 1 Chronicles 5:1 (the father’s bed); a woman = זנהLeviticus 19:29; …

However the “opening” in that lexicon is only in the Hiphil:

Hiph`il also begin (literally untie, loosen, open, ….

4 The word translated “harlotry” refers both to prostitution and premarital sex.

For instance: ‘They shall not take a woman who is profaned by harlotry, H2181 nor shall they take a woman divorced from her husband; for he is holy to his God. ( Lev 21:7 KJV)

then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her unto death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing H2181 the harlot H2181 in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you. (Deu 22:21 KJV)

Would you say that this only applies if she did it for money? Of course there is the more monetary definition used as well:

“Thus you are different from those women in your harlotries, in that no one plays H2181 the harlot H2181 as you do, because you give money and no money is given you; thus you are different.” (Eze 16:34 KJV)

But my point is that it means both things (gaining monetarily from promiscuity and just plain promiscuity) and is narrowed by context. This is why I think the respected Stone’s edition to the Tanakh translates this word is many places as “promiscuity” because that is the broadest definition.

I would also point out as a matter of context that promiscuity in any form is looked at as negative and used as a metaphore for very negative things:

It also condemns promiscuity in the next part of the verse:
“so that the land will not fall H2181 to harlotry H2181 and the land become full of lewdness.” It says to prevent the land from “falling” from a better state into a worse state of harlotry. It also doesn’t say anything about force it says “lewdness” which is related to sexual sin: H2455 has the root H2490 ( H2455 is used in Leviticus 19:29 for “pollute.”) The word H2490 implies sexual defilement. The word is never used for sexual uncleanliness, even in it’s expanded search in the strong’s. The other occurrence of the exact form is without a doubt negative. The usage seems to be only for prohibited sexual relations (when it is sexual):

If it was about “uncleanness” it would say uncleanness, not defilement, which is a much stronger negative word.

They also seem to think that the Piel form implies force, but it’s really just an intensive

And the only place I can find “force” used to describe the Piel verb in general is a force in terms of intensity, not in terms of overpowering

There seems to be a lot of nuance in the Piel forms of words
“The biblical Hebrew D stem (piel) seems to be inconsistent from verb to verb, both in its meaning and in its relationship to the G stem (qal).”

And while they can mean “violence” in some cases, that is only for certain words and even then there is debate occasionally:

One of them was arguing that in places like Deut 23:7 it only prohibited cult prostitutes and not regular prostitutes. However, I argued that qedesh and zonah (cult-prostitute and prostitute) were used as synonyms. I cited the following:

“Contrary to the claims of some 20th-century scholarship, the Hebrew Bible never refers directly to cult prostitutes. Many modern Bible translations are simply misleading in this respect. Much of the confusion results from a misunderstanding of a few Biblical texts that mention qedeshot, the plural of qedeshah, which is related to qodesh, “holy place.” Originally qedeshah referred to a “consecrated maiden,” but Biblical authors used it in the sense of “harlot.””

“As Lipiński argues, however, there is nothing in the story of Judah and Tamar to suggest sacred prostitution was involved; rather, it seems that zonah and qedeshah were synonyms and that the latter has simply been misinterpreted by translators.
Qedeshah likely originally referred to “consecrated maidens” who were employed in Canaanite and later Phoenician temples devoted to Ashtoreth worship. As such, the Biblical writers came to associate the fertility rites of Ashtoreth worship with sacred prostitution, and the word qedeshah, therefore, came to be used as a pejorative term for “prostitute.””

When they responded that the articles I quoted narrowly defined “cult prostitution” as Ashteroth worship. I responded: The main article does not use this as an argument from what I have seen. Here are examples of arguments it uses about Israel related to Astoreth:

The Hebrew meaning of qedeshah as harlot possibly derives from the perception that some “consecrated” maidens employed in Canaanite temples were also prostitutes in the context of fertility cults, especially of the goddess Ashtoreth. Indeed, the simple fact that such women served a heathen deity may have led to the understanding of the word qedeshah by outsiders in the sense of “harlot” and to its use in Biblical Hebrew as a synonym of zonah, “prostitute.” In short, in the Hebrew Bible, qedeshah (and its plural) simply refers to a prostitute, not to a cult prostitute in particular.
. . .
A widespread modern misunderstanding of the term asherah as a pagan goddess has led some to conclude that cult prostitution was involved in this passage, i.e., 2 Kings 23:7. It thus becomes important to unpack this reference to asherah and explain how it became confused with a Canaanite goddess, either Ashtoreth or Ashratu. The conclusion, however, as we shall see, is that asherah in the Bible refers to a shrine or sacred grove, not to a goddess.
The confusion can be easily recognized because in several West Semitic languages (Assyro-Babylonian, Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew), the common word for shrine (aširtu/ešertu in Assyro-Babylonian, ’šrt in Phoenician, ’trt in Aramaic and ’šrh/’šyrh in Hebrew) is similar to Ashtoreth (’štrt) and to the name ’Atrt of the Ugaritic goddess Rabbatu Atratu Yamma, “The Lady Who Treads upon the Sea.” The similarity of Biblical asherah to these terms in other related languages led modern mythographers to invent a goddess Asherah in the Bible. Modern translators followed suit.

It is clear, however, that asherah in the Bible cannot refer to a goddess. In the Bible, asherah has a plural, ’šrym,3 sometimes ’šrwt.4 This would hardly be the case if asherah were a goddess. Moreover, in the Bible asherah sometimes occurs with the article ha- (“the shrine”)5 and with the pronominal suffix (“his shrine”), as in the well-known Hebrew inscriptions from Khirbet el-Qom, near Jerusalem (yhwh w’šrth, “Yahweh and his shrine”), and from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud in the Sinai (yhwh šmrn w’šrth, “Yahweh of Samaria and his shrine”; yhwh tmn w’šrth, “Yahweh of the South and his shrine”).a This proves that asherah cannot be a proper name. In addition, asherah could be “built” (1 Kings 14:23), “made” (2 Kings 21:7), “set up” (2 Kings 17:10) or “installed” (2 Chronicles 33:19), again showing that asherah cannot be a goddess. Asherah was no deity but simply a grove or a shrine that eventually became a small construction.6

Provincial shrines, like those referred to at Khirbet el-Qom and Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, were prohibited after the centralization of religious observance in Jerusalem by King Josiah in the seventh century B.C.E. (2 Kings 23), but the prophet Jeremiah in the seventh–sixth centuries B.C.E. still refers to the asherim (in the plural), the sacred groves or shrines in the shade of spreading trees. In other texts, such as Jeremiah 2:20 and 3:6–10, the metaphors of prostitution and adultery are used as poetic descriptions of Judah’s infidelity to the Lord.

These passages do not allude to cult prostitution performed by young Judahite women, although the existence of fertility cults in Canaan was certainly known. They were even exported by Phoenicians to the western Mediterranean and appear in Phoenician and Carthaginian colonies.

There’s two other mentions of Ashtoreth in that paper that relate to the Canaanite practice (exported by the Phoenicians to Phonecian and Carthaginian colonies) and one related to an Etruscan version of the Goddess:
“At Pyrgi, north of Rome in what was Etruria, archaeologists uncovered a temple (Temple B) from about 500 B.C.E. A bilingual inscription found in the excavation records the dedication of a “holy place” to the Etruscan goddess Uni (Latin Juno), called Ashtoreth in her Phoenician version.”
None of these are making the argument that there is no evidence of cult prostitution in Israel because there is not evidence of Astoreth worship. They clearly recognize that other types of cult prostitution took place since Lipinski states “maidens employed in Canaanite temples were also prostitutes in the context of fertility cults, especially of the goddess Ashtoreth.” In fact Lipinski also states:

A further explanation is needed concerning the qadesh. In the well-known cuneiform texts from Ugarit (on the Mediterranean coast of modern Syria), which date to about 1200 B.C.E., qdšm (= Hebrew qedeshim) are often mentioned with the khnm (= kohanim, “priests”) and seem to be cultic servants assisting the priests. There is no indication that they were male prostitutes. They were simply priestly assistants. The qdšym of older Biblical psalms may have exercised a similar function, but the word was later understood in the sense of “holy men” and vocalized accordingly. In fact, the priestly assistants got a bad reputation in the seventh century B.C.E., as shown by 2 Kings 23:7, possibly indicating that prostitution did occur in the Temple, even a kind of cult prostitution. In the time of Josiah, the Biblical text tells us, the king “pulled down the houses of the qedeshim in the House of the Lord, where women were renting2 cubicles as a shrine (asherah)” (2 Kings 23:7, my translation). There is no evidence, however, that the qedeshim were male cult prostitutes. As at Ugarit, the qedeshim were priestly assistants. In 2 Kings 23:7, Josiah is said to have torn down the cubicles (literally, houses) of the qedeshim (male) in the Temple precinct. The qedeshim are thus said to have been renting houses in the Temple precinct to some women, possibly for prostitution. Perhaps the men were also acting as pimps.

Note that the women who rented their houses (or cubicles) are not called qedeshot. Whatever the women were doing in the cubicles (the JPS translation suggests they were weaving coverings for the shrine), it had something to do with a shrine, as indicated by the term asherah, which designates a shrine, a sacred grove or a tree under which an illicit cultic ritual is performed.

. . .
Cult prostitution existed in some parts of the Near East as well as in the Phoenician colonies of the western Mediterranean. It reflected the ritual practices of the Canaanites surrounding ancient Israel and Judah. Its faint reflection recorded in the Hebrew Bible serves as a metaphoric allusion to Israel’s infidelity to God or as a synonym of harlotry. Modern translations of the Hebrew Bible often unfortunately give another impression. There is a single passage (2 Kings 23:7, discussed above) that may contain an obscure reference to cult prostitution; it mentions a shrine rented to women in the precinct of the Temple and destroyed by King Josiah. But that is all.

There is a mistaken notion that “asherah” meant a shrine to Ashtoreth in the Bible which Lipinski argues against. However, this does not describe his full argument for why he believes qedesha and zonah to by synonyms. Their argument is as follows:

The earliest Biblical attestation of qedeshah is found in the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38. Judah’s son Er, married to Tamar, died. Judah then gave his second son Onan to Tamar. Onan also died. Judah was reluctant to give his third son Shelah to Tamar, as was required when a brother died without children. Later, Judah himself was widowed. He saw a woman on the road, assumed her to be a harlot (zonah), and slept with her. He gave her his seal as assurance that he would pay her with a sheep from his flock (Genesis 38:15–18). The zonah turned out to be none other than his daughter-in-law Tamar, who had dressed herself in a veil and sat by the road because Judah had refused to give her his third son as a husband. When Judah’s friend went to redeem the pledge, he inquired of the people of the town where he could find the assumed prostitute. They replied that there was no qedeshah in the area (Genesis 38:20–21). Obviously the two words (qedeshah and zonah) are used as synonyms. And there is no indication whatever that cult prostitution is involved. There is no cultic context here.

Lipinski says something similar with Deuteronomy

No Israelite shall be a prostitute (a prohibition expressed in the third person): “There shall be no prostitute (qedeshah) among the daughters of Israel; there shall be no qadesh among the sons of Israel” [my translation]. The word qedeshah here is a synonym of zonah, which is used in the prohibition in verse 19 [i.e. verse 18 in English]. This is the same situation we have seen in the story of Judah and Tamar.

I can also observe that the Hebrew uses these words as synonyms: zonah (h2181) and qedesh(ah) (h6945/h6948)

There shall be no whore H6948 of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite h6945 of the sons of Israel. (Deu 23:17 KJV)

Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, h2181 or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God. (Deu 23:18 KJV)

This is how the septuagint treats it as well translating both as porneia (G4203/G4204)

17 There shall not be a harlot G4204 from the daughters of Israel, and there shall not be one whoring G4203 from the sons of Israel. 18 You shall not bring the hire of a harlot, G4204 nor the price of a dog, G2965 into the house of the lord your God for any vow. For [4an abomination 5to the lord 6your God 3are 1even 2both].

Deuteronomy 23:17-18

κύων, κυνός+ N3M/F 3-19-4-10-6=42
Ex 11,7; 22,30; Dt 23,19; Jgs 7,5
dog Ex 11,7; id. (as derogatory term for non-Jews) Ps 21(22),17; male prostitute Dt 23,19
→ LSJ Suppl(Dt 23,19); LSJ RSuppl

The same is true of the judah and tamar:

Gen 38:15
When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; H2181 because she had covered her face.
Gen 38:21
Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, H6948 that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot H6948 in this place.
Gen 38:22
And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot H6948 in this place.
Gen 38:24
And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; H2181 and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. H2183 And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. (KJV)

Or take the LXX ABP of Genesis 38:15-24:

15 And [2seeing 3her 1Judah], assumed her to be a harlot. G4204 For she covered up her face, and [3not 1he recognized 2her]. 16 And he turned aside to her in the way. And he said to her, Allow me to enter to you. For he did not know that [2his daughter-in-law 1she is]. And she said, What will you give to me, if you should enter to me? 17 And he said, I will send to you a kid of the goats from out of my flocks. And she said, You should give a deposit until you send it. 18 And he said, What deposit shall I give to you? And she said, Your ring, and the pendant, and the rod in your hand. And he gave them to her, and he entered to her. And [2in 3the womb 1she conceived] from him. 19 And rising up she went forth. And she removed her lightweight garment from herself, and put on the garments of her widowhood. 20 [3sent 1And 2Judah] the kid of the goats by the hand of his shepherd the Adullamite, to deliver by him to the woman the deposit. And he did not find her. 21 And he asked the men of the place, Where is the harlot, G4204 the one being in Enaim upon the way? And they said, There was no [2here 1harlot G4204]. 22 And he returned to Judah, and said, I did not find her, and the men, the ones from the place, say, There was no [2here 1harlot G4204]. 23 [3said 1And 2Judah], Let her have them, but lest at any time we should be ridiculed, I indeed sent this kid, but you have not found her. 24 And it came to pass after three months, it was announced to Judah, saying, [3fornicated G1608 1Tamar 2your daughter-in-law]. And behold, [2in 3the womb 1she has one] out of harlotry. G4202 [3said 1And 2Judah], Lead her out, and let her be incinerated!|reference=Gen.38&options=HNVUG

V 14-9-23-0-1=47
Gn 38,24; Ex 34,15.16(bis); Lv 17,7
to commit fornication, to play the harlot [abs.] Gn 38,24; to commit fornication with, to play the harlot
with [ἐπί τινα] Ez 16,26; id. [ἔν τινι] Ez 16,17; to resort to sb for fornication [εἴς τινα] Nm 25,1; to
prostitute, to cause to commit forni-cation [τινα] Lv 19,29
to go whoring after [ὀπίσω τινός] Ez 20,30; to seduce into immoral practices [τινα] 2 Chr 21,11
Cf. HARL 1986a, 266; HELBING 1928, 78; →LSJ RSuppl; TWNT

A different version of the Septuagint even feels the need to add the idolatrous context to Deuteronomy 23 to make the case clear, showing that the original words did not necessarily mean just cult prostitution but included prostitution in general:

17 There shall not be a harlot of the daughters of Israel, and there shall not be a fornicator of the sons of Israel; there shall not be an idolatress of the daughters of Israel, and there shall not be an initiated person of the sons of Israel. 18 Thou shalt not bring the hire of a harlot, nor the price of a dog into the house of the Lord thy God, for any vow; because even both are an abomination to the Lord thy God.

Septuagint Greek definitions from here:

One other thing I think is interesting in the paper is that this adds some context to Lev 19:29:

In the ancient Near East, women could in fact be dedicated by their fathers or their masters to a deity. Women could also devote themselves to the service of a god or a goddess in order to secure their living. This was done mainly by young widows without grown children, by repudiated wives, by female slaves sent away (like Hagar, Abraham’s concubine in Genesis 21), by lonely women, etc.

So the reason for becoming a prostitute could be from lack of support as well as compelling by the father. (both of which could be termed a cause by the father since the father was supposed to provide for them) Lipinski goes on to describe another nuance in their argument:

These “consecrated” persons performed tasks in the sanctuary, provided domestic help in temple annexes, perhaps provided musical entertainment and possibly sexual services, remitting their fees to the temple. However, qedeshot in the Bible never appear as performing religious sexual rituals, which is the key attribute of a cult prostitute. Women on duty at the entrance to Israelite sanctuaries are mentioned in Exodus 38:8 and 1 Samuel 2:22, but their tasks are not described, and they are not called qedeshot.

At the end of their paper Lipinski has this as well:

Genesis 38:15, 20–21
When Judah saw her, he took her for a harlot (zonah); for she had covered her face.

Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to redeem the pledge from the woman; but he could not find her. He inquired of the people of that town, “Where is the cult prostitute (qedeshah), the one at Enaim, by the road?” But they said, “There has been no prostitute (qedeshah) here.”

Deuteronomy 23:18–19 [17–18 English]
No Israelite woman shall be a cult prostitute (qedeshah), nor shall any Israelite man be a cult prostitute (qadesh). You shall not bring the fee of a whore (zonah) or the pay of a dog [i.e., male prostitute] into the House of the Lord your God in fulfillment of any vow, for both are abhorrent to the Lord your God.

It looks to me like their main argument is from the biblical text and from Hebrew grammar concerning “Asherah.” Their argument that cult prostitution (as it was practiced in Cananan) was at least extremely rare or even unheard of in Israel is just an additional fact that strengthens their argument. I do think it’s possible that we may just be missing the archaeological evidence that the Israelites were indulging in cult prostitution but the fact is that evidence is hardly in the bible (if at all) and the fact that Archaeologists are better than me at figuring out when we have enough archaeological evidence to conclude that an absence of archaeological evidence is indeed evidence of absence.

They (the people who believe in premarital sex) also stated that in the story of Judah and Tamar the context is cultic prostitution. I responded:

There is no cultic context here, she is sitting in the open not in a temple (as is the practice of cult prostitutes) and he recognizes her as a prostitute simply because she has covered her face. An interesting parallel is Rebecca wearing a veil for Isaac. Surely we are not to conclude that Rebecca is acting as a cult prostitute for Isaac:

The veil is also used as a means of enticement/attractiveness/sexuality when Rebecca is being led by Abraham’s servant to meet for the first time her new fiance, Isaac. (Gen 24) Upon being told that the man in the distance is in fact Isaac, she puts her veil on. (v. 65) Mind you, she had no veil on for the entire journey with Abraham’s servant – APPARENTLY, there was no “modesty requirement” compelling her to wear a veil when with the servant. Rather, when she meets her fiance – someone who she wants to and should look sexually attractive for! (see v. 67) – she then decides to put on a veil.
(Much of this answer is developed at length by Olivia Wizniter, at )

In addition, it seems like Lipinski is saying that there wasn’t archaeological evidence in the area that Judah and Tamar were in for that. In addition we have plenty of testimony from the Hebrew and the Septuagint that Lipinski’s understanding of zonah being synonymous with qedesha is how the earliest translators would have understood those passages. You again have to insert assumptions into the passages that are not there (and even contradict with Rebecca’s behavior) to make the Bible allow for premarital sex. Just like you have to assume that when Judah promises Tamar to Shelah he is betrothing her and hence her later being declared “zonah” might refer to “adultery.” However, it states in Gen 38:14

“And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.”

If Shelah was betrothed it would have been a big deal to break off the engagement so he could marry someone else. (engagements were treated like marriages) Remember Judah is planning on Shelah NOT marrying Tamar. Tamar obviously doesn’t think that she is going to marry Shelah, this is the whole reason she seduces Judah.

Another reason to connect H3611 and H2181 (hence prostition and “cultic” prostitution) is the following:

Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, h2181 or the price of a dog, H3611 into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are an abomination unto the LORD thy God. (Deu 23:18 KJV)

Gesenius notes that qedeshim (“cult” prostitutes) and the word for “dog” H3611 are used synonymously at the end of his lexical entry: However, in the verse it is “a whore (zonah) or the price of a dog”

On the biblical and translational evidence alone I think it’s pretty overwhelming that qedashah and zonah are synonymous.