Deut 22 – Condoning Rape?
Deuteronomy 22:22-28 – Does this passage condone rape?
This passage is actually about condemning adultery and fornication. The scenarios all speak to this issue, in several forms that it takes. In verse 22, if one man and the wife of another man have sex (an adultery), the death penalty is handed down to both of them for the crime. In verse 23-24 it is basically the same scenario, except that the woman is engaged rather than married (which was a more serious and legally binding state in that society than ours, in fact the original language goes on to condemn the man because he has done this to his neighbour's “wife”). Now, a casual reading may make this passage seem overly harsh, as though the woman is being stoned merely because she did not make enough noise. In reality, this is given for the purpose of a distinguishing criteria between a rape case and an adultery. The lack of a cry for help is simply a fairly objective indicator of consent. If it could be shown that the woman, despite being desperate to avoid the encounter, would not have been helped in her struggle, then this case would fall under the next scenario in verse 25-26. Conceptually, the implication is that if she did not “cry out” (did not attempt to avoid the encounter, enlisting any help available) then she is guilty of having entered into it with consent. The point is actually that if they are committing adultery, they are both guilty. Verse 25-26 clearly show the condemnation of the rapist, and not the victim, in a forced sexual encounter. Many will stumble at verse 28-29, this seems absolutely horrifying in our society, that a rape victim be forced to marry their assailant. What needs to be firmly grasped is that there is a distinct lack of welfare system in the society of the time. This is actually not a case of the victim being forced to marry the assailant, but the assailant being forced to marry the victim. Virginity being a much bigger deal in that culture, the woman will have been made essentially unmarriageable by the attack. This means that she is in a situation of tremendous adversity, to be without the material support of a husband her whole life. The assailant is forced to marry her (and told that he may never divorce her), to ensure that she is looked after, and not condemned to poverty because of his crime. Again, this is not condoning rape, rather, the penalties for such actions are quite severe.