Does the Old Testament condone rape?

I had a really great discussion with an atheist friend this evening. He thew out the idea that Deuteronomy 22.28-29 teaches that if a girl is raped, she must then marry the rapist. Here’s my response, I thought it might be interesting to a very few of you.

I want to apologize. If I were a better debater I would have already known this stuff… but on the bright side this gave me a good excuse to pull out my concordance and Hebrew Dictionary and do a little digging.

We talked about Deuteronomy 22.28-29 “the rape section”

The original Hebrew does not have the word rape in it but combines a set of words that mean “take hold of” – and “lie down”. Which pretty much describes sex, but not necessarily rape.

A number of translations render the Hebrew words taphaz shakab as “seduce” in vs.28. (which makes so much more sense in context)

Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22.28-29 are parallel and represent the same law.

The Exodus version is a little more clear. It says, 16“If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. 17“If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins.

The obvious answer here, is that this is a time for the father to determine, was it consensual, or was it rape? Who better to determine if it’s rape or consensual than the father, the girls protector and confidant? If it was rape then obviously he’d refuse to let her marry the rapist. If it was consensual the father might allow them to get married. Either way the boy still has to pay the dowry.

Notice how the New King James puts it. “and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out,” (this is a very literal translation based on the Hebrew)

Of special note to me: “and THEY are found out.” This sounds like consensual sex to me. If the boy was committing a crime, then why would the girl be included in the “they are found out”?

This is almost certainly talking about consensual sex.

The focus of this section of chapter 22 is when a man has sex with either (a.) a virgin who is betrothed (b.) a virgin who is not betrothed or (c.) a woman who is already married.

In all these cases these women would mostly likely need some convincing, considering the heavy consequences for adultery or premarital sex.

So, the Hebrew text implies that the women were seduced, coerced, or talked into it, but rape seems to be the wrong word for taphas shakab In verse 28-29. ( Note that the previous verses that were more clearly talking about rape use the words chazaq (forced) bah (in) ish (man) shakab (lie with – sex)


Folks got married young in those days, and an unbetrothed virgin would have been rare. This verse could be talking about 13 year old boys, because virtually all men over that age were married.

Secondly an unbetrothed virgin, could mean that the girl was not someone that anyone else wanted to marry. Notice that the verse says, he can’t divorce here. The verse could be paraphrased this way, “if you have sex with her, you’re going to have to marry her… even if she’s not so hot…and it’s going to be expensive… and then you’re stuck with her.” Obviously the Dad could refuse the marriage, but the boy did not have option to refuse if the father agreed. It’s a penalty for premarital sex, not a pass for rape.

Even in cases of “sure-enough” rape, the Exodus verses mentioned above show that the rape victim would not be forced to marry the rapist. Her dad has the obligation to protect her from true rape, but had the authority to grant a marriage if the sex was consensual.

Eww that was fun.

About Lucas

Lucas is a staff writer with simply belief, and sci-fi/fantasy novelist. He has a B.S. in Bible, Psychology, and History/Political Science. He lives and writes from his home office in East Texas with his wife, daughter, and cat.