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My question was inspired by this, which was closed for being "off-topic" yet nevertheless contained some interesting food for thought.

Consider the following passage from Exodus.

(Exodus 22:16-17, DRB) If a man seduce a virgin not yet espoused, and lie with her: he shall endow her, and have her to wife. If the maid's father will not give her to him, he shall give money according to the dowry, which virgins are wont to receive.

Now, the author of the linked question proposed a theory (which I personally think is false but clever). He postulated that, when two unmarried people have s-x (not in the context of rape), that very act creates a bond of marriage between them ipso facto. According to his theory, the man in Exodus 22:16-17 automatically becomes the virgin's husband, and she becomes his wife, and the two are married without any ceremony.

Notice that the above passage from Exodus doesn't mention any sin offering for the action, nor a fine (unless you count the dowry as a fine, but that seems like a bit of a stretch.) Additionally, the fact that the man is obligated to pay a dowry would seem to support OP's theory that the two are now married.

So, is his theory true or false? If its true, that would seem to be incompatible with the New Testament, which says that "Neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers . . . will inherit the kingdom of God." On the other hand, if his theory is false, why does the passage from Exodus mention no sin offering or fine for a man lying with a virgin?

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First of all, it is important to understand these two verses in the context of the chapter as a whole. The laws from Exodus 21:33 to 22:17, for the most part, deal with paying restitution to one's neighbor to compensate for depriving him/her of some good.

  • If a man digs a hole and doesn't cover it and his neighbor's ox dies by falling in the hole, the man must pay restitution for the price of the ox. (Exodus 21:33-34)
  • If Man A knows that his ox is violent but nevertheless lets him roam about, and Man A's ox kills Man B's ox as a result, Man A must give Man B his ox as recompense. (Exodus 21:36)
  • If a man steals an ox, the thief must pay back five oxen to his victim. (Exodus 22:1)
  • If a thief doesn't have enough substance to make restitution for a theft, he must make restitution by being sold into servitude. (Exodus 22:3)
  • If Man A's animal eats Man B's crops, Man A must make restitution. (Exodus 22:5)
  • If Man A kindles a fire which destroys Man B's crops, Man A must make restitution. (Exodus 22:6)
  • If Man A had custody of Man B's ox and the ox gets killed/stolen, Man A may or may not be required to make restitution, depending on the circumstances. (Exodus 22:10-15)
  • If a man seduces a virgin and lies with her, he must pay a dowry and marry her if the father allows it. (Exodus 22:16-17)

Seeing Exodus 22:16-17 alongside the laws which precede it, one can make an educated guess that the purpose of the law is to mandate that restitution be made to the virgin (and possibly also her family) for seducing her.

See, the virgin was deprived of something when the man deceptively lead her to have s-x with him. Her virginity was destroyed. If she wanted to get married in the future, what man would want her, seeing that she isn't a virgin? This would have been a great hardship not only for her, but also for her father who wanted to see his daughter get married and have stable support. Who would provide for her? What if, out of desperation and poverty, she even went into prostitution in order to provide for herself?

Since it would be hard for the (former) virgin to find a husband in the future, and thus the seducer was depriving her of a husband, it seems that it would be fitting for the seducer to provide a husband for her, as a sort of recompense. He could do this by providing himself as a husband. (By the way, the seducer probably made an empty promise to marry the virgin if she would have s-x with him. This is a likely scenario envisioned by more contemporary seduction laws.)

Of course, the Mosaic Law foresees circumstances in which it might be better for the two not to get married. Maybe he's a real scumbag, and the father doesn't want his daughter marrying a scumbag. Thus, the choice is with the father, who will decide whether or not it would be helpful for the man to marry his daughter. In the case that the father says no, however, the man isn't "off the hook." He still has to pay money equivalent to a dowry as a sort of compensation.

I have explained the rationale behind this law. It is a law about restitution, not moral acceptability. Thus, there is no sin offering mentioned here. The chapter doesn't mention a sin offering required for theft either, but only mandates how much restitution is required for theft. Does this mean that theft isn't a sin? Of course not!

  • So you think that dowry is fine. Every man must pay a dowry and it says that this is not a fine and even thus equates the given relationship with the usual wedding. The books on the chapter were divided on chapters by the Catholics and you can not subordinate one commandment to others. See this chapter from 24 verse. There is no writing about fines. Every commandment is independent in law. – Богуслав Павлишинець Jan 28 '19 at 8:17
  • About virgin's future God say that she is wife of the man and if her father doesn't want it - that is his problem. We mast hear the voice of God! – Богуслав Павлишинець Jan 28 '19 at 8:22
  • If her father doesn't want it, she's not the wife of the man. Exodus 22:17 says that, if the father will not give her to him, the man must pay the money equivalent to a dowry, not an actual dowry. In English it's a little confusing, but the way it's written in Hebrew is so much clearer! – Pascal's Wager Jan 29 '19 at 0:02
  • Give me the Hebrew text of what you are saying – Богуслав Павлишинець Jan 29 '19 at 7:27
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He does, but only if he himself is either a virgin, or a widower who has not remarried. If he himself is married to another woman, then by definition he has committed adultery with the maiden, and has earned the death penalty.

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