If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels 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)
Often, have I seen these verses thrown up to show Christians that their religion is sub-standard. Therefore, we need a ready response.
The way these verses stand, it seems that women were regarded as mere chattel. However, this is clearly not the case (Gen. 1:26-27). Instead something else is going on here.
First of all, forcible rape was a capital offense. Evidently the fact that this “rapist” did not receive the death penalty reflected the fact that there was some uncertainty about his deserving it. Instead, she might have been seduced, especially if it took place in town where her cries for help would have been heard. If, instead, the “rape” took place out in the fields where there was no one present to hear her cries, the charge of “rape” and the imposition of the death penalty might be hard to justify.
The above verses seem to indicate that a forcible rape might not have been involved. The language - “they are discovered” – seems to suggest that the woman might have been a willing accomplice. There was no mention here that her screams were heard. Instead, it seems like they both were found in the act.
In this case, where capital punishment might not have been appropriate, the matter would understandably fall back upon the family. While the “rapist” was legally required to marry his quarry, the family did not have to accept him:
· “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. (Exodus 22:16-17)
Of course, if the woman had been seduced, marrying her seducer would represent the best prospect for her future. It would have been difficult for her to find someone else to marry her after she had been discredited. Consequently, her father would naturally comply to the marriage. However, if she refused because she had been forcibly raped, the father would most likely settle for the money. Who would want their daughter to marry a rapist and who would want such a son-in-law!