If any man take a wife, and go in to her, and hate her,…
The Mosaic Law is strict and stern in its requirement of purity in all that pertains to the marriage relation. Its strictness, however, is united with a fine sense of justice, and its shield is, as usual, extended for the protection of the innocent.
I. THE DEFAMED WIFE. (Vers. 13-19.) No act can be conceived more cruel or dastardly than that of a man who groundlessly assails his wife's character, accusing her of ante-nuptial unchastity. As the matter was one proof of which was not directly possible, and the man's word was all that could be adduced on his side, the Law threw the onus of clearing herself upon the woman through her parents, and indicated the mode of doing so. The "forty stripes save one" was a punishment not too heavy for this sort of false accusation.
II. THE UNCHASTE WIFE. (Vers. 20-24.) Three cases are distinguished, each punishable with death.
1. A woman found to be unchaste at time of marriage (vers. 20, 21).
2. Adultery after marriage (ver. 22).
3. A betrothed woman ravished with her implied consent (vers. 23, 24).
In the last two cases, the partner in guilt dies also. In the first, he only escapes, because he is unknown. Yet that unknown seducer, the cause of the woman's fall - a fall which shame subsequently tempted her to conceal - was not lost to the eye of him who sees secret crime, and will repay it. Little do such seducers think of the life-long shame and sin and misery to which they may be dooming the unfortunate victims of their wiles. God knows it, and will bring them to account. The severe penalties attached to conjugal unfaithfulness place in a startling light the gravity of the offence in the Divine esteem, and form a striking contrast to the light tone adopted about such matters in society.
III. THE WOMAN RAVISHED. (Vers. 25-29.) The cases specified are those of rape.
1. If the woman was betrothed, and could not save herself, she was to be held innocent, but her violator was to be punished with death.
2. If she was not betrothed, the man who had injured her was heavily fined, and was compelled to take her to wife, with no right of subsequent divorce. Possibly our own law might fitly imitate that of ver. 29. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,