On the Disparity of Penalties in Deuteronomy 22:13-21

Deut 19:16-21 states that if someone falsely accuses another of a crime, and the falsehood of that accusation is discovered, then the false accuser should receive the same punishment that he or she attempts to inflict on the third party. In Deut 22:20-21, if the groom’s charge against his bride is proven true, her penalty would be death. However, if his charge against her is false, in Deut 22:18-19, instead of having the death penalty, the groom receives three penalties: 1) flogging, 2) payment of one hundred shekels of silver to the father of the bride, and 3) inability of divorcing her. Thus, most scholars have suggested that there is an apparent discrepancy of penalties between the groom and the bride in Deut 22:13-21. This article argues that the most essential element to satisfy the requirements of Deut 19:16-21 is intentionality, and that Deut 22:13-21 is not about the husband’s false accusation with evil intent to harm his wife; rather, it is a legitimate accusation of the husband against the suspicious wife who does not appear to be a virgin. The disparity in penalties thus reflects these legal factors.