The bible condones rape. It condones rape in the Old Testament, specifically the book of Deuteronomy.
A frequently used attack against the bible is the idea that it condones the act of rape. The scripture that is commonly given to support this false claim is Deuteronomy 22:28-29.
“If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.” (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
The amazing thing about scripture is that it is always able to defend itself. Scripture always interprets scripture. With careful reading of the verses, ensuring context is kept, it is easy to see how these verses do not condone rape.
Verses 28-29 are actually part of a larger text that starts at verse 13 and ends at verse 30. These verses explain the laws concerning sexual morality. Deuteronomy 22:13-19 speak to a scenario where a man has sexual intercourse with his new wife, then slanders her name within Israel claiming she was not a virgin but a harlot. After evidence is presented that she was indeed a virgin the man is whipped and fined 100 shekels of silver which he is to present to his wife’s father. On top of that, the law states that he can never divorce his wife. If it is found that the claim was actually true (Deuteronomy 22:20-21) the woman is stoned.
This scenario sheds light on how serious the issue of premarital sex was taken. For a woman to not be a virgin before her wedding day meant she was considered a harlot or a whore. Premarital sex was forbidden and marriage was taken seriously. In fact there were typically 3 stages to a marriage. An offer is usually made for a daughter’s hand in marriage. If the offer is accepted by both the father and daughter the groom presents gifts and money to both the bride and her parents. This is the contract stage. In Genesis, concerning the story of Rebekah and Isaac, we see Rebekah is asked if she consents to returning back with Abraham’s servant to marry Isaac. She agrees. This refutes the claim women were forced or sold into marriage by their fathers (Genesis 24:57-60). Consummation of marriage, stage 2, happens next. Lastly, there is a celebration that includes a feast. It is important we cover this information so we can see just how important marriage was viewed. For a woman to hide the fact she was not a virgin throughout the marriage process was a serious offense. It would also shame an entire family for a man to marry a harlot.
Consent To Adultery
Deuteronomy 22:22 covers what should happen in the event a man is found to have had sex with another man’s wife. This is a scenario of consent between the man and the woman. Notice the scripture uses the word found which indicates the act was hidden. Both the man and the woman he committed adultery with are put to death.
“If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.” (Deuteronomy 22:22)
Deuteronomy 22:23-24 is another example of consent to adultery. This scenario concerns a woman who is betrothed or engaged to be married and has sex within the city walls and does not cry out. Both the man and the woman are put to death. The significance of the city, as it pertains to crying out, is that if the woman cried out for help she would have been heard. She could either cry out before, during or after the act. The fact that she didn’t cry out indicates consent. Betrothed or engaged women were viewed in the same light as women who were married.
“If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)
Deuteronomy 22:25-27 covers the scenario of a woman who is out in the open country, outside of the city walls, being raped, crying out and no-one is there to help her. Only the man is put to death. It would be obvious to any man that having sex outside of the city walls could put them at a disadvantage. It’s easy to see that if the woman lied about what happened, claiming she was raped when she wasn’t, the man would have no defense as no-one would have been around to know for sure. This law, would urge men to have sex within the city walls. Sex within the city walls encourages consent between a man and a woman. Sex with consent encourages marriage. If the woman does not cry out, it is believed that the woman gave consent. This refutes the claim that the bible and more specifically Deuteronomy condones rape. It clearly does not condone rape. The rapist is put to death for it.
Our last verses which are the verses of contention are Deuteronomy 22:28-29.
“If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.” (Deuteronomy 22:28)
In this scenario, a woman who is still a virgin (not married) and is not engaged has sex with a man. We see the same language being used here as verse 22 of the incident being found. Also notice the word violated. We see this word in verse 24 where there is sexual consent. In verse 24 the violation is a man having sex with another man’s wife. The woman, who is married to one man, has given herself to another man which violates the contract of marriage. It is important to note this because those who believe verse 28 references rape mistakenly think the word violation in verse 29 means rape. It does not. Notice the punishment that is given to the man. He is to pay money, agree to marry her and may not ever divorce the woman. The violation here, is the man did not follow custom (covered above) which is to propose, pay a gift to the woman and her family (dowry), establish the contract, consummate and celebrate the occasion. The woman still belonged to her father as she was not given into marriage. Instead, the man wanted sex without commitment. This has a lasting affect as nobody wanted to marry a woman who was not a virgin. It should also be restated that women were never forced into marriage as we covered earlier. The man however, has zero choice in the matter in this scenario.
The law described in verse 28-29 worked to curb such sexual immoral behavior. Unlike today’s society, men did not get the privilege of having premarital sex with no commitment. For a woman to conduct such behavior she would essentially ruin her chances of ever getting married or raising a family and she would be marked as a harlot within Israel for the rest of her life.
Our conclusion is that it is clear that the bible in fact does not condone rape. With careful study of the scriptures, we can see the laws were in fact stacked in a way to discourage sexual immorality while serving to protect women.