By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.
A good deal of convictional assurance comes not from people who agree with you, but from the people who disagree with meaningful dissent that makes you sit back and think.
Okay. So I have many friends who are not Christians. In fact, during a rough part of my life just recently I was a bit astounded (and a bit devastatingly so) that most of my friends, especially my close ones, are not Christian and some not particularly religious at all. That shocked me. There I was taking shots in Religion classes in college for being “too intolerant” and yet I was struggling to find a Proverbs 27:17 brother because I have so many irreligious and non-Christian friends.
Fortunately, I do have some strengths by surrounding myself with these fine people. My faith gets challenged a lot by my life (as you have read). Truth be told, God has no doubt used this constant setting of moral and intellectual defense to bolster my faith.
So when I saw this video by Dave Rubin on The Rubin Report, a video where Rubin and his atheist friends rant about hating religion (scroll forward to about 53:38 to see what I am specifically addressing here), I wanted to delve past all of the strangely religious self-righteous dogma of these “irreligious” talking heads. I wanted to push into one of the core issues that they brought up for which I didn’t have an immediate answer for.
Does the Bible really say nothing drastically damning about rape? Is rape okay with God?
*Also, why such “atheists” would demand such an arbitrary moral absolute from a God who they reject precisely because of His moral absolutes is beyond me. Since they don’t like God telling them about sex, why ask for another rule to not follow? They kinda lost me when they wanted to substantiate examples for how Christianity is just as bad as radical Islam…with modern-day examples of radical Islamist terrorism. Anyways…
Here is an example of how listening to atheists strengthens one’s faith and knowledge of the Gospel, and why Christians should not hide from learning truths about the Bible that most likely will challenge their faith in the God of the Bible:
Ironically, the man who brought the rape allegation up is an atheist of Jewish descent. The ethnically Jewish man was on a religiously anti-religious rant (he was an “atheist,” after all) and he called out for one person to show him where rape was condemned in the Bible. There are many ways to do this, but I picked the clear-cut route of Biblical literalism…looking for an actual literal instance of rape being condemned by God. And I found that I was wrong for years when reading this. Ironically, I got clarity by reading the Torah (Jewish law) in full and by using the Hebrew terms in my concordance as a guide to reconstruct the translation.
See how questioning God can already bring more clarity?
As he is a person of Jewish descent, I cannot fathom how he missed Deuteronomy 22:25-27, which calls for the death penalty of rapists. But of course, I myself had been reading these verses all wrong for years!
Now, the Hebrew word for violate (anah) in Deuteronomy 22:29 is the same word used in Deuteronomy 22:24 when speaking of adultery. The assumption of punishment for Deuteronomy 22:24 is that the woman was not raped but was complicit in the act, and that is why she never reported the incident. For this reason the New Living Translation Bible translation of Deuteronomy 22:22-29 is more precise with the original Hebrew than the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation that I generally use here. Hold…note that this verse is for when they, the man and the woman, are both discovered together or having been together. This at first glance appears to be implying something other than a forced encounter.
Also, the word “rape” in the translation I am hyperlinking you to is actually the translators’ own interpretation…the actual Hebrew word in Deuteronomy 22:29 is the word shakabwhich just means “to lie down,” and in this case just “copulation.” In fact, in all instances where sexual activity is mentioned in this post whenever I reference the Bible, shakab is the word used. The differences lie in the adverbs that go along to the verb phrase.
Notice, this punishment in the law where the woman is executed. It is enacted not whenever the married woman drew the immense courage to report her rape, but when she (being married) and her lover are caught within a city. In ancient towns, people lived extremely closely (much like in older towns today). This was a moral issue of fidelity, See Deuteronomy 22:22. The assumption is, if the woman truly was raped, she will attempt to defend or cry out for herself during and after the violent assault. (We will discuss an actual instance where this happened.) Deuteronomy 22:24 is actually a safeguard for men against their being falsely accused of raping, just like the section opened up as a safeguard for wives being falsely accused of not being virgins, Deuteronomy 22:13-21. **[I would even say that, given that these cases from Deuteronomy 22:22-27 involve catching persons in the act (the distinction of the rape in the field being that the woman’s testimony can be counted as evidence if she claimed that she cried out beforehand), this law is very stringent as a safeguard against false accusations and punishment against sexual sins. Think of it this way: Deuteronomy 22:22 is the basic ruling for how to proceed, but verses 23-24 detail one stipulation within that law, and verses 25-27 detail another stipulation within that same law. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 covers another law: it is not an adultery case, the woman is neither married nor engaged (and presumably neither is the man per Leviticus 18:20,29 and Exodus 20:14), and the discovery of both persons is repeated, much like in Deuteronomy 22:22.]**
Sadly, false reports of rape continue to this day, but that is a very serious discussion for another day.
*[I will add this now. What do you think happened whenever a person falsely, maliciously accused another of a crime, such as rape, when the accused is proven to be innocent? Well, Deuteronomy 19:16-21 explains this. After you finish reading this post, you will see why this clause in the same book of the Torah demonstrates God’s absolute justice towards humanity regardless of the two genders.]*
The virginity of a bride-to-become was esteemed in Israelite society as a sign of purity and discipline, and if a woman was promiscuous she may never be married or have to settle for less prosperous suitors.
The word for rape in Deuteronomy 22:25 is forcefully implied (chazaq) and is always used for force and strength. But Deuteronomy 22:28 uses the word (taphas) when talking about that sexual action, and taphas is a word which is used for playing instruments, holding things with your hand, capturing cities, arresting people, and wielding weapons. The term is unnecessarily ambiguous when the verses just before are so resolute. In fact, the word taphas could be used as a legal term here for “improper usage” or “theft.”
This seems to be a distinction from the edict before in Deuteronomy 22:25. Because if the woman isn’t married, assuming that the man isn’t either, then nobody can be guilty of adultery…which in this entire section would have meant that somebody had to die. Even more, given the verb construction of the Hebrew, rape isn’t even implied or indicated in the case found in Deuteronomy 22:28. Instead, this is simple fornication wherein the blame of sexual misuse is put on both persons…but especially the man who won’t face the same provable social disdain for not being an unwed virgin.
But Deuteronomy 22:28 gives room that if a couple is found unwed and in copulation, the woman cannot in her shame accuse the man of raping her, thus putting his life in mortal danger deceptively for the sake of her own honor. Nor can the man escape his moral duty in providing for her and her family since he has socially humiliated her. The word used for violate in Deuteronomy 22:29 in this case (anah) means to humiliate.
Given that the two words (chazaq and taphas) contrast each other on the emotive plane, and given that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 seems to parrot Exodus 22:16-17, it must mean that the Bible (the Torah) requires the death penalty in instances of true rape. And the Bible (the Torah) requires at least the offer of marriage in the cases of fornication (pre-marital sex).
So does that mean that these verses in Deuteronomy about fornication are basically repeating what is already given in Exodus? Yes. But isn’t that scholastic reaching? No, actually. Repetition of the Torah is partially what the book is intended to do, and how it got its name. Don’t believe me? Good, check out these secular and Jewish voices for proof. Go on, I’ll wait.
Such a law from the Torah has so much honor for a woman without sacrificing the social safety of a man that I honestly can’t raise much accusation against it save that there is an awful lot depending upon people getting caught red-handed in adultery. Rape was serious then and was a capital punishment. And even now, just being accused of rape could ruin a man’s life…just like accusing a woman of not being a virgin would have done in the Torah’s social setting.
This would surely explain the disappointment in David’s actions with his son Amnon and the revenge his other son Absalom took for their sister Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 (the word chazaqis used there).
It would also explain Israel’s harsh rebuke for his sons Simeon and Levi in Genesis 34 and 49 where the word for forced rape (chazaq) is not used at all for what happened between Shechem and their sister Dinah…but only violate/humiliate (anah) is used. So…it turns out that Dinah wasn’t raped. She was just out for a little fun, and was wooed by a very attractive man into pre-marital sex…and they both got caught. (For proof of this interpretation, notice that Simeon and Levi were angry that Dinah was treated like a common prostitute, and that they were a being bit xenophobic at not wanting her to marry an uncircumcised man. Their anger was not that she was brutalized, and in fact they never mention anything like that happening in their self-righteous defense of their murders. There really is no reason to believe that Dinah was raped, since Simeon and Levi, who were also willing to lie in order to murder scores of people, didn’t even bring that up as an accusation.)
Okay. This may jar many of the memorized Bible stories as we have been told them. But truth is never to be sacrificed on the altars of traditions. And…we do have the Hebrew right there. Sad that my Jewish brother missed that. And even sadder that he bases the whole emphasis of his empty worldview upon ill-conceived assumptions from a book he didn’t even bother to study– let alone take seriously either as a Jew or as a complete skeptic.
I may still be wrong, people can say. Who knows? We must study more. I see through a glass darkly, and God is not through maturing me yet (I’m not yet dead). But I am glad that I serve a God who allows me to question Him so and to get down to the root of the issue, no matter how high my personal heroes from among the Bible’s sinners may be in my own sight.
And finally, thank you mister atheist. We share common lineage and now your doubt has moved me closer to my own and to my God. I hope and sincerely pray that this wisdom can find you wherever you are in order to draw you to Him as well.
He truly is the most consistently righteous Person I have ever met.
*[UPDATED May 2, 2017]*
**[UPDATED June 7, 2018]**