Continuing with Mr.Aaron's book
MARRIAGE, MORALS, AND MANNERS
In our Western world culture, boy meets girl, they go
together for a time, fall in love, and eventually decide to
marry. It is a mutual decision. Very often the marriage ceremony
is performed in a church building by a clergyman.
The customs reflected in the Bible differed radically from
much of this. There is little evidence, if any, of a boy and girl
"going together," getting to know each other, and then deciding
to marry. This decision was commonly made by the head of the
household, as when "Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn"
Ancient Eastern customs differed greatly from Western
In those days, two fathers might get together the one
has a son, the other a daughter. They decide their children
should marry. As a token of the agreement, a bride price is paid
to the girl's father - it might be a couple goats, a sheep, some
jewels, or money. The individuals concerned were often consulted
later and in some cases the wedding was the first time the couple
When Abraham obtained a wife for Isaac, with no getting to
know each other, with no courtship or ceremony, they went into a
tent, Isaac "took Rebekah, and she became his wife" (Genesis
(Yes, in such cases the witnesses to the marriage were some of
the immediate family members only - Keith Hunt).
Sometimes a wife was given in exchange for some valiant
service. King Saul promised his daughter to any soldier who could
kill Goliath (1 Samuel 18:25-27). David was given Michal as a
reward for killing Philistines (1 Samuel 18:25). Caleb offered
his daughter Achsah to the man who would smite Kirjathsepher
(Joshua 15:16). Even a casual glance at this custom reveals a
glaring inconsistency: the woman had little or nothing to say
about the marriage decision! According to some sources, it was
not until the ninth century that women obtained the privilege of
choosing or refusing their husbands according to their own
In some cases, a man would pay for the bride by working for
her father, as when Jacob worked for Laban seven years to marry
Rachel. When the time was up, Jacob demanded: "Give me my wife
... that I may go in unto her" - crude wording that left no doubt
what was on his mind. But at the last minute, Laban slipped the
older daughter into the tent! "It came to pass, that in the
morning, behold, it was Leah"! (Genesis 29:1630). In the dark of
the night Jacob had "gone in" to the wrong woman! Josephus (the
Jewish Pharisee historian of the first century A.D.) implies
Jacob was deceived because he had too much to drink that night.
An incident that emerges in Judges tells how a large group
of men obtained wives - not by any payment or agreement. They
simply kidnapped them! During a yearly celebration, the elders
told the men of the tribe of Benjamin to hide in the vineyards
and when the girls "come out to dance in dances, then come ye out
of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the
daughters of Shiloah, and go to the land of Benjamin" (Judges
There was no courtship, no romance, no mutual consideration
with this arrangement. These men made their choices for wives
based entirely on fleshly appearance - the physical features they
observed while watching the girls dance! Right or wrong, it was
in this way that the tribe of Benjamin was perpetuated. One of
the later descendants of this tribe is very well known: the
apostle Paul! (Philippians 3:5).
Herodotus, the ancient traveller, tells of an interesting
marriage custom that existed among the Babylonians. Every six
months all girls of marriageable age were assembled in front of
the temple and offered for sale. Attractive girls brought good
prices. This money was then turned over to the homely, so that
ultimately all won a husband.
In one way or another, the practice of BUYING wives
prevailed among many people including Greeks, Indians, Germans,
and Romans. Among the Hebrews, we read that Boaz "purchased" Ruth
for a wife (Ruth 4:10). We are even told how much Hosea paid for
his wife: "So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver,
and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley" (Hosea
3:1,2). The actual price in today's money would be about $72.
The tenth commandment lists the wife as a property
possession of the man, right along with his house, his slaves,
his animals: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou
shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his
maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy
neighbor's" (Exodus 20:17).
If the man decided to divorce his wife, Biblical law gave
him the right to "send her out of his house" (Deuteronomy 24:1).
It was not "their" house; it was "his" house. He could divorce
her; no law permitted her to divorce him. Alimony - what some
call "the high cost of leaving" - was not even thought of in
those days. Well, maybe thought of; when Abraham sent away Hagar
and his son Ishmael, he did give them a loaf of bread and a
bottle of water (Genesis 21:14). How generous of him considering
he was "very rich"! (Genesis 13:2).
(Yes, some things done, make it abundantly clear it was a
DIFFERENT age back in those Old Testament days - Keith Hunt).
Under Mosaic law, if a woman was not a virgin on the wedding
night, the husband could have her stoned to death! For this
reason, it was a custom for the bride's parents to keep the
blood-stained cloth after the wedding night as proof her hymen
was intact and bled. Later, if the husband claimed she was not a
virgin when he married her, "the father of the damsel, and her
mother, shall bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity
unto the elders of the city ... and they shall spread the cloth
before the elders" (Deuteronomy 22:15).
If the blood-stained sheet was produced, the husband was
required to pay a fine - a hundred shekels of silver (about $64)
to the girl's father. But, if "the tokens of virginity be not
found for the damsel: then they shall bring out the damsel to the
door of her father's house, and the men of the city shall stone
her with stones so that she die, because she hath wrought folly
in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house" (Deuteronomy
It must be admitted that a blood-stained sheet was not a
totally accurate proof of virginity. Menstrual blood, a cut on
any part of the body, even blood from an animal could be used to
stain a cloth. There were no microscopes or blood tests then!
Besides, some women, from birth, do not have a full hymen. In
others it has been accidentally torn, ruptured by a fall, or the
girl may have been a rape victim. A lack of bleeding on the
wedding night for these women hardly proves they had "played the
whore." On the other hand, the presence of a hymen might not
always prove virginity, since skin can be used surgically to form
a "hymen." For centuries the Persians have known how to "restore
virginity" with a few stitches!
(What is often forgotten when looking at such passages in the Old
Covenant is that Israel had JUDGES. The context of such passages
is within the context of appeals to the judges of Israel. Nothing
per se under the Old Covenant was immediate black and white, the
judges could judge the matter. And MERCY, was still one of the
main character laws of God, under any age - Keith Hunt).
Though Hebrew culture required a girl's virginity on the
wedding night, virginity itself was not idolized. For a woman to
remain a virgin through life, unmarried and childless, was
considered a reproach (Isaiah 4:1). An example of this feeling
may be seen in the strange case of Jephthah's daughter.
Upon his return from battle, Jephthah vowed that he would
offer as a human sacrifice the first one who greeted him. The
victim, it ended up, was his only child - his daughter - who
"came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances." A drawing
by the famous artist Dore on the following page pictures the
scene. According to the story, before Jephthah tied her to the
altar to burn her to death, he allowed her to go into the
mountains for two months to bewail her virginity (Judges 11:38).
Apparently she sorrowed, not just because she would die, but
because she would die a virgin!
(This passage is VERY misunderstood by some. Mr.Aaron did not do
his home-work here. GOD NEVER APPROVED IN ANY AGE, HUMAN
ADAM CLARKE in his Bible Commentary gives the full detailed
answer to this passage.
Verse 29. Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah ...
Verse 31. The text is ... vehayah layhovah, vehaalithithu olah;
the translation of which, according to the most accurate Hebrew
scholars, is this: I will consecrate it to the Lord, or I will
offer it for a burnt-offering; that is, "If it be a thing fit for
a burnt-offering, it shall be consecrated to him." That
conditions of this kind must have been implied in the vow, is
evident enough; to have been made without them, it must have been
a vow of the HEATHEN, or a MADMAN. If a DOG had met him, this
could not have been made a BURNT-OFFERING; and if his neighbor or
friend's WIFE, SON, or DAUGHTER, and etc., had been returning
from a visit to his family, his vow gave him no right over them.
Besides, HUMAN SACRIFICES were ever an abomination to the Lord;
and this was one of the grand reasons why God drove out the
Canaanites, and etc., because they offered their sons and
daughters to Molech in the fire, i.e., made burnt-offerings of
them, as is generally supposed. That Jephthah was a deeply pious
man, appears in the whole of his conduct; and that he was well
acquainted with the LAW OF MOSES, which prohibited all such
sacrifices, and stated WHAT was to be offered in sacrifice, is
evident enough from his expostulation with the kind and people of
Ammon, ver.14-17. Therefore it must be granted that he never made
that rash vow which several supposed he did; nor was he capable,
if he had, of executing it in that shocking manner which some
Christian writers ["tell it not in Gath"] have contended for. He
could not commit a crime which himself had just now been an
executor of God's justice to punish in others.
It has been supposed that the text itself might have been read
differently in former times; if instead of the words [Clarke
gives the Hebrew], I will offer IT a burnt-offering, we read
[Hebrew given], I will offer HIM [i.e., the Lord] a burnt-
offering: this will make a widely different sense, more
consistent with every thing that is sacred; and it is formed by
the addition of only a SINGLE LETTER, [ALEPH,] and the separation
of the PRONOUN from the verb. Now the letter ALEPH is so like the
letter AIN, which immediately follows it in the word OLAH, that
the one might have easily been lost in the other, and thus the
PRONOUN be joined to the VERB as at present, where it expresses
the THING to be sacrificed instead of the PERSON to WHOM the
sacrifice was to be made. With this emendation the passage will
read thus: "WHATSOEVER COMETH FORTH OF THE DOORS OF MY HOUSE TO
MEET ME - SHALL BE THE LORD'S; AND I WILL OFFER *HIM* A BURNT-
OFFERING." For this criticism there is no absolute need, because
the pronoun HU, in the above verse, may with as much propriety be
translated HIM as IT. The latter part of the verse is, literally,
"AND I WILL OFFER HIM A BURNT-OFFERING," - OLAH, not LEOLAH, FOR
a burnt-offering, which is the common Hebrew form when FOR is
intended to be expressed. This is strong presumption that the
text should be thus understood: and this avoids the very
disputable construction which is put on VAU, in VEHAALITHIHU, or
I will offer IT up, instead of AND I will offer HIM a burnt-
From verse 39 it appears evident that Jephthah's daughter WAS NOT
sacrificed to God, but CONSECRATED to Him in a state of PERPETUAL
VIRGINITY; for the text says, SHE KNEW NO MAN, FOR THIS WAS A
STATUTE IN ISRAEL [Hebrew given] VATTEHI CHOK BEYISHRAEL; viz.,
that persons thus DEDICATED or CONSECRATED TO GOD, should live in
a state of unchangeable CELIBACY.
Thus this celebrated place is, without violence to any part of
the text, or to any part proper rule of construction, cleared of
all difficulty, and caused to speak a language consistent with
itself, and with the nature of God.
Those who assert that Jephthah did sacrifice his daughter,
attempt to justify the opinion from the barbarous usages of those
times: but in answer to this it may be justly observed, that
Jephthah was now under the influence of the Spirit of God, verse
29; and the Spirit could not permit him to imbrue his hands in
the blood of his own child; especially under the pretence of
offering a PLEASING sacrifice to that God who is the Father of
mankind, and the Fountain of love, mercy. and compassion.....
Verse 39. And she knew no man. She continued a VIRGIN all the
days of her life.
Verse 40. To lament the daughter of Jephthah. I am satisfied that
this is not a correct translation of the original [Hebrew given}
lethannoth lebath yiphtach. Houbigant translated the whole verse
thus: sed iste mos apud Israel invaluit, ut virgines Israel,
temporibus diversis, irent ad filiam Jepthe-ut eam quotannis dies
quatuor consolarentur; "But this custom prevailed in Israel, that
the virgins of Israel went at different times, four days in the
year, to the daughter of Jephthah, that they might comfort her."
This verse also gives evidence that the daughter of Jephthah was
not sacrificed: nor does it appear that the custom or statute
referred to here lasted after the death of Jephthah's daughter.
(Verse 40 is indeed positive proof that Jephthah's daughter was
not sacrificed. The KJV I have gives margin notes. Verse 40 -
"That the daughters of Israel went yearly (margin: from year to
year) to lament (margin: to talk with) the daughter of Jephthah
the Gileadite four days in a year. Keith Hunt).
On the coast of Malabar, if a girl was a virgin when she
died, a male member of the family would deflower her before
burial, lest she be denied an afterlife. If the Kamchadal
bridegroom found his bride a virgin he was greatly put out. Some
believed the more lovers a woman had before marriage, the more
desirable she was for a wife. Even the birth of a baby prior to
marriage assured a potential husband of her fertility. When a
Singhalese gave his daughter in marriage, he first slept with her
himself - such being considered his right to the first fruit of
the tree he had planted. According to Herodotus when a Nasamonian
first married, it was the custom for each guest, in turn, to have
intercourse with the bride, after which he gave her a present
brought from home. Today this custom has been greatly modified,
with guests simply kissing the bride.
(Well such are the sins of societies without God and His
instructions on sexuality and marriage - Keith Hunt).
Among some tribes, it was believed that the blood of the
ruptured hymen was magically dangerous especially to the groom.
For this reason, someone else would deflower the bride - a tribe
leader or holy man who was considered immune to the taboo. In
some cases the defloweration was a public rite in which numerous
people took part. Among the Chinese, women were known to pay
Buddhist priests to deflower their daughters before marriage at
about seven to nine years of age. Sometimes the hymen was
"sacrificed" to various gods, as in classical times when Roman
girls broke their hymens on the erect phallus of the god Priapus.
Goldberg has written:
The Roman bride offered her hymen directly to the god of
generation, Priapus. The young maiden alone entered into the
sacred chamber of the temple. There, in the representation
hewn out of marble, was Priapus himself, a strong, nude
male, in passion The youthful bride embraced him in fear and
trembling, and when she left the sacred chamber, she was a
virgin no longer.
Concerning this practice, Augustine wrote:
It is a custom considered among the Roman women as quite
proper and very religious, of obliging the newly married
girls to come and seat themselves on the monstrous and
excessive masculinity of Priapus.
The early Christian writers who mentioned Priapus (such as
Jerome, Rufinus, Isidoms of Seville, and Augustine), have
identified him with Baal-peor with whom the Israelites fell into
"whoredom" (Numbers 25:1-3). "Baal" signifies "my Lord the
opener"; "Peor" signifies "the opening of the maiden's hymen." In
the development of language, the same word that is translated
"baal" in the Old Testament is sometimes translated "husband"
(Exodus 21:22) and "married" (Deuteronomy 22:22). (Strong's
In Greek, a word meaning marriage is hymen, from Hymen, the
god of marriage. It is from this source we obtain the term
"hymen" in English. Consequently, the word "hymeneal" means
a marriage song. Designated as "A Song of Loves" in its title,
Psalm 45 has been referred to as hymeneal. Interestingly, the
word "hymn," meaning a song of praise, also comes from the word
Strong's Concordance links the word hymn with the idea of
celebration, and in another place, though in a different usage,
points out that Humen (Hymen) was the "god of weddings"!
(Strong's Concordance, 5211-5215). Though our word "hymn" is now
used as a song of religious celebration - and not necessarily as
a marriage song - the relationship between the words "hymn" and
"hymen" provides an interesting study in word origins.
Weddings in Bible times were commonly a time of festivity
and feasting, but there was no ceremony in the sense we think of
a wedding. It was not a sacrament solemnized by a clergyman
within a religious shrine. There is no record in the Bible of any
priest or preacher performing a wedding ceremony! There were no
vows exchanged about "forsaking all others, until death do us
part." When polygamy was being practiced, many men who took a
bride already had other wives and would very possibly obtain more
in the future!
Parade magazine once ran a quiz which asked: "How many wives
does the Bible allow for each man?" The answer was: "Sixteen" and
then referred to the wording of the marriage ceremony: "for
[four] better, for [four] worse, for [four] richer, for [four]
poorer"! Needless to say, even though the Bible did permit
polygamy, these words are not in the Bible.
Well known men who had more than one wife include Abraham,
Jacob, Joseph, Gideon, David, and Solomon. Rehoboam, who "desired
many wives," fathered 88 children by 78 women (2 Chronicles
11:21). But according to the Guiness Book of Records, Moulay
Ismail (1672-1727), Emperor of Morocco, fathered 548 sons and 340
daughters (total 888)!
Especially in a polygamist society, it was not unusual for
old men to marry young women, and continue to father children -
children in some cases they hardly knew! It is said that one day
while Brigham Young was in a grocery store, he noticed a young
boy who came in and left. "Who was that boy?" the aging Mormon
leader inquired. "Why, Bishop, don't you know who that is? That's
one of your sons!"
Abraham, whom Christians, Jews, and Moslems all regard as a
great religious patriarch, though well advanced in years, married
a woman considerably younger than himself and continued to father
children. His first wife, Sarah (the only woman for whom the
Bible gives an age at her death), died at age 127 (Genesis 23:1).
Being ten years older than her, Abraham would have been 137.
"Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And
she bare him [several children]" (Genesis 25:1,2). If this was
after Sarah died, as the wording implies, since she was young
enough to bear children, Keturah would have been at least 100
years younger than Abraham!
Mohammed, when old enough to be her grandfather, married a
six year old girl, Ayesha, the daughter of a friend. He took
pleasure in watching her play with her toys that she brought
along when she moved into his house. Years later the sexual union
was consummated. Child marriages were not uncommon in some
countries and sometimes even a child yet unborn was promised to a
man, if it should be a girl!
Within the book of Esther, we get a vivid picture of how
kings who practiced polygamy obtained wives and concubines. When
Ahasureus, who reigned "from India even unto Ethiopia, over an
hundred and seven and twenty provinces," wanted to choose a new
queen, the most beautiful young women from all of his provinces
were brought to the palace - hundreds of them. Josephus says
there were 401). These were brought "to the house of the women,
unto the custody of Hege the king's chamberlain [eunuch], keeper
of the women" (Esther 2:3). Here they were bathed, powdered,
pampered, and perfumed, each awaiting her night when the king
would try her out in bed.
Then came every maiden unto the king ... in the evening she
went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the
women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's chamberlain
(eunuch], which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no
more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called
by name (Esther 2:14).
In other words, the king had sexual relations with each
young woman - trying out one after another, night after night
giving each the status of concubine. It was in this way that
Esther, who was "fair and beautiful" - having a striking shape,
as the margin shows - was chosen above all the others to become
queen (Esther 2:7). There can be little doubt that Esther was
extremely beautiful. But having her as his queen - and with
hundreds of others available to him with whom he had already had
sexual relations - Esther's husband wanted still more sexual
encounters. And so, "virgins were gathered together the second
time," or as The Living Bible says: "The king demanded a second
bevy of beautiful girls"! (Esther 2:19).
The king with the most women in his harem, however, was
probably Solomon who had one thousand! (1 Kings 11:3). I heard a
man say one time that the idea of having a thousand wives did not
turn him off - but he could not imagine having a thousand
Solomon is quoted as saying: "I got me ... the delights of
the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts"
(Ecclesiastes 2:8). Apparently these last seven words are an
inferior translation, for as Clarke points out, the Hebrew
original means wives and mistresses. Strong agrees (Strong's
Concordance, 7705). The Anchor Bible translates it: "...and with
the pleasures of the flesh, concubine after concubine." There can
be little doubt that it was women of all sorts that Solomon
played with, not musical instruments. Having women of "all sorts"
probably included women of various sizes, shapes, faces, and
races. Some believe that at least one of his women, and a special
one at that, was black (Song of Solomon 1:5). The Septuagint
version quotes her as saying: "Black am I and beautiful"!
(Again a misunderstood idea. She was not "black" in race but very sun-
burnt as the whole context of Song of Solomon shows. See the
study called "Solomon on Sex" - Keith Hunt).
Another one of Solomon's wives was an Egyptian - a daughter
of the Pharoah. Once he gave her a strange gift: a burned city!
"For Pharoah king of Egypt had gone up, and taken Gezer, and
burnt it with fire, and slain the Canaanites that dwelt in the
city, and given it for a present unto his daughter, Solomon's
wife" (1 Kings 9:16).
Legends abound regarding Solomon's visit with the queen of
Sheba who travelled from far to hear his wisdom. Before her
arrival, someone told him the queen's legs were extremely hairy.
In a move that we might compare to a school boy placing a mirror
on the floor - as though to look up a girl's dress, Solomon
ordered a shiny surface placed before his throne upon which water
was poured. As the queen approached, she raised her skirts, and
by this means Solomon determined her legs were not overly hairy.
But, according to Arab legend, Solomon did require her to shave
off her pubic hair before he would have intercourse with her.
The statement that "king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all
her desire" (1 Kings 10:13) has been offered in support of the
deeply rooted tradition that she desired to have a child by him.
The story persists that she became pregnant, gave birth to a son,
Menilek, who later succeeded her in the kingdom and introduced
the Jewish religion to his subjects.
The queen asked Solomon difficult questions - all of which
he answered (1 Kings 10:1-3). The Bible does not reveal what
these questions were, but according to the Jewish commentary
Midrash Mishle, she asked:
"What are these? Seven cease: nine begin: two offer drink:
one drinks." Solomon's answer: "In truth, when the seven days of
menstruation cease, the nine months of pregnancy begin. The two
breasts offer drink; the one child drinks."
Her second riddle: "A woman says to her son, your father is
my father, your grandfather is my father; you are my son and I am
your sister." Solomon's reply: "Surely these are the two
daughters of Lot"!
To be continued with the last chapter "The Intimate Garden."
Entered on this Website July 2007
And so it was that before the Christian age, many things were
DIFFERENT, some ALLOWED by God, for the hardness of the heart,
(or as custom, which could differ from age to age) and some
things NEVER allowed in any age - Keith Hunt.