Apologetics, Issue 46, Wisdom

Does the Bible Support Rape?

Does the Bible Support Rape?

Rape is a horrific crime, no matter when it happens or who
it happens to. So, some of us may be troubled that the Bible
records multiple accounts of rape, and even seems to penalise
victims of rape! JACKIE HWANG digs deeper into the issue.

It may be shocking for you to find accounts of rape in the holy Bible. As a young person, I was horrified when I first read these sections in the Bible. However, I was heartened to discover later that just because historical accounts of rape are recorded in the Bible doesn’t mean that God condones rape. On the contrary, the Bible mentions rape because God condemns it and wants us to know how He deals with these sinful acts.

The most obvious accounts of God’s condemnation of rape are found in Genesis 19:1–25 and Judges 19–20. In both accounts, groups of men set out
to gang-rape the visitors to their cities. Then, innocent women were offered up
to be raped in the place of these visitors. A close look at these two accounts shows that God condemned these actions. In fact, Genesis 19 shows that the angels of God intervened and struck the violent mob with blindness (19:11). In both cases, God severely punished these cities shortly after these incidents of sexual violence (Gen 19:12–13, 29; Judg 20:23, 28). Thus, we should understand these two accounts as evidence that God condemns rape, and so should God’s people (cf. Judg 19:30).

Though God punished these cities for their sexual violence, other passages in the Bible seem to indicate that one consequence of rape is that women are to be given in marriage to their rapists. In particular, Deuteronomy 22:28–29 explicitly states that a man who rapes an unmarried woman needs to make a financial payment to her father and marry her. To modern ears, this verdict sounds outrageous! Why would God dictate that a victim of rape be ‘punished’
by being forever bound to her rapist? She never consented to the sexual act to begin with, so wouldn’t marriage possibly trap her in a situation of further sexual violence? Furthermore, the financial reparation seems to benefit only the father but not the victim herself.

It would be a mistake to take the law of Deuteronomy 22:28–29 as biblical support for rape. Neither should we see it as a legal stipulation for modern societies. What is important for us to remember is its principle to restore justice in a bad situation. Its purpose is to serve as a deterrent against rape, a corrective to sexual violence in a sinful world, and apathway toward justice in the case of wrongdoing against women. Even as its ancient context is different from our modern one, we can take to heart that God’s condemnation of rape and His concern for victims of sexual violence are timeless!

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