Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In the latter part of Exodus Chapter 22, we read about sexual mores. For Abravanel, the
seventh commandment prohibiting adultery, like each of the Ten Commandments, is not meant to be
construed narrowly. Rather, it along with each of the other commandments in the Decalogue, contains

“And if a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed, and lie with her, he
shall surely pay a dowry for her to be his wife.”

This blog highlights one offshoot of adultery: seduction. Abravanel learns that seduction is tantamount
to, and resembles, adultery. We shall explain.

Abravanel provides readers with what we may call a sociological context to our verse cited above. What
type of man seduces a virgin? Who might fit the profile of a rapscallion bent on enticing a girl to sleep
with him?

First of all, Abravanel dismisses out of hand what some people might erringly think. Let’s be clear, he
asserts. The Pentateuch does not draw the line of licentiousness at adultery. Nor does Holy Writ only
flag sexual relations when a woman is engaged. Sexual sin, according to the Bible, is even attributed to a
knave who “seduces a virgin who is not betrothed.”

The Creator loathes sexual promiscuity. And violators pay a steep price: “He shall pay a dowry for her to
be his wife.” What type of man commits this egregious affront, Abravanel probes?

Abravanel posits that a cad is unlikely to target a woman of his social standing, a marriageable woman
who shares his social circle. Had he found a suitable wife, he simply would court her and marry.

This scoundrel, instead, sets his sights on a woman he finds attractive, although she had been raised in a
lower socio-economic household. Not to be deterred, the rascal is keen on sleeping with her. And so, he
sweettalks her, promising matrimony in exchange for sexual favors. When his passions are spent, so too
are his empty promises. Off he gallops to brag to his friends about his exploits. Seeking to stem such
seedy scandals, the Torah slaps the culprit with a hefty fine: “He shall pay money according to the dowry
of virgins.”

Of course, Abravanel teaches, it could well be that a sex fiend will pursue a woman above his station.
See Abravanel’s World for his treatment of that situation. Before we conclude this blog, consider one
more observation that Abravanel shares on a related, later verse in our chapter.

“You shall not suffer a sorceress to live.” Abravanel learns that, generally speaking, unsavory characters
intent on illicit sex, do not work in a vacuum. Their network includes abettors, or better, groomers.
These are unprincipled women who scout out and prepare the groundwork for depraved men who seek
improper and immoral sexual dalliances.

These groomers, or as the verse calls them – “sorcerers” – have honed their skills and know precisely
how to obtain the trust of unsuspecting female victims. Enticed, seduced, and entrapped, these girls are
easy prey for unscrupulous perpetrators.

In summary, the God of Israel will not abide sexual immorality. Indeed, in His eyes the cases we have
presented are as sinful as adultery, and get characterized as such.