Does the Bible Say a Woman Must Marry Her Rapist?


Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says, “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.”

Whoa. So the Bible says a woman has to marry her rapist? No, that’s not what’s going on here.

Ever heard of a shotgun wedding? It’s a marriage arranged at the end of a father’s shotgun, to avoid the embarrassment of premarital sex between his daughter and some young dude who couldn’t keep his pants zipped. This law is kind of like that.

Some Bible translations (like the NIV and CSB) use the word rape in this passage, but that’s an inaccurate reading. In this context, “seizing” a woman means the offending man took something that did not belong to him, another man’s daughter. “Violated” does not always mean rape, even in English. It can simply mean the man dishonored the woman.

The Law obligates the man to make an honest woman of her by marrying her, lest she become desolate (see 2 Samuel 13), cursed (see Numbers 5:11-31), or executed (see Deuteronomy 22:20-21)!

Deuteronomy means “second Law,” a copy of the commands given in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. This law in Exodus 22:16-17 says the father can refuse to give his daughter to the man. So this is not a law forcing a woman to marry her rapist. As this law appears in Deuteronomy, it says right before that rape is a crime worthy of death (Deuteronomy 22:25-27).

Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage to be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.” Ask Jesus for forgiveness, “for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous,” when we understand the text.

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