Today we do a proper exegesis of the entire passage. Vs. 29 is the key verse, but the context begins from vs. 17. However, we will not discuss the scenario in vs. 17-21 because we covered the topic of female virginity yesterday.
DEUTERONOMY 22: 22-30
Vs. 22 If a man be found lying (shakab) with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
Vs. 23-24 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find (matsa) her in the city and lie (shakab) with her; then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
Vs. 25-27 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force (chazaq) her, and lie (shakab) with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: but unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so, is this matter: for he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
Vs. 28-29 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on (taphas) 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.
Key Words in the narrative
Shakab; Strong’s H7901; to lie down, (connotes sexual intercourse)
Chazaq; Strong’s H2388; to fasten upon, to be strong (connotes grabbing with force/violence)
Taphas; Strong’s H8610; to manipulate, to seize, to capture (could connote an enticement or a luring)
Matsa; Strong’s H4672; to find; to come across, to happen upon
Scenario 1 is about a random man and woman caught in the act of adultery. It is consensual, so both of them face the death penalty.
The death penalty for adulterers does not apply in the New Testament, but adultery is a sin regardless. This extreme measure applied because of the nature of the people in question. They were a stiff necked people with very hard hearts.
Scenario 2 is about a woman who is already engaged to be married caught having consensual sex with another man other than her betrothed. Again, the two of them face the death penalty.
There is no word in the narrative that suggests violence or force. We only have matsa and shakab, meaning ‘to find’ and ‘have sex with’, respectively. Also, the location of the incidence plays a role in the argument put forth to determine if she was consenting or not. It is likely that the cities at the time were so small that there was no way her protest against a potential rape, if indeed she had made any, would not have been overheard.
These two scenarios show that sex, even consensual sex, outside the confines of marriage, whether as fornication or adultery, was not condoned. It is still not condoned in the New Testament. Only that it is not punishable by societal laws in the manner that it was in the old days.
Scenario 3 is almost the same as above; a man has sex with a woman that is engaged to be married, but this time without her consent. How is her non-consent determined?
One; the act occurs in a secluded place that even if she cried for help, no one would be able to save her.
Two; there is force involved. There is a word in use here that differentiates this from previous scenarios; Chazaq. That is, unlike the cases of consensual sex above where the man is said to find and lie with her; here the narrative is, the man finds her, forces her and then lies with her.
This is rape.
For this reason, only the man faces the death penalty. She is not asked to marry him.
Scenario 4. This the one shrouded in of controversy, because the common assumption is that this also a case of rape like scenario 3 is.
But…here we also see a word that is absent in the previous three scenarios. That word is taphas.
Now, the thing is this; if the writer of this passage meant to communicate the exact same thing as the immediate previous scenario, then he would have used the exact same words. Truly, in language, there sometimes exists different words that mean the exact same things. But in the same passage about a specific subject where there is an obvious attempt to make a distinction between similar circumstances, it is not out of place to see it as unlikely that two different words in use would mean the exact same thing.
That is, it is very unlikely that taphas in scenario 4 means the exact same thing as chazaq in scenario 3. It is very unlikely that scenario 4 is a rape case like scenario 3. Moreover, why would a rapist be sentenced to death in scenario 3 and then be exonerated in scenario 4? Because one victim is engaged and the other is not?
No, I don’t think so. I strongly believe that the writer of this passage chose to use another word because he meant to communicate something entirely different.
Here, the man finds her, taphas her, and then lies with here. So, what then is this thing that happens in the middle?
Taphas (Strong’s 8610) does suggest a capture, a seize. But as taphas is not chazaq, which in this context is definitely connoting an act of violence; it is safe to surmise that taphas, in this context, is not a ‘laying hold of’ that involves violence. It sounds more like a luring. In other words, he employs manipulation to get her to consent to his overtures.
So, the idea is this; the man finds a woman, entices her, she gives in and they have sex. But because he did it deceitfully, he might want to leave her afterwards. Thus, to protect the lady from the misfortune of death (22:21) or the prospect of being rejected by other men and desolate for the rest of her life, he who violated her must also marry her and never divorce her. And let us not forget that at the time, the woman would have favoured that judgement. It was a sad situation, but hey, that was the fall brought to mankind. And that is why we are grateful for Christ’s coming.
As we can clearly see, God loves women and He has their best interests at heart. Even under the old covenant, God never actually asked a raped woman to marry her rapist. Would the women themselves have minded? No.
God takes the subject of rape very, very seriously. To be raped is likened to being killed (vs.26b). And truly, rape victims are killed emotionally. Hence, the death penalty for the culprit.
Also, while the old methods of justice as seen in the scenarios above do not anymore apply, the principle behind it all remains; God loves His female creation and He wants to give her justice. Contrary to popular opinion, God and the Bible have nothing to do with Turkish bill.
In the old times, whatever justice meant to women, God made sure they had it (more on this later). Was there a better way? Definitely. But people cannot rise above the state of their minds. Even if you offered them the best way out of a dilemma, if their minds cannot handle it, they would not take it.
The best solution is to go back to the way it was in the Beginning. A time when the female was complete in herself, and she did not need a man to be fulfilled. This is what Christ came to restore us unto. To be complete in Him.
If we propagate this mental shift, women will not even need palliative measures of being saved from the ‘reproach’ of being unmarried, because being unmarried would not even be seen anymore as a reproach. Women will not suffer the constant fear of being shamed by society over right about any silly thing, because one only suffers shame for something that they themselves already nurse insecurities about.
Art By Zhuzhu