In the past, I've accused the creator of the universe as being inconsistent, but that's not wholly true. God is actually quite consistent when it comes to the deplorable treatment of women. He's either providing the laws in which women are clearly treated as second class citizens, laying out their monetary worth in shekels (Part One of this post), or he's impotently sitting back as the Israelite men have their way with the female spoils of war. Okay, parents, round up the kids and grab your Bible. It's study time! If you thought the Israelite women had it bad...
1) Approval to Rape Female War Captives? Deuteronomy 20:10-14
10 “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. 11 And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. 12 But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. 13 And when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword, 14 but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you.
Natasha explains, "As you can see, rape isn't mentioned here at all. God only says the Israelites shouldn't kill the women and children, even when a city refuses to surrender. Far from encouraging rape, this law protected the women." Protected, indeed. Let's read on. Thus sayeth the creator of the universe in Deuteronomy 21:10-14:
10 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, 12 and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. 13 And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.
I don't even know where to start. Okay, I guess God meant nothing by it when he encouraged the Israelites to "enjoy the spoil" of their enemies. Sure, their husbands and sons were slaughtered, but I'm certain the women and their daughters settled right in to the comforting arms of their perpetrators. Oh, and you better hope that none of these savages found you attractive and marriage-worthy. In such a case, you'd generously be given an entire month to mourn your loss of your family, but not before shaving your head and trimming your nails in disgrace. After that, he could marry you and have (most likely nonconsensual) sex with you. If he changed his mind and no longer took "delight" in you, he could send you on your way, no strings attached, since he had "humiliated" you.
So, what does Natasha have to say about this? "Admittedly, in our culture today, we don’t like the idea of anyone being obligated to marry. However, in the aftermath of ancient war, this was the best possible scenario for a woman. Her life was spared and, instead of facing a future with no economic means in a foreign land, she had the opportunity to fully integrate into Israelite society through marriage. To say these passages demonstrate God’s approval of rape grossly misconstrues the text. When you consider the biblical and cultural context, it becomes clear that these laws were in place to help protect women who were caught in the difficult aftermath of war."
Hold on. The "best possible scenario" for a female captive whose family has just been destroyed was a forced marriage and subsequent sex with the offender? What is it called when a woman is forced to have sex against her will? Listening to a podcast recently, I cringed as the Christian apologist described these passages as a "merciful act." Let me tell you, this is how Christianity warps and twists one's moral compass. Sadly, there's more.
2) Approval to Rape the Midianite Virgins? Numbers 31:17-18
17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. 18 But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.
After God commanded the Israelites to execute his vengeance on the Midianites, whose whoring women had physically enticed the Israelites into worshiping Baal, the warring men returned to Moses with the women and their children. Angry that they had allowed the women to live, Moses instructed them to kill all of the women and their male children but to keep all of the virgins for themselves. Why were the male children killed? What sin were they guilty of? Natasha explains that "...the women were guilty of seducing the Israelites, so God's judgment was upon them." And that makes it okay, because those poor Israelite men were just victims of these women, completely powerless against their seduction. Don't expect God to just sit back while his men are taken advantage of. Plus, it worked out great for the virgins who, as Natasha reminds us, "...would have been treated according to the laws we already discussed in our look at Deuteronomy 21:10-14." Yeah, that's what I was afraid of.
3) Approval to Rape the Women of Jabesh-gilead? Judges 21:10-12
10 So the congregation sent 12,000 of their bravest men there and commanded them, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones. 11 This is what you shall do: every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.” 12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
**Okay, parents, you might want to send the kids outside to play for this one.** In this enlightening story, Holy Scripture (Judges 19) tells us of a Levite and his concubine traveling through Gibeah, a town occupied by the males of the tribe of Benjamin. Seeking a place to stay for the night, an old man kindly allows them to rest for the night at his home. Unfortunately, the wicked men of the city, banging on the door of the master's home, demand that the Levite be sent out so that they could "know him." (Anyone having Sodom and Gormorrah flashbacks here?) The master instead sends out the Levite's concubine, who is then abused all night until the morning. She doesn't survive the night. When the Levite retaliates his loss with the help of the other tribes of Israel, only 600 Benjaminite men remain. Not wanting to see the complete loss of one of their tribes, the Israelites wage war on Jabesh-gilead, as noted in the verses above, to steal their virgins and thus allow the tribe of Benjamin to survive. Nice.
Natasha quickly points out that although this is a horrible story, it is not one that God encouraged or endorsed. In fact, if skeptics would quit cherry-picking, they would see that scripture goes on to tell us in Judges 21:25, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Natasha states, "It's dishonest for skeptics to pull this purely descriptive passage out of the Bible and suggest that it demonstrates God's approval of rape -- especially given the clear indictment that follows in verse 25."
Besides being a horrific story, in which a concubine is abused to death and young virgins are objectified as useful only for continuing the Benjaminite family line, I think the other problem that skeptics have with this passage is God's passivity. When the Israelite men were enticed and victimized into worshiping the wrong god by a bunch of scandalous Midianite women, God was on it! When four hundred young virgins whose families have been slaughtered are subjected to forced marriages, God apathetically sits back and does nothing. Why? Well, the real answer is obvious -- there is no god and men were writing the story; but for the sake of argument, the substandard value of women in God's eyes.
Christian women, female apologists, how is this okay? If the thought of your daughters being half of the monetary value of your sons, being sold like property (chattel slavery), being forced as young virgins into marriages with the men who had just slaughtered their families...if those thoughts even slightly bother you, you need to ask yourselves to what extent you are willing to defend your god. These were God-endorsed circumstances! Don't talk about the moral relativism of skeptics until you're willing to take a good, long look in the mirror. When I got tired of being a hypocrite, I changed my mind.