God makes laws to secure the woman’s rights and protection
The Hebrew laws in Deuteronomy no longer apply today, but back in the old days they did apply for the people of Israel who lived in a theocracy where God was the direct source of authority. God had certainly showed his divine powers to the Israelites during many occasions, and when the Israelites traveled through the desert to the land of Canaan during the Exodus, he manifested himself to them as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire during the night in order to guide them and comfort them.
If the Bible is right (which I believe it is), the laws were truly from God the Creator himself and not from man, which means that the laws were both righteous and divine. This did not give the Israelites the right to force their laws on other people, but the Israelites themselves were bound by these laws for their own well-being. The laws were made for their own benefit in order to eliminate as much pain and sorrow as possible, but also to make the Israelites a blessed and special people suitable for being a role model to others. God was and is the God of all people and not just for the Israelites. This means that God would certainly not look away if people transgressed his laws, because this would signify the slippery slope of downplaying the wisdom of God altogether. Rather than being a role model for others, the other people would rather think that the Israelites were just as sinful as all others and their God (the true God of Israel) would be scoffed at.
Risks and consequences always arise if people deviate from God’s laws and plans. This is why he made laws in order to either 1) eliminate transgression of the laws in the first place – due to the severe punishment for the offender, OR 2) if the laws were still transgressed, the weaker part would still be legally protected and the woman’s name would be free from defamation. In a culture where a woman’s marriage equated to her financial provision, God provided laws to ensure her future security.
The different cases of violation in Deuteronomy 22
Unlike the case in Deut. 23-27, Deut. 28-29 does not concern a situation of rape, but rather something consensual.
Firstly, the below case concerns a case where a man and a woman marry (with consent from their parents) and the man lies with his wife and later despises her. Can the man just walk away with no consequences, leaving the woman behind with an insecure future? How would the woman be able to support herself for the rest of her life, and possibly also a baby? Can the man just walk away and tell the whole community that the baby is not even his, and that the woman is both a liar and a whore? No, God provided a law to prevent such cases. The severe consequences were hopefully enough to prevent all (or most) of these types of scenarios.
Deut. 22:13 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,14 And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid:15 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate:16 And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.18 And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him;19 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.
People might suggest that blood on a sheet is not a watertight proof of virginity, but not only would this be an expected outcome, and therefore good evidence, but what better evidence could possibly be provided during this time in our past? An innocent woman would be interested in being provided an opportunity to clear her name and reputation. Moreover, due to the severe law in itself, this type of scenario was likely almost unheard of in Israel. The case could be that the law in itself was enough for most men to not even consider doing something so shameful to her, to himself, to their families and to the community.
20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.
Another scenario would be if the young woman was not a virgin after all but instead was lying to an innocent man (maybe together with her parents) and ended up being married on false grounds. In Israel during this time, it would be a very serious offense which would affect two families and all of Israel. Hopefully this scenario was therefore almost unheard of, especially since the woman would also have to take into consideration that the man would find out about the truth during their very first night together, which means that the woman would not gain anything with such a deception. Such a lie would therefore not get her anywhere, but straight to the death penalty.
Below is yet another scenario concerning adultery. This does not concern a rape situation but something consensual between the man and the woman. Adultery requires the death penalty.
Deut. 22:22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
Below concerns a scenario close to adultery, but where the woman is not yet married but betrothed (engaged to be married). This means that someone else (the man she is engaged to) would be affected negatively if the woman would choose to be with another man. This scenario is equated with adultery (the woman belongs to someone else) and the punishment is the death penalty for both since both are guilty.
23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
But what if the woman was raped, which would make her totally innocent? We must go to v. 25-27 below to see this scenario. The situation below concerns rape, and this scenario includes a bethrothed woman (a woman belonging to someone else) as an example just like the previous verses. Here we find a focus on the place and her actions (screaming or not), in order to make a proper judgment of her case. Naturally a woman is totally innocent if she is raped, and it is only the rapist that must die. The question is if someone was there to hear her and save her. If she was out in the field, with no one around to possibly hear her, then she should not be charged. She must be declared innocent until proven guilty.
Someone might interject and suggest that it is not a huge difference between being attacked out in the field or in a city because there might not be anyone around to help irregardless of place, and what if she was gang raped and what if she was mute, and what if this and that, etc. During the time of Moses the place of an attack would make all the difference in the world. Either you were at home and then you always had people around you (family members, relatives, servants, etc) or you were out in the field which is the only place where you might be alone. It cannot be compared with a situation today where a woman might live alone with her cat in an apartment on 4th floor in a building with lots of isolation in the walls. Moreover, remember that the Hebrew laws in themselves were often serious enough to make men refrain from transgressing them in the first place. There would not be a need to write four pages of details and exemptions to the rule if the law in itself was clear enough and hardly ever transgressed.
The Hebrew word for “force” below is chazaq (Strong’s 2388) and therefore it holds the meaning of rape in this context. Another verb is used in v. 28 (see further down below).
25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
In the scenario below it concerns a virgin, and not an engaged woman or married to someone else. The below verses therefore do not concern adultery (which requires the death penalty). The verb “lay hold” below is a translation from Hebrew taphas (Strong’s 8610) and does not in and of itself infer assault. The word means “to hold” or “to wield” but not necessarily “force” or “attack”. The case could be that the young woman was seduced, which would be the wrong conduct particularly for the man seducing her, but also to a lesser degree also for the woman giving into temptations. Still, the verse below places a higher burden on the man by the explanation that he lays hold on her (even if she might be a willing participant). This law would ensure that young women are not treated as temporary conquests just for pleasure, and also ensures that a baby will have a father who is responsible for its protection and well-being.
Unlike the two laws just before it, the verses 28-29 do not name a specific location to determine the woman’s consent, nor mentions her cries for help. The couple is described as having been found/caught in the act, and none of them will be sentenced to death since the case does not concern either rape or adultery (they have not hurt anyone else but themselves in their sin). This does not exclude the possibility that the woman was taken advantage of and/or dishonored, even if the matter concerned mutual consent.
28 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;29 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.
The Hebrew law was there to prevent a man from carelessly seduce or exploit women (regardless of consent) and walk away from the situation like nothing happened.
If he did so anyway, despite the severe law, he would be held accountable publicly and also be held responsible for her future well-being. Far from oppressing women, this law shows that men were accountable for their sexual behavior, because the law ensured that a young Israeli woman would not be objectified and discarded. The woman faced no punishments for being seduced, and she was not ostracized or shamed, whereas the man must fulfill all the marital duties that come with the rights to lye with a woman, and in so doing guarantee the security of the woman. She would not be forced to marry a rapist, but rather a man who she had accepted to sleep with (or accepted to be seduced by).
Women seducing men
Taphas also appears in Gen, 39:12 when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph. She did not rape or overpower him, but she certainly tried to tempt him and seduce him. Had Joseph not been such a righteous man she might have succeeded to “lay hold” of him. In that case, both would have been guilty, and the crime would have been adultery (under Hebrew law) since she was already married.
Gen. 39:7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.8 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.11 And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.
Women can be guilty of seduction as well, even if force/rape would not be the case:
Prov. 7:4 Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman:5 That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.6 For at the window of my house I looked through my casement,7 And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding,8 Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,9 In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:10 And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.11 (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house:12 Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)13 So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him,14 I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows.15 Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee.16 I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt.17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.18 Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves.19 For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey:20 He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed.21 With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.22 He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks;23 Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.24 Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth.25 Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths.26 For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her.27 Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.