Deuteronomy 22:17

Deuteronomy 22:17

And, lo, he hath given occasion of speech against her
In the neighbourhood where they dwell; has been the cause of persons speaking reproachfully of her, as one of ill fame:

saying, l found not thy daughter a maid;
so that it seems he said this not only to his neighbours, and before a court of judicature, but to the parents of the damsel:

and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity;
which were brought with him, and produced in open court:

and they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city;
that they might have ocular proof and evidence of the truth of what he said, by having spread before them the sheet stained with the blood of her virginity upon her husband's first congress with her. It seems that the mother, as well as the father, were present and concerned in this action: for it is said, "they shall spread"; and though the mother might not speak, she was the proper person to bring this cloth and spread it; and indeed it was particularly in her care and keeping; for we are told F20, that two persons, called (Mynybvwv) , "the friends" of the bride and bridegroom, went first into their bedchamber, and thoroughly examined the bed, whether there was anything relating to the sign of virginity, by which one might impose upon another; and they stood all night keeping watch with great joy and cheerfulness, as if they had been the guards of a king and queen; (to which is thought the allusion is in ( John 3:29 ) ) their business was, when the bridegroom and bride came out, to rush in immediately, and examine all things again; and knowing and owning the former linen sheets in which they had lain, took them and delivered them to the mother. Nor need spreading such a cloth before the court be thought unlikely because of the indecency of it, when it is observed that persons and things much more filthy came under the cognizance and examination of the priests, as leprous, menstruous, and profluvious persons, and their respective disorders; nor is it at all improbable that there should be such evident tokens as are said to be given, when it is observed, especially of the Jewish women, at what a tender age they were marriageable, and were frequently married, namely, when twelve years and one day old. And the Africans, as we are told F21, have a custom with them similar to this at a wedding;

``a feast is prepared, and a certain woman waits without, until the bride is lain with; and then a linen cloth, stained with blood, is reached out to her, which she carries in her hands, and shows to the guests, crying out with a loud voice that this was a virgin hitherto not corrupt; then she, with other women, are splendidly received, first by the parents of the bridegroom, and then of the bride; but if she does not appear to be a virgin, she is returned to her parents under the disgrace of all, and the marriage made null and void.''

Indeed there are some Jewish writers, that interpret this cloth in a parabolical and allegorical sense, and understand by it witnesses that; would make the case as clear and plain as the spreading out a cloth or garment. They suppose that before the damsel was lain with she was examined by several matrons, who declaring her to be a virgin, gave it under their hands in writing to her parents, which they were capable of producing in court when there was occasion for it; so Jarchi says, this is a parable; the meaning is, they made things as clear and as plain as a new cloth; with which agrees the Talmud F23 he seems to have taken it from, where on these words, and they shall spread the cloth, this remark is made; but the literal sense seems best.


F20 Nachman. apud Fagium in loc. Schindler. Lex: Pentaglott. col. 260, 261.
F21 Joan. Leon. Descript. Africae, l. 3. p. 325.
F23 T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 46. 1.