The Bible Demands that Rape Victims Marry Rapists

Does Deuteronomy 22:28-29 teach that a female rape victim gets married to her rapist?

By Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons.)

    The short and simple answer to the above question is yes. A lot of Christians however, would have us believe that the verses at hand have nothing to do with a raped victim and that it is only the Muslim imagination which says so. Is that really the case? Let us have a look at what the verses say:

“If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” (King James Version)

The observant reader will ask where exactly does the above say rape which is without a doubt a valid question. Well, the above does not say rape because it is written in a language which is not contemporaneous to ours. The key veiled expressions in the above are “lay hold on her” and “humbled her”. To the uninitiated those may sound fine and are simply an idiomatic expressions referring to sexual intercourse that is consensual in nature. Such an interpretation is not only inapt but also grossly erroneous. To get a better idea of what the verse is actually saying let us return to the modern era and read the following rendering from the Christian scholars who produced the New International Version of the Bible:

“If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.” (New International Version)

“Humbled” which is used in the KJV  is an old expression which basically means the same as “violated” albeit the effect is significantly toned down. However, year 2000 version of the KJV uses the verb “violated” rather than “humbled” in its revision. How does a woman get violated if the sex is consensual? Verse 28 in no uncertain terms tells us clearly that the violation is due to rape. The expression “lay hold on her” used in the KJV is a somewhat of a coy way of saying that she got raped. Similarly the English Standard Version renders the verse as follows:

“If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.” (English Standard Version)

The New American Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version concurring with the ESV translate the Hebrew verb(which we will look at in due course) as “seizes her”.

The word “seizes” is self-explanatory to anyone with a good grasp of the English language. However, for the benefit of those who lack that level of comprehension and perhaps those are able to understand yet are in denial of its obvious meaning let us turn to the dictionary definition of the term:

“1 ~ stf (from sb) to take sb/sth in your hand suddenly and using force SYN GRAB: She tried to seize the gun from him… 2 ~ sth (from sb) to take control of a place or situation, often suddenly and violently: They seized the airport in a surprise attack. ” [1]

From the above definition taken from the Oxford Advanced Leaner’s Dictionary one can conclude that the verb “seize” in English means to take something by force often violently without the consent of the person seized upon. Relating the word to the verse it is thus crystal clear that what is meant by “seizes her” is that the poor woman is forced(violently) to have sex without her consent which in short means rape.

Another pertinent English translation which does not shy from conveying the exact meaning of what the verse expresses is God’s Word Translation which was put together by several reputed Christian Biblical scholars such as Dr. Eugene W. Bunkowske who is supervisor of the Doctor of missiology at Concordia Theological Seminary as well as the translation coordinator for United Bible  Societies for the entire African continent, Andrew E. Steinmann (PhD, MDiv), Richard Gudgeon (DMin, MDiv, MA, BA), Martin Homan (ThM, STM, MDiv, BA) and others. According to their published Guide the translation “provides readers with a meaning in the target language that is equivalent to that of the source language.” [2] The following is their translation of Deuteronomy 22:28-29:

“This is what you must do when a man rapes a virgin who isn’t engaged. When the crime is discovered, the man who had sexual intercourse with her must give the girl’s father 11/4 pounds of silver, and she will become his wife. Since he raped her, he can never divorce her as long as he lives.”

As we can see they make it a point to repeat the fact that the female virgin is raped. Notice that this Bible is not produced by atheists or agnostics with an axe to grind. It was produced by Christians and headed by an active missionary who works with the African population in order to Christianise them besides being a recognised expert in linguistics.

The Indonesian Malay translation of the verse is also straightforward in its point:

“Misalkan seorang laki-laki tertangkap basah selagi ia memperkosa seorang gadis yang belum bertunangan.”

“Memperkosa seorang gadis” literally means “rapes a young girl”.

Likewise the latest Indonesian Bible translates the verse as follows:

“Apabila seseorang bertemu dengan seorang gadis, yang masih perawan dan belum bertunangan, memaksa gadis itu tidur dengan dia, dan keduanya kedapatan”

“Memaksa gadis itu tidur dengan dia” literally means “forces the girl to have sex with him”.

Do we really have to go further to prove our point? The Biblical scholars and Bible translation committees cited above all agree with us yet there will still be those who will persist in their denial. For the benefit of the edification of such individuals and for those who perhaps would like to have more information and data than what have thus far been presented we shall continue.

The key word in the verse that we are looking at is  ותפשה which stems from the root תפש (taphash). The following is Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius’ definition of the word:

תָּפַשׂ fut. יתפש – (1) TO TAKE HOLD ON any one; followed by an acc. Gen. 39:12…

NIPHAL, pass. Of Kal No. 1, to be taken hold of, Num. 5:13; to be taken, used of men, Psalm 10:2; Ezek. 19:4, 8; of cities, Jer. 50:46… [3]

Notice that the first example of the occurrence of the word given by Gesenius is Genesis 39:12 which reads as follows:

“She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house.”

What is immediately understood from the above is that the woman forcefully and without the consent of Joseph grabbed his cloak. Interestingly the same word in Genesis 39:12 is also used in the context of having or intending to have forced sex. In this case however, it was the woman who tries to rape the man(Joseph). In a nutshell we can conclude with certainty that תפש means to take by force or to seize something. The reason why the NIV and the God’s Word Translationchose to translate the word as “rapes” is because they perfectly understand that when תפש is put together with ושכב (rendered as “lay with her” in the KJV which obviously means “sexual intercourse”) the certain and clear cut result is indeed “rape”, that is, “rape” in the NIV and the God’s Word Translation is in fact a concise translation of two words namely תפש and ושכב. To force someone to have sex with oneself is indeed without a doubt rape. Notice that Gesenius also defines the word in relation to men as being used by them. Therefore the woman in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is used by the man which once again means rape.

Biblical scholars John Walton, Victor Matthew and Mark Chavalas in their The IVP Bible Background Commentary have the following on Deuteronomy 22:25-27 which is the context of verses 28 and 29:

“In this case, Israelite law adds another criterion by specifying the guiltlessness of the woman who is raped in the countryside, where her screams were unlikely to attract assistance. The assumption of her innocence is based on the implied resistance to the rapein this circumstance.” [4] (emphasis added)

Biblical scholar and historian Philip King who was professor of Biblical Studies in the Department of Theology at Boston College and Dorot Professor of the Archeology of Israel in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Hardvard University Lawrence Stager write:

“Rape is referred to only in Deuteronomy, but with no sharp distinction between rape and seduction. The rapist “shall give fifty shekels of silver to that young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her, he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.”(Deut. 22:29) The Payment in this case represents the mohar.” [5] (emphasis added)

The late conservative Biblical scholar Peter Craigie who held several top posts such as head of the religious studies department  at the University of Calgary  in his commentary on Deuteronomy 22:28-29 writes as follows:

“28-29 (iv) The rape of a single woman. The man uses force on the woman , who is a virgin and is not betrothed to a man; the two are discovered while the crime is being committed. In this case, the man must pay damages to the father, in the amount of fifty pieces (shekels) of silver, and he must marry the woman.” [6] (emphasis added)

The late Biblical scholar and specialist in Hebrew studies Roger Whybray writes:

Deuteronomy 22:22-29 deals with adultery and rape, and make distinctions between rape in the open country, where the woman is defenceless, and rape in the town, where it is held that she could have shouted for help. Rape of an unbetrothed virgin is punished by a payment to her father.” [7] (emphasis added)

Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Salve Regina University T. J. Wray writes:

“The crime of rape in the Bible is varied and complex. In the world of biblical antiquity, rape is largely viewed as a crime of disordered lust. Today, we know that it is about must more, but in the Bible, if an unengaged virgin is raped, she may actually be required to marry her rapist, and the rapist may must pay the girl’s father a fee for defiling his daughter (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)! Though Deuteronomy stipulates the death penalty for the rape of an engaged female (Deut. 22:25-27, there are numerous cases of vigilante justice for victims of rape (Gen 34:25-29; Judges 19-20; 2 Sam 13:22-29), which leads us to conclude that perhaps in ancient Israel, the long arm of the law often falls short when it comes to rape.” [8] (emphasis added)

Dr. Gary Hall, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Lincoln Christian Seminary in his commentary on Deuteronomy 22:28-29 write:

 22:28-29 If the girl who was violated was not married or engaged, the penalty was not death but a fine and the loss of the right of divorce. The law protected both the girl (economic security) and the father (loss of bride price). The girl’s loss of virginity would have made her virtually unmarriageable. In Exodus 22:16 the father could refuse to let the girl marry the seducer.

There is some question whether the act in view here was rape (NIV) or consensual. The word of verse 25 (“seize”) was not used but an apparently more mild word which meant “take hold of.” However, the explanation that the man had violated the girl points toward rape. The expression was also used of Shechem’s treatment of Dinah (Gen. 34:2).” [9] (underline emphasis added)

We have trust in womenfolk that they would emphatically scorn to be married to their rapists and much less to live with them till they die. Without having to cite the relevant research it is sufficient to mention here as common knowledge to one and all that psychologists will inform us that rape victims suffer great trauma that may never completely disappear. To put the poor rape victim in the same room as her rapist would be traumatic enough let alone make her live as the wife of the man who raped her and care for him for the rest of her life. The parenthetical excuse “economic security” is not only ridiculous, but, insulting as well. He claims that the woman would be virtually unmarriageable which is but an assertion not based on fact. If the God that the Christians believe in is most loving He would not condemn her to a life of celibacy and mark her completely unmarriageable for the rest of her life if He even intended as such to begin with. Why should she suffer further when she is the victim? No such law in fact exists in the Torah. Why should divine law adhere to contemporary mores and taboo if those values are intrinsically nefarious and unacceptable to a sound mind? Divine law should rather reform and correct that which is inherently inhuman and certainly not in anyway encourage it to fester and persist. Hall cites the law in Exodus 22:16 as if it assuages the problem. Hall proposes that this verse provides a possibility for the victim to escape marriage with her rapist though it would depend on the victim’s father’s discretion. This is an unreasonable interpretation of the text due to the fact that Exodus 22:16 does not specifically stipulate rape and the wording of Deuteronomy 22:28-29 indicates an obligation upon the rapist to wed his victim anyway. Hall is also refuted on this point by The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary which will be shown later. In any case, it is clear that the verses under discussion according to Hall are indeed about rape. In a footnote to the above quote he writes:

“The Hebrew word תפש (tps) rather than חזק (hzq). The parallel law in Exod 22:16 uses פתה (pth), “seduce.” However, תפש carries a sense of seizing or grabbing ahold of in order to overpower in Deut. 21:19; 1 Kgs 13:4; 18:40; Ps 71:11 and Isa 3:6.” [10]

Thus our linguistic analysis of the key word in question essentially coalesces with Hall’s own explication in the above. In addition, in the footnote (unbeknownst to him) he successfully refutes his initial suggestion that Exodus 22:16 could mean that the father has the option to disallow the marriage from taking place as the word that is used has a different sense than that which is found in Deuteronomy 22:28 i.e. the former does not refer to rape whilst the latter certainly does.

Biblical scholar David Brodsky who was co-chair of the department of Rabbinic Civilization at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College writes:

“Exodus and Deuteronomy 22 rectify the situation by having the rapist/seducer pay the civil damages he inflicted on the father. In fact, from this perspective, even the fact that Deuteronomy 22:29 has the rape victim marry her rapist (and does not permit the rapist to divorce her) begins to make a certain “sense.” ..Deuteronomy 22:28-29 “solves” this problem by having the rapist marry the daughter, taking on the obligation to feed and clothe her that that relationship entails.” [11]

We strongly disagree with Brodsky’s suggestion that it makes sense once the excuse suggested is permitted. We need not repeat the objections raised against Hall who puts forward essentially the same reconciliatory point. We would however like to raise an analogy which will prove once and for all that this law is inhuman and serves as a tool for misogynistic tendency and female oppression. Say for example you have John who has fallen head over heels for Elizabeth. Elizabeth however has no attraction or feelings for John at all for he is a crossed eyed hunchback. John wants her so much that he would be willing to do anything to have her as his wife. Thus John devises a plan which is schematically based on Deuteronomy 22:28-29 whereby he would rape her so that she would have no other option but to marry him. In this analogy it is clear that the law does not safeguard women at all, but acts as an instrument of malice and evil against them. Notwithstanding the absurd reasoning Brodsky does agree with us that the verses in question are about rape.

Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at the College of Wooster, Ohio, Mary Anna Bader writes:

“Both Deut 22:28-29 (in which the man lost his right to divorce) and Judg 21 (in which either fathers and or brothers could contend) demonstrate that rape was considered to be a serious crime resulting in either in a legal suit or in the abrogation of a right.” [12]

Bader forgets to mention the loss on the part of the poor raped woman which includes her freedom and sanity. Alas the most outrageous loss eludes Bader as it did the previous two scholars. Yet what is clearly evident in the above is the agreement that the two verses do indeed refer to rape.

Lecturer in Old Testament at the London Bible College, Mary Evans in the IVP Women’s Bible Commentary in her commentary on Deuteronomy 22:28-29 writes:

“Deuteronomy 22:28-29 makes it explicit that any compensation to be paid for the rape of a girl who was not yet betrothed is to be paid not to the girl but to the father. The implication to this seems clear; injury to a woman was viewed primarily as injury to her father or her husband. Surely this is proof of the fact that women were to be regarded as property.” [13] (emphasis added)

Contending against Hall’s suggestion that we saw earlier that the raped virgin has the possibility of not marrying her rapist at her father’s discretion Professor of Old Testament at Calvin College, Christiana De Groot writes:

“In both Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29, the rapist is required to pay the father the bride price. The laws differ on whether or not the father can disallow the marriage. In Exodus 22:16-17, the marriage is at his discretion, whereas in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 the man automatically marries the woman.” [14] (emphasis added)

In the above it becomes clear that the poor raped victim has no choice but to marry her rapist.

In a conference paper presented at the University of Redlands, California entitled “Reconstructing Rape for the “Olden Days”: The Challenge of Biblical Rape Laws in Biblical Studies” Associate Professor of Old Testament, Susanne Scholz at the School of Theology, Southern Methodist University writes:

“The androcentric perspective, mostly taken for granted in the scholarly literature, is at its most horrendous in the last part of the Deuteronomic rape legislation (vv. 28-29). This case describes the rape of a single young woman and stipulates that her father has to receive financial compensation, a solution that is also found in the Code of Hammurabi §156 and MAL 55. The biblical law also orders that the rapist marry the young woman “because he raped her” (v. 29). Deuteronomic law is thus considerably harsher than §156 of the Code of Hammurabi which allows the raped woman to marry whomever she wants. The biblical law is also more restrictive than MAL 55 which gives the father of the raped woman several options, only one of which is to marry his daughter to the rapist. In biblical law codes a reference to a father’s options is mentioned only in Ex. 22:16, a case of pre-marital consensual sex between a young woman and her lover. There, the father is authorized to order or to refuse marriage between the two and to demand financial compensation instead.” [15] (emphasis added)

Agreeing with Groot and refuting Hall, Scholz recognises the clear distinction between the father’s ability at discretion in Exodus 22:16 and the imperative in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 that the rapist marries his rape victim which clearly victimizes her further as Scholz seems to agree by describing it as “horrendous.”

It should be duly noted that many commentators including Evans and Groot in their respective commentaries like Hall propose that the reasoning behind the woman having to marry her assailant is because once she lost her virginity to rape she is no longer the marriageable type. As we have mentioned earlier that this is an unsupported fact as no existing Torah law stipulates as such which is why Evans says “Presumably the thinking is that if a girl has been raped, she is unmarriageable.” [16] By “presumable” we can safely conclude that there is no scriptural basis to identify such a victim as unmarriageable. In fact, Evans does tell us that she is “blameless.”[17] If she is indeed blameless as it is not her fault, she is the victim after all how then can she be regarded as unmarriageable as if she has entered a realm of unmitigated defilement. Is there no better way than to device a solution whereby she is to spend the rest of her life with the one who ravaged her? Could God not have revealed a law stating that such a woman who is violated through no fault of her own is at God’s mercy and has His blessings for undergoing such suffering yet remain steadfast in her faith in Him thus a man who cares for her will be doubly bless. Is this not a more sensible solution than the grotesque “solution” of having her marry the one who tore her (pun intended) away from her virginity by force? Though Groot agrees with the absurd reasoning she does concede that “As appalling as this situating is, in the ancient context it can be understood as a necessary evil.” [18] We concur with her that it is indeed appalling and evil!

Whether or not Exodus 22:16 recurs in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 in that both refer to rape and the father has the option to refuse the marriage is peripheral to our main concern. Nevertheless, we have shown the insufficiency of Hall’s suggestion that both passages refer to rape, hence the father has the discretion to give away the daughter or not. Even if for the sake of argument we were to grant the possibility of choosing between accepting the marriage or refusing it on the part of the father the fact that the option is readily available is already horrendous enough. It is akin to having the alternative of whether to keep your wife or put her in an asylum should she prove disloyal to you.  We have thus far established beyond any doubt that the text in question namely Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is indeed referring to a virgin who gets raped and is to be given over to her rapist in marriage for the rest of her natural life. This grotesque law is beyond comprehension and is perhaps the acme of absurdity in the history of misogynistic tendency and androcentrism. To finally conclude we end with the glowing words of biblical scholar and above all else a Christian by faith, Mary Evans on Deuteronomy 22:28-29 that “These attitudes are alien and unacceptable as far as most modern readers of Deuteronomy are concerned.”[19] Let us also reiterate Assoc. Prof. Christiana De Goot’s unabashed statement that it is “evil.”


This section seeks to solidify our position that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is indeed about rape and not merely consensual sexual intercourse. Gratitude is due to an amateur Christian apologist who goes by the nick name ‘defendchrist‘ for being the catalyst of this section thereby expanding and strengthening our position.

Avid Christian pastor and Bible instructor Warren W. Wiersbe writes:

“According to the law, if a man raped a virgin not engaged to be married, he had to pay her father a fine and marry her, and he could never divorce her (Deut. 2:28-29).” [20]

The IVP Bible Background Commentary agrees that it is about rape:

“34:2 ravishing women. Rape as a means of obtaining a marriage contract was apparently one stratagem used in the ancient Near East. Laws regulating the practice are found in Exodus 22:16-17, Deuteronomy 22:28-29, the Middle *Assyrian Laws and the *Hittite laws. These often require the rapist to pay an especially high bride price and sometimes forbid any possibility of divorce.” [21]

Thomas P. Lowry writes:

“Deuteronomy 20:10 describes the divinely approved course of action after successfully besieging a city: kill all the men and use the women any way that pleases you. On the smaller scale of the individual victim, we are advised in 22:28 that if a man rapes a girl, he must pay the girl’s father fifty pieces of silver, marry the girl, and never divorce her. Whether she wishes to marry her assailant is not in the text.” [22]

Theologian Dr David Garland who is Dean of George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University and his wife Dr. Diana Garland write:

“It is also declared in Deuteronomy 22:28-29:

If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.

The law implicitly assumed that the raped victim was not damaged goods, and it was best for her to marry the assailant.” [23]

Biblical scholar Dr. Cheryl Anderson in Women, Ideology, and Violence: Critical Theory and the Construction of Gender in the Book of the Covenant and the Deuteronomic Law which is based on her PhD thesis writes the following:

“To review briefly the provisions in Deut. 22:22-29, the penalties for a male and female who have intercourse vary according to the female’s marital status. If the female is single and had been raped, the man must marry the female and cannot divorce her (Deut. 22:28-29).” [24]

The late theologian and president of the conservative Dallas Theological Seminary John F. Walvoord comments on the verse and clearly identifies it as rape:

22:28-29. A man who raped an unbetrothed virgin was forced to marry her (after paying the bride-price of 50 shekels to her father) and had to forfeit the right of divorce.” [25]

Regarded as one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of recent times Old Testament scholar and theologian Walter Brueggmann in his commentary on Deuteronomy 22:28-29 writes:

22:28-29: As the laws proceed in a movement toward less severe affronts, the fifth case is, from the perspective of the text, the least severe (vv. 28-29). This case involved an unengaged virgin, that is, a woman not yet possessed by a man other than her father. The man is aggressive and seizes (tapas) her…The man is fined and forfeits his right to a future divorce. Again the settlement must be made between the two men. The woman has been raped, but she is not even acknowledged in the settlement, except that she is assigned to a lifelong partnership with her rapist.” [26] (emphasis added)

Anthropologist and academic Robin Fox writes:

“Jewish law stated that a man who raped a virgin should pay her bride-price and be required to marry her (Exodus 22:16, Deuteronomy 22:28), but it is not said how this would apply to incestuous rape.” [27]

Conservative Evangelical Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser Jr. who is Colman M. Mockler distinguished Professor of Old Testament writes :

“There are two cases in Deuteronomy 22:19-29 that record that divorce was denied on the basis of whim with attempted false slander or in the case of rape of a virgin for whom the man then gave the bride-price.” [28]

Laurie L. Levenson who is David W. Burcham Chair in Ethical Advocacy at Loyola Law School inThe Oxford Handbook of Jewish Ethics and Morality writes:

The biblical laws on rape and sexual assault seem antiquated when they call upon women to resist their attackers, cry out for help, and be amenable to “punishment” of the defendant by requiring him to marry the victim or pay a fine.” [29] (emphasis added)

The above is footnoted with the following:

“Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (“and she shall be his wife, because he humbled her; and he may not put her away all his days”); Haim H. Cohn, “Sexual Offenses” (1952), in Elon, ed., The Principles of Jewish Law (at note 8 above), p. 485. He notes there that apart from specified acts, “rape as such is not a criminal offense in Jewish law” but requires compensation to the victim.” [30](emphasis added)

Christian author Gary Field writes:

“F. In instances of rape:


2) Where the woman is an unbetrothed virgin, the man was required to marry her and never divorce her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)” [31]

Ordained minister in the United Church of Christ Carolyn Pressler who is also Harry C. Piper Jr. Professor of Biblical Interpretation in her commentary writes the following:

“The last of the six closely related cases (22:28 – 23:1; ET 22:28-29) involves a young girl who has never been engaged; thus her father has not received bride wealth for her. It is resolved by requiring the man who lay with her to pay her father fifty shekels and marry her, without the option of divorce. The case parallels an older law found in Exodus 22:15-16 (ET 22:16-17), concerning the seduction of a virgin who had never been engaged…

The ancient rabbis and many modern commentators have interpreted the Exodus case as one of seduction and the Deuteronomic case as one of rape. The verbs used in each law do suggest such a distinction. In Exodus, the verb is pth, “entice.” In Deuteronomy, it tps,which connotes force.

…the drafters considered the girl’s consent or lack of consent irrelevant. She had no right to engage in sex with her seducer in the Exodus case; her sexuality belongs to her father. Deuteronomy shares the perspective, depicting rape not as a violation of the girl, but as an offense against her father…” [32]

In her own book Carolyn Pressler delves deeper into the issue:

“Those who argue that the passages treat two different cases interpret Ex. 22:15-16 as having to do with the seduction of a virgin and Deut 22:28-29 as having to do with rape.” [33](emphasis added)

In a footnote to the above Pressler explains:

We are using the word “rape” to refer to sexual intercourse with an unconsenting woman. It is clear, however, that the view of forcible violation found within the Deuteronomic family laws differs from the view of forcible violation held by contemporary American legislation in some essential ways.” [34] (emphasis added)

Pressler continues:

The two passages employ different vers. Ex. 22:15-16 uss the piel of פחה to describe the man’s behavior to the girl. Deut 22:28-29 uses the verb תפשׂ. This position holds that פחה denotes seduction, while תפשׂ implies the man’s use of force. We accept that the two verbs do have the different meanings of seduction and coercion, but will argue the difference is legally immaterial. The girl’s consent or lack of consent is not a factor which defines the case.

The range of the verb פחה includes deception, persuasion, allurement and seduction; it does not, however, denote force. We may accept the customary interpretation of Ex 22:15-16 as a case of seduction. The word תפשׂ is more disputed. Weinfeld, for example argues that the verb “means ‘held’ and not necessarily ‘attacked.’” Weinfeld overlooks the fact that the meaning of the verb when its object is inanimate differs from its meaning with a human object. תפשׂ (“lay hold of”) may be used to refer to “holding” or even “handling skillfully” inanimate objects or cities. When the object of the verb is a human being, however, תפשׂ has to do with involuntary seizure.” [35] (emphasis added)

Pressler elaborates further in a footnote to the above:

“The verb תפשׂ is used with a human being as its direct object thirty-two times in biblical Hebrew. Of these instances, only once (Ez. 29:7), is the verb to be understood in a benevolent sense of “grasping for support,” and once in a context which leaves it ambiguous whether the person was forcible seized. In all other cases, the verb refers to such actions as capture, seizure in battle, ensnarement, entrapment and arrest.

The language of the Deuteronomic law seems to indicate that the girl has not consented to the sexual act. The man’s action is described in v. 23 with the verbs םצא ושכב, and in v. 25 with the verbs םצא, חזק, and שׁכב. The man’s action in v. 28 is described by the verbs םצא, תפשׂ, and שׁכב. The similarity of the phrasing indicates that differences in wording are significant. The drafters want to distinguish the man’s action in v. 28 from both forcible rape of a resisting girl in v. 25 and from the seduction of a consenting girl in v. 23.

According to Driver and Miles, AL, 54055, 494, the Middle Assyrian parallel to this law (MAL A:55-56, ANET, 185) also uses phrasing (ki da’ani) which indicates force or constraint, but which differs from the language used to express the violation of an unconsenting married woman (MAL A:12, ANET, 181). The phrasing in MAL A:12 uses an adverbial phrase (emuqa) which expresses force more unequivocably and adds the phrase “she…strenuously defends herself.”[36]

Pressler’s erudite exposition exposes Defendchrist’s ignorance on the subject and completely demolishes the untenable claim that Deuteronomy 22:28 is not about rape at all.

Kathleen Franco, David Bronson and Mohammed Alishahie in the Encyclopedia of Women’s Health write:

“Laws delivered by Moses in Deuteronomy 22:22-28 categorized rape and what occurred to victims and perpertrators.” [37]

Scholars Leah Rediger Schulte and Tammi J. Schneider in The Presence and Absence of God: Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion edited by Ingolf U. Dalferth who is Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy of Religion and Head of the Institute of Hermeneutics and Philosophy of Religion at the University of Zurich write:

“The final case in Deuteronomy is if a man comes upon a virgin who is not engaged and he >>seizes her<< (a rape word), and they are discovered (their location is not identified), the man who lay with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver and shall be his wife, and because he violated her he cannot divorce her (Deut 22:28-29).” [38]

The A to Z Guide to Finding it in the Bible also identifies Deuteronomy 22:28-29 as rape putting it under the entry on ‘RAPE’ :

“Rape (abuse, sassault, ravish)

The act of coercing sex, either by threats or force, our of an unwilling partner

Deuteronomy 22:28-29. Taking care of a woman who is raped.”

The above Christian publication identifies Deuteronomy 22:28-29 as “The act of coercing sex, either by threats or force, our of an unwilling partner.” [39]

The Applied Old Testament Commentary: Applying God’s Word to Your Life also identifies Deuteronomy 22:28-29 as a law on rape:

“A similar view is recorded in Deuteronomy 22:28-29, where the word “rape” is used instead of “seduce.” If a man raped a virgin, he was required to marry her for life.” [40]

Professor of Theology and Women’s studies at Shaw University Divinity School Dr. Cheryl Kirk-Duggan in Exodus and Deuteronomy writes:

“Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is a heinous text as it obliterates any type of dignity for the woman; it cares more about the father’s interest (Scholz 2010: 116-17). The text condones the rape: a man meets a non-engaged virgin, rapes her, and if caught in the act, he has to pay her father fifty shekels of silver.” [41]

Biblical scholar David Brodsky in Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Biblewrites:

“Deuteronomy 22:28-29 makes this explicit when it describes the penalty for the rape of an unmarried, unbetrothed virgin girl: fifty silver pieces to be paid to the father.” [42]

As we have seen our understanding that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is without a doubt about rape finds support from conservative and non-conservative Christian scholars. Christian apologists’ attempt to alter the plain meaning of the text reeks of desperation which obviously stems from the ignominious character of the law that they themselves cannot bear to accept.


[1] Sally Wehmeier (ed.) (2005). Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Oxford University Press. p. 1375

[2] Anon. (2009). A Guide to God’s Word Translation: Translating the Bible according to the Principles of Closest Natural Equivalence. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. p. 5

[3] Gesenius, F. W. (1846). Hebrew- Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, Translated, with Additions and Corrections from the Author’s Thesaurus and Other Works (Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, trans.). London: Samuel Bangster & Sons, Limited. p. 872

[4] Walton, J. H., Matthew, V. H., & Chavalas, M. W. (2000). The IVP Bible Background Commentary: The Old Testament. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press. p. 196

[5] King, P. J, & Stager, L. E. (2001). Life in Biblical Israel. In Douglas A. Knight (ed.), Library of Ancient Israel. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 60

[6] Craigie, P. C. (1976). The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Deuteronomy. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 295

[7] Whybray, R. N. (2002). The Good Life in the Old Testament. Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark. p. 50

[8] Wray, T. J. (2011). What the Bible Really Tells Us: The Essential Guide to Biblical Literacy. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 142

[9] Hall, G. H. (2000). The College Press NIV Commentary: Deuteronomy. United States: College Press Publishing Co. p. 339

[10] Ibid. n. 41

[11] Brodsky, D. (2009). Biblical Sex: Parashat Vayishlach. In Gregg Drinkwater, Joshua Lesser, and David Shneer (eds.), Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible. New York: New York University Press. pp. 49-50

[12] Bader, M. A. (2008). Sexual Violation in the Hebrew Bible: A Multi-Methodological Study of Genesis 34 and 2 Samuel 13. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. p. 75

[13] Evans, M. J. (2001). Deuteronomy. In Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary J. Evans, The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary: An indispensable resource for all who want to view Scripture through different eyes.Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press. p. 102

[14] Groot, C. D. (2001). Genesis. Ibid. p. 23

[15] Scholz, S. (2005). Reconstructing Rape for the “Olden Days”: The Challenge of Biblical Rape Laws in Biblical Studies. Proceedings of the Conference on The Rhetorics of Identity: Place, Race, Sex and the Person, 21 January 2005 (pp. 1-18). Centre for Rhetorics and Hermeneutics: University of Redlands. Retrieved from

[16] Evans, M. J. Op. Cit.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Groot, C. D. Op. Cit.

[19] Evans, M. J. Op. Cit.

[20] Wiersbe, W. W. (2003). The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament History. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Cook Communications Ministries. p. 342

[21] Walton, J. H., Matthews, V. H., & Chavalas M. W. (2000). The IVP Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament: An indispensable resource for all students of the Bible, accessibly providing the cultural background of every passage in the Old Testament. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press. p. 66

[22] Lowry, T. P. (2006). Sexual Misbehavior in the Civil War: A Compendium. United States: Xilbris Corporation. p. 115

[23] Garland, D., & Garland, D. (2007). Flawed Families of the Bible: How God’s Grace Works Through Imperfect Relationships. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press. p. 78

[24] Anderson, C. B. (2004). Women, Ideology, and Violence: Critical Theory and the Construction of Gender in the Book of the Covenant and the Deuteronomic Law. London: T&T Clark International. p. 67

[25] Wolvoord, J. F., & Zuck, R. B. (1983). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament. Colorade Sprins, Colorado: David C. Cook. p. 303

[26] Brueggmann, W.  (2001). Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries: Deuteronomy. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press. p. 225

[27] Fox, R. (2011). The Tribal Imagination: Civilization and the Savage Mind. United States: Harvard University Press. pp. 141-142

[28] Kaiser Jr., W. (1991). Toward Old Testament Ethics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. p. 201

[29] Levenson, L. L. (2013). Judaism and Criminal Justice. In Elliot N. Dorf & Jonathan K. Crane (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Ethics and Morality. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 479

[30] Ibid. p. 484 fn. 54

[31] Fields, G. E. (2010). All You Ever Wanted to Know About Exodus 20… And a Little Bit More. United States: Xulon Press. p. 224

[32] Pressler, C. (2012). Deuteronomy. In Carol A. Newsome, Sharon H. Ringe & Jacquieline E. Lapsley (eds.), Women’s Bible Commentary. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press. p. 97

[33] Pressler, C. (1991). The view of women found in the Deuteronomic family laws. Berlin: de Gruyter. p. 37

[34] Ibid. fn. 46

[35] Ibid. pp. 37-38

[36] Ibid. p. 38 fn. 49

[37] Franco, K. N., Bronson D. L., & Mohammed Alishahie (2004). Rape. In Sana Loue & Martha Sajatovic (eds.), Encyclopedia of Women’s Health. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. p. 552

[38] Schulte, L. R., & Schneider, T. J. (2009). The Absence of the Deity in Rape Scenes of the Hebrew Bible. In Ingolf U. Dalferth, The Presence and Absence of God: Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion. ITubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. p. 26

[39] n.d. (2010). The A to Z Guide to Finding it in the Bible: A Quick-Scripture Reference. Thousands of Contenporary Topics and Fascinating Facts Features Definitions and Synonyms for Each Topic Illustrated Throughout. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

[40] Hale, T., & Thorson, S. (2007). The Applied Old Testament Commentary: Applying God’s Word to Your Life. Great Britain: Thomas C. Cook. p. 248 fn. 79

[41] Kirk-Duggan, C. (2012). Precious Memories: Rule of Law in Deuteronomy as Catalyst for Domestic Violence. In Athalya Brenner & Gale A. Yee, Exodus and Deuteronomy. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress. p.  277

[42] Brodsky, D. (2009). Biblical Sex: Parashat Vayishlach. In Gregg Drinkwater, Joshua Lesser, & David Shneer (eds), Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible. New York: New York University Press. p. 49


Further Reading:

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s