This challenge centers on Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which at first blush, appears to force women to marry their rapists. It reads:

“If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.” (NIV)

There are two inductive study questions to consider with this kind of a challenge (and not necessarily in this order): What does the original language say? And What is the context of the passage?

First, the Hebrew word for “rape” in the NIV is a form of the verb “tapas”, which means to take hold of something, to grasp it in one’s hand, and/or to seize something. This verb is used in a number of different ways. It is used when people “play” the harp or flute in Genesis 4:21. It is used when people “take” God’s name in Proverbs 30:9. It is also used for those who “handle” God’s law in Jeremiah 2:8, as well as when Moses “took” the two tablets of the law in Deuteronomy 9:17. None of these passages (or any passage that utilizes “tapas”) connote the use of force.

There is a word in the Scripture that refers to “rape”; as a matter of fact, it’s located directly prior to the passage in question. In Deuteronomy 22:25-27 a scenario is presented that clearly depicts a man raping a woman. In this case the woman cries out (v. 27) but no one is there to stop the act. Because of this, the man is to be punished by death (v. 25) but the woman is to be protected because she did nothing wrong (v. 26). This is an interesting predicament because, the skeptic asserts that vv. 28-29 appear to show that God’s law condones rape; except, in the verses right before vv. 28-29, the law does not tolerate rape. So what’s going on here?

The word for “rape” in Deuteronomy 22:25 is a form of the verb “chazaq”, not “tapas”. “Chazaq” literally means to force and makes much better sense of the description of the scenario, where the woman cries out and no one can stop the act. In vv. 28-29 the verb changes to another word (“tapas”) that does not entail the notion of force while also implying that the sexual act is consensual with the phrase, “and they are discovered” (v. 28). In other words, not only are there different verbs being used between the two scenarios, in the second scenario both parties are “discovered” suggesting the act is consensual between the two.

For these reasons, it is clear that God did not condone rape in the Bible, rather, rapists were prosecuted by death. Whenever there appears to be a problem similar to this in Scripture, a good rule of thumb is to 1) go to the original language for clues as to what specifically is being communicated, as well as 2) study the context of the surrounding verses/chapter. If a skeptic will do this, he’ll find the Bible does not err the way he thinks it does.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Another interesting note is that the NIV is the only of the popular translations that render it “rape”. NASB, KJV, NKJV, ASV and ESV all have it “seizes her and lies with her”. Even the NLT says “has intercourse” with her.

    So it stands out even in cross comparisons with major translations. So the skeptic is cherry picking a bit even using a version that says rape.

  2. But isn’t premarital sex a sin according to christian theology? Even if it isn’t rape, doesn’t the fact that the sex happened outside of marriage make it a sin?

  3. And what about the story concerning spoils of war: virgin girls/woman who were given to soldiers and we can presume were systematically raped?

          • Oh, I am so sorry;you actually did want me to provide the biblical verses. I thought you were pulling my leg!
            Have you not read the bible or do you simply not remember these particular passages, Nate?

            If not then it’s probably best you read the Old Testament again and pay close attention when you get to the parts of the Midianite Genocidal campaign.
            If it is a question of how the text is rendered I have an old copy of the KJV and there is no ambiguity in my copy.
            Let me know when you have read it, okay?
            Thanks.

          • No I’ve read the Bible but what I am averse to doing is your homework. You’re the one that made the claim so the responsibility is on your shoulders to do the homework. You still have not provided another passage where you see rape, which I’m starting to think means you can’t.

          • Really? Then what about the genocidal Midianite campaign are you having trouble with? Please be specific.
            I presume you fully understand the term ”Spoils of War”, yes?
            Rape was standard practice and still is in many cases.
            Even if the women were forced to marry their captors there would have been a sexual component, this is obvious.
            I presume you are aware that rape can take place within marriage as well? And please do not come back with ”context”
            The virgin women and girls were given to the soldiers. What do honestly think happened to them?
            And what makes you think the Israelites, fictional as the entire account is, would behave any differently to every other conquering barbarian horde?

            However, if you are going to maintain your stance that the word rape is not mentioned and therefore we cannot state for certain it took place I will strike a compromise with you.

            I will concede the point that no rape took place if you concede the point that Jesus never once said he was God?
            How’s that? Fair enough?

          • I think I’m starting to understand the problem here. You’ve assumed way too much. Notice, your response is almost entirely reacting to things I haven’t even said. Do you think it’s possible, Arkenaten, that your assumptions are biasing you against having a genuine conversation on this issue?

  4. Hi, Where it speaks on ESV (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.”
    The word “Violated” from what I understand means to do harm or assault. Or is it does have a different meaning from the original language?
    Also, one site pointed out that during those times a virgin woman was highly prized, a woman who was raped, would have a difficult time to find someone to marry her and most likely not be able to provide for herself. She mostly will end up into slavery or prostitution, which is why the father was to make the choice. Not certain if this accurate or not. Thank you

    • Thanks for your comment, Chris. This is another opportunity to develop some good inductive questions based on the word “violated” in this passage. Again, what is the context of the passage? As I’ve explained “rape” is not in view here but consensual sex. So “violated” cannot mean harm if consensual sex is in view. But then what does “violated” mean? The word rendered “violate” in the English is innah in the Hebrew, which literally reads “humbled”. It should be noted that innah is a variant of anah which means “to defile” and we see the same word innitah used within the context of marriage in Deuteronomy 21:14. There it says a man may let his wife go but cannot mistreat her because he has “humbled” her; in other words, he has been with her and taken away her virginity (which as you rightly pointed out was highly valued). And that’s how the word “violated” should be understood in Deuteronomy 22:29.

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