Deuteronomy 22 – Reading Note – Marriages, Sex, Rape and Kindness

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  • The law mandated kindness, although no penalty was prescribed for it. If someone lost something and you found it, you had to return it instead of ignoring or stealing it (22: 1 – 4).
  • It forbade other things like taking both a bird and its eggs, planting two kinds of seeds on the same land, mixing wool and linen in clothes and plowing with an ox and donkey together (22: 6 – 7; 9-11).
  • It also provides for the safety of member of the community, requiring the people to make parapets on their roofs to keep others from falling (22:8).
  • It forbids cross-dressing (22:5). It does not just forbid it as an aspect of the mosaic law, it says that God hates it and as we all know, we should probably avoid what God hates.
  •  Verses 13 – 21 discuss the issue of a man who accuses his new wife of promiscuity, specifically of not being a virgin on her wedding night. Her parents were to bring proof of her chastity if they had it. If it was proven that he had lied, then the man was to be punished and fined (ten years’ wages, I hear). If, however, the woman really had been promiscuous, she was to be stoned to death. Promiscuity was, after all, forbidden. The example in the text is one in which the girl’s parents present the blood-stained sheet from her wedding night, but I read somewhere that other sorts of evidence were often used – testimony of her good character, or evidence that girls in her family did not bleed for instance1.
  • Some other rules are on sex and marriage and seem pretty simple. Consensual sex between a married or betrothed woman and a man who was not her husband or fiancé was punishable by death for both participants. Rape of a married or betrothed woman by a man who was not her husband or fiancé was punishable by death for the man. Punishment of the woman was forbidden because it was like murder.
  • Rape of a woman who was not betrothed or married was a different issue. The man was to be fined (5 years wages) and had to marry her (22: 28-29). I have always assumed that this was because the girl needed a husband and who wanted to marry a girl who wasn’t a virgin? Better make the rapist marry her then and don’t let him get out of that marriage. But a lot of non-Christians (and even Christians) see this as a punishment for the girl or an act of injustice towards her because she is forced to marry her attacker. After all, who wants to marry their rapist? I know I wouldn’t. Here are my 2 cents:
    • This cannot possibly be a punishment for the girl because verses 25 and 26 already say that a girl who was raped was innocent and compares it to a man attacking and murdering his neighbor. The girl was the victim. That is the reason it forbade punishing raped betrothed or married girls.
    • I am not quite sure about the girl being forced to marry the rapist and I’ll give one rationale and one example.
      • Rationale: A somewhat similar case in Exodus allows the father to refuse the marriage.

“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.  If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.  (Ex 22.16)

Fathers loved their daughters even in those days (2 Samuel 12: 1 – 3) so I expect that her father would do what he thought best for her taking into consideration her feelings towards her attacker– provide her with a husband or just take the fine and hope she finds someone else. It is a rabbinic principle that whatever applies in a minor case applies in a major one2 so if the father could refuse in the case of consensual sex, surely he could refuse in the case of rape.

  • Example: The case of Tamar and Amnon

“In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her. […]So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.’

David sent word to Tamar at the palace: ‘Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.’ So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.

‘Send everyone out of here,’ Amnon said. So everyone left him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, ‘Bring the food here into my bedroom so that I may eat from your hand.’ And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, ‘Come to bed with me, my sister.’

‘No, my brother!’ she said to him. ‘Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.’ But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, ‘Get up and get out!’ ‘No!’ she said to him. ‘Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.’ But he refused to listen to her. He called his personal servant and said, ‘Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.’ So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.” – 2 Samuel 13: 1 – 19

In that story, it is Tamar who begs Amnon to let her stay, saying that it would be wrong to now send her away. It is not her father or brother or even Amnon asking her to stay with him. Perhaps it is possible to interpret this in other ways and I would be happy if you presented your views on the issue, but it seems to me that Tamar did, in fact, want to remain with Amnon, and escape the status of being an unmarriageable woman. The text goes on to tell us what happened to her.

“Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.’ And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.”

For those interested in reading further, it’s very interesting. Absalom goes on to murder Amnon, run away to avoid punishment, set Joab’s fields on fire (I dislike Joab) and proclaim himself king. It’s fascinating.

1 Jewish Women in Greco-Roman Palestine, 98 – 99 Tal Ilan, Hendrickson:1995.
2 Marriage and Family in the Biblical World. 48. Ken Campbell (ed). IVP:2003
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Tracy

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