In my last post, I asked whether or not Abraham was cheated out of his land deal by Ephron the Hittite. 400 shekels of silver mean nothing to us, but the early readers of the bible toiled in their labors for a few shekels and would have known immediately what one was worth. To answer this question, we need some basis for comparison, a pricing guide in shekels. I’ve scoured the bible for every listed price and put a few of them together for this chart:
In biblical times, as in many cultures, virginity was important. A man liked to know that his new wife (which he may have paid a pretty penny for) was wholesome and pure. Of course, if he paid for her– either in shekels or blood– a lack of virginity was tantamount to false advertising. But then as now, there were people of looser moral character, who might claim that a virgin was not, to “get his money back”. Fortunately the bride and her father need only turn to the bible for a solution to their problem: the virgin test.
This is day five of my “marriage in the Torah” series. If you are just joining me, the days so far are about the creation story, marrying your brother’s widow, polygamy, and the bride price. I had planned on posting about divorce on Friday, but it was depressing. Virginity is more fun, anyway, and I’ll loop back around to divorce shortly.
So, how does biblical law ensure the fairness of virgin brides? Read on!
In honor of my first wedding anniversary, I’m doing a week-long look at marriage in the bible. Monday was marriage in the creation story, which first depicts something akin to marriage equality, before casting women below men after Eve’s sin. Tuesday was Levirate marriage, which describes a method by which widows can be married off to their spouse’s brother. Wednesday was polygamy, the one-sided practice of marriage plurality. These all dance around an uncomfortable truth: in many cases and in many ways, wives were property.
I should make clear of course that this doesn’t mean that the women in the Torah were subservient or weak, only that they were working in a system that was unkind to them. Read on!