Vs. 28-29 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.
Would God really ask a woman who has been traumatized by a rape experience to marry the man who has caused her such trauma?
Anyone who has had first-hand knowledge of the trauma that comes with rape, either because they experienced it themselves, or they know someone who has experienced it, would find such a suggestion appalling.
For reasons like this one—questionable scriptural injunctions—many have concluded that both the Bible and the God revealed in it are unacceptable.
Some others believe that God is, but such a God should definitely not be associated with the Bible. They love God but doubt the Bible.
Then there are Christians who say, “All that is the Law and a New Testament Christian ought to discard the law.”
Well, I say…
There is a God and He is love. He does only good.
Also, this good God is one and the same as the God of the Bible. All of the Bible. It is an untrue assertion that New Testament believers ought to discard the Law. I explain why here.
What then is the problem here? Interpretation errors. On multiple levels.
One; Mis/translation of some key words from Hebrew to English.
Two; There is a heavy disconnect between the spiritual, intellectual and physical planes of knowledge. (More on that here.)
Four; an understanding of the The Beginning.
I will explain the last three levels first.
A person who has seen the trauma caused by rape knows on a practical and intellectual level that the surface interpretation of Deut.22:29 that the raped woman should marry her rapist cannot be acceptable. On the other hand, for people who love God but doubt the Bible, the disconnect is between their inner witness of whom they perceive God to be and who the letter of the Bible makes Him out to be. When in the interpretation of scriptures, the tripartite elements of humanity are in disconnect like this, it is evidence that there has been some error.
Understand this; Not everything written in the Bible is God’s doing or His perfect will. There are social constructs in the Bible (more on this later). Before the fall, God made the animals, told the first human to name them, and He (God) respected his decisions. That was a social construction, and the beginning of the expression of the Dominion Mandate. God has always expected humans to think and do things without His direct input.
However, social construction is only safe as long as humans do so by the inspiration of the image that is of God. After the fall, man retained his right to socially construct, but he could only do so out of a corrupt/cursed nature. By this, therefore, we must understand that God relating with people as we see in the Law was Him trying to make the best of the prevailing humanly constructed realities.
GOD HIMSELF DID NOT AUTHOR MANY OF THE CUSTOMS THAT CAME AFTER THE BEGINNING. What we see in the Law is God trying to express his own eternal principles in the light of the prevailing culture brought about by the fall of mankind. This is why believers ought not to discard the law, because if we did that, we would also be discarding God’s eternal principles embedded in there which exist nowhere else in the Bible. It was from these passages that the Apostles found the revelations that they wrote in their epistles. The solution is to learn how to separate that which is a principle from that which is a culture of the times. Separating the wheat from the chaff. That is what it means to use the law lawfully.
So, what was the culture at the time?
Patriarchy, amongst other things, was the culture. Men ruled and women desired men. The curse of Gen. 3:7 was in full operation. A woman’s value and use–and even her own greatest aspiration–often was marriage and childbearing.
Consider this scripture;
Psa 113:9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.
Please note that this was David, and not God, talking. Remember study rules #8 and #12; derive the actual meaning of a reading first. Here, David’s choice of words shows that, at that time in history, a ‘blessed’ woman was one who was married and had children. This does not imply that Christians are to desist from praying this scripture. What it does mean is that that scripture does not establish that marriage and childbearing are not God’s greatest blessing for women. What God said in Gen. 1:26-28 is His greatest Blessing for her (and him).
It is the same way, in Nigeria today, a ‘blessed’ person is the one who has acquired the things that make him escape the demerits of the system. Having a big generator and an inverter are seen as a big deal and a sign of the ‘blessing’, not because they are actually so, but because of the failure of the system to provide basic things like electricity.
That is how it was in the post-Fall Bible days (and even till now). People were living under the curse, away from the ideal that was set in the Beginning. After the fall, things that are basic and should otherwise mean nothing began to assume importance for the female. Whereas the fact that a woman is a human, made in the image of God, was supposed to be sufficient for her to be honored, she now had to have a man in other to be honoured socially.
Having laid that background, we can now bring the point further home.
It was already bad enough that in those days, a woman’s only value was for marriage and childbearing. But a woman who was found to not be a virgin would not even have the chance at marriage. So, imagine that a woman is violated by rape.
Her only ‘blessing’ is gone. Her chance of being valued (at the time) is gone.
Dinah was willing to marry a man who raped her and apologized to her thereafter. It was because she was willing that Shechem could go ahead to ask her hand in marriage from her family.
Tamar acknowledged being raped by her cousin as evil. But being discarded afterwards, in her estimation, was worse (2 Sam.13:16). That is to say, though hurt by the rape, she still would have preferred to marry her rapist. Notice that she herself said this. This means the prospect of being unmarried was a very, very scary and traumatizing one for women. Even more traumatizing than being raped. Women feared the idea of being unmarried and/or childless so much that they were willing to put up with anything to remove such a reproach. It is the same way many women tolerate domestic abuse today just to marry or remain married.
God had nothing to do with this social custom. On the other hand, because the curse of Gen. 3:7 (brought about by willful sin) was in full operation, the easiest mindset for a woman to have was that she desperately needed a man to survive. Of course, a number of women stood out, but the dependent woman was the norm.
Now, this is where I am going. The mind is a powerful tool; in fact, the most powerful aspect of mankind. It is the mind that determines what the body can handle. What we, in our minds, see as unacceptable today (because of more light which came about by the coming of Christ to break the Gen.3:7 curse) is different from that time. To us today, the trauma is both the rape and any form of association with the rapist. But to these women of old, being discarded after a rape was the real trauma.
And in many ways, God met them at the level of that sentiment. Because that was what they could handle.
Also, there was only so much God could do for mankind before the redemptive work of Christ’s death and resurrection. So, it is safe to surmise that what he offered them were ad-hoc measures precipitated by His eternal principle of love.
But what were these ad-hoc measures? Are they what we assume they are? Next post we look at Deuteronomy 22 in more detail.
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