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We shall read the entire passage of the given scripture to get the complete background.

 Leviticus 19:20-22 “And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.”

In the very next chapter we see when a man commits adultery with another man’s wife both were to be put to death.

Lev 20:10 “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

But in the case of the woman who is a bondmaid, and is betrothed, but not married, the punishment is different. There are many reasons to this. Even now God judges people according the light they have and the positions they hold.

ONE MIGHT SAY, but why just scourge the woman and let the man go free in the case of Leviticus 19:20?

Well, the word “scourged” comes from the Hebrew word “biqqoreth” which literally means “an examination” or an inquiry.  There are many translations that have given the literal interpretation to that word. For example the RSV states,

Lev 19:20 (RSV) “If a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave, betrothed to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, an inquiry shall be held. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free.”

“An inquiry shall be held” but “They shall not be put to death”. And after the judges investigate the matter the due punishment is meted to both of them, but the extreme death penalty shall not be given them as she was still the property of her master as she was not ransomed yet, and not married too.

The man then has to set things right with God as well, by bringing a trespass offering, after getting due punishment from the civil judges for his sin.