Friday, January 7, 2011

Virginity, Rape, and Bitter Justice

We are approximately two-thirds of the way through Deuteronomy, in the middle of a section where Moses is listing God's laws for the Israelites. From Deuteronomy 21, we learn how you can marry captive women, practice polygamy with unloved wives, and stone your disobedient children. What will the next chapter hold for us?

Virginity, Rape, and Bitter Justice
Have you ever heard a song which starts of really well, but after the first chorus all of the stanzas are just horrible? You feel cheated, like the artist wrecked what could have been an otherwise wonderful song. Sure, you can go on singing the chorus and humming the tune, but any notion of artistic genius dissolved. This is not one for the iTunes. In a less lyrical sense, that is exactly what happens with Deuteronomy 22.

Deuteronomy 22:1-8 starts off the chapter pretty strong. Take care of your brother's lost or fallen livestock. Take the eggs, but not the mother bird. Deuteronomy 22:8 is even a precursor to OSHA, requiring fall protection for your roof! Besides the somewhat random prohibition on cross-dressing in Deuteronomy 22:5, these laws seem to demonstrate great compassion and understanding for humans and animals. This could be evidence of a loving, omniscient God.

Then things become a little odd in Deuteronomy 22:9-12. Here, as in our study of Leviticus, we see that God prohibits planting multiple seed types in the same piece of land and wearing blended fabrics. Also, do not yoke different animals together, and make sure to put tassels on your cloak. (The tassels are to remind you not to follow your heart, but to obey God's Law instead.) Do these laws represent divine wisdom? It is hard to tell. Let us move on.

In Deuteronomy 22:13-21, the train wreck occurs. In this section, a man may make a claim that his new wife was not a virgin, claiming that there was no proof of her virginity. What exactly would that proof be? A bloody sheet from the first night that the man and his wife had sex. If his wife's parents can provide this bloody sheet to the court, then the man gets a hefty fine, and must stay married to his wife and cannot ever divorce her. (The wife, after having her good named dragged through the mud by her husband, gets no choice in the matter.) If no proof of her virginity can be presented, the man's wife is to be stoned to death.

The trouble is that not all virgins will bleed during their first sexual intercourse. When the blood does come, it comes from rupturing the hymen. However, like any other body part, the hymen forms uniquely in each woman, resulting in a variety of shapes and elasticity. A smaller and/or more elastic hymen will be less prone to rupture during intercourse.

An omniscient God would know this fact, but an uneducated man would not. As a result of this ignorance, women have been killed for a suspected premarital loss of chastity. And as a result, to this day some women choose to undergo a surgery known as hymenorrhaphy to ensure that there will be blood during their first intercourse.

Next is a somewhat good, but starkly severe law saying that both the man and the woman engaging in an adulterous relationship must be killed (Deuteronomy 22:22).

Then, we get to rape in Deuteronomy 22:23-29, and God's wisdom becomes challenged again.

For rape of a virgin who is promised to be married, the punishment depends on where the rape happened. If it was in a town, and nobody heard the woman scream for help, then both the man and the woman are to be stoned (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). So the lesson to all of those would-be rapists is to make sure that you gag your victim first, because then it is unlikely she would later report the rape, as it would mean not only her shame but also her own death.

For rape in the countryside of a virgin who is promised to be married, only the man would be killed because there was nobody around to hear the woman scream for help (Deuteronomy 22:25-27). However, per God's Law in Deuteronomy 17:6, in such circumstances this man could not be put to death for his crime unless he provided witness against himself, because capitol crimes require at least two witnesses to enact justice. So another lesson for all of those would-be rapists is that countryside virgins are fair game.

What about rape of a virgin who is not yet promised to be married? Well, in that case, the rapist must marry the woman, never divorce her, and pay her father some silver (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). The woman gets no choice in the matter. She must marry her rapist. That is truly bitter justice.

God rounds out the chapter a little more softly, giving an implicit nod of acceptance to polygamy by saying that a man cannot marry his father's wife (Deuteronomy 22:30). That wife may or may not be the man's own mother.

For those who believe, it is time to stop simply singing the chorus and humming the tune which someone else has piped out for you. Read the Bible and pay attention to its words. When you understand its text, as we have seen above, its divine veracity simply does not hold up. It is not worth $0.99 to download it, unless you just really dig the riffs of fantasy.


  1. Hey, awesome post. I have to add you to my blog roll.

    Good points about the virginal bleeding--or lack-thereof.

  2. Thanks Lorena!

    I think that the first-time vaginal bleeding is an incredibly strong point in revealing the Bible as the wisdom of man, which was not all that good back then, and even today is a bit lacking from time to time. :-)

  3. I'm hopping around your blog, reading some of your older posts, and I felt compelled to comment on this one.

    Not only is the Biblical God ignorant about female anatomy, but about neurology as well. A rape victim might not cry out during the addault because of tonic immobility, a state of temporary paralysis in frightening or life-threatening situations.

    If God wired the human brain to sometimes respond to inescapable danger with tonic immobility, why would he command death for someone who exhibited this behavior? This is yet another piece of evidence that the Bible was written by ancient men, not an all-knowing deity.

  4. "Assault," not "addault." Sorry.

  5. I knew what you meant. :-)

    That's another excellent point. I think I had heard of the concept of tonic immobility before, because it sounds familiar, but had forgotten it until you mentioned it.

    Yet another technical proof against this being Godly wisdom or even wise justice. Thanks for pointing this out!