Every time I hear a feminist’s arguement about rape culture, I hear the argument that the Bible condones rape. Specifically, Deuteronomy, chapter 22.

The most logical answer would be “who cares”? Leviticus and Deuteronomy were Old Testament books, and almost none of the laws in them apply anymore with the Holy Sacrifice, barring the capital sins listed in the Decalogue. For instance, we don’t have a Sabbath year every seven years, we readily wear mixed fabrics, and women aren’t forced to marry their rapists.

But that would be boring and end the discussion, and I want to disprove this once and for all.

The contentuous text reads, “If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
“Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” King James version.

The NIV puts it slightly differently: "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 the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated (anah) her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives."

Even a light read can pick up on several words. The most important of these being the last sentence: “He can never divorce her as long as he lives.”

This would imply that this is a punishment. But is it really a punishment for a man to have easy access to the woman he raped? Well, the answer is more complicated than that, and relies on an understanding of ancient Jewish history, both theological and historical.

Back in 1250 B.C., Jews didn’t have a real place to call home, Egypt was just a port in the storm. So God waited a little, and once Moses got out of Egypt, he sent down the Decalogue. The next couple books are clarification of these ten rules. Because they didn’t have a fixed home, they couldn’t send anyone to prison.

“Then why not kill the rapists?”

Firstly, rapists were killed. Secondly, if a rapist were to marry his victim, then he was stuck with her and would have to provide for her. There was no such thing as divorce back then.

However, this is all incidental.

Deuteronomy 22, verses 28 and 9 don’t describe a rape attack.

The NIV’s verses are mistranslated, and the KJV doesn’t really even mention rape, it’s just assumed that way, but the wording doesn’t help.

To quote Sam Shamoun of the website Answering Islam, “the word which the NIV translates as rape comes from two Hebrew words, taphas and shakab. Here are the meanings listed by the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon in reference to these two words:

# 08610
1) to catch, handle, lay hold, take hold of, seize, wield
a) (Qal)
1) to lay hold of, seize, arrest, catch
2) to grasp (in order to) wield, wield, use skilfully
b) (Niphal) to be seized, be arrested, be caught, be taken, captured
c) (Piel) to catch, grasp (with the hands)
AV - take 27, taken 12, handle 8, hold 8, catch 4, surprised 2, misc 4; 65
(Source: Blue Letter Bible)

Here is one example of how this word is used:

    "The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who deal (taphas) with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols." Jeremiah 2:8

# 07901
1) to lie down
a) (Qal)
1) to lie, lie down, lie on
2) to lodge
3) to lie (of sexual relations)
4) to lie down (in death)
5) to rest, relax (fig)
b) (Niphal) to be lain with (sexually)
c) (Pual) to be lain with (sexually)
d) (Hiphil) to make to lie down
e) (Hophal) to be laid
AV - lie 106, sleep 48, lie down 43, rest 3, lien 2, misc 10; 212
(Source: Blue Letter Bible)

As Brown-Driver-Briggs demonstrates, the word can be used in relation to sexual intercourse as well as for other things. The following examples help demonstrate that shakab does not necessarily imply a forced sexual act:

    "And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘If any man's wife goes astray and behaves unfaithfully toward him, and a man lies (shakab) with her carnally, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and it is concealed that she has defiled herself, and there was no witness against her, nor was she caught—" Numbers 5:11-13 NKJV

Here, the word shakab refers to a voluntary sexual act between two consenting parties, in this case to a woman who voluntarily chooses to commit adultery.”

The Book of Deuteronomy is saying, essentially, that adulterers that aren’t already must marry.

“But that’s still sexist!”

Remember, that firstly, the men do still have to provide for the women, and secondly, adultery is considered a high sin in Judeo-Christian religions. Plus, contraceptives didn’t exactly exist and it’s best for the child if both parents are present.

But as always, you can leave your own interpretation for these verses in the comments below and I’ll be glad to read through them.