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Deuteronomy 22:22-29

A friend of mine asked me about Deuteronomy 22:22, a bible passage about the civil laws ancient Israel had in the time of Moses. She was bothered that such a legal system might allow “rape with benefits”, where in order to get out of the punishment of rape, a male rapist can pay to marry the victim, and the victim didn’t have any choice in the matter. The harsh penalty for adultery and rape (death by stoning) didn’t seem to bother her nearly as much as the potential injustice toward women.

I created this animated info graphic to explain my interpretation of the law as it’s described in the passage.


My friend said: Although consent or non-consent doesn’t seem to come up at all in the last fork of the flow-chart. So maybe not as shocking, but still a bit disturbing.

To which I reply:
(12:31:12 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: Right, there was something I didn’t include explicitly in the flowchart though, at the end, the purple question mark implies it
(12:31:12 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: Why isn’t there another consent fork for non-engaged women?
(12:31:18 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: We’re left with no answer
(12:31:40 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: But I was thinking about how a lot of the law seems to have come out of the Moses judging various situations as they came up
(12:31:56 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: And if he’s out there making these flowcharts for his judge lieutenants
(12:32:18 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: As he’s explaining the stuff from left to right
(12:32:58 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: By the time he gets to the right most branch, we’ve already talked about her not giving consent and we’ve said that she’s innocent and it’s the man who’s at fault
(12:33:19 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: And his punishment is rape
(12:33:31 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: Or atleast, that’s how I think a judge lieutenant would reason
(12:33:38 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: although it’s not based on anything in the text
(12:34:37 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: And looking at Exodus, we see the precedent for a virgin who had sex with a man to not marry him
(12:34:43 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: but even in that case the dowry must be paid
(12:35:16 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: It certainly weakens the “rape with benefits” reading.
(12:37:48 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: So there’s some things I still want to know about what I’ve just said
(12:39:09 AM) EcnaGreenStorm: The first of them is how this affects your life, how you feel about the feminist issues raised by the verse, how strong you think the rape with benefits reading remains … how any of this impacts you.

There are also interesting discussions to be had about such severe punishments for having an affair. In modern American law, there are no legal consequences to an affair, so punishment by death seems very foreign to us. But are there benefits to discouraging cheating on a spouse? It’s not so dissimilar to recreational drug use, which we punish without much hesitation.

Also, why doesn’t this passage prescribe a punishment for two consenting unmarried adults? Many people perceive pre-marital sex as one of the most severe sexual impurities. But in this passage, it isn’t even an offense worth clarifying.

These questions may seem anciently irrelevant, but by exploring them we can learn what God values in ways that are not heavily influenced by our own perspectives and cultural backgrounds. What timeless morality was this ancient legal system wrapped around? How do we learn to cherish both our own sexualities and eternal virtues in ways that are more constant and meaningful than only what our cultural norms offer?