Bible Question:

We all agree that rape is sin, but why did God command a rape victim to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)?

Bible Answer:

Must rape victims marry their rapist according to Deuteronomy 22:28-29? The answer is no! The reason is revealed by evidence from the Bible and Nuzi archeological evidence. Here is the evidence.

Marry Your Rapist Law — Deuteronomy 22:28-29

The passage of Scripture that some claim is a “marry your rapist law” is Deuteronomy 22:28-29. The verse says,

If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (NASB)

These verses do not teach a woman was to be sold to her rapist. Instead they describe a compensation for a wrong suffered. The penalty for the rapist was that he  1) must make payment of the money, and 2) if a marriage takes place, he can never divorce her. The money that he had to pay was the “bride price.”

Women’s Wishes Were Considered

Several passages in the Old Testament indicate that the wishes of a woman were considered when she married. That is, she was consulted regarding a proposed marriage.

The first example involves Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, and a servant. In Genesis 24 we are told that Abraham asked his servant to go to his former country of Haran and choose a woman as a wife for his son Isaac. Then Genesis 24:8-9 states that Abraham asked his servant to take an oath. In that oath, Abraham’s servant had to promise to take a wife from people in Abraham’s former country. But if the prospective woman did not want to marry Isaac, then the servant was freed from the oath. Later we are told that Rebekah was the prospective wife. Then in Genesis 24:57-58, we are told that Rebekah was asked if she wanted to marry Isaac. She said, “I will go.” That is, the woman’s wishes were considered.

The second example is found in Exodus 22:16, 17.  This passage is about a man who seduces a woman into having sexual intercourse. The law stated that if a father did not want his daughter to marry the seducer, then the marriage did not occur.  The account of Rebekah in Genesis 24 reveals that her father asked her if she wanted to marry Isaac. Therefore, we must have strong reasons to not believe the father in the Exodus 22:16, 17 situation would not ask his daughter for her wishes.

The third example comes from the archaeological finding called the Nuzi Tablets (circa. 14th – 15th century BC). This archaeological finding predates the time of Abraham and reveals it was customary in the region of Haran for a woman to be given the right to agree to or reject any offer of marriage.[1]

Conclusion

Therefore, the biblical data and the archaeological discoveries from the Nuzi Tablets would indicate that the wishes of the woman would determine if she married her rapist. Eugene H. Merrill in his commentary on Deuteronomy states,

In any event, the perpetrator of the act must marry the girl (assuming her willingness) and could never divorce her. Again the deterrent effect of such an outcome is most evident (cf. v. 19).[2]

References:

1. Stuart A. West. “The Nuzi Tablets Reflections On the Patriarchal Narratives.” Biblia. (www.biblia.work/sermons/thenuzi-tablets-reflections-on-the-patriarchal-narratives/)
2. Eugene H. Merrill. Deuteronomy. The New American Commentary. B&H Publishing Co. 1994.  vol 4. p. 306.