Monday, November 9, 2009

65: Bible: Encouraging Rape Since 700 BCE

Deuteronomy 21-23
Oh, this is gold. Chapter 21 is titled "Atonement for an Unsolved Murder". If a man is found dead and nobody knows who did it, then the town elders will go out and measure the distance between the body and the nearest towns. Whichever town is lucky enough to be nearest the body has some tasks to perform. The elders of the town are to take a heifer that has never been worked, lead her down a valley that has never been plowed and has a stream, and break her neck. Wait, do what now? So let me get this straight, you find a dead body, and the solution to this problem (I don't even know what the problem is) is to kill a non-related animal? Once they kill the heifer, they are to wash their hands over her corpse, then they are to proclaim "Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done". I sure as hell hope their talking about the man's blood and not the heifers blood, because they just killed her with their own hands.

The last sentence of the paragraph says that this will "purge... the guilt of shedding innocent blood". What?! They just shed innocent blood. They hadn't before they started, because that was some random guy they didn't know, but they just killed a helpless animal. I don't know how much more innocent you can get. The bible says that this is "what is right in the eyes of the Lord". Why doesn't the Lord just come down and tell them who killed the guy instead of them having to jump through hoops to be forgiven?

Oh, this just keeps getting better today. The next paragraph in chapter 21 is titled "Marrying a Captive Woman". I think I'm getting less moral as I read this.

If you go to war with a nation and you take a woman as a captive that you find attractive, you can take her as a wife. You have to make her shave her head, trim her nails, and take off her clothes. Then, after you have let her mourn the wholesale slaughter of her family for a month, you can force her to be your wife. If you are, for some reason, not pleased with her, you can let her go, and she can't be treated as a slave, how nice of Israel.

If you have a rebellious son, who doesn't listen to you. Then you can take him to the town elders and have him stoned to death. Because that is the most moral thing to do. I think we've already talked about this one.

The first part of chapter 22 talks about returning your brothers lost things. If your brothers ox walks away and you see it you are supposed to take it back to him. The same is to be done for his cloak or anything he loses. In other words, don't be a douche and let your brother's ox walk away.

We seem to have some random laws peppered into the middle of chapter 22.

Don't cross dress. Because if you do that, God hates you. I seem to be missing this all loving God. Surely he's somewhere in here.

If you come across a birds nest and the mother is sitting on her eggs, you aren't allowed to kill the mother, but you can steal the eggs. Why?

The last section of chapter 22 is called "Marriage Violations".

If a man marries a woman and says she was not a virgin, but her parents bring proof that she is a virgin, then the man will be fined 100 sheckels, and he must be married to her forever. However, if the girl really isn't a virgin, then she will be stoned to death. Double standard anyone? Actually, it's not even that good. It's only if there is no proof that she is a virgin. So she might be a virgin (but lacks "evidence"), but since her husband was displeased with her, she is killed. Why is this right?

If a man rapes a woman that is pledged to marry another man, then they will both be killed. That's right, if a woman is raped, she will be killed. This is because "she did not scream". So what if she does scream and nobody comes to help her? The bible is silent on the issue. If she is outside a town, then she won't be killed because nobody is there to hear her scream. Great?

If a man rapes a woman who is not pledged to marry someone, then he has to pay her father 50 shekels, and he must marry her. No death for him? Just 50 shekels and a marriage? Not only is he not killed, he now has a wife. So if a man sees an attractive virgin, it's actually easier to rape her than to go through that whole "courtship" process. Can we get a "thou shall not rape" please?

How can any Christian say that they are getting their morals from this book? No Christians I know are out there raping women to take a wife, nor do they support the rape of women. So what's going on? Do we just ignore these chapters? Does Jesus say something about rape that I've missed (I guess I'll see when I get there)? I actually googled this because these passages in particular piss me off, and of course this just made it worse, because they (random apologists) quote mine the bible to try to make it say that God doesn't condone rape, this ISN'T true. They choose the one conditional statement that suits their goal (to convince the poor lady that the bible isn't weird), the woman isn't in a town AND she is pledged to marry. If she is in a town, she is killed, if she isn't pledged to marry, she is forced to marry her rapist. I'm going to stop this rant before I bash my computer. Please read Deuteronomy 22:23-29 if you want to see how blatantly they are taking this out of context.

The beginning of chapter 23 explains those who are excluded from the Israeli assembly. The first on the list is those who have had their penis/testicles removed by crushing or cutting. Why is genitalia so important? No one born of a forbidden marriage, nor any of his descendants to the tenth generation. Well that's probably pretty much everyone. How are you supposed to know who your great great great great great great great great grandfather (eight greats, is that right?) is, much less how valid his marriage was? No Ammonite or Moabite to the tenth generation.

The last part of chapter 23 is miscellaneous laws. The first one on the list is that if a slave comes to you to for refuge, do not hand him over to his master. You are to let him live among you. I think some southern slave traders could have learned a lesson from this one. I think we're running into one of those good things in the bible. I almost thought they didn't exist.

We quickly digress into sanctioned stealing. If you are in your neighbors vineyard you can eat all the grapes you want as long as you don't put any in a basket. And if you are in your neighbors grain field you can steal all the grain you want as long as you don't use a sickle. Why does the bible say this? What happened to thou shall not steal?

*Bible News*
This is silly bible news today. Kelsey Grammer thinks he's going to live to be 140 because the bible said so. The article is here if you need a laugh.


  1. One question that came to me a while ago, but wasn't relevant until today: given the science knowledge shown in the Bible, how in the blazes did they figure out that reproduction is sexual?

  2. I don't know, cause and effect common sense maybe? They observed that when a woman was a virgin that she didn't have babies, but as soon as she started having sex she started having babies.

  3. I'm sure proponents of the Bible would say: "You need to read the Bible in the context of the level of society at the time." So, has God's way of thinking evolved along with ours? So, God was wrong back then to condone rape? So, maybe, He's wrong about a lot of other things? If God's Word was true then, and He's all omni-everthing, it should be true today. That's what gets me about followers today, they pick and choose the parts that they like. I actually have more respect for the fanatics, in a way.

  4. Bible365, I am thrilled you are investing literally hundreds of hours in reading the Bible. You will have been exposed to vast amounts of information by the time you are done so that you can at least have informed opinions as you interact with Bible believing theists. Way to go! I think this is a noble effort.

    It appears that the “rape” passage here seemed to provoke you quite a bit. So I will take a stab at explaining this in several posts.

    First, it is easy to misread your critical evaluations of these laws throughout the Torah and assume that vigilante justice was the intent throughout these texts. However, the Mosaic “constitution/covenant” included a “judicial branch” of government that required witnesses and due process (Deut 17:6-11) for the newly formed nation.

    Second, in regard to all of these laws….you are reading a lot of “case law” that was to begin forming the basis of a jurisprudence system in the newly formed nation of Israel. These laws are somewhat similar to the code of Hammurabi (c. about 1800 BC—BTW your date of 700 BC is most likely not old enough). You can read the code of Hammurabi here The biblical “law code” though differs from its contemporaries in many ways. The most significant are: 1) the biblical law code has absolute moral prohibitions which are not found in any extant ANE law codes—“thou shall not” (i.e. the 10 commandments) and 2) the biblical law code tends to have more severe penalties for the destruction of human life, sexual misconduct, and stricter regulation of marriage/divorce.

    Third, since these stipulations are “case law” they were meant to provide guidelines/precedents through which to adjudicate common ANE problems—some similar to our problems today; some very foreign to us. For example, the socio-economic betrothal system and bride price issue is not something with which today you and I are concerned. The Mosaic Law began to codify what it meant to love your neighbor in that socio-economic milieu. Ultimately the whole of the law can be summarized in terms of “love God” and “love your neighbor” in that society at that time.

  5. Now, regarding the rape passages I’m not sure you are reading “critically” enough. Think about what is meant when the text says, “in the fields” vs. “in the town” and the issue of “yelling out.” Also, do you know about how close in proximity the people lived together in Ancient Near Eastern towns? The clincher is the distinctions made in the translation to which you linked. The word “rape” is not used in v. 23. In the Hebrew, both verses (v. 23 and 25) have the Hebrew verb “to lie with” (communicating sexual intercourse) but only v. 25 has the Hebrew verb “to cause by force.” With this context, what is the situation described in these verses 23-24? A lady engaged to be married claims “rape.” She was in the town. ANE towns had dwellings very close together with numerous people around. The very minimal act of yelling out would have saved the lady from her predicament in the town. Verses 23-24 are not speaking of actual rape—only ‘claimed’ rape. The assumption in verses 23-24 is that the intercourse was consensual with a resultant deception to cover it up. Just as it is now, so was it then hard to prove rape in many instances. But the transcendent principles behind this case law were the sanctity of marriage, purity, honesty, and commitments to one another in betrothal.

    Now regarding vv. 28-29. The rapist in this case is forced to pay more than the typical bride price (50 compared to an estimated 30 shekels of silver) even if the young lady IS NOT given to him in marriage. Yes, that’s right—there has to be consent. No one in ancient Israel interpreted this passage to mean that the women had to marry her rapist regardless of the mitigating circumstances. For example, Exodus 22:16 is a sexual case law that describes a man who “seduces” a young unmarried girl (obviously a “lesser” offense than rape). In this Exodus case law, the man pays a financial penalty –“the bride price.” And if there is consent then he marries the young lady (Ex 22:17). If he does not marry the young lady he STILL pays. Thus, the financial penalty is great. It can be assumed that Deut 22:28-20 operates this way as well. This is the way the Israelites interpreted this law. Now, it appears that the overarching jurisprudence principles here are manifold. First, an emphasis on taking responsibility for one’s actions is clearly evident –one must take care of the offended party, the young girl, and the possible fruit of that union (pregnancy) through marriage if consent is given. Second, there is an idealistic attempt to strive for “one partner” for life sexually. Secondly, there is financial punishment of the one who acted wrongly—the rapist. Third, the financial compensation was given to the family that would have suffered from this act the most in that socio-economic system built around “bridal prices.”

  6. Now, I don’t think any contextual backgrounds will sooth one’s sensibilities in regard to a predefined conception of god one may have. If a god as defined by human standards is only “compassionate” and “loving,” then obviously, Yahweh of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not. However, many of the portions of the OT you are reading indicates that God is Holy—incomparable, unlike anything and anyone else. This includes His incomparability in His mercy/compassion but also in His justice. If He is the creator of all things then He, by definition, sets the standards by which his creation is to live and by which He exercises justice.

    If one says that this standard of justice is wrong, then fine so be it. But I would ask, “What standard of justice should regulate society?” European jurisprudence? Islamic jurisprudence? Current United States’ jurisprudence? Roman jurisprudence? Is jurisprudence evolving? Why isn’t Islamic jurisprudence the pinnacle of “evolution” in comparison to European jurisprudence? What makes one system of jurisprudence better than another and who sets the rules? Maybe there should be no jurisprudence. There is none among animals from which we apparently share common ancestry. But apparently natural selection “selected” these jurisprudence systems among humans (including the ANE systems and beliefs) for some reason at the time of their evolution that benefited the perpetuation of the genetic stock. Right? Otherwise we would not have them. What people group does not have some form of jurisprudence? So on what basis is one logically able to condemn a particular system and exalt another?

    Bible365, I really desire to know if you can answer this question for me, “Why does it matter?” There is no ultimate meaning and purpose or good and evil. Correct? Why should anybody care? Why should anybody be “annoyed” if creationists are “pretentious, disingenuous, obtuse and incompetent” (i.e. PZ Myers in his inflammatory speech here at Purdue) when it doesn’t matter ultimately. Natural selection neither knows nor cares. We just all dance to its music. We are all the byproducts (including the ANE jurisprudence and our own) of its machinations. Why so serious and uptight?

    I hope to also post some thoughts soon to your reflective five questions you posted upon completion of your reading of the Torah. Again, I commend you for your reading through the Bible.

  7. @Brent
    Ok, in Exodus 22:16 I'll agree that there has to be consent. But NOT consent from the woman, consent from her father. And, as you've said, this is the "lesser" crime of the man seducing the woman.

    I'm not sure how you're trying to equate Ex. 22:16 with Deut. 22:23-29, these are completely different crimes.

    I'll go through this by paragraph.
    Deut. 22:23-24: The bible does not directly use the word rape here, but why would a woman be obligated to scream if she were not being raped? The bible does not say that the girl will be put to death because she was an adulterer (which is what I think you're trying to imply here) it says it's because she didn't scream. So if her mouth is covered by her attacker she will still be killed? This perfect law seems to have more than a few loopholes.

    Deut. 22:25-27: This just reinforces that Deut, 22:23 was talking about rape. Deut. 22:23 is if they are in a town and a girl is raped, and Deut. 22:25 is when they aren't in a town and the girl is raped. Otherwise it doesn't make sense.

    Deut. 22:28-29: I challenge you to go to a rape victim and console them with the fact that they will get 20 more sheckels of silver. Please also tell them that they are subjectively judging what is moral. The bible says that the punishment for rape is 50 sheckels, so who are they to "subjectively" judge what is right and wrong and ask for their attacker to be properly punished. Even worse, she doesn't get the 50 sheckels. And even if you can convince me that the "consent" law is as "good" as what is in Ex. 22, then it's her FATHER that decides whether she marries her attacker, not her.

    I'll post a response to your last comment in a second.

  8. This sounds like a bad parent saying "I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it". We arrest those people for murder.

    The best we can do is use our basic human observation to make laws where we can all live (most) happily. I'm certainly not implying that our American justice system is the pinnacle of wonderful, but I think the sane among us can agree on a few things.

    Just as an example, don't kill people. Again, I challenge you to go to the family of a murder victim and tell them to stop feeling bad because they are "subjectively" judging what is right and wrong. Also, I'm fairly certain you are trying to imply that biblical jurisprudence is the best. Then why aren't we following it? Moreover, why do we find stoning people because they have sex to be so wrong? If this law is transcendental shouldn't we all feel that the best course of action when two people have adulterous sex is to kill them?

    "Why does it matter?": It matters, because those of us with our horrible "subjective" morality have decided that we should try to make the world a better place with the little time we have. PZ Myers has devoted his life to the study of evolution, which has mountains of evidence to it's name, only to have it called a lie. I would argue that it matters more ultimately to Atheists what we do in this world than it does to Christians. You think you have eternity to enjoy your life, so why do you fret over these insignificant things happening on earth?

  9. Bible365,

    Consolation of a rape victim? This is a fascinating concept in a non-theistic worldview. How could anybody possibly console a rape victim within a Darwinian worldview? Below is Richard Dawkin’s “consolation” regarding a bus crash that killed children,

    “On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of the bus are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference….DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” –Dawkins, “River Out of Eden,” p. 133.

    So consolation consistent with a Darwinian worldview is the following: “I’m sorry about your rape. You were just unlucky and there is no rhyme or reason or any justice. I will be as indifferent to you as the natural selection process that is performing its machinations right now.”

    There is no righting of wrongs ever because there is no wrong—thus, no hope or consolation. There is no guarantee that the weak, lowly, and the oppressed will ever cease to be the weak, lowly and the oppressed. Furthermore, I hope you and I are not in the “weak” category. For note what should happen according to Darwin:

    “Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed…..Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage.” –Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, pp. 168-169,

    On another fascinating note, you say that, “We should try to make the world a better place.” How can an “ought” (i.e. “should”) come from an “is.”

    Now, Bible365, I applaud your sense of justice and your sense that this world needs to be “better.” I have observed in your writings that you are very passionate about certain just causes which, in your opinion, would make this world better. These senses don’t mock you as if they were a temporary illusion or game for the propagation of your genes. Push yourself to accept the evidence of what you observe in yourself. There is a sense of universal good/evil and ultimate justice that screams out to be satisfied regardless of the denials of Dawkins and Darwin.

  10. You're deflecting. We're talking about your beliefs not mine. Your version of consolation is that God let the rape happen, and he thinks you deserve 20 more sheckels of silver. To which you respond "well you think [insert assumption about my belief]". That strikes me as a dishonest way to have a discussion.

    No, I can't console someone with "there is a higher power looking out for you", or "everything happens for a reason". But what good does that do? There is a higher power looking after you, but horrible things still happened to you? There is a reason behind everything, but what reason could there possibly be for your child to die?

    In the case of rape, generally there is justice, and you can have consolation by leaning on your friends and family rather than a God who may or may not care about your plight. And he certainly isn't a shoulder to cry on.

    I don't know that my sense of morality is universal. And it certainly isn't the morality of your God. I think I can say that things are good or bad for society based on what we can observe, without implying that these are universal truths.

    For example, if everyone is allowed to kill everyone else, that turns out to be horrible for society, because everyone is dead. Is that a universal truth? I don't know. People kill people in war all the time, is that necessary or is it murder? This is where "universal truths" break down a bit. It seems to me that societies would be better without any war, I can make that statement without implying a universal truth.

  11. Bible365,

    Ok, sorry to “deflect.” It wasn’t a planned strategy. Whether it is 20 shekels or 10 years in prison—can those penalties restore what was really taken from a rape victim? How can restitution to a victim of rape or of spousal adultery or of child molestation, etc. ever really be “just”? One cannot “give back" what was taken in these cases. So, Bible365, it seems to me that we have here simply degrees of penalties that attempt to make some recompense. Neither the Bible’s nor the US’ jurisprudence ever claim that the “penalty” brings satisfaction to the victim. How can this be done? Death of the perpetrator? Will this satisfy the victim? Maybe I am wrong, Bible365, but I can’t imagine that you would be for the death penalty? Right? So the bottom line is that you and I are only dealing with “degrees” of punishment. But we are foregoing the larger question that it would seem we are both sensing and instinctively acknowledging—what will ever make this evil right? -True Justice. There cannot be any true justice in an atheist worldview as Dawkins makes very plain. But for that matter there cannot be any real metaphysical evil (as Dawkins also makes plain)—not even rape.

    Bible365, there seems to me to be even a more significant question as illustrated by your example in the last paragraph. What justifies your assertion that life of people is better than everybody being dead (“horrible” in your terminology)? You are operating on a value system that the perpetuation of a life (and its quality of being good) is indeed “valuable.” I agree with you. But you don't seem to have a warrant for this. Please tell me in simple terms why DNA cares to perpetuate itself and this perpetuation is “valuable.” Why is life perpetuating itself (and us preserving it) better than a lake full of inanimate chemicals? Why is life perpetuating itself here better than the inanimate dead rocks and chemicals on the moon? Can you help me understand this in your way of thinking?

    I do appreciate your interaction. If you are around over thanksgiving you are welcome to come to my house for the thanksgiving dinner.

  12. I came accross this and no one has responded, so I think I'll take a stab at it.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "true justice." justice isn't absolute. Some might see death as justice, others might not. No one is claimig that justice can restore the victim to her state before the attack. Rape is a terrible thing and obviously there is going to be some lasting damage, but I think any woman would rather her attacker be put in jail than have him pay her father and be forced to marry him.

    On the subject of consolation, you don't need religion to console a rape victim. She can be consoled by the knowledge that she is not to blame for what happened, or by the fact that her attacker will be punished.

    The reason why life is good is that we (mostly) enjoy being alive. The universe does not care whether life exists or not. Life is not inherently good. We see it as good because we enjoy it, and murder is bad because it strips someone of their life.



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