[Editor's note: We here at Revelife know and understand that rape is a very sensitive topic, and we are in no way seeking to justify rape, nor are we seeking to make light of a very serious subject matter. We've featured this post because it provides those of us with understanding and knowledge of these scriptural passages the opportunity to explain them and maybe find a common ground between those who uphold the scripture and those who question it. With that in mind, we ask you to comment respectfully on this post, seeking only to find the truth in the matter rather than personal conflict. If you are unsure how to comment on this post, please read our Code of Conduct.]
Rape, the paramount of fears for many women, rears its ugly head in the Bible. Fortunately, God ensures that the authors list it as a crime under a few circumstances. Unfortunately, God permits the sexual violation of woman on more than one occasion. Even more unfortunately, the fine for committing one of the most heinous acts known to man (without God's permission) is only a pound of silver to her father and a forced marriage to the victim if she's not already engaged or married (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Yes, God's idea of justice for the female victim is to be horrendously punished again by being forced to marry her rapist. This disgusting rule is nowhere near what most people would consider an ethical resolution, and it's certainly not a decision rendered by any court I'd like to be facing.
If a man rapes an engaged virgin who doesn't cry loud enough to draw attention, the community should consider the attack consensual if it took place within the city. Thus, the "whore" must be stoned to death per God's instructions. It obviously doesn't matter if the woman is threatened or too frightened to scream because the law obviously makes no such exceptions. The man will be stoned to death as well, but not because he committed a brutal atrocity against the woman, but only because he "hath humbled his neighbour's wife" (Deuteronomy 22:24
). Note the shamefully sharp contrast in disciplinary action between raping a woman with a husband and raping a woman without a husband: death versus a pound of silver. Since it's all the same to the woman, it now becomes clear that God feels the husband
is the one who is the victim of the attack.
As I previously mentioned, the Bible regrettably provides some situations in which rape is entirely permissible, even encouraged, by the Hebrew god. Recall the rule of marriage specifying how a man can force his daughter to marry and sleep with another man (Exodus 21:7-11). This in itself is completely reprehensible and rises to the level of rape if the woman is unwilling.
In Moses' war victory over the Midianites, God had previously commanded him to build an army and defeat the enemy. After doing this successfully, his army takes thousands of war prisoners. Moses then orders his army to kill the remaining men, boys, and woman who have already slept with a man, "but all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves" (Numbers 31:17-18). If taking a human war trophy based solely on the prisoner's gender and sexual status isn't implied permission to commit rape, I honestly don't know what is. Even God gets 32 virgins as part of his spoils, but they are handed over to the priests for obvious reasons (Numbers 31:40-41).
The "women children" mentioned in the passage certainly included young girls. Some female inhabitants of the city had to have been several years away from puberty, but don't pretend these barbaric savages capable of killing defenseless women and children thought twice about waiting a few years for the girls to mature. So what eventually becomes of these foreign women kidnapped in battle?
"When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails. And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her. (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)"
What do you make of these scriptural references? How are we supposed to read and interpret them? Are these verses supposed to be taken at face value, or should they be read carefully? Does the God of the Bible truly permit rape?