Usually the word bethulah is translated as virgin. However in Gen. 19: 8 Lot says to the men of Sodom who wanted to rape his guests, ‘Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man ….’ Likewise Numb. 31: 18 & 35 refer to certain girls as not having ‘known a man by lying with him.’ However the word bethulah is not used in either case.
Why not? Because the word bethulah does not mean virgin in the modern sense. Joel 1: 8 reads, ‘Lament like a virgin (bethulah) girded with sackcloth for the husband (baal, really owner) of her youth.’ So a bethulah certainly could have had sex before! She might be past her youth! In this verse she is lamenting about her owner of her youth, meaning while she is moaning about her former man.
She most likely had born an heir for her owner, who then died and now she is a bethulah again! How that. She is preparing herself to bring forth an heir for another owner by wearing a head dress and keeping away from men. That must have been a great burden for her. Men in ancient society probably were sexually very satisfied. It was not a burden on a man to leave a woman in a headdress alone, he could have sex elsewhere. It was only a burden to the woman! Therefore were these women highly respected. It may have been that they went for seven months without sex! (Why seven? See ‘The Original Sin’ in Greetings From Paradise). At the end of this ‘engagement period’ it would be quite obvious whether the woman would be pregnant already or not. If not she would be known to bear an heir for her owner! The Gesenius Lexicon says about the word ‘bethulah’ indicates separation and seclusion from intercourse with men. The ability to tell who the father was for an important child, that was the purpose of being a bethulah!
In Deut. 22 from verse 13 on there are regulations about a man having taken an ishah, a woman not a girl, not a virgin, if he went in unto her and then he hate her.
In this chapter the word bethulim occcurs. It is a male word occuring only in pural form and in this chapter King James has translated it as ‘tokens of virginity’. If the man said that he did not find her ‘virginities’ (bethulim, KJV find her not a maid), the father and the mother of the woman shall bring forth the tokens of her virginity (bethulim). If the parents do this the man shall be punished, but if they cannot find the ‘tokens of virginity’, the bethulim, then the woman shall be stoned to death.
Some translators seem to think that with bethulim the blood stained bed sheet from the night of the day the woman was given, there is no word for ‘wedding’ in Hebrew, is meant. But how would the woman’s parents get hold of that, if the woman was given by the parents and taken by the man, as it was customary for the woman to live with him and his family or tribe? Also, why is bethulim a word that exists in plural only? The modern word ‘virginity’ certainly means something unique, non – replaceable. Verse 17 refers to the bethulim as a ‘cloth’, according to King James, ‘And they (the girls’ parents) shall spread the cloth (simlah) before the elders of the city.’ The word ‘simlah’ was translated as ‘raiment’ on other occasions. Could a better translation in this verse have been ‘clothing’, without specifying how many pieces there were, since the plural form of the word ‘bethulim’ certainly indicates that there were more than one? Could it be that the bethulim, the virginities or tokens thereof, were seven blood – stained cloths which the woman had worn during the period of preparation before she was given to her baal? Where they meant to indicate that she had had her menstrual period for seven times and, if she didn’t have a big belly, now certainly was not pregnant and ready to be inseminated with an heir by her new owner?
This interpretation of this custom would also explain why Abraham and Isaac were so easily prepared to give their women into the harems of Egypt and Gerar (Gen. 12, 20 & 26; see chapter ‘Thou Shalt Not Commit Aadultery’ in Greetings From Paradise). Surely their lives were endangered by starvation, but would anybody today give up his wife as easily as that? When Sarah insisted that Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away, it says in Gen. 21: 11, ‘And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.’ The word ‘yara’ translated as ‘grievous’ really means ‘to tremble’. That time Abraham was really upset, but when he and Isaac gave up their women no such emotion is indicated in the scripture. Why not? If they would ever get away from this place again, they just had to wait for seven months and it would all be good again, even if their women would have born children of other men. These would be their slaves and after this time they would have known that any future children would have been their own.