How’s that for a title?
Deuteronomy 22 is a chapter that a lot of people love to hate. Most often it is used to show how backwards and oppressive the Bible is to women. And, in all fairness, I can see why they think that. It’s a tricky chapter.
But I do think there is more going on here than we might initially think. And it is worth it to look closely at these laws and what they are designed to do.
I will barely be scratching the surface with my thoughts here. So feel free to add your own in the comments.
One thing became very clear from this chapter: In Israelite society, sex was incredibly important. Sexual activity could (aside from the consequences you might expect: pleasure, pregnancy, or disease) get you fined a hefty amount of money, trap you in a marriage that you legally cannot get out of, or get you killed.
They had to be very careful about who, when, and why they had sex.
Sex was not just a thing you did once and that was it. Even a rapist was forced to deal with the long-term consequences. If a man man raped a woman who was not engaged, he was forced pay the bride price, marry her, and could never divorce her.
Now he has to care for her and provide for her for the rest of his life. I’m not saying that this is a great idea, but it tells us something about how they viewed sex. It was a marriage commitment. You want to have sex? Then you need to be prepared to deal with all the consequences.
For women, virginity was life.
A woman who was a virgin could get a husband and was fully protected under the law. If she wasn’t a virgin on the night she was married, it could end up with her being stoned to death (provided, of course, that this was not the result of rape).
For men, it was a non-issue. This seems a bit unfair. But there is no way to prove that a man is a virgin. So biology wins the day here.
Rape is never a topic I want to take lightly. It is serious. It destroys people. It is an all-together horrible thing that humans have invented. So I do want to treat this section with an appropriate measure of respect. If you don’t feel that I do, I sincerely apologize.
Here is a really interesting thing about their rape laws: If there is proof that a rape happened, the law always protects the woman.
Rapists always pay the price.
- If they rape an engaged woman, they die.
- If they rape an un-engaged woman, they are forced to care for her for the rest of their lives.
I feel like this chapter warrants a larger conversation than I am capable of having here. So I’d love some of your own thoughts. Particularly the women who read this blog. What do you see or feel when you read this chapter?