Bible Question:

What is the meaning of the Greek word translated as “violate” in Deuteronomy 22:24, 29?

Bible Answer:

The two passages and the word that you refer to are as follows:

If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you . . . 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. (NASB) Deut. 22:23-24, 28-29

Meaning of Violated

The book of Deuteronomy was written in the Hebrew language. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic while the New Testament was written in Greek. This implies that the meaning of the word “violated” will be found in the Hebrew language.

The Hebrew word for “violate” can be transliterated as the two letters NH. The word can mean “bow down, afflict, humble, submit, or oppress.” The word was used to refer to Amnon’s sexual rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:1-32. it was also used to refer to physical oppression in Genesis 31:50. It was used to refer to a person “humbling” himself/herself (Psalm 35:13) or to inflict pain (Ps. 105:18). In summary, the word has a negative meaning and has the combined sense of pain, suffering, or humiliation.

Meaning of the Passage

In Deuteronomy 22:23-24 the word tells us that the man humiliated the woman’s husband by having intercourse with her. This is a foreign thought today because society no longer sees the husband as the head or leader of the home. But from God’s view, the woman willingly submitted to sexual intercourse because she did not try to stop the man and so her husband was “violated” by both her and the other man.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 presents a different situation. Here the woman is a virgin who is not engaged and a man rapes her. In this case God says the man must marry her and could never divorce her. Jewish law may shed some light on this passage when it says that her father had to approve of the marriage. It was also customary for fathers to consider the desires of their daughters. This is implied in Genesis 24:39 where Abraham’s servant says, “Suppose the woman does not follow me.” It is the opinion of most Bible scholars that her father was able to stop the marriage if she did not want it to occur. Unfortunately, there is not enough information from scripture to gain a better understanding of this passage.


The meaning of the word is negative. God does not approve of rape or sexual relations outside of marriage. This is a clear moral standard to which God calls us to.