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:
I.to 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?