Does the bible say a woman has to marry her rapist in Deut 22:28-29? Most translations don’t use that word because the Hebrew text doesn’t use that word in these specific verses. That verse actually describes what happens in the case of fornication when a woman is neither married nor engaged and just has sex. If they are caught, no one is stoned to death, and the man is required to pay her dowry and marry her, but only with her father’s permission.
Deut 22:28 (NLT) “Suppose a man has intercourse with a young woman who is a virgin but is not engaged to be married. If they are discovered, 29 he must pay her father fifty pieces of silver. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he may never divorce her as long as he lives.
This has to be done with her father’s approval according to Exodus 22:16-17, and if they marry, he loses the right to divorce her. Some translations of Deut 22:28-29 say that a woman must marry her rapist, however, most translations including the KJV, are describing fornication (sex before marriage). That is because the Hebrew text doesn’t use that word in these specific verses.
Here is a look at a bunch of translations of that verse, the word rape is only in 6 of the 28 translations listed here.
According to Deut 22:23-27, a man who rapes a married on an engaged woman is put to death for adultery. Meanwhile, the victim is considered innocent. Verse 22 of the same chapter says if an engaged or married woman is caught in adultery they both get stoned. Rape victims are seen as NOT GUILTY according to verse 26. Furthermore, verses 23-27 state that if it happens in the city, then it’s only raping if she yells for help, but if it happens in the country where no one could hear her then, it can be assumed that the woman screamed and no one heard her. So the Bible teaches us to believe women unless there’s evidence to the contrary. This means that it’s possible that she wasn’t raped and lied about it to cover adultery, but if she did lie, God will get justice on her if she remains unrepentant. There is a test at the Tabernacle that could have exposed her in Numbers 5:11-31, but she will only be made barren not put to death. God is not mocked everyone will reap what they sow (Galatians 6:7). Liars and false witnesses will not get away with it (Prov 19:9).
For more confirmation that this is fornication and not rape, look at Exodus 22:16-17. It says an unmarried man that has sex with an unmarried woman (fornication), must pay a bride price to marry her. He can only marry her with the father’s permission, but he must pay the bride price even if the father doesn’t give permission as a penalty for taking her virginity. Deuteronomy was Moses’ final speech to the Israelites, where he says not to repeat the sins of their parents who didn’t get to see the promised land. He didn’t just give new laws, but he also reiterated and elaborated on the ones from the previous books of the Torah. This means the misleading translations that say rape instead seduce/fornicate, aren’t making the necessary legal connections across the Torah to what Exodus initially stated or sticking with what the original language says. This translator’s view is that the text is flowing from the previous statements about raping a married woman.
Finally, here is a linguistics lesson. The Hebrew word taphas (תָּפַשׂ) in verse 28 is translated as rape, in the NIV and a few other translations. This word means to lay hold of, grab, or handle. In verse 29 the word shakab (שָׁכַב) is used to refer to the man who raped her, but “shakab” is a generic word for lying down or sleeping, and can also be used for resting or laying low. If Moses wanted to say rape he would have used a hebrew word like chazaq (חָזַק) which is what he used in Deut 22:25, where he says a rape victim is innocent. Another Hebrew word translated as rape is the word, anah (עָנָה) used in Genesis 34:2 when prince Shechem raped Jacob’s daughter Dinah. These words generally mean, “prevail upon, force, become strong”.
Concordance view of the Hebrew text:
Lay hold of, Wield – taphas (תָּפַשׂ)
It is true that married rape victims and unmarried rape victims are treated differently. For the unmarried, it is treated like fornication rather than adultery, and no one dies. The option of marriage according to Ex 22:16-17 is there if she wants to do it and her father permits. Why would a woman want to marry her rapist? This is because a woman had fewer chances of being wanted if she wasn’t a virgin. If she didn’t want to take the chance she would agree to marry, but if she had confidence she could still get a husband she would decline. We never see a rape victim marrying their rapist in the bible. We do see the opposite like with Tamar who was raped by her half-brother Amnon in 2 Samuel chapter 13. She suggests for Amnon to go to their father David to ask permission to marry, in order to avoid the risk and shame of being a non-virgin spinster, but Amnon declines because he hated her afterward. Absalom, Tamar’s brother eventually kills Amnon out of revenge for his sister. Likewise, in Genesis 34 Dinah, one of Jacob’s daughters, was raped by the prince of Shechem. Dinah’s brothers pretended to agree to have her marry Shechem but required that he be circumcised first, along with all the other men in town. This was a trick to get all the men too weak to fight. Her brothers Simeon and Levi get revenge and kill all of the men in the town while they are healing, including the prince.
Notice Deut 22:28 ends with them being caught, implying that they are both doing something bad together. If she is a rape victim, then she can’t be “caught” sinning with him, but rather she is an innocent victim, which is pointed out in the proceeding verses in Deut 22:23-27. So this verse is mainly dealing with consensual fornication and not explicitly rape.
The reason those translations use rape is that they were likely going with the flow from the previous passages about a raped wife or engaged woman. In principle, the rape of an unmarried woman is treated similarly to fornication since no one is put to death. In examples from Genesis of unmarried women being raped mentioned above, the father did not give permission. So it wasn’t a requirement that fathers give their daughters to a rapist to marry. In the case of Tamar, she asked her rapist to go get permission so that she wouldn’t be a spinster, but he never did. David did find out about it and did nothing, possibly because Amnon was his firstborn from a different wife, this is why Absalom, Tamar’s brother, killed Amnon himself, and eventually, Absalom led a coup to overthrow David in 2 Sam 15.
Lastly, as for the divorce aspect notice, Deut 22:29 says that the man cannot divorce her. This is because he seduced or violated her, meaning he can’t divorce her even if she violates the marriage covenant according to Deut 24:1. However, she can divorce him based on the principles of Ex 21:10-11, which says a woman can divorce her husband for neglect. Therefore she can divorce him but he cannot divorce her even in the case of adultery, because he put her in this situation without going through a proper arrangement. One thing to remember is that a non-virgin woman would have a harder time finding someone who will marry her and a divorced woman is typically not a virgin so she may have less incentive to use this option unless pushed to the brink. It was for her protection that he could not just use her and toss her to the side limiting her chances of getting married and having financial protection and children. Of course, if he refuses to have sex with her she has a right to a divorce (Ex 21:10-11).
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