Refuting the Rape Case of Deut. 22:28-29


Many Biblical critics allege that God commands a rape victim to marry her rapist in Deuteronomy 22:28-29. The passage has become a powerful weapon used against theology. Another problem is that even many Biblical scholars believe that the passage is referring to rape as you can tell from their translations and their commentaries on the passage. In this thread, however, I would like to argue that the passage has been completely misunderstood and that it is not referring to rape at all.

Let’s first consider a few translations:

"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." Deut. 22:28-29 (KJV)

“28 “If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and **seizes her **and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days.” Deut. 22:28-29 (NASB)

“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[c] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.” Deut. 22:28-29 (NIV)

Notice the difference in the translations: the KJV uses “lays hold,” the NASB uses “seize,” and the NIV uses “rape.” That alone should be sufficient to show that there is some ambiguity in the Hebrew word used which allows for different connotations. I will argue that the most reasonable connotation in this case is “laying hold of”; in other words, the man laid hold of the woman with the intent to lie with her and she acquiesced to his advances. Here’s a link to the Hebrew word, taphas: catch, handle, lay hold, take hold of, seize, wield
to lay hold of, seize, arrest, catch

to grasp (in order to) wield, wield, use skilfully

(Niphal) to be seized, be arrested, be caught, be taken, captured

(Piel) to catch, grasp (with the hands)

An outline of the Biblical usage of the word follows (in the link). It should be noticed that when the word is used for an enemy person or city it has a forcible connotation. This has caused Biblical critics to claim that it must also have a forcible connotation (meaning to overpower) in the present passage. However, it needs to be noted that an Israelite woman is hardly an enemy person or city!

Notice that the word can also be used toward a person without any overpowering force implied. For example, Ezek. 29:7 reads:

“When they** took hold H8610 of thee by thy hand**, thou didst break, and rend all their shoulder: and when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand.” (KJV)

Here the word is used of the Israelites trying to get help from the Egyptians; ergo, without any forcible connotation whatsoever.

However, there is a much easier way to show that Deut. 22:28-29 cannot be referring to rape:

“16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.” Ex. 22:16-17 (NIV)

The fact is that in Biblical law a woman’s father has the right to refuse her marriage to anyone he so chooses. This law was put in place so a woman would not be manipulated or make a foolish decision regarding marriage. The father is supposed to look out for the best interests of his daughter. Obviously, the father would never allow his daughter to marry someone who raped her, so the law in Deut. 22:28-29 cannot be referring to rape, and must be referring to consensual intercourse.

There are other reasons that the law must be referring to consensual intercourse as well, but the one that ultimately proves it, in my opinion, is the fact that the woman’s father is involved in the transaction. Thoughts?


Personally I think people are reading the verse and understanding it wrong in several ways. First, the father can always refuse the marriage as you note.

But let’s look a little deeper. Let’s look at the situation from the perspective of the woman. This was a highly agrarian society, were survival depended upon heavy manual labor. This is why God had so much concern for widows and orphans. They had no man to provide for them, and most were relegated to a life of starvation and hunger. So this woman noted above, what happens to her?

Well, her father is probably going to die soon, as life expectancy hovered in the 40’s. Hopefully she has a brother who could support her, but no guarantees of that. And he would have a family of his own to support as well. She is no longer a virgin, so her options for marriage were GREATLY reduced. It is VERY unlikely that she would have been considered for marriage. So there is a very large chance that she could be left completely destitute as a result of this sexual intercourse or rape, depending on how you translate it. And her troubles go up exponentially if she gets pregnant from this event as well.

And what happens to the man? If he is not caught, or is left off the hook, he goes on with his life, as he can provide for himself. Might even find another virgin to be his wife. (Remember, lifespans were short, and men died early, so strong and able men were in short supply.) What happens if he is executed? Well, the woman is still left destitute. If she was raped, then she at least sees some justice done, but she is also subjected to life of despair as well. Or another option, laid out in the verse, is that the man is now responsible for this woman, and must provide for her for his whole life. She is protected from destitution and poverty.

It may not be very pretty, but it was an improvement over what previously existed, where these women were left completely destitute. Just as when Moses handed down rules for divorce, it didn’t condone divorce, but sought to limit the evil and damage. That is how I understand this passage.


I believe this series of articles covers this particular passage:


Without getting too far into it, and beyond my depth, is it necessary to refute it at all? One thing I’ve learned from CAF is that a whole lot of the OT was replaced by the NT.


In that case I’d have to say that alot of what you’ve learned on CAF is simply false. The OT reveals the very nature of God himself; all of God’s statements/actions in the OT are either 100% just, right, and fair, or we’re in serious trouble. Also, the OT seals itself up against ever being abrogated by claiming that any prophet who contradicts it is simply a false prophet:

“4 Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.” Mal. 4:4 (NRSV)

“32 You must therefore be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn to the right or to the left. 33 You must **follow exactly **the path that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you are to possess.” Deut. 5:32-33 (NRSV)

“Be careful to obey all these words that I command you today, so that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, because you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.” Deut. 12:28 (NRSV)

The OT is forever. Christianity is nothing other than a form of Judaism.


Well, I just read the other day that a great deal of Leviticus has been supplanted, superseded, displaced by what is revealed in the NT.

So let me rephrase–not that most of the OT has been replaced, but that parts of the rules and laws have been replaced. The Mosaic laws about divorce, for example. I’m assuming that Deut 22:28-29 is no longer valid law.


The societal laws intended to separate the Jewish people from the Gentiles have been removed because Christ came to save all people. That is why we can now eat pork, and wear mixed fabrics. The moral law of the OT, on the other hand, is still firmly in place, which is why adultery is still wrong, as are homosexual acts and murder, etc.


I would agree with this. In addition, all of the statements/actions of God reflect the nature of God, which is why it is so important to establish what this passage is about.


Genesis 34 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

The Rape of Dinah
34 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land; 2 and when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humbled her. 3 And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob; he loved the maiden and spoke tenderly to her. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this maiden for my wife.” 5 Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah; but his sons were with his cattle in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. 6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. 7 The sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard of it; and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had wrought folly in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.

8 But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; I pray you, give her to him in marriage. 9 Make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You shall dwell with us; and the land shall be open to you; dwell and trade in it, and get property in it.” 11 Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12 Ask of me ever so much as marriage present and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; only give me the maiden to be my wife.”

13 The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14 They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15 Only on this condition will we consent to you: that you will become as we are and every male of you be circumcised. 16 Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to ourselves, and we will dwell with you and become one people. 17 But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter, and we will be gone.”

18 Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem. 19 And the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most honored of all his family. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21 “These men are friendly with us; let them dwell in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them; let us take their daughters in marriage, and let us give them our daughters. 22 Only on this condition will the men agree to dwell with us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their cattle, their property and all their beasts be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will dwell with us.” 24 And all who went out of the gate of his city hearkened to Hamor and his son Shechem; and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.

Dinah’s Brothers Avenge Their Sister
25 On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came upon the city unawares, and killed all the males. 26 They slew Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away. 27 And the sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled; 28 they took their flocks and their herds, their asses, and whatever was in the city and in the field; 29 all their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and made their prey. 30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Per′izzites; my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?”


I think the Genesis 34 text demonstrates how this law and actions, feelings of others interacts with each other. From this text we learn that the decision would include the feelings of her parents, herself and brothers. There would by this example be outrage when in fact it is rape. There may be other texts that would be good examples to work off from in dealing with our understanding of the Deut text.


Is Deut 22 the textual background to the woman caught in adultery?:confused:

Deuteronomy 22:25-28 ESV / 137 helpful votes

“But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her. “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found,

2 Samuel 13:11-37Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

11 But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” 12 She answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this wanton folly. 13 As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the wanton fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray you, speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” 14 But he would not listen to her; and being stronger than she, he forced her, and lay with her.

15 Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred; so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Arise, be gone.” 16 But she said to him, “No, my brother; for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other which you did to me.”[a] But he would not listen to her. 17 He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence, and bolt the door after her.” 18 Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves; for thus were the virgin daughters of the king clad of old.** So his servant put her out, and bolted the door after her. 19 And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent the long robe which she wore; and she laid her hand on her head, and went away, crying aloud as she went.

20 And her brother Ab′salom said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Now hold your peace, my sister; he is your brother; do not take this to heart.” So Tamar dwelt, a desolate woman, in her brother Ab′salom’s house. 21 When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry. 22 But Ab′salom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad; for Ab′salom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.

Absalom Avenges the Violation of His Sister
23 After two full years Ab′salom had sheepshearers at Ba′al-ha′zor, which is near E′phraim, and Ab′salom invited all the king’s sons. 24 And Ab′salom came to the king, and said, “Behold, your servant has sheepshearers; pray let the king and his servants go with your servant.” 25 But the king said to Ab′salom, “No, my son, let us not all go, lest we be burdensome to you.” He pressed him, but he would not go but gave him his blessing. 26 Then Ab′salom said, “If not, pray let my brother Amnon go with us.” And the king said to him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But Ab′salom pressed him until he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him. 28 Then Ab′salom commanded his servants, “Mark when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then kill him. Fear not; have I not commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.” 29 So the servants of Ab′salom did to Amnon as Ab′salom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and each mounted his mule and fled.

30 While they were on the way, tidings came to David, “Ab′salom has slain all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.” 31 Then the king arose, and rent his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants who were standing by rent their garments. 32 But Jon′adab the son of Shim′e-ah, David’s brother, said, “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men the king’s sons, for Amnon alone is dead, for by the command of Ab′salom this has been determined from the day he forced his sister Tamar. 33 Now therefore let not my lord the king so take it to heart as to suppose that all the king’s sons are dead; for Amnon alone is dead.”

34 But Ab′salom fled. And the young man who kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, many people were coming from the Horona′im road[c] by the side of the mountain. 35 And Jon′adab said to the king, “Behold, the king’s sons have come; as your servant said, so it has come about.” 36 And as soon as he had finished speaking, behold, the king’s sons came, and lifted up their voice and wept; and the king also and all his servants wept very bitterly.

37 But Ab′salom fled, and went to Talmai the son of Ammi′hud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son day after day.**



Yes, very interesting comparison with Genesis 34. Interestingly enough, the word for “took” or “seized” (the translation you used) in Gen. 34 is laqach, not taphas, which is used in Deut. 22:28-29. “Taphas” is never used for rape in Scripture, although “chazaq” and “laqach” are.


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