Why did God allow the capture of women in the bible OT?


There is some stuff in the OT that would be more reminiscent of something like Isis today.
It’s hard to reason,because on one hand God gave instructions for morals in the OT but not in this area where it referred to women.
I guess you could reason that women didn’t earn a living back then so
couldn’t support themselves but what if she didn’t want to become the captors wife?

It’s almost like God intervened in certain aspects regarding morals but regarding equal treatment of men and women,he just let nature take its natural course until humans decided themselves that they should be equal thousands of years later?

Deuteronomy 21:
11 And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;
12 Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;
13 And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.
14 And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.


In reading the Old Testament, you are reading texts that were written at least 3 and a half thousand years ago. The political, historical, economic and social climates were very foreign to us. As were the customs and cultures. In reading anything from the Old Testament, first of all, ask

what is the reader trying to say to his or her audience
How is this relevant to today.
What is God telling me from this text.

with Deuteronomy 21:11-14 I am reading firstly, a moral treatise for captured women in war. So rather then treating them really badly, take them as your wife.
If you don’t want her , then let her go, don’t sell her into slavery.

how do you read it?

ISIS wouldn’t care, ISIS would try to take the woman, if she said no, either force her, abuse her, sell her into slavery or murder her.


This is about marrying a captive woman. The OP should start from verse 10.

Marrying a Captive Woman

Deuteronomy 21:
10 When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, 11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. 12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails 13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. 14 If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.


I guess it was more “honourable” or shame saving/face saving for a woman of that time to become the wife instead of a “kept woman” and its more moral to let her go rather then sell her if he doesn’t “want her” but couldn’t have God just as easily told them not to capture the women at all?


What was the fate of the rest of the captive women,those who weren t beautiful nor a man was attracted to? This seems to refer to the chosen ones only.
I do not know…


In those days, it was a pretty high standard to marry the prisoners instead of raping her, which is even common in today’s war crime.

I know what you meant though. In war situation especially when enemies territories were being taken, prisoners may include women and children, that’s a given. The issue is to treat them properly. One must remember these were ancient times. Basically it is about conduct during war.


Wouldn’t she still have been raped though in the sense if she didn’t want to marry him and sleep with him he would still have gone ahead and “slept with” his new wife?
Or would he have accepted it if she refused after they were married?


I don’t think you realise what a gentle treatment this was (grieving time included) at a time when mass rapes were vogue…


I realise that it was gentle comparatively speaking,but could God not have just told them not to capture pretty women altogether?

Also,regarding the reference to grieving her parents,is that because they were killed in the battle or because she was forcibly taken away from them?

I also wonder what happened to women who weren’t thought to be pretty?
Ie:if all the soldiers from those women’s tribes were killed or captured,they wouldn’t have been able to provide for them so what happened with them?


Look. since they were killing all adult men so they could not fight back against God’s chosen people (which was necessary,) the women would have succumbed to starvation in days. In the patriarchical society of the day, furthermore, marriage was the only protection a woman could hope for in adulthood. Unmarried, she could be killed, raped or mutilated. And do you really think her old (dead) husband from her own tribe was with her out of love? No, back in those times, nearly all marriages were arranged. I doubt she desired intercourse with a probably much older man from her tribe any more than with some Israelite. She was never given the option to choose. And yes, her parents were probably dead- or slaves- as well. As for this:

I’ll tell you. They were either killed, left for dead, or sold into slavery. Can you now see how that was an act of mercy in the circumstances of the age?


That only some received :skull:


It was the will of God…


People keep making the mistake that the OT times were just like Mr Roger’s Neighborhood, where soft-spoken and gentle people talked out their differences and nary a voice was raised…

Nope. Life was nasty, brutish and short.

What the passage you quoted set up were (for the time) strict parameters around sexual activity with captive tribes.
The woman couldn’t simply be raped (defiled, in that culture), and thrown away.
It allowed for a cooling-off time for passions to subside, where he could release her untouched, and if they did have sex, she would never be demoted to the slave class.

Harsh, but way better than what was going on in the surrounding culture.


You might just as well ask why God allowed war and killings and other brutal activities to go on at all.

I think God allowed mankind to evolve gradually so we could learn from our mistakes.

This code of conduct providing for a more “gentlemanly” behavior than the norm was a step in such evolution.

Also note that if the woman wasn’t captured at all, she would likely have been killed. The point of conquest was to take over land so you could support yourself and your family and your people. You couldn’t generally just take over a piece of land and then leave a bunch of conquered people alive, using the resources from the land (you didn’t get any benefit for your own family and people then) and probably regrouping in order to rise up against you. You generally had to either kill them, make them your slaves, or in the case of women, make them your concubine or wife (and possibly in the case of children, adopt them).

For a woman in the position of having been captured, becoming a wife was about the best outcome possible under the circumstances - better than being raped/ killed, or becoming a slave, or becoming a concubine with fewer rights than a wife.


Most likely they’d have been enslaved. That was at the time the accepted way of dealing with captive populations. The old testament contained rules to mitigate the treatment of slaves, but it didn’t outlaw it.


Actually, in the OT there are many stories along the lines of, “The Jewish people captured the city of the (insert enemy tribe name here) and killed everybody there.”

There is one city whose inhabitants manage to talk the Jewish people into not killing them and just letting them be slaves.
Established civilizations, like Rome and Egypt, had an economy that could support a lot of slaves and needed them to help with a lot of low-level tasks.

The Jewish people in the time of the OT didn’t have this big need for a lot of slaves. They were trying to build up their own tribe. So they had some slaves, but not a ton of them. Slaves are pretty expensive to maintain, plus there was some resistance to diluting the Jewish bloodlines with them, also shown by various episodes in the OT.


The OT had two sets of rules - one for the caananites during the conquest, and another for other wars with non-israelites. The passage here wouldn’t have applied to the first anyway; they were forbidden from any intermarriage or from taking captives from those groups.

But yes, you don’t see a huge number of slaves, especially foreign slaves, in the old testament. There’s as I recall some stories involving israelite slaves, who were under different rules. There’s at least one passage that also talks about buying an israelite slave woman as a wife, or to betroth to your son, and makes it clear in that case she would have the exact same rights as a free wife.


You had to bring that up :angry:


At the same time though,I’d be lying it if I didn’t say I think it’s unfair that God would give them instructions in treating the pretty ones with mercy and let the “unattractive” ones be killed.

I guess what seems “odd” is that God did intervene in these societies when they were immoral in certain ways but not in others (relating to women’s feelings).
Sure,I understand that God realistically could not have said let them all go and let them get a job for themselves,as society wouldn’t have been ready for this thousands of years ago,but at the same time God did directly intervene regarding other matters of morals, but regarding patriarchy society/towards women,He seemed to have just let it go it’s “natural course”…ie:let society decide for itself that women should be treated with autonomy (thousands of years later).


I think you are right that that is the key,that God allowed mankind to evolve on its own,but at the same time,it can’t be neglected that God did directly intervene about certain “poor morals” in the OT but not others.

You mentioned regarding wars etc,I guess that’s a good question-if God is the God of love and love thy neighbor then why would He be ok with his chosen army/people to steal other people’s land and kill them or enslave them,support warring etc?
I would understand if the other people/tribe was really immoral and “Gods tribe” were moral but I’m not sure that’s the case.
Maybe Gods tribe was more moral comparatively speaking(?) but were they moral overall?

It can be hard to understand all this,and even why God would favour one tribe over another and I think if a person doesn’t have a ‘full picture’ understanding it can come off like there was a sharp turnaround between OT and NT.

Like,if someone non Christian was to ask me about reading the bible I would point them to the NT Matthew etc about Jesus and the Church after Jesus resurrection etc but if they were to ask me about the OT I wouldn’t have the confidence to know what to make of it/what to tell them.

In today’s world,there is IS whom seem to somehow mentally still live back in the old days and hold on to literal fundamentalistic views (but from Quaran instead of bible) but I’m guessing what they are reading in the Quaran is something of a similar vein but is allowing selling the women.
God wants us in this era to fight against women being oppressed and exploited this way in Iraq etc,so it can be hard to understand is why God back in the old era simply gave a prescriptive for better treatment of them vs saying don’t capture them altogether.
Also,a ‘pretty woman’ who’s parents were killed by the other tribe,I would think she would have rather been killed alongside with them than her life been spared and her being made a wife?

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