What does the Bible say about rape?
The most extensive passage about rape in the Bible is Deuteronomy 22:25-29. This passage is an important one since it teaches God’s view about this serious sin. This passage of Scripture has two sections (v. 25-27; 28-29). They reveal God’s view of rape and the punishment for it He demands. So, what does the Bible say about causal sex?
Engaged/Married Woman Is Forcibly Raped
The first section is verses 25-27. It gives us a biblical principle regarding the punishment for a man raping an engaged or a married woman. In the passage we are told that a man finds an engaged girl and forcefully has sex with her.
But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. 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. When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her. Deuteronomy 22:25-27 (NASB)
First, we are told the a man and a girl are in the field. That is, they are not in a highly populated area such s a city. We are to understand that most likely no one would have been able to hear her scream and then help her escape being raped.
Second, we are told the girl is engaged. The commitment made in an engagement was the equivalent to that of a marriage in both the Old and New Testament times. Consequently, an engaged or betrothed woman was considered the same as married. That means the principle of this passage applies to married women too!
Third, we are told the sex is forced. That is, rape occurred. Consequently, the woman is not guilty of consensual sex, but the man is guilty of rape. God demands that only the man be put to death. Verse 27 ties the verses together when it says she cried out. Obviously. if no one could hear her, then no one would know she cried out. The point of the verse is that she struggled against his attempts and failed. So, his punishment was death.
Non-Engaged Woman Is Forcibly Raped
The second situation is about a man who rapes a virgin who is not engaged or promised to marry. This is an important difference from the previous passage.
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)
The Hebrew word for “seizes” is tapas. It means “to take hold of.” The word is also translated in other passages as “capture, arrest, or grasp.” The word also suggests that something else will occur next. What follows next is that the man lies down, sakab, with the non-engaged virgin and rapes her. This does not describe consensual sex.
Then we learn that if a man rapes a non-engaged virgin, two things will occur. The first is the man must pay fifty shekels of silver to the girl’s father. Today the monetary value of fifty shekels of silver is equal to about $148 in USD in 2022. But the greater significance of the 50 shekels is that it is the bride price for the virgin girl (Genesis 34:12; Exodus 22:16; 1 Samuel 18:25). It was customary that a prospective husband pay for the right to marry a virgin. It was called the bride price. This must not be confused with a dowry which was money paid to the groom to help setup the new home. The bride price also served as a goodwill gesture. It would have demonstrated a financial ability and a seriousness to care for one’s daughter.
It was customary in the Old and New Testament eras, for sons and daughters to ask for the blessing of their fathers in order to marry. The parents did not own their sons and daughters. By asking permission to marry, they showed honor to their parents. The fifth commandment of the Ten Commandments commands that we give honor to our parents (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 27:16. It is also repeated in the New Testament (Ephesians 6:2-3; Colossians 3:20). Sons and daughters were not owned by their fathers, but were to be in submission to their father. Today, the western cultures have almost abandoned this practice or concept.
Second, we are told the non-engaged virgin could become the man’s wife because he had raped her and he then could not divorce her all his days. This seems to be a cruel requirement for the virgin since she was forcibly raped by this man. But a parallel Old Testament passage helps us understand the virgin had a choice. She was not forced to marry her rapist. The parallel passage is Exodus 22:16-17 and it states,
If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins. Exodus 22:16-17 (NASB)
Here we told the father could choose to not allow the marriage to occur. It was also customary for a father to ask his daughter if she wanted to marry the man. Genesis 24:58 is an important example. There we are told Rebekah was asked if she wanted to marry Isaac. She said yes! The point is the raped victim was not forced to marry the rapist It was an option. Nevertheless, the rapist still had to pay money equal to a dowry.
So, what does the Bible say about rape? Deuteronomy 22:25-29 describes two cases. The first case describes a man raping an engaged woman. His punishment was death. The second case of rape required the man to pay money equal to a bride price for the girl and marry the girl he raped if that is what she desired and her father agreed. If these laws were enforced today, rape, adultery, STD rates, and abortion would be greatly reduced. But the world has a distorted sense of morality and would rather show mercy to the rapist and not suppress the sin and trauma of rape. The tragedy is far worse than striving to please God and to not sin against Him.
Suggested Links:Must rape victims marry their rapist? — Deuteronomy 22:28-29
What is the meaning of the word translated as “violate” in Deut. 22?