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In the Gates

Honesty in Marriage

Honesty in Marriage--Dishonesty and deceit in marriage are particularly to be avoided.

The ninth commandment

Deuteronomy 22.13-21

“‘If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, “I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,” then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, “I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, ‘I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.’ And yet this is the evidence of my daughter's virginity.” And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him, and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days. But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father's house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.’”

Dishonesty and deceit in marriage are particularly to be avoided. Either way this case is read, some dishonesty is involved, and self-interest is at the root of that. The man may have deceitfully accused his bride, simply because she didn’t turn out to be all he expected. Or the woman may have deceived her husband going into the marriage. In either case, punishment is due, although, consistent with what we’ve seen before, the crime for adultery is more severely judged than that of deceit.

If the man is dishonest in seeking to divorce his wife, he is to be fined and is bound to the woman all his days. He will have to work hard from this point forward to make his marriage work. The effect of this statute would have been both to encourage honesty and purity and to preserve the sanctity of marriage within the covenant community.

This series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to and click on our Book Store.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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