Last week, while talking about the standards of slavery that the creator of the universe set forth in the Old Testament, we touched lightly on the abhorrent treatment of women in the Bible. I'm afraid we've got more of the same this week as Natasha Crain asks, "Does the Bible support rape?" in chapter 31 of her Christian parenting book, Keeping Your Kids on God's Side. You know, I don't think I've ever offered the full title of Natasha's book in one of my posts. Let me go ahead and do that:
Keeping Your Kids on God's Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith
So, Christian parents, gather your kids around as Natasha helps you work through the difficult conversation of rape in the Bible with your children. Are you kidding me? Natasha acknowledges that the OT is filled with passages that never quite make it into a child's Sunday school class. She further acknowledges that "...because of their jarring nature, skeptics love to highlight them whenever possible. We need to know how to respond, and how to help our kids navigate these shocking claims." Trust me, the shocking claims are not coming from the skeptics. They are coming directly from the word of God.
**Biblical Laws Pertaining to Rape: Deuteronomy 22:23-29.
23 “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
25 “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. 26 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, 27 because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.
28 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.
Natasha explains that the first two verses describe an encounter between two "consenting adults," a man and an engaged, young woman, while the second set of verses (vs. 25-27) are in fact describing rape, in which a young, engaged woman is seized in a remote area where her cries might not be heard. There's several problems here. In the first situation, the adults are to be stoned to death for their consensual encounter. So, let me get this straight. The consenting adults receive the same exact punishment as the rapist? Like so many other things in the Bible, that makes no sense. Furthermore, given the circumstances of betrothal at that time, there's no reason to assume that the engaged female was an adult simply because she was at an age in which she could bear children. Under any circumstances, should she deserve to be stoned? What if the female was too frightened to call out for help, possibly frozen in fear of her attacker? Unfortunately, as Natasha notes, "Old Testament laws don't address every possible case, which can sometimes leave us hanging on for the details." Details? Okay, let's talk about details. The creator of the universe has no problem detailing the worth of a woman in Leviticus 27:1-7.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, If anyone makes a special vow to the Lord involving the valuation of persons, 3 then the valuation of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old shall be fifty shekels[a] of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. 4 If the person is a female, the valuation shall be thirty shekels. 5 If the person is from five years old up to twenty years old, the valuation shall be for a male twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels. 6 If the person is from a month old up to five years old, the valuation shall be for a male five shekels of silver, and for a female the valuation shall be three shekels of silver. 7 And if the person is sixty years old or over, then the valuation for a male shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels.
God certainly didn't leave us "hanging on for the details" when it comes to the value of a female (roughly half that of a man). So, what about the last set of verses (vs. 28-29)? In this case, an unengaged female is raped and then forced to marry her rapist. The father is given fifty shekels, and the perpetrator is not allowed to divorce her. Okay, Christian parents, this may sound offensive, but you'll just need to explain to your daughters that it's really not as bad as it seems. "Here we need some context," Natasha counsels. She continues:
"In the culture of the time, an unengaged woman who had lost her virginity was undesirable for marriage. Without the support of a husband, she would face a life of poverty and social isolation. This law spared the rapist’s life in order to ensure the victim’s future economic security. In the previous case, where the rape victim was engaged, the rapist could be executed because the woman already had the security of a future husband. The law sounds bad at first, but it was actually for the victim’s protection."
See? It's not that bad. It was in the female's best interest to marry her rapist . . . because getting raped wasn't traumatizing enough. How merciful.
Natasha mentions that in Exodus 22:16-17, which describes the laws of consensual sex between a man and an unengaged woman, the father could deny the marriage; so it is possible that this stipulation might have also applied to the rape scenario in verses 28-29 above. She reasons that "...that the girl's father could refuse the marriage if it wasn't in her best interest." Hmm, given "the culture of the time" and the God-given value of a woman in which the daughter had no rights and was nothing more than property, why would it be reasonable to assume that the father would do what was in the daughter's best interest? We have no idea what the father would do or if the girl's wishes were ever considered.
I am so thankful to be on the other side, to now have the realization that these laws pertaining to engaged or unengaged, virgin or nonvirgin Israelite women were created by none other than their male counterparts and not some divine authority. Yet, I find it extremely disheartening when Christian women, especially of the apologist sort, who have obviously familiarized themselves with and studied these repugnant passages, who may very well have daughters of their own, are willing to defend such verses and support them as being in the female's best interest. Yes, the skeptic fully understands that this was a different time and a different culture. It doesn't matter! We're talking about the difference between what is right and what is wrong, the treatment of one's fellow human being. Surely, if there was a god, he could have gotten that right.