In part one of this post, we saw that the Law was set up to protect Israel, and we saw that Deut 22:13-30 contains laws to protect her from sexual debauchery. We looked at Deut 22:13-22, and are driving through vs 23-30 in this post. If you haven’t read part one, please do so.
The Cheating Fiancé
Adultery in a marriage is serious enough, but even if someone cheats while betrothed, she and her partner are put to death:
If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you. (KJV)
There are a few things of note here. First, this is clearly a consensual affair. That’s why the woman dies. We’ll see in the next verse that if she was forced, then she wouldn’t be considered guilty. But also, there is this word, “humbled,” that we need to explore a bit.
The Hebrew word here is ‛ânâh, and it is in the piel form, too. Now, the word in its plainest sense (also called “qal form”) would mean “to afflict” or even “to oppress,” but the piel form intensifies the meaning. The intense form of “to afflict” is not “to humble.” Now, there may be some contexts, where affliction is used to bring to humility (Ps 35:13), but the meaning of the word itself would be to afflict severely. The King James even translates the piel form with words like “ravish” (Lam 5:11) or “defiled” (Gen 34:2) in other places. Even though the woman agreed to it, the man’s crime against the woman was an intense affliction. I like how the ESV translates it “violated.” However we translate the word, the man who committed this crime had to die under the law.
The Violent Rape
If God wanted Israel to execute men who had sex with others’ fiancés who were willing, then would He let them go if the sex was not consensual? The obvious answer is no, but let’s read what the Bible says anyway.
“But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.
Just as in Deut 22:23-24, this passage deals with a betrothed woman. That time, it was consensual and both were put to death, but this time it is against the woman’s will. The word that the ESV translates here as “seizes” comes from the Hebrew word châzaq, which carries the implication of using strength or force. This violent rape is completely the man’s fault. The woman cried out in the field, but nobody could save her; she has done nothing worthy of death as in the previous passage. God is very much opposed to rape and it was a capital crime in Israel that is comparable to murder.
In the immediate context, we have seen the penal code for a lying husband (Deut 22:13-19), a carnal single (22:20-21), an adulterous couple (22:22), a cheating fiancé (22:23-24), and a violent rape (22:25-27). Each of these crimes is unique, and all but one result in death (but it does require a scourging that could bring a man close to death). Now we get to the next crime, which is the topic of this series.
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. (KJV)
The first thing that should automatically stand out after our study in part one is the word, “humbled,” which we determined to mean “violate” rather than “humble.” It is the same word used back in 22:24 in reference to a consensual affair. But, the real key is in what it means to “lay hold on her.” It sounds like the same kind of violent rape that’s happening in 22:25-27. In fact, the ESV has the verb, “seizes,” in both places. Interestingly, the KJV has “force” in 22:25 and “lay hold on” in 22:28. But, what does the Hebrew say?
The Hebrew word here is tâphaś, which is different from châzaq, so it wouldn’t be right to translate them both with the same English word. This word, tâphaś, comes from a primitive root that means, “to manipulate.” While it can be used in reference to taking prisoners, it is used frequently in reference to handling instruments (Gen 4:21; Jer 46:8-9; 50:16; Ez 21:11; 27:29; 38:4; Amo 2:15). We use the English idiom, “she played him like a fiddle” to describe a woman manipulating a man (or vice versa), and that’s basically what’s going on with this Hebrew word (see the manipulation in Is 3:6). The crime in Deut 22:28-29 is not a violent act of rape, but rather a manipulation into consensual sex.
Is it ok to sweet-talk a girl into having premarital sex? No. Is it ok to have premarital sex with a man if he sweet-talks you? No. So, what did the Law command Israel to do when this kind of scandal went down? Well, the man who committed the crime has done two people wrong: first, the father, who was responsible for rearing the woman, but also the woman herself.
Regarding the father, he has the authority to refuse to let his daughter marry the man (Ex 22:16-17), but if he did not stop the process, then the groom would pay a 50-shekel fine. As we saw in Deut 22:20-21, the fine is not so much financial damaging as it is a picture of the guilt being accepted. Regarding the bride, this is a terrible way to start a marriage. As we saw in the case of the lying husband, sometimes there are divorce restrictions for the greater good of society.
Once again, there are bad things we can say about the Mosaic Law. It was a system that ultimately failed to keep Israel free. But, one bad thing that we cannot say is that it condoned rape. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is about consensual premarital sex.
Sex with moms and Peeping Toms
The next verse isn’t as controversial, as it reflects modern values (for now), but it would drive the OCD crazy to leave it out.
A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor uncover his father’s skirt. (KJV)
Ew, gross. Some texts will put a chapter break in, such that 22:30 is actually 23:1. It’s on the topic of sexual perversions though, so it seems fitting to be part of chapter 22.
So, there we have it. God does not condone rape, and even called for capital punishment against rapists. This section of Mosaic Law actually protects the women of Israel, so it can’t be used as a go-to text to show that God is unjust against women. Now, it could be a good proof text to demonstrate that the God of the Bible does not have the same values as you (it says a lot about premarital sex, adultery, dead-beat dads, etc.), but God has never been ok with rape.