Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Deuteronomy 22 rape


In the second half of Deuteronomy chapter 22, regulations are given concerning six scenarios involving adultery and rape, all of which sound harsh to modern westerners. In this post, I discuss the sixth scenario given in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 which reads,

If a man encounters a young woman, a virgin who is not engaged, takes hold of her and rapes her, and they are discovered, the man who raped her is to give the young woman’s father fifty silver shekels, and she will become his wife because he violated her. He cannot divorce her as long as he lives. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 CSB

Please note that the following may be distressing for some readers. Please also note that the Bible does not condone sexual assault.

Being a Virgin

In ancient Israelite culture, virginity was essential in first-time brides.[1] Considering the importance of virginity—as well as the importance placed on being married and having children which were considered to be the primary roles of women—a rape victim might prefer to marry her rapist rather than remain unmarried in her family’s home her entire life, the only real alternative for “discovered”[2] rape victims in that culture.

Israelite women who we know were raped and who did not marry their rapist effectively lived as spinsters and “widows” and never married (e.g., Dinah and Tamar; cf. David’s ten concubines). However, staying single may not have been an option for a woman from a poor family, as her family may have found it difficult to support her. Even though women could be involved in agriculture, trade, and other occupations, their main function, according to societal expectations, was to produce children. So, an unmarried woman might be considered an unproductive burden on her family.

If the woman did stay with her own family and didn’t marry her offender, the man was still required to pay the family the “bride price” of fifty shekels (Deut. 22:29), the price of a virgin (Exod. 22:16-17). So, in one sense, a rape victim was not cheapened by the violation against her. Perhaps this price also helped to alleviate some of the sense of being a burden on her family. Nevertheless, it can have done little to alleviate the personal devastation done to the woman.

Being Property

Paying a price for a wife sounds as though women were property, and the idea that women were the property of men in Israelite society is often bandied about, but this may not have been the lived experience for many women at that time. In the Hebrew Bible, we see that women had a voice and agency within their homes, and some women had positions of influence in their communities (Deborah, Miriam, Huldah, etc). Moreover, several women are mentioned as owning their own property themselves (Job’s daughters, Achsah, Sheerah, etc).[3]

Nevertheless, Israelite society was patriarchal, and the regulations in Deuteronomy 22:13ff are given with the understanding that violating a woman is an offence and an insult to the men who are most closely related to the victim.

Preserving male honour played a part in these rules. Yet, unlike in many other patriarchal societies where a raped woman could be killed because of the dishonour associated with the crime against her, innocent Israelite women were not blamed and they were not punished (cf. Deut. 22:25ff). Moreover, in Deuteronomy 22:26, rape is equated with murder, not adultery. George Athas suggests this “acknowledges the profound effect that rape has: it imposes a kind of living death on the victim.”[4]

The Victim is Provided For

The regulations in Deuteronomy 22:13-29 were written at a different time to ours, and for a culture with different values than ours. Though it sounds harsh to modern westerners who hold to romantic notions about marriage, the Deuteronomy 22:28-29 law was for the benefit of the wronged woman because she couldn’t be abused and then discarded. Tamar begged her half-brother Ammon, who had just raped her, not to send her away. But he cruelly, and illegally, refused (2 Sam. 13:16). Her pain at being abused and then discarded is heart-wrenching. (You can read her story here.)

Rather than being left bereft, the law provided for a raped woman. She was to be supported by her rapist-husband who, unlike the guilty men and women in previous verses, was not executed for his crime.[5] The woman became his wife and part of his family, and he could never divorce her.[6] This was her legal right if she, or her family, chose it. The Bible indicates that at least some raped women who did not marry their rapist were also supported and kept safe, however. Tamar, for example, was sheltered by her brother Absalom.

The Victim is not Commanded

“the man who raped her is to give the young woman’s father fifty silver shekels, and she will become his wife because he violated her. He cannot divorce her as long as he lives” Deuteronomy 22:29.

It is stretching the meaning of Deuteronomy 22:28-29 to say that an abused woman is commanded to marry her rapist. She isn’t. In verse 29, the statement “she will become his wife” is placed between two commands clearly made in reference to the perpetrator:  he must pay fifty shekels, and he cannot ever divorce the woman. The phrase “she will become his wife” is also directed to the man, not to the woman. The woman, through her father, might choose not to marry her rapist (Exod. 22:16-17).


To marry your rapist is a desperate act in response to a desperate situation. So, I’m grateful that countries, where similar practices are part of their legal code, are changing laws and are giving women real options other than the terrible ordeal of marrying their rapist. I’m also grateful that abuse victims are increasingly being treated with the compassion, respect, and the support they deserve. But we still have a way to go.


[1] Deuteronomy 22:13-17 “assumes that the husband is ‘entitled’ to a virgin wife, that the wife is obligated to be virgin, and the parents of the wife must guarantee it.” Walter Brueggemann, Deuteronomy (Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2001), 22.

[2] I do wonder about the clause, “and they are discovered.” What does this mean exactly? If the victim remains quiet and never tells anyone, and doesn’t become pregnant, and if the perpetrator doesn’t tell anyone, then there may be no need for the victim to marry her rapist. She can get married later, to someone else who is sympathetic or under the pretence she is a virgin (cf. Deut. 22:13-17). My guess is that rape victims mostly kept quiet. Goodness knows, this is what has usually happened throughout the centuries, regardless of the culture.

[3] A list of Old Testament women who owned land includes, Zelophehad’s five daughters (Num. 27:5-8); Aksah (Josh. 15:19//Judg. 1:15); Pharaoh’s daughter who was one of Solomon’s wives (1 Kings 9:16); the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 8:6); Sheerah (1 Chron. 7:24); Job’s daughters (Job 42:14-15); the idealized woman in Proverbs 31 (Prov. 31:16); the Shulamite woman (Song 1:6; 8:12; cf. 2:15; 4:12-16).

[4] George Athas, Deuteronomy: One Nation Under God (Reading the Bible Today Series; Sydney: Aquila Press, 2016) online source.

[5] I appreciate George Athas’s perspective on the statements in Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which is the sixth scenario given in Deuteronomy 22:13-29.

To our modern sensibilities, the outcome of Scenario 6 sounds preposterous, as it appears to commit a victim permanently into the hands of her assailant. However, this is most certainly not the intent, and also why we must read this scenario in tandem with the others that precede it. . . . Ancient societies were relatively undeveloped, and so lacked the necessary infrastructures that could allow women to live independently. It simply was not an option at that time. As such, the perpetrator in Scenario 6 is given a stay of execution, not because he is less guilty than the perpetrator in Scenario 5, or because the unattached woman is somehow less valuable than the woman who is spoken for. Far from it! The perpetrator is allowed to live so that he provides economically for the victim for the rest of his life. This is why he is refused the right to ever divorce her. It ensures that his victim has complete access to all his resources for her own wellbeing for the rest of her life. It is the closest thing the ancient world had to sueing someone ‘for all they’ve got’. Deuteronomy, online source.

[6] Husbands could divorce their wives under other circumstances (e.g., Deut. 22:13ff). More on divorce here.

Image via Pexels.

Further Reading

The Rape of the Unbetrothed Virgin in Torah and Assyrian Law: A Comparative Analysis by Eve Levavi Feinstein
Does the Bible force a woman to marry her rapist? by George Athas
What Does the Bible Say About Sexual Assault? by Katie McCoy presents a different view.
Note 52 on Deuteronomy 22 in the NET Bible also argues for a different view.
Likewise, Sandra Richter believes Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is mistranslated and that irresponsible seduction, rather than rape, is the scenario. Her 2021 paper “Rape in Israel’s World … and Ours” is here. Joe Misek summarises Dr Richter’s arguments that were given in a 2020 podcast here.
The Debasement of Dinah by Shawna Dolansky

Explore more

Beauty, Marriage Motherhood and Ministry
Working Women in the New Testament
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
The ‘Shame’ of the Unnamed Women of the Old Testament
A Sympathetic Look at Bathsheba
God on Divorce (Malachi 2:16)

63 thoughts on “Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and Marrying your Rapist

  1. This was definitely distressing.
    Are the two Hebrew words used to describe the different encounters (the first one being a women raped in a field and the then the second example you wrote about) not different? I thought the first word very plainly described force. I thought the second word meant something a different.

    Being forced to marry your victim and then provide for them the rest of their life is not punishment, in fact it could be a reward– as long as he had enough for a bride price, this little loophole would allow any man to rape whoever he wanted to marry if she or her father had previously turned him down and hope that she would choose to marry him. I can only imagine the social pressure and the emotional and possible physically abuse that a women might be subject to by her parents if she didn’t want to marry her rapist.

    I think it’s unlikely that the second example describes rape. Not just because the two words describe different things, but because it says “and they are discovered” implying that they are both involved. Usually if someone is abusing someone else, people say “he/she was found out/discovered” not “they are discovered” in the sense that “both the victim and the perp were discovered.”

    It also doesn’t say anything about her resisting or not consenting and it explicitly does in the other example Deat 22:27 (“she cried out”).
    Deat 22:26 says “But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case.” So how do we go from “raped women are not ever to punished” to “unless of course, they’re engaged. Then it’s either die a lonely childless spinster or marry an animal.”

    The argument is that the rapist’s life would be spared so he could marry and provide for his victim, given that she chose to marry him. But what it she chose not too? Would he be allowed to go free after he paid the bride price to probably rape again? If she isn’t going to marry him, why wouldn’t they kill him like in the example above?

    This link is the best article I’ve found so far that debunks this idea. It’s long, but I hope you’ll take the time to read it. I probably haven’t explained my arguments well, I feel like this article does.


    1. Hi Anne,

      It is distressing, but the text doesn’t say that a woman is forced to marry her rapist. It also doesn’t say that her parents would have had felt kind of social pressure to make her marry her rapist, but it is possible they may have exerted pressure on their daughter to marry. On the other hand, they may have kept her “secret”.

      The rapist is the one who is told what he has to do, not the woman. The victim and her family have a choice, though they had a lot less options than most women today. Nevertheless, the law was designed to minimise hurt and harm in an imperfect society.

      It’s late here, so I’ll look at the link tomorrow.

    2. Your link needs to come with a warning! This is such a hard topic.

      Here’s how I see the language of keywords in Deuteronomy 22:25-26 & 28-29:

      The word שָׁכַב (sha.khav H7901) in verse 28 is the same word used in verse 25. In its most literal sense, it means “lie down” but it is also used for sexual relations. It is used in Genesis 34:2, of Dinah’s rape, and in 2 Samuel 13:14 of Tamar’s rape, too.

      This word is different from the verb “know” יָדַע (ya.da H3045) often used when speaking about sexual relations between a married couple. (“Know” is used this way in Genesis and Numbers, etc, but not in Deuteronomy.)

      In itself, שָׁכַב (sha.kav) doesn’t mean “rape”, but the context provides that meaning. The violence of the action is shown in the word “seize/capture” תָּפַשׂ (ta.pha.s H8610) in verse 28 and “overpower/prevail upon” חָזַק (cha.zaq H2388) in verse 25.

      חָזַק (cha.zaq) is also used twice in the account of Tamar’s rape, in 2 Samuel 13:11 & 14.

      In the case of Dinah (Gen 34:2), a different word is used again, an ordinary word that simply means “take”, לָקַח (la.qach H3947).

      One word that these incidents (except Deut. 22:25-26) have in common is עָנָה (a.nah H6031) which means “afflict”, “oppress”, “violate”, “defile”, etc. In these (terrible) verses it means to violate or defile a woman by having sex with her:
      Genesis 34:2; Deuteronomy 21:14; Deuteronomy 22:24,29; Judges 19:24; Judges 20:5; 2 Samuel 13:12,14,22,32; Ezekiel 22:10,11; Lamentations 5:11.

      Also, Deuteronomy 22:25 and 28 both have the exact same expression in the Septuagint: βιασάμενος κοιμηθῇ μετ᾽ αὐτῆς, indicating that the man (literally) “using force (from βίαζομαι G971) sleeps (from κοιμάομαι G2837) with her.”

      1. Thank you for reading the link.
        But I didn’t ask about the word shakab, I pointed out that the additional words used to describe the encounters were different. One definitely means force, as in rape. The other is simply different. If I understand correctly, the word shakab means a sexual encounter, and further description tells us how the encounter took place. The word taphas does not indicate violence (from the link) “The Hebrew word taphas (“lay hold of her,” emphasized above) simply means to take hold of something, grasp it in hand, and (by application) to capture or seize something. It is the verb used for “handling” the harp and flute (Gen. 4:21), the sword (Ezek. 21:11; 30:21), the sickle (Jer. 50:16), the shield (Jer. 46:9), the oars (Ezek. 27:29), and the bow (Amos 2:15). It is likewise used for “taking” God’s name (Prov. 30:9) or “dealing” with the law of God (Jer. 2:8). Joseph’s garment was “grasped” (Gen. 39:12; cf. I Kings 11:30), even as Moses “took” the two tablets of the law (Deut. 9:17). People are “caught” (I Kings 20:18), even as cities are “captured” (Deut. 20:19; Isa. 36:1). An adulterous wife may not have been “caught” in the act (Num. 5:13). In all of these instances it is clear that, while force may come into the picture from further description, the Hebrew verb “to handle, grasp, capture” does not in itself indicate anything about the use of force. ”

        You also didn’t address the other things I brought up, the implied shared responsibility and the dangerous, obvious loophole.

        I’m egalitarian. For me part of being egalitarian is understanding how important the original words were and what they meant. If the words are different, then it can’t mean the same thing. Not only that, but I do not see a time or a place, no matter how broken a culture is where God would allow rapists to live and even be rewarded for their crimes.

        If the author wanted to describe rape why not use the same word he had just used? From the link: “So, if forceful, violent rape was the intended focus of this passage (vss. 28-29), then why didn’t the author utilize the exact same word that was employed only three verses prior? The fact that chazaq is not used in vs. 28 should give us further pause against reading rape into this citation. Additional Old Testament passages support this understanding. Wherever a portion of Scripture is undeniably referring to rape, the less intense taphas is never used. Instead, the Hebrew verb chazaq is the typical grammatical descriptor to designate rape. For example, in describing the actual rape of King David’s daughter Tamar, the author intentionally included the word chazaq in 2 Samuel 13:14 to denote an utterly non-consensual sexual assault. The close proximity of these two words (chazaq – vs. 25; taphas – vs. 28) in the selected Scripture portion definitely diminishes the possibility that the author either forgot the correct word or inadvertently used the incorrect term.”

        1. This is excellent information, Anna. And I will definitely consider it.

          Someone else who is discussing verse 28 with me on Facebook believes taphas should be translated here as “entices”, as in “captivates”. However, almost all modern English translations translate the word as “seizes”, or something similar, with the implication of rape. The translators who have made this translation decision are experts of Hebrew.

          A difference between verses 25-27 and verses 28-29 is the different social status of the young woman. In verses 25-27, she is already spoken for (by a man); she is betrothed. In verses 28-29, she isn’t. While in our culture this difference is negligible, it seems to have made a considerable distinction in the patriarchal culture of ancient Israel.

          1. Sadly I no longer trust modern translators, or even older ones. I have discovered way too many “mistakes” concerning women’s role in the church and in the home, many I have read about on your site.

            I don’t think that the difference in the girl’s marital status is relevant. I think that the passages in Deuteronomy 22 are lacking, and probably doesn’t contain all the laws about sexual immorality or purity that were given to the Jews. For example, we are not told what should happen if a married women is raped, or if a child is raped. And if women were supposed to marry their attacker, what happens when their rapist is a family member and it’s forbidden to marry them?

            Now this is the interesting part, I find that when explaining these passages people will point out that the girl and her father in Deut 22:28 could refuse the marriage. But it doesn’t say that in Deuteronomy but it does say this in Exodus 22: 16-17, when a girl is seduced: “If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins.”
            Deuteronomy doesn’t explicitly say women could opt out of marriage, Exodus does. You are arguing that Deuteronomy and Exodus are describing two different things, but you’ve taken a part from Exodus (seduction) and applied it to Deuteronomy (rape).
            However, Deuteronomy means something like “second law/a copy of this law” which is one reason why I think Deat 22 28:29 is describing something like trickery or manipulation. It has more in common with Exodus 22:16-17 then Deat 22 28-29.

            I also think it’s interesting that in Deat 22:25-27 the rapist is not required to pay a bride price, because if the thought of marrying a raped woman was so bad (as people think when they read 28-29) would the girl’s fiance not find another girl to marry? Shouldn’t the rapist pay a bride price since he has in a sense “stolen” her virginity from her future husband?
            And not to mention that widows got remarried and obviously they didn’t have their virginity anymore.

            Choosing to marry your attacker would results in PTSD, you would possibly never be able to get better because you would have to make a life with your abuser and carry on sexual relations, which would be like being raped over and over again. You would probably be emotionally and physically abused and the children you have together with him would probably be too. It seems like it would be a never ending cycle of trauma which is why I don’t think that God purposely put into place something that would lead to that.

            Choosing not to marry him would allow him to rape again. Rapists never stop with one victim, they rape and assault repeatedly. It sounds easier and more just for everyone to kill him, like the rapist in the first example.

          2. The laws are in no way comprehensive. They do not attempt to cover every scenario, but they offer some guidelines.

            I completely empathise with how bad it sounds to marry one’s rapist. Nevertheless, this kind of law has been common in patriarchal cultures. (The law still exists today in some countries.)

            Life could be brutal when Deuteronomy was written. Wars were a regular (normal) part of life. Amenities, for most, were rough and lacking in comfort. Shortages of necessities were a constant threat, and even a reality. And people had to work hard and fight hard. These harsh conditions, as well as patriarchy, are reflected in values that are totally foreign to us. The ancient Israelites didn’t worry about PTSD. Survival was a bigger priority.

            Also, Israelite society was collectivist, so the needs of the individual were of less importance compared with the needs of the group. (Legitimate offspring was also a highly important concern.) These values are foreign to us. They truly were different times with different values.

            Importantly, however, Jesus did not uphold the regulations as given in Deuteronomy 22:13ff. He completely pardoned a woman caught in adultery who was about to be stoned.

            Perhaps you are right, and there has been some error that has crept into the biblical text of Deuteronomy 22. But the Greek text, as we have it, is pretty clear. (My Greek is proficient, my Hebrew is basic. So I can only safely comment on the clarity of the Septuagint.)

          3. The Israelites probably didn’t care about PTSD, and it was patriarchal. However, it was God’s law that he instructed them to follow, and He cares. You see over and over Him instructing them to take care of widows and women in polygamous marriages.

            The Hebrew vs Greek text, you mean the Septuagint? Something is unfortunately always lost in translation.

            Reading and understanding Deat 22:28-29 as rape is saying that raping a virgin is no worse then having consensual sex with a virgin, since it’s basically the same punishment as Exodus 22:16-17. That doesn’t seem just or Godly. It also doesn’t sound like a law that would come right after another law that says rape is equal to murder.

            Thank you for engaging with me.

          4. No worries, Anna. I’ve appreciated our discussion too. And I will keep some of your ideas in mind. I actually hope you are right.

  2. This passage is one of those issues that is a huge cross on a Christian apologist’s neck.

    However, I see it as a cultural issue.
    I’m Nigerian, for one to have a valid socially acceptable marriage, a groom has to pay a bride price.

    No matter how Westerners find it offensive, the fact is a lot of women here will find it degrading if her beloved chooses to forgo paying her price.

    Even though virginity is no longer a big issue, a woman who has borne a child while unmarried has a significantly lowered bride price than a virgin.

    So you see, it’s really a cultural thing.

    1. Hi Theodora,

      I agree. It’s all about the culture of ancient Israel, a broken culture, and it’s values at that time. The regulations were designed to minimise harm, not make it worse.

      It’s lovely to hear from someone from Nigeria. 🙂

      1. Culture, religion and language go hand-in-hand. It’s insulting to be molested (seized or seduced) and have the pressure to marry your molester. I mean, really? Why can’t your god just not have said in one commandment, “do not rape?” was that harder that commanding not mixing fabric or eating shellfish? Really now? It’s insulting to use the at-that-time defense because is god not all-knowing that one day women in a time of a division between church and state would be guaranteed more rights than under a so-called theocracy? what god did not know about women’s rights? what god needed a timetable to make progressive and good ideas about well-being progress? so god changed? that’s why there is OT and NT? lol. I thought he was the same? lol.

        1. Hello Dith,

          The Hebrew Bible is pretty clear that rape is a sin. It doesn’t have a specific Hebrew word for rape, but it states several times that certain types of sex, such as seizing someone and having sex with them, is against the law.

          The Bible views illicit sex as adultery. “Do not commit adultery” is one of the ten commandments. Not lusting after someone else’s wife or servant, etc, is also one of the ten commandments. So the Bible has two laws enshrined in the ten commandments that have a direct bearing on rape.

          You’re right, culture and religion do go hand in hand, and cultures change over time. The Bible shows that the people of God were always changing the way they understood and applied God’s laws, they were always changing the way they worshipped God and kept his festivals.

          The Hebrew laws were kinder to women than similar laws in other Ancient Near East nations, and they are kinder than some laws that remain in effect in some nations today. It’s people who are thick, short-sighted, and sometimes cruel, not God. The Hebrew laws were designed to minimise abuse in a world where life was tough and where no one had anything like the rights and freedoms that many people in first world countries take for granted today.

          Anyway, the comment section on my website is for genuine discussion, questions, and constructive critiques. It’s not for random people to vent their disdain at a god they don’t even believe in. If you’d like to talk, that’s fine. But I won’t be approving any comments that don’t contribute to the topic under discussion in a constructive manner. It’s a tough topic, that’s for sure.

          1. I think there are some problems with the reply made. First, seizing someone and raping that someone has what punishment exactly apart from marrying the rape victim again and paying money? ook at the passages again, does it say anything about stoning (or inflicting any other harsh punishment to) a man who rapes a woman (who is not married)? Is this not the insult to injury I was speaking of? Second, adultery is as you described it (having sexual relations with the slave, concubine, or wife of another). It’s not addressing rape at all. At best, adultery laws in the OT is forbidding raping “the property” of another man. If culture is changing and a god is changing laws (which is it really? jesus is set to keep laws jot and tittle or changed the laws?), then so-called laws are not really eternal. Is changing the way of worship the same as changing punishment for rape? Israel is now not imposing the OT laws for rape. Moreover, citing that some laws are kinder to women in a culture compared to others does not really say anything but that some laws are kinder to women in some cultures. I come from a culture that put women in pedestals before the coming of the Westeners. We worshiped trees, rivers, and rocks. We were kinder to women. We also headhunted foreigners then. Does our kindness to women make what we did right? Also, the issue of kindness leaves a gaping hole in the argument. Is an order to marry a rape victim “being kind” to the rape victim? Is being merely “seized” and getting married off to the one who did the “seizing” truly kind? The best test perhaps to the wisdom of a law of a so-called eternal and omniscient god would be if such a law were imposed today would we still approve it or would we be appalled?

    2. Thanks Theodora. I really appreciate hearing the Nigerian situation.

      Bless you and thanks for your comment.

    3. This is the law of moses folks. Now i knew about a virgin who was raped. To marry him. What i did not know is the father of the woman is allowed to refuse.

      1. As horrific as it sounds to us today, marrying your rapist was a widespread custom and law in the ancient world. This law still exists in some countries today. In some other countries, it’s only been repealed in recent decades. Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia repealed their marry-your-rapist law as recently as 2017. (Google “marry your rapist” for more on this.)

        In Deuteronomy 22, we have the ancient Israelite version of the law, but the concept is not primarily biblical. Israel has no such law today. And it is not a Christian law. None of the authors of the New Testament advises, or even hints, that a woman should marry their rapist.

  3. Marg, I can’t thank you enough for your thorough commentaries on women’s issues. I’ve learned so much over the past few months as I’ve followed you. I pray that you’ll continue to shine a light on our beautiful and holy gifts as women of God. May they be released in Jesus’ name all over the earth and heavens! (And personally, in my own church) Amen.

    1. Thank you, Meg. <3

  4. I see these verses as a “meets minimum requirements” type of law that was appropriate for that ancient time and place. In other words, things should not be worse than the law specifies. In some cultures, rape was considered shameful for the victim and resulting in punishment, this happens today sad to say, including death imposed by relatives for the supposed shame.

    As you point out, there were 3 requirements and they were all put on the rapist.

    1. Yes, they’re effectively case laws for that time and place giving the minimum requirements. Furthermore, Jesus did not demand the death penalty for the woman caught in adultery, which puts a whole new perspective on things (Deut. 22:22 cf. John 8:11-12).

  5. Marg, I agree with an above comment: You are much appreciated for your applied wisdom. The depth of understanding you display and the care exercised in your sound teaching is not often found but is most assuredly for “such a time as this.” Bless you indeed!

    1. Thank you, Loretta.

      This is a subject I don’t know enough about. So I’ve written this post with some trepidation.

  6. WOW! Praise God for your discernment!

    1. I just hope I’m getting most of this right.

  7. Thank you for taking a good look at a most difficult subject. I have friends from the Middle east and sexual impurity or violations can be the death penalty. It seems to me that the paying of the bridal price was to compensate the family for loss of service the bride would be to her parents family. It also symbolized value. This may also have been a means of making a man take responsibility for his behavior. This law was also written during a time when the world didn’t have internet, television and vulgarity of entertainment that we have today. The cultures were tribal and the people predominantly rural in occupation, with many small communities. The cultures were very family oriented and not as scattered as we are today. And this was under the old covenant.

    Once again thank you for addressing this subject.

    1. Hi Jim,

      You’re right about the bride price. I may add an end note with more information later. (I’m still reading and learning about this whole subject.)

      It’s hard not to overestimate the collectivist culture of these communities, where the needs and wants of individuals, of both men and women, were much less important than the security and identity of the group. It’s difficult for westerners in highly individualistic societies to imagine this dynamic, but it’s important we try if we want to understand the culture of Bible times better.

  8. One aspect that can be lost is we no longer use shekels as a unit of weight and a store of value, so the term can become meaningless. We need to compare the 50 shekel bride price with other things and Lev 17 gives some economic valuations for people in terms of what they could be expected to produce. So a man age 20-60 is worth 50 shekels, while a similar woman is 30 shekels, this is assessing their value in an agricultural economy. So 50 shekels is a large sum.

    1. This is good to keep in mind.

  9. My friend Laura Martin also has a post on Deuteronomy 22:28-29 where she relies on David Lamb’s 2011 book, God Behaving Badly. Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?

    You can read Laura’s post here.

  10. Many commentators I’ve read say that in Ancient Israel the woman’s father would give a ‘ketubah’ to the groomwho was expected to keep it in trust for the woman in case her marriage ended by divorce or the death of the husband. So it was a nest egg for her to fall back on. Furthermore, the rabbis around the time of Jesus talked in the Mishnah about how if the husband could prove that his wife was the guilty party in the divorce (by producing evidence of her adultery) the wife was not allowed to keep the ketubah. She lost it because she was the one that caused the divorce. (I hope I’ve remembered this right.)

    I don’t know how that pertains to the bride price the groom gave to the woman’s husband. But it shows how different ancient Israel was from most societies today.

    One more thing: Marg, have you looked at my two posts on Deut 22?



    1. Thank, Barbara.

      As you indicate, it’s important to make a distinction between the customs and regulations of the ancient Israelites that we see in Deuteronomy (written roughly 3000 years ago), and the customs and regulations in early rabbinic Judaism (beginning around 1000 years later). I’m not sure that we have enough information to go on in regards to the Ketubah in ancient Israel.

      I’ll take a look at your links. 🙂

  11. Hi Marg,

    I have 2-3 problems with your view of Deuteronomy 22:28-29.

    1st Problem: The Hebrew word used there in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is taphas and not chazaq.

    2nd problem: The Old Testament was first written in Hebrew and then translated into Koine Greek, which there might have been some errors as the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Koine Greek, and both Biblical scholars and translators will always look or translate the Old Testament from the Hebrew first and foremost.

    These are at least my two problems with your viewpoint.

    God Bless!!!!

    1. Hi Joseph,

      In my second comment in response to Anne’s first comment above, I look at the pertinent Hebrew verbs used in several verses in the Hebrew Bible that mention sexual assault. In my comment, I state that taphas, not chazaq, is the word used in Deuteronomy 22:28-29.

      Taphas is not used in Bible verses that mention husbands and wives having sex, yada (“know”) is (e.g., Gen. 4:1,17, 25; 24:16; 38:26; Numb. 31:17-18, 35; 1 Sam. 1:19; Judg. 11:39; 21:11). The implications of the words yada (“know”) and taphas (“grasp/seize/capture”) are very different, especially when they are the main verbs describing a sexual act. And don’t forget the verb anah in 22:29.

      I’ve removed some of your wildly inappropriate comments. Take care.

      1. Marg,

        You don’t even realize or understand that if and when I get to yada (“know”) my future wife sexually is the very moment that I will taphas (“seize/grasp”) her in order to yada (“know”) her sexually. That’s the problem you’re having here, I think. All men literally taphas (“seize/grasp”) their wife when she consents into having sex and this is when he gets to yada (“know”) her sexually.

        God Bless!!!!

        1. I understand what you are saying about taphas, but I can’t see that the Hebrew Bible uses the word that way.

          Regarding your comments about Tamar (which I’ve removed): Tamar begs Amnon to marry her because it is clear he wants to force himself on her. She begs Amnon before and after the rape.

          2 Samuel 13:12-16 NIV: “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel.
          [BEFORE] Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.
          But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her. Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”
          [AFTER] “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.

          My objective in the article is not to tell Tamar’s whole story but to show how the Deuteronomy 22:28-29 regulation worked. The regulation was for the benefit of a wronged woman because she couldn’t be abused and then discarded, which is exactly what happened to Tamar.

          Joseph, please be aware that some people reading your comments may have experienced rape. Please write with more sensitivity. This topic involves more than discussing the nuances of taphas.

  12. Marg,

    I’ve literally read 2nd Samuel 13:1-16 at least 4-5 times before I reply last time and Tamar only beg Amnon before he rape her. Also, if you clearly read what Tamar said after Amnon rapes her, then you will literally see that she never beg him to marry her again. So, no, she didn’t beg him to marry her after he raped her.

    Also, if you read Leviticus 18:9 carefully, then we can both see that Amnon not only committed rape, which deserves the death penalty, but also he committed incest as well as probably adultery. People who committed adultery also deserved the death penalty.

    One last thing, Marg. All of my Study Bibles clearly says that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is a parallel passage to Exodus 22:16-17. These parallel passages together as a whole means that a man seduces (or entices) her and once she consents to having sex with him is when he seizes (or grasps) her in order for him to have sexual relations with her (or “know” her sexually). If they are both found out in committing “fornication” together while in the act of sexual relations or she becomes pregnant, then the man must pay the bridal price for her to be his wife, unless the father refuses to give his daughter to the man as a wife, and can’t divorce her the rest of his life. I’ve done a whole lot of study and research on both Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29 because these two passages are parallel to each other as well as Exodus 22:16-17 is what happens if “fornication” is committed, which clearly means Deuteronomy 22:28-29 as a parallel passage to Exodus 22:16-17 also includes “fornication”.

    Also, Moses wrote Deuteronomy to tell (or repeat) the law a second time, which we can read the first telling of the law in both Exodus and Leviticus as well as probably a little bit of Numbers, but as he is retelling (or repeating) the law to the Israelites near the border of the Promised Land is when he’s also expands on most (if not all) of the law to some extent.

    God Bless!!!!

    1. I refer to Exodus 22:16-17 twice in the article. There are similarities between Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29, but there are also differences.

      Also, while the word “marry/marriage” does not occur in 2 Samuel 13:16, this is what Tamar is asking for. Specifically, she is asking not to be “sent away” using the language of divorce.

      I acknowledge above that some people believe taphas should be translated in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 as “entices” or “captivates”. However, most English translations, translate the word as “seizes”, or something similar, with the implication of rape.

      Taphas isn’t the only verb in 22:28-29 that describes the man’s action. There is also the verb anah. Anah means “afflict” or “humiliate” and is used in verses where women are sexually abused or raped: Dinah (Gen. 34:2), female prisoners of war (Deut. 21:14), a daughter and a concubine offered to despicable men (Judg. 19:24), the Levite’s concubine (Judg. 20:5), Tamar (2 Sam. 13:12, 14, 22, 32), various illicit acts and relations, including incest (Ezekiel 22:10-11), women and virgins in Judah (Lam. 5:11).

      It’s not wise to be dogmatic about the context of Deuteronomy 22:28-29. The point of my article is to show that a woman faced with a situation such as, or similar to, Tamar’s should be looked after. I stand by this claim.

  13. I’m of a mind that in this discussion we may be putting too much emphasis on the act of grasping, seizing, or holding (təphashah) the young girl. Let me explain by beginning with literal translation of verse 22:28 after which I would like to take a careful look at the context.

    When-finds a-man a-maiden (kethib or qere spellings), a-virgin who [is] not-betrothed and-seizes-her and-he-lies with-her and-discovered-they are…

    So, here is my understanding of this verse with the larger context in view:

    First, chapter 22 is all about laws of sexual relations. So intercourse is clearly in view. The use of vəshakhav a derivative of shakhav is interesting. Derivatives of this verb in a sexual context ALWAYS refer to an illicit act. As an aside, when not in a sexual context (e.g., in a Hebrew narrative), the verb refers to an inappropriate act or behavior.

    Second, the word used to describe the woman who is seized is naar (meaning a young woman or maiden) who is a bütûlâ (a virgin). So, what we have here are two nouns the second of which is an appositive, i.e., a descriptor that serves to emphasize her innocence (she’s a young innocent girl).

    Third, while she is grasped or seized or taken hold of, we need to be careful of putting too much emphasis on this word (təphashah). Had the author meant to call the reader’s attention to the act of taking hold of the young lady, he would have likely used the Piel form of taphas, not the simple waw consecutive. In other words, how/whether the man forced himself upon her is largely irrelevant. What is important, at least from my reading of the verse in its legal context, is that a sexual act between a male and a young, innocent, unmarried female is illicit. Period!

    In our times, this behavior objectively fits the definition of rape and the NIV, the NIRV are justified in describing this as a rape. Personally, I would have followed the RSV’s translation and used “lies with her” because in this way the prohibition is broader and provides more protection for the innocent girl. Put another way, the man doesn’t have to be violent nor forceful to violate 22:28. With or without the young girl’s consent, this is an illicit act at best and, in our Western culture, a rape.


    1. Hi Michael,

      This all sounds sensible and reasonable. I appreciate your input.

  14. Hello Marg!

    I’m a high school student currently writing the rough draft for an essay over justice and how I perceive it. How did I get from that essay to this particular post? Part procrastination, and the other hopeful scrambling.

    You see, my basic premise was that justice changes over time and over the different cultures that the world has. The class I’m taking itself is over rhetoric and how context effects the subject. So, this post you’ve made has perfectly combined the two into my most promising body paragraph.

    In short, I’m thoroughly impressed with the post and how you’ve explained everything! It was very easy to understand, and reading the comments proved even more fruitful (the particular conversation you had with Anna was particular interesting)! I just wanted to thank you for providing such a great example for my paper, and that this solidified my argument even more.

    May God guide your writing hand,
    Zoë (Junior)

    1. Thank you so much, Zoë. <3

      Hope your essay is a success! I'm impressed that someone is teaching, and learning, rhetoric in highschool.

  15. This is far from a theoretical issue for me as I was raped in my first month of marriage and divorced the man after 31 years and 3 children. I was soundly shunned and defamed by my life long church for doing so. (I can also assure you that a man who does such a thing does not go on to treat his wife well outside the bedroom even if he is a respected elder and community leader.)

    The attitude I have encountered is that it is not possible for a Christian man to rape his wife as they are mutually “owned” by one another. Have you done any writing on such matters and the teaching of Scripture? I don’t remember every hearing marital rape discussed. Actually, I never heard a sermon about abuse. I appreciate any thoughts you have about such matters.

    1. Hi Deborah,

      Abuse in marriage, especially in (supposedly) Christian marriage, is something I haven’t written on as I feel unqualified to discuss such a horrible and deeply personal subject. I recommend the work of Natalie Collins who has a lot of personal and professional experience in this area, though I’m not sure how much she delves into marital rape. She has a new book coming at about now: https://spckpublishing.co.uk/out-of-control.

      Surely doing something to another person that the other person does not want is the opposite of what Jesus taught. Jesus’ teachings, including the Golden Rule (“Do unto others . . .”) and his teachings on love, apply whether a person is married or not. The harmful and degrading treatment of wives that has been condoned or ignored by many in the church is scandalous. And I am truly sorry for your experience.

      While I haven’t written on marital rape, I have written on divorce. This is another area the church has got wrong to the detriment of countless wronged and hurting people. https://margmowczko.com/tag/divorce/

  16. Paul writes in 1 Cor 7 that each spouse has authority over the other’s body for sexual purposes. This means ANYTHING that is done is supposed to be mutual. You can play this out, you cannot force another to shake your hand if you each control the other’s body like a puppet.

    1. I’m reluctant to bring up 1 Corinthians 7:4 just now. The context of chapter 7 is a particular situation in the Corinthian church; some thought that sex and marriage and gender no longer mattered in the resurrection era, which they believed had already arrived.

      This verse has been abused by selfish people, but it most certainly does not condone marital rape.

  17. The passage Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is, unfortunately almost always, translated from the Hebrew into English very inaccurately in our modern English translations so this is an example where it is critical to examine the original language carefully. This is the full passage: 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, 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.

    Most of the following text is from an article that addresses this issue directly from http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?article=5197.

    According to many, these verses teach that a man who rapes a woman then gets to have her as his wife like some sort of trophy for his vile and despicable action. The skeptic then demands that any God who would reward a rapist with the woman he rapes is wicked and immoral. Thus the God of the Bible cannot be the loving God Christians say He is. This is patently ridiculous and it MUST be exposed as such. The reason the skeptic at first glance seems to have something of a case is simply because most English translations of these verses do not accurately render the original intent of the Hebrew. To be fair, this issue causes even those who are not skeptically minded some difficulty. When most English speakers hear that a person has “seized” another person, we necessarily jump to the conclusion that it is a violent action against the will of the other person. This problem has been aggravated by the fact that many translations inaccurately and mistakenly translate the word as “rape.” The truth is, however, the Hebrew word in this case translated “seizes” (tapas) can mean many things. Here are some examples of the way it is translated in Deuteronomy 22:28 in several different English translations:

    “lay hold on her” (ASV)
    “taking her” (DRA)
    “and takes her” (NLV/NAB)
    “and hath caught her” (YLT).

    By looking at other passages that use the word, we can see that the word tapas sometimes has nothing to do with force, and therefore nothing to do with rape. As Dr. Greg Bahnsen has written:
    The Hebrew word tapas (“lay hold of her,” emphasized above) simply means to take hold of something, grasp it in hand, and (by application) to capture or seize something. It is the verb used for “handling” the harp and flute (Gen. 4:21), the sword (Ezek. 21:11; 30:21), the sickle (Jer. 50:16), the shield (Jer. 46:9), the oars (Ezek. 27:29), and the bow (Amos 2:15). It is likewise used for “taking” God’s name (Prov. 30:9) or “dealing” with the law of God (Jer. 2:8). Joseph’s garment was “grasped” (Gen. 39:12; cf. 1 Kings 11:30), even as Moses “took” the two tablets of the law (Deut. 9:17)… [T]he Hebrew verb “to handle, grasp, capture” does not in itself indicate anything about the use of force (italics in orig.).
    In truth, we use English words in this way on a regular basis. For instance, a brief look at the English word “take” illustrates the point. You can take someone’s cookie, or take a person’s wife, or take a bride to be your wife. The idea of force is not inherent in the word at all. If you take a person in your arms, what have you done? Or if a young man takes a young woman to be his wife, is there force involved? No. Also, think about the English word “hold.” You can take hold of something in a number of ways. We often say that a woman will hold the child in her arms, or a bridegroom takes a bride to “have and to hold.” The Hebrew word tapas is acting in exactly the same way as the English words “hold” and “take” are.

    In addition, it is clearly evident from the immediate context of Deuteronomy 22 that rape is not being discussed in verses 28-29. We know that for two primary reasons. First, verses 25-27 give a clear instance in which rape is being discussed. In that case, a man raped a woman, she “cried out” (v. 27), but she was in the country and no one was there to help her. The text says that the man who committed the crime “shall die” (v. 25), but the Israelites were supposed to “do nothing to the young woman” since “there is in the young woman no sin worthy of death” (v. 26). It is of great interest that in this clear case of rape, the text uses a completely different word. The word translated “forces her” in verse 25 is the Hebrew word chazaq and yet in verse 28, the verb has been intentionally changed to tapas (see Shamoun, 2015). Second, the natural reading of verses 28-29 makes it evident that both parties are guilty of at least some of the blame. Notice that at the end of verse 28 the text says, “and they are found out.” When the passage discusses the obvious case of rape, the text specifically only mentions the man in verse 25 when it says “then only the man who lay with her,” and conspicuously leaves out any indication of “they” being involved in the sin. Dr. Bahsen compares Deuteronomy 22:28-29 to Exodus 22:16, which reads, “If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife” (1992). Notice that in this verse in Exodus, there is no force and both parties shoulder some of the guilt.

    The practical value of God’s instruction in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is easy to see. A man has sexual intercourse with a young woman who is not betrothed to anyone. There is no force involved, and it is not rape; THIS IS A CLEAR CASE OF SEDUCTION AND MUTUAL AGREEMENT AND BOTH PARTIES ARE WILLING PARTICIPANTS. But their action has been discovered. Now, who in the land of Israel wanted to marry a young girl who has not kept herself pure? The man cannot walk away from his sin. He has put the young woman in a very difficult life situation, in which there would be few (or no) other good moral men who would want to marry her in that culture. Since it was often the case that women had an extremely difficult time financially without the help of a husband, this would be even more devastating to the immoral young woman. God in this case holds both the parties accountable for their deliberate immoral sexual activity, instructing them to get married and stay together, both suffer the shame, and work through the difficulties that they have brought on themselves. Nothing could be more moral, loving, and wise than these instructions; since they wanted each other so badly, they can both have the object of their intense desires- each other. Once again, the skeptical charge against God’s love is without foundation and God both provides for and protects His people, even the selfish ones and the principles of both Love and Justice are upheld.

    1. Hi Timothy, the meaning of taphas has already been discussed in other comments on this page, and in some depth. Here are two short statements.

      1. Taphas is not used in Bible verses that mention husbands and wives having sex, yada (“know”) is (e.g., Gen. 4:1,17, 25; 24:16; 38:26; Numb. 31:17-18, 35; 1 Sam. 1:19; Judg. 11:39; 21:11).
      2. The implications of the words yada (“know”) and taphas (“grasp, seize, capture”) are very different, especially when they are the main verbs describing a sexual act.

      Plus, there is no hint of “mutual agreement” or consent in the Hebrew verb anah used in 22:29, but abuse and violation. This word is used in the context of other wretched cases of abuse against women: Dinah’s rape (Gen. 34:2), the forced marriage and release of female prisoners of war (Deut. 21:14), the offer of a daughter and a concubine to despicable men (Judg. 19:24), the unimaginable sexual abuse and murder of the Levite’s concubine (Judg. 20:5), Tamar’s rape (2 Sam. 13:12, 14, 22, 32), various illicit acts and relations, including incest (Ezekiel 22:10-11), the rape of women and virgins in Judah (Lam. 5:11).

      Furthermore, I have acknowledged that there are similarities between Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29. But there are also differences.

      Timothy, I am uncomfortable that your comment includes a large amount of material from someone else’s website and is presumably used without their permission. This is a breach of copyright law. I don’t know which words are yours and which are theirs.

  18. There are 2 verses to look at. Deuteronomy 22:28–29 is not about rape….. Deuteronomy 22:25 is about rape…. and the punishment is death. You have to read the original translation in Hebrew Deuteronomy 22:28–29 uses the word take….. the Hebrew word used is translated as “take something that is given. ” I can give you and apple and you take it. The first post by Anna has it right . “If they are discovered” The verse is referring to a consensual encounter. IN Verse 25 they refer to a betrothed women…. any women even a virgin is considered here…. if a man is not betrothed to a women , concerning verse 25 and he forces himself upon her , it is rape and he should be put to death. If a women is not betrothed to a particular man [ in this case the rapist] she either is betrothed to OR will be [ someday] betrothed to someone [else] …. in other words not betrothed to the male assaulting her.

    1. Hi Brandt, I acknowledge that some people think Deuteronomy 22:28-29 doesn’t refer to rape, and I link to articles from people who hold to a different reading of these verses than mine.

      However, both תָּפַשׂ (taphas) in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and חָזַק (chazaq) in Deuteronomy 22:25-27 can mean “seize, to take hold of” even if there are different nuances in the words. I’ve discussed these words in previous comments.

      I disagree that taphas means “take something that is given.” It doesn’t have that meaning in Genesis 39:12 when Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph by his clothes, or in Deuteronomy 21:9 when parents are to lay hold of their rebellious son and bring him to the elders, or in Deuteronomy 20:19, Joshua 8:8, and 2 Kings 16:9 where the context is seizing a city, or in Joshua 8:23, 1 Samuel 15:8, and 2 Kings 14:13 where kings are captured, or in verses about prisoners of war, or in most other verses where this verb occurs.

      One difference between the two passages in Deuteronomy 22 is that the victim in Deuteronomy 22:25-27 is referred to as betrothed twice; she is already bound to another man, so the rapist sins against the woman and against her man. The victim in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is a virgin who is not betrothed. I believe this difference accounts for the differences in the punishments of the perpetrator.

  19. Hi Marg, could I please ask something which I don’t think has been covered in the comments.
    If I understand correctly, you are seeking to justify a law which makes provision for a woman marrying her rapist as follows: because she would no longer have been a virgin, she would not have been allowed to marry someone else. Therefore she would have either faced a life of destitution or an unproductive burden on her family. So marrying her rapist would have (potentially?) been a better option than these other two options.

    So my question is: wasn’t it wrong that she wasn’t allowed to marry someone else? Surely if she was raped and it wasn’t her fault, then it was wrong to stop her from marrying another man who might truly care for her? To only allow her to marry her rapist seems profoundly wrong, not to mention callous and unbearably cruel.

    1. Hi Matthew,

      I think you’re reading more into my words than what I actually say. First, I am not seeking to justify this regulation. Second, I neither say nor believe that a raped woman was not allowed to marry someone else later. In fact, I suggest that what probably happened many times was that rape victims and their families kept the crime a secret, and the woman did go on to marry someone else. See footnote 2.

      However, because of how society worked back then, it would usually have been difficult for a young woman who was known to not be a virgin to find someone willing to marry her. This scenario still occurs in some parts of the world. A few years ago, I paid for a rape victim to get married and set up home when someone found a man willing to marry her. (It was not a love match.) Otherwise, she would have remained single which would indeed have been stigmatising and burdensome for her family. She lives in an Asian country.

      We have a few examples of Bible women who were raped, and they did not marry or have sexual relations afterwards (Tamar, Dinah, David’s ten concubines). These women lived secluded lives after their abuse.

      Anyway, as I said, my intention is not to justify this law. Rather, my aim is to explain how it worked in collectivist, iron-age Israel. (The Israelite version of this law is more humane than with how contemporary, and later, nations dealt with rape victims.)

      Forms of this law still exist in some countries, but they are increasingly being overturned which is a good thing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marry-your-rapist_law

      I’m very grateful I don’t live in such societies.

      1. Hi Marg,

        Many thanks for your response. Sorry if I misunderstood your position. Reading through your article it certainly seemed to me that you are seeking to justify the regulation in question – for example when you say that the “law was for the benefit of the wronged woman because she couldn’t be abused and then discarded”.

        Could I just be clear then: if you are in no way trying to justify the regulation, would you then agree that the regulation was morally wrong – just like the laws mentioned in your linked article? I’ll admit that it may have been intending to provide for the woman economically and that it may have been more humane than some other laws. But even allowing for (misguided) good intentions, or the law being relatively better, would you say that the law is morally wrong in itself?

        Also I think that you are being very anachronistic in saying this was the woman’s legal right ‘if she chose it’. I feel this goes way beyond the evidence from the passages concerned. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 gives no indication that the woman has any say in the matter and the related passage in Exodus 22:16-17 only mentions her father refusing permission. Nothing here suggests the woman has any legal rights in the matter at all.

        Thank you

        1. A common way to try to claim Scripture/Torah is immoral is to take a few verses and point out that the “plain meaning” of those few verses is immoral. This is trivial to do and does not show what it asserts to show. This is because the laws in Scripture/Torah are interpreted by actual judges in ways that promote justice with mercy. In other words, the laws in Torah were intended to be understood as a part of an interacting system that was given at a specific stage of moral development. Many of the laws are of the “no worse than this” type. To claim a “no worse than this” type of law is immoral can mean a lack of imagination about how things could be even worse without that law in place.

        2. Matthew, It’s the prerogative (or choice) of the woman’s family, not the rapist, to enact the law. Some families chose not to enact the law. We also know that daughters were sometimes consulted about marriage. However, it wasn’t uncommon (in more usual circumstances) for neither the bride nor the groom to have much say in who they married. So you’re right, I need to phrase “if she chose it” better.

          Further in the article I state, “The woman, through her father, might choose not to marry her rapist.” It’s difficult to determine how much, or how little, voice a victim had in this situation. It’s extremely difficult to think like an ancient Israelite and have a comprehensive understanding of how much freedom people, in particular a young raped woman, might have to make their own decisions. But depending on the family, it’s quite possible she had some say.

          It’s also difficult to determine if this law was routinely enacted.

          I won’t say that the law was morally wrong for ancient Israel. What I will say is that the ethics of the law are completely foreign and repulsive to western, individualistic mindsets.

          1. OK thanks Marg. I think you recognise that the victim may not have had any say and I’d certainly admit it’s possible she may have had some say depending on her family or father. But if I could press the point a little further: this seems on the face it a situation where a rape victim was at serious risk of being given into the power of her abuser – who would have been free continue the abuse – for the rest of her life without any reprieve. In these circumstances, it seems very unsafe to rely on the father who actually was under no legal compulsion whatsoever to take into account his daughter’s wishes. Fathers may sometimes have cared about what their daughters wanted but surely they would often be more concerned with family honour or with taking the opportunity to relieve themselves of an economic burden.

            I have to admit, I believe that laws like these are objectively wrong in themselves – not simply that they are ‘foreign and repulsive to western, individualistic mindsets’. Do you not think so yourself? You said it’s a ‘good thing’ that modern forms of this law are being overturned more and more. You seem here to be assuming a transcultural moral perspective – rather than thinking that these laws might be morally wrong for some cultures but not wrong for others. But on the other hand your last paragraph seems to lean towards a disturbing cultural relativism.

          2. Tamar certainly had a say. What was immoral in her story was that Amnon sent her away; he refused to marry her which is what she wanted (2 Samuel 13:16).

            Anyway, I’ve expressed my concern about the law as I see it. And I’ve expressed the difficulty of imagining how society actually worked in ancient Israel. There may well have been unwritten, cultural checks and balances that looked out for potentially vulnerable women.

            The real problem to me is why there needed to be such a law in the first place. And this has everything to do with a culture that prized female virginity so highly that it became a necessity. This is immoral. The law itself reflected ancient Israel’s culture.

            There are plenty of other attitudes, actions, customs, and laws in the Hebrew Bible that also disturb me.

  20. Hi Marg,

    I have to admit that seems very strained to me but probably best to leave it there. Could I just move on to one final point?

    I fully agree it was immoral that ancient Israelite society prized virginity so high that it became a necessity. However you seem to regard this as simply a part of Israelite culture which God just had to accept and could do nothing about. But surely the available evidence is that God’s laws in the OT actually endorsed and supported this attitude? In particular the groom could demand that the bride provide proof of her virginity, and if she could not then she was stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22: 13-21). This again seems to me to be an immoral and horrific law and we instantly recognise it as such when we encounter similar laws today. But my main point is, I’m not convinced that prizing virginity was just something in Israelite culture, it was enshrined in this OT law which supposedly was given by God himself.

    1. Which bit seems very strained to you?

      Deuteronomy 22:13-21 is another law that offered some protection against innocent women being abandoned and left destitute. This time by a husband who hates his wife after they are married and wants to get rid of her. The proof is shown to the elders (Deut. 22:15-17).

      There are quite a few laws about sexual purity related to marriage. However, there is no law I know of that states an ordinary Israelite man must marry a virgin. Or that a young woman must be a virgin to become a bride. Perhaps I’ve missed these. Rather, it seems to me that the idea of a man marrying a virgin (unless she is a widow) is a cultural expectation.

      There are plenty of laws in the Torah that accommodated less than ideal customs and practices in bronze-age and iron-age Israel and that regulated against the worst excesses.

      Matthew, if your reason for leaving these comments and asking your questions is to make the point that these laws are immoral, you’ve made it. I, however, am reserving judgement. But this doesn’t mean that a lot of what I read in the Hebrew Bible doesn’t disturb me. It was a whole other world back then, one that I’m glad I don’t live in.

      I don’t understand what else you’re trying to achieve. You have your views, I have mine. They don’t need to match.

      1. Hi Marg, it is my understanding of the passage I quoted that a bride was required to be a virgin. Otherwise why would they impose the death penalty if she could not prove she was (v 20-21)? But I agree it is intended to provide protection to women against abandonment, provided they were virgins.

        Anyway about what I’m trying to achieve: I’ll admit I would like to persuade you and others to look and the evidence and arguments and consider changing your views on biblical authority. Is this wrong? Are you not trying to persuade people that your own views are correct? I also do hope to learn things through these discussions and I should be willing to change my own views; but although I find my mind is changed on individual points I have not seen anything which is likely to change my overall conviction – that many Old Testament laws simply cannot be reconciled with even minimum principles of human rights. (And that’s even taking into account the possibility of ‘accommodation’ or cultural difference etc.).

        Anyway, thank you very much for approving my comments and for engaging with me.

        1. There was indeed an expectation that first-time brides will be virgins. I believe this to have been a cultural expectation, one that we see across the ancient world and even in more recent times, regardless of religious beliefs.

          Deuteronomy 22:13ff is about a specific situation: if the hypothetical husband in Deuteronomy 22:13ff did not want to get rid of his wife, there would be no issue. And some men in the Bible (e.g., Salmon) did marry non-virgins. Like I said, there is no law that demands first-time brides must be virgins, etc.

          I present ideas and interpretations as I see them. However, I acknowledge that there are different ways of understanding Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and have linked to articles, in Further Reading, where different ideas and interpretations are presented. I see my articles as being a part of larger conversations among Christians.

          I completely agree that many laws in the Torah cannot be reconciled with basic or minimum principles of human rights. Legally established humans rights for all individuals is a fairly new development in human history. In ancient collectivist societies, individual human rights were nowhere near as important as they are today in individualistic western-style nations.

          I personally think it’s ignorant and arrogant to read and impose modern western values and morality into ancient texts. We need to be listening carefully to their voice and seeing into their world which, admittedly, is difficult to do.

          Anyway, thank you for finally being honest. I’m not happy that you’ve wasted my time with this. Morality and authority are different things. And who knows, we may have similar ideas about the authority of this passage. But as I said in my previous comment, You have your views, I have mine; they don’t need to match.

  21. Thank you for tackling this! Immensely helpful.
    I notice (relating to some of the discussion above) that the NET Bible argues for the “consensual” interpretation (see https://netbible.org/bible/Deuteronomy+22 note 52 for their argument).

    1. I appreciate this, Stephen, and have added a link to the NET note under Further Reading.

      Point 4 in the note is interesting: “The expression ‘and they are discovered’ at the end of v. 28 uses the same wording as the expression in v. 22 which involves a consensual act.” I present a few thoughts on this expression in my footnotes.

      It’s a difficult passage to unpack. However, if it does refer to consensual sex, albeit involving “irresponsible seduction,” as Dr Sandra Richter claims, then there is no law for a man who rapes an unbetrothed woman. (Or have I missed it?)

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