Does the Bible teach that a woman has to marry her rapist?
Recently I read a shocking news report out of Morocco about a 16 year-old girl who committed suicide after a judge ordered her to marry her rapist. A number of conservative bloggers and commenters jumped on the story as another example of a real "war" against women by Islamic societies. They contrasted that story with the imaginary "war" against women concocted by leftists here in the U.S. who decry the withholding of free birth control and abortions from promiscuous girls.
Though I agree with a number of these bloggers who wrote that a greater threat against girls comes from Islamic societies, those same bloggers seemed to have failed to read the comments under that news item. If they had, they would have seen atheists quoting Deuteronomy 22:28, 29 and mockingly accusing Christians and other religious conservatives of hypocrisy, because, as the atheist claims, the Christian Bible teaches the exact same thing about the fate of raped girls marrying their rapists as this Moroccan judge.
Deuteronomy 22:28, 29 states,
28 "If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out,
29 "then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.
According to the atheists, this passage describes a young woman (read here: 16 year-old Moroccan girl), who is violently raped by a thuggish man, and rather than being punished, he is told that if he marries her all will be forgiven. The young woman has no choice in the matter. She and her family has to comply. And they can never get divorced.
As the first atheist commenter under that news article stated, “it’s why we hate religion.”
So is the atheist right? Does the Bible teach that rape victims must marry their rapist, assuming they aren't married to begin with? A modern day example would be the college freshman coed who gets date raped at a Saturday night frat party having to marry her frat boy rapist.
Some preliminary remarks before we even delve into providing a response.
First, as I noted in an article on the sex-trade and the Bible, atheists love to abuse these types of passages in the OT. They always cite them out of historical context and often times butcher the translation. Going back again to the atheist commenter under that news article, he not only got the verses wrong, he also picked a terrible translation that totally misrepresents what the passage is saying. But who says atheists like to play fair in these discussions?
At any rate, after they quote their pet verse, the atheists proclaim how Christians are ignorant of their own Bibles because they cherry-pick verses. Christians need to be consistent, argues the atheist. If they are gonna hate on gays and not allow them to be married, they need to be prepared to own slaves and not eat lobster. That of course is a dishonest, lazy way of offering objections because it doesn't seek to truly engage the position.
But secondly, and more to the point, why, according to the atheist's particular view of the world, is this law a "bad" thing? Why should we care? Why should it make them “hate religion?”
Keep in mind that atheism believes humans are merely biological, gene replicators trying their hardest to pass their genes on to the next generation in order to survive. What's with all the moral outrage over a female gene replicator being told to reproduce exclusively with an exceptionally aggressive male gene replicator? These two individuals are just a couple of highly evolved hominids. Do atheists get morally outraged with alpha male primates that "rape" young female primates and add them to the "harem" as it were?
The atheists are inserting all of this phony talk of justice, violating the wills of persons, right and wrong, etc. Under the conditions by which atheists claim the world works, they are wanting me to see some glaring inconsistency with how I as a Christian believe the world works. But aren't we all just gene replicators living out life according to our genetic program? If my genetic program insists female gene replicators should reproduce exclusively with aggressive male gene replicators, what exactly is the problem?
But moving along to reality, how exactly then do I understand this text?
Deuteronomy is outlining instructions for life within a theocratic society, a society whose purpose is to live separately from their surrounding nations and are set apart as a holy nation of people belonging to YHWH. Within that society, YHWH provides instructions on how to deal with situations that will arise among His people, that would include relationships, marriage, and sadly, sexual sin. Israel, in spite of being a distinct, "holy" nation, is a nation comprised of sinners who will at times act sinfully.
Deuteronomy 22:13 ff., addresses laws pertaining to sexual morality and regulates a variety of scenarios that would potentially surface among the people of Israel. That includes situations involving premarital promiscuity, infidelity, affairs, and rape.
If one were to read the text carefully, there is a law addressing rape found in 22:25-27. It reads,
25 "But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces 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; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter.
27 "For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.
The word "forces" describes a man who sees a woman and rapes her. The text says it is akin to a man rising against his neighbor and committing murder. In such a case the rapist is executed. Nothing happens to the girl. Those three passages clearly speak about rape and what happens to the rapist and victim.
However, 22:28-29 describes a much different situation.
The atheist will point to the word "seizes" as translated in the NKJV and other English translations and claim the word means rape. That isn't totally accurate. The word has the basic idea of "to grasp" or "seize" and doesn't necessarily mean rape in a violent sense. The context will determine that. The only modern translations that translate the word as “rape” that I could find were the NET and the TNIV, but I believe they offer a woefully bad translation that does not represent the passage. I say that for at least three reasons.
First, the idea here is a guy taking a girl who isn't "betrothed" to be married. She isn't engaged, nor has she been pledged to another man, so she is probably young, still living at home with her parents.
Next, the verse says "and they are found out" or "discovered." "To be discovered" means that the couple didn't want to be found out. The implication being that his or her family found out they had sexual relations with each other. This would mean the girl could very well had been a willing participant in the sexual sin.
Contrast that situation with the one described in the previous three verses. There it is clear a girl is raped. The fact that she cries for help indicates she was attacked. In that situation, the guy is executed. Now, in verses 28, 29, both the guy and the girl are "discovered," and rather than being executed, the guy is told to marry the girl. It would be a rather odd regulation if in one instance, the guy is executed for his attack, yet in the next, he is allowed to marry his victim. It's nonsensical, to be exact.
Third, the situation described in Deuteronomy 22:28, 29 reads almost exactly like Exodus 22:16, 17. In fact, Deuteronomy is more than likely a reiteration of these verses in Exodus,
16 "If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife.
17 "If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.
Here we have described for us a man who “entices,” or better, “seduces” a young girl and sleeps with her. It is not a rape at all, but is something that is quite common between teenagers even in our day. That being, a young man who sweet-talks a girl into liking him and he gets her into bed, or in the case of our modern society, in the back of his 94 Dodge van. Rather than being raped, she is willingly compliant.
When they are found out, the guy isn’t executed because he didn’t violently attack her. He is given the option to marry her along with paying fifty shekels of silver to the family for his foolish, piggish behavior.
Also notice that Exodus 22:17 gives the option for the father to refuse the marriage. In other words, he can tell the young man to take a hike and not come back. The young man is still required to pay the bride-price, or the dowry the family would have received when the daughter was engaged.
Looking over that article about this situation in Morocco, none of these biblical factors are even present. The father was “pressured” by authorities to make his daughter marry the guy. Her and her family weren’t given the choice to say no as the Bible allows.
So to say that the Bible makes a girl marry her rapist is just patently absurd.