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The Issue of Divorce under Mosaic Law as Outlined in the Pentateuch

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A man was free to divorce her as the law allows and he would also become a widower just leaving him free to remarry. “ But if this charge is true, and evidence of the girl’ s virginity is not found they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’ s house and there her townsmen shall stone her to death. ” This mention of divorce is ambiguous since the husband won’ t really be divorcing, except for formal purposes and in the eyes of the public because she will be put to death. The mention of divorce, in this case, is not very clear as the consequences for the woman do not allow her to even be able to continue her life in society.

The outcome for a man who seduces a virgin is quite different. “ If a man comes upon a maiden that is not betrothed, takes her and has relations with her, and their deed is discovered, the man who had relations with her shall pay the girls' father fifty silver shekels and take her as his wife… .Moreover, he may not divorce her as long as he lives” (v 28-29). The tone of the passage allows one to believe that divorce was a possible option in biblical times.

Since the man was by law instructed to live with his wife until he dies, divorce is placed in a negative light. The man’ s inability to divorce is the punishment for the crime that he committed. Quotations from this passage form the basis of Jewish divorce certificates. Taking the term seduction in the literal sense one could consider that a harsh law for someone to be married to a man who rapes and assault her.

This can be examined in a different context in which the woman willingly had sexual relations with the man. Davidson elaborated on the possible meanings. “ Thus the woman is not forced to marry and spend the rest of her life with a stranger who forcibly overpowered and raped her, but to marry a sexual partner with whom she willingly had sexual relations” (386). The law protects the woman. It protects her from the sin of fornication as well as providing for her economically, socially, and spiritually through the bond and sanctity of marriage. The Pentateuch treated divorce in favor of the man although in many parts the grounds for divorce are conditional.

It does not consider abuses that may be done to the wife but rather emphasized, for the most part, infidelity on the part of the woman. This could be due to the practice of polygamy which would make it easier for the man to escape the claim of committing adultery. This ground for divorce could only be applied to women because the permissibility of polygamy meant that adultery by a man could not be a ground for divorce.  

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