Sex or power? The crime of the single girl in Deuteronomy 22.
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(From Conclusions): In sum, this study has argued that the law of the slandered bride is not primarily about sex. It is a law about power, in particular the power of the parents over their daughter’s sexuality, and is therefore closely parallel to the law of the ‘incorrigible son’, which is about the power of the parents over their son’s behavior. By charging that his bride was not a virgin, the groom accused the parents of not having control over their daughter, and thereby severely shamed the family. The parents had two options open to them to restore their family’s honor. They could fail to produce any evidence to counter the groom’s claim, and thereby ensure their daughter’s death; this would result in what would essentially be an institutionalized and court-endorsed honor killing on the part of the community. Alternatively, they could produce evidence, however dubious its value, of their daughter’s virginity at marriage, and thereby rebut the accusations and restore their honor. If the latter route was pursued, the groom then needed to be punished. His tri-fold punishment addresses the three realms which his own accusations had threatened in his bride’s family. The fine imposed responded to the financial implications of his accusations; his loss of the right to divorce retaliated for his attempt to dissolve his own marriage on fraudulent grounds. Finally, the flogging shamed him in return for the shame he attempted to bring on the bride’s family
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