Rape is the act of forcing sexual acts — usually involving penetration — upon another person against his or her will, through violence, threat of injury, or other duress, or in cases where the victim is unable to decline due to physical or mental incapacity, possibly due to the effects of drugs or alcohol. (Statutory rape involves sex with a minor, whether or not the act was coercive.) Rape is considered one of the most serious sex crimes in almost all jurisdictions.
Because of the extremely black-and-white ethical nature of most cases of rape, it is frequently brought up in discussions about morality.
Rape in the Bible
The Old Testament of the Bible contains many stories and laws which appear to condone rape. Frequently, the Israelites are said to have visited neighboring tribes and committed wholesale slaughter, leaving alive only young virgin women to take unwillingly as wives.
This practice is explicitly endorsed in Deuteronomy 20:10-14 .
- "When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies."
Numerous examples can be found where this law is followed. Numbers 31:15-18 says:
- "'Have you allowed all the women to live?' he asked them. 'They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.'"
Judges 21:10-12 similarly says:
- "So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children. 'This is what you are to do,' they said. 'Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.' They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan."
What did the Israelites intend to do with these women? Lest there be any doubt, we can go back a few verses to Judges 21:7 , where they asked
- "How can we provide wives for those who are left, since we have taken an oath by the LORD not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?"
The entire purpose of the attack was to obtain women as wives. It's hard to argue that the women would have been willing spouses after seeing their village destroyed.
Although rape was condoned in the case of spoils of war, it was still considered a crime in most other cases. However, the punishment for this crime laid out in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is rather revealing:
- "If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives."