Deuteronomy is the fifth book in the old testament of the Christian Bible. Chapter 22 contains mostly legal information that was used by the ancient Israelites, these rules are meant to have been given by God for their society to live through. Understandably they cover most areas that our modern legal systems cover and a commonly a base for the legal systems in Christian countries. Thus there are multiple examples of rape in the Bible. However this is always a personal interpretation so some people will twist these words to say more or less what they want. I have copied the relevant sections here and I have put in bold the things that stand out the most to me. I have cut out several verses but you can find the entire chapter here.
13 If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her 14 and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” 15 then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. 16 Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. 17 Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, 18 and the elders shall take the man and punish him. 19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives. 20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.
23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you. 25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, 27 for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her. 28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
Let’s break this down. Verse by verse to what I feel, remember how many Christians base their lives on the contents of this book. I have had one of these verses spoken to me when I was at my worst and I am sure I am not alone.
13, 14 and 15
In these it is shown that a man marries a woman because women were considered as property and ownership was transferred from their fathers to their husbands. This is common in patriarchal societies even today. However, if a man decides he doesn’t want this wife and claims she wasn’t a virgin it is potentially seen as slander. The mother and the father have a right to show proof of her virginity to the town elders. Normally this proof would be the blood on the sheets that is lost along with the woman’s virginity. Sometimes during the first sexual encounter, the hymen will rip leaving a small trace of blood. This is not very accurate and even led to women in medieval England taking small pouches of animal blood to bed with them on their wedding nights to fake the lost blood.
16, 17, 18 and 19
Now as common in this patriarchal society the father does the speaking. The father gave his daughter as before he owned her. If the father has proof of the daughter’s virginity then the husband who is lying is punished. However, as I stated above there isn’t really such a thing as proof of virginity. I’ve heard of women who have torn their hymens doing gymnastics or even using menstrual cups. I’ve heard some women don’t even have a hymen, and that’s just their annatomy. It doesn’t state what the punishment is but the man clearly survives as can’t ever divorce his bride. I can’t imagine that being a healthy way to save a relationship that’s already got off to a bad start but then again, I lack the ancient Israelite perspective.
20 and 21
If the woman is found to be lying, and again I want to point out hymens and blood don’t prove virginity, she will be stoned outside of her childhood home. Stoning is be a horrendous way to die. It is outrageous that a woman can be promiscuous by these standards, so much so it carries a death penalty. I can understand to an extent that in her father’s house you must respect your parent’s rules. I think the part that bothers me the most here is the fact the woman is seen as an evil needing to be purged. Bearing this in mind let’s go onto part two of this section.
23 and 24
I want to put this into 21st century terms. “If two heterosexual virgins from the town have sexual intercourse together and the female is already engaged they shall both be stoned to death. The woman because she may or may not have been consenting but either way didn’t scream for help. The man because he raped another man’s fiancee. Let’s get rid of the evil.”
Now don’t get me wrong, with what happened to me I would love to stone every sexual offender, or hang them, drown them, incarcerate them. I honestly don’t mind. In these days pre-consent though it’s crazy. My first problem with this is that when I was raped I didn’t scream, I froze. I panicked. I kept quiet. By this, I would have been seen as evil needing to be purged. Fight or flight insincts are part of the human mind, it’s how we cope with desicions, if we can’t win we normally run. If we can win we fight, if we panic we freeze. I froze as normal and I would be facing death of it.
25, 26 and 27
This is no longer talking about in the town, this is in the wilderness where there are no witnesses. Thankfully they are seeing sense and only the rapist is being killed here, but what if it was a consensual encounter? Oh right, they’re not married so there’s no consent. I feel it’s great the woman is being protected, as the rapist is being eliminated, but what if it’s an innocent man? What if there was no rape.
28 and 29
I can see the advantage of this being a consensual fling and they could get married out of it, but what if this genuinely was a rape? The young woman is being condemned to the rest of her rapist’s life married to him. A woman is only worth fifty silver coins? I mean, really, is this what women were treated like? What if it was nasty stuff like incest? This just leaves me gaping in awe at the fate of the poor women affected by these laws.
The verse that was quoted to me?
Deuteronomy 22:26 Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor,
This is in the context of a woman in the wilderness who couldn’t be heard screaming. My case isn’t even covered here. I wasn’t a virgin, by this chapter I would have been stoned to death. Thanks, Christianity. I have had someone hint at verses 22 and 23 though, asking why I didn’t scream and saying by biblical terms and in God’s eyes I am as bad as my rapist is.