16 Now the young woman was very beautiful. She was a virgin; no man had ever been physically intimate with her.[a] She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came back up.
Genesis 24:16tnHeb “And the young woman was very good of appearance, a virgin, and a man had not known her.” The first two terms נַעֲרָה (naʿarah) and בְּתוּלָה (betulah) can refer to young girls, either unmarried or married; see Judges 9:3 and Joel 1:8, respectively, for examples of a married נַעֲרָה (naʿarah) and בְּתוּלָה (betulah). While the term בְּתוּלָה (betulah) does not have to mean “virgin” it can refer to a girl who is a virgin. Further, in legal literature it is used as a technical term for “virgin” (Exod 22:16-17; Deut 22:19, 23, 28). Akkadian behaves similarly in that the cognate term batultu, meaning an adolescent girl but not necessarily a “virgin,” is used to mean “virgin” in Neo-Assyrian laws and Neo-Babylonian marriage contracts (CAD B 173-174). This passage is not legal literature, so the meaning “virgin” is clarified by an additional clause. The expression “to know” is a euphemism for sexual relations, and the English euphemism “be intimate with” is close in meaning to the Hebrew. The Semitic languages may have lacked a term that specifically meant “virgin” and so promoted other terms to indicate a virgin, whether by the context of the type of literature (e.g. legal literature) or by the addition of explanatory clauses.
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